Our continuously updated guide to everything you need to know about Artifact.
Our Artifact guide contains deck guides, gameplay guides and more for the Dota 2 card game.
It’s just over a year since Artifact was first revealed at Dota 2’s International tournament in August 2017, and with the beta now taking place we’re in the process of pulling together all the information you need to get stuck into the game in one guide.
This one’s got the potential to be big. Not only is this Richard Garfield’s new game, it’s also a new Valve game – that’s always something to be excited about. Although reception to the game’s announcement was rather muted, it’s picking up a fair bit of steam (no pun intended) and has strong esports potential too.
In its attempts to take the Dota experience and transform it into a card game though, it’s fair to say that this is a complex game that might prove quite a shock to players who are used to more newcomer-friendly games such as Hearthstone.
Well, everyone has to start somewhere, and so in our core Artifact guide we’ve brought together all the help you need and put it in one place. We’ve got an overview of the core gameplay and the various modes available to you, and also linked out to our more in-depth guide content on each area.
Everything’s being updated during the beta phase, so do check back often for new content. By the time launch comes around, we’ll have an essential resource for every area of the game.
UPDATE – 14th November 2018
With the Artifact beta getting agonisingly close, we’ve taken the opportunity to completely overhaul this guide. We’ve tidied up each area of it, and also made sure that all of our other articles are clearly linked from within it. We hope you find this article useful, and we’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.
If you’re interested in a particular area of coverage in our guide, use the following links to dive straight in. Come back to the top if you want to quickly navigate to another area of interest.
1. How to Play – A complete overview of the basics of play.
2. Heroes – How the Hero system works in Artifact.
3. Game Modes – All the game modes that will be in the game.
4. Cost – What it costs to play Artifact.
5. Decks and Deck Guides – Our collection of deck guides.
6. FAQ – Artifact’s release date, beta details, platform and more.
Artifact: How to Play
Let’s start with the basics.
Artifact is being developed by Richard Garfield, best known for creating the phenomenally successful Magic The Gathering (the game that all but invented the concept of the collectible card game). Garfield first conceived of Magic while studying at college, ultimately dropping out to work full time on the project. Good choice if you ask us.
As far as content goes, Artifact will feature 280 cards and an impressive 44 heroes at launch. Unlike Magic and Hearthstone, the objective of the game is to manage a total of three boards which represent the three lanes of combat you might be familiar with from MOBA games like Dota.
Each one of these lanes contains a tower which begins with 40 points of health, and the objective is to do enough damage to these structures to bring them down to zero health. When any one tower is destroyed, the controlling player’s Ancient is revealed in that same lane. This has 80 Health.
Your challenge now is to either destroy that Ancient, or destroy a total of two towers across two lanes. Achieving either of these objectives results in a win for the attacking player.
Still with us? Lets move on to how combat actually works in Artifact.
You can fit up to five heroes in a deck, and when a game begins your first three heroes are split across each of these lanes.
They’ll be accompanied by spawns of “creeps”, which in MOBA terms are minor minions designed to slow the forward progress of attacking units. When each round of play ends, extra creeps will then spawn in randomly chosen lanes.
Play moves between the three lanes, working from the top to the mid to the bottom lane in turn. Once the bottom lane turn has ended, the action moves back to the top lane once again and the cycle continues (although there’s a pause between rounds to buy combat-enhancing items).
Although these boards will act as independent entities for the most part, certain heroes can influence boards other than the one they currently occupy. More on that in the heroes section further down the page.
Each of the three lanes has its own Mana resource pool, which controls the cards you can play at any given stage of the game. Each lane’s Mana pool begins at three and increases by one point as each turn plays out.
Note that it is possible to use special spells to accelerate this rate of resource gain – Hearthstone Druid fans will be very familiar with this concept, of course.
Unlike the individually targeted action of Hearthstone minions though, combat in Artifact is largely automated. Your playable units will attack the enemy directly ahead of them or to the diagonal left and right position. There’ll be an element of randomness to the targets that are chosen as well, although we’ve heard reassuring noises that RNG is very limited in the game.
Finally, there are no limits to the number of minions you can have active in any given lane. If your board presence is wider than the screen real estate allows, then you’ll be able to scroll left and right to view any action that’s currently obscured. Have no doubt this is a deeply complex game that will require you to manage a lot of information at any given time!
Some of the terms in the game can be quite confusing. If you’re struggling, take a look at our comprehensive Artifact Glossary which covers keywords, terms and mechanics.
Alongside the 280 core cards, there are 44 heroes to take into battle in Artifact. Here’s the lowdown on what we know about them so far:
Hero characters are separated into four distinct categories known as “suits”:
- Black – Heroes that are capable of interacting with other boards in sneaky ways.
- Blue – These are your more mage-like characters, which become more powerful later on in the game.
- Green – Support heroes that help restore and empower other combat characters.
- Red – Tough, warrior-like heroes designed for a melee-focused offensive.
Each hero has a so-called Signature Card. Think of these as particularly powerful cards that synergise well with the hero, and are almost always part of your strategy when the hero is in your deck.
When building a deck in constructed play, you will be able to choose heroes and cards from a maximum of two suits, and you can have up to five heroes in any given deck.
If a hero dies in Artifact, it returns after an absence of two turns and can be deployed to a lane of your choosing. Note, however, that certain Green heroes can sometimes return faster than this, thanks to a special resurrect ability that brings them back into play on the next turn.
The “land” system in Artifact is quite interesting as well. Your heroes each have their own associated spells, and you won’t be able to cast those spells on a given game lane unless you have a hero of the corresponding colour in place.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Certain cards (Black) can be used to affect game boards other than the one the hero in question is currently sitting on.
