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The Archetypes of Artifact: Midrange

March 29th, 2019 | jscaliseok

Introduction


Last week we covered aggro. This week we’re breaking down midrange. Midrange is one of the most unique archetypes in Artifact (and card games in general) because it is hard to define. Many people think of midrange decks as pure “good stuff” builds that seek to out value their opponent with solid play after solid play. Though that can be true, midrange is much easier to explain in that it exists in the shadowy world between aggro and control.

Everything about midrange focuses on the middle. You have strong opening cards, but they cement the board rather than push hard like they do in aggro decks. In the same vein, you have powerful plays during the later rounds, but they aren’t necessarily the big flashy finishers ( Time of Triumph) you see in control. Though midrange loses a bit of the consistency and focused game plan noted in other decks, midrange shines in that it is able to adapt to a wide range of situations.

The Importance of Adaptation



Midrange decks are all about adaptation. That is their strength and where they truly shine. Going up against an aggressive build? Play control by sitting back and relying on your stronger units. Fighting a slower control build? Use your creeps and beefy heroes to overwhelm them before they can get to their finishers. Unlike other archetypes, midrange builds never have a set game plan when the match opens. Rather, the goal changes depending on what’s in front of you.

The above push and pull is what midrange is all about. You have a smooth curve cemented by a range of incredibly powerful cards that typically cost between four and seven mana, and you use those cards to keep your opponent on their toes. You always want to be in control. How you go about that differs from match to match.

Never get caught with tunnel vision when playing midrange. Not only is the inherent versatility at play at the start of the game, but it is also key as the game progresses. It is easy to think something like “I’m playing control so I have to go fast” but those thought traps will lead to losses more often than not. You play to the turn in front of you and become more aggressive or controlling as you go along. That switching can make the archetype harder to play than some other builds, but it pays off in a big way.

The other important piece to remember when piloting a midrange deck in Artifact is that you always need to be aware of your win condition. Every game changes. You never know what you’re going to be up against, nor do you know what might happen once you play a certain card. If you have a win condition in mind too early it can cause you to take a suboptimal route.

Building Midrange



As midrange leans so heavily on the idea of versatility, there are more than a few ways you can build out the archetype. You can use a low-curve list to take a much more aggressive slant, or you can play a bit more controlling by using strong early threats to get you to a strong end game. What you choose depends largely on both personal preference and the meta you face the most.

Regardless of what you do, know that midrange is an archetype built on the backs of creeps. Solid bodies or strong abilities are cornerstones to midrange lists. It is easy to get caught up putting in only powerful spells and improvements, but you always need to make sure you have some units on the board that help get full value from such plays.

As mentioned, midrange thrives in the four to seven mana range. Those are not the only cards you want to focus on when picking out your deck, but that is the sweet spot you always want to analyze. Try to find the most value in the cards that best fit your game plane. For instance, though Annihilation costs six mana, it is a control tool much more than a midrange tool. You want cards that help you advance, protect, and push your own board state.

Also remember that midrange is an archetype known for its versatility. As a result, make sure to have a smattering of cards in your list that help you in numerous situations. Never put yourself into a situation where you are too weighted one way or another. Yes, your midrange deck will favor an aggressive or control side, but you always need to have other options somewhere in your deck.

Getting a proper balance is never easy. Knowing which cards you need and which ones you don’t is a learning process that only comes through tweaking your deck. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be afraid to take something out if it isn’t working.

The Heroes of Midrange



One of the best things about playing midrange decks in Artifact is that you can use just about any hero you want. Unlike most archetypes, midrange builds are not pushed into a corner or pigeonholed into one set style. There is just so much variation that you can pick and choose your heroes based on what type of list you want to play.

For example, while cards like Axe, Bounty Hunter, and Sorla Khan are great in aggro decks, they can also work for midrange. Axe is a big body that helps push the early board (and acts as a finisher), hunter gives you a way to generate extra gold for strong items, and Sorla gives you a way to push at different parts of the game.

Remember, just because a card typically sees play in one archetype does not mean it belongs only to that archetype. Assault Ladders is incredibly aggressive, but it can also work as a great ace-in-the-hole finisher for a faster midrange list. Thundergod’s Wrath is another example of that. The seven mana spell is typically used to make way for late-game control, but the one-sided AOE is fantastic when you’re going for your second tower kill.

Heroes are the most important part of deck building in Artifact. They shape your plays and alter how your deck operates. Just about every single one is at your disposal when playing midrange, so long as they further your bigger themes. That is to say, don’t just put a hero into your deck because they seem flashy or powerful on paper. Understand how your specific midrange deck wants to win and they get heroes that play to that condition.

It is also key to ensure you have heroes that can stand on their own throughout different stages of the game. Midrange is constantly fighting for position, and you never want to lose the board early on because you don't have any decent bodies to fight with.

Go at Your Own Pace



The final aspect we need to analyze when breaking down midrange is understanding the way it paces the game. As noted, while midrange decks in Artifact come with a slew of different cards, they all want to control the board through their units. That is important because it means all of your aspects run through the board, including tempo.

Tempo is never an easy thing to understand. Not only is it hard to see while in the game, it is also not tangible like health or damage. Tempo is something you read as the game moves along. For that reason, a big part of understanding the ebbs and flows of midrange is knowing when you have tempo and when you need to back off for a bit.

Always analyze the lanes you’re pushing in against the lanes your opponent controls. Then, match that against the cards in your hand. That will give you a general idea of how much you need to advance the current board state and how much you can back off.

While playing control or aggro those reads are much simpler because you’re only looking at one aspect. For instance, do I need to drop this Annihilation? Or, should I slam down The Oath and make a push for the tower kill? In midrange, as you can take both routes, you need to be much more careful when making such decisions. Tempo is how you know which path to take. If you have an opening, go for it. If you don’t, there’s no reason to rush it. Take the safe play and regroup.

Conclusion


Midrange is one of the most complicated archetypes to both build and pilot. Even so, with a little bit of practice it can be one of the most powerful archetypes around. Many midrange lists seem unassuming at first glance, but the more you get into them and understand the inner workings, the stronger they become.
(Last Updated: January 15th, 2020)

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