Artifact is finally here, and players can use a beginner's guide to help them get started. The long-anticipated digital card game from developer Valve has appeared poised to shake up the genre in a big way for months now, and so far, Artifact is living up to the billing. Putting aside any issues players might have with the way its economy is structured, the game is certainly a hit in the early going, with plenty of people tuning into streams and downloading the game themselves to give it a shot.
One thing that isn't immediately obvious about Artifact, though, is the learning curve. This isn't just another digital card game, and Valve was not afraid to introduce some serious complexity to the way its TCG variant is played. Artifact quickly breaks down into some extremely complicated board states, and players who are unprepared for three lane gameplay will often find themselves running out of clock on their turns or getting overwhelmed by all the information that needs processing.
Luckily, that's where we come in. We've compiled a short beginner's guide to Artifact to arm new players with the kinds of tips and tricks that can be lifesavers during early experiences with the game. Read on to find out how to dominate your lane, destroy your enemy's Ancient, and not make any egregious errors that will cost you a game (though, in a title like Artifact, that is bound to happen eventually).
Artifact Guide: Seize the Initiative
Initiative isn't too complex as a mechanic - essentially, there is a coin during gameplay that appears on either side of the board, and the person who has that coin has the first action in a given turn. Artifact is a well-balanced game and there aren't many cards that are complete blowouts, so usually both players will be able to act with their heroes in a given laning phase.
That isn't always true, though, and the further one dives into Artifact the more obvious it becomes that managing initiative is a huge boon. Cards that say they grant initiative are deceptively powerful, often letting players chain together a few spells in a turn that can disable or outright kill an enemy hero - if you had initiative to start, then that's almost like forcing them to skip a turn.
What Artifact doesn't do a great job of explaining is that if a player simply passes their turn without doing anything in a lane, they'll get the initiative coin for the next lane. Sometimes, if none of the cards in your hand will do much in a specific lane, it's better to just pass and use them first in a different lane for maximum effect. That helpfully ties in to our next tip...
Artifact Guide: There Are Three Lanes For a Reason
Artifact is about winning two out of three lanes in a given game (or cheesing the Ancient, which is just as risky in Artifact as it is in DOTA 2). While it's not a bad idea to approach the game as though it is a MOBA, balancing each lane, managing creep for money, and pushing towers when it is most convenient, that's not necessarily the best way to win. Much like in DOTA 2, it can often be correct to abandon a lane that is faltering to reinforce the other two and try to push those instead.
In Artifact, that can honestly happen as early as a few turns into the game. There are some bad match-ups for heroes out there that can make laning against them extremely difficult. Often, it's worth it to concede the match-up in that specific lane and attempt to bolster the remaining two before the opponent realizes what is happening.
Look at it this way: if you have two heroes in one lane and three in the other, and your opponent has one or two stuck in a lane that is already being slowly whittled down, then you have a distinct advantage in the other two lanes. This can certainly backfire, and a wise opponent will look to purchase a Town Scroll quickly to get another hero in one of the lanes you've reinforced, but this is a basic principle of Artifact that isn't obvious when you first begin playing. There are three lanes, but you only need to take two to win. It's simple, but as a strategy, it can lead to some very fascinating decisions that aren't as obvious as the mantra makes it sound.