Artifact Black Heroes Ranked
In Artifact, Black is the color of direct damage, mobility and other sleights of hand tricks, so Black heroes provide a lot of ways to outmaneuver your opponent and disrupt their game plan.
There are 3 main deck archetypes where Black heroes are usually included, the aggro decks, where you try to rush your opponent’s towers and finish the game early on, the hero killer archetype, where you focus on killing your opponent’s heroes over and over again so they can’t make use of their cards, and a late game economy archetype, where you focus on generating extra gold with the help of some exclusive black cards and outvalue your opponent that way.
There are 12 black heroes in Artifact, and we ranked according to their current power level into 3 tiers:
Tier 1: The best heroes so far, meta defining, that will be auto-included in their archetypes as staple cards.
Tier 2: Good heroes that are going to see competitive play, but in niche decks and which have certain weakness making them situational and not auto-include like those in tier 1.
Tier 3: Situational heroes that are good for beginners, very specific scenarios or for meme decks. Their power level is slightly lower than those which see constant competitive play.
We also have live rankings for the other colors:
Tier 1: Best Black Heroes in Artifact
Phantom Assassin is arguably the best Black hero in the game and a perfect example of the damage dealing hero that wrecks havoc on your opponent’s heroes.
She has 6 Attack, 8 Health and a passive ability called Efficient Killer that gives her +4 extra damage when she attacks a hero. She has one of the best Attack and Health stats for black heroes, and if you manage to position her right across against an enemy hero, hitting for 10 means pretty much killing him in one combat phase unless he is one of the tankiest heroes in the game.
Due to her ability to kill enemy heroes so efficiently (especially with her signature card discussed below) Phantom Assasin is a staple of aggro decks that aim to finish the game early or hero-killing decks that specialize in constantly killing your opponent’s heroes.
Her signature card is called Coup de Grace which is a 6 mana spell that condemns an enemy hero at the cost of discarding a random card. Obviously, a 6 mana unconditional removal that is able to kill any enemy is a powerful effect, and the downside of discarding a random card does not feel that significant since the decks that run Phantom Assassin aim to finish the game early and value is not their primary concern.
Phantom Assassin is the premier hero when you want to quickly kill other heroes and she’s highly valued right now in the meta as a staple in tier 1 decks.
The other tier 1 black hero, Bounty Hunter, is the first choice in economy/gold based archetypes due to his unique signature card.
Bounty Hunter is a black hero with 7 Attack, 7 Health and a reactive ability called Jinada which gives him 50% chance to gain +4 Attack before the action phase. His base stats are pretty decent, and his ability is one of the most RNG dependent ability in the game. When you get that +4 Attack and hit for a total of 11 he hits like a truck, otherwise, 7 is pretty mediocre.
But what makes Bounty Hunter a tier 1 hero and the main reason he is a staple in economy decks is his signature card Track.
Track is a 3 mana spell that gives a hero +1o Gold until he dies. Getting extra gold for killing enemy heroes is extremely rewarding, especially since as a black deck you have access to so many removals and damage dealers (see phantom assassin above for instance) that you can set up kills very reliably.
With the extra gold you generate from Bounty Hunter, you have flexibility when it comes to your gameplan. You can either buy items to finish the game early, which is usually the approach that black/red decks go for, or you can try to outvalue your opponent in the late game, which is usually the approach that black/blue decks go for.
You rarely get to see a hero played in both aggro and late game decks, so Bounty Hunter is a strong tier 1 hero that defines the meta.
Tier 2: Good Black Heroes in Artifact
Sorla Khan is a staple black hero in aggro decks, almost carrying the entire archetype on her back, but because aggro decks do not really have much success in this meta, being easily countered by control decks, she is rated only as a top tier 2 hero.
She is a black hero with 8 Attack, 6 Health and a continuous effect called Warmonger that grants her +4 damage when attacking a tower. Her hero card is pretty similar to Phantom Assassin, inverse stats for health and attack and a similar effect, but what holds Sorla Khan back is her signature card.
Sorla Khan’s signature card is a 3 mana improvement called Assault Ladders that gives your allies +2 Attack when attacking a tower. As you can see, both her passive ability as well as signature cards are all-in on the idea of bonuses when hitting towers, so when it works and you’re able to play aggressive, you can easily snowball the game.
Very often though, there will be units blocking you and your bonuses do not get to activate, making them obsolete. Which is why Assault Ladders is a pretty situational card and nowhere near close to Coup de Grace in terms of utility.
Overall, Sorla Khan is a solid tier 2 black hero for now.
Winter Wyvern is a black hero with 6 Attack, 6 Health and an active ability on a 2 turns cooldown called Arctic Burn: Move Winter Wyvern to an empty combat position and give it +4 attack this round. Since the +4 attack activates only when you’re in an empty combat position, it’s often the case that you get to attack for 10 only when hitting towers, so Winter Wyvern should be suitable for aggro decks.
However, its signature card is a bit slow and situational, which is why Winter Wyvern did not really find a place in the higher echelon of competitive decks.
