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Artifact Fire

Artifact Deck Tech: Mono Black Aggro Decklist

November 28th, 2018 | jscaliseok

Introduction


Artifact is here and open to the public. That means, it is finally time to break down some decks. While Draft will no doubt be extremely fun moving forward, nothing is more exciting that piloting your brew through a Constructed environment.

The game has just come out, which means the meta is wide open. There are many colors I’m excited to break down in the following months, but the one that calls to me the most early on is Black.

In this guide we will analyze Kozmic’s Mono-Black Gold list he had success with during Beta in order to discuss the card choices, the deck's goal, and how it seeks to win.

The Heroes



This build is an aggressive deck that seeks to stack on pressure in two ways: gold and fast damage. Though your cards facilitate those goals, your heroes are what make it happen. The five for this deck are Bounty Hunter, Tinker, Phantom Assassin, Sorla Khan, and Sniper.

While that order is strong, I personally like slotting Sorla into the first three and dropping Tinker back into the river slot. The reason for that is Sorla pumps out a lot of power and the earlier you can get her into a solo attack, the better.

Also note that Phantom Assassin and Bounty Hunter must be in the first three because of how they kill heroes. Being able to open a path early to set up a card like Assault Ladders is incredibly strong. Early kills are also vital for cards like Track.

Hunter is perfect for Gold gain, where Tinker offers early damage and good late-game punch through March of the Machines. Phantom Assassin is great both early and late, Sorla packs a massive punch against towers, and Sniper is one of the best all-around heroes in the game. His ability to pick off heroes in other lanes with Assassinate is a great way to set up a fast victory and leave your opponent's lanes extremely vulnerable.

Sniper and Tinker both have fantastic activated abilities as well. Be sure to time them in a way that allows you to apply extra pressure. The damage on Laser, while relevant, is not as important as being able to disarm a big unit right before a key attack.

The Gold Package



This deck runs on gold. You kill heroes early on, combine that with various gold-gain cards, and then power out great items to swarm and overwhelm your opponent before they get properly set.

The trifecta here is Iron Fog Goldmine, Payday and Track. Payday is not great on its own, but once you combine it with other strong gold generation cards it gets out of hand in a hurry. Even without something like Iron Fog or Track, it gets a lot of value after one or two hero kills.

An important aspect of this deck is using Track at the right time. Though you can just jam it as soon as possible, that does give your opponent a way to play around it by buffing their hero's health. Don't run it right into strong items or heal spells. Rather, set it up into a situation where you know you can kill the bountied hero off right away.

For example, playing Track on turn one into a hero set to be killed by a buffed Bounty Hunter or putting it down knowing you’ll have initiative to set up or finish off a kill next round.

Payday is another card you need to make time for. Though you don’t have to be too greedy, you do want to ensure you get a decent amount of value from it. Do not be afraid to wait a round or two if you have other plays, but don't hold off too long. Getting forty or more gold sounds great, but this card gets worse the more mana you have because it eats into your removal or bigger plays.

In the same vein, do your best to play Iron Fog Goldmine early. Sticking the improvement into lane one enables you to push out some early gold, especially if you plan to drop down Payday in lane three.

The Items



Of course, gold does nothing in Artifact without items to spend it on. The items in this list are carefully curated to take advantage of the trifecta noted above. First, you have three Traveler’s Cloak at the bottom end. These are important because, not only are they cheap and allow you to purchase something early, but black heroes tend to have a high attack and low health.

An extra four health for three gold is always welcome, but it is especially great when paired with beaters like Bounty Hunter and Phantom Assassin. As an added bonus, you can always buy one off of a single Iron Fog Goldmine activation.

Always try to push for three gold in the first turn when possible. Being able to get a cloak early is how you snowball a hero and take over a lane. In fact, your first play should always be to cloak a hero. The only exception is when you have initiative and a spell that can kill your opponent's hero before they are able to react.

From there, you have a single Claszureme Hourglass and one Red Mist Maul. These two items are useful on their own and give you a middle ground with your gold (you need something that costs between three and twenty five). Though fine, they can be replaced with many different items. I personally like two Hourglasses or double Book of the Dead.

To finish off, you have Apotheosis Blade and Horn of the Alpha. These are the two big beaters that make all of your gold-gain cards worth it. Though they each cost twenty five, that is a small price to pay for raw power.

Horn of the Alpha has one of the strongest activated abilities in Artifact, and it will take over a game if unanswered. On the other hand, the blade is a beater on all different levels. You get a ton of attack, great siege push, and you automatically kill anything you attack. All of that is then stacked with a fantastic activated ability.

When you purchase these, equip them as soon as you have an opening and push hard with their abilities. These should be treated as finishers more than anything else.

Also note that, as strong as the two big items are, you have other options at your disposal. Helm of the Dominator, Vesture of the Tyrant, and Nyctasha’s Guard are all worth as well.

