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How to Play Artifact Guide

How To Play Artifact Last Updated: 11/17/2018
Artifact is a complex game with many decision trees and a high skill cap. It may come off as confusing and complicated, but once you have a brief understanding of it, it'll come much easier than you may expect. Here's is an introductory guide to having a good understanding of all the components of the game. Navigate the guide using the navigational menu on the left.

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Artifact Lanes and Board
The Artifact board after a few rounds.

Artifact has 3 lanes each with its own tower, mana pool, and battlefield. For example, units can’t battle enemy units on another lane. Your path to victory relies on destroying two of the enemy buildings: either 2 towers -or- 1 tower and the ancient, which becomes vulnerable in a lane when the tower falls. Towers have 40 health and the Ancient has 80 health.

Each player has two decks and a hand where you keep the cards you draw.
.: The regular deck is a deck made of Creeps, Improvements, and Spells, which you draw at the beginning of each round and play using mana.
.: The Items Deck is a deck made of Items that you draw by paying gold at the Item Shop which you can then play for free.
We’ll go over this more soon.

There are 4 colors in Artifact: Black, Blue, Green, and Red. Color determines the casting requirement of certain cards where you need a hero of the same color to be in the active lane in order to play Creeps, Improvements, or Spells. For example, the Blue spell Frostbite requires a Blue hero like Zeus to be in the current lane in order to be played. Each color has it's own themes within the lore, mechanics, and card design.

As you play a game of Artifact, you'll transition between Rounds, Phases, and Lanes. Phases each have a specific purpose which determines what happens during that phase. For example, during the Deployment phase, you play your heroes and your creeps spawn. During the Combat Phase, all the units on the battlefield attack their respective targets. After you play across all 3 lanes the round ends and you'll begin the Shopping Phase, which allows you to spend Gold to draw Items. There is a section of this guide dedicated to the pace of the game, so continue reading or jump to it.

Each lane is comprised of an Action Phase and a Combat Phase, along with minor phases that specify before/after these 2 phases, seen on cards such as Conflagration. When both players pass in a lane without playing anything, the combat phase starts where each unit attacks. It's important to note who passes first, due to a thing called Initiative. Initiative determines who goes first when a new lane begins, and this is an important aspect of the game. The initiative starts with Radiant, but then whoever passes first in succession within a lane will then go first the next lane. This carries over to the next round if you're on the third lane. Some cards will even generate Initiative for you, like Chain Frost.

Artifact has a few different card types each with different behaviors. Heroes are the most significant, since they dictate how you play other cards. Equipment are Item Cards that you place onto heroes. Consumables and Spells are one time use cards that have an immediate effect. Creeps are like heroes, but they will either spawn at the beginning of each round or stronger versions will be drawn and played with Mana. Improvements are permanent effects on lanes, which can be destroyed only in specific conditions.

You will occasionally see ability effects, which are unique effects that operate under certain guidelines. These ability effects appear on Heroes, Creeps, Improvements, or Items; in other words, anything that has a lasting presence on the board. Ability Effects can be Active Abilities, Reactive Abilities, or Continuous Effects.

These are just some of the general basics to understand before diving into more specific concepts. The most important aspect of the game to understand now are the different card types.

Card Types


In Artifact, the most important card type are Heroes. These have the biggest impact on the game because of their frequency of presence, their powerful ability effects, the equipment that you place on them, and the requirement of a hero of the same color to be present in the lane for you to play a Spell, Creep, or Improvement.

Chen's Card Image
Heroes don't have a cost to play, in fact they aren’t played at all. They spawn automatically at the beginning of each round. The first three Heroes you choose (you can choose the order in the deckbuilder) will spawn randomly across the three lanes, 1 hero per lane. However for the 4th and 5th hero, you can choose their lane, but not their position within that lane. The 4th hero spawns at the start of the 2nd round, and the 5th hero spawns at the start of the 3rd round.

Heroes that die will respawn at the beginning of the 2nd round after they die. When they respawn, you'll be able to choose their lane but not the position within that lane.

Heroes are the only units that can equip Items, such as Weapons, Armor, and Trinket. Each equipment type has its own attribute that it boosts, in addition to sometimes having Ability Effects as well. It's important to note that you don't lose Equipment when the hero itself dies either.

Each hero has a “Signature Card” that are automatically included with 3 copies when the hero is added to the deck. These signature cards can be Spells, Improvements, or Creeps. Although they're connected to the hero through the deckbuilding process, they don't require the hero tbe present in in order to be actually played during the game.

