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Artifact Beginner's Guide

I am the greatest Artifact player ever... just kidding. My name is Crim, also known as TheAsianAvenger and I'm a Magic: the Gathering Arena streamer and a lover of card games. I'm not a pro player or anything! I'm just an everyday card game lover just like you! This article and the other articles like this will be all about helping us learn the basics of the game so once again, this article will be for beginners!

What is Artifact?

Artifact is a game created by Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering. Garfield's newest game takes the well renowned Dota and mixes it with tons of other trading card game elements (TCG) making this a whole different breed of gaming that rewards tight play and planning. Artifact is a trading card game, not a collectible card game, which means cards can be bought and sold on the Steam Marketplace.

Do I need to know Dota to play? Not at all! The only time I played Dota was back when it was a Warcraft mod and even then I didn't play much.

How to get started?

The game costs $20 to create an account. Which will give you 10 packs and 5 event tickets and two starter decks. You can pick this up at the Steam store. If you're afraid to sink money into the game and just want to play and practice the game, Valve went ahead and made it so you can go to Casual Play and do Phantom drafts for free! You don't get to keep the cards, but you will get to play all the drafts without having to worry about using tickets or anything like that.


Decks need to contain five heroes, at least 40 cards in the main deck, and at least nine cards in the item deck, with no more than three of any individual card (heroes must be unique). Now the numbers are quite fresh, and I've seen people say 40 cards are what you want and some say 41 cards. I've personally been doing 41 cards and its been working out quite well for me. When you choose a hero you will receive three copies of their signature card and you have to use those. Those signature cards will count towards your 40+ cards. You will also have to pick 9+ items that will show up in your shop (I'll explain the shop later in this article). As of right now, I've been playing with two colors and haven't experimented with mono-colored decks, but I have tried three colors and it feels weird. But since I'm still new, I could just have the numbers wrong. For us beginners I'd just go with two colors.

Sample Deck

When building your deck, the heroes in the Round 1 slots will be deployed at the start of the game. "Round" means turn, so the heroes in Round 2 and Round 3 get deployed during those rounds respectively.

How many colors are in the game?

If you've played Magic: the Gathering, you'll notice that Artifact uses a similar color system: Red, Green, Blue, Black. Unlike Magic, Artifact has only four colors instead of five, opting to discard White.

Red: Red is a lot like the red in Magic. The cards are aggressive and the heroes are really powerful and have solid stats, but their spells aren't great.

Green: Green is a lot like the green in Magic in that it plays a ton of ramp spells and big creatures!

Blue: Blue in this game is not like the blue you're used to from Magic. There aren't any counterspells or anything like that, but in this game blue packs a ton of AoE (area of effect) spells like Annihilation which is a clean board wipe for the active lane. The blue heroes are kinda soft in the sense of stats but their signature cards are pretty powerful!

Black: Black packs tons of hard removal for creatures and heroes. Black also has ways to increase your gold which will allow you to buy more items from the shop.

Heroes, Creeps, and the Shop

What is a hero?

In every deck, you'll need to have five heroes. In Artifact every hero comes with a signature spell or card that is automatically added to the deck when the hero is added to the deck. You cannot remove these cards.

Why do heroes matter? Because they're how you cast spells!

Heroes are essential to the gameplay as the hero's color will determine the spells you can cast. For example, since Lich is black, this means you can cast black spells in whatever lane Lich is deployed in . If you have multiple heroes in a lane with different colors, you can cast spells that correspond to any of those heroes' colors! For example, if you have a black and a blue hero in a lane, that means you can cast both a black and blue spells in that line.

Hero Abilities

Activated: Some heroes will have activated abilities that can be activated once every x turns. If an ability says Active 2, it means that after two turns of being on the board, you can use the ability (like the Sacrifice ability below). There'll usually be some kind of light up animation for you to see that the ability is ready to use.

Passive: There also hero abilities like Ogre Magi who will have a passive ability that can trigger if a certain condition is met.

Continuous: Continuos Effects are always on, like Drow Ranger's Precision Aura.

Creeps: The creeps are these friendly looking reindeer humanoids wearing magical grass armor. Three are randomly spawned at the beginning of the game. They're vanilla 2/4s that give a gold for each one that you kill. More spawn randomly throughout the game so don't be worried if you lose them! You cannot control when, where, or how many creeps are deployed.

