The Pillars of Artifact (Part 1)

The Pillars of Artifact (Part 1)

I wanted to take look at the current pillars of the meta and to provide newer players a glimpse of what to expect when diving into Artifact constructed. In my opinion, the format is quite diverse right now with numerous archetypes being represented. In Artifact, I would argue that player skill is a larger determining factor than deck choice so there is a lot to be said to choosing an archetype you enjoy and learning all its details.

For novelty, I am going to use the approach of categorizing the decks into the four axioms that I believe to be present within each deck: power or consistency, and proactive or passive. Though it can be argued that a deck can be both powerful and consistent, usually those decks are under the spotlight as a balance issue.

 

Consistent and Passive

 

The color blue is the hallmark of consistency and passive play. The most notable cards in blue are its draw spells and powerful board control which encourages this playstyle. Mono Blue has access to a high density of spells like Cunning Plan, Compel, Foresight and Arcane Assault that provides a ton of consistency and allows the player to see a large number of cards per game to enable their game plan of controlling the board with powerful spells. Sweepers like Annihilation, Eclipse, Thundergod's Wrath combine to make it very difficult for opponents to regain control or momentum once Mono Blue reaches those important mana turns.


Foresight and Annihilation

 

The main issues holding the deck back are its weak early game and lack of efficient finishers. The deck is often treading water from rounds one to three and savvy opponents know about the mana six power spike and will properly time their hero kills. Even though there is a sense of inevitability once the late game is reached, unless the Blue player closes out the game in a timely fashion, there are opportunities for the opponent to regain a winning position if they were able to establish a good amount of tower pressure during the early game as well as timing hero kills properly.

The other potential archetypes are less established, not because they are suboptimal, but more so due to the fact that there are a lot more deckbuilding choices to be made. I have seen a wide variety of decklists that utilize a number of hero combinations and strategies and it has been difficult to pin down a universally accepted list. I have experimented a lot with Blue Red but there are a remarkable amount of design choices and options and it was nearly impossible to come up with something I felt was truly optimal. Here is a list that I personally have not played but was created by one of the top Constructed players.

 

 

I really like the synergy between Viscous Nasal Goo and Conflagration. This deck eschews a lot of conventional red card choices and mainly focuses on utilizing the stats of the red heroes to help secure the early game giving a lot more breathing room for the deck until the blue cards take over in the late game.

 

Powerful and Proactive

Stars Align Artifact CardPayday Artifact Card
Stars Align and Payday

 

For me, the decks that fall into this category are aggressive Payday decks and Ramp. These decks are linear in their goal, meaning that their whole focus is to enact their own strategies. In Ramp, it usually means trying to cheat out a fast Time of Triumph or Emissary of the Quorum by using the ramp spells Stars Align and Selemene's Favor. In Payday decks, it is usually using Track and removal to set up a large amount of gold to buy Vesture of the Tyrant and Horn of the Alpha and win with those powerful items. However, this all comes at a cost of consistency. These decks need to play cards that are not individually powerful but often require a set of circumstances before the potential is realized. A good example is the ramp cards. By themselves they do not offer any form of board presence or real impact on the game unless they are paired with a payoff card like Time of Triumph. This inherently causes inconsistency within the deck since there is potential for draws where either all of the expensive pay off cards are drawn and no ramp spells or the ramp spells are drawn at irrelevant points in the game, making them dead cards. This sort of deck building entropy is a real cost, though it feels great to high roll, there will be times the deck fails which is completely out of the pilot's control.

When the cards come together for these archetypes it becomes very difficult for opponents to come back and they have been a great source of consternation for the community. However, the times where the deck fizzles out and plays a normal game are less memorable even though that is the case in a number of games. Players always remember the time their opponent cast Time of Triumph or Horn of the Alpha on turn two. In a game like Artifact, it always best to remember sample size and accept that high rolls happen.

Payday decks are prime example of this high roll style of deck. By pooling a large amount of gold and casting multiple Paydays, it allow players to buy out their entire item deck which is usually filled with high impact items like Vesture of the Tyrant and Horn of the Alpha and then ride those items to victory. I have noticed that many of these archetypes go fairly all in on this and include high ceiling low floor cards like Track and Iron Fog Goldmine but I have another take on the archetype.

 

 

RB is already very good at accruing a large amount of gold naturally through hero kills so I think it is unnecessary to have cards like Track and Goldmine since they are too inconsistent. I would argue that a card like Goldmine has no place in a Payday deck since we are looking for a large burst of gold rather than small increments and is just a terrible draw in the late game.

The idea is that because RB already has the most potent early game, the deck can hold off of buying items for a few turns in hopes of setting up a double Payday on turn six which should be more than enough to purchase a large amount of items that all of a sudden gives RB a competitive late game plan. This list has a fairly similar core to my previous RB list but I eschew some of the aggressively slanted cards for cards like Spot Weakness and Lich to help smooth out draws and provide a bit of consistency.

As for ramp, I played the archetype exclusively for about two weeks and here is a list that I like.

 

 

I opt for the 3 red start since it is really strong, and I dislike running any of those three heroes later than the flop. I have tried 2R1G but I did not like how the green hero became a liability and most players now know to target them. However, since we are no longer running a green flop we are dissuaded from playing the improvements Mist of Avernus and Unearthed Secrets which is something I am not sure about. Mist while inconsistent and only at its best played early, is a powerful snowball card that gives the deck another dimension other than just ramp. Unearthed Secrets is one of the best improvements in the game that gives the deck a unique dimension but again has its pitfalls if not cast early. In the end, I prefer the 3R start.

The inclusion of Marrowfell Brawler is a bit unconventional but since we are no longer flopping a green hero, this allows us to Favor into one of our Red lanes to potentially set up a turn 2 Brawler which is a decent power spike. Spot Weaknesses are useful in ToT fights and dealing with Vesture as well as providing a bit of cycle to help with our consistency. In the end, I am not the most experienced with RG since I am not a fan of the low floor, high ceiling style of the deck and if anything can be gleaned from my writing is that I prefer consistency over power.

Even though the Red Green archetype has been around forever, there are still a ton of choices in the deck building process. Is it better to flop a green hero or is it better to start with three reds? Which is the better second green hero after Treant Protector? Is Mist of Avernus better as another way to snowball or is Unearthed Secrets preferred for more consistency? Is Bounty Hunter necessary in Payday decks? That is kind of the beauty of Artifact, there are still a ton of choices to be made. Even though the game has been out for almost half a year with the same card pool, I still feel like I have a lot to learn and figure out. Next time, I will cover the other two archetypes in my category system: Powerful/Reactive and Consistent/Proactive. Thanks for reading.

 

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Odeko AvatarAboutodeko

odeko is a gamer who is currently playing Artifact and PUBG if his buddies are on. He was raised on CS 1.6 in CAL Main, while acquiring his CCG experience doing all night money drafts during Shards of Alara block. In his spare time, he enjoys reminiscing about raiding Black Temple and complaining about Terran and Protoss players. He currently lives with his Brigitte and Sheik body pillows and his dog named Yun.

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