It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the overall strategy of the game over time, and as with all sections of this guide we’ll have more for you just as soon as we can get our hands on the info!
Hero item slots
Heroes will each have three item slots. One of these slots is for equipping a weapon, the other is for a piece of armour, and the final slot is for a health boost of some kind. You choose the items that you’d like to put it in your deck.
You can buy new items for your hero once a three-lane-turn has concluded, and you’ll earn currency by destroying creeps and heroes (and certain cards will actually allow you to accrue Gold at a faster rate as well).
This purchasing window happens at the end of the bottom lane turn, and before the game cycles back up to the top lane once again.
Something to be aware of is that if a hero dies, they retain all of their equipment when they return to the game board. You don’t need to worry about losing any of your awesome gear you’ve invested in them, and falling behind in terms of resourcing as a result!
We have an Artifact Item Shop guide which contains a detailed breakdown of all items available during the shopping phase.
Artifact: Game Modes
There are a number of different games modes available in Artifact:
Gauntlets require you to win a certain number of matches before you’re knocked out due to incurring too many losses. As standard you can win a maximum five games, but are eliminated if you lose two.
There are a number of different Gauntlets available at launch. Some of them are free and offer no rewards, while others have an entry cost but provide prizes depending on your performaance (see the next section in our guide for a cost breakdown).
Casual [Free] Gauntlets
- Call to Arms Preconstructed – Limited to the six decks players tested out at events such as PAX this year. Note that in this special example you’re eliminated after one loss and there’s no cap on the win-streak potential.
- Casual Constructed – Take your best personal deck creations and try them out against the community’s own lists.
Premium [Expert] Gauntlets
- Expert Constructed – Take your Casual Constructed decks (see above) and put some money on the line.
- Phantom Draft – Create a deck from a series of random card choices, but note that you do not keep the cards after your run has ended.
- Keeper Draft – As above, except you get to keep all the cards you drafted once you hit either five wins or two losses.
We highly recommend reading our Artifact: Drafting guide if you want a better understanding of this initially complex system.
Once you’ve created a deck using any of the cards in your collection, you can take it to the wider playerbase in the Constructed mode.
There may be multiple formats to get stuck into within Constructed at launch. Some might limit the number of heroes you can have in a deck, for example, while others might place limitations on how many copies of each card can be included.
Call to Arms
A special event will accompany the game’s launch called Call to Arms. Here’ll you be able to take part in a couple of game modes that will be completely free to play after your initial buy-in of Artifact.
Full details of the launch event are available in our Artifact: Call to Arms guide.
Artifact launches with an in-game tournament system that will allow you to create your own competitions. You can set parameters such as duration and card rarity restrictions if you’re hosting a tournament, and make it open to the public or limited to friends if you wish.
We have a dedicated Artifact: Tournament guide if you’d like to learn more about this system in greater depth.
The initial cost to buy Artifact is $20. For this you receive:
- 10 x Card Packs
- 5 x Event Tickets
- 2 x Starter Decks (see the next section for deck guides)
Event Tickets – These are required if you want to take part in the Expert – or premium – Gauntlets that we outlined earlier on in this guide, and which provide rewards. If you want to buy more Event Tickets, they cost $4.95 for a bundle of five.
Our Artifact Gauntlet guide contains more information about the entry costs for each Gauntlet type, and the rewards you’ll receive for reaching certain win milestones.
Card Packs – Additional card packs can be purchased from the Steam Marketplace for $1.99 and contain twelve random cards from the Call to Arms Set. You’re guaranteed to receive one hero, two items and at least one card of the highest rarity in each pack.
Individual Cards – You can also trade individual cards with other players for real money on the Community Market.
Artifact: Decks and Deck Guides
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere in this guide already, a number of decks used at PAX this year will feature as part of the Call to Arms launch event.
You’ll also receive two other preconstructed decks with the $20 purchase bundle. We’re in the process of putting together guides to playing each one right now – expect many updates to these once the beta is underway and we’ve had more hands-on experience.
Call to Arms Preconstructed Decks
- 1. Aggro Black / Blue – Artifact: Black / Blue Aggro deck list guide
- 2. Econ Ramp Green / Black – Coming soon!
- 3. Control Blue / Red – Coming soon!
- 4. Armored Cleave Red / Green – Coming soon!
Premade Purchase Decks
- 1. Red / Green Brawler – Artifact: Red / Green Brawler deck list guide
- 2. Blue / Black Control – Coming soon!
What’s the release date for Artifact?
Artifact will be released for PC and Mac on November 28th 2018, with the mobile version to follow towards the middle of 2019.
What engine does Artifact run on?
Artifact has been created using the Source 2 engine. Valve enthusiasts may recall that this is the engine that Dota 2 was ported to a few years ago. In other words, expect some seriously pretty gameplay when Artifact lands on your PC!
When is Artifact coming to iOS and Android?
On the subject of the game’s engine, it’s intriguing to note that Artifact will be making its way to iOS and Android platforms towards the middle of 2019. This will be the first use of Source 2 on mobile devices, and we’re intrigued to see how well it scales on these weaker devices.
Will Artifact have Workshop support?
Unlike other Valve games that facilitate modding, there will be no Workshop support for the game at launch. Whether that changes over time is something we’ll just have to wait and see on.
Is there going to be an Artifact beta?
An Artifact beta has been confirmed for November 19th 2018.
That’s the end of the fifth edition of our Artifact guide. If there’s anything you think we’ve missed, let us know in the comments so we can add it in with the next update.