The Importance of Removal



Removal is an interesting thing in Artifact. Though it is commonly seen as a control tool, there is a lot you can do with it in faster builds. There are a lot of damage and kill spells in this deck, and that is because they allow you to keep your opponent’s heroes off the board, apply pressure, and clear lanes at opportune times.

Gank is extremely powerful in an all-black deck. Though it may cause you to kill some of your heroes, it also allows you to take down something you might be scared of in a future lane. Being able to take out an upcoming threat is one of the strongest abilities in Artifact, and the extra utility to bounce back to an old lane is fantastic in planning future plays.

Pick Off works similar to Gank, providing you a ton of flexibility that can lock out your opponent by taking down a hero in a future lane. Hip Fire provides similar utility, but in one lane. It also conveniently takes down melee creeps, which is a great way to push through damage when you’re getting blocked out.

It is also worth noting that Hip Fire provides you with initiative. All of your removal spells (especially Coup de Grace and Assassinate) are incredible with initiative. The ability to kill something off and not lose your tempo is powerful and should be set up at all times.

Initiative is a key part of Artifact, but it especially important in this deck. So much so that there are times where it is right to hold off playing cards in the third lane so that you can go first in the following round. Always keep track of initiative and understand how you can make use/take advantage of it in an upcoming lane.

Mentioned above, the final two removal spells are Coup De Grace and Assassinate. Coupe De Grace may seem like it has a big drawback, but the ability to kill any hero with no ifs ands or buts is one of the strongest things you can do in an aggressive deck. Assassinate not only clears the way for damage, but it is also one of the best ways to punish people who only have one hero in a lane.

The Creeps



Finally, we need to discuss the creeps. Assassin’s Apprentice, Oglodi Vandal are both three-ofs, while the heavily costed Assassin’s Shadow is a great two-of, top-end card.

Though the heroes are where this deck shines, all three of the creeps work marvelously with your overall plan. Assassin’s Apprentice allows you to stick three extra damage on enemy heroes (playing well with damage cards and Track) and it is yet another way to finish off creeps to clear a path.

The ability to choose your attack lane is very important and something you want to pay attention to. This card dies to everything your opponent has, which means you should treat it as a spell more than anything else. Three damage anywhere you want for two mana is a great deal.

Most of the time the apprentice comes down later on in the game because running it out early often wastes mana (you don't have many other cheap spells). Always prioritize your mana for the first two or three turns before using this to finish off/take down enemy units.

On the other hand, Oglodi Vandal is a solid beater that eats melee creeps and gets guaranteed tower damage. This can be used as a finisher (especially after forcing your opponent to protect a weak tower in a lane) but it is often best on turn four to supply two forms of early pressure.

Assassin’s Shadow is perhaps the most interesting creep here. The siege five is outstanding in the later game against decks that want to build walls, while the fifteen attack can win games on its own.

Artifact is constructed in a way where two sides face off against each other. This card rewards the opposite. If you have this in hand do your best to take advantage of your multi-lane cards like Gank or Assassinate so that it can get through cleanly.

Final Tips



The above sections break down how to use the different cards in this list, but there are a few more things to keep in mind when piloting the deck.

It may seem like Assault Ladders is a pure aggro card (and it is) but you typically want to try to get your gold going before pushing tower damage. This card works better as a finisher, as opposed to something like Iron Fog Goldmine, which needs multiple rounds to gain value. If you have nothing else, play it. However, if you have options it should fall to the back of the line.

Relentless Pursuit seems like a throw-away slot at first glance, but the card is extremely powerful in the right situation. Being able to jump lanes is incredible strong, especially in a deck that uses items to create extremely powerful heroes. Though you typically won't use this early on (though you can to make a quick push), the spell is a great way to save a hero or abandon a lane without purchasing a Town Portal Scroll.

Yes, the "random" clause does make it a bit wonky, but all of your heroes hit hard enough where that shouldn't matter. This card is especially powerful when your opponent abandons a lane and let's you overkill a tower. Take your hero out (killing the tower with whatever you have left) and keep up your general pressure.

March of the Machines is also worthy of note because it is the slowest card in this list. While everything gets value right away, March takes a while to get going. You only should prioritize it when you have nothing else to do, or when you're setting up a final push. It can also be used defensively against a creep swarm, but that is more niche.

Finally, it is important to once again reinforce how key initiative is here. You have a range of cards/abilities that reward you for going first. Though it is not always going to happen, you will win most of your games by killing your opponent's heroes before they can play cards. Always keep the next round in mind when playing cards.

Conclusion


Give into the darkness. Artifact is here and there are many paths to take moving forward. While the other colors no doubt offer their own thrill, nothing is better for aggressive players than this list. It is not just about doing a lot of damage, it is about doing a lot of damage in a fun, exciting way.

If you like strong items, gaining a lot of gold, figuring out how to maximize the shop, or planning ahead into other lanes, this is the build for you.

Thanks again to Kozmic who came up with this awesome decklist! You can find him at @SixSagesGaming and Twitch
(Last Updated: December 6th, 2018)

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