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Artifact Fire

Learning the Colors of Artifact

February 7th, 2019 | jscaliseok

Introduction


Today, we’re talking about colors. More specifically, color identify. Artifact is a card game that, like so many others, is split up into certain factions. Those factions (represented by Blue, Green, Red, and Black) all come with their own unique cards, abilities, themes, and play patterns.

There are many parts to a card game, and one of the most fundamental is learning how each part operates. This is not just about what a color wants to do, but what it uses to get to that goal. In this guide, we will do an overview of each color in Artifact, explaining their themes, their cards, and how they aim to win the game.

Red



We begin with what perhaps is the most straightforward color in Red. That is not to say it is easier to play than the other colors, it just means it operates on a more linear line. The name of the game here is brute strength. You have big heroes, and everything in the color revolves around them.

Axe, Bristleback, Tidehunter, and Centaur Warrunner all show off what red wants to do. They are big balls of stats with abilities that tend to come second. Even if they can do something quite powerful (such as Tidehunter’s ability to completely shut down a lane) what matters is how resilient they are, and how well they do in combat.

However, the heroes don't just stop there. They also have a lot of cards (like Kraken Shell or Heroic Resolve) that permanently change the stats or your heroes and make them stronger for the rest of the game. Even signature removal cards like Berserker’s Call or Duel are not straight up removal. They are removal based on the strength of your heroes.

Even the color’s biggest and baddest card, Time of Triumph, focuses on making your heroes unstoppable. That theme permeates throughout a good chunk of the cards, and it is something to know when foraying into Red.

They Be Creeping



Red has a lot of stats poured into their heroes, but they have some strong creeps as well. Offensively speaking, Bronze Legionnaire, Legion Standard Bearer, and Stonehall Elite are some of the best pound-for-pound units in the game. They lock down the board early and enable you to push through huge amounts of damage.

Red also relies on beefy utility creeps, such as Marrowfell Brawler or Ogre Conscript, to push through massive attacks that your opponent cannot properly answer.

However, as their heroes and creeps tend to be pushed, Red does suffer in the spell department. Their improvements and spells are both quite lackluster, with the only exceptions being the big finishers of Time of Triumph (hero based) or Spring the Trap (unit based). Enough Magic! is another strong spell, but it can't match up with the strength in other colors.

Just a Splash



As most top-tier red heroes can kill a lot of other heroes early on, this color is primarily used in fast decks that either want aggression right out of the gates or powerful heroes that can help complement a color with stronger spells (such as Black or Blue).

It is rare that you’ll see Red on its own. It has many weaknesses, which can become a large issue in longer games. To fix that, mixing them with colors that shore out those weaknesses is a perfect fit.

Overall, you’re not in this color for spells. You’re in this color for units. If you want to get onto the board early, push for fast damage, or build up huge-statted killing machines, Red is the color for you.

Green



Green has a few identities in Artifact, but their primary draw is ramp. Ramp, or being able to get extra mana crystals in a lane or during your turn, has always been one of the strongest elements in any card game. Artifact is a back-and-forth affair, and being able to drop down a big creep or finisher before your opponent is one of the best ways to get ahead of that.

Here, you’ll find cards like Selemene’s Favor, Stars Align, and Roseleaf Druid. All of those help push green towards the higher parts of their curve. Though they do not have a lot of power in their cheaper cards, they typically do not need it because they're meant to play more expensive units, creeps, and spells.

As with Red, the ability to ramp cards make Green an incredibly strong splash color for a wide range of popular decks. In fact, it has long been one of the best secondary colors in the game. Being able to run Black, Red, or Blue’s big finishers a few turns earlier can make all the difference in the world.

The Bigger, the Better



The other big identity for green is the ability to play huge creeps. This is similar to red in a lot of ways, but it differs because of how big green can go. Where Red tops out with their bodies around the 6/14 mark, Green comes in huge with cards like Thunderhide Pack and Thunderhide Alpha. A 25/25 is incredibly powerful and will raze towers in no time if it gets to attack through a board.
Even their smaller creeps like Savage Wolf or Satyr Duelist have a lot of power packed into them.

Another key difference between the way green and red treat creeps is that Green has the ability to take advantage of a wide board. They do not need to go all-in on one big body, they can also buff a wide board.

Emissary of the Quorum is the best example of that, but cards like Arm the Rebellion, Defend the Weak, and Mist of Avernus all exist to help make your creeps stronger too. You see this in their heroes as well. Enchantress, Treant Protector and Drow Ranger all protect or buff your creeps in one way or another, giving you the ability to keep them around for other plays.

