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Valve’s Artifact gets surprise first patch, with more to come

The developers also added a leveling and reward system

Randy Vargas/Valve
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Artifact, Valve's Dota-based card game, has finally received its first balance patch. Players will now be able to level up, earning tickets and card packs as they go along. But more importantly, the patch notes open with a long statement from the developers of Artifact. They explain why there’s a patch in the first place — something many players never expected to see.

It seems that Valve originally intended for Artifact to operate like a normal trading card game (TCG) — cards only get banned or removed in emergency situations. However, the studio has reconsidered after a month of live play.

“Our conclusion was that embracing ongoing card balance for a digital game has a lot more upsides for the game as a whole,” wrote Valve’s Brandon Reinhart. “Once we shifted over to this new mindset, it became obvious to us that it was a more natural fit with how we tend to develop games. Starting with today’s update, we will be taking an incremental approach to balancing, with the primary goal being to improve the gameplay quality over time.”

Being a TCG, this does present a certain problem for players who’ve recently purchased powerful cards off the real-money store through Steam. Because of this unexpected update and change in philosophy, Valve will be offering players a chance to sell cards back to the store for the next two weeks — only applicable to players who purchased the affected cards before the update.

With the rebalancing itself, the team at Valve was conservative with some cards and made radical changes to others. Most notably, the card “Cheating Death” has been completely reworked. Before the patch, it had a 50-percent chance of keeping any card alive at one health after a killing blow as long as a green hero was in the lane — which could lead to some seriously frustrating coin tosses. Now, players can choose a unit each turn to give an immunity shield to. This’ll prevent death for the entire round.

Valve also added new keywords to the game: Quicken and Equip. When a spell is cast that has Quicken, added to Lion’s Finger of Death ability, the cooldown will be reduced by one but never below one. The Jasper Daggers are the first items to have the new Equip effect, which causes them to cleanse the hero of all negative effects when they’re first equipped.

As Reinhart said, this is a complete change in game philosophy for Artifact — one that the community already seems excited about. Comments on Twitter and the patch notes post are mostly positive. The game has also started to recover on the Steam chart; Artifact was around 90th place on Steam’s top 100 best-selling games list as of a few days ago. Since this patch, the game has risen considerably, sitting between the 30th- and 50th-place positions as of the time of this writing.

With more patches coming down the pipeline in the future, it seems Artifact may not be as dead on arrival as it initially appeared.

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