Artifact is upon us, and the Dota card game is at once thrilling, complicated, and just a little bit scary. Just learning the ropes with preconstructed decks can be intimidating enough, but what about when it comes time to build your own? You’ve got to consider not only effective strategies, but how much money you want to spend, since your only method of getting specific cards is through buying them on the Steam Market.
Luckily, we’re here to help with a handful of starter decks that’ll help you get a few constructed wins under your belt without breaking the bank. It remains to be seen which strategies will be most effective at the highest levels of play, but the decks you see here will offer some effective tactics to make use of as you learn the game and build for yourself.
Each deck is made up of one or two colours. You don’t have to keep decks so strictly limited, but it’s much easier to make effective plays when you have fewer colours to keep track of. We’ve also distributed those coloured cards evenly based on our heroes – roughly eight of each colour per hero – and made sure not to exceed the minimum deck sizes. That helps ensure we’ll be able to play the cards we want, when we want, and it’ll be an effective guideline as you start to build your own Artifact decks.
You’ll find no more than five rare cards and ten uncommons in each deck, and no rare heroes. Artifact will allow you to buy and sell cards on the Steam Marketplace, and since that feature is not yet live in the beta, we don’t know how the prices on individual cards will shake out. If you’re new to Artifact and card games more generally then you read our Artifact guide for a rundown of how to play this complex game. Alternatively, here’s a list of all Artifact cards so you can build your own deck.
We’ve gone with these rarity distributions based on the drop rates from card packs, and while it should be pretty easy to buy the cards for the decks seen here by selling a handful of cards from your starter packs, the market’s likely going to take some time before shifting into predictable patterns.
Here are the best Artifact decks for beginners:
Green Quick Advancement deck
This is based on the Green Machine deck that you’ll see in Artifact’s preconstructed Call to Arms event, altered to bring the cost down a bit with fewer rares and uncommons. The deck’s goal is still the same: crush your opponent with overwhelming force. You’ll build up mana early and keep your opponent on edge with a steady supply of heavily defended creeps, then go for a knockout with the ultra-powerful Thunderhide minions early in the game.
It all starts with Stars Align, a one mana spell that gives your tower three extra mana for the round. This lets you play improvements like Cheating Death and Verdant Refuge as early as round one, building up strong defenses that’ll be tough for your opponents to circumvent, and get Mist of Avernus out early to help build all your units up with snowballing attack bonuses. You’ve also got Selemene’s Favor improvements and Treant Protector’s signature Roseleaf Druid cards to help build up your mana reserves, which will help you push early to the uber-powerful Thunderhide Pack and Thunderhide Alpha creeps on the board. Low cost minions like Rebel Decoy and Selfish Cleric will help to keep your opponent struggling while you build toward that final blow. If you’d like to improve the deck with some rarer cards, consider swapping out those Traveler’s Cloaks in the item deck for Revtel Signet Rings – that’ll help you cut off your opponent’s gold supplies while you build your forces. Also consider dropping the Stonehall Pikes for more Blink Daggers, since those’ll let you move your heroes (and their defensive buffs) between the lanes more easily. And the more Thunderhides you have, the more chances you’ll have to play them – swap an extra Alpha in for one of the cheaper creeps to boost those odds.
Grab the Green Quick Advancement deck code here to check out the card list in Artifact.
Black/Green Bounty Hunter deck
This deck isn’t just named for the Bounty Hunter hero – it’s all about killing enemy heroes and profiting from their deaths. Low mana attack cards will keep you dealing damage to your foes, and you’ll have the tools to manage your position and make sure your units are poised to deal massive damage.
Phantom Assassin and Debbi the Cunning will get bonus damage against enemy heroes, and you can use Bounty Hunter’s Track signature to get massive gold bonuses for kills. Not in position to make a kill? No problem! Just drop a Rebel Decoy in front of the hero you want dead and you can put your most deadly unit in position to get the job done. Direct damage spells like Grazing Shot, No Accident, and Pick Off will also help you reel in those early kills. You can add to your early gold reserves with Iron Fog Goldmine, which’ll keep the money rolling in on every single round. Once you’ve got a good bit of gold, use Payday to double it – maybe more than once. You’ll have some items to buy that’ll boost your assassinating prowess, but you really want that money for Revtel Convoy – a creep whose attack is equal to half your gold. Get that gold early and the convoy will be nigh-unstoppable by the time you can play it on round three. Slay is a card so useful in so many varied situations that it’s tough to imagine running a black deck without it. Just spend three mana to get any pesky creep off the board. You’ll want to take advantage of these cheap mana costs to keep your hand light, too, since that’ll help you mitigate the the negative effects of Coup de Grace – which immediately kills an enemy hero at the cost of discarding one random card from your hand. If you want to improve the deck with more expensive cards, consider getting some Ravenous Masses in there. This creep’s active ability lets it essentially eat neighboring units and absorb their health. If you use that next to a Revtel Convoy, you’ll be able to absorb its damage value and then freely spend the gold you used to power the unit up.
