Spotlight: Mabinogi Duel

I love card games but Duel of Champions died down due to lack of popularity. Magic: The Gathering, definitely the Grandfather of TCG, but it’s too expensive to keep up with it.

But I think I found the best digital TCG. And it’s F2P! This is Mabinogi Duel.  Honestly, it’s great. I haven’t found anything to complain about.


Mabinogi 1

I’ll put it out here first so you know what to expect: It’s the best mobile game I’ve laid my hands on.

Its gameplay is nuts. But I’m not going to be talking (much) about that. I’m sure there are already lots of gameplay reviews out there for it. So instead, I’ll focus on the brilliance of the game design.

IMO, the thing that really set it apart from all the other TCGs out there, digital or not is:

There are only 12 cards in a deck
Mabinogi Deck
Yep, that’s my entire deck right there



If that’s your reaction, you’re not alone. When I first played it I was like, NO WAY you can play with 12 cards!

Hey, turns out, you can! And it’s pretty damn addictive. There’s more: you start with the entire deck in your hands.

‘What!’ You say again, though a little less shocked now. How far is devCAT going to bend the rules of TCG? But when you think about it, it only makes sense when you only have 12 cards.


Anyone who has played card games should know that the most frustrating is not drawing that one card that could get you the win. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve lost draft matches because my friends managed to draw his one ace card in the deck, while mine is stuck at the bottom.

This card drawing is my biggest gripe with card games. And MD completely removed that. It has its own share of luck factors, but nothing as frustrating as not being able to draw that card when you need it.

I don’t know if there are already other TCGs out there with a similar concept, but it’s definitely the first for me.

And I’m loving it.

Tutorial through story mode


Told me to protect the baby. Used 'Sacrifice' on baby to gain mana. #thugLife
Told me to protect the baby. Used Dark Ritual on baby to gain mana. #thugLife

When I found out that the campaign was actually a tutorial, my heart died a little inside. Man, this is going to be boring, I thought.

Tutorials are notoriously hard to be entertaining. They usually require you to sit through very basic movements, make you walk here, and back. Tap on the object to break it. What? Like, is your target audience the newborns?

There are many sins a game can get away with. But being boring is NOT one of them. You’re a game. Be fun!

And here’s what Mabinogi Duels did really well.

Mabinogi card 2

MD weaved its tutorials into a campaign mode. During your quest, they put you in various difficult scenarios, such as stalling for time, hunting Giant Wurms, destroying suicidal robots, and through that, teaches the various mechanics of the game.

And mind you. The story has a solid plot and foreshadowing. I was pleasantly surprised to see so much effort and attention going into the tutorial/campaign. The dialogues are memorable and funny. They actually made me laugh.

(Do note that I play the game in Japanese, so I’m not sure if the English translations are equally well done. Why do I play it in Japanese, you ask? Because I can.  *smirks*)


You can actually trade cards


Players are allowed to sell their cards for in-game gold. Take that, Hearthstone!
Players are allowed to sell their cards for in-game gold. Take that, Hearthstone!

A TRADING card game that allows trading? You don’t say.

Except, with the arrival of digital TCGs, trading cards are a thing of the past. Most developers saw it as a chance to do it away and made it so that you can only purchase booster packs from them.

But MD allows you to buy, sell, and trade cards with other players with in-game gold (that you can earn by playing). This means you can play the game completely free if you so wish (unless like me you decided to sell your soul to the game and play it 14 hours a day).

Trading comes with a little restriction. A card can be traded up to four times, which then it becomes an old card, and can no longer be traded (no changes to cards’ effect).

Sure, maybe it’s one way they make sure you still buy boosters. But hey, it’s good enough for me. No other digital TCGs, AFAIK, allows trading. Even in real life, traded cards get wear and tear too, until it becomes much less valuable.

This is Soul Link. While you usually buy cards from player stores. You can do actual trading with this. When you meet up with a friend, you can initiate duels or trade cards by connecting with Soul Link. Ahh… Reminds me of the days when we fought Pokemon on Gameboys with cables!

It’s in the little details

Here’s how it looks like when you visit the store.

Mabinogi Duel Store
They’re even ‘hooked’ onto those little hooks! :D

Including the 4-times limit trade on the cards, I find it absolutely adorable that they try to mimic real life TCG as close as possible.

Other digital TCGs feature super dramatic lights and flares and Hollywood sound effects when you open a booster-pack. When you get an ultra rare card you get more explosions more colours more Hollywood sound effects.

But, watch how Mabinogi Duel lets you open booster packs:

No overdramatic effects with flying unicorns and fireworks! No over-the-top sound effects! Just me, and the booster packs, the traditional way! Cards don’t fly in every direction on your screen magically.

You even get to peek at the card, just like you would with real cards. That suspense when you peek at it slowly and realise it might be a rare :D


My still shitty album :D
My still shitty album :D

Then you place those cards in your card albums.


I love you Nexon and devCAT and Mabinogi Duel.

Honestly, it’s a great game. I’m a picky gamer. I’ve watched some videos on the English version, and for once, the voiceover didn’t turn me off as they usually do when it’s a foreign game being dubbed. Definitely give it a try if you’re looking for a good card game.

My handle is 零オプション if you ever feel like adding me.


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