I mean, that header image says it all, doesn't it?
But seriously. After you've completed Artifact's tutorials and opened a smattering of card packs, it's doubtless the first thing you'll be asking yourself, your friend, the inter-webs: Who's the best hero? Or maybe, who's the best red hero, or black hero? Who would you say is better for this deck, or that deck?
Not at all surprisingly, Artifact takes after Dota in that different players will always have their favourites, the heroes with which they learnt the game, earned their mettle, and forged their own personal journeys of destruction. But still, most of us can agree that there are a handful of heroes which cause more of a wrench in the gut when they arrive, which plonk more of a spanner into the works, which dig a greater well of despair in your opponent than others.
Artifact best heroes guide
Take a look below and you'll find everything you need to know about how to play the best heroes in Artifact. You'll see that we've done the done thing and categorised the heroes by colour, so I'm afraid there's no overall nicely ordered list from tenth-best to oneth-best. The meta will doubtless continue to shift over time, so it's better to dispense with that order-out-of-chaos nonsense and skip right to the facts. If at any point you're confused by all the technical jargon, such as "Cleave", "Reactive Ability", or "Purple Monkey Dishwasher", just do a nifty scroll-wheel-click on this link to our Artifact keywords guide. Now let's get started!
P.S. I was kidding about one of those keywords.
Artifact best red heroes
Red heroes are straightforward fellas and fellasses who smack things very hard, and benefit from a surrounding deck of cards which allow them to keep smacking things hard, and/or to smack things even harder. Their high stat pool dwarfs that of the other tiers, which makes them the ideal choice for newer players, to give yourself a better chance of surviving the first round with all your lanes intact.
- Axe (7/2/11) - Alright, let's get the obvious one out of the way. If there were a hero called Brute Force, Axe would probably have devoured them in the womb. His 2 Armour makes him near-impervious to early creep damage, and his overall stats will allow him to emerge victorious in most 1v1 scenarios too. But what catapults him to the super-duper leagues is that he also has great lane-clearing ability in the form of his signature card, Berserker's Call, which allows him or another allied red hero to battle all three enemy neighbours at once. He's also not too difficult to use, and can slot quite nicely into most red decks.
- Legion Commander (6/1/8) - Legion Commander is outshined in nearly every way by Axe, but she's still an aggressive powerhouse hero that's stronger than she looks due to her Continuous Effect, which provides +2 Retaliate as an admonishment to any foolish enough to lay an ungauntleted hand on her. She also synergises stupidly well with Axe and other high-stat red heroes due to her low-cost signature ability, Duel, which forces a fight between your red hero and another unit. If you had to choose between Axe and LC, you'd probably pick Axe; but you don't have to choose, so why not have both?
- Bristleback (8/0/12) - Bristleback rounds off the muscle-bound Crimson Trinity, with a stupendous combination of damage and survivability, and a scary passive which permanently modifies him with +2 Armour each time a hero blocking him dies. This means if you win an early 1v1 with BristlyBoo, he'll have better stats even than Axe. His signature card is also situationally useful for weakening the really tanky foes, if a little costly for what it is.
- Beastmaster (5/0/12) - Another hero in the category of what I like to call SSDs (Solid Stat Dudes), Beastmaster can tank most heroes, and his Loyal Beast ability allows him to summon a 3/1/3 danger-floof every 3 turns, which provides a good combination of pushing power and lane-blocking utility. His signature card, Primal Roar, is expensive but utterly diabolical under certain circumstances. Like, seriously. Say goodbye to whatever defences you thought you had in that lane.
- Tidehunter (2/1/18) - I know, I know. No one is more embarrassed about Tidehunter's measly 2 attack than he is, alright? But the thing about having the hero with the highest base health in the game is that he survives long enough for you to buff him with items and other modifications which make him downright disgusting to try and deal with. His signature card, Kraken Shell, is a fairly decent card which is made wonderful by only costing 1 mana. His Stun-tastic active ability, Ravage, is likely only to be witnessed once per game due partly to its high cooldown, and partly because if employed well it has the ability to end a game shortly afterwards.
Artifact best green heroes
Green decks are on average slightly more fiddly to use than Red decks, but their roster boasts some of the strongest and scariest heroes in the game, as we shall shortly see. The heroes tend to nearly rival Red in terms of health, but not at all in attack. Instead, their strengths lie with a veritable smorgasbord of buffs and heals which gives their decks a lot of sustain and controlling power throughout a match.
