As a former mega-hardcore Magic: The Gathering player, the Duels of the Planeswalkers series is a bit of an odd animal for me. While the games play smoothly, with a great interpretation of the Magic ruleset and offer plenty of modes (and co-op!), the lack of custom deckbuilding has always kept me from really digging in.
The co-op modes that this series offers differ from year to year. The original game contained the popular Two-Headed Giant variant for comp-stomping purposes, while Duels 2012 added the popular Archenemy casual variant for up to three player co-op. Duels 2013 is similarly setup to last year's model, except Archenemy has been dropped in favor of featuring Planechase, which coincidentally has had its physical version updated for 2012. So we're again left with only Two-Headed Giant.
Planechase is a standard 3 or 4 player versus mode with an additional twist: the Plane deck and accompanying Planar die. Cards in the Plane deck have a passive ability that effects all players as well as a "Chaos" ability. The Planar die can be rolled during your own turn and can have three outcomes - nothing, Chaos, or Planeswalking. If Chaos is rolled, then the second ability of the current plane comes into effect, usually to the advantage of the current player (destroy target creature an opponent controls, etc.). Certain cards in the Plane deck, called Phenomenons are special, and have an immediate effect, such as reversing the turn order, or other things of that nature.
The popular Puzzle mode returns (this was always my favorite feature in the prior games), setting players up in various scenarios where they are given specific cards and only one turn to set up a stunning reversal and come out with a win.
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 may not include that deckbuilding feature I want, but it takes a few great strides in making players interested in the more in-depth aspects of deck customization, such as a new mana curve graph that updates itself as you shift cards around in your deck. Plenty of additional statistics are now tracked, including your records for amount of life achieved in a game and the highest amount of damage you've dealt in one phase. The game will also keep track of your favored color, just in case you can't tell that on your own. For those who suffer from OCD, you can also change a setting to allow for manual mana tapping!
While the additional co-op from Duels 2012 will be missed, Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 looks to be another successful entry in a series more than a few of us at Co-Optimus HQ love. Look for it June 20th on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, PC and iPad.