With the inclusion of beta key holders from PAX West, The International, and giveaways, Artifact is now populated by eager players looking to familiarize themselves with the game and it’s vast range of mechanics. 40,000 more players joined earlier today as Valve allowed Friends & Family pass holders to join the beta, playing through the tutorial and eventually opening their first packs.
This writer was among those with a PAX West beta key. I hopped on yesterday once I returned from a poorly timed grocery shopping trip to find that the beta had been live for a couple hours. I finished the day’s work, booted up Steam, and got started. An hour on the tutorial and a night of Artifact later, I can summarize the biggest lesson new players should take from my experience.
Patience. I was a little too eager to get games out of the way. Too eager to commit to lines that won games faster. My strategic clock was set to the traditional 10-minute games of Hearthstone, where Artifact demanded more intention, planning, and time.
One scenario that came up was pitching a Red Mist Pillager in front of a 2-health Ursa, then throwing an Ogre Corpse Tosser into the next lane, where it would attack the tower uncontested. So I missed an opportunity to get another copy of Red Mist Pillager from its effect, and I missed a value trade from a high-health creep into a weak enemy hero. I realized my error when the Corpse Tosser poked the tower for only two points of damage.
With the wonders of hindsight, there were several elements in that decision to block an enemy hero with a creep; what are the conditions of the following two lanes? How weak are the enemy’s towers and mine? What are the benefits of developing this creep over another? How should I commit my mana on this lane during my next turn? Am I desperate enough to take initiative the next lane and remove their Debbi, by giving up the opportunity to play a creep to trade into this weaker lane 1 hero?
Instead, I did the game a great injustice and considered all the potential variables with one question; should I play my red creep here? It didn’t matter which one, as I only asked myself a simple question, from which I had multiple answers. And in that moment, it was enough that there was more than one card to answer that question, so I picked one and flung it in the way of their hero, threatening its removal. I killed that hero. I wrestled control of that first lane and steamrolled my opponent. I won, but I lost points for execution.
I neglected to use my time as a resource as I was learning the game at a more personal level. A lesson pros have had more than ample time to learn, and for some, to teach to their viewers.
Below, we can look at a game ended by Hyped during his stream earlier today. Where one player had over 14 minutes of extra time banked, the Liquid Artifact pro player was down to his final three minutes. One could argue that chat interaction and his traditionally educational style of streaming contributed to how his time was spent, but we can’t ignore how comparatively fast Trockenmatt played, as indicated by the amount of time left over.
In Artifact, there’s the possibility that an opponent got lucky with combat directions, or rolled their late-game item faster, or drew stronger early-game creeps for those first crucial turns. Or all the above. And maybe there were strategic advantages to playing a 4-attack creep into a 2-health hero, and having a healthier creep in the greatly contested second lane. I won’t pretend these RNG components, or that turn, were planned for with much intention.
This is what makes the act of decision-making important; Where should I deploy my heroes? How strongly do I build my 3-5 mana base, and how many of them should be creeps? There’s a lot to write about in the days before Artifact’s official launch which I look forward to sharing with you, but none more important than using your time; Explore questions worth finding answers for. Consider elements of the game that may not come as obvious to you (as a Hearthstone player, I’m still adjusting to an opponent’s items as a possibility when planning out my turns). Pay attention to the cards you struggle to beat, and evaluate their strengths and cost (this one’s from Hyped).
In summary, I’ll be taking more time to plan moves, as opposed to making them. There are few situations where a timely top deck will solve mistakes in a game of Artifact. At least there are lessons to be learned in both our victories and defeats, if we take the time to identify them.