【Mabinogi Duel】 Addictive Fast Paced, Mobile dTCG with Japanese Anime Style Story Mode

I am still debating whether my purchase of iPad Pro was worth or not especially without still not being able to get Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard.  But one thing I decided to do is just search for some dTCG/dCCG on iOS platform.  I know I did the search awhile back but not surprisingly there were many more since then.  Couple games caught my attention and I had downloaded them.  One advantage of iOS/Android platform compared to Windows or OS-X is probably the abundance of dTCG/dCCG that are free to play (at least for starter).  Today, I am going to write a bit about “Mabinogi Duel”, which is actually among the three games caught my eyes, it’s my favorite so far.


  • iOS and Android – Supports both phones and tablets.
  • Free to play with many daily rewards, and lots of story mode content
  • Multi-language support including English, Korean, Japanese and Chinese
  • Made by Nexon

General gameplay

12 Card Limit

Yes. It is not a typo.  The deck has only 12 cards limit. It’s not a minimum but maximum number of cards you can have in a deck. So it inevitably puts this into a casual dTCG/dCCG category but don’t stop reading yet.  As you may know, I don’t typically like too simplified dTCG/dCCG so the game actually does have depth despite such small deck size.

Slot based system

Yet another component of the game that tells it is made for casual/quick play style.  5 slots where you can summon your troops/creatures, faced against opponents 5 slots.


Take opponent’s life down to zero.  Note here opponent’s life is not necessary 20.  In fact, most aren’t 20 and it’s not even fixed (see detail below).  Creatures will attack automatically each turn during attack phase of the player, and damages are cumulative.  Just like many other slot based games if there is card in front, the creature generally attacks it but if none in front then the damage goes directly to opponent player.  In general, there is no counterattack by defending creatures.

Resource System

Type: Hybrid of Sacrifice and Automatic Resource System

The game’s resource system is a bit unique on its own.  It is a automatic resource system at its core but it does give some choices to the player.  Basically, a player gains random type of resource (5 different types) at the beginning of the player’s turn.  The randomness comes from the deck content.  In this game you can have maximum three color/shard/faction mix. So if your deck has 3 different colors, you have 1 in 3 chance to get a color you want.  But if you have only a single color deck then you always get the resource.

But unlike some of the other games, Mabinogi gives some resource management ability to player.  Basically, player can take X number of actions during his turn where X is based on the player’s level with max level being 3 (see below for level system).  So a player can use the action to take more source point, which again is like a roulette and randomly gains you a resource point of the color based on your deck content.  These resource are cumulative i.e. one can decide when to use and when not to use.

To further strength resource management in the game, Mabinogi has a sacrifice resource system element.  One can discard a card into graveyard to gain exact type of the resource you want based on the type of card discarded.  So one can think this as actually modified Sacrifice resource system (SRS).

Personally, I much prefer Mabinogi implementation of ARS compared to that of game like Hearthstone where you automatically ramp and reset resources each turn.  Obviously, this is a personal preference, but with Mabinogi the resources have color so you do get mild color screw but that’s part of deck design, and also it’s not always same amount of resources between two players i.e. much more involved tactical decision making is present in Mabinogi when it comes to how to use resources.

Dynamic Interactive Play

A Counterspell is also a spell, which means that you can use a Counterspell on a Counterspell . (i.e.: Player A and Player B both have a Counterspell in their grave. Player A tries to play a spell card, which Player B counters with a Counterspell, which Player A counters again with a Counterspell, resulting in the initial spell card being cast, and both Counterspell cards returning to the players’ hands).

I have solely been playing single campaign mode so far, and not yet came across.  But based on the rules section of the game, Mabinogi does support Magic’s instant/HEX quick action i.e. counter spells.  Considering simple design at first glance, this is a bit surprise decision but a good surprise.

No draw

This game has no draw system.  You start your hand with all the cards in your deck i.e. up to 12 cards.  Resource are gained from a roulette when you take an action, or turn starts so no dedicated card for it.  This means you know what cards exactly you have in the game i.e. essentially takes away lots of luck element and put more emphasis on strategy/tactics.

Revive System

Because there are only 12 cards in a deck, it is inevidable your hand shrinks down rather quickly.  But to compensate this, there is a revive system.  Basically as a one of action choice the player has is “revive.”  This is simple as bringing all cards back to the players hand from graveyard by choosing revive.  What you pay here is your health which is equal to number of cards in the graveyard.  No limit how many times you can revive.  So 12 cards deck suddenly becomes much larger size deck equivalent.

