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Artifact Deck Tech: 4 Red, 1 Black Decklist

February 14th, 2019 | jscaliseok


Four red, one black. That may sound like a pretty odd poker hand, but it is actually one of the best decks in the current Artifact metagame. Red and Black have long been friends, but they have done so on an even keel. You get two heroes one way, and three the other. However, that balance has now shifted for the better.

Today’s deck takes the (sorta) aggressive shell of Mono Red and splashes black for a very specific purpose. Not only is the list fun to operate, but it is a great lesson for all the deck builders out there. Just because something isn’t working in the way you want doesn’t mean you should give up on it.

Sometimes you just need a little extra help.

The Heroes

As you may have guessed by the name, this list runs four red heroes and a single black one. There is Axe, Bristleback, Legion Commander, Phantom Assassin, and Tidehunter.

We won’t spend too much time on the first three because they’re pretty self-explanatory at this point. All of the red-core heroes have strong bodies, and both Axe and Commander have some of the strongest signature cards in the game. Red excels at winning the early board through combat and taking out opposing heroes right away. That is what the trio does, and that is why they’re here. They also work well with some of the items or late game cards, but that again goes back to their stats.

The other red hero is TideHunter. The 2/14 is not as terrifying as the other three in combat (which is why he comes fifth in the lineup) but his large body is extremely difficult for many decks to fight through. A couple items can turn him into a real threat, and the plethora of health ensures you can play your spells wherever you put him down.

In addition, Kraken Shell is shaping up to be one of the best cards for fast red decks. Initiative is one of the most important effects in current Artifact, and being able to get three cracks at it without diluting the rest of your deck with weak cards is great. Getting started fast is important, and there will be many turns where you need to go first in order to come out on top.

The lone black hero is Phantom Assassin. She is one of the strongest cards in the game, not just because of her body, but because of the strength in Coup de Grace. As expected from black, she is here for the extra removal. Though red heroes are good at beating up units directly across from them, they have a problem with efficient kill spells. Assassin fills that role beautifully.

Just note that, as Assassin is your only black hero, you need to do what you can to keep her alive. There are not a lot of black spells in this build, but you absolutely want to have access to them when they come up. Try to stack items on her when you can and put her into situations where she might not be vulnerable.

A Splash of Black

Phantom Assassin is a splash hero, which means she only brings a few cards with her. Even so, they are vital to what this build wants to do.

As we are playing an aggro deck, the goal is to get out after your opponent quickly. However, in Artifact you do not only do that by playing as many threats as you can muster. You need to pace the game in a way where you keep your opponent on the back foot as you stack up pressure and tower damage.

Black helps with that by giving you access to Gank and Tyler Estate Censor. Gank is a perfect complement to Coup de Grace because they give you two extremely efficient ways to kill things all over the board. Targeted removal is extremely powerful in any deck, but it is even stronger in this style that seeks to control tempo. Though, unlike Coup De Grace, Gank won’t kill everything, Assassin is strong enough that it will do most of the jobs you need it to.

Tyler Estate Censor is another incredible tool for this deck. Many popular lists right now are late-game builds that rely on cards like Annihilation or ramp to take over the game once everything switches into the later turns. That is a great plan, but it comes with vulnerabilities. Cutting out one mana can go a long way towards shutting some of the more popular decks down.

Just be aware of this card when you play Phantom Assassin onto the board. You’ll only be able to drop the 2/8 into her lane, and there is typically one tower you want to target over the others. Make sure she goes there.

Three Early Creeps

Your red heroes are extremely strong and they will give you immediate board presence at the start of each game. To complement that, you have three of the best cheap units around.

Bronze Legionnaire and Stonehall Elite are two sides of the same coin, but there is nothing wrong with redundancy. The two armor protects them in all combat with melee creeps, while the four attack is a great way to push through tower damage. Even if they die quickly, they still will often put on a lot of pressure you can leverage later on.

Mercenary Exiles is the other early game unit here. The 2/4 has a strong ability that can end the game in a hurry (prior that you have gold saved up). However, that is not why it's here. What makes the three drop great is that it acts as a constant threat.

That is to say you can always use their ability to your advantage and only pull the trigger when you really need to hit like a truck. Once the exiles’ trigger goes off you lose that leverage. Always remember that, and do what you can to force your opponent into the lane where the exiles sit.

Utility Cards

To complement the early turns of the game, you have two powerful tools further up your curve. The first of those is Red Mist Pillager. The seemingly innocuous creep may not do much right away, but it can grow out of control in a hurry. In fact, like Exiles, it immediately forces your opponent into a lane they have no interest being in.

What makes Red Mist Pillager so good is that it is an entire army in a can. This card can quickly spiral out of control and instantly demands removal. Placing it in an abandoned lane can make for a quick tower kill, but the main function of the 4/2 is to simply force your opponent to react to it or make a play they’d rather not make.

Beyond that, there is Enough Magic!. I have talked a lot about this card, and that’s because it is one of the strongest Red spells in the game. Being able to instantly kill a tower, blow up your opponent’s board through combat, or shut down carefully laid plans in invaluable. Though this can be used to skip over a certain lane, most of the time it works with initiative to kill your opponent's second tower before they can react.

Two Finishers

One of the most interesting parts of this deck is that, while you need to push through damage, you have strength at every step of the curve. This is not an all-in build that only wants to get after your opponent and end the game by turn five or six. Though that can happen with the right push, you do have a bit of extra power at the top end.

That manifests in the two usual suspects of Spring the Trap and Time of Triumph. There is not much to say about these cards, but they are worth mentioning because they give you a backup plan should things go wrong or you need to get in the last few hits of damage.

The pair are absolute game-enders, and you should treat them as such. These are not the cards you use to try and stabilize or grind down your opponent like with other decks. Rather, you want to use them as the top part of your curve.

The only exception to that comes with Time of Triumph in a game where you are extremely far behind. The eight mana spell has enough to power to steadily overwhelm your opponent if the game goes long enough. This does not happen a lot, but if your only out is using beefy heroes to beat your opponent back, that is the route you should take.


When it comes to items in the current Artifact meta, there is not a lot of creativity in the items. Rather than go big, most decks have discovered that efficiency is key. That is what you get here with Revtel Signet Ring, Jasper Daggers, Stonehall Cloak, and Blink Dagger.

Revtel Signet Ring has taken the place of Traveler’s Cloak for many decks. Though it is just a one-of, the four-cost item still gets a lot of utility towards providing an extra health for your already strong heroes.

The other three options here are all pretty stock. Daggers has become standard since the buff, while Cloak is incredibly good if left unchecked. Health is still the most important stat in Artifact, and being able to steadily grow it throughout the game is incredible.

Blink Dagger is...Blink Dagger. There is just nothing like it in the game. Play three and never look back.


Two/three has been the split for all multi-color decks in Artifact since launch, but it doesn't have to be that way. It is easy to only go with the norm, but going against the grain can lead to fantastic results. This list is fast, but it is a lot more than that. It not only gives you something to do at all parts of the game, but it does it a new and interesting way. That's a win in my book.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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