Lastly, as previously mentioned, you require a hero of the same color in the lane before playing a Spell, Creeps, or Improvements. For example, you need to have a Green hero like Chen here in the active lane before playing a Green Improvement like Unearthed Secrets.

Red Mist Pillager Card Image

There are two types of Creeps in Artifact: Basic Melee Creeps and Creep Cards. Creep cards are drawn and played with mana, while Basic Melee Creeps spawn at the beginning of each round for both players. Basic Melee Creeps can also be spawned through certain effects, such as Barracks or Dimensional Portal

Basic Creeps have the same consistent stats of 2 Attack, 0 Armor, and 4 health. Creep Cards on the other hand are drawn from the deck, have a mana cost, and require a hero of the same color to be in the active lane. Creep Cards can also sometimes have inherent effects, such as Red Mist Pillager here, and ability effects.

Creeps, like Heroes, are units, which means they have attributes such as Attack, Armor, and Health, and perform combat during the Combat Phase. However, unlike Heroes, Creeps don’t have equipment slots and they don’t respawn.

Payday Card Image


Spells are similar to spell cards in other games. You play them for an immediate effect and then they’re gone. Unlike other card types, they have no permanent presence on the board. Spells always have a mana cost, and always require a hero of the same color to be in the active lane before being played.

Conflagration Card Image

Improvements are permanent effects that can be applied on to the board. Improvements may have any ability effect or simply have an inherent effect, like Conflagration here. Improvements cost mana to be played, and while they require a hero of the same color to be in the active lane in order to be played, they can be applied onto any other lane if you wish.

Items and Item Shop

Item Shop Image

Items are unique to other card types in that they require gold to be drawn and are free to play on any of turn. They also have 4 different categories that detail their usage, and 3 different slots for purchase in the Item Shop. Sound confusing? Let's go into more detail.

Firstly, items are bought using Gold, and once they’re bought they can be played for free during any Action Phase. Gold is attained through killing enemy units. Creeps grant 1 Gold per kill, and Heroes grant 5 Gold per kill. The amount of gold a unit returns is termed Bounty.

You can spend your Gold at the end of each round during the Shopping Phase. During this time, the Shop opens up, and you can select which items you want to buy from three different slots.

1st Slot: The slot on the left is the Secret Shop. This slot is filled with every item in the game and the order is random.
2nd Slot: Your Item Deck, which was pre-built before the game started. This deck has a minimum of 9 item cards that you choose.
3rd Slot: The Consumable Shop features 4 cheap Consumable Card which it cycles through randomly. These 4 cards are: Town Portal Scroll, Healing Salve, Potion of Knowledge, and Fountain Flask. You can only get these cards from the Consumable Shop (you can't add them to your deck or get them in the Secret Shop)

Consumables are one of the four categories of Item cards (Note: You can see the type of item it is by the icon at the top left of the card's image). Consumable cards are what you could consider the Item version of Spells. Like Spells, they have an immediate effect once played and don’t linger, but like Items, they require Gold to be spent to draw/purchase them from the Item Shop and can be played for free during the Action Phase. Note that there are certain consumables that don't appear in the consumable shop as well. Currently, there are only 3 Consumable Cards like this: Shop Deed, Obliterating Orb, and Golden Ticket.

Equipment are the other category of items in addition to Consumables. There are three types of Equipment: Weapons, Armor, and Trinkets. Each equipment type has its own dedicated slot for each hero, and all Equipment types have a designated stat that they boost for the equipped hero: Weapons boost Attack, Armor boosts Armor, Trinkets boost Health. Sometimes equipment also have Ability Effects as well.


Attributes are stats that appear on cards and buildings. Attack appears on units, such as Creeps and Heroes. Armor and Health appear on units as well as buildings.

Artifact Card Attributes Example Image
.: Appears on all cards except heroes
.: Cost can be in the form of Gold or Mana
.: Creeps, Spells, and Improvements cost mana to be played but are drawn for free.
.: Items cost gold to be drawn/purchased but are free to play.
.: Heroes have no cost, and are played automatically.
.: Any Spell or Improvements that have arrows around the cost can be cast on any lane.

.: Appears on all units, such as Creeps and Heroes
.: Attack is the stat which distinguishes how much damage a unit will do when it attacks during combat. The damage is subtracted by the armor of the defending unit, then dealt to the enemies health.

.: Appears on all units as well as buildings.
.: Armor is the stat which distinguishes how much damage will be reduced before reducing health. Armor does not get reduced by damage, and can only be reduced through effects that modify, such as Viscous Nasal Goo.

