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Artifact Mechanics - What We Know So Far

May 17th, 2018 | Mowen
In Artifact, mechanics are expressed through keywords and then spiced into individual cards. Let’s take a look at what Artifact mechanics we already know exist and what exactly they do.

Basic Artifact Mechanics

I’m going to take a minute to go over some of the more common Artifact mechanics we’ve seen in cards so far. If you have been keeping up with spoiled Artifact cards this probably won’t be new to you, but for those of you just getting on this hype train I’m going to go over these so you know what’s up.


Artifact’s Modify keyword simply means to buff or debuff a unit. The modification persists through rounds, but is not clear if modifications persist through death. It is likely modifications are removed upon death to distinguish them from equipment, which persist through death.


In Artifact, the position of your cards on the field is a huge deal and determines what other units they can interact with. Artifact Neighbors refer to the cards adjacent to the card in question. Allied neighbors refers to the cards to the left and right of the unit, and enemy neighbors refers to the cards directly in front, in front and to the left, and in front and to the right of your unit. Also note that unlike Hearthstone, cards do not “slide” to be beside each other when units die. They maintain their field position and there will be empty card slots on your board pretty often.


This is quite a simple mechanic but it’s worth clarifying. Condemn in Artifact seems to be Valve’s way of saying “Destroy”. It’s unconditional removal that can be used on a variety of card types, though the targets vary per card.

Confirmed Artifact Mechanics

These are Artifact mechanics whose interactions have been seen in gameplay footage, and can be described with a great level of certainty. Although only some of the starting cards have been revealed, it already seems that Artifact’s mechanic selection will be quite robust.


Piercing damage ignores armor, which usually prevents a fixed amount of damage from all sources. In Artifact piercing may be quite powerful since any hero can gain armor through equipment. Most of the piercing cards revealed so far have random targets, so I’m curious if this will be a common theme or if there will also be equipment and spells that deal piercing damage.


In released Artifact gameplay footage the Siege mechanic has only been seen through card text and not in-play. However, a couple of Artifact playtesters have confirmed that units with siege deal damage to towers through blockers. It seems siege will be Artifact’s version of MTG’s trample mechanic (which deals “overkill” damage to the opponent’s health pool). It’s not clear at the moment what the +X in front of the siege keyword means. My best guess is that X is the amount of damage it does to the tower through the blocker, either as a cap or flat damage.


Disarmed units cannot deal combat damage, though they still participate in combat. Basically, when your unit gets disarmed in Artifact, it has to go into combat with its hands tied behind its back.


Artifact cards with Retaliate deal damage to units who deal combat damage to them. You wanna hit a unit with retaliate? It’s gonna hit you right back! (Example: If a unit has Retaliate 2, it deals 2 damage to each unit that deals combat damage to it)

Rapid Deployment

In Artifact, heroes have to wait one round between when they die and when they can be redeployed. However, a hero with Rapid Deployment can be redeployed on the next round without having to wait. With this great Artifact mechanic, your Rix can get right back on the battlefield to feed the enemy Bristleback even faster!


When a unit taunts, it forces its enemy neighbors (units directly adjacent) to attack it. In Artifact taunt seems to be a one turn effect only, as opposed to Hearthstone where Taunt is a persistent ability.

Unconfirmed Artifact Mechanics

This is where I venture into varying amounts of speculation. I have not seen the cards that possess these keywords in action through gameplay footage, but by referencing other spoiled Artifact cards and mechanics I will make some educated guesses on how these mechanics function.


Based on the only card we have showing this keyword, Berserker’s Call, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that in Artifact Battle means one unit deals combat damage to one or more other units. In MTG this would be the same as the “Fight” keyword, where creatures exchange damage with one another. I suspect battling will be similar to a combat phase with just the battling units, taking attack, armor, and modifications / equipment into consideration.


We’ve seen “+2 Cleave” on one equipment card - Blade of the Vigil. The only logical conclusion I can draw given this limited information is that Cleave would function the same in Artifact as it does in DotA. For example, a hero with 4 Attack and 2 Cleave would deal 4 damage to the unit directly in front of it, and 2 damage to its enemy neighbors. I also suspect that unlike battling; the enemy neighbors would not deal combat damage to the hero with cleave. I’m excited to see how this combat mechanic unfolds, and have high hopes that when Sven is seen in action we will learn what his card ability is and how exactly Cleave works.


It’s hard to not jump to conclusions and assume Artifact’s Silence will work be similar to Hearthstone’s silence mechanic. However, the only card where we have seen the Silence mechanic so far is Act of Defiance - which costs 5 and only silences one unit for one round. This makes me raise an eyebrow, and wonder if silence will be an even more powerful effect than I first imagined. In Artifact, you can only play cards in a lane if you have a corresponding hero of the same color, as if the hero itself was casting the spell. It's possible the silence mechanic will prevent a hero from "casting", and you lose the ability to cast spells of that hero's color (unless of course, there is another hero of the same color in the same lane). However, if that's the case I'm not sure why the card specifies "unit" rather than "hero", so Silence could very well be similar to HS and remove modifications to the unit, or possibly prevent modifications as well! We'll just have to wait to see this card in action to know for sure.

Considering the number of cards that have been revealed so far, the amount of variety in Artifact’s mechanics is very promising. I’m the kind of card player that loves new mechanics to spice things up, and I’m honestly excited to see what other ideas Valve has hidden up their sleeve to make Artifact’s mechanics and gameplay as robust and fun as possible.

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(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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