Players of the computerized Magic: The Gathering have been waiting for this. MicroProse has finally released Spells of the Ancients, the first expansion set for Magic, and it's a top-notch add-on that every MtG player should own.
The most obvious addition is the 138 new cards, culled from the Unlimited, Arabian Nights, and Antiquities sets. These are the earliest published sets of the Magic card game, and contain some very rare cards. MicroProse has also included six promotional cards that are among the rarest of all Magic cards ever printed. Cards from these early expansion sets are some of the most powerful around and can quickly boost the force of your deck.
While some developers would consider this alone enough for an expansion pack, MicroProse goes even further - using the add-on to give Magic a much-needed facelift. Spells of the Ancients upgrades Magic: The Gathering to version 2.0 and fixes several of the problems found in the original. SotA revamps the clunky interface, improving aesthetics as well as usability and simplicity. There is also a "Face Builder" utility that allows you to create your own persona. Sounds like a neat idea, but it actually boils down to flipping through tons of clip art, which does little but change color. Perhaps the coolest new feature is the addition of sealed-deck tournament play. In the sealed-deck tournament, you must build a deck from unopened Starter Decks and Booster Packs chosen from the various sets. You can then challenge up to thirty-one other AI players using your new deck.
The game itself hasn't changed, but several improvements have been added to improve gameplay. Version 2.0 is much more stable than previous versions and I suffered no crashes. It is also easier to avoid combat in the wilderness, making the campaign mode much less tedious. MicroProse has even updated the computer AI, and your computer opponents rarely make obvious flubs.
Even with all of these additions, MicroProse still has not included multiplay ability in this new upgrade package. However, a ManaLink coupon that promises multiplay action over the Internet is included with the game. When ManaLink becomes available (which should be sometime in November), MicroProse will send registered purchasers of SotA the first copies via electronic transfer.
With a price tag of around thirty bucks, Spells of the Ancients is an expansion pack that promises a lot of power for a moderate price. New cards, improved features, and sealed-deck tournaments should keep Magic: The Gathering fans busy for a while - and after ManaLink is released, perhaps eternity.