Pre-order goes live in just less than three hours as of this article, along with the first publicly streamed Artifact tournament hosted by Beyond the Summit (one of Dota’s largest Twitch channels) on both SteamTV and Twitch. Viewers will be noting the game’s mechanics and exchanges the limited format, eager to begin building their own first decks on November 28th. Drafting in the Gauntlet will be available at launch, as well as two starter decks for constructed play; Red/Green Brawler and and Blue/Black Control. These will be your first two decks when the game goes live;
The brawler has a strong red emphasis, looking to capitalize on the early dominance of red heroes while supplemented by green’s beefier creep. It’s effectively a midrange deck that scales from with threats the longer the game goes on. The longer creep like Savage Wolf and Satyr Duelist stay on the field, the more stats they’ll gain, as each gains more attack (and health for the wolves) after each combat phase. Red creeps are no slouches either, with Bronze Legionnaire having the ability to outright remove Melee Creeps without suffering damage, thanks to the two armor it comes naturally equipped with.
We’re also equipped with support that synergizes with the board-control emphasis fo the deck’s mid to late game. A couple examples are spells like Arm the Rebellion that modify creep with both additional attack and one armor, and creep like Hellbear Crippler that modify any hero or unit they battle with -1 attack. Crippling Blow can also be cast to reduce the attack of any hero by two. Even Ursa’s passive ability shreds 1-armor away from any unit it deals damage to. Remember these changes are permanent with the keyword ‘modify’, and devastating the longer the game continues.
The heroes themselves also scale in power, with card’s like Sven’s Signature Card, God’s Strength, which modifies a hero with +4 attack, or Avernus’ Blessing, which modifies any unit (not just heroes!) with +2 attack. Fighting Instinct, Keefe the Bold’s Signature Card, will modify a red hero with +1 attack and +1 armor for 5-mana. While the cost would leave most players doubtful of it’s value, it’s an investment that will scale in value the more battles the hero fights, and the longer the game goes on for, thanks to the -1 damage it receives. With three of this spell, we can expect red heroes to become harder to kill.
As discussed in one of our first Artifact articles, red heroes are also really good at killing creep and enemy heroes in the early stages of the game, generating gold to buy items such as the deck’s only copy of Barbed Mail, which equips a hero with +1 armor and +2 Retaliate (deals two damage to any unit that deals battle damage to it). Reliable gold generation is one of red’s advantages, and should be taken advantage of to acquire one of our biggest late-game bombs, Ring of Tarrasque, which at a hefty 12 gold equips a hero with +4 health and +6 regeneration (heals by that amount during the combat phase, applying before death).
Overwhelm the opponent with strong heroes to generate gold, acquire items that improve their survivability, and establish strong lane control with beefy minions. Optimal board positioning, and well-timed investments of mana alternating between creep and buffs, will distinguish the strongest brawlers in the Artifact arena.
This control deck operates differently enough from the Red/Green Brawler deck to introduce a future champion to alternate styles of play, especially for those oriented towards directing the flow of a game with more than a lane full of creeps. While it’s missing our favorite mechanic, Lock, one element of the game Blue/Black Control will teach players is using improvements.
In this starter deck, we have strategically-direct improvements like Trebuchets that can be established on a lane for 1-mana, and deals two piercing damage to the enemy tower before the action phase (where cards are played that turn). While the damage won’t be immediate, it can whittle away a tower slowly but surely while you committing larger forces to another lane. This pairs well with Lightning Strike, which can deal 6-damage outright to an enemy tower, and can potentially end games against an unsuspecting opponent. Ignite, Ogre Magi’s Signature Card, is another improvement that deals regular damage before each action phase, but as one piercing damage to enemies. No amount of armor will be enough to deny the damage either of these improvements will build up over time, especially with more than one copy on a lane.
We play fewer creeps than the brawler, but they’re able to hold their own on the field of combat while the Trebuchets lay siege to the enemy’s towers. Relentless Zombie is a cheap 2-mana creep that when dying, will resurrect with 1-health, making it very durable and good for blocking damage. Assassin’s Apprentice has an active ability that allows the black creep to choose it’s own combat target, making this ideal for removing threatening heroes who are hanging on with three or less health. We can deploy three Melee Creeps to any lane that’s lacking support thanks to Dimension Portal.
While the deck lacks stats, it can make up for this with removal. Paired with Ignite, Debbi the Cunning’s Signature Card, No Accident, can deal 3-damage to a unit. We have one copy of Slay that can outright remove any creep, even the biggest of them for only 3-mana (so long Ogre Conscript!). Necrophos’s Signature Spell, Heartstopper, can modify a black hero with the passive ability of dealing 2-piercing damage to it’s enemy neighbors before the action phase. With enough stacks, it can constantly remove creep or deal significant hero damage at the beginning of each round. Our biggest spell is Mystic Flare, Skywrath Mage’s Signature Card, that deals 12 damage evenly divided among a unit and it’s allied neighbors. Against three units, it will deal four each, and against two, it will deal six each! Paired with the Mage’s active ability of removing -2 armor from a hero and it’s allied neighbors for a round, this spell is one of the strongest AoE spells available in your first games of Artifact.
Control the board while dealing incremental damage against the enemy towers with spells, improvements and creep (Oglodi Vandal deals 4-damage to that lane’s enemy tower when played). Foresight and threat-recognition will reward the player with the means to survive consistent pressure long enough to win the game with inevitability and cunning.
As starter decks, both will be effective in teaching players Artifact’s flow of combat with different color combinations and styles of play. As packs or being opened on November 28th, consider what replacements could be made to these decks to make them more effective at executing their strategy.