Over the last couple of days we’ve been really busy creating content at ArtifactSpy and reporting about the latest card leaks, strategies and so on but the more we surfed the web for new and interesting leaks and releases, we realized that most people find Artifact quite overwhelming in terms of gameplay. So why would we be talking about all those leaks, card decks, strategies, items and so on regarding a game new player do not even understand yet. We’re gonna take this opportunity with this article and try to explain Artifact in a very basic way, the fundamentals of the game and what it’s all about.

Artifact is basically a Dota 2 based card game (and if you don’t know what Dota go ahead and download it right now – it’s free on Steam), similar to Blizzard’s Heartstone but way more complex. In short terms, Artifact tries to emulate that MOBA style that so many gamers are in love with.

Artifact is played on a main board that is composed of 3 lanes: left, middle and right as you can see below. The winner is decided by winning two out of three lanes by playing cards that basically fight for that board.

Game mechanics

Cards or units attack across from each other and you can deploy additional units each round that will fight with the opponent’s thus trying to win that lane. The main objective is not destroying all the opponent’s cards but killing the tower (they represent the life total remaining on that particular lane) behind the cards that guard each lane. Each tower starts with 40 health points. Whoever kills 2 out of  the 3 opponent’s towers first, will win the game.

There is an alternative win condition though – Dota 2 players will love this, killing the ancient. The ancient is located behind the regular tower and has 80 health points. If you kill the first tower with 40 health and also manage to destroy the ancient you also win the game. So basically you can deal 40 damage to two lanes or deal 120 to one lane.


Heroes are special cards that can be used in a number of 5 per deck, and these are the cards Artifact is kinda revolving around so as you may have guessed it, they are pretty important. You can chose during the deck builder phase which heroes to deplay in rounds one, two and three, and the most important aspect is how they allow you to interact with cards in your hand. You can only play cards in your hand that match the color corresponding to your hero on that lane. For example if you have a red hero on a certain lane you can only deploy red cards. In case you have two heroes on that lane, obviously you can play either of those.

During the combat phase your hero will attack whatever is located across from it and it will be hit back by whatever is located across from it. There are some exceptions like cards that force targeting other cards. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that when a hero dies, it is sent to the fountain and your opponent will receive 5 gold (useful resource which we’ll get into later on) and will take two turns to revive . The hero will respawn after the end of the next round during the deployment phase. .

Heroes also come with passive or active abilities which give presence on the board that they’re in and signature cards that work with them. For example if you place the hero named Luna into your deck, into your deck also go three copies of her card Eclipse.


For cards, there are four colors in Artifact: red, green, black and blue. You can build a deck that is based on one color, or you can mix up to three colors to have different concepts that may work together.

Red is a color that is used to build a deck that revolves around large tanky units that have high stats but posses low utility outside those stats, and work very well in the early game.

Green is all about buffing and a lot of different utillity effects like Swap effects, Heal, Armour, green has a different abbility to play for a lot of things and it is a very unit rich color.

Black often plays for assasinating really fast and killing units it has a lot of damage dealing effects and a lot of tower dealing effects, some cards can even skip the actual combat phase and go straight for the towers.

Blue is the caster’s color with a lot of AOE damage used to quickly burn your opponent’s cards and it has the most rough early game with low stats (especially attack) that can be balanced with clever card deployment. Generally speaking if blue manages to survive early game it will dominate late with minimum hustle.

The mana sistem in Artifact

Each card in your hand will have a mana pool as well as towers, works similar to Heartstone but with some differences. You start with three mana points instead of one and each lane obviously has a different mana source. There is no hard cap to the mana pool.

One of the most important concepts about mana in Artifact that here at ArtifactSpy we really enjoy is the fact that playing for initiative as well as the idea of trying to distribute your resources between lanes that makes  mana system not so much of a curved chart.

Our biggest dissapointment with other card games based on mana systems is that it often leads to games evolving into just building and playing efficient mana on curves and a lot of games come down to which player can play the most of their mana on each turn because usually in a vacuum that player will win. Mana efficiency is very important in Artifact and it usually matters a lot more when and where exactly you play something.

Artifact Gameplay

The actual Artifact gameplay is fairly straightforward now that you understand the basics. First you start by drawing a hand of five cards you draw two cards with each consecutive turns. Each player has three lanes to play his two cards and each player gains one tower mana per turn as you already know. As mentioned above play proceeds from left lane to right lane so you will start the sol called “action phase” in your left lane and you and your opponent will basically take turns playing cards sequentially until both of you pass right after another. Passing in Artifact will not force you out of being able to take actions unless your opponent also passes immediately after that. For example a player can play a card, the opponent can pass, you can then play another card and your opponent can keep passing if they want but he can also counter at his point with a card .

Artifact retains that classic aspect of turn based play that is alternating one card at a time then when both players pass the combat phase begins; this is when all the units will battle across from each other and you see damage.

Straight after that players are presented with the the shopping and deployment phase. The shopping phase is defined on how exactly a players spends his earned gold we mentioned before. Every time a player kills one of the opponent’s a creep, the player gets one gold. Creeps are defined as any unit that’s not a hero. There are two kinds of creeps in Artifact: these are melee creeps which spawn naturally or creeps played directly by the opponent which are comparable to units or minions in other games.

Every time you kill a hero you get 5 gold so players should be quite motivated to kill these heroes.  Your gold accumulates and after the end of the round the shopping phase begin when players can buy items with the earned gold. Keep in mind that you will now be able to purchase Item Cards that you selected in the pack building phase. The item cards will then move to your hand and you can play them without needing any mana points.

After both players have shopped the next deployment phase begin. Remember that we told you about heroes reviving? This is the phase when your new heroes can be played in rounds 2 & 3 or when your dead heroes are coming back to life. Each player can choose at the same time which Lane you want to put these heroes in as your opponent. Due to this fact there can be a kind of random and luck element involved. Skilled players should predict where his opponent will play. You can only choose the lane your hero gets put into then a random position in that particular lane is chosen by the game and you play out the next round with one more mana than the previous round.

For those of you who may be more of visual learners, take a look below at a full match from IGN.

Artifact deck building

Regarding deck building as you may have guessed we can go on an on with strategies and custom deck builds, heroes and colors that work best together and we could not stop talking for ages and still not get somewhere near the end. This is in fact the whole beauty of Artifact and its deck building. It has countless combinations available all with countless different potential outcomes.  If you want to take a look at the cards available in Artifact or want to start creating some custom decks of your own we created a special tool to help you with that. Artifact custom deck builder can be found here.

The rules of deck building: Players have a 40 card deck and they can put up to five heroes in their deck. Players can build the deck based on one color for example Blue, or three even all the colors but we strongly don’t recommend building a deck with four colors. Players may include up to 3 copies of each card (heroes excluded) in their deck.

Artifact Price and Costs

As we mentioned earlier Artifact will not be free to play. Some lucky folks got keys for the beta version attending earlier Valve events this year, that will grant them access to the final version as well. If you are not one of the lucky ones you should know that a copy of Artifact after the release date will set you back $20. In this price you’ll get some starter decks and 10 starter packs with that included and afterwards, players who wish to acquire more cards will have to sink in some cash (boosters will be available for $2 each) or buy and sell cards to other players on the Steam marketplace. The only downside is that players can not earn packs overtime while playing but Valve has made claims that efforts have been made while developing Artifact so that cards retain their value over time.

Bottom line this is pretty much it. Hope you guys enjoyed reading this Artifact beginner’s guide. If we skipped something important (and I really have a feeling we did) you are more than welcome to add some value to this piece in the comments section below.

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