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Deck Building 101 - How to Build an Artifact Deck

November 26th, 2018 | jscaliseok


Deck building is one of the most important aspects of any card game, including Artifact. Coming up with your own build, figuring out what cards work, and deciding on a theme or idea to build on is not something that everyone can do right away.

That being said, there is nothing more rewarding than winning games with your own build. To help with that, this guide will break down some overarching rules to create, not just a fun deck, but a winning one as well.

Decks in Artifact

Every card game has its own rules for deck building. In Artifact, you get a deck made up of heroes, their signature cards, creeps, items, spells, and improvements.

You need exactly five heroes (which each come with three signature cards) along with 25 creeps/spells/improvements and nine items. That builds both your main deck and special item deck.

When building you can put up to 3 copies of each card in your deck. Slotting in three is not always optimal, but it should be your go-to route when adding strong or important cards as a way to up consistency.

Choose Your Style

The first choice you have to make when picking a deck in Artifact is the color you want to play. This not only shows you what heroes you can choose from, but it dictates your play style. Blue is control based and wants long games, while green uses ramp and powerful creeps to take over the board, red has beefy heroes and aggression, and black can focus on removal, aggro, or gaining gold.

You can mix and match those colors in any way that you want. However, as you can only play cards in a lane that has a hero of the same color, it is typically best to go mono or two-colored. That will increase general consistency.

For instance, let’s say you know you want to play a black aggro deck. Sorla Khan is a solid choice, but who's your next hero? You can stick to black and use Bounty Hunter, or you can branch out to other aggressive options. Let's say you go red and pick Axe. Now you have an extremely strong one-two early game punch, but you're also two colors. That is good because it gives you more options, but it also reduces your deck's general consistency.

These choices are vital when picking your deck's color. Sometimes it is right to incorporate multiple colors because you simply cannot do what you want with a mono-colored deck, but other times it is best to stay on a single track. If a color isn't working for you, don't be afraid to cut it.

A Heroic Game

All of Artifact revolves around the heroes. Not only do their stats and abilities impact your general strategy, but their signature cards are vital in deck building. It may feel good to play something like Thundergod’s Wrath, but a seven mana spell does little good in an aggressive or board-centric deck.

In that same vein, Duel is one of the strongest cards around when you have red heroes, but what happens when you only have a green, blue, or black hero in a tight lane? It is always key to remember that, while a card may be strong in a vacuum, it may not have the same power during a game. What's important is how it furthers your deck's goal.

There are also certain heroes that seem strong right away but are not quite as useful as you might think. Abilities and stats can make up for weaker signature cards, but those cards are important. If you want bodies on the board, favor stats. However, always trend towards extremely strong signature cards that play towards your end goal.

Keefe the Bold has a solid body, but Fighting Instinct is incredibly weak. Drawing two (or even one) on a key turn can be a disaster.

A Deck's Purpose

The biggest question when going into deck building is, what do you want your deck to do? In all card games there are three classic styles; aggro, midrange, and control.


Aggro decks want to end the game quickly by putting on a ton of early pressure. You build out the board and eliminate your opponent's towers before they can properly set up or get to their big finishing cards.

Going off the above example, Sorla Khan is perfect for a black aggressive deck. She comes with 8 attack and gets four more when going after a tower for a total of 12 damage. In that way, she is one of the best ways to stack up fast pressure. In addition, she also comes with Assault Ladders as her signature card. That can be played turn one and works to stack up massive amounts of pressure early on.


Where aggro seeks to end the game early, midrange builds want to use beefy units to take over the middle turns. These decks can have more expensive cards and tend to have tanky units at all parts of their curve. Beastmaster is a great example of a midrange card, as is Lycan.

Those two cards do not necessarily apply a ton of early pressure (though they can) but they come with extra creeps that help push/overwhelm the middle turns of the game. You want to focus on combat here.


Finally, control decks remove units and play to the win the long game with big finishing cards. Luna, who builds towards Eclipse, is one of the best control heroes. Generally, you sacrifice your early pressure in order to set up cards like Annihilation. Targeted removal, such as Hip Fire or Duel, works for control as well.

It is also worth mentioning combo, which uses the interactions of certain cards to create a powerful effect (such as playing Track with Payday).

Different Strokes, Different Folks

In Artifact, all of these styles are viable to a certain extent and you need to know what you want going into the collection screen.

However, understand that not every hero is one-dimensional. There are some cases where a hero excels at multiple aspects. Sniper is a great example of that. Assassinate is one of the strongest cards in the game and gives insane utility to multiple play styles.

Being able to pick off a hero in another lane is great for control, but it can also be strong for aggro because it helps you set up a turn seven situation where you rush early, clear your opponent’s only hero in the lane, and go for the win.

