Here's What We Know About Artifact, Valve's New Card Game

By Ethan Gach on at

Valve demoed its upcoming card game Artifact recently at its Seattle office and the details have begun pouring in. While Valve founder Gabe Newell reportedly called Blizzard’s Hearthstone the “benchmark” for online card games, Artifact sounds like it will be very different.

Previously, all we knew was that the game was inspired by Dota and as a result would have a board consisting of three different lanes. PC Gamer reports that in practice this means Artifact feels like playing three separate Hearthstone matches simultaneously. To make matters even more complicated, what happens on each of these separate lanes (which basically act like mini-game boards) can affect the others in various ways.

If you thought Artifact might be more straightforward and less complicated than Dota, I have some bad news: it seems like Dota crossed with Magic: The Gathering. It makes sense now that we know veteran MTG designer Richard Garfield has been working with Valve on the game since 2014. The game’s base set will consist of somewhere north of 280 cards and 44 different heroes, some of which will be straight from Dota. Valve has also confirmed to IGN that while you’ll be able to purchase card packs on the Steam marketplace, Artifact won’t be free-to-play. An actual price for the game hasn’t been announced yet, however. What we do know is people will be able to trade and sell their individual cards on the Steam marketplace, although Valve is trying to stress that the game won’t be pay-to-win.

Screenshot: Geoff Keighley (Twitter)

Here’s what we know so far about how it will play based on reports by IGN and PC Gamer:

  • Decks will consist of a minimum of 40 cards, as well as five heroes, with up to three copies of each card allowed.
  • Cards will belong to one of four different colours—Red, Green, Black, and Blue—each set of which will have a distinctive playstyle and can only be played when a hero of the same colour is present.
  • Games start with each player designating a hero for each lane, accompanied by some ally creeps, two more of which spawn every turn.
  • Lanes start with a tower that has 40 health. When they die they’re replaced by an Ancient with 80 health. Lose two towers or one Ancient and it’s game over.
  • Each lane also has its own mana pool, starting at three and increasing by one every turn, which you can spend to play cards which cast spells or summon more creeps.
  • When you play a card, your opponent will get a chance to respond with one of their own. After this back-and-forth, combat takes place, with whatever heroes and creeps you have on your side attacking the enemies directly in front of them (unless there’s nothing, in which case they attack the tower or Ancient).
  • After combat in one lane, the action shifts to the next until all three lanes have been played and the round comes to an end.
  • At the end of combat you collect gold for anything you’ve killed, which can be spent on items to equip your heroes during a shopping phase that occurs between rounds.
  • Like in Dota, heroes have a limited number of slots for equipment. A special cloak might add to their health stat, while a magic dagger increases attack or siege damage against buildings.
  • Finally, when heroes die they aren’t gone for good. Instead they respawn after the next round and can be redeployed to whatever lane you decide most needs them.

Artifact is currently in closed beta on Steam, and it should go public by the end of this year. Then there’s an esports tournament scheduled for the first quarter of 2019, with plans to bring the game to iOS and Android sometime after that.