Drafting in Artifact has an enormous chance to be one of the most skill intensive formats in card game history. I don’t let that kind of statement fly around lightly, but after playing a good amount, I am very fond of playing the limited format in Artifact. Limited is the name of a format in card games where you don’t bring a pre-made deck to the tournament, but instead you build a deck out of sealed booster packs you open at the beginning of the tournament.
In Magic: The Gathering, you get eight players to sit in circle and each player has three booster packs to start. They open their first booster pack, pick a card, then pass the rest of the pack to their left until the pack has no more cards left. They then open the next pack, pick a card, then pass right until it is depleted. In the final pack, they open and pass left. Each pack has 14 playable cards and you build a 40-card deck from the cards you pick and lands provided by the tournament organizer.
In Hearthstone, the limited format is Arena. Arena doesn’t have the same set up as Magic, mostly because there’s no mana to worry about and you’re locked into one hero. You select your hero and then go through the arena until you have a deck. Because you aren’t drafting against human players, decks have varying power levels since everyone is using a different card pool. To compare, draft in Magic uses the 24 packs available as the total pool of cards in your draft. Hearthstone uses the entire card pool for that hero but your selections don’t affect anyone else.
Over the years of doing both, I firmly believe that drafting against humans while having a smaller pool of cards to work with is the premiere way to showcase skill in limited. With Artifact priding itself on being a high-level strategy game, I want to make sure that draft matches that expectation. Here’s my idea on how draft in Artifact should work.
Queues Are Eight Players
The first thing is that we limit each draft pod to eight players. Eight is a great number because after three rounds we should have a clear winner and pairing the rounds is very easy. People who win play other people who win and losers play losers. Draws are quite rare in Artifact, but those players would play someone with a similar record as well. In the first round, you will play the person who is four seats away from you so that you don’t feel as pressured to take a card not good in your deck just because a potential first round opponent is sitting to your left or right.
How Many Packs Do You Get?
Each player would receive five booster packs. Since we are playing a digital card game here, we can take some liberties and make special booster packs for limited. Normally, an Artifact booster pack would have twelve random cards in it, with one being a rare. For draft, my idea is to have a different type of booster pack called a tournament booster. Tournament boosters would come in three types; hero, items, and deck builder. Hero tournament boosters would have 8 heroes in them, one of which would be a guaranteed rare. Item boosters would have sixteen random items in it with one rare, while the deck builder boosters would have sixteen cards that would be everything else.
The first pack in the order is the hero booster. You open this and are presented your first eight heroes to choose from.
You’d select one hero from this pack and once you did, it would pass to the player on your left who would then select a hero. We keep picking heroes from each pack until we have the eight heroes we chose. We will only end up playing five of them but having eight to choose from gives us options when we draft our deck builder booster. In this system, you could have more than one of the same hero in your deck. Let’s say these are heroes we ended up with.
Our draft deck so far is solidly blue with either a black/green/red splash. Depending on what we draft in our deck builder pack, we could even play four colors!
Pack Two, Three, & Four
Pack two is where we start opening our three deck builder booster packs. Each pack has sixteen cards that include creeps, spells, and improvements. A sample deck builder booster pack might look like this when you open it.
Knowing that we are heavy blue, we have a lot of options. We could take the Conflagration as a five drop before we get to Eclipse mana, but there’s also Dimensional Portal which can be very good. For our conversation today, I won’t get too much into pick orders and such, but you get the idea.
With sixteen cards in each pack, you will end up getting two cards out of each booster pack for a total of forty-eight non-hero cards to add to the eight heroes we drafted earlier.
Our last pack will be a sixteen-card item booster pack. As the name states, this booster will have only weapons, armor, and trinkets. Since we know all of our other cards that we will have access to, we will now draft to fill out which equipment will serve our heroes best.
You’ll notice that there are duplicates of items in the booster pack. I think we would need to test if we should put common equipment more than once in a single equipment pack, so my initial thought is to say it should.
