The Best Collectible Card Games for the iPad

The best battle card and deck-building games

The hobby of buying packets of collectible cards has been around for over a century, but when Magic: The Gathering was introduced in 1993, the idea of collectible cards took on a whole new dimension. A fun game with a deep level of strategy, it set the standard for collectible card games. And with its introduction onto the iPad, it seeks to set a new standard for digital card games.

But Duels of the Planeswalkers isn't the only strategic card game for the iPad. There are a number of great choices for those looking to go beyond games of Hearts, Spades, and Uno.

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Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

What We Like
  • Easy to learn.

  • Creative card concepts.

  • Offers "Solo Adventures" for noncompetitive play.

  • Uses mana system for card usage.

What We Don't Like
  • Some cards are expensive.

  • Quests are extremely difficult.

  • Earned ranks are reset down 4 ranks every month.

  • Can't be played offline.

It didn't take long for Blizzard's foray into the card battle genre to become one of the best games on the iPad. Hearthstone has a great combination of deep strategy, easy-to-pick-up-and-play gameplay and addictive quests and Arena runs that lead to opening card packs. Because, really, it's all about the cards, and nothing beats the thrill of getting a rare card. Blizzard makes excellent use of this carrot without pushing the pay portion of the freemium model down anyone's throat.  

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Pathfinder Adventures

Pathfinder Adventures for iOS
What We Like
  • Creative and beautiful card art.

  • Interesting adventures to experience.

  • Fun with multiple players.

  • Includes achievements and trading cards.

What We Don't Like
  • More complicated than most card games.

  • Tutorials are not entirely thorough.

  • Steeper learning curve than most card games.

  • Card management is more restrictive.

If you are ready for the most complicated implementation of the card battle game, you may be ready for Pathfinder Adventures. While games like Lords of Waterdeep take the card battle game into a new direction, Pathfinder Adventures attempts to recreate the dice-rolling fun of pen-and-paper games within the collectible card game paradigm. And it largely succeeds. 

As its name suggestions, you use your decks to go on adventures that include multiple characters in your party, items to help protect you, spells to overcome foes or discover new secrets and, yes, plenty of dice rolling. While you can safely snooze through some game tutorials, if you aren't familiar with Pathfinder Adventurers, you will want to pay attention to this one. But it will be worth it. 

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Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer

What We Like
  • Fun in-game deck building strategy game.

  • Easy to learn how to play.

  • Can play solo against AI or against opponents online.

  • Inexpensive to start playing.

What We Don't Like
  • No solo-play option available.

  • Can be too simple for more advanced players.

  • Artwork is not as creative as other card games.

  • Limited number of options during game play.

In the world of strategy card games, there are collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering and there are deck building games like Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. Certainly, there is a fair amount of deck building in any good card game. But in a traditional collectible card game, you collect cards by either buying booster packs or winning them. In a deck building game, you use the cards in your deck to buy better cards, thus deck building is put into the game itself rather than something done between matches. This variation adds a new level of play to those who love collectible card games.

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What We Like
  • Helpful tutorials to learn how to play.

  • Cute artwork makes game play fun.

  • Available on multiple platforms.

  • Free to play.

What We Don't Like
  • Not as strategic as most battle card games.

  • Menu system is somewhat complicated.

  • A bit more difficult to learn than similar games.

  • Feels more generic and unimpressive.

A mashup between good, old-fashioned role-playing and your classic card battle game, BattleHand manages to strike a great balance. The game eases you into combat with a few tutorial matches and then lets you pick your path to victory among many different quest choices. The cartoonish graphics and tongue-in-cheek style lend themselves to a good, solid game. BattleHand may not compete with Hearthstone in terms of strategic depth, but it is a fun break from the competitive action of those other titles.

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Spectromancer HD

What We Like
  • Opponents are creative and fun to play against.

  • Online leagues are available.

  • Tasks are creative and fun.

  • Familiar game play for experienced players.

What We Don't Like
  • Randomized deck limits strategy.

  • Steep learning curve.

  • Layout is somewhat cluttered and complicated.

  • Advantages of each character class are difficult to understand.

Spectromancer will seem immediately familiar to anyone who has played Kard Combat. And for good reason. Kard Combat was based on the Spectromancer computer games, but without a full license to all the cards, it was only a subset of the game. With Spectromancer HD, the full game lands on iOS. Both games feature five elements and a randomly generated deck, so you don't get to choose your strategy before the game begins. But what is lost in preparation is made up for in adaptation, as you need to know all of the cards well to succeed in the game.

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Shadow Era

Shadow Era
What We Like
  • Beautiful card graphics.

  • Free to play.

  • Deck combinations are fairly balanced.

  • Fun multiplayer game play.

  • Simpler to play than most other card games.

What We Don't Like
  • Large number of cards make deck strategy complicated.

  • There are not always people available for multiplayer games.

  • Game can be glitchy depending where you purchase.

Shadow Era puts a twist on the standard formula for card games. Instead of playing one set of cards to build up a pool of mana and another set to use that mana, you have a single set of cards that can either be used to cast a spell or sacrifice to build your mana pool. The game has beautifully drawn cards and features a deck builder, allowing you to explore different strategies.

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Summoner War

Summoner Wars
What We Like
  • Great tactical moving for fun strategy.

  • Available for multiple platforms.

  • Easy for new players to learn how to play.

  • Excellent two-player game play.

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel repetitive after many matches.

  • Takes some time to learn how to play.

  • Random cards at start of your turn limit available strategy.

  • Winning is more luck based than strategy based.

Another card game that has transitioned from your living room table to our iPad, Summoner War is a cross between a collectible card game and a traditional strategy game. Instead of having a deck that you play like a standard card game, you use the cards to move around a map, positioning the cards to ultimately give you the upper hand.

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