MTG Forge was written because I enjoyed Shandalar so much. Shandalar being the 1998 MicroProse version of Magic: The Gathering called “Duels of the Planeswalkers” which also had an expansion called “Spells of the Ancients.” It is amazing that even 10 years ago the word “planeswalker” was around but it was not made into a card until recently. Anyways, Shandalar was great fun and featured constructed (all the cards), sealed, and a basic RPG.
After playing many days of constructed, I was beginning to get bored so I hesitantly tried the sealed deck option. As it turned out, it was even better than constructed. Although Shandalar’s sealed card pool was pretty abysmal, I always seemed to have more red cards, it was still new and exciting. MTG Forge stemmed from the simple idea that I wanted to add and remove cards from the sealed card pool.
I knew that trying to program Magic was a big task and that I probably wouldn’t ever be able to program a whole block, so MTG Forge was designed primarily for sealed games. Since sealed games usually have lots of creatures, I figured that programming the AI to use creatures would be easier than spells, since many spells depend on the board situation like Wrath of God.
In many ways Shandalar is still the gold standard. The game board and card presentation is clear and easy to understand. Selecting your phase stops is very simple. And the AI does occasionally surprise me. Shandalar’s AI seems to be able to do simple combos although it randomly shoots itself in the foot by playing Weakness (enchant creature -2/-1) on its own creature. Overall Shandalar’s AI is probably better than MTG Forge’s, but Forge does better at creature combat. I don’t necessarily take this as a putdown since Shandalar had more manpower.
There have been a few unofficial updates to Shandalar but they tend to be pretty random. I found a few patches at http://www.manalink.de but nothing is really organized. You can download Shandalar from here, but you will have to use BitTorrent. Enjoy.