Artifact’s complexity is as much a draw to the most ambitious card gamers as it is a challenge. The learning curve is steep, and can take up to 50 hours to get a feel for how the game plays out at a base technical level. As we mentioned in one of our earliest articles, Artifact rewards the patient player who’s able to recognize and respond to their own mistakes, but we want to take a moment to point out some of the more common errors you can begin overcoming now so you can proceed with your Artifact education. We’ve selected three of the first ones that, if you’re still finding trouble getting your first 5-win Gauntlet run, will be good places to start.
Keep in mind that these mechanics were learned specifically from Artifact’s limited format. Constructed is relatively young, and only gaining traction now as we’re wrapping up the group stages of WePlay’s $10k constructed tournament. We’ll look forward to bringing you a tournament breakdown to show you the latest and greatest in these first days of the game’s constructed meta. For now, let’s jump right in to some mistakes you can avoid making to get those 5-win Gauntlet runs faster.
Evaluating Signature Cards
In a format where it’s typical to only have one or two copies of any one card, Signature Cards are especially impactful in a draft run. So much so, that you can normally gauge the strength of a draft based on the heroes a player has. These can either be incredible cards with lane clearing/developing abilities, or have weaker, less proactive abilities that will find niche use at best. Two significant examples on both ends of the spectrum are Lycan and Lion. While one gives you three copies of a creep that’s great in the early-game and scales in value into the late-game (Savage Wolf), the other gives you a two-mana spell that, at best, can prevent a big card on a critical turn (like a six-mana Coup de Grace from killing a hero) when you have initiative (Mana Drain).
Depending on how weak a Signature Card is, it will wind up just being dead in your hand. Mana is a precious resource in Artifact, where investing it wisely can make or break a game in a single turn. This will make cards like Viscous Nasal Goo remain in your hand to the latest stages of the game, as we can see in TidesofTime’s hand from a stream this evening. While it’s perfectly reasonable to draft two Bristlebacks when given the opportunity, a player should rarely have the opportunity to cast Nasal Goos regularly, if they drafted a good enough deck that respected the early-game push for control of the lanes.
Lastly, the strength of Signature cards will have a fairly strong impact on their heroes frequenting the lineups of 5-0 Gauntlet runs in limited. We take the worst of these, Outworld Devourer, as a prime example of a weak hero. Astral Imprisonment stuns a hero, but in exchange, makes them immune. For 4-mana, this play either puts no damage on your opponent’s hero, or prevents you from playing cards, if this were to be used defensively. Artifact rewards proactive strategies, and Astral Imprisonment is the least of these.
The Role of Creep
Artifact stands apart from other card games for its automated combat system. It will take more time adjusting to the game for Hearthstone or Magic: the Gathering players, where either the attacker or the defender have the advantage in the combat phases
Some elements are similar. Vhoul Martyr is one multi-functional example; Use it as a blocker that provides an effect when it dies, and when it does, buff all your allies by +1 attack and +1 health. You don’t mind it dying because of these beneficial effects, and these buffs are permanent, making it especially effective on multi-hero lanes.
Bronze Legionnaire can pile on the damage as a resilient, cheap creep, or be placed in front of a Melee Creep for a free trade. It can also curve on an empty combat position to finish eliminating an enemy hero, if rolling for that 25% chance for the right combat arrow is viable. Finally, having a cheap creep that is immune to Debbi’s No Accident (a common Black hero in limited) is fairly substantial.
Creeps have two principle roles; dealing damage, and removing other creep. If you’re playing against someone with Lycan in their hero lineup, you have the option to play Bronze Legionnaire in response to a Savage Wolf, especially when playing a deck that lacks in other means of removal. If you have initiative while playing a Black deck, dropping a four-mana Tyler Estate Censor can prevent a Savage Wolf from dropping on a lane with a Green hero for one more turn.
So be flexible with how you use creeps. Rebel Decoy is among the best of these for Green decks, with the ability to switch positions with any unit, either removing a hero out of harms way, or lining up your hero to remove another. And Oglodi Vandal has strong stats and the ability to end games outright in the later stages of the game. In short, if they have a use in the early and the later stages of a game, those creeps will be among your strongest selections in a draft.
Initiative is a powerful force in Artifact. While having far greater impact in the later stages of a game, using initiative can allow you to better control key lanes that will dictate the game. Cards that grant initiative are especially valuable, which is why Hip Fire makes a regular appearance among the higher end of tier lists; 4-damage to a unit, and either add a 3-damage No Accident to clean up a hero, or pass after a Hip Fire to have the first move in the next lane.
If you have a strong enough lead on the first lane that no longer requires further investment (for that turn), and your second lane is in jeopardy, you can pass the turn. Your opponent can either pass in exchange or play cards. Either way, as long as you’re offered the opportunity to go first, and decide not to play anything, you’ll have the ability to make the first move on the next lane, and Coup de Grace a green hero so your board doesn’t get silenced by Gust. Or cast a critical Annihilation that will clear the board, and provide your two heroes in the fountain an opening to push for control on that lane in the next round.
Smart players will anticipate these pushes from an opponent and look to make power moves against an opponent looking to retain their initiative. Force them to play a card and give up initiative. Cast a big creep (Thunderhide Pack), push a lot of damage that will require a blocker (Disciple of Nevermore), anything that will force an opponent to play a card, and you may be able to block that Gust or Annihilation by eliminating their hero.
Don’t just use initiative. Respect the possibility of your opponent making the most of initiative as well. We hope our introduction to these three key elements of the Artifact limited experience will help you in future drafts!