Artifact is a digital collectible card game, which combines deep strategic thinking with competitive gameplay. Its gameplay consists of building your deck of cards. You can buy them one by one, or you can purchase packs of ten in Steam. The opening purchase grants you game access, ten booster packs, and 2 starter decks with 54 cards each. You can also earn cards by winning Expert gauntlets /they have an entry fee/. Among the gauntlets, there is a mode, called “Keeper draft”, which allows you to keep the cards, which you have drafted for the mode. However, this move will cost you 5 card packs plus the entry fee. The goal of the game is to beat your opponent in 1v1 combat. The game is based upon elements of the multiplayer battle arena Dota 2, which is also developed by Valve, and the fact that both games share a setting makes for one immersive experience. Just like Dota 2, Artifact focuses on online PvP, and the single-player component is out of the question. However, in the beginning, you can play the tutorial with the AI-controlled bot. You can learn more about the new Valve's game in our Artifact guide.
The difference between Artifact and other collectible card games is that it has three “lanes”, which all have a guarding tower at the end. The lanes are all considered to be their own independent boards. There are two ways to win. One is to destroy the “Ancient” first of all players. The “Ancient” itself is a structure, which appears after destroying a tower. The other way to win is to be the first to demolish two towers.
The player’s deck consists of 40 cards, and it has 5 heroes in it. At the launch of the game, the total available card count is nearly 300. The cards are divided into 3 rarity tiers – rare, uncommon, and common. At least one rare card is guaranteed per booster pack. They are also grouped into 4 color themes – black, blue, green, and red. Each one of the colors has a different effect, while on the board. The black cards are the assassins, which focus on taking out the enemy’s heroes and stacking gold. The blue cards are the control ones, which help you with weak heroes and compensate with powerful spells. The green cards are the support, which summons creatures and buffs them. The red cards consist of more aggressive units, which can crush your opponent early in the game but have weaker spells.
All of the lanes also have separate mana pools. The pools are used for casting abilities and regenerating after a round. There are also item cards, which you can place freely and use them in any of the lanes. The game is turn-based, so each time you put a card, it becomes the opponent’s turn.
Once all cards are placed in a lane, heroes and creeps should start attacking the opponent and their towers. The creeps are weak, but numerous. You cannot control them directly, and they respawn each new round.
The player keeps on attacking until all 3 lanes have been played. After that, you go into the “shopping phase”, where you can buy different items and upgrade the equipment in your three slots – for weapons, armor, and accessories. You buy all this with the gold that you have accumulated during battle.
Since the game is similar to Dota 2, the decisions, which you make as you play, are one of the most important things. Such games need a pragmatic vision, quick wit, and a strategic mind. You can’t rely only on strict instructions. So that is why, our guide should be looked at as advice, most of all. So, if you have played Artifact a little bit and understand the basics, here are some things to look out for and some situations to escape from:
1) You will lose heroes, even in unpredictable ways
You will probably get attached to your heroes. Naturally, it is easy to get fixated on them, since they are the most powerful units and often the most important, too. You cannot play a specific color of cards if a hero of the same color is not present in the lane. Heroes are your path to winning the game. You will upgrade them with items, buff them, and do anything possible, to get that win.
However, they inevitably are going to die. So sometimes you can only sit and watch that happen. The worst case scenario will be to lose your heroes since the first turn. This may occur because even if you have control over which 3 heroes come out first, you do not control the lane they end up in and their opposing forces.
Some black and red heroes can one-shot enemy heroes right at the start of the game. Such heroes are Phantom Assassin, Bounty Hunter, Ursa, Legion Commander, Axe, and Bristleback. Particularly vulnerable to them are the blue heroes. Things like this can happen at the beginning, when you are still learning, but can be a little bit discouraging. While your hero is respawning, you won’t be able to participate in the game fully. Usually, the opponent is given full control over the field for a turn. One of the essential things in Artifact for this particular moment is to manage to redeploy a hero to another lane. There is even an item in the shop, which bears that purpose. In case that you lose a hero due to an uncounterable attack or an unlucky flop, you can still gain control later on in the game. Because of this, do not only take down enemy heroes whenever you can and be quick to celebrate. The game can always turn. Heroes die and then come back, and you decide which one poses a more significant threat.
