Valve announces Artifact, finally jumps into virtual collectible card gaming


I’m absolutely shocked that they shipped with no visible stats tracking, not even the basics. For a team with basically infinite money the client sure is light on features. Seems like they spent most of their effort on flashy animations.


Hmm, interesting question. I suppose we should recommend you first try a so-called free-to-play CCG first, like Hearthstone or Eternal or Gwent. You can try those games for free, whereas Artifact will set you back $20 (minus whatever duplicate cards you choose to sell on the market).

That said, I think the game mechanics in Artifact are more interesting, though they’re also more complex. And yes, you can play constructed against the AI; the game ships with lots of different decks that you can give to the AI and to yourself. I’m having plenty of fun doing just that.

To play draft against the AI, you have to fudge things a bit. In my opinion draft is the best mode in Artifact, since it’s much better-balanced than constructed, and drafting is just plain fun. (In online constructed you’ll see the same half-dozen heroes over and over.) To play draft against the AI, you go into the free online phantom draft, run a draft, write down the cards you drafted, and buy them so you can make a custom deck to play against the AI. For one “draft deck,” this might cost you only a couple bucks. I haven’t tried this yet, but I plan to give it a go.

My issue with CCGs generally is that I stress out playing timed games against human opposition. The chess clock jangles my nerves. But there’s also probably a subconscious fear of looking stupid if I misplay, and an innate competitiveness. :) Few of these games have a really robust PvE mode, although Hearthstone has had a few interesting purchasable PvE adventures, and Gwent’s Thronebreaker single-player campaign is excellent.


The more recent (free) Hearthstone PvE content has been pretty good, especially Dungeon Run. There’s a lot of replayability there.


Elder Scrolls: Legends also has a bunch of really cool single player content.


Artifact is complex, but that doesn’t mean it’d be bad for newcomers. It’s not free to try, though, so if you just want to dip your toe in the genre, I’d recommend any of Hearthstone, Eternal, or Magic Arena. Pretty sure you can play against AI on any of those. Hearthstone has a cool roguelike mode, and Eternal has an entire ranked mode against the AI.


I don’t particularly like Hearthstone, but even I have to admit that it’s brilliant in its accessibility, and pretty much the perfect entry point for the genre. Just make sure that if you like it, you try Magic or Artifact or something else more complex before you settle in to one game.

As for Artifact, I’m at the point where I kind of wish I had sold all of my cards initially instead of just the excess. I would have made money off of the game (joining Diablo 3 in that club!), still been able to play the quite-awesome draft mode, and been able to ignore the not-super-fun-right-now constructed mode. I hope that this sticks long enough to get some expansions and really open up the card pool, along with adding some usability, to the point where casual constructed has a bunch of fun (if not meta) decks to play around with.


One thing that modern digital TCGs have a hard time with is the “kitchen table” play that Magic does really well. The majority of the people who buy Magic cards don’t play in events – they just sit down and play with their friends in the evenings, during lunch breaks, or at school. They buy packs here and there to improve their deck, but they have no concept of a metagame or even what “good” cards are. They just have fun with janky stuff.

But every T/CCG now has a ladder, and a tournament structure, and a deck database, and a Twitch presence, and there’s this shrinking tolerance for anything the community perceives as “bad.” Show up to Friday Night Magic with your homebrew Angel deck? You’ll get run out of the event. Play Hearthstone’s ladder? Better make sure you’re playing something off Hearthpwn, otherwise you’ll never hit Legend. Artifact contsructed? Better buy those Axes.

These games all try to give the casual players an area where they don’t have to come into contact with the hardcore folks, but there’s no way to gate it so that the hardcore folks stay out of that area. It’s not enough to remove rewards – for a lot of players, griefing new players with a tuned Legend deck is its own reward. I think Magic Arena is playing around with this by comparing the cards in your deck with the cards at the top of the ladder and matching you appropriately, but that’s not perfect.

I’d like to see Valve experiment with this by incorporating the card prices and having a constructed play area where your deck must fit into some price range. Constructed five-dollars-and-under is a format I’d love to play.