Hero Level System

  1. Whenever the player performs an action, attacks, or an allied creature dies, the Hero gains a certain amount of EXP.
  2. Once the Hero gathers enough EXP, the Hero levels up.
  3. A Hero starts at level 1, and can reach a top level of 3.
  4. When leveling up, the Hero’s current HP increases by 25%, resource requirements for casting/summoning change and the card’s HP, Attack and effect values improve.

Here Hero is not same as HEX or Shadow Era.  Hero himself is you and you don’t have any special power.  But interesting part is your hero levels up during the game and by doing so you get several benefits.  Two of the main ones are you get more actions per turn i.e. instead of 1 per turn becomes 3 per turn.  The other main one is all the cards (except ones already on the field) gets boost in their stat based on the level of player hero.  So as a game progress, your deck evolves stronger.

Action System

This is just a summary, but in Mabinogi, a player choose one of six action to take for each action point he has during his action phase.  These six are as follow.

  • Summon a creature on an empty cell on the own battlefield. Any mentioned starting effects on the summoned card are activated. The summoned creature receives a summoning sickness count of 1.
  • Use a spell card. The magic of the spell card may start a battle.
  • Gain one of the resources used randomly.
  • Discard one card on the hand to the grave, and receive one resource, the type determined by the resource kind of the card.
  • Return all cards in the grave to the hand (Revive).
  • Level up the Hero.

Game Mode

Campaign Mode

Since I have really played only this mode so far, this is where I believe the game shines.  The game has a linear story/campaign mode, which takes a plot basically like Japanese anime.  Though not a groundbreaking story, it gives a little connection in playing AI versus mode rather than simply playing AI game one after another.  I particularly like here is each opponent deck and even your own deck in this story mode changes based on the story, and tips are provided as part of story telling.  So it is essentially a tutorial but in an ideal form i.e. you are playing game to learn how to play.

Daily Mission Mode

Not a surprise to these types of game especially in mobile platform, this game has a daily mission mode where you complete daily missions to gain some bonus including in game currency and perhaps card etc.  It certainly provides the incentive to some players at least log in once per day.

Draft Mode

Eventually, I want to give a try to it, but I am still focusing on campaign mode.  But the game seems to have a solid (at least by glance) draft mode.  This is like Hearthstone, you don’t get to keep the cards but that system allows you to focus on building the best deck based on your draws.  This mode (based on description) is limtied to play against AI but you will win prizes.

PvP Mode

Obviously, TCG is not complete without a PvP mode.  One great thing I see here is the game separates PvP mode based on players experience e.g. Newbie, which is limited to player who are under level 5 to Veteran Arena where you can only participate after ranked higher than GOLD in Rookie Arena.


The art style is based on Japanese anime style (this game is made by Korean company, so more like Carte CCG).  Background changes here and there, and there is also some special effect using cards.  So overall, I think it is top notch as long as you are ok with Anime style arts.


I am still not sure about the cost in this game.  It is a bit complex system here.  It sounds like a game has membership plan.  This seems like better analyzed by tradingcardgames site with some of the pictures from them below.


It also has daily mission to give you 5 gems (currency type that real money can purchase).

Normally a booster pack containing 5 cards costs 30 gems.  This means it generally costs ~$3 per pack with more discount as you buy higher price gems in batches.  Though not all booster packs are equal in value, according to the tradingcardgames site.


So in short, I am not qualified here to make the value analysis of this game yet, and rather refrain from doing so for now and refer you to go to tradingcardgames site if you are interested.


Max 12 cards per deck and slot based card system falsely gives an impression that this game being too simplified digital card game.  When you start playing, you actually notice there are several pieces of this game that makes much deeper than one would think.  In fact, I’d categorize this game system deeper/more robust than Hearthstone or Solforge.  Though it doesn’t necessary means better.  But if you are interested in quick game play but has depth to the system, Mabinogi can potentially fit that criteria.  What I recommend about this game is its campaign mode, which is free to play and has some story element to it (like cheap Japanese anime).  I can certainly see myself keep playing this game at my free time.  What I am still not sure is if I am willing to invest actual money into this game.  The game has somewhat classic Asian card game system where daily mission, various booster packs etc. to make hard to assess the values of the cards.  But free to play component seems fun at least for first a few hours of play, and I highly recommend ones to try at least.

Official Site: http://devcat.nexon.com/duel/us/


7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Hellmaster on November 30, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Hi again, I started to play this game about 1 week ago. Although i found that 3$ per booster is very expensive (there is i think 1000 cards in set 1 if i remember correctly) so before having a collection its gone take time.

    But then there is the subscription model that seems to be ALOT cheaper alternative. I think the idea of making the cost cheaper is you HAVE to log in to get yours gems.

