Friday, 19 Jul 2024

Artifact Review: A Deep Dive into Valve’s Card Game


Valve’s Artifact, announced at the Dota 2 International tournament in 2017, marked the studio’s foray into card game development. Created by Richard Garfield, the mastermind behind Magic: The Gathering, Artifact is set in the world of Dota. While it differs from Valve’s renowned titles like Half-Life and Portal, the game successfully translates the flavor and mechanics of Dota 2 into a captivating three-lane card game. In this article, we’ll explore the intricacies of Artifact and why it’s not just another digital card game.

A Multilayered Gameplay Experience

At its core, Artifact is like playing three different games simultaneously with a single hand. The goal is to win two out of the three games or win one game twice. Managing resources and making strategic decisions on both micro and macro levels are crucial to success. Although initially overwhelming, once you invest time in mastering the game’s systems, the satisfaction of executing a perfectly timed, game-winning move is unmatched. What may seem like a chaotic blend of randomness becomes a unique and immersive experience that sets Artifact apart from other digital card games.

Heroes: The Cornerstone of Success

In Artifact, everything revolves around your heroes. Each deck must include five heroes, each with their own set of associated cards. Dota fans will recognize the flavorful skills and abilities, but prior Dota experience is not necessary. Heroes play a crucial role, synergizing with cards and showcasing their unique strengths. For example, the red hero Axe, known for his combat prowess, lacks a passive ability but excels in direct combat. On the other hand, different colors specialize in various aspects, such as gold acquisition, mobility, buffs, or impactful magic spells. Balancing hero selection and understanding color synergies is essential for strategic gameplay.

Mastering the Art of Resource Management

Artifact introduces a dynamic economy where players gather gold by eliminating enemies. This gold can be spent in the shop at the end of each round to acquire weapons, armor, and consumables. Similar to Dota, maintaining a healthy supply of potions and town portal scrolls ensures your heroes stay in peak condition and can move swiftly across the battlefield. While obtaining powerful items can shift the tides of the game, careful allocation of resources becomes paramount, as saving up may result in falling behind as your opponent gains dominance.

Unleashing Epic Plays and Bluffs

Once you grasp the basics, Artifact unveils higher levels of play, revealing games within games. Timely bluffs and leveraging initiative (the ability to play first) lead to game-defining moments that rival the epic plays of Dota 2. Decisions such as abandoning a lane, focusing on one or two lanes, and determining the number of heroes to defend a particular lane become pivotal in shaping the outcome. Artifact presents an entertaining challenge by offering numerous choices, often lacking definitive correct plays. For seasoned card game enthusiasts, this aspect adds depth and enjoyment to the gameplay experience.

The Draft: A Format of Endless Possibilities

While constructed play takes a backseat initially due to an established metagame, the draft format shines, allowing players to pick cards from packs and construct decks. This format fosters creativity and strategic thinking, providing endless possibilities. As new heroes enter the game, the constructed format is expected to become more interesting. However, for now, draft showcases the ingenuity and adaptability that sets Artifact apart.

A Unique Monetization Model

Unlike many digital card games, Artifact follows an unconventional monetization model. Currently, there are no progression systems or methods to earn cards through gameplay. All card trades occur through the Steam market, facilitating direct purchases and sales. While this model isn’t explicitly pay-to-win, it may feel restrictive for those looking to build a collection without spending additional money. Artifact’s reliance on a traditional physical card game model in the digital realm presents challenges in terms of accessibility and acquisition of cards.

Conclusion: A Strategy Cocktail Worth Savoring

Artifact seamlessly incorporates elements from Dota 2, offering a cerebral card game experience centered around resource allocation and strategic decision-making. While it may not cater to everyone’s preferences, Artifact appeals to avid card game enthusiasts seeking a unique and challenging gameplay experience. With its distinct mechanics and depth, Artifact stands out as a must-play for fans of the genre.


  1. How does Artifact differ from other digital card games?
    Artifact’s gameplay involves managing three simultaneous games with a single hand, creating an immersive and strategic experience unlike traditional card games.

  2. Can I play Artifact without prior Dota 2 knowledge?
    Yes, Artifact can be enjoyed even without previous exposure to Dota 2. The game introduces flavorful hero abilities that resonate with Dota fans but are accessible to newcomers.

  3. How does Artifact’s monetization model work?
    Artifact operates on a system where card trades occur through the Steam market. While this offers flexibility in acquiring specific cards, it does require additional purchases and might limit accessibility for some players.

  4. Which format is recommended for new players?
    Draft format is highly recommended for new players, as it allows for creativity and strategic deck construction.

  5. Will Artifact introduce new heroes in the future?
    Yes, Artifact is expected to introduce new heroes, providing further diversity and possibilities for deck building in the constructed format.