For players who aren’t finding immediate success in Artifact drafting, or are looking for a preeminent assortment of useful drafting advice, we’ve compiled some miscellaneous tips that can be learned from a single drafting session by a pro player. In this case, we watched the drafting phase of Hyped, who has more play time than most two pro players combined. Rather than an article covering one element, we’re covering several as a handy article of brief guiding points to help you on drafting your first decks in Artifact.
- Picking heroes for the signature card.
What makes Lycan one of the strongest heroes in limited is the addition of three Savage Wolves to your deck. It’s one of the best early game creeps in the game, with the ability to keep creeps for free, and can scale in power to threaten destroying an Ancient on a lane who’s Tower is already gone. This is one of the reason’s why Lycan will be an instant pick for most draft players.
Some heroes are strong enough to be picked despite weaker signature cards (like most Red heroes) and the opposite can also be true. This is often the case for Blue heroes who have weaker stats, but powerful Signature Cards (like Luna).
- Furled Mantle for fragile heroes.
For Blue-oriented decks, these high-health items can be useful to preserve a lane where casting Blue cards is significant. The current standard of three Traveller’s Cloaks makes it difficult to argue the selection of expensive, high-health items over more proactive cards, but this will ultimately come down to the strategy of your deck.
- Don’t pick heroes first.
Even if there’s the risk that they are worse on average, the opportunity cost of other picks in the pack will most of the time have greater value than the remaining heroes. We have to remember that the drafting AI is based on an algorithm with the input of players drafting in the alpha for several months. With this in mind, the later selections may have better heroes since people are more likely to commit early on average, leaving up stronger heroes as a reward. Some cards, like Lycan if we’re committed to draft Green in the later stages, can be a rare exception.
- Creeps come first.
Often times a player will have the option to select Payday over Oglodi Vandal (a 4/4 Black creep that deals 4 damage), where the implied gold value makes winning off of big items a semi-reliable strategy. But Oglodi Vandal, and most creeps, are more proactive additions to the deck. Creeps are generally rated high on the current pool of tier-lists, so it’s good to have as many as possible. Spells have diminishing returns, even if they’re diverse, though Payday has the opportunity to come up in later packs, once enough synergies have been developed.
- Expensive items as win conditions.
Committing to expensive items like Helm of the Dominator will mean picking more basics, so that people will be able to find it faster without having to go through other mid-priced items. This provides players the opportunity to find items like Helm of the Dominator more reliably. This can impact your ability to choose items in later packs. Something like Stonewall Pike, which isn’t the strongest item in the game, will be more preferable to Claymore, and it’s substantial attack buff, strictly because it’s a cheaper item, and making Helm of the Dominator more accessible.
- Thoughts on Slay.
The 3-mana Black spell will always be a one for one, but can be good for addressing large threats like Thunderhide Alpha. This can leave players in the awkward position of having a Slay or two in their opening hand, without significant targets so early in the game. Without a mulligan, reactive cards like Slay can be difficult to use in the first half of the game. Be weary of picking Slay with a single Black hero. Because deck lists are public in Artifact’s limited format, an opponent may not commit large creeps to a lane with your Black hero, where Slay could then be cast.
- The Art of Ganking.
Gank is a Black spell that allows you to select a Black hero and another unit in any lane (any unit). They then battle each other. While its cross-lane functionality is powerful, it’s difficult to splash with a Black hero that is on the weaker side. Lich, for instance, despite being insanely good, isn’t that great at ganking because of its low stats, and would require item buffs to have it survive necessary fights. This can also leave players the decision to draft Debbi as a second Black hero to make Gank work.
- Offensive vs. defensive creeps.
Tyler Estate Censor or a Disciple of Nevermore? Where one is a stocky creep with a high health total that disrupts the opposing tower’s mana capacity by one, Disciple of Nevermore has the capacity of converting a wide board of fairly threatening creeps into a two-turn tower kill. Proactivity is valued in Artifact, but so is a cohesive strategy. In this draft-building example, Black cards were drafted on the basis that Lich and Chain Lightening were powerful additions to the deck. So this deck would need whatever help it can get to reach the later stages where 7-mana is most relevant, leaving Tyler Estate Censor a more optimal choice.
- Committing to a color.
By the third pack, players can find it difficult to transition from the pick-every-powerful-card early stages to drafting towards color preferences. Finding powerful cards from earlier packs between three different colors can force players to consider splashing a third color. For instance, will initiative-granting cards from Red or Black make Green more effective? This isn’t traditionally the case, but for Blue, initiative can be especially relevant (board wipes, removal, etc). If initiative is less relevant, then will Red or Black complement Green powerhouses more?
While not the most comprehensive document of drafting strategy, this article seeks to help newer players think about their drafting phase with strategic intention. In our next article, we’ll go over some key strategies to making the most of your deck as you take it on your first games of Artifact!