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Artifact Fire

Game Modes and Growing Your Collection

November 20th, 2018 | jscaliseok


Artifact is a card game, and, like every card game, you need a deck to play constructed. How you go about doing that has been shrouded in mystery for some time but, thanks to a recent update to the Artifaq, we now know the different ways to get cards.

That information is important because it opens up the game and gives a snapshot of what it looks like. In the following sections we will break down the various game modes, analyze how they operate and, most importantly, look at the most effective way to get cards.

The Economy

Before getting into the game modes, we first need to analyze how card collection works in Artifact.

Unlike other card games, there is no true in-game currency. That means no gold like you would see in Hearthstone or MTG Arena. Rather, you acquire cards through either the Steam Market or buying packs.

The Steam Market will allow you to buy or sell cards based on the market prices. There is currently no way to know what type of money cards will fetch or how much they will cost. However, Valve believes they will be able to keep costs down as the game progresses.

In addition, while some cards may fetch a few dollars (or more), the ability to sell your own cards should in theory help with that. You can also turn a particularly expensive card into a smattering of cheaper ones. While rares could run some money in the long run, commons and uncommon should stay relatively cheap.

If you don't want to bother with the Steam Market, you can always open packs. Artifact packs cost $2 each. For that price you get 12 cards, one of which is guaranteed to be an uncommon and one of which is guaranteed to be a rare. There is also one hero and two items in each pack and you can get multiple rares/uncommons.

Both of these routes grow your collection, and the one you take comes down to personal preference. However, as any card game veteran will tell you, it is a much better deal to buy cards than packs. Of course, that depends on the market, but if prices are reasonable (and even if they aren't too outrageous) it will always be a better deal to pick up cards on the Steam Market because you pay for exactly what you want.

Even so, the high number of cards per pack could help people who enjoy opening their own collection build a foundation rather quickly.

Modes and Event Tickets

There are two primary ways to play Artifact: constructed and draft.

Constructed is any event where you bring your own deck crafted from cards in your collection. While Valve will only offer a few constructed modes at launch, there will be different ones in the future. That includes formats where you can only play with one color or with only commons.

Draft works like Arena in Hearthstone, where you make a deck from a random set of cards. However, rather than having the cards randomly given to you, they come from packs that you open.

Valve has broken down both play styles among four primary modes that they call Solo, Social, Casual, and Expert play.

Solo Play
  • Here, you can play against bots to better learn the game.Jump in with whatever deck you have and let the bots play whatever you want to practice against.

Social Play
  • Social Play refers to any game where you play against friends or other players. There will be user-created tournaments (both constructed and draft), as well as open play. In open play anyone on your friend’s list can challenge you to a game (and you can challenge them).

Casual Play
  • Casual way is the free mode of Artifact, where you pick a deck and go. Here, you have the option to go to global matchmaking, do a casual phantom draft, or compete in casual constructed gauntlets. Global matchmaking allows you to compete against another players, casual constructed enables you to take your deck against increasingly harder opponents, and casual phantom draft allows you to draft without keeping cards or putting up tickets.

Expert Play
  • Expert play mode is for the more hardcore players or those who like a challenge. In this, you can play a series of different gauntlets (events) where you can put up your own money to reap rewards.

The Gauntlets

There are both draft and constructed gauntlets that offer different prizes. They include expert constructed, phantom draft, and keeper draft.

Expert constructed allows you to play with your own deck in a tournament-like mode for prizes, phantom draft is a draft where you open packs and play a deck but don’t get to keep the cards, while a keeper draft is a draft where you open packs and get to keep the cards you pick.

In all of these, you play until you either win five games or lose two (whichever comes first) and you enter using event tickets that you can buy in bundles of five for $5.

The cost/prize breakdown is as follows:

Expert Constructed and Phantom Draft
  • 3 wins gets you 1 ticket, which makes you your money back.
  • 4 wins gets you 1 event ticket and 1 pack.
  • 5 wins gets you 1 event ticket and 2 packs.

This prize structure is likely to be the best way to go for people who want to enjoy Artifact and grind packs without putting too many resources into the game. It will not be easy to go infinite there, but at $1 it’s a low investment to get some packs.

