By Barrett ‘Vishra’ Goss – 27/12/2018
If you’ve played or watch Artifact, chances are high you’ve come across this scenario. You scrape together a few gold by the end of a round, watch as the shop unfolds, and look at your three items in disappointment. You can maybe buy a Healing Salve or other consumable, but the Secret Shop and your Inventory are showing you expensive cards like Vesture of the Tyrant and Hero’s Cape. You leave with your potion then look in dismay as your opponent’s hand fills with various gold cards. Items in Artifact are a huge part of the game, and understanding how to build your item deck is a key to being successful.
Let’s start by dissecting how your Shop works each round. You are given three offerings each time it opens. The left is the Secret Shop, and it allows you to buy one of any equippable item in the game that is randomly generated each round. You have the option to hold this item for a round by spending one gold. The middle option is your inventory. This is a deck of 9 cards that you select and put into your deck before entering into a match. The item shown is random each round, but you can buy as many items from this deck as you like each round. Lastly, the item on the right is a random consumable that you may purchase each round. Like the Secret Shop, this is limited to one purchase per round.
The most important focus as a player is the Inventory. This is the set of items you have control over, and as such, how you build it is critical. The first part of this process is identifying which items are worth putting into your deck. A common mistake many players will make in their first draft decks is throwing in every expensive, flashy card they get with dreams of running their opponents over with them. Unless your deck is filled with gold generation cards like Iron Fog Goldmine and Payday, this is a mistake. An average round is far more likely to return single digit gold amounts than it is a fat sack of coins, and this means you can be stuck waiting multiple rounds to purchase these items while your opponent runs you over with equipment. How is he doing that? With these bad boys.
Yes, the starter items. At first glance, they’re nothing special. However, cheap items are a key part of gaining an advantage over your opponent. They have an amazing return on investment for how cheap they are. Let’s Short Sword for example. 2 attack for 3 gold means you get 1 attack per 1.5 gold spent. Compare this to other common items like Broadsword, Keenfolk Musket, and Blade of the Vigil. While some of those have small effects tacked on that can make their increased gold cost understandable, none of them are beating that initial payment of 3 gold for +2 attack. This means you can have cheap and efficient impacts on the board with the basic items.
Secondly, and almost as importantly, is how items allow you to modify your play each round. Between mana, initiative, and active abilities, there’s plenty of different options for players each round. Sometimes however you want to wait to play a card or ability to see what your opponent does first, or to allow him to exhaust his ability to respond. This is where cheap items shine. While your opponent is forced to spend mana and cards to play the round, you can equip cheap items and preserve your mana and answers until they have exhausted their resources in the lane.
While these basic items are going to be a core of your draft decks, you’ll still want to find higher quality items to spend your gold on. We have a few items that stand out from the rest that we want to look for:
We talked above about how few items are as efficient as the basics when it comes to raw stats. The Stonehall set of items takes that and throws it out the window. Each of these items gives you the same initial amount of stats as the basic items. However, after you’ve survived a turn of combat with the item equipped, it starts to grow, permanently modifying your hero with an increase in its associated stat. Each of the Stonehall items becomes a powerhouse when left unchecked, but Stonehall Cloak leads the way in terms of sheer value. Slap one onto any of your heroes and within a few turns they become solid walls capable of soaking massive amounts of damage. Even if your opponent is able to clear them, they’ll come back with all that newfound health restored.
While the Stonehall items break the mold for stats, Blink Dagger and Clauszereme Hourglass break the mold with their effects. Blink Dagger does this by allowing you to reposition the equipped hero in a different lane every 2 turns. This is incredibly powerful, as it allows you to shore up weaknesses when needed, then switching to the attack in another lane shortly after. Heroes are rarely able to be moved unless they are killed, so having that flexibility allows you to create an advantage in hero numbers much more often than your opponent. Hourglass, meanwhile, has little impact on the board, but its ability locks your opponent out of playing each card they draw for 1 round. This effectively sets the opponent back an entire turn when played, giving you a resource advantage through playable cards.
Now that we’ve rounded out our midrange items, we can figure out what our expensive items will be. As I said earlier, you should avoid running too many high cost items unless you have gold generation cards in your deck. It’s always nice to have 1 or even 2 in your deck however, for those times when you find yourself flush on cash. In those situations, no cards are better than “The Big 3”:
These items aren’t just overly efficient, they are game-defining cards. While some other cards like Shop Deed and Wingfall Hammer look flashy, these 3 items will slam the door on your opponents hope of winning. They combine a ball of stats with incredibly powerful effects that are difficult to hold up against for more than a few turns. If you find one of these in a draft pack, it is almost always correct to take one of them and have it be a fallback win condition.
While these are the best of the best for items in your inventory, it doesn’t mean that you should never run other items. Things like Phase Boots, Shield of Aquila, Red Mist Maul, and Golden Ticket are solid additions to your deck. They are best picked in the middle of a pack, as the first 2-4 cards you get out of a pack should normally be a bomb hero or card.
We’ve covered our Inventory, but that’s only one of our options each time we open the shop. The Secret Shop and Consumable Shop will give us a random item each time, so the question is when do we go for those items over our Inventory. Often, the Consumable Shop item will be worth the purchase. If you have any damaged heroes or high-priority units that you can save, Healing Salve and Fountain Flask go up in value tremendously. They also become more valuable once you have gotten a few Traveler’s Cloaks on your heroes, as they will have larger health pools and the effect will be more impactful. Town Portal Scroll is almost always a purchase you should make. While it removes your hero from the field before a combat phase, it allows you to redeploy them on the board without waiting a turn or giving your opponent 5 gold. Even if you have no immediate use for it, it is often a game-defining item to have in later turns, and always good to have in hand. Finally, Potion of Knowledge is a fine purchase if you find yourself with the spare gold for it, or if you need to dig for a specific answer. An added benefit is that it allows you to effectively reset initiative with your opponent since it does not require a target.
The Secret Shop allows you to pick up any item in the game except for the Consumable Shop items. While there are many items you don’t want to put into your Inventory, they are often worthwhile as purchases from the Secret Shop because they don’t affect your consistency with finding your cheap equipment. Cards that are normally just a bit inefficient like Cloak of Endless Rage or Assassin’s Veil become great pickups. The best practice is to evaluate all three options you are given. If you can purchase your first Inventory item while still having enough gold to purchase a consumable and/or a secret shop item, it’s the best thing to do so you can see what your next Inventory item is and evaluate what the next best purchase is. After that, focus on which items will have the biggest impact on the board. If a weapon will let you kill an opposing hero, get it over the consumable or health item.