The Dark Age of Artifact
Chapter One: A Teaser
- August 2017 - Valve reveals Artifact at The DotA International 2017.
Here’s the crowd’s reaction. Big Yikes. The very first moment the world saw Artifact, they were already booing. Not a good start.
- March 2018 - Seven months have passed, Gabe Newell Press Conference
GabeN holds a press conference, revealing a lot about Artifact, other than gameplay. In this video, we learn about the one million dollar tournament, the elaborate monetization strategy (Valve wants cards to be “assets”), and a planned Mobile 2019 release.
- August 2018 - An entire year has passed since the announcement, PAX West
The first time many people were able to see gameplay. Games were setup allowing brand new players from the venue to play versus Professional players with handicapped towers. A major criticism of the event was that the online viewership at home, who has zero understanding of the game, have to listen to commentators who have been playing the game for many months. With very little time spent covering the basics of the game, teaching the at-home viewers how to play. At the venue however, players were allowed to learn the game against one another before being on stream.
Ah, simpler times.
Chapter Two: Beta and Launch
- October 2018 - Beta debacle
Beta codes were given out at PAX West, quickly re-sold online for upwards of $100, and most people were expecting a month long Beta period. Unfortunately, Valve pushed back the Beta start date to be merely nine days prior to the game’s Launch. One major problem, There is no Marketplace for Artifact during Beta. The only way to gain cards during the Beta was to purchase packs or purchase Event Tickets. A major, major set back for Artifact because Valve expected Beta players to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of packs to complete a collection. (I was one of those players)
- November 28, 2018. Launch
Thankfully, the Market was available by Launch (A little close, right?) The game seemed okay. 60,000 players online, a Top 10 game on Twitch, People are actually excited for Artifact. But almost immediately, people started to see some flaws, and were quick to point them out... Why can’t I earn cards? Why is everything behind a paywall? Why isn’t there an incentive to play? Okay so the game has tournaments, but the only way to invite people is use outside systems to communicate and send invitation codes? Can you really call this a built in tournament system?
Chapter Three: Minor updates
Valve answers one of the pointed out flaws, adding “Open Tournaments”. But this doesn’t really solve the issue, it kind of just bandaids it. Why can’t players list their tournament in some form of a Lobby, allowing players to join from there? Players aren’t getting what they expected. Concurrent player totals every day is trending downward.
Two weeks after Patch 1.1, Valve responds to other concerns. They introduce profiles, allowing players to earn packs by “leveling up their account”. Valve also changes their stance on buffing/nerfing cards, which hurts the whole concept of cards being “assets”, and in general, hurts the entire point of having a Marketplace for the cards. Valve is aware of this issue, deciding to give players the option to sell back changed cards for a specific amount, to compensate for the obvious drop in value.
Even then, the writing was on the wall, Artifact was dying. If you read my article about Patch 1.2, even then I was talking about Artifact being “saved” and that was way back in December! We’re now in March, and the situation has only gotten worse since then...
Chapter Four: The Dark Age of Artifact
- Absolute Radio silence
The last time the official Artifact Twitter account tweeted was December 21, 2018. They didn’t even bother to tweet about the tiny patch they released at the end of January 2019, Patch 1.2.272. That means for over 70 entire days, Valve hasn’t said a single word about Artifact on Twitter.
- Here we are now.
Nobody is playing. Artifact is effectively on its deathbed. A few weeks ago, both DrawTwo and Artibuff released simultaneous article addressing concerns that the community has. Since then, Valve has only said one sentence in response, “Still in it for the long haul”. But how long are we talking? If you’ve been paying close attention, you might have noticed that something is coming…
Take a look at this tweet from Lifecoach, a week spent in Seattle, "impressive", and "not giving up hope for Artifact's future". There's a lot to unpack here, but let's think about what this tweet can tell us about Valve...
- Valve is still communicating to professional Card game players
Reddit was in somewhat of a frenzy (Aren’t they always?) over this information. Valve had nearly a year long exclusive “Alpha” with professional card game players and “influencers”, yet the game still flopped. Even then, Valve has decided to continue communication with that same group, sharing information about the future of the game.
- Something is coming... maybe something even big.
And this makes sense. Imagine this scenario, Set 2 is completed, polished, and ready to be shipped come March, you might be wondering why hasn’t Valve been revealing Set 2 cards? Would anyone even care? It’d probably turn into a nasty memefest on Twitter. A pathetic number of only 330 concurrent players are playing Artifact, right now. I don’t think doing a teaser season would be good marketing while your game is in a violent nose dive.
If I were Valve, I’d drop the second set as a surprise, with potentially a major rework to the game and/or client, entirely new features/game modes, and as much new content that I could possibly pack in one massive update. Effectively a “2.0 Launch for Artifact” This will obviously draw people back to at least “try it out” and hope you can hook them back. And if you asked me, Valve’s only goal right now should be to generate loyal Artifact fans…
- Prepare your tin foil hats...
The Mars Update is coming to DotA 2 some time in Winter. Right now, that means the last Day Valve will have to include the Hero Mars into DotA 2 will be March 19, 2019, the final day of Winter. Will this update have anything to do with Artifact? Maybe a crossover? Maybe a Mars card in the next set? Simultaneous release? Who knows?
The Current Constructed Format
In my opinion, for Artifact to grow, it needs to continue to focus on a healthy Constructed format if it plans to turn this ship around. Currently, I think our current meta is pretty fantastic for a one-set format. As it stands, there are three decks on top that perform fairly consistently against each other. In Valve’s defense, that’s a very hard thing to do with only one set out. In most card games, it can quickly devolve into a 1 top deck format, often a “Cookie Cutter” deck filled with goodstuffs. As for Call to Arms, the three top decks I am referring to are of course --
- Mono Blue Control
- Red/Green Midrange
- Red/Black Aggro
Because I think the next major update to Artifact will either release a new set or considerably alter the cards in the game currently, I’d like to spend some time focusing on these three decks and breaking them down in their own articles. Sort of like a time capsule, remembering the best thing about the Dark Age of Artifact.
Over the next few days, I'll be covering each of these decks, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as some techs and adjustments each can make to their lists to better strengthen their win rate versus each other. See you tomorrow!