If there’s one good thing about Artifact, it’s the cost of playing it. Beyond the $20 entry fee, the game allows you to build decks for a very cheap cost and even be competitive with them.
In our new series “Artifact on a budget”, we’ll take a look at some good cheap decks to get you started and guide you how to then upgrade them further. First stop: the $2 blue/red (UR) Control
The deck and common alternatives
Playing UR is about using your blue heroes to clear the deck and your red heroes to fight whoever’s left. Bristleback and Sven are two of the best common heroes in the game, with Beastmaster coming a close third. Zeus, Skywrath Mage and Ogre Magi are all good at AoE clears and are dirt cheap on the market, too.
You can modify the shown list with some common alternatives too. Ventriloquy lets Bristleback absorb a lot of damage, but Cunning Plan is a replacement that will draw you a card, while modifying the battlefield. Where Ventriloquy shines, though is when it’s combined with the red buff effects. Ventriloquy into Clear the Deck or Fight Through the Pain can do a lot of damage to the enemy board. Even on early turns, you can make cheeky plays like Hellbear Crippler into Ventriloquy for an AoE attack reduction.
Uncommon upgrades (with prices)
Heroes: Legion Commander ($0.07), Luna ($0.06)
Creeps: Stonehall Elite ($0.09)
Improvements: Aghanim’s Sanctum ($0.07)
Items: Jasper Daggers ($0.08), Blink Dagger ($0.35), Revtel Signet Ring ($0.12), Claszureme Hourglass ($0.11)
Once you get more cards in your collection, you should start throwing some of the worse cards away and looking for replacements. There are two areas which you can immediately improve: the red portion and the item portion.
Legion Commander is a great replacement for Sven. Duel alone makes LC one of the best red heroes in the game, as it’s one of the few single target removals the color has. Given how blue isn’t known for single target kills either, Duel is something you’ll always need. You should also find/buy Luna for her Eclipse and Lucent Beam effects.
Then, there’s Stonehall Elite, which should replace your Hellbear Cripplers or Relentless Zombies. The creep is one of the best midrange options for red and eats neutral creeps for breakfast.
The next thing you should improve is your item deck. The goal is to make your heroes more durable, especially the blue ones.
Blink Dagger is a mainstay in many Artifact decks, so getting it early from the market place or Keeper Drafts is always smart. The item will let you jump lanes and apply pressure where needed. Then we have Revtel Signet Ring, potentially the health defensive item next to Stonehall Cloak, which will hamper your opponents’ gold hoarding.
The new Jasper Daggers and Claszureme Hourglass are two tech items that we’d also recommend. Jasper Daggers now comes with an on-equip purge effect, which clears stuns, silences and the likes. Claszureme Hourglass, on the other hand, will help you fight other control decks, locking their topdeck draws for a turn.
Heroes: Axe ($8.34), Kanna ($2.67)
Creeps: Mercenary Exiles ($1.06)
Spells: At Any Cost ($4.07), Annihilation ($4.64), Spring the Trap ($1.23), Bolt of Damocles ($1.29)
Improvements: Conflagration ($1.23)
The heavy downside of playing any blue control deck is that it takes a lot of rares to unlock its true potential. And it starts with the heroes.
Kanna and Axe are the rare heroes you ought to get for your blue/red control. Despite the nerf, Axe remains the best red fighter and will partner well with Bristleback. Kanna, on the other hand, is blues best and, frankly, only option to generate board presence, not to mention Prey on the Weak is an absolute monster of a card. Once you get both those heroes, your hero load-outs should look something like that:
Next, start collecting the board sweepers that will actually let you live till your end game. At Any Cost, Annihilation and Conflagration will always be played in every blue control, so if you’re that kind of player, there’s no reason not to invest in them. Unfortunately, what you’ll find is that Annihilation and At Any Cost are currently the second and third most expensive cards in Artifact. Getting three copies of each alone increases the deck’s cost by $30!
What you can do if you don’t want to spend money right away is start with the cheaper rares. Conflagration, Spring the Trap and Bolt of Damocles are all around $1.30 per piece. So, for about $15, you can get all of them with Kanna to go, run a semi-expensive and gradually fill it up with the power cards.