This weekend, Beyond the Summit and Valve hosted the Artifact Preview Tournament. The $10,000 event ran the 128 players through seven rounds of swiss to qualify the top 8 for the single elimination playoffs, using Artifact’s draft mode, the Gauntlet.
Due to the random element of the mode, the tournament offered two re-drafts where players changed their decks: once after the third swiss round and once for the playoffs. The decks of the swiss stage are unavailable, but the ones for the playoffs were made public by Beyond the Summit. Here’s what the top 8 played.
Color abbreviations: (B)lack, Bl(U)e, (R)ed, (G)reen
Now that the tournament has passed, some interesting stats can be extrapolated. Naturally, due to Gauntlet being a random card draft, this is not an indication to how the constructed meta will be or what the best heroes in the games are. At the same time, it offers a curious insight into what heroes players gravitate towards in a limited environment.
Two of the most played heroes in the tournament were red: Ursa and Sven, with 4 and 3 picks, respectively. Eight more heroes were tied for 2 picks and 17 more were tied for 1 pick. This makes 27 heroes played out of total of 48.
So why did these two heroes stole the show? Answer: they’re very good on the Flop (starting position) and consistent throughout the game. When thinking about what’s a good hero in Artifact, their power in the opening turn is very important. Heroes that won’t live and not only feed gold but lock you out of a color too are not good choices. But Ursa is a 7/0/10 and is not only durable but its Fury Swipes passive ability applies a -1 Armor modification to units it battles. Put Ursa early on the field and start stacking those debuffs. Its signature spell, Enrage, is also just a high value card, saving your hero and killing its enemy in the process.
Like Ursa, Sven is another good Flop hero due to his stats and his innate Cleave ability, equal to half its attack. With it, Sven can keep in check enemy boards that try go to too wide and upon reaching Mana Turn 6 (MT6), God’s Strength comes in play, making him and other red heroes even scarier.
So what other heroes are good on the flop then?
You guess right, it’s another trio of heroes that can do well on turn 1. Bounty Hunter can do a lot of damage early on, especially given how his Track spell is only 3 mana and can be played right away. Adrian “Lifecoach” Koy pulled off a double Bounty Hunter on the flop during the Swiss round, famously netting him 31 gold by the end of turn 1. Moving on, there’s the 8/0/12 Bristleback and 4/0/10 Lycan — heroes that won’t die easily and who can have an impact right away. Bristleback can contest some of the fattest hero in the game without dying (plus his Viscous Nasal Goo is a fantastic debuff card) and Lycan’s +2 attack buff to neighbors can make all the difference.
Gauntlet is also all about individual value on the card and less so about cool synergies. As a result, it is no surprise to see red being the most played color hero-wise. Remember what we said about Ursa, Sven and Bristleback? They’re all about value and so is the entire red color.
Take not that these stats come from a very sample size of just eight decks, and tournament-wide (including both Swiss drafts), the breakdown is likely to be somewhat different. However, my suspicion is that not much will change for red and blue, who sit at the opposite sites of the spectrum. If red is all about independent raw value, blue is about card and deck synergy, which not always can be achieved in the Gauntlet. Yes, Zeus is a power draw and so are cards like Luna and Skywrath Mage, but they can’t win the game by themselves. I expect blue to remain a support/end-game color in Gauntlet for some time, helping red and green power through.