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Everything you need to know about Artifact – the Dota card game

Everything you need to know about Artifact – the Dota card game

If you’re reading this you’ve probably already heard about Artifact – the Dota card game which was announced last year, just before the final match of Day 2 of TI7 by event host Sean “Day9” Plott, who gave a vague description of the game at that time and insisted that the game is not related to Dota 2. It’s probably worth mentioning that Artifact is the first Valve’s new game since releasing Dota 2 in 2013.

Until recently, we didn’t have much information regarding Artifact, the progress nor the gameplay.

At a recent press event that took place in March, Valve President Gabe Newell sat down with members of the game press to reveal the first details about Artifact. The presentation contained a wealth of information about the upcoming game, the most important being the fact that the game will not be free-to-play unlike many of its competitors. And yes, I am talking about Hearthstone – which is probably the most popular card game right now and it’s Free to Play (more or less).

The game will feature high production value, novel mechanics, such as a “shopping phase” and an AI that teaches the player how to play the game. Newell also stated that opening packs and building your deck will be a “social and competitive experience”.

Artifact will also feature a marketplace and workshop – probably just like the marketplace we use in Dota 2 when trying to trade in-game items (a feature that Hearthstone does not have).
Newell also insisted that Artifact is not a Dota 2 card game, but rather a game that uses Dota as a base because of convenience – “It’s also worth noting that Artifact will not be a subordinate little sibling to Dota 2. Many of the heroes in the current card set are existing Dota 2 champions, but others are original creations.”

He went on to mention that Artifact will create a lot of content for Dota 2, including “new heroes that will appear later in Dota”.

Hawk-eyed observers have already spotted three potentially new Dota 2 heroes in Sorla Khan, Kanna and Rix.

Sorla Khan (the first one in the picture above) seems like the most “familiar”. According to recent rumors, she seems to be the one recently added to the game files under the code name “Mars”. We know that Sorla Khan comes from the same tribe as Axe and later she became the leader of the Red Mist army after Axe left.

Next up is Kanna, whose only relation to the game so far is an interaction between the heroes Juggernaut and Phantom Lancer where the former says, “Azwraith, you have not heard any rumors of Kanna’s return have you?”

Finally, the third new character is Rix. His appearance is akin to that of a humanoid-wolf wielding a sword as his weapon. He is currently alluded to in a voice line by Dark Willow to Legion Commander, saying: “Rix is going to kill you.”

Valve has yet to announce when they plan on rolling out these new Dota 2 heroes. Maybe as the same time as Artifact? I think it’s a possibility.

Artifact is currently in closed beta, available only to industry members and TCG professionals. The presentation that took place last month revealed that Artifact will be released to public by the end of 2018 and that there will be an Artifact Tournament in Q1 2019, with a first prize of $1 million.

The game will be available on iOS and Android in mid-2019 and will be the first Source 2 title to run on mobile devices.

How do you play it?

After a first look at Artifact’s design, you might think it’s a combination of Hearthstone, Gwent and Magic: The Gathering. After all, it was made by Richard Garfield. And you’re probably right. It definitely looks like a combination of these three, and it seems like it also has the complexity of those three combined.

Artifact plays out as a best-of-three scenario, only that all three games are taking place simultaneously. It’s a 1v1 card game with a three-lane structure, so basically each lane in Dota 2 is replaced by a board and play rotates from top, to middle, to bottom before the cycle starts up again.

If you’re familiar with card games, you could think of Artifact like playing three different matches at once. As Tim Clark mentioned in this article, “The easiest way I can describe playing it is to imagine managing three games of Hearthstone at once, each of which can affect the other in multiple ways which are changing from moment to moment.”

Yes – it seems pretty complicated. For most players, the three-lane structure will probably be the biggest challenge and I think this is also what makes Artifact different from any other card games I’ve played before. Unlike Hearthstone, where if you’re lucky enough, a game takes about seven minutes, Valve estimates the average match length for Artifact is 12 to 15 minutes.



Each lane has a tower that starts with 40 health. A player “wins” the lane if the opponent’s tower reaches 0 health, and you win the game by destroying two of your opponent’s towers.

Instead of playing out minions (like in Hearthstone), the player controls five different heroes (which are all based on the ones from Dota 2). You can think of the five heroes like super strong minions with special abilities. Some heroes have active abilities, Sniper, for example, can deal five damage to any creep or hero in his lane. Others can have passive skills: Drow Rangers offers every unit across all three lanes +1 attack. Some of then don’t have any special ability but can compensate by having lots of health and damage to throw around. Basically, by being a tank, like Axe, for example.


Combat happens automatically, with heroes and minions attacking either the enemy directly in front, diagonally left or diagonally right, on a randomly-determined basis. If there is no minion in front of a card, the card will attack the enemy tower directly. If a creep is killed, it will be shuffled out of play. If the hero is destroyed, it will “respawn” after a delay of one turn.

Each deck contains a minimum of 40 cards and includes 5 heroes. There will be a total of 280 cards in the base game with 44 of them being heroes. You can include three copies of each card in your deck, unlike Hearthstone where you are only allowed two copies.

Each lane has its own tower which starts at 40 health. If you lose two towers, the game is over. Once a tower is destroyed, it’s replaced by an Ancient that has 80 health and the player can also win the game by destroying the Ancient.

Each lane has its own mana pool, which starts at 3 and increases by 1 with each turn – just like in Hearthstone.

What about the heroes? As I mentioned earlier, you will have five heroes in your deck. Your first three heroes start randomly in one of the three lanes, with one hero per lane. The other two heroes are deployed before round two and three.

Heroes that get killed respawn after a turn and afterwards you can choose which lane to redeploy them in. Heroes have three stats: Attack, Armor and Health, all of which can be buffed by items and abilities in the Shopping Phase (where you get after combating in all three lanes).

As you destroy enemy cards, you will earn gold which you can spend on equipment between rounds, during the Shopping Phase. However, you cannot equip your creeps, only heroes can use the equipment. You can also purchase consumables, like salves for example. Similar to Dota 2, the more expensive the item, the more powerful.


Artifact: The Dota Card Game Trading and Economy

When Artifact was first announced, everyone assumed that Valve was trying to replicate the success of Hearthstone. However, Day9 referred to Artifact as a trading game card (TCG), not a collectible card game (CCG).

Valve promised us that while Artifact will not be free to play, it will also not be pay to win. The cards will be available to trade in the Steam marketplace and bargaining will be a huge part of the game. I think that’s what Newell meant when he mentioned that building your deck will be a “social and competitive experience”. I think that the fact that the players will be able to trade cards it’s an important feature, especially if you compare it to Hearthstone where cards rotate out of use at the end of every competitive year and you can’t trade them. Artifact cards will never become defunct so you will not be forced into buying new cards every three months or so.

There is no information regarding how exactly the cards will be bought or sold using the market, but it looks like it’s going to be similar to Dota 2, where your in-game items are part of your Steam Inventory rather than being limited to the game itself.

When can you play Artifact?

So, when can you actually play Artifact? Later this year.

We know that Artifact is currently in closed beta and only available to industry members and TCG professionals. However, it is known that Artifact will be released to public by the end of this year and we will have an official first tournament somewhere in 2019, with a prize of $1 million. We can assume a open beta before the public launch, and some people speculate that might happen after the Dota 2 International.

Artifact will be available on iOS and Android in 2019 and it’s going to be the first Source 2 title to run on mobile devices.

This is everything we know about Artifact, the DOTA Card Game, so far. If you have something to add, then let us know using the comments section below!



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