In addition, you can also play a Phantom Draft get to play a draft for the price of a soda.

Keeper Draft costs 2 tickets and 5 packs to enter
  • 3 wins gets you 2 event tickets and 1 pack.
  • 4 wins gets you 2 event tickets and 2 packs.
  • 5 wins gets you 2 event tickets and 3 packs.

Keeper draft is a much steeper cost, but with a bigger pay off. The prizes may not be the most spectacular, but here you get to keep any of the cards you pick (hence the name). If you open a couple of sweet rares and add them to your deck, you also get to the put them into your collection.

You always have the option to only take good cards you need for constructed. However, remember that doing so can make your draft deck worse which could cause you to lose some games. Phantom Draft is likely the better mode for pure draft enthusiasts, where Keeper Draft is for people who want to draft and rapidly build out their collection at the same time.

Custom Tournaments

The final mode Artifact (at least at the time of launch) are user-created tournaments. Anyone can make their own and they get people to join. Not only will this support swiss and single-elimination formats, but players will also be able to choose what card types are allowed. That is a great way for newcomers to get into the game because it means friends can hold tournaments that favor the cards they have in their collection.

When choosing a tournament you can make it a quick one that lasts a few rounds, or you can make a much longer one that lasts for weeks.

Pay and Play

The final economic aspect worth discussing about the Artifact economy is the upfront cost. The game costs $20 to buy. For that price, you get 10 packs, 5 event tickets, and two starter decks (Red/Green and Blue/Black).

That means, while you do have to put money into the game to get it, you do get quite a bit of value. The 10 packs are worth the $20, but then you also get the starter decks and event tickets on top of it.

It is no secret that the starter decks aren’t up to snuff, but they can be reworked a bit to be competitive (or at least competitive enough to play bots and understand the game).

As for starters, it is not clear yet what the best move is once you get into the game. If you’re new, you should take the pre-con decks into bot matches to get a feel for the mechanics before cracking packs or using tickets.

In addition, you can start practice with phantom draft and once you learn how drafting works and what cards are good, you can do two keeper drafts with your ten packs.

Of course, the other option is to crack the ten packs you have, see what constructed cards you get, and try to make a deck. You can then supplement those half-built decks with more packs or individual cards.

If you want all of the cards ASAP, the Steam Market is the place to go (packs are simply too random). However, that is likely to be extremely expensive with the hype at launch. For the frugal or business savvy out there, it is much better to wait on buying singles for a few weeks/a month to see how prices level out.

It is also worth noting that Valve will have a way to turn extra or duplicate cards into event tickets, which makes buying packs a bit less risky.


Artifact has several modes and a few ways to build your collection. How you play the game comes down to what you want to get out of it, as well as what you personally enjoy. You can quickly get a deck and go into constructed, or you can draft. The ability to buy single cards, win prizes, or open packs also means that you will be able to progress as slow or as fast as you want. Yes, you do have to put down money to grow your collection in one way or another, but the price of expert constructed and phantom draft do allow you to enjoy the game and move your collection forward at a steady pace.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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HobbleKnocker's Avatar
HobbleKnocker Posted: November 26th, 2018 | 8:28 PM
its nice to see that a lot of concerns i had about about pricing has been tamed quite a lot. not as bad as a lot of people would have you think.
Cloonix's Avatar
Cloonix Posted: November 26th, 2018 | 12:38 PM
"In open play anyone on your friend’s list can challenge you to a game (and you can challenge them)."

I thought that is NOT possible? People on reddit moaning about it. If i can directly challenge a friend it's everything i need.

Or is the complaint about the (missing) direct challenging a friend in phantom drafts?
Peshyy's Avatar
Peshyy Posted: November 26th, 2018 | 3:17 PM
Yes, it is true. You can play with your friends, challenge them, rent/lend decks (that's also true for open community rooms) and I think Valve's working on player trading, but we'll see how the market will be since this will be a huge impact for it.
Lorenz's Avatar
Lorenz Posted: December 1st, 2018 | 6:50 AM
Player trading will result in so many gambling sites so yeah hope they find a way
CaptainFlint's Avatar
CaptainFlint Posted: November 26th, 2018 | 10:58 AM
good guide
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