    300 gems + 30gems days x 28 = 1140 gems (thats close to the 1300 gems for 100$) AND you get 10% off packs which come out at 27 gems

    20 packs @ 27 gems (540 gems)
    20 packs @ 30 gems (600 gems)

    40 packs for 23.99 thats 0,60$ per pack.

    Its the first time i can see a game discount packs so much. But its a very very very very smart move. Its almost as you are playing a CCG on a subscription base 🙂 Give people a reason to come every day other than daily rewards.

    Alot of things i like in this game, but as always i don,t invest in CCG(ok almost don’t invest unless its kickstarter and i get good value)


  2. Posted by weipeng on December 1, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Regarding 12 cards deck size limit: In Magic, the deck minimum size is 60 cards, excluding 18-24 land cards you get 42-36 spell cards. That means in the most streamline decks, if all cards are 4-of, the player only play 9-11 different non-land cards. Again, in Hearthstone, 30 cards minimum deck size and each non-Legendary card could only has 3 copies, so in the most streamline decks, the player only play 10 different cards. The same in SolForge.

    Sure almost all the decks would include 1-of and 2-of cards. But you get the idea. When there’s no draw system, 12 cards Mabinogi deck is not that far from 60 cards Magic deck or 30 cards Hearthstone deck.


    • Posted by Hellmaster on December 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

      Thats a good analysys on how many cards per deck. Since you recall them you don’t need to have alot in them.

      But in Mabinogi, i did not see any crafting possibility yet. So if i want a card, i got to buy packs….unless i trade and thats another issue (yes you are allowed to trade)” you have to be at a close distance and trade with the person in front of you. Its a cool concept based on a real TCG but real TCG also lets you ship in mail the cards 🙂 so wanting to trade is not the best option. (still good that its a possibility)

      You seem to know alot about this game, Have you been playing alot ?


      • Posted by weipeng on December 3, 2015 at 11:42 pm

        I’ve just played Mabinogi for one week. I was interested in and fascinated with this game, especially how the rule design. The whole concept, of removing drawing card completely from card game, blowed me away. It’s like the first time I saw SolForge, a card game that removed the resource system completely, and found it amazing.

        This is the reason why I loved SolForge and Mabinogi most in all dCCG I’ve ever played. And I rated both SolForge and Mabinogi way higher than games like Hex. They found incredible new design space in a somewhat stale game genre.

  3. Posted by houshasen on December 1, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Haha we have a same taste. Thank you for the analysis. 60 cents a pack is pretty good and comes close to shadow era, which is one of the cheapest dCCG. Having said that $100 in this type of game seems a bit too much investment but if one see this is the type of dCCG one can go for long time, yes that’s not a bad value.

    But as you said, this is dCCG and no resell value. Every penny you spend won’t worth any. It’s a fun game but I can’t see myself playing for long. So I’d have been totally ok if I paid $10 or so for onetime cost of this type of game but not for individual cards. Especially as I see myself playing this game mainly for single player and not as PvP.


    • Posted by weipeng on December 1, 2015 at 10:45 pm

      In Shadow Era, you could buy rare cards by in-game currency very cheap. More cheap than any other dCCG. Makes it the most affordable (mainstream) dCCG.

      However, thus you could get one pack for 60 cents in Mabinogi by using Premium Membership. And most importantly, you almost only need one copy for any card. This significantly lower the cost of Mabinogi. Comparing the cost of 4 Mystic Rare copies in Magic, or 3 Legendary copies in SolForge. Just the cast of one playset (4 cards) of any Mystic Rare card, could let you subscribe Premium Membership in Mabinogi for half a year.


      • Posted by houshasen on December 1, 2015 at 11:06 pm

        True. But there is one common misconception. Although one of main reason I stopped playing magic was indeed because it got too expensive for me but it’s because I had collectors mentality.

        In fact, I could have gone continuously without adding any more money than original $300 or so investment in the game to refresh a good decent deck if I wanted to. This is because I can keep selling and trading my cards and knowing when to sell and buy, I was actually making money in the game (obviously not like stock market) but more than I put in. So auction house and relatively good number of audience, one can go long time without spending any more.

        Although Shadow Era has perfectly reasonable price set up despite no resell value outside a game. This is because one can complete whole set under $100 and set releases only like one per year. So if someone can get a year worth of game play and fun for one year, I think $100 is a cheap as if you are essentially buying couple video game which probably gives merely 50 to 100 hours of fun for most games.

        I’m not saying Mabinogi isn’t Shadow Era equivalent. Just don’t know that yet but at quick glance it seems to fit similar business model as many of Japanese mobile DCCG which tends to be not good games to put money in. As I play more I may change my opinion about Mabinogi though as it is indeed intersti g and well designed game.

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