- Drow Ranger (4/0/7) - Drow Ranger is one of the only heroes that can rival Axe at the very top of the current meta, but for rather different reasons. Drow herself is a bit of a weakling with her 4 attack and 7 health, but her continuous effect, which applies +1 attack to every other ally across all lanes is just plain ridonkulous. Her signature card, too, has fantastic utility to stall or even just plain annihilate your opponent. Her only downside is, of course, her health, and so you must think about her positioning and your options in terms of buffing and healing her so that she continues to do her good work.
- Lycan (4/0/10) - Lycan has a respectable stat line for green heroes, which enables him to remain standing at the end of most first rounds. In a similar vein to Beastmaster his signature card, which summons a Savage Wolf in your lane, is useful for blocking, but it's generally better to try and protect Lil' Wolfy until he grows into Big Wolfy after a couple of rounds. But his continuous effect is where it's really at, with Feral Impulse providing +2 attack to Lycan's allied neighbours, whether they're creeps or other heroes. They're not the fanciest of bells and whistles, but Lycan's survivability and overall damage potential makes him a heavily sought-after Green hero for many mono- or duo-colour decks.
- Enchantress (4/0/8) - Enchantress is one of the big healer heroes, and slots nicely into any deck which likes to keep what's on the board from dying. Her stat line is scarcely better than Drow's, but that's not taking into account her lovely continuous effect, which provides +2 Regeneration to herself and her neighbours. Regeneration can be thought of as a "retrospective Armour" as it is applied after the combat phase but before calculating for death. This means good old Aiushtha (that's Enchantress's name, didn't-ya-know) is actually an awful lot tankier than she looks. It's the fact that the Regeneration is also applied to her neighbours that makes her truly powerful, and can allow you to quietly snowball to unstoppable levels of lane domination. Her signature also provides a useful (if slightly costly) improvement which further increases the survivability of her lane.
- Omniknight (5/0/12) - Omniknight, alongside Enchantress, dominates the ranks of the healer heroes. He has the highest health of any green hero, and an attack value on the higher end of "mediocre", so it's immediately clear that he emphasises survivability over dealing damage. His active ability is a straight-up heal for 3, which can be activated every other turn. His signature card modifies a green hero with "Allies have +2 Regeneration", which, especially when combined with Omni's heal, can make everything in your lane irritatingly difficult to kill.
- Treant Protector (4/0/10) - Treant is the hero you probably wouldn't expect to be at the top of the green heroes list at first glance, but then after some prodding by the inter-webs you go back to him and realise that, yes, he is certainly there for a reason. His stat line is decent for green heroes, tanky enough to survive at least a couple of good hits; but Treant doesn't care too much about himself. Instead, in a show of smug selflessness, he spends his time buffing his neighbours with +2 armour, which in most cases is enough to turn the early game in your favour for that lane. This is further compounded later on by the summoning of one or many Roseleaf Druids, Treant's signature card, which provides in essence a mini-Treant which buffs your tower with +1 Mana. Hear that? That distant approaching sound? That's the Early Snowball Alarm, and it should go off whenever you find yourself against Treant Protector and his Druids.
- Magnus (4/1/9) - Ah, Magnus. BAMFnus. This steely-eyed Magnoceros is the only non-Red hero to have natural Armour, allowing him to survive many early battles in one piece. In most cases Armour is more valuable than Health, so Magnus can in fact claim to be even more survivable than Treant or Lycan (though perhaps not quite as much as Omniknight). In any case, Magnus can hold his own in a fight, particularly with his ominous signature card, Empower, which modifies (permanently!) a unit with +3 attack and +3 Cleave. Watch Magnus cast this on himself, and suddenly become a hero with stats that would make him eligible for induction into the Red heroes roster. Use Magnus if you find yourself needing a touch of extra aggressive power in your deck.
Artifact best black heroes
Black heroes are the Samari-ssassins. The Do-Badders. The Destructofficials. Here's an interesting fact: on average, Red heroes have greater stats than any other colour, save for attack, where Black reigns supreme. While stats obviously don't give a full impression of a hero's value, it serves to emphasise the focus of Black heroes and black decks in general. The following individuals excel like no other at direct damage and enemy-hero-head-explosion-making.
- Bounty Hunter (7/0/7) - By far the hero I see most in Black-heavy decks, Bounty Hunter not only excels at the aforementioned head-explosion-making, but also excels at benefiting from it more than anyone else due to his signature card, Track, which you may play on an enemy hero to give yourself +10 Bounty when it dies. Gold accrual, a la Dota, is already a powerful resource for early traction and late-game snowballing, and with Bounty Hunter the effect is compounded, especially when used in conjunction with cards such as Payday. Besides this you've got a strong damage-dealing hero whose passive ability gives him a 50% chance each round to turn into a truly ludicrous damage-dealer with an 11/7 stat line. Oh, and by the way, Track is stackable. Yeah, I know.