Grab the Black/Green Bounty Hunter deck code here to check out the card list in Artifact.
Red/Blue Control and Kill deck
This deck is all about dealing damage, from the earliest turns all the way to the very end of the game. Starting red heroes like Keefe the Bold and Bristleback will put pressure on your opponent and make sure their creeps remain under control, while Luna builds up charges for her massively powerful Eclipse spell later in the game.
Cheap damage spells like Strafing Run and Tower Barrage will help keep your opponent from mustering offense, while the extra cards you’ll get from spells like Cunning Plan and Foresight will ensure your hand is stacked with the uber-powerful spells you’ll use in the later stages of the match. Once your mana’s built up, you can start dropping the powerful signature cards that come with your blue heroes. Eclipse, Mystic Flare, and Thundergod’s Wrath all deal ridiculous damage, and can ruin your opponent’s chances in any given lane. If the tower’s still standing, play Time of Triumph – a permanent set of buffs that’ll turn your heroes from ‘powerful’ to ‘unstoppable killing machines.’
Grab the Red/Blue Control and Kill deck code here to check out the card list in Artifact.
Black Siege deck
Here you’ll make use of Siege damage to kill your opponent early. Siege lets your units bypass the units blocking them on the board to deal direct damage against the enemy stronghold and secure victory early. Your starting heroes are equipped with abilities that let them quickly assassinate enemy heroes, and get bonus damage when the path is clear to the tower.
You’ll want to keep those cheap creeps flowing onto the battlefield, and power them up using the Path of the Cunning improvement, which will continually improve their Siege stat. Spells like Slay, Gank, and Coup de Grace will help you clear the board of units blocking your most powerful attacks, and then you can use Forward Charge to lead the bigger part of the assault. Early hero kills will net you a decent bit of gold, which you can funnel into attack boosts using weapons from the item deck. Equip a few heroes with the Red Mist Maul to maximize your Siege damage, then boost that number even more with The Cover of Night – that’ll let you send a given hero anywhere you want for a strategic, game winning strike against the opposing tower.
Grab the Black Siege deck code here to check out the card list in Artifact.
Black/Blue Control deck
You want to control the field, harass your enemies, and make them play the game on your terms? Then you want a control deck. You’ll start out with tons of inexpensive improvements that’ll slowly drain the health of opposing towers and whittle away the life of the creeps and heroes on the board.
Venomancer will keep your opponent occupied with tons of extra creeps, Zeus will keep laying the damage on his neighbors, and Necrophos will grow more and more hit points as you slice away the enemy creeps in his lane. Ogre Magi will keep those powerful blue spells in your hand, and Lion can kill many heroes outright with a single use of his active ability.
What if your opponent gets a powerful creep on the board? Slap it down with Slay. A bunch of weak units that threaten to take your tower? Block them with the dimensional portal. A couple of powered-up heroes spoiling your advance? Make them fight each other with Friendly Fire. One lane getting out of control for your side? Send some backup over there with a Blink Dagger.
You’ll be equipped to counter every single move your opponent makes and ensure they can never effectively use their own strategies. Frustrating for them, but a game winning move for you.
Grab the Blue/Black Control deck code here to check out the card list in Artifact.
Improving your Artifact collection
Artifact is unique among digital card games because you can’t play it for free. That’s certainly been a controversial decision, but it’s core to the game’s design. The idea is that, like a real TCG, each card will have value because you paid money for it. You can then buy and sell cards on the Steam Market to trade up and get exactly what you want. We also have a list of all Artifact cards if you want to look at your options when you come to building your own deck.
It remains to be seen how that’ll work in practice – the Market hasn’t been up as we’ve played the beta – but it seems like it will allow you a simple, inexpensive way to get the cards you want. (And Valve will certainly be satisfied by the fees it gets to take off of all those transactions.)
You’ll get two starter decks when you buy Artifact – Blue-Black Control and Red-Green Brawler – as well as 20 card packs that contain twelve cards each. Any cards you don’t want can be sold, and you’ll likely have plenty to get rid of even after you open your starter packs.
For constructed play, you can never have more than one of each hero or three of each card in your deck, meaning any extras you get beyond that are essentially free money for you to go buy more cards on the Market. If you’ve got a bunch of extra cards that won’t sell for much, you can trade in 20 for an Event Ticket, which grants you entry into competitive play modes.
You can also buy more card packs directly, at $2 each. (No discounts for buying in bulk, sadly.) If you’re confident in your skills, you can earn more card packs by playing the expert modes, which cost Event Tickets ($1 USD each) to enter. Rack up four or more wins in Expert Constructed or Phantom Draft and you’ll get bonus card packs as reward.
Aside from using the five Event Tickets that come with your purchase there is no way to earn free packs by playing Artifact, and whether that changes remains to be seen. The developers say “progression is top on the list of things we want to tackle post-launch,” but whether that will include new ways to get cards is unclear. For now, you’ll need to make effective use of the Steam Market to build the deck of your dreams.