Our Artifact: The Dota Card Game guide contains deck guides, details of the release date, gameplay mechanics, heroes and cards.
Artifact: The Dota Card Game was first announced at the Invitational 7 last August. There was a fair bit of radio silence between that initial announcement and the big March 2018 press event, but as a result we now know a great deal more about what to expect from Valve's take on the digital collectible card game genre.
In this article we've got an overview of the game's background and fundamental gameplay mechanics, along with release date details, monetisation information and plenty more besides. Expect this article to be updated continuously as we approach launch, at which point we can start fleshing out our entire collection of Artifact guides.
If you have any questions or there's anything you'd like to see added to this article, just let us know in the comments!
UPDATE - 27th SEPTEMBER 2018
With the Artifact beta fast approaching, we've taken the opportunity to completely update and reorganise our guide. You'll now find information clearly separated out into different sections, and you can use the new links to jump into our supplementary coverage which goes into greater detail on each subject.
If you're interested in a particular area of coverage in our guide, use the following links to dive straight in. Come back to the top if you want to quickly navigate to another area of interest.
1. How to Play - A complete overview of the basics of play.
2. Heroes - How the Hero system works in Artifact.
3. Decks and Deck Guides - Our collection of deck guides.
4. FAQ - The release date, beta details, platforms, cost and more.
Artifact: How to Play
Let's start with the basics. Artifact is being developed by Richard Garfield, best known for creating the phenomenally successful Magic The Gathering (the game that all but invented the concept of the collectible card game). Garfield first conceived of Magic while studying at college, ultimately dropping out to work full time on the project. Good choice if you ask us.
As far as content goes, Artifact will feature 280 cards and an impressive 44 heroes at launch. Unlike Magic and Hearthstone, the objective of the game is to manage a total of three boards which represent the three lanes of combat you might be familiar with from MOBA games like Dota.
Each one of these lanes contains a tower which begins with 40 points of health, and the objective is to do enough damage to these structures to bring them down to zero health. When any one tower is destroyed, the controlling player's Ancient is revealed in that same lane. This has 80 Health.
Your challenge now is to either destroy that Ancient, or destroy a total of two towers across two lanes. Achieving either of these objectives results in a win for the attacking player.
Still with us? Lets move on to how combat actually works in Artifact:
You can fit up to five heroes in a deck, and when a game begins your first three heroes are split across each of these lanes. They'll be accompanied by spawns of "creeps", which in MOBA terms are minor minions designed to slow the forward progress of attacking units. When each round of play ends, a pair of extra creeps will then spawn in randomly chosen lanes.
Play moves between the three lanes, working from the top to the mid to the bottom lane in turn. Once the bottom lane turn has ended, the action moves back to the top lane once again and the cycle continues. Although these boards will act as independent entities for the most part, certain heroes can influence boards other than the one they currently occupy. More on that later.
Each of the three lanes has its own Mana resource pool, which controls the cards you can play at any given stage of the game. Each lane's Mana pool begins at three and increases by one point as each turn plays out. Note that it is possible to use special spells to accelerate this rate of resource gain - Hearthstone Druid fans will be very familiar with this concept, of course.
Unlike the individually targeted action of Hearthstone minions though, combat in Artifact is largely automated. Your playable units will attack the enemy directly ahead of them or to the diagonal left and right position. There'll be an element of randomness to the targets that are chosen as well, although we've heard reassuring noises that RNG is very limited in the game.
Finally, there are no limits to the number of minions you can have active in any given lane. If your board presence is wider than the screen real estate allows, then you'll be able to scroll left and right to view any action that's currently obscured. Have no doubt this is a deeply complex game that will require you to manage a lot of information at any given time!
Alongside the 280 core cards, there are 44 heroes to take into battle in Artifact. Here's the lowdown on what we know about them so far:
Hero characters are separated into four distinct categories known as “suits”:
- Black - Heroes that are capable of interacting with other boards in sneaky ways.
- Blue - These are your more mage-like creatures, which become more powerful later on in the game.
- Green - Support heroes that help restore and empower other combat characters.
- Red - Tough, warrior like heroes designed for a melee offensive
When constructing a deck, you will be able to choose heroes and cards from a maximum of two suits, and you can have up to five heroes in any given deck.
If a hero dies in Artifact, it returns after an absence of one turn and can be deployed to a lane of your choosing. Note, however, that green heroes can actually return faster than this thanks to a special resurrect ability that brings them back into play on the next turn.
The “land” system in Artifact is quite interesting as well. Your heroes each have their own associated spells, and you won't be able to cast those spells on a given game lane unless you have a hero of the corresponding colour in place.
There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Certain cards (Black) can be used to affect game boards other than the one the hero in questions is currently sitting on on. It'll be interesting to see how this affects the overall strategy of the game, and as with all sections of this guide we'll have more for you just as soon as we can get our hands on the info!
Hero item slots
Heroes will each have three item slots. One of these slots is for equipping a weapon, the other is for a piece of armour, and the final slot is for a health boost of some kind. Again, more details will become available in time and we'll update this section as soon as we know more.
You can buy new items for your hero once a three-lane-turn has concluded, and you'll earn currency by destroying creeps and heroes (and certain cards will actually allow you to accrue Gold at a faster rate as well).This purchasing window happens at the end of the bottom lane turn, and before the game cycles back up to the top lane once again.
