Diving Into Artifact Draft
Valve's new card game Artifact launches on November 28, just in time for you to soak in the complexity after a bout with some serious Thanksgiving feasting. We've taken a look at one of the best formats in the game - draft - and picked a few cards you won't want to miss.
The drafting format is interesting - 2 cards at a time, 5 packs, limited to picking one hero per pack. While picking out the high power rare heroes from Dota 2 is often the easy part, there are a number of cards you may pass over on first glance. Here are some of my favorites from each of the four colors (and the item pool) that you don't want to ignore.
Bronze Legionnaire - The reason this unit is great is because of the armor. Bronze Lego can slice down standard creeps, other units, and even heroes sometimes without even getting a scratch. Best utilizied as an early game drop that can keep hard harassment on the opponent until the bitter end. Even if your opponent does deal with it, you've probably gotten the better end of the trade in terms of resources.
Stonehall Elite - This is basically a bigger, meaner version of the Lego. Not only does it shred through enemy creeps, it grows with each kill, making it a huge threat to the enemy tower after the blockers run out. Also extremely dangerous next to enemy heroes should its eyes wander (via the arrow targeting system) when it lacks something to slaughter. You want as many of these as possible!
Keenfolk Golem - Yes, the other two big red creatures are awesome, the Ogre Conscript and Marrowfell Brawler, but this guy is the one to talk about because it can seem terrible at first glance - it costs you your hand! In practice, this can be quite negligible, but it may require a bit of finesse on your part. Whether it's a desperation play to save a lane and win you the game or just a power toss into the third lane (dumping your hand in lanes one and two to ignore the disadvantage), or perhaps just well set up to take advantage of the huge freaking golem. Keenfolk Golem is also incredibly useful as a surprise finisher - tossing your hand won't mean much if it's the final play of the game.
Red has plenty of other major power cards like Time of Triumph, but they're more obvious and easy to spot. Red sports a number of amazing heroes with Axe, Legion Commander, and one of the better "free" heroes that you can place into any deck if you don't manage to draft any other red heroes, so going red is a very nice place to start, especially for beginners, as your heroes can outbrawl most opposition without too many tricks or spells.
Mist of Avernus - You can play this on the first turn and see immediate, powerful effects, and they keep happening for the entire game, unless your opponent has a way to remove improvements. Your opponent will have to either play into the lane hard or abandon it, either way you're going to gain more control of the board. This is easily one of the strongest cards in the game and should push you into green early if you get one or even crazier, two or three.
Unearthed Secrets - Drawing more cards is great, and you can get this permanent effect going on the first turn of the game. While a couple cards may not make a big difference, this can draw you an absurd amount of cards of over the course of a game, for an incredibly minor investment.
Emissary of the Quorum - This is one of the few cards in Artifact that, if it goes unanswered, can just straight up win you the game. While Emissary comes with impressive stats, the ability is the real killer, as it can buff your lane every single turn with powerful permanent boosts. It won't take long to destroy a lane's tower (or even an ancient) with this thing on the board.
Green also boasts many other obvious cards that should catch your eye, like some of the biggest critters in the game with Thunderhide Pack and Thunderhide Alpha. There's also Cheating Death which is silly and lets you break the rules, letting your heroes and creeps survive after death - sometimes. Green also has a lot of great heroes for draft like Lycan, Drow, Magnus, and more - even their subpar heroes are pretty good like Enchantress or Treant.
Iron Fog Goldmine - Get as many of these as possible and pick them early. Stack up gold, buy insane items from the secret shop, golden tickets, or stuff you can draft like Helm of the Dominator. This is a staple black card and the more you can get ticking on turn one the better.
Slay - If you're just coming to the game, killing a creep may not seem that great. That may be true for the standard melee creeps that come trundling out each turn, but Thunderhides, Ogres, and giant golems all count as creeps too. If you hold on to your Slays to take out big 7+ mana targets, you will be gaining a nice advantage on those turns. Alternatively, you can use them at opportune moments to gain crucial tower hits or save your fragile heroes from death.
Steam Cannon - Possibly black's best card, being able to shoot an armor-piercing ball into any lane every turn is an absurdly powerful effect. Put this puppy down in lane one and then use it to shoot down heroes in lanes two and three, killing them before their turns start and denying them the ability to play cards.
Black has tons of ways to make gold, move around the board, and do damage, making them one of my favorite colors to draft. Powerful heroes like Phantom Assassin, Tinker, and Bounty Hunter, maybe Necrophos get the job done - stay away from Bloodseeker and Lion, as they are both terrible. Black's "free" hero is one of the better ones and is completely playable if you don't get any of the good ones.
Dimensional Portal - One of blue's best, you'll immediately add three creeps to the lane. On turn 2, this is a huge lane presence, and is a great way to "sneak" in other creatures on the perimeter that you've created as well, like Red Mist Pillagers. You get a ton of bang for your buck with this one.
Thunderstorm - Sometimes, this can just kill an entire lane of both enemy heroes and creeps. Definitely worth the price.
Aghanim's Sanctum - Recharging your mana may not seem that useful, but blue has plenty of ways to take advantage of doubling up on mana every turn, whether you're making more spells with Ogre Magi (multiple magis in one lane in draft!), drawing cards with Foresight, and more. Just make sure you draft some things to take advantage of the extra mana.
Blue has fragile heroes that often come with powerful spells or abilities, including ways to spam lanes with swarms of additional creeps with Prellex or Venomancer. Be on the lookout for Kanna as one of your best hero options, with Ogre Magi and Zeus other great picks. Avoid Crystal Maiden and Outworld Devourer at all times. Blue can do all kinds of crazy combo stuff if it gets going, but features heroes that are very easy to kill - I advise trying other colors first unless you get handed some incredible stuff.
Stonehall Cloak - This thing is amazing. Attach it early and watch your hero HP soar. You'll be able to brush off even the most incredible spells and attacks wearing this. You may be tempted to go with Stonehall plate instead for the armor, but armor can be pierced - try piercing 30 HP.
Helm of the Dominator - It's expensive, but this can swing games easily, especially against big green decks. Taking control of the pick of the litter every 2 turns is very, very powerful.
Horn of the Alpha - 25 gold, but if you can stick this early (or even late) your opponent is going to have a lot of trouble dealing with a free giant creep every 2 turns.
Claszureme Hourglass - When the game goes late, those two cards you draw a turn are everything, and locking them out of play is very strong.