- Phantom Assassin (6/0/8) - By far the hero I see second-most in Black-heavy decks, Phanta-Fruit-Twist is one of the cleanest hero-killers in the game, with her continuous effect providing a +4 damage bonus against heroes, and her signature Coup de Grace allowing you to discard a random card in order to condemn a hero. The high cost of this card (6 mana, plus the discarded card) helps to offset the raw power of the ability, but it's still a game-changer if used correctly, and can provide the answer to some unanswerable problems, such as a buffed-up Axe or Bristleback.
- Sorla Khan (8/0/6) - Sorla is a tricky hero to use right, but she's also tricky to deal with in many situations. She's a very aggressive hero, with meh health but great attack, and her continuous effect deals bonkers damage against the enemy tower. Her signature improvement, Assault Ladders, adds fuel to the bonfire by providing a +2 damage against towers for every ally. If left alone, she'll easily pummel first the tower and then the Ancient into rubble, but for that reason she's often not left alone, and that's where the tricky part comes in. You have to be able to defend her well. With just 6 health, she can be burst down with ease, so when constructing your deck you need to think about how to protect her, how to keep her working for you, rather than just providing a source of never-ending Gold to the enemy.
- Sniper (5/0/6) - Valve sure got the design behind Sniper right, didn't they? He's a pain in the ass in Dota, and he's a pain in the ass in Artifact. His low-end stats are offset by the insane direct damage he can deal both with his active ability (5 damage to a unit) and with his expensive signature card, which deals 10 piercing damage to a unit in any lane. In any lane?! That's the true power of Sniper. Tuck him somewhere he won't get too clobbered, and then build your push in another lane using his Assassinate as the catalyst. While he lacks Phantom Assassin's continuous damage, he makes up for it with his stupendous range. In other words: he has reach, she has flexbility.
- Storm Spirit (4/0/6) - This is the part where you go, "Storm Spirit? Really?" Well I'm here to tell you, in the right hands Storm Spirit is a game-ender. He's the kind of hero that, when placed in a deck with the likes of Phantom Assassin or Sorla Khan, you don't really pay much attention to, because he's hardly as dangerous as they are, surely! But what he lacks in brute strength he repays with stunning utility. His Ball Lightning signature, which allows you to move an allied black hero to an empty combat position in any lane, is a great card made fantastic by its low mana cost. It also works surprisingly well when combined with his reactive ability, Overload, which gives Storm Spirit a temporary +2 attack for every black card you play in any lane. Ahh, so that's why he's a Black hero! You can see it now, right? Place him in the final lane, leave him to gain monumental attack bonuses with each black card you play, and then zap him to an empty lane and ka-blam him into the tower for a straight-up 16+ damage.
- Lich (5/0/9) - Decent-ish stats combined with the kind of ferocious signature spell that everyone just stops to watch, and Lich becomes a real force to be reckoned with at every level of play. But what makes him truly great in Black decks is the hidden utility that Lich provides; his active ability allows you to sacrifice an ally in order to gain card advantage over your opponent, and his Chain Frost signature is a great (if random) removal card, which also gives you initiative. Both these traits, while not the flashiest, are essential minor advantages that help to turn a match in your favour. Don't neglect the advantages of having initiative, nor of holding a larger hand of cards than your opponent. And also of having a screaming skull-boi firing spheres of blue death into your opponent's ranks.
- Winter Wyvern (6/0/6) - Winter Wyvern is the reason Matt won the last time we played against each other, and for this reason as much as any other I'm including her in this list. Her stats may be dwarfed by those of certain other Black (and every other Red) heroes, but her utility enables her to leave the opponent unable to respond to her sudden and vicious attacks. Her active, Arctic Burn, is a fantastic synergy rolled into one click, moving her to an empty combat position and giving it +4 attack this round. And even if you manage to place something in the way of her to prevent that 10-bomb striking your tower, her signature ability, Winter's Curse, allows her to disarm a unit and then have that unit's allied neighbours battle it. If used to its full effect, this can clear 3 units out of the way without any damage dealt to her side of the board. Now that's some serious utility, right there.
