Magic: ManaStrike – Interview with Netmarble on upcoming real-time card battler

Out of the 4 games which mobile gaming giant Netmarble showcased at G-Star 2019, Magic: ManaStrike is perhaps the title which struck a chord more with Western audience. Developed based on Magic: The Gathering, the most popular trading card game ever from Wizards of the Coast, ManaStrike might be the answer to gamers looking for a quality mobile card game. We talked to Netmarble to find out more about ManaStrike. Read on!

Q: Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?

Hi, I am Hyun il Jang, Development Director at Netmarble Monster responsible for Magic: ManaStrike.

Q: How did the project came about? From what we know, Magic: The Gathering isn’t that popular in Netmarble’s home country of South Korea.

The original Magic: The Gathering game is a great strategy game with 26 years history. As developers, that appealed to us on a very basic level. When we were approached by Wizards of the Coast to come up with a new expression of Magic on mobile platforms, we realized it would be great to blend the strategy of the core card game with the fun and depth of a Player vs. Player (PvP) battler that really brought the characters, creatures, and spells of Magic rendered in full 3D models on mobile.

From there, we worked closely with Wizards of the Coast to make sure it lined up with their incredible worlds that they develop for their card sets every year. We believe that the game will appeal to strategy gamers worldwide. It’s easy to pick up, but with a depth of strategy that will pose a challenge to master, all with the incredible characters and lore that Magic: The Gathering offers as a fantasy brand.

Q: Magic: The Gathering has deep roots all the way from the ‘90s. Is there a concern that younger and new players might be daunted by such a huge IP?

Not at all. We believe that gameplay is what appeals to new players the most, and Magic: ManaStrike is easy to play, but with a deep strategic element that will keep you coming back for more. If you love Magic: The Gathering, you’ll find a lot about Magic: ManaStrike to love in terms of how we’ve brought the various elements of that world to life. If you’re new to Magic, you’ll love its incredible fantasy elements and the quality strategy gameplay in Magic: ManaStrike. There’s a little something for both sides.

Q: What role does Wizards of the Coast play in the development of Magic: ManaStrike?

Wizards of the Coast has been very involved in the development of Magic: ManaStrike. We have active communications with Wizards as we’ve developed the game. Through continuous discussions together, we decide on the setup, usability and some game balance, as well as how the resources of ManaStrike fit into the original worldview of the game.

And obviously, Magic: The Gathering is well-known for its card sets and new worlds, so we’re also in conversation with them about how to best integrate some of that new thematic content into Magic: ManaStrike.

Q: Could you tell us how many cards and which Planeswalkers will be available at launch? A possible breakdown into colours if that is possible.

Until the official launch, we expect to have about 100 cards including Planeswalkers. In addition to the basic 5 colours of Planeswalkers, various multi-colours of Planeswalkers will also be available.

Specifically, five of the best-known Planeswalkers – Ajani, Jace, Lillana, Chandra, and Garruk – will be available. Also, multi-colour Planeswalkers – such as Teferi, Nahiri, Domri, and Tezzeret – will be included as well. You can definitely expect to see more later on down the line.

Q: Will there be any cards exclusive to Magic: ManaStrike?

Yes, but they’re not Magic: The Gathering cards in the traditional sense. Magic: ManaStrike uses cards in a completely different way for a completely different gameplay system. Magic: ManaStrike will still follow the storyline and lore of Magic: The Gathering, and we’ll prioritize selecting the names and general effects of cards in the card game as we’re able. That said, there will also be effects that only work in ManaStrike’s system, and we’ll be creating new cards for situations like that.

Q: Why the decision to create 3D models out of each creature cards? Wouldn’t it be easier if Magic: ManaStrike follow the Hearthstone template?

Well, while Magic: ManaStrike uses cards, I wouldn’t call it a TCG in the traditional sense. It’s much more of a real-time PvP battler. We took a lot of learnings from our preview game Star Wars: Force Arena, and I think fans of that game will have a good sense of what we’re trying to accomplish for Magic: ManaStrike. We want to bring this world to life on mobile so that players can see the characters and concepts in Magic: The Gathering rendered and implemented in 3D models. That’s not something that you’re able to do very often in a traditional CCG template.

Q: Cards are regularly banned or restricted in both the physical version and Magic: The Gathering Arena. Will Magic: ManaStrike follow a similar system?

Since Magic: ManaStrike is an independent digital game, it will respond to balance issues by directly modifying abilities, rather than banning or restricting. If there are balance issues, though, you can still expect us to respond.

Q: To follow up on the previous question, how is playtesting conducted by Netmarble to make sure the game stays balanced?

The development team has various testing methods to balance the game. We obtain data through various deck combinations and through this process, the team can go from simple odds between colours, Planeswalkers, and cards to identify strategy patterns.

Q: How does Netmarble plan to update the game? Will it follow the route of physical cards’ expansion sets?

The main update cadence will follow the Magic: The Gathering set release schedule. We’ve already discussed future offerings with Wizards, and we are preparing new content based on those discussions. We can’t wait for people to see what’s coming.

Q: For players of the physical card game or Arena, what are the most attractive parts about Magic: ManaStrike which will entice them to the game?

Magic: ManaStrike features the rich worldbuilding and incredible characters that Magic: The Gathering players love in a new genre of game for the brand. Not only that, but they also finally get the chance to see these characters and their abilities rendered in 3D, which we think is pretty exciting.

We know that Magic players love deep strategy, and they’ll definitely find that in Magic: ManaStrike, all with characters and concept that they’ll already be familiar with. If you’re a Magic: The Gathering player, you’ll definitely want to check out this game.

Q: ManaStrike seems like a no-brainer for the growing esports industry. Are there any plans on introducing the game to the professional scene?

Of course! Once we have enough players and cards to fully build up, we want to provide entertainment to more users through esports.

Q: When can the community expect the next big news drop regarding Magic: ManaStrike?

We are preparing for the global launch in the first quarter of the next year. Please stay tuned for more details!

Q: Finally, to end the interview, any parting words for the gamers out there?

Whether you’re a Magic: The Gathering fan, a dedicated strategy gamer, or just someone who’s looking for a fun experience on mobile, we think you’ll love Magic: ManaStrike. It’s the incredible fantasy worldbuilding of Magic in a completely new kind of game for the brand: an easy to learn PvP battler with a depth of strategy that keeps the game challenging – all with these incredible characters and concepts implemented in 3D. When it’s released next year, I hope many people will enjoy and have fun. Thank you!