As Green focuses on board combat, they do not have a lot of utility plays beyond their creeps. If they do get something like card draw, it typically comes in the form of an improvement like Unearthed Secrets rather than a spell that guarantees value. Even so, the extra stats and mana is often worth the trade off.

Black



Red and Green both love units. Black is all about killing them. Black has long been the removal color across other card games, and that continues to hold true in Artifact.

Their primary heroes, such as Bounty Hunter and Phantom Assassin, are great at killing others in combat, while most of their spells, from Gank and Hip Fire to Coup de Grace and Assassinate, are all about taking opposing units off the board. Killing heroes is one of the strongest things you can do in Artifact, and that is where Black excels.

As it’s so removal heavy, black can be used for either aggressive or control decks. Some decks, like Black/Red, use Black as a way to clear out strong early units to make way for their big beaters. However, other decks, like Blue/Black, rely on the color as a way to remove any problematic or dangerous units until they can get to their big spells.

Removal is one of the strongest effects in any card game. For that reason, Black is great in any deck that cares about fighting for or on the board. That is not a general rule, there are many board-centric decks that don’t run black, but it is commonly where the color likes to thrive. Even certain improvements ( Steam Cannon) are only about removing threat after threat.

Also be aware that, while Black is great at taking down opposing units both with spells and through combat, their heroes are very fragile. Though not quite as weak as Blue heroes, black heroes are not made to last through multiple fights. For that reason, getting items onto them quickly is key in keeping them alive during the early turns.

Hit 'Em Where it Hurts



Another part of black’s identity is their ability to pour on damage. Though this not as strongly represented as their removal suite, they have many cards and abilities that can get after an enemy tower in no time at all.

Assault Ladders from Sorla Khan is fantastic at winning the game on open lanes, as is The Oath when used in the right way. Oglodi Vandal is another premium example of the strong aggressive card, and Disciple of Nevermore quickly pushes damage in before late-game decks can properly respond.

Black even has certain ways to push through direct damage with cards like Trebuchets or Bitter Enemies. Though damage through creeps is often more reliable than direct damage, an extra push is sometimes all you need to finish off a tower.

Gold and Restriction



Beyond removal and aggression, black has two sub-themes. The first is gold gain, which allows them to generate a ton of coins to spend at the shop between turns. That is enabled by cards like Iron Fog Goldmine and Payday which, when timed right, can enable you to afford some of the more expensive cards in Artifact (like Horn of the Alpha).

The other sub-theme for Black is their ability to restrict mana. Cards like The Tyler Estate or Tyler Estate Censor are great with more aggressive builds because they enable you to play only cheap cards while also stopping your opponent from getting to big finishers.

Each of these sub-themes are not prevalent across a lot of cards, but they are incredibly strong when utilized in the correct way. When backed up with strong removal or the powerful units from another color, they truly shine.

Blue



The final color is Blue, and Blue is based around control. While Red cares about heroes, Green cares about creeps, and Black cares about removal, Blue cares about spells. It is through those spells that they pace the game in the way they want.

Blue has many different avenues for how they use their cards, but at their core they do everything they can to control the game. That could mean changing where and how a unit attacks ( Cunning Plan) killing opposing units ( At Any Cost) or gaining cards to down an opponent in card advantage ( Foresight).

This is not a fast color. Blue wants the game to go a long time, and it has the different tools to make that happen. While it does not have single-target removal like Black, it has a lot of AOE through cards like Annihilation that ensure a lane never gets too crowded.

It also has a lot of ways to steadily damage a board through key improvements like Conflagration or Ignite. Steadily pinging down opposing units is not strong at first, but when paired with other key cards it is great for taking down waves of enemies.

A Body Only a Mother Could Love



Blue heroes have the weakest bodies in the game, but that tradeoff comes with some extremely powerful abilities and signature cards. For example, while Zeus’ 3/7 stats are nothing to write home about, Thundergod’s Wrath is an incredibly strong spell that can swing the game. The same is true of Luna and Eclipse.

As mentioned, Blue does not want to get out quickly. They take their time out of the gates and then use their more expensive plays to dominate the later stages of the game. Catch up cards are key for blue, as are draw spells to ensure they find those cards on those keys turns.

Just realize that, as Blue is so weak early on, they often do need to pair up with another color to ensure they live long enough to make use of their top-end plays. Mono Blue can exist, but it is a bit more fragile that dual decks when it comes to aggressive plays.

Conclusion


Understanding colors is one of the first hurdles to learning Artifact. Though everything can seem a bit overwhelming at first glance, breaking it down into easy-to-digest sections makes it much easier. Then, once you know what color you want to play, you can move onto deck building and choosing the right cards for you. It is not just about winning, it is about winning in your way.
(Last Updated: February 14th, 2019)

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