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Artifact Fire

Artifact Deck Tech: Black/Blue Economy Decklist

December 18th, 2018 | jscaliseok

Introduction



A few weeks ago when analyzing the Artifact meta we broke down a Mono Blue Control list that relied on Bolt of Damocles as its primary finisher. This week we revisit that idea, but with a golden twist. Rather than going all-in on different AOE spells, this week's deck mixes excellent wide removal with single-target kill spells, strong heroes, and a whole dose of a gold gain.

Black/Red Gold Gain is one of the more popular archetypes in the current Artifact meta. Even so, that does not mean Red gets to have all the fun. As this deck shows, the ability to gain a lot of gold and use it to push out strong items can be used by slower builds. We're not going for a quick win here. We're strapping in for the long haul.

The Heroes



Every hero in this deck is vital to the way it plays. So much so that it would be extremely hard to find any replacement for the five of Luna, Bounty Hunter, Phantom Assassin, Lich, and Skywrath Mage.

The reason this deck cannot function without those heroes is because it is a control deck that seeks to kill things in two different ways. It either wants AOE to remove entire lanes in one fell swoop, or it needs targeted spot removal to keep powerful units off the board again and again.

That mix is vital, and it is why these five heroes make it here. Phantom Assassin offers the best removal spell in the game through Coup de Grace, where Luna, Skywrath Mage, and Lich all provide excellent removal options through their signature cards.

Eclipse is the best of the bunch because it deals piercing damage, but the twelve from Mystic Flare is fantastic against non-armored units and Chain Frost both provides removal and initiative in the same card. Those cards are also great when set up with other removal spells because you can isolate a single target.

In addition, Lich has the bonus of providing card advantage with his ability, which comes in handy throughout quite a few different situations. You want to go long with a deck like this, and you need cards to be able to wear your opponent down. However, there is no way to draw from your hand here. Rather, you are hyper-focused on removal. Being able to trade a single unit for cards every once in a while is incredibly powerful. Especially because it doesn't cost you mana.

All of the above cards are then supplemented by Bounty Hunter. Though he is the weakest of the bunch in terms of removal, his gold-gain abilities are key to what this deck wants to do.

The Gold



Bounty Hunter’s Track has become one of the strongest cards in Artifact. Ten gold goes a long way for every deck, but it is especially strong when your build wants to power out expensive items as fast as possible. The shop is one of your main win conditions, and Track helps you stick to that plan.

To get your items, there is the trifecta of Iron Fog Goldmine, Track, and Payday. These cards are fairly straightforward, but that does not mean they are easy to use.

Iron Fog Goldmine should go in the first lane (it better sets up Payday) unless you need gold right away. Beyond that, always try to Track right before a kill so that your opponent cannot properly play around it, and try to pull Payday when you get a decent return. Though you often want to have an item or items in mind when playing the three mana spell, it is often best to take a significant bump when you have the opportunity to do so.

While it is a bit more subtle, also realize that your strong black heroes and kill spells give you quite a bit of gold. This is not as in your face as the above cards, but you can use your removal or smart placement to generate a good economy when you don't draw your gold package. Getting some kills, sitting on the gold until next round, and stacking up more kills adds up quite quickly.

Pick Your Poison



As mentioned earlier, this deck is unique in that it mashes up a great mix of both single target kill spells and AOE. In fact, being able to balance both is perhaps the biggest reason to put Blue and Black together.

Many current control decks mess around with things like card draw or creep spam, but this deck forgoes all of that nonsense to kill as many things as possible. Just about every card here removes the board in one way or another, and you want to lean on that as much as possible.

Keep in mind that, to strike a proper balance, your AOE acts as your fail-safe and removal is more proactive. Spot removal may not do as much as AOE does in Artifact, but you can often utilize it to keep pressure off. Not only does Vesture of the Tyrant invalidate creep damage, but a few smaller minions don’t put on that much tower damage.