.: Appears on all units, as well as buildings.
.: Health is the stat which distinguishes how much damage a unit or building can take before being destroyed.

Flow of the Game

Example image of Deployment Phase

Now that we understand the various card types and attributes, we can understand the way the game moves forward.

The game is separated into rounds, lanes and phases. The first three rounds have special rules, in particular the first round, but every round after that has the same rules.

At the beginning of each round, there are two phases: The Deployment Phase and the Drawing Phase.

Deployment Phase
.: 2 Basic Creeps spawn and are randomly placed; in the first round, 3 basic creeps spawn instead
.: The heroes in the selected order within the deckbuilder will spawn in the first 3 rounds
.: Heroes that died two rounds ago will respawn. Heroes that died last round and have Rapid Deployment will respawn.
.: You select the lane for your 4th hero, 5th hero, and any respawned heroes
.: Any units that don't have a target will have a target generated for them randomly; on the first round, all units attack forward no matter what

Drawing Phase
.: 2 cards are drawn from the regular deck. In the first round, 5 cards are drawn instead

After the introduction of the round is over, the laning phase begins, where you go through the process of playing on each lane. Each laning phase is comprised of an Action Phase and Combat Phase. The Action Phase is the bulk of the process, where you can choose to play cards or use active abilities. Once both player pass in succession, the Action Phase for that lane is over and the Combat Phase begins before moving to the next lane (or the end of the round if on the 3rd lane).

Initiative is gained when you're the first person to pass in succession (The player that starts with initiative is the Radiant player at the start of the game). Intiative an important concept when making decisions throughout the game. Sometimes you may even decide to forgo playing a card on a certain lane in order to maintain or gain initiative for the next lane. Initiative is especially important when you need to be the first to play a card in order to get max value out of it, like Gust.

When you pass, your opponent can still make an action, such as playing a card or using an active ability. If they do, you can return with an action as well. However, if both players pass in succession, the Combat Phase begins, where each unit attacks its target. Combat has many intracies, so it has it's own section which you can read later or jump to it now.

Once both players take their turns on each lane, the round ends with the Shopping Phase where the Item Shop opens up and you can spend your Gold to buy items. This coincides with mana being refreshed and incremented in each lane as well. Then you rinse and repeat until the game is over.

Differences Between Rounds
Round 1
Round 2
Round 3
All other Rounds
First 3 heroes spawn and placed randomly in each lane

3 Basic Creeps spawn in random lanes

5 cards are drawn

No targetting phase; all units attack forward
4th hero spawns in chosen lane

2 Basic Creeps spawn in random lanes

2 cards are drawn

Targetting Phase chooses targets for units without targets
5th hero spawns in chosen lane

2 Basic Creeps spawn in random lanes

2 cards are drawn

Targetting Phase chooses targets for units without targets
No new heroes spawn

Downed heroes will respawn after 2 rounds

2 Basic Creeps spawn in random lanes

2 cards are drawn

Targetting Phase chooses targets for units without targets


Combat occurs during the Combat Phase, right after the Action Phase and is one of the most important aspects to the game.

Each unit has a designated target that it attacks, which can be forward (50% chance), diagonally left (25% chance), or diagonally right (25% chance). The target in which a unit attacks is always the unit in front of it, however if there's no unit in front, it'll have a designated direction to attack in.

The targeting mechanic if there's no unit in front hinges on various factors which can be confusing at first.
First, if the unit is in play at the start of the round and has no unit in front of it, then it's target will be chosen in the Deployment Phase.
If the unit was summoned in the middle of the round, then it's targeting direction will be chosen after it's summoned.
And finally, if the board state was changed so that the unit no longer has a unit in front of it, it will continue to attack forward.

The tower will only be attacked when the unit is facing no units and there's no unit in front of its attacking direction.

The target of a unit can be manipulated through a variety of ways with effects or abilities such as the Taunt keyword which will be explained in the Keywords section.

Once a unit attacks, it deals damage based on its Attack to the enemy which will first be reduced by Armor and then dealt to it’s health. Armor does not get reduced from damage, but health does. Armor can only be reduced through modifiers from abilities or effects such as Viscious Nasal Goo.

Here we see the combat phase of a lane in the 2nd round.

The bottom player, Dire, has 4 units. The enemy player, Radiant, has 2 units.

First take a note of their targets.

