It’s Magic without the CCG elements. That’s kind of like D&D without the RPG elements, which Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro is also doing. That removes some problems but also much of the core game.
By “without the CCG elements,” I mean that there is no deck-building. You can pick one of several pre-made decks. There is some minor deck-building when you unlock new cards for each deck, but you cannot remove existing cards you do not like. On the upside, that removes the standard CCG structure of encouraging you to spend ridiculous sums on getting the perfect deck. On the downside, that removes the entire strategic element of the game, leaving only the tactical side of playing what feels like someone else’s deck. And the decks, while effective against each other, are stocked with trash that you would not use in a normal Magic game.
Playing through the campaign (against a series of computer-controlled decks), it is hard to shake the feeling that winning comes from who gets better decks/draws or from the weakness of the AI, rather than player skill. I have lost games watching enemy creatures fly in while I could do nothing to stop them, and I have won games where the computer never seemed to be able to do much. Then again, it might just be that the basic green deck is a blunt instrument requiring almost no thought: land, creatures, very few instants or special abilities. You only need to win once to advance, so one lucky draw and you’re set (limiting mulligans on the opening hand is somewhat silly when you can costlessly reset the duel).
Playing online might differ. I am always hesitant to test some random online community. It would be playing against others facing similar deck constraints, so again that mix of deck, luck, and minor tactics. For the tactical, there is a series of “win this turn” puzzles, each of which involves a few minutes of reading cards and seeing where the path to victory lies.
I picked this up because I was mostly enjoying Elements, saw the ad (free expansion with pre-order), checked some reviews of the console version, and thought it might be worth $10 to try the market leader. It was a low risk purchase compared to real Magic cards or a night at the cinema. Entertaining in an early binge, but likely lacking in staying power due to the low deck flexibility. I will let you know if that assessment changes.