This is the one that stings the most. The commercially-unsuccessful game that most makes me want to stand in front of unwelcoming crowds, pound on my chest and scream about how wrong you all are. Artifact doesn’t deserve to be the butt of people’s jokes. It doesn’t deserve to be the butt of anything. It’s one of the best card games out there.
That’s largely because it smushes so many considerations into every individual decision. Consequences ripple across its three separate boards, demanding you figure out not just what resources to deploy and when, but where. It’s about calculated losses, mind games, anticipation and subversion. Often, unless your opponent has built their deck to steamroll down one lane, you can comfortably abandon it, ideally after tricking your opponent into over-committing. That offers a delight I haven’t found elsewhere, a particular bait and switch that I relish because it can so easily be foiled.
Unless your opponent does have one of those steamroller decks. Then all those mind games fly out of the window, and too much boils down to who has the better cards. I think that’s the only version of the game many people saw. Constructed play, with decks built of cards directly bought from other players, largely sucked. In those early days the best decks cost between £30 and £50, and I can see why people jumped ship.
I’ve spent about 110 of my 120 hours in Gauntlet mode, where drafted decks dodge both of those problems. It’s a level playing field, where you need to make full use of all its corners. I think I’ll run around it some more.