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Artifact: The Dota 2 Card Game Is Released!

Valve Corporation has released its Dota Card Gameon November 28. Its name is Artifact, and the gaming community eager to check in practice:

Is it good enough to compete with Hearthstone?

Despite cold and even angry greetings from the audience at The International 2017, where Dota 2 Artifact (video game) was first announced, hearts of Dota 2 gamers became much warmer towards the game after trying its actual gameplay.

A limited number of people had a chance to play Artifact at PAX West 2018 in Seattle and their feedback is rather positive. The beta testing started on November 19, causing as a result some significant adjustments to the gameplay. Now, Artifact is available on Steam for $20.

Even those who aren’t really big into card games for 2 or even in the Dota 2 universe find the Valve card game very attractive.

Dota 2 Universe

Valve Artifact did not appear from nowhere – the game has deep roots in the universe of Dota 2. This is a clever step by the developers! They don’t need to gather players, the community exists already, and it is indeed a huge community.

A similar step was taken in Dota 2 development much earlier. It grew from the original game DotA (Defense of the Ancients), which is a community mod for Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.

A paradox here is that Valve created its masterpiece on the basis of another developer’s product. Now they don’t need this – the Dota 2 world is definitely Valve’s, not Blizzard’s.

dota universe On the surface of Dota 2, there are battles of two teams with five fantastic heroes in each. They fight feverishly to destroy Ancients of each other (a big structure on the base).

If you go a bit deeper, you might get lost in the game’s complexity: lots of different heroes, lots of special items with such different effects, lots of tricky game strategies and hidden features. Some gamers are stuck at that starting complexity barrier, and they never move further.

Still, millions of players have enough motivation and dedication to learn Dota 2 in the game itself or through detailed guides. The game becomes super rewarding for them, the game experience becomes one of the best the whole culture can offer.

Artifact Gameplay

One of the deepest intentions of the game creators is to keep Artifact interesting for both Dota 2 fans and absolute newbies in that MOBA. This seems quite possible, considering the person behind the development process. Richard Garfield is a creator of the legendary card game “Magic: The Gathering” (physic cards.)

Some of Artifact’s heroes are absolutely unique, created specially for this game. Still, many heroes came from Dota 2 and in the future we can expect some characters migrating from Artifact to Dota.

Of course, Artifact Valve has a lot in common with Dota 2 – three lanes and towers with Ancients, for instance. Also, Artifact is strictly a multiplayer experience. The only available single-player mode is the starting tutorial.

Let’s check some of the main principles of the gameplay in the Artifact Dota Card game.

Three Boards = Three Lanes

One look at the Artifact gameplay is enough to notice its main key feature – there are three boards instead of usual one. It’s like playing three Hearthstone games at once but they are not separate matches.

Each board influences all the others, so it would be better to consider them as three lanes of Dota 2. Players can freely observe them all to make better decisions.

Destroy two Towers! Or Destroy a Tower -> Destroy the Ancient!

Every board has a tower with 40 Health. Players have three hero cards to place on their boards along with a few random creeps. By using various cards, players should destroy one of the towers, so the Ancient will appear instead.

This structure has 80 Health and should be destroyed too – this leads to glorious victory. Another win scenario is destroying two opponent’s towers on two lanes.

Heroes! Creeps!

As the match starts, three of your heroes stand on three lanes. They have a few random creeps for company. The game gives five random cards from the deck. The first round starts.

Play your cards to add new creeps to the lane, to activate some abilities, to power-up your attacks. After both opponents have performed their actions, creeps and heroes attack each other – they hit cards in front of them, or they hit the opposite tower directly.

One round consists of the actions series on each lane. Before the start of the next round, you get three random cards. Also, the game proposes to buy equipment for gold like Dota 2 proposes to buy dota 2 items. Defeated heroes return to the game for new rounds.


For using cards, players should spend Mana. There are special Mana pools on each lane, with 3 Mana at the start. They become bigger by 1 point after every round. Also, there are special cards to get extra Mana.

Gold and Equipment

Gold is a kind of in-game currency. You get it for destroying your opponent’s cards. Some cards from your deck are able to generate more gold. Between the rounds, you can spend the gold on special equipment for heroes: accessories, armor, or weapons. There are special slots at hero cards for these three types of equipment.


Artifact cards are divided into three types: units, spells, and items. Units are strong heroes and much weaker creeps. Each unit has health and attack value. Hero cards have their special passive and active abilities. The type is indicated on the card itself.

There are four basic card colors: Red, Blue, Black, and Green. To use a card on a lane, you should have a hero of the same color there. Units of particular colors have some common characteristics:

  • Red cards are of powerful units, which may cause lots of damage in early stages. Still, their spell cards are rather weak.
  • Blue cards are of units that become stronger in late game stages. Their spells are super destructive.
  • Black cards are of super mighty units that are dangerous for opponents in every stage of the game.
  • Green cards are of the supporting role. With them, players can summon additional creatures.


The base game gives 228 cards. The total number of cards in Artifact will be 280+. There are starting default decks with five heroes in each (as a Dota 2 team), and then players are able to complete their own decks. Creating a nice deck is the start for coming up with your Artifact strategies.

This information will help to understand Artifact much better when it will be released, to feel the game even in your first matches – there will be no need to ask What are Artifacts in games or something like that.

To make the influence of this short guide even more powerful, watch the gameplay video that shows one full match. At least, you’ll be able to enjoy the amazing graphics and in-game animation.

