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Artifact Item Cards and Valve's Innovations

June 28th, 2018 | Mowen
Items in Artifact (Valve's upcoming TCG) seem relatively straightforward, but there are a few details that prospective players may not be aware of. Let's dive into Artifact's items to learn more about how your item deck works and how to purchase items in game.

Artifact's Item Card Basics (Think DotA)

Artifact handles item cards differently than a lot of other card games due to its roots in DotA 2. There are still similarities that I will connect with other card games to help players understand how Artifact items work. If you are just now hearing about Artifact, you might want to first read What is Artifact? - Differences Between Artifact and Existing Card Games.

The Basics

  • Items are purchased using gold, which is a separate resource from Mana. Gold is earned by killing enemy creeps and heroes. You earn 2 gold for killing a creep and 5 gold for killing a hero.

  • Items are equipped directly onto a hero, and stay with that hero when they die and return to the fountain. Items cannot be re-equipped to another hero.

  • Each hero has 3 item slots: attack, armor, and health. Conversely each item is a specific type that can only go into the corresponding slot

Comparisons to Other Card Games

  • Hearthstone is quite similar since items are equipped directly to a hero, but you will have multiple slots to customize your hero and there is no durability cost for using your items; they all have either static or active effects. However in Artifact your heroes are on the battlefield duking it out with other heroes, creeps, and units rather than representing the player.

Magic: the Gathering
  • Magic players may find a lot of dissonance in their expectations for item cards in Artifact. Equipment cards in Magic are totally separate from the card they are equipped to and can be moved around freely. In Artifact however, once an item is equipped to a hero it's stuck with them for good. Also, heroes have a limited number of items they can have equipped at once and you will have to replace old items in order to add new items.

  • Although this game is no longer supported, I felt that it was worth mentioning for having the strongest similarity to Artifacts item system. Heroes in WoW TCG also had multiple slots where items of certain types could be equipped and followed similar equipment rules.

However, Artifact's item mechanics differ from all these games in two big ways: item decks and gold.

Artifact has Item Decks

One of the big differences between Artifact and other card games that have item-like cards is that your item deck is separate from your main deck. This gives you the freedom to put cards in your item deck as you see fit without affecting the balance of the main deck.

Getting items from your item deck is still randomized so more does not necessarily equal better (more about this in the Purchasing Items section), and the balance of Gold costs and stats should be considered. As would be expected, the lower the gold cost, the less powerful the item is, with the highest gold cost items having many special effects and abilities. A proper item deck needs balance!

It's hard to say right now what kind of effect this will have on deck building strategy, but I'm excited to see how this separate item deck in Artifact changes the way we think about our deck building. Of course, after you have the items in your item deck, you need to buy them!

Earning Gold

Artifact has made another design decision that changes the way we think about the game, and that is separating the resource you spend to buy items (gold) from your main resource for playing cards (mana).

Items are purchased using gold, which is earned when your heroes defeat other units in battle. You earn 2 gold for killing creeps and 5 gold for killing enemy heroes.

The fact that you need to earn gold by killing enemy units makes battlefield control essential and gives higher stakes to the combat phase. In a game of DotA, when you die you not only lose time on the battlefield and ability to earn gold but you give the enemy player gold. That same concept resonates throughout Artifact. In other card games losing units is still a big blow, but it does not (usually) directly affect the player's ability to generate resources and progress their board state.

Purchasing Items in Artifact

In Artifact you can only purchase items at a specific phase of the game, which is known as the shopping phase. The shopping phase happens at the end of each round (you can learn more about how the rounds and turn structure works in Artifact Turn Order - Phases of an Artifact Game).

Game footage from Eurogamer's video

During the shopping phase you'll be presented with a choice between three items. The left is a random item from your item deck, the middle is a random item from the secret shop, and the right is a random consumable item (consumables are the fourth type of item - they have an immediate use and are consumed upon use, so you can almost think of them more like a spell).

One exciting thing about Artifact's item setup is that you can use item cards that aren't in your deck - letting you try out new cards and have an element of healthy randomness (coupled with options) each game.

Thanks for reading and I hope that this item primer helps you to start thinking about Artifact item strategy. What decks can you envision with the item cards we currently know? Do you have any favorite items or item effects? Keep pondering these questions while we wait for Artifact to release!

Further Resources

(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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