I guess the closest thing is in communities like this, where we don’t really have any hardcore representation. I’d be down for a constructed game with anyone here!


Isn’t that exactly what Phantom Draft prevents?


Casual phantom draft is pretty successful at being a casual-only mode! Most of that post was directed at constructed, though. There’s no good home for a casual constructed player who wants to sit down and play with what they have without the risk of getting blown out by a highly-tuned deck rolling over your tower with a snowballed Axe on Turn 3.


This is a pretty cool idea. How would it work when a certain card becomes popular in the format and the price spikes, in your mind? I figure they could do a rolling average or price ceiling/floor in the last X timeframe. Man, it’d be just as interesting of an economic study as a deckbuilding exercise tracking how prices rise and fall when cards get popular, and then fall out of favor when they get too expensive to include in a deck - and then the fallout for any complimentary cards that are no longer viable, and other cards filling in the meta void…


You could try to make it semi-stable, and just do snapshots, like “Your deck must cost less than five dollars, given the prices as they were at 11am PST on December 10.” Then do the same thing a month later.

You could do the same on a card-by-card basis, too. There’s a format called Penny Dreadful on MTGO that only allows cards that cost one cent, with new snapshots being taken every three months.

Or you could embrace the chaos and do either of the above but all in real-time, meaning your deck could just straight-up be illegal from one game to the next as the format bobs and weaves through pricing.

With all the concern online about the price of Artifact, it’d be a good move on Valve’s part to be as accommodating as possible of budget constructed play.


Yeah, I like the idea of a limited-constructed mode, if you will – one that forces people to play something other than the top three decks. I like your idea of a money-cap, sort of like a salary cap in sports. The only trouble is that prices fluctuate, so a deck might be viable today and not tomorrow, or vice-versa. I suppose another option might be to limit cards by winrate or even by some authority’s tier list or valuation list.

Constructed is problematic in all these CCGs, really. The internet quickly figures out the optimal decks, and then everyone strives to play one of them. Back in the day, I had no idea what an optimal Magic deck looked like. I just bought boosters and played the cards that looked fun. More information has not made us more free!


Fully agreed with all of this. In real life, it’s constrained by the fact that you’re playing with the same people over and over: if someone walks in with a meta deck that kills everyone once, sure, that’s actually fun to see too, but if they don’t have something that plays to the level of the room next time, everyone involved tends to let them know it’s a problem and work it out. Part of that, I’m sure, is that I am remembering from M:tG 20 years ago when it took a lot longer to get each card set fully tuned, and part of it is just inherent to digital.

Even limited-by-rarity filters (all commons, or no more than 3 rares, etc) would be a good start for where Artifact is right now, but I like the money caps too for how it changes the deckbuilding over time. Either way, get us something!


Do we have enough people interested in constructed to try a QT3 tournament or league? We could set our own constructed rules (I like the idea of Pauper, commons-only).


Pauper-type formats are cool, but without a card pool as massive as Magic’s (and hell, maybe even with one), I imagine it would still pretty quickly distill down to a handful of “optimal” decks, although I admit this is just a hunch and I haven’t done the legwork to find out.


That’s true – in Magic, even Pauper has a metagame. It’s not an entirely open field. And it looks like there are already some people playing around with it as a format in Artifact, so it’ll eventually have a metagame too.

But until we develop the technology to peer inside a player’s mind and figure out if their deck is truly 100% original, the best we can do is probably a format with a low barrier to entry and a relatively low power level.


I’m keen to join if we do that commons-only idea, as commons are the only cards I have!


I might be interested in a tournament, but I prefer Draft to Constructed, and tournaments do support a Draft mode.

I’m not sure how tournament drafting works, though; do we draft from the cloud, or among each other only? (In the casual phantom draft mode, I think we draft from the cloud, don’t we?)


I did not realize this. Draft would probably be more popular. I also didn’t realize that the in-game tournaments can be setup asynchronous league-style, too.

I assume all drafting (except the keeper draft) is done from the cloud.


The tournament feature set in this game really is excellent. I’m surprised it hasn’t been reported on more.