Well, Magic: ManaStrike has finally been released on iOS and Android, so here’s our review! As you would already know from our previous first impressions, ManaStrike is a CCG real-time strategy game, similar to Clash Royale. However, there are a few changes they’ve made to the formula.
The gameplay is similar to Clash Royale, destroy the enemy’s main statue or destroy more statues than the opponent when the timer runs out to win. If the game hasn’t ended by the last 60 seconds, both players enter Mana Strike mode, where their resource generation for Mana is doubled. If it is still a tie, the first player to destroy a statue wins. If you’re not familiar, don’t worry, I’ll explain the ins and outs during this ManaStrike review.
To do this, each player uses up mana to summon units or cast spells. Units summoned will run down the top or bottom lane and try to destory the enemy buildings. There are a few targeting types, for example, some units will only target ground units, some will target air and ground units, and some will only target buildings.
And here is where the Magic spin starts to shine. Each Commander will have a color identity, as well as unique and powerful, deck-defining actives and passives. Each player can summon their Commander three times during a fight. You can use their signature skill once, each time they are summoned, as well. You gain an additional summon if you destroy a tower. There are five colors and five starter Commanders available for free. There are 13 additional Commanders available for purchase with in-game gold, but some require you to be a certain rank before you can purchase them. Before writing my ManaStrike review, I had my doubts about the dual-color Commanders. Having more than one Color means you can mix and match the best units from 2 colors. After checking them out however, it seems that they balanced it by having less powerful/impactful Commander abilities and skills for the dual colors.
I will be reviewing the 5 colors with the five starter commanders.
- Red is the color of aggression. Lead by Chandra Nalaar, she fire a thin line of fire that pierces all enemies when summoned. Her skill is an AoE flame stomp that deals damage and pushes units back. There are a lot of Red units that try to rush down enemy buildings.
- Green is the color of growth. Lead by Nissa Revane, she grants the player 1 Mana when summoned (remember, summoning Commanders are free!) She also auto-attacks up to three units. Her skill is an AoE attack buff. Green units are big, stompy and costs hefty amounts of mana, so her passive feels good.
- Blue is the color of deceit and trickery. Lead by Jace Beleren, he copies the next card you would draw and gives you a copy of it in your hand. His skill summons two more copies of himself. I’m not a fan of the ability because it’s an aggressive ability, which is not what Blue is about. On the other hand, Illusions were always Jace’s thing. Blue tends to have a lot of flying units, as well as cheap and powerful crowd-control spells.
- White is the color of order and justice. Lead by Ajani Pridemane, he grants himself and nearby units some temporary HP when summoned. Another thing to note is that he has a pretty insane cleave radius. His skill summons a ward that reduces the damage taken of all units inside. White is an aggressive color that tries to overwhelm the battlefield with numbers and buffing their army.
- Black is the color of death and decay. Lead by Lilliana Vess, her passive is that she will summon skeleton warriors periodically. Her skill is very unique. She will summon a glyph and units within it do not die even while hitting 0 HP. They still die when the glyph expires though. Some black units can reincarnate on their own, while some others will sacrifice units in an AoE for powerful effects. Overall, I think Black is the most uniquely expressed color and I like what they’ve done with it.
Regarding the overall polish, there’s some nice voice acting and the models are beautifully animated. The animations during the game is fluid and the game plays fantastically. The only frustration I have is how clunky it is to cast X cost cards. X Cost cards can be cast for any amount of Mana, and the effect gets stronger the more Mana you pump into it. Sounds great on paper, except that to cast it for a certain cost, you have to hold the spell over the battlefield while it slowly ticks up the amount you want to cast. By the time I’ve finished charging my Drudge Skeletons spell for 10 Mana, the battlefield has already changed. I also can’t react or do anything else while channeling for the spell.
Besides that however, everything else plays fine. AoEs are well-defined and units affected will be highlighted when you drag spells across the battlefield. Everything feels pixel-accurate. The Commanders have unique and powerful abilities that are fun to strategize around.
In terms of progression, you can get rewards just for playing and leveling up. These are plentiful and not at all difficult to achieve. There are daily rewards for playing matches. Getting duplicates for your cards allows you to spend gold to level them up. There is a max of 9 levels per card. Realistically, however, it would be better to focus on a certain color that you would want to main, so that you don’t waste gold on cards that you might not play as much.
The Events, which unlock after attaining Rank 3, seems to be a gauntlet style game-mode. There is a mix of free and paid entry costs. Then, you play to earn as many victories before reaching a certain amount of losses (usually 2 or 3). You then gain rewards based on your performance.
There are some concerns to raise however… To answer the question, is it fun? Yes! It definitely is. But is it worth getting invested into? Probably not. At it’s core, it’s “just another Clash Royale”. Although the Commanders add a lot of depth to the game, it might not be enough if you just don’t like the genre. Secondly, it’s hard to foresee the future for this game. Upon release, ManaStrike’s current cards are based on Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, the 74th and 75th expansion in the franchise. To put it in perspective, the most current expansion as of this review (30th Jan 2020) is Theros Beyond Death, the 83rd expansion. That’s almost 10 expansions difference. Needless to say, the cards are thematically outdated. That’s not to say the cards aren’t good, they’re just not current. Which reflects badly on whether ManaStrike will be able to keep up or even catch up with current cards.
And that’s all to report for now! I hope you enjoyed my ManaStrike review. Check out more delicious Magic content here.