Don't jump the gun too quickly. There are many must-kill units in Artifact, but don't use a prime spell on a lesser unit. Pick off big units as they come down. Then, once your opponent commits or makes a push in a lane, blow them out with the go-wide spells. At Any Cost is also a great way to shut down an aggressive deck that gets a fast push.

Out of Lane Experience



Though there are many kill cards to discuss, Gank is extremely significant because it enables you to jump across lanes. Your removal is strong deck in this deck, but most of it is restrained to the active lane. Gank is special because it breaks one of Artifact's fundamental rules and enables you to play in a new way.

Phantom Assassin and Bounty Hunter (with buff) are both fantastic in battle with other heroes. For that reason, a well-timed Gank can blow your opponent out of the water. Not only can it help you shut down opposing lanes, but it also enables you to better set up cards like Track.

As you don’t have Sniper or Zeus, many people will assume they are generally safe from cross-lane shenanigans. Being able to take advantage of that ignorance is extremely important. If you have the ability to lure your opponent into a trap by feigning that you've given up on a lane, do it.

Taking Initiative



As always, when it comes to kill spells (or just Artifact in general) initiative matters. Though Hip Fire’s four damage goes a long way towards removing units, Arcane Assault’s two damage/card draw is not nearly as impactful.

Even so, both of these cards make the cut for the deck because they enable you to go first in any given lane. Not only does that protect your heroes, but it allows you to get the jump with cards like Coup de Grace or Annihilation. Being able to go first is vital in Artifact, and using these cards to grab initiative when your opponent least expects it is important to how you want to play.

Though there are exceptions (there always are) it is generally right to save both of these cards for the later stages of the game when you need to set up one of your haymakers. Burning them early only works if you can get strong value or if you want to make the most of your mana.

Spend Your Money



We’ve already established that this deck gets a lot of gold. The next question becomes, what do you do with it?

The answer to that is Vesture of the Tyrant. This item went overlooked for the first few weeks, but it is quickly turning into one of the strongest plays in Artifact. For just nineteen gold (easy to achieve with your Bounty Hunter package) you get to give a hero three armor/rapid deployment and equip your tower with three armor.

That tower armor is absolutely insane against many decks, allowing you to ignore go-wide decks, weak heroes, and weak creeps in one play. However, even more impressive is the rapid deployment.

Being able to ensure your heroes come back turn after turn is incredibly strong and will often push you to the win. Not only does that help you contest again and again, but it also ensures that your opponent will have to work hard to get in some extra hits. That quick play is great with Annihilation as well.

In terms of top end, you also have one copy of Apotheosis Blade. This card just exists to give you an extra bit of power. If you prefer, you can always go in with Horn of the Alpha. However, you want three vesture because they give you survivability other cards don't.

Once you get your items, you can then ...And One For Me take over the game. This card is not used often, but being able to generate a ton of strong weapons helps push this list over the top. In fact, some games you only need to buy a single big item thanks to it. Be aware that the copy is random. You want to target a hero with a single strong item when possible.

Vesture is what helps you get to your finisher in Bolt of Damocles. Your main finisher may seem easy to get to when you’re picking off units left and right, but ten mana is a lot further away than you think. You need to put up as many walls as possible.

The Other Items



Rounding out this list are two Blink Dagger and three Traveler’s Cloak. These cards are purely functional, but also key parts of the build.

The cloaks are important because, not only do they help your heroes live longer, but they also thin your item deck to make way for your bigger cards. Three gold comes easily, and the more items you thin from your shop, the easier it is to ensure you only get offered Vesture of the Tyrant.

For that reason, you could run two other cheap cards over dagger. However, being able to blink your heroes between lanes is incredibly powerful and helps catch your opponent off guard in many situations.

Conclusion


Pure control is not something we've seen too much of in early Artifact. However, this deck embraces it to the full extent and beyond. If you enjoy killing units with lethal efficiency, or if you simply like slowly chipping away at your opponent's plan and then bursting them down out of nowhere, this is the list for you. It's also a great change of pace from the current Artifact meta.
(Last Updated: December 21st, 2018)

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