Magic: The Gathering Toolbox by Wizards of the Coast icon

One of my favorite nerdy hobbies that doesn’t involve technology is playing card games. No, not your traditional playing deck card games, I’m talking about trading card games. You know, games like Magic: The Gathering. That’s why I was thrilled when I learned that Wizards of the Coast has released an official app for the game – Magic: The Gathering Toolbox (Free).

I have been playing MtG on and off again for the past several years, and it will always be a part of my life (in fact, card games are the main reason I met my current boyfriend). I’m not a pro, but I do appreciate the strategy and challenge involved with such a game. With the Toolbox app, I can have all of the MtG information and tools I need with one app.

The interface for the Toolbox is similar to the “dashboard” view that we should be familiar with (it’s just like what we see on our home screens). Icons for Life Tracker, Deck Builder, Events, Players, Card Search, News, Content Update, and Store Locator are all there (like your iPhone’s app icons), and you can rearrange them however you want by doing the tap-and-hold gesture.

Magic: The Gathering Toolbox by Wizards of the Coast screenshot

By far, the best thing to have around is the Life Tracker. With this, you can accurately keep track of each player’s score without needing dice or paper. There are options to change the background of the player’s half, add more players, and even trackers (poison counters, deck size, Times Commander Cast, and Storm Count). A Randomizer tool is also there, which allows players to do a coin toss or roll a six or 20 sided die to determine who goes first.

So far, I only play casual two-player games with my boyfriend, but you can change the tracker mode to Tournament (Friday Night Magic), Commander, or Custom. The FNM mode looks the same as the Two-Player, except there is also a 50 minute timer to help you keep track of how much time is remaining. I have yet to play Commander myself, but this mode changes the tracker to 40 life for each player, has a timer of 50 minutes, and other tweaks to help with the game. The app also keeps track of your games through logs, so you can see your progress over a period of time.

The next best thing about MtG Toolbox is the Card Search and Deck Builder. I think it’s only fair to group these two together since they go hand-in-hand with each other.

Card Search allows you to search through over 10,000 cards in the MtG library, which are all stored locally on your device (hence for the large file size). The Filter tool allows you to choose a Format, Expansion Set (this will vary depending on the Format that you’ve chosen), Card Type (such as Artifact, Creature, Planeswalker, Land, etc.), and Subtype. You can also select the card color you want to see (White, Blue, Black, Red, Green) by tapping on the appropriate mana symbol. If you want to search for a specific card, just type in the name with the search bar at the top. The app will search as you type in realtime, so you don’t have to recall the exact name to find what you’re looking for.

Tapping a card will allow you to view where it comes from, rarity, game and flavor text, mana cost, and more. If you’re interested, you can even find out the artist name, release date, and collector number. You can add the card to your Wish List or an existing deck (I’ll get to that in a minute), or you can start a new deck from the card.

In the Deck Builder, you can view your Wish List, or create and edit existing decks. After all, what would a MtG app be if it didn’t allow you to keep track of your awesome deck? Tapping on New Deck will prompt you for a name (call it something cool), Format, and color. After it’s saved, you can start adding cards to it using the Card Search feature. When adding cards, you can choose to add it to the main deck or the 15-card sideboard. You can even do cool stuff like see a sample hand, draw, and mulligan – doing this allows you to see the probability of drawing the cards that are critical to your victory. All the bases are covered here!

You can even share your deck through Facebook or by email, though the Facebook part doesn’t seem to be working for me. Email will send a plain text document, which is perfect (in case you want to post your deck for critique on MtG forums and the like).

Magic: The Gathering Toolbox by Wizards of the Coast screenshot

Other useful bits of the app are the News, Events, and Store Locator. News will give you the latest from the Daily MTG website, though you can add the RSS feed from your favorite Magic sites to stay on top of it all from one app. Events will provide a calendar of upcoming tournaments and Friday Night Magic happenings. Of course, if you don’t know any place that does such events, the Store Locator is helpful.

My only quarrel with the Store Locator is that it just prompts mobile Safari with the store locator page from their website. It would have been better if this functionality would remain in the app, and not launch another app. I dislike when apps do this – it feels intrusive, since I am forced out of the app because they decided to not implement the feature in the app itself.

Another thing I would like to see are improvements in speed and performance while searching for a card – it seems choppy and slow at the beginning of a new search.

As a regular Magic player though, this app is definitely useful and will be getting regular use out of me for a long time. It’s packed with features and the UI is fairly polished for a version 1.0. The most amazing thing about it is the fact that WotC has released this for free.

Hopefully, it won’t be long before the app is updated with Dark Ascension (the second set of the Innistrad block) content, which will be released on February 3.

If you are a MtG player, then definitely be sure to pick this one up.