For Radiant:
.: Axe is facing the enemy creep
.: Bronze Legionnaire is facing the enemy tower.
.: All other units are facing forward, because they're being blocked by units.
Axe and the friendly melee creep kill the enemy creep. In return, the enemy creep deals 2 damage to the friendly creep, killing it.

Lycan kills one of our creeps and in return our creep deals 2 damage to Lycan.

Bronze Legionnaire attacks the enemy tower and does 4 damage.


No matter if you play constructed or limited in Artifact, you will have to deckbuild which follows certain rules. (Not sure what Constructed or Limited means? Don't worry about it for now)

A corner of the deckbuilder which allows you to choose the order of heroes.
Link to full deckbuilder image
.: Each deck must have exactly 5 Heroes, in any combo of colors you wish. These hero cards also come with 3 automatically included Signature Cards added to your regular deck. The number of colors or the order of heroes is up to you.
.: Each deck must have a minimum of 9 Item cards which makes up your Item Deck.
.: You must have a minimum of 40 total cards in the regular deck, 15 of which are comprised of the Signature cards that were added alongside your heroes. Your item deck consists of non-Item and non-Hero cards, which means Spell, Creep, or Improvement cards.
.: There isn't a a cap on the number of total cards you can have in either deck.

When you select your heroes, you can choose the order in which your heroes will be deployed. The first 3 heroes spawn in the first round and have their lanes randomly decided with 1 hero in each lane. The 4th and 5th hero spawn on the 2nd and 3rd round respectively, and you can choose the lane you want to place them in, however you can't choose their position within that lane.


There are a few keywords that are commonly seen on cards. These keywords are displayed when you mouseover them in-game, but here's a reference to understand them better as well.
Note: Some of these link to their info section pages which are work in progress.

Cleave - When blocked during the combat phase, in addition to battle damage to the blocking unit, also deal X damage to that unit's neighbors, where X is the number next to Cleave's keyword.
Cleave doesn't have any effect when attacking a tower and towers don't take cleave damage.
Siege - When blocked during the combat phase, in addition to battle damage to the combat target, also deal the Siege damage to the enemy tower.
Piercing - Damage which ignores through positive Armor. Negative armor still increases piercing damage.
Taunt - All enemy neighbors will focus this unit when they attack.
Disarm - The unit can't attack. This includes during the Combat Phase and during any battle effects, for example Duel. It can still be attacked.
Healing - The unit's health increases up to its maximum health.
Stat modifiers, such as '+2 Health' are not healing and will increase maximum health further.
Retaliate - The unit will return X damage when attacked. This number is determined on the effect next to the keyword. Retaliate itself doesn't count as attacking.
When a unit gets cleaved, it will proc Retaliate.
Rapid Deployment - A hero which will respawn the round immediately after it dies.
Heroes without Rapid Deployment must wait until a full round has passed before respawning.
Silence - The unit can't use active abilities, abilities on equipped items, and can't play cards of its color.
Condemn - Condemn is synonymous with destroy or kill. Items, units, and improvements can be condemned.
Swap - The position of two units is switched.
Damage Immunity - The unit will not take damage.
Allied Neighbors - The unit to the left and right of a unit that are allied.
Enemy Neighbors - The units in front and diagonally forward to a unit that are enemies.
Regeneration - The unit heals X amount during the combat phase, after damage has been applied and before checking for death. X is the amount specified next to the keyword.
Death Shield - Protects from all forms of death.
Initiative - When a new laning phase begins, the player with initiative is the one who has the first Action Phase.
Modify - When an effect modifies another card it applies a permanent buff or debuff to the target. Heroes retain modifiers through death.
Cooldown - Cooldowns are associated with Active Abilities which appear on Heroes, Creeps, Items, and Improvements.
>Cooldowns are reduced by 1 at the end of each round.
>Only hero active abilities start on cooldown, and hero active abilities get reduced even if heroes are not on the battlefield.
Stun - The unit's abilities are disabled, item abilities are disabled, it loses its color, and it can't attack on the combat phase.
Stun is essentially Silence + Disarm.
Purge - Removes modifications and temporary effects, but not damage. Purging does not affect base abilities or external effects, such as those from equipped items and continuous effects from neighbors or improvements.
Lock - A locked card cannot be played, and loses one Lock after the round ends.
Block - When a unit will block another unit from attacking a building.
Bounty - The amount of gold a unit returns upon death.
Pulse - A delay between effects of a spell or ability. Continuous effects are updated, reactive abilities are processed, and units that have been condemned or dealt lethal damage are destroyed.

Gameplay Videos


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