Artifact best blue heroes
Blue heroes are just stupidly weak in terms of stats. Their average attack value is - get this - just 2.83, compared to Black's 6.08, Red's 5.5, and Green's 4.08. Their health is not much better. But who cares? Stats aren't why you play Blue heroes. You play Blue heroes because they have uber-strength, world-shattering mid- and late-game spells. The trick is surviving until the mid- and late-game. For this reason, Blue is often combined with Green or Red to provide some survivability and sustain power to your deck - allowing time for the following beasties to let loose with their strongest sorceries.
- Kanna (2/0/12) - Kanna is the only blue hero to reach the levels hitherto reached only by Axe, Drow, Bounty Hunter, and Phantom Assassin. The success is due not to her stats (which make her a sort of mini-Tidehunter with its massive weighting towards health at the expense of damage) but to her unparalleled ability to create very wide lanes with too many units to adequately defend against. Her continuous effect means that the two allied Melee Creeps which spawn every round in random lanes will instead automatically spawn in hers. Keep them (and her) alive for a few rounds, and you'll have a wide lane as it is. But then, her strangely cheap signature card, Prey on the Weak, comes into play, summoning a Hound of War for every damaged unit. In many situations, this nearly doubles your unit count in a lane, forcing your opponent either to come up with some fancy removal spells pronto, or concede defeat in that lane. Kanna's powers at this stage are far too great to be ignored, and I have a feeling that at some point soon we might see Valve nerf her slightly to end her many-headed rampage and bring her in line with the other heroes.
- Luna (3/0/8) - Luna is what happens when you take a hero like Sniper, and scatter all that potential damage across numerous rounds instead of just the one or two. Luna's stats are decent enough for a blue hero, which of course means laughable by Red standards; but her board-clearing abilities are near-peerless. Her Lucent Beam deals 1 piercing damage to a random enemy each round before the action phase, letting you dictate the lane to an extent before anyone has a chance to act. But it also adds a charge to the Eclipse cards in your hand or deck. Eclipse, her signature, deals 3 piercing damage to a random enemy for each charge you've built up. So basically, Luna is a ticking time bomb that leaks out damage every round before finally exploding in a cacophany of armour-piercing splendour.
- Zeus (3/0/7) - Zeus fulfils the same role as Luna in many ways. He has similar stats and a similar (but arguably more powerful) passive ability, which deals 1 piercing damage to his enemy neighbours every time you play a blue spell. For this reason - surprise, surprise - he features prominently in many Blue spell-heavy decks, which is to say, pretty much every Blue deck. His costly signature, Thundergod's Wrath, is a very strong removal spell which deals 4 piercing damage to each enemy hero across all lanes. It's like a Poor Man's Assassinate, but against every hero simultaneously. Zeus is therefore best deployed away from direct damage enemies, and protected as much as possible while constantly dealing damage and working your way up to Thundergod's Wrath.
- Ogre Magi (3/0/7) - Ogre Magi is an interesting hero. He is capable of great things, but also capable of not much at all. Much of his power resides in his Multicast ability, which gives you a 25% chance to duplicate a blue spell you just played and place it back into your hand to be used again. When coupled with the sort of spells you find in blue decks, this prospect begins to sound very scary indeed, and I've certainly seen it single-handedly turn around a losing game. But, like all abilities based on randomness, it can get frustrating when things don't work out as intended. To counteract this, Big-Blue-Double-Shrek also provides a low-cost improvement via his signature card, which deals 1 piercing damage to each enemy before the action phase - a pretty decent improvement in many situations where the opponent is building wide in a lane (though watch out for Kanna, she'll turn that damage around on you like nobody's business).
- Skywrath Mage (3/0/6) - While not quite as flashy as his main rivals, Luna and Zeus, Skywrath Mage makes it into the final spot on this list because his signature, Mystic Flare, provides not only some great lane-clearing abilities but also some very useful utility, as it divides 12 damage evenly between a unit and its neighbours, and so you often have the choice of hitting three units for 4 damage, two units for 6 damage, or one unit for a whopping 12 damage. Aside from this, he's a bit of a squish-fest with his 6 health and half as much attack, so he won't be winning any bodybuilding contests anytime soon. But his Concussive Shot ability increases his lane's potential damage by giving a hero and its neighbours -2 Armour this round, which can be used to great effect when setting up a massive board-clearing attack.
That's all the main ones out of the way. It's important to recognise that just because a hero is not included in this list does not by any stretch of the imagination mean they can't be used well - and, indeed, to prevail against many of the heroes in this list. It all comes down to how you use them. For more tips on how to improve your game, head to our Artifact guide for Dave's general tips and tricks. Alternatively, if you're interested in constructing a deck and trying out some of the tricks above, you can take a look at our Artifact deck construction guide if so inclined.