Review: Decked Builder, by TJ Soft
Decked Builder, by TJ Soft
$5.99 (with in app purchases), ***
- Lots of useful tools
- Card scanner works well (with limitations)
- Can test decks and keep your MtG collection
- Not user friendly, nor intuitive
- Can be expensive to buy all the features
- Layout leaves a lot to be desired
I started playing Magic the Gathering (yes, nerd alert!) about twenty two years ago, in 1993 (man, I feel old now). At that time, we carried our cards in shoe boxes or small card boxes, and no one thought about protecting cards unless you had something like a Black Lotus. Nowadays, there are millions of cards out there, everyone plays with sleeves, there are pre-release tournaments, and more. Suffice to say, Magic is big business, even as a casual player. It takes some effort to keep track of all your cards. Enter Decked Builder HD. While this app is available for both the iPad and the iPhone (and the review is the same for both) the pictures in the review are from the iPad version.
With Decked Builder, you can keep track of your collection of cards, including different expansion sets, foil or non-foil versions, and even special pre-release types of cards. You can sort them all, sync up your database with DropBox, and iCloud. If you don’t want to manually enter all your cards, you have the option of scanning them (if you purchase a $4.99 camera feature as an in app purchase). Once your collection is complete, you can build decks, test them out (for example, finding out if you routinely draw too little or too much land), and even share decks and collections with other people. It is, simply put, a rather full-featured app.
Figure 1. Pricing (from a source of your choice) is one of the nice features for both decks and collections.
The features seem to work pretty well. If you just want to try some decks, that feature is included in the main app. The search feature works pretty well, and lets you even choose to seached among all cards, cards you own, or cards you don’t own. I liked the fact you can choose which pricing source you want to include to determine the value of the cards, as different people may have different preferences for their go-to pricing guide. There is a nice summary feature when looking at your decks that will tell you how much of each color, manage cost, and card type you have. There is even a nice graphing feature if you are more graphical in nature. When testing a deck, you can deal a hand, draw cards, play cards – all as if you are playing a real game (you just don’t have an opponent).
Figure 2. Deck testing (drawing, shuffling, etc.) is a nice feature included in the app.
If you actually want to manage your entire collection, that requires an in-app purchase of $3.99. I tried adding some cards to a “collection”, and then also tried testing out a deck. The collection tools were nice, allowing you to do things like export your collection to a CSV file, price your entire collection (from a pricing source you get to choose), and even import a collection. I have all my cards in an Excel database, so I may have to do that rather than manually put them all in. Unfortunately the import tool is quite specific about how you need to import it, so if you already use a database or spreadsheet program, you may have to switch it around a little bit. The import feature doesn’t give you a lot of instructions on how to use it, but at least it is there.
Figure 3. The robust searching lets you search all cards, cards you have, or cards you don't have.
I purchased the in-app scanner and it was able to recognize the cards I was showing it, even in low light conditions when the picture was not very legible. The only downside was that you have to choose the expansion set prior to taking the picture – I would have though the scanner would be able to recognize the expansion from the symbol on each card! That means if you are going through a huge stack of cards, it would slow you down unless they are sorted based on expansion set. So while the camera is useful, it is limited. One nice thing about the card scanner is that when you scan it, the card is automatically added to the collection, you don’t have to hit a series of “yes” or “okay” buttons.
Figure 4. Even with this bad picture, the in-app scanner recognized the card I was looking at.
One of the biggest problems with the app is the lack of an intuitive user interface or simply help/tutorial system. It took me a long time to figure out how to ue some of the features, and in some cases I am still not sure what to do. While there is a “help” option along with a FAQ in the settings menu, those are aimed more at describing the releases and highlighting some of the features. There is an in-app help that consists of screen shots showing you what to do, but I found it had limited functionality.
Figure 5. Card sorting and deck characteristics are easy to view.
In addition to the problems I mentioned above, this is not a universal binary. So if you want it on your iPad and your iPhone, you will have to purchase it for both ($5.99 for the iPad, $3.99 for the iPhone). In addition, you will have to have each in-app purchase for each device ($4.99 for the camera for each device, and $3.99 for the collection management feature). That can all add up to one big purchase. On top of that, I was never able to get them to synchronize with each other when using iCloud, although I was with Dropbox (you just have to makesure to save it each time, since saving is not automatic).
Figure 6. The menu system is not intuitive or easy to figure out, but once you do, there is a lot of power.
All in all, Decked Builder is a highly functional, full featured (if you pay) Magic the Gathering deck and collection management tool. You can synchronize across devices (with some difficulty) and then design and test decks fairly easily. While the lack of a simply help or tutorial, combined with a non-intuitive interface can make it frustrating, once you get past the learning curve, it is possible to really take control on your cards and collections. Three and a half out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.