Something to be aware of is that if a hero dies, they retain all of their equipment when they return to the game board. You don't need to worry about losing any of your awesome gear you've invested in them, and falling behind in terms of resourcing as a result!
Artifact: Decks and Deck Guides
Let's talk about deck building for a moment. We know the following things about Artifact deck-building based on the recent press hands-on event:
- Decks will consist of 40 cards in total.
- They will include 5 heroes - equivalent to the number of heroes in a Dota match.
- You will be able to include three copies of any given card in a single deck.
The recent hands-on at PAX West also gave us our first look at some of the deck types available in Artifact. It's very likely that these will all appear in the beta, and so we're in the process of putting together primer guides that will help you get started with each one:
Will Artifact be free to play?
Of all the information that came out of the reveal event, most notable of all is the fact that Artifact will not be free to play. Expect to play around $20 for a starter pack which will provide you with basic decks and a handful of cards - more detail will be added when we have it.
Although the exact details of how the game will be monetised beyond that are still a little obscure, the team wants to avoid a pay-to-win scenario for Artifact, and so you'll be able to purchase cards directly from the Steam marketplace.
In addition, you'll be highly incentivised to track down bargains on the store, and there'll be a far greater emphasis on buying cards from Valve and from other players, and selling cards on the marketplace too.
In other words, trading's expected to be a big part of Artifact, and an area of the game you'll need to master every bit as much as the fundamental strategy of the game and individual deck archetypes.
- 1. Trading - Artifact: Trading Guide
What game modes are available in Artifact?
There will be a number of different game modes in Artifact, including a draft mode and a sealed deck mode. The precise details of what these modes will entail wasn't outlined at the event. Hopefully we'll hear a little more about how these will work in a future announcement, or during October's beta.
What we do know at the time of publishing is that there will not be a single-player component to Artifact. There will be a tutorial to teach you the ins and outs of the game though - a good thing if you ask us, as it certainly sounds more complicated than the average CCG!
How will Artifact's tournaments work?
In much the same way that Dota 2's Compendium system funds tournaments for that game, a similar system will be in place for Artifact. A certain amount of the revenue generated from the game will feed directly into the esports scene, although the exact form and function of this funding hasn't really been explained yet.
Valve has stated that it will take all of the lessons learned from tournaments for Dota 2, CS: GO and so on, and use this experience to inform the development of Artifact's competitive scene. The developers also plan to allow spectators to browse competitor's decks and stats while events are actually taking place.
What engine does Artifact run on?
Artifact has been created using the Source 2 engine. Valve enthusiasts may recall that this is the engine that Dota 2 was ported to a few years ago. In other words, expect some seriously pretty gameplay when Artifact lands on your PC!
When is Artifact coming to iOS and Android?
On the subject of the game's engine, it's intriguing to note that Artifact will be making its way to iOS and Android platforms towards the middle of 2019. This will be the first use of Source 2 on mobile devices, and we're intrigued to see how well it scales on these weaker devices.
What's the release date for Artifact?
Artifact will be released on November 28th 2018, with the mobile version to follow towards the middle of 2019.
A select group of professional players have had access to the game for some time (with largely positive feedback), and a beta will take place at some point in October 2018. The data from that beta will then be crunched and applied where necessary before the game launches fully.
Will Artifact have Workshop support?
Unlike other Valve games that facilitate modding, there will be no Workshop support for the game at launch. Whether that changes over time is something we'll just have to wait and see on.
Is there going to be an Artifact beta?
An Artifact beta has been confirmed for October 2018. Exact dates for the beta have not yet been confirmed however.
Card game interactions and tightly woven metas generate a huge amount of balancing data, and while Valve will no doubt have the means to conduct simulated testing on a grand level, there's no substitute for getting hard and fast feedback on card balance from a large number of live games - not to mention individual player feedback.
When we have a firm date for the beta, we'll update the information in this section of our Artifact guide.
What's the background of Artifact?
Artifact is themed heavily around Valve's Dota universe. If you don't know your jungle from your creeps, here's a quick overview of Artifact's direct inspiration. It may well be we can deduce some gameplay clues from this comparison.
- Dota is a free to play multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). Given the competition from the likes of free to play games like Hearthtone, we would be very surprised if Artifact didn't follow this same revenue model.
- Two teams of five compete to occupy and defend a series of lanes across the map.
- At each end of the map, a team's base lies ready to be conquered. The team that manages to reach the base, destroy its defenses and turn it into rubble wins the match.
- As players fight enemy heroes and enemy defenses, they gain experience points and items that enhance their combat performance.
- Dota has a large number of hero characters (113 at the time of publication), each with their own defining hero abilities. Might Artifact place a greater emphasis on unlocking new heroes, rather than individual cards?
- There is a huge annual tournament known as The Invitational. Expect similar competitive tournament support for Artifact, if not at launch then in the months and years following its release.
- Dota heroes are separated into roles such as “carry” and “support”. The former focus on gaining experience to become more powerful over time, while the others provide utility and healing. It's likely we'll see a similar segregation of character types in Artifact.
- In Dota - and many other games of its kind - the character who gets the last hit on an enemy hero or creep gets all the rewards. It remains to be seen whether Artifact will have a shared resource system, or will carry on this “last-hitting” system.
That's the end of the fourth edition of our Artifact guide. Don't forget to let us know your own thoughts and speculation on the game in the comments!