2) You will also lose a tower
Artifact is different from the other digital card games because it has a few different health pools at the player’s disposal. It will be too bad to return from a game with a single health pool, only to find out how fast can a lane’s tower fall. Try to resist the urge to guard every tower at all times, except if your deck is built explicitly with that purpose. In that case, this move can be a game-changer and bring you victory. However, if you try to defend your weak spots, you will hold yourself back from taking advantage of your strengths. In the end, you have to win two lanes, and not all three.
3) Some combos are learned the hard way
The game truly begins, once the cards with big mana start dropping. Each of the colors can initiate unstoppable combos, which differ from one another. Against the red ones, be prepared to witness how a lane, which is stacked with enemies, turns lethal at one. This happens due to the uber-buff “Time of triumph”. Against the blue ones, you can expect an infinite amount of mana combos, which are triggered by “Aghanim’s sanctum” and “Incarnation of Selemene”. Against the green ones – a lane full of ordinary creeps can turn into a field of monsters, because of “Emissary of the quorum”. Against the black ones – you can see Steam cannons start inducing chaos in the neighboring lanes. Meanwhile “Assassinate” will completely devastate your best-guarded heroes.
All of the above are just examples of what might happen. It can be devastating, when it happens for the first time, especially if it is because you do not have some of the cards yet. Of course, these moves can be predicted and countered. Here are some situations to keep an eye out for:
- If a blue-color hero drops into the lane, in which you possess the most advantage.
This is the moment that you know “Annihilation” is coming. The spell kills all units, no matter of their health. “Annihilation” is one of the most certain ways for a blue deck to oppose red and green buff strategies. In case that the enemy has initiative and goes in for that turn, consider yourself finished in that specific lane. If they do not, try to silence, stun, or kill the blue hero. If you do not succeed, hope that your strongest heroes possess “Blink daggers”, or rely on the “Town portal scroll”. When you are playing green, “Cheating death” can counter well, too.
- If all red heroes suddenly decide to switch to the same lane
This move signals that “Time of triumph” is on the way. The spells grants every hero that is in the lane +4. The bonus is added to everything, with the inclusion of special words like “Siege”, “Retribution”, and “Armor”. If you haven’t already stacked your defenses, it will be the end of the game for you. A good counter to this spell is “Annihilation”, although it will cause all of the buffed up heroes to respawn simultaneously. This will not be of much help unless you are ready to win in the following turn. The Phantom assassin has a signature card, named “Coup de grace”, which also easily takes out buffed heroes and lets you aim at unblocked heroes.
- If you are entering the ten mana turn and see a wizard
The thing, which costs 10 mana is the “Bolt of Damocles”. However, it deals twenty damage to a tower. From then on, you will have to look at all of your towers, which are below 20 health as imminently endangered, when they are in one lane with a blue-color hero. One more time, try to silence, stun, or slay the opponent first.
- If you are fighting against blue-green and they play “Stars align” and “Aghanim’s sanctum”.
In case that you witness that, be sure that the opponent is setting up their “ramp”. They are preparing to accelerate the mana curve greatly and hit you with the good stuff. If you let the enemy play as many cards as they wish, consider yourself a goner. This setup is rather obvious, however. You can silence he move with Drow ranger’s “Gust”. Then, punch back the wizards and go straight to combat with “Enough magic!”. This is also the time to destroy any existing lane improvements if you can.