His signature card is a 6 mana spell called Winter’s Curse that disables a unit and forces that unit’s allied neighbors to battle it. As you can see, this card requires a very specific setup to be effective and if your opponents know that you play Winter Wyvern in your deck, he will play around it by positioning his units better.
Lich is a black hero with 5 Attack, 9 Health and an active ability on a 2 turns cooldown called Sacrifice: Condemn an allied unit and draw a card. If that unit has 6 or more health, draw 2 cards. He is the black hero with the best stats in the game in terms of attack and health, but his active ability holds him down a bit.
If you’ve played other cards you might value card advantage a lot and think that having a guaranteed draw 1 or 2 cards every 2 turns is a Godsend, but in Artifact you play a lot for the board and your units matter a lot, so sacrificing them is a considerable downside. Very often you won’t have any available unit to sacrifice, and you won’t be able to benefit from your active ability.
Lich’s signature card is a 7 mana spell called Chain Frost, which works similarly to its Ultimate ability from Dota 2:
Chain Frost: Deal 3 damage to a unit. Repeat 7 times: Deal 3 damage to a random unit to its left or right. Get initiative.
The damage you deal gets reduced by armor, so it feels underwhelming when you use Chain Frost against Red decks since their units usually have a lot of armor, which makes Chain Frost not a very good removal when compared to the powerful 7 mana spells available to other classes. Since black specializes in aggressive strategies, killing heroes, or getting a gold advantage, Lich feels kinda out of place in most black decks right now as he does not have synergy with the existing strategies, as for his strength of what we can do in the late game, other colors can do much better.
The Get Initiative back, usually a very powerful effect, is not as useful on Chain Frost since the spell is very expensive at 7 mana so you might not have enough remaining mana to play another card that turn anyway.
Tier 3: Situational Black Heroes in Artifact
Necrophos is a black hero with 5 Attack, 6 Health and a passive ability called Sadist: Modify Necrophos with +1 Health after an enemy neighbor dies. The stats are underwhelming, and although you will be able to gain additional health on your hero in time, Necrophos does not represent a threat on board that needs to be dealt with unlike the premier black heroes in the game.
Necrophos’s signature card is a 4 mana spell called Heartstopper Aura: Modify a black hero with “Deal 2 piercing damage to this hero’s enemy neighbors before the action phase.” This synergizes well with the Sadist ability and allows Necrophos to gain additional health and is a small aoe effect that black color usually lacks.
However, it feels that the hero overall is pretty weak, since neither the hero card nor the signature card presents a very real threat on board.
Riley the Cunning
Riley the Cunning is the basic black hero that you automatically get when you purchase the game, and, similar to the other basic heroes, she’s mostly meant to teach you the basics of the game and be a decent but not great hero.
As far as basic heroes go, Riley is actually one of the better ones:
She has 7 Attack, 5 Health and a continuous effect called Work the Knife, which gives Riley +2 damage when attacking a hero or a tower. Since when Riley attacks a creep, 7 Attack is almost always enough to kill it, you don’t really miss the +2 damage attack, and usually feels like a non-conditional 9 attack and 5 health hero in a lot of cases. At only 5 health, however, she is extremely vulnerable and very hard to keep alive.
Her signature card is No Accident, which is a 3 mana spell that deals 3 damage to a unit, creep or hero. It’s not a bad card and can be pretty useful in some situations, but it’s not game-winning either unlike the signature cards from more competitive black heroes.
Lion is a black hero with 6 Attack, 5 Health and an active ability on a 4 turns cooldown called Finger of Death which deals 8 piercing damage to a unit. Let’s be clear here: the active ability is amazing, but 4 turns cooldown means you get to use it only once per game in most cases. The hero stats are below average, and his signature card does not impress either.
His signature card is Mana Drain, a 2 mana spell that gives an enemy tower -2 mana this round and your tower +2 mana this round. The spell’s 2 mana cost is evened out by the bonus mana you get, so it feels like a 0 mana give your opponent -2 mana this round, which is pretty bad in a lot of cases. You need to time the spell precisely on an important turn for your opponent, otherwise, he can just wait out the negative effect and use his more expensive spells next round.
Although we might see a combo deck in the future where Mana Drain is needed and Lion becomes effective, for now, he seems to be in the shadow of the more powerful black heroes available at your disposal.
Bloodseeker is one of the weaker black heroes in Artifact, especially since his signature card is quite underwhelming.
He has 7 Attack, 6 Health and a reactive ability called Blood Bath, which fully heals Bloodseeker after a unit blocking it dies. The reactive ability would be amazing on other heroes, but 6 Health is pretty easy for your opponent to deal with and kill in one instance of damage, so it feels that the regular heal does not make up for the weak stats.
His signature card is Blood Rage, a 5 mana spell that silences a unit and gives it +4 attack this round. Although silence is valuable in Artifact, when it comes at a cost of 5 mana, it feels very expensive, and the added flexibility of playing this card not only on your opponent’s units but yours as well does not make up for that.
Bloodseeker fails to impress for now, unlike his Dota 2 counterpart, and it’s perhaps the weakest black hero in Artifact.