Melee Creep [0]

The Shop

The shop is where you go to buy items for your heroes with your gold. You can earn gold by killing heroes (five gold) and creeps (one gold). Keep in mind that heroes can only have one equipment of each category but can be healed however many times you'd like. The buffs from these equipments will be there until your hero loses the equipments from effects. The hero dying will not cause your hero to drop the item or anything like that.

There are three sections of the shop.

Secret Shop: The secret shop is an item that is in game for everyone. Limit one purchase per round.

Item Deck: This is where you can buy items you've put into item deck. You can buy as many items from this category as long as you have gold. What shows up from your item deck is random. One turn it can be Leather Armor and the other it can be a Book of the Dead.

Consumables: Consumables are one-use items. This is usually a way to heal, like Healing Salve. Limit one purchase per round.

The Hold button makes the secret shop item appear again in the next round. It costs one gold to use this feature.

How do you win?

You must destroy two towers (two lanes) or one ancient. An ancient replaces a destroyed tower. Towers start with 40 life and ancients start with 80 life. A tower is shown on the left in the image below, and an ancient on the right.

Starting the Match

You start with five cards in hand and three heroes deployed.

In Artifact you start with three mana automatically and every turn it automatically increases by one.

What does a Round in Artifact look like?

  • Every round will start with your deployment phase (if there are heroes and creeps to deploy).
  • You'll draw two cards.
  • The person who has initiative will start things off in the active lane. You'll do this back and forth through all the lanes from left to right.
  • The final phase of a lane is the combat phase.
  • After you've played all three lanes, you'll go to your shop to purchase items. That will then be a full round.


This will be the trickiest part as creatures and heroes will do combat and block whatever is in front of them unless cards or the game's random effects alter that. If you see multiple arrows pointing at your hero that means they're getting hit by multiple threats, but you can change that by putting a minion in front of an unblocked attacker. Where creatures will be attacking will be represented by arrows.

The numbers in the red boxes show a preview of damage once combat commences, assuming no further changes to the board.

What is Initiative?

This concept was probably the hardest thing for me to grasp, but within a lane, each player shares a turn since there aren't any instant speed spells like Magic: the Gathering. Who made the last action (activating an ability or casting a spell) will determine who gets initiative next. This rolls over to the next lane. After both players have declined to take any actions, you then go to the combat phase.

Initiative will be very important as there will be turns where you'll be able to wipe your opponent's board before they can do anything. You can even cut people off of casting spells of a certain color by destroying their heroes first.


I have Coup de Grace with initiative and I know my opponent is looking to use Annihilation. Since I have Coup de Grace, I can use that on their blue hero in that lane to prevent them from casting the blue spell!

Coup de Grace [1]Annihilation [1]Hip Fire [1]

There also cards in the game that can help give you initiative after casting, like Hip Fire!

When you see the Artifact logo (left) that means you have initiative in the next lane. If you see the combat logo (right), it means you don't have initiative.

This box on your top left will let you know when your heroes will be re-deployed. This will also tell you who has initiative in the lane along with the health of your towers and ancients.


What do these words mean in Artifact?:

Condemn: To destroy something.

Disarm: This hero can't attack this turn.

Initiative: Who gets to take the first action in the lane.

Modify: Permanently buff or debuff a hero, minion, or tower.

Pierce Damage: Pierce damage deals X amount of damage regardless of armor.

Stun: For the rest of the turn, the hero or creature can't activate abilities, attack, or cast spells of the hero's color.

Silence: The hero can't use abilities or cast spells. The difference between this and stun is that you can still attack.

Retaliate X: The creature, hero, or tower will deal X damage (to the attacker) when attacked.

Regeneration X: The creature or hero will heal itself in combat. (ex. A 4/4 creature with regen 2 battles a 5/5. The 4/4 will survive at 1)


The game itself is a lot of fun but is definitely an acquired taste. The initial learning process is rough but the game is very rewarding after you learn how to play. In my next article, we'll talk about more advanced concepts and strategies on how to win now that you've got the basics of playing down!

Yours Truly,


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