4) Plan your improvements
Since we started on the subject of lane improvements – they are not to miss. Each of the colors can take you to a strong improvement, with red having less impact than the others. Black generates gold and later on deals damage. The “Assault ladders” of Sorla Khan are the one exception, which allows for a tower rush early on in the game if it is used correctly. Blue concentrates on improvements on damage, especially the “Ignite” of Ogre Magi. It finely combines with the mana regeneration of “Aghanim’s sanctum”. Green has a card draw from the “Unearthed secrets” and damage to units from the “Mist of Avernus”. For these, you have to plan forward carefully. You can either take the cards that you need, in order to destroy them or try to win the game before they make it impossible for you to win. Red decks have the best of the anti-improvement cards. “Smash their defenses!” gets you a card draw and is reliable and also cheap. Do not rush your greatest improvements into a lane with a red hero, even in the early game.
5) Carefully manage your initiative
Probably the best advice in this guide. Also, the most important one, for sure. Much of the Artifact strategy of playing and countering depends on who goes first into a lane. Often, the right choice is to pass, even if you’ve got good cards to play. If you are used to playing single-board games, you probably think that the best option is to take out an enemy with a seriously strong spell right away. It can sometimes happen in this game, but there is no actual need for it. It is worth it to pass up on a lane when you feel secure. This way you will gain more initiative in the lanes, in which you are not. There are also the “Get initiative” cards. They provide you with a way to protect yourself from the opponent’s initiative plays. “Hipfire” and “Arcane assault” are perfect for this and we advise you to keep them close in case of an emergency.
6) Watch out how you spend
When you are into the shopping phase, your first urge is to invest all of your available gold into whatever you can get your hands onto /usually that’s consumables/. This, however, is not always the correct move. Pay attention to the state of your item deck, as well as your main deck. After all, you cannot predict the amount of gold, which you are going to get from any turn. Having said that, mind that different decks would want to spend differently on different occasions. The aggressive reds can survive a lot through the healing with consumables. Black ones should look out for the bigger buys – “Nyctasha’s guard” and “Horn of the alpha”, for example. Some of the most important among the items in the basic card set, which are of middle-cost are “Blink dagger” and “Claszureme hourglass”. Both are cheap but useful. “Vesture of the tyrant” also has a good impact, and you can get it a bit earlier than the shinier endgame items.
7) Town portal scrolls
This is probably the feature, which reminds us of Dota 2 the most. There will be times when the game will depend on whether you remembered to get a Town portal scroll or not. Generally, it is not unusual to overlook that detail, especially when there are more obvious choices and more important consumables for healing and card-drawing. However, the chance to send a hero back at the fountain and having it come back the next turn is a strong move. In the meantime, you can rearrange your lanes, prepare to counter the opponent’s combos, or think of your own ones. You can also remove a hero from a dangerous situation. In short, Town portal scrolls are always worth it.
8) Be careful with the distribution of creeps
Some of the things, which happen in Artifact, can be controlled by you. Others, however, are totally out of your reach. At the beginning of each round, both players get two creeps per person, and the creeps are randomly distributed at the lanes. They can sometimes be in the same lane, and other times – in different ones. Keep an eye on that, because it is important.
Units are put in front of the unblocked enemies, except if there is nowhere for them to go. This means that if one creep is going into a lane with one single enemy hero inside, it will be obliged to stand in front of the hero. In case that there are more incoming units, than there are enemy ones, then the exact position of the units gets randomized. This can have a lot of impact on the future state of the board. Do not plan too far off in the future, because you might have an awesome combo in mind for the next turn, but the state of the board is ever-changing. For your advantage in this aspect, you can pick the blue Kanna. Friendly creeps always run to her lane, although this makes her more predictable for the opponent, as well.
9) You can lose, despite your efforts
Everybody knows that you make better decisions when you can manage your mood during a game. Artifact has plenty of nasty combos, cards, and randomized elements, which are enough to drive you crazy sometimes. It is inevitable. Try not to ragequit whenever that happens. Sit back, think about your latest decision, and play out the whole game. Contemplate on your actions and how to alter the outcome. In the end, the most important things are the ones, which you have control over.