After we finish up this pack, we will choose our five heroes who would come with their three signature cards that we must play. If we ended up choosing two Luna, one Crystal Maiden, one Phantom Assassin, and one Necrophos, our deck would start with:
Since fifteen of our slots must be taken by these cards, we only have twenty-five other cards to finish our forty-card deck. Once we choose our deck builder cards and at least nine items, our deck would be done!
I think having a small card pool, as well as drafting against humans as opposed to bots, would add a deep level of strategy to the limited format. Tell me you think by commenting below!
I have to admit that evaluating Artifact cards is hard when you have been a Magic: The Gathering player for a long time. Your brain immediately recollects every format of limited and constructed you’ve ever played, gleaning if a card would be good in the current metagame. This massive recollection of cardboard is a sweet skill to impress fellow magicians at parties and win booster packs at a prerelease, but it seriously disorients your ability to know what a good Artifact card is. Let’s take for example Shatterstorm in Magic:
As a Magic player, you know that this card is not something you would play in your main deck but it is a very useful card to bring in against decks with a lot of artifacts. If I showed you a new card that had a mechanic that said, “Destroy all artifacts,” you would reference Shatterstorm and know that the card was okay but not something to get excited about. The reason we think this way is we know that most formats do not involve many artifacts in the game, so having this effect vs. the investment of mana is not going to offer us additional expected value to win. In fact, having this card in our main deck almost certainly is negative expected value as most times it will do nothing but be a rotting piece of meat stinking up our hand.
Now imagine for a second you were playing in a format where every deck had around four to nine artifacts IN PLAY every game. It would be like playing in Mirrodin where there were 142 artifacts in the set! All of a sudden, Shatterstorm becomes a much more playable card because even though it destroys both player’s artifacts, you get to play around it and your opponent doesn’t.
Hearthstone is a good example of where having a main deck answer to equipment is good because you know that most decks will have at least one or more, and having outs to them will help you win games. You’re certainly not playing three or four because your opponent isn’t going to have more than one target at a time. Not that I’m a Hearthstone pro, but I’ve seen Harrison Jones and Gluttonous Ooze in many a deck.
Here’s how this all is relevant in Artifact. In Artifact, our shopping phase is where we get to spend all that lustrous gold on items that make our heroes better. Since heroes keep those items even through death, they hold a lot of value in the game. There are not many ways to deal with a Rix who’s swinging an Apotheosis Blade at your poor cowering creeps, and soon to be devastated tower. (Well except maybe your own flaming Apotheosis Blade)
That’s where our preview card comes in. Introducing Corrosive Mist.
Let’s start by defining what this card actually does. For five mana, you can condemn (aka destroy) all the items that are equipped to heroes (yours included) in that lane. At first glance, the Shatterstorm test would say that this card isn’t all the great main deck but I beg to differ.
In my experience, most games of Artifact have a high number of items getting equipped. Since all of our decks have nine items plus the secret shop items, it’s common to see heroes have two to three items equipped each game. Like I said before, the great thing about this card is that we can play around it because we know it’s coming and our opponent doesn’t.
If you have seen any play video, you’ll see some games snowball out of control because one player gets some bad placement early, feeds their opponent, who in turn buys big items to bury them. Since the items stay attached, killing the hero doesn’t fix the issue long term. If the item is on Rix, who has rapid deployment, it is even worse. Corrosive Mist helps some of the problems that low attack power decks have with gold disparities. Now instead of just dying to your opponent’s expensive gold items, you can pay five mana in a lane to destroy all the equipped items, which in turn will hopefully generate a positive gold advantage. The mere possibility of dissolving a twenty plus gold advantage for our opponent is reason enough for me to include this as a one of in many decks. Even games where we aren’t behind in gold, we can use it in a lane we are lagging in to create a gold disparity in our favor overall.
I think Corrosive Mist will be a card that people will have a hard time seeing the value until they actually play it or have it played against them. Come back and let me know how it goes when we get to launch and see if my evaluation of the card was right or not!
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