Players Can Buy and Sell Artifact Cards

Unlike all its main competitors, the Artifact game is not a free one. And this is great! The developers will be not so eager to look for additional sources of revenue (hopefully), to turn the whole game into a pay-to-win experience.

For Hearthstone, Blizzard has chosen a different strategy – the game is free-to-play, but players can buy card decks for real money. This type of monetization doesn’t spoil the playing experience, but still, you might feel uncomfortable to invest lots of time and getting no decent cards for your collection.

Paying for new cards in Hearthstone doesn’t guarantee getting rare cards too. So, maybe Artifact will not have such a big audience from the very start as its main competitor, but the Valve game has a great chance to find dedicated fans and to keep them long into the future.

Valve is not planning to limit the money flow from their newest project. As history proves, these developers know perfectly well how to get more cash from such huge multiplayer titles like Team Fortress 2CS:GO, and Dota 2.

Players can trade skins and virtual items from these games, and the same is implemented for Artifact - the cards are tradeable.

If gamers can get revenue from their playing time, they will be much more motivated to play this particular game. If fans can get a rare card with a signature of a pro-player, they will watch every Artifact Esports match, the same as they watch Faceit Major or The International 2018.

Gabe Newell promises that common cards will be cheap and rare cards will not be so immensely powerful. Valve is able to release various limited edition cards to give them a significant value as collectible and memorable items. This is quite a space for additional game monetization without harming the interests of players.

Let’s wait and see:

  • Artifact is available for PC, Mac, and Linux;
  • The version for mobile devices (iOS and Android) will appear sometime in 2019.
Artifact gameplay

Competing Card Games

Roots of Dota Artifact go deep into Warcraft. Roots of another card game, Hearthstone, go into the same source. We even can unite all those titles in one family of games.

If Dota 2 was released earlier than its analog from Blizzard (Heroes of the Storm), the Artifact game appeared much later than its direct competitor. Promoting a game in such a situation is not the easiest task.

The developers can’t expect gamers rushing to buy Artifact only because it’s a Dota card game – something revolutionary, wise, and creative is needed to succeed in the almost overcrowded market of card games for two or more players.

So, it would be interesting to briefly review Hearthstone and some other competitors.


The starting story in this game is fascinating. Heroes of Warcraft are gathering at an Inn to warm near the fire and to please themselves with a match or two of a card game. Players represent those heroes, and their game is Hearthstone, of course.

At the beginning, everything seems very simple here. Tutorial matches explain the basic gameplay, and you feel happiness of victories, you dive deeper, you get new cards, you learn some tricks, and you don’t want to leave the game, even if it becomes super challenging and shows all its real complexity.

Hearthstone There are lots of cards in Hearthstone. They are divided into nine classes of heroes. Players choose a class and play as that hero – place minion cards, ability cards, and other cards on the board to reduce the opponent’s energy.

Hearthstone has quite a big fan base, and it is one of the most popular Esports disciplines. It looks amazingly beautiful, perfect in its animations, in card balance, and many small aspects. Still, the randomness in getting new cards in matches and to your collection in general causes some criticism.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Obviously, the main feature of this game is in its roots – they go into the universe of The Elder Scrolls. There are not so many reasons for non-fans of this game series to try Legends, but even this quantity of gamers is a significant one.

Of course, you can play this game, knowing nothing about The Elder Scrolls, but for you, the game will lose a lot of its attractiveness.

competing card games Here we have some unique rules on placing the cards and using them in the game, on getting new cards during matches, and on possible in-game strategies, but the main goal is the same as of Hearthstone – destroy the energy of your opponent to win.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends offers rather an austere design, but still it’s interesting by many possible strategies. It’s quite a challenge for your mind.

Pokémon TCG Online

It may seem strange to mention Pokémon creatures as competitors to Artifact, but this card game is one of the oldest on the market, it has a stable fan base and regular Esports tournaments.

Here we have the universe of Pokémon instead of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls, so you should like these creatures as the basis for enjoying the game. Players have decks with Pokémon cards and various abilities cards, and they try to defeat each other.

Pokémon TCG Online The game is not simple at all. It asks for your time and energy to master available tricks and strategies. Still, Pokémon TCG Online looks a bit cartoonish – for some players, this is an advantage.

Caller’s Bane

This game is developed by Mojang, creators of Minecraft, but it has no connections to the popular blocky world. It’s a standalone title, a nice example of a card game with no predecessors, with no basis in other games.

Caller's Bane Here you lead your army to victory by playing their cards and choosing their actions. On the one hand, we have additional animation here – game characters on the board which battle each other.

On the other hand, the game hasn’t so beautiful graphics as its competitors. It’s a nice example of a card game if you are interested in such, but it would be hard for it to reach the level of Hearthstone and Artifact.

It’s the same as with many other games which have no powerful support from such giants as Valve, Blizzard, Bethesda, or Nintendo.


Artifact is not a simple game for everyone to enjoy. It is dedicated to Dota 2 fans and to those who like card games. Valve is making a deep, thoughtful experience, with many possible strategies and ways of playing.

The sky is the limit in mastering Artifact, and the developers do everything to make that sky as high as possible. The same as they do with Dota 2.

Still, Valve tries to keep the entry level low – absolutely not like in Dota. In Artifact, beginners get all kinds of help to grasp the game core.

Tutorial matches explain the basics quite well, they give the feeling of success, motivate to move forwards, to learn Artifact, to become better in it, and to develop yourself thanks to the game.

The Artifact card game is beautiful, promising and it’s definitely worthwhile to buy and play.

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