Always think about how to best utilize dual-use heroes. Never assume that a card only has one function because it appears that way. The more you play with it, the more surprises you may find.

All Cards Matter

Though it would be nice to live in a magical fantasy world where every card in your deck is extremely powerful, there will be times (either because of color or collection restrictions) where you need to play fringe cards to fill out your list.

It is easy to gloss over those slots, but they are some of the most important. Everyone can pick the slam-dunk spells or improvements, but things get much trickier when you have to take something lackluster. It can be easy, especially when first building your collection, to put in certain cards because they look cool or sound fun. While you always want your deck to be engaging (otherwise, why play the game) the end goal is to win.

Every time you put a card in your deck, you need to think “what purpose does this fill?” Sometimes that it is easy (like running Ursa in a beefy red deck) but a lot of the time it is going to take some extra thought.

There will also be situations where you do not own a certain card. When that happens, it is key to find a substitute. Always ask yourself "what could I use this for?" and prepare for a lot of trial and error. If you have two or more cards in mind, play one, see how it fares, and then try the others.

Real Decks Have Curves

When deck building, it is always important to have a curve. That means, it is key to have cards you can play throughout different parts of the game (some cards that cost 4, some that cost 5, some that cost 6, etc). It might be nice to play a ton of strong, expensive spells/creeps/improvements in your deck, but how does that help you when aggro beats down two of your towers in the first four turns?

At the same time, just because you’re aggressive doesn’t mean you only have to play cheap cards. Some aggressive heroes may have expensive signature cards, which is fine. You just never want to end up with awkward hands that your deck can’t support.

Blue is able to take a turn off and soak up some damage thanks to things like Annihilation. Aggro red or Gold Black cannot afford that same luxury. Also, while control has the ability to play end-game cards, you never want too many because they will bog your hand down and leave you susceptible to fast damage.

Always pay attention to your curve when building. This does not mean you need a card to play every turn (though it can depending on the build), it just means you should construct your deck in a way where the cards in your hand are playable when you need them.

Adapt or Die

Another important deck building note is to always play to the meta.

Card games are in a constant state of flux. You never know what's going to be at the top, and that deck could change each and every week. Know this, and always do your best to flex cards in and out depending on what you're facing.

A blue control deck needs a lot of removal to operate in an aggressive or midrange world, but in a meta only filled with other control decks, they can lean into late-game bombs and card draw.

No matter how strong or successful a deck is, it can always be changed as the weeks go on. Do not be afraid to make shifts as needed.

The Item Deck

Once you've picked your colors, heroes, and main deck, you need to put your items together. Though not quite as impactful as the other cards, these matter.

Items follow the same rules listed as above. You want a solid curve, strong distribution, and cards that reinforce your deck's plan. Understand how much gold you're going to get early on, and then play items that reflect that. While some high-cost items like Horn of the Alpha are powerful, many decks won't be able to reliably hit 25 gold.

Ensure you can play your items and that they have a general focus. You can put it some stronger, expensive cards if you want, as long as you also have some you can take advantage of early on.

Embrace the Brew

The final, and perhaps most important, deck building lesson is that you don’t have to follow the trend. Artifact is a new game, and there will be a ton of information out there. Do not just go with the “best” because you think it’s the right choice.

It can be very easy to get caught up in meta decks. Though there is nothing wrong with playing a good, tested build, a great way to improve your deck building skills is to start with a top deck and then change out a few cards for the meta or your play style.

That is perhaps the simplest way to get into building because you know your foundation is strong. Going from a blank collection can be intimidating, and it can lead you to spend a lot of time tweaking a deck that will never truly shine. This method gives you peace of mind.


Deck building is the spice of life. Many people enjoy limited, and that's great. However, there is a lot of fun in exploring and making decks for Constructed. Though it is never easy to start from scratch (or even build off an established list) it is a learned skill that anyone can get the hang of with enough practice. While the above tips are not the end-all of building, they should give you a good place to start with your early collection.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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Goblin Fartshooter's Avatar
Goblin Fartshooter Posted: November 29th, 2018 | 4:56 PM
Excellent article. I would recommend mentioning that the order your heroes are listed in the deck impacts when they can be played (first three on turn one). Also, if I'm right, the starting lanes are random whereas your last two heroes can be placed where you choose.
ForgotPants's Avatar
ForgotPants Posted: November 29th, 2018 | 4:38 AM
This was very informative, thank you :)
BadSpirit's Avatar
BadSpirit Posted: November 28th, 2018 | 11:28 AM
Nice article thx!
Cloonix's Avatar
Cloonix Posted: November 28th, 2018 | 9:08 AM
Another piece to my road of victory! ;-)
Allem's Avatar
Allem Posted: November 28th, 2018 | 7:40 AM
Great article! Really useful for starting off Artifact
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