How to Play Artifact – Step by Step
Artifact, the new card game from Valve, is a totally unique and complex game that combines concepts from Dota 2 such as lanes, heroes, creeps, and towers, with strategies and tactics used by traditional card games such as Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering to deliver an incredibly rich and rewarding experience. Here’s how to play the game, step-by-step, with visuals to explains every little detail and answer any questions you might have.
1. Each deck is built around 5 heroes
The decks you play in Artifact consist of minimum 40 cards built around 5 different heroes -powerful cards that resemble their Dota counterparts – and at the start of the game, you can see which 5 heroes are included in your opponent’s deck, as well as your own. This influences your gameplan for each game.
Cards in Artifact are split into 4 categories identified by color: red, blue, green and black, and although you can use as many colors as you want in your deck, because of synergy and consistency issues, most decks are built using just two colors.
In the screenshot above, you can see that the upper player plays a Blue and Black deck versus a Red and Green deck for the second player.
2. Artifact uses 3 boards called lanes
Unlike Hearthstone or other card games, the action in Artifact takes place on 3 separate boards called lanes, similar to Dota 2, named (from left to right) Lane One, Lane Two and Lane Three. You’ll be playing cards and competing in all 3 lanes in order to win the game.
3. You win the game by destroying 2 towers.
For each player, there is a tower in each lane that has 40 health points. Destroy the tower by bringing its health points to zero, and a new structure would spawn in its place, a bigger tower called the Ancient with 80 health points. In order to win the game, you can either destroy 2 towers from 2 different lanes, or a tower and the corresponding ancient.
Similar to Hearthstone and other digital cards games, each board uses a mana system that determines which cards you can play each turn. The numbers left to the Tower represent the Total Mana and the Available Mana for that particular turn.
4. Deployment of Heroes and Creeps in the lanes
At the start of the game, 3 of your heroes are placed randomly one in each lane, alongside 3 weaker cards called creeps. Their position is totally random for this initial phase. At the start of round 2, the fourth hero can be deployed and at the start of round 3, the fifth one, and at that time you’ll choose which lane they should go to.
When a hero dies in a lane, it spawns back to the board after 2 rounds, and you get to choose in which lane it will be deployed.
Creeps though are always randomly deployed in the lane, 2 new creeps after each round.
5. Artifact Hero Cards
A hero card is composed of an attack value in the bottom left corner, a health value in the bottom right corner and 3 item slots on top of the card, where various items can be equipped. Since heroes continually respawn during the game when they die, buffing them with items is a very commong approach since they get to keep their buffs and items for the whole duration of the game.
Some heroes cards also have an ability, which can either be passive or active, such as the Pack Leadership ability for Fahrvhan the Dreamer presented above, where allied neighbors have +1 armor.
Other heroes can also have an armor value, located between the attack and health values, that reduces each incoming attack from opponents, such as Axe, which lacks an active ability since its base stats are already very good.
Each hero card also adds 3 copies of a Signature Spell to your deck, which are Spell Cards (see further below about Spell Cards) that they have a special synergy with.
6. Artifact Melee Creep Cards
In addition to the initial three melee creeps that spawn when the game begins, there are two more creeps spawning and being deployed randomly after each round.
They do not have a lot of health or attack points, as by default they start with 2 attack and 4 health points, but they can be buffed by other cards or heroes and can block attacks from powerful enemy heroes. Similar to hero cards, they do not cost any mana when they are deployed and play a significant role in the game’s strategy.
7. Spells, Items and other Creatures
In addition to the heroes and melee creeps cards that are deployed for no mana on the board, you have access to a plethora of other cards, such as spells, items, and summoning other creatures. These cards cast mana to deploy (and how much mana they cost is indicated by the number in the top left corner of the card), but you have more control where they go and how they affect the board, with some limitations.
The first limitation is the available mana, which works similarly to the mana system in Hearthstone or other card games, meaning that every card you play costs you a certain amount of mana (the number located in the upper left corner). In Artifact, however, each board has its own mana pool (the number located to the left of the tower) which can differ from lane to lane – you may have more mana in a lane due to a buff from a hero for example.
The second limitation is that you can only play a spell of a certain color if you have a hero of that color in the lane. Remember how we mentioned that heroes are categorized in 4 colors? The spells and the rest of the supporting cards you get also belong to one of those four colors and can only be used if there is a hero in the lane to cast that particular color spell. This is an homage to Dota 2, where the heroes actually cast the spells, and not you, the player.
8. Attacking in Artifact
Attacking in Artifact works differently from attacking in other card games. Instead of selecting your card and its target, Artifact cards automatically attack the enemy directly opposing them, and this is indicated by the triangular arrow in front of them.
If there is an enemy opposing them, they will deal damage to that enemy according to their attack value. If there is no enemy opposing them, they have a 50% chance to attack the tower, and a 25% chance to attack either their left or right enemy. The results of the battle are displayed ahead of time in small, red-colored tooltips as in the picture above.
You can see in the above picture that most cards have a straight arrow in from on them indicating their attack target. When there is no attack target in front of them, such as is the case for the 4-1 green Lycan for the upper player, you can see that the arrow shifts to the left and attacks the opposing 5-7 blue Zeus hero. The 4-1 creep that has no opposing enemy will deal its damage directly to the tower.
This style of attacking, unique to Artifact, makes positioning your heroes and creeps a crucial element of the game, and there are plenty of spells that interact with a unit’s position in order to improve the outcome of the battle.
9. The Action Phase and the Combat Phase
Now that you got the basics of the cards down, let’s get back to how you play the game. After the initial random deployment of heroes and creeps to the three lanes, you are dealt 5 randomly cards to your hand and the Action Phase begins, where most of the game takes place.
You zoom into the left board, called Lane One, and the action begins with each player playing one card per turn, back and forth, until both players decide not to take an action anymore by pressing the logo-shaped, golden button in the bottom right side of the screen.
Once that happens, the action phase for that lane ends, and the Combat Phase begins where all cards deal their damage simultaneously according to the rules presented in the Attacking in Artifact section.
After the Combat Phase in Lane One ends, you start the Action Phase in Lane Two and then Lane Three, following the same rules. This completes a Round, playing the Action Phases and Combat Phases in all three lanes.
10. The Shopping Phase
At the end of each Round, the Shopping Phase begins, where you can spend some of your gold on new item cards to aid you in the following rounds.
You earn a certain amount of gold (called a bounty) for each enemy hero or creep you kill during the previous round action phase. There are also certain cards that help with gold generation, such as Pay Day, which doubles your existing gold.
During the shopping phase, you’re presented with 3 types of item cards that you can spend your gold on, and you can buy as many cards as you can afford.
The middle item is always an item card that comes from your deck that you’ve chosen to place before the game began.
The right item is always a consumable item, such as a healing salve.
The left item is a totally random item.
After the shopping phase ends, you’re dealt 2 additional cards form your deck and the next round begins.
11. The Minimap
Keeping track of everything that goes on all 3 lanes at all times might be exhausting, especially when you’re zoomed in to a particular lane, which is why there’s a minimap in the top left corner that summarises the state of the game at any given point.
You can see the health of each player’s tower for each lane, as well as how the heroes are currently deployed.
Heroes that are not currently on the board are displayed in the left side of the minimap alongside a timer indicating in how many rounds they can be deployed.
There is also a visual indicator for the player who has the initiative – meaning who gets to play a card first – in the form of a small arrow and the words INITIATIVE spelled on its side of the map.
The lane where the Action Phase currently takes place is also highlighted.
These are the basics of how to play Artifact, although there are more nuances and advanced strategies that you can find by browsing our guides.