How much will Artifact actually cost?
The Artifact closed beta started recently, and this supposed “Hearthstone Killer” is running into a bit of a snag. Specifically, its pricing model is being blasted by collectible card game fans everywhere. In a world where the most popular digital CCGs are all free-to-play, Artifact will not only charge you an entry fee, but will have one of the most expensive (though arguably non-exploitative) pricing schemes on the market.
So, how much will Artifact actually cost when all is said and done?
First of all, it costs you $20 just to get in the door. You pay this just for the ability to download the game client on Steam. You’ll get 10 card packs, five event tickets, and two starter decks. The two starter decks are Red/Green Brawler and Blue/Black control, showing off the dual sides of the spectrum in deck building.
Card packs cost $1.99 each. So your entry fee basically covers the 10 packs that you get when you start the game. They each contain 12 random cards as opposed to Hearthstone’s five, taking page out of Magic: the Gathering’s book. Each card pack guarantees you one hero, two items, and at least one card of the highest rarity.
What card packs don’t guarantee you is unique cards. In fact, many of the cards that you get from these expansion packs can and will be multiples of cards you already have in the starter set and starter decks. You can only have three copies of a card in an Artifact deck so any extra cards are useless.
There are four rarities in Artifact, Basic, Common, Uncommon, and Rare. There are no legendary cards in Artifact, and since you get at least one Rare card in every pack, cards are a little easier to collect.
The biggest issue is that there is no in-game currency in Artifact. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand they can’t pull any pricing shenanigans like Magic: The Gathering Arena did. On the other hand, there is no way to redeem your multiples for value. In Hearthstone you can dust cards, and in MGTA, you can eventually turn them into wild cards which become whatever card you like.
Selling digital cards for real money
The only thing you can do in Artifact is sell them on the Steam marketplace for real money. The issue with this is that common cards with little to no use in decks will be worth almost nothing on the marketplace. As is the case with real life tabletop CCGs, you will have to trade in huge amounts of these garbage cards to even get a penny. Valve has said that in the future you can turn your garbage cards into event tickets somehow, but they have not mentioned how or at what rate.
Speaking of event tickets, any mode that has the potential of awarding you prizes requires them. They are sold in bundles of five for $4.95 and as of now this is main way to obtain them. This is very different from both Hearthstone and MTGA which trickle in resources to the player in just about every game mode.
Another way to obtain event tickets and packs is by playing gauntlets. These are essentially the equivalent to Hearthstone’s Arena mode. You construct a deck and attempt to win a certain amount of times before losing. The example that the official FAQ gives is “Win five games before losing two.”
The FAQ also gives two different example payouts. For constructed gauntlets and “phantom drafts” i.e., drafts in which you don’t keep the cards you draft, you will receive payouts at three wins and up. At three wins you will get your event ticket back, essentially breaking even but getting no benefit. At four wins you will receive your event ticket back and a pack and at five wins you will receive your event ticket back and two packs.
For Keeper Drafts (which require an entry fee of two tickets and five packs, but you get to keep all the product you pay with) three wins will get you your entry fee back and a pack, making it slightly easier to profit. Four wins will get your entry fee and two packs and five wins will get you your entry fee and three packs.
There are a couple things to note about this payout scheme. First, you can never get more event tickets than you invested in the gauntlet in the first place. This means it is functionally impossible to “go infinite.” You will, at some point, finish below the payout cutoff and lose your event tickets at which point you will have to invest more money into the game.
Second, wining a Keeper Draft, which will likely be the main method of obtaining cards, does not give you enough product to do another Keeper Draft. You will have to play in other modes to get other packs or buy packs in order to draft again. This gives you yet more chances to lose your event tickets, which means more chances to be forced to put more money into the game.
So how many packs will it take to continue to be competitive in Artifact? Well, this might be a moot point. Right now, in the beta, the most professionally played modes are draft modes. Constructed games seem almost like an afterthought. Still, if all you do is draft, you can expect to pay for the five dollar event ticket bundle every couple of days, provided you keep a 50%-ish win rate. There is no way to draft for free right now, though Valve said they might add a “casual” draft mode in the future which awards no prizes but costs nothing to play.
If you are a dedicated constructed player, though, popular streamer Kripparrian said that he spent about $300 on Artifact packs and could not build two complete competitive decks. However, there is no secondary market yet. New players will, eventually, be able to just buy the cards they need individually to make decks.
If this follows a similar pattern to Magic: The Gathering’s secondary market, purchasing a competitive deck for whatever the current competitive “standard” format is might run you 50-60 bucks, as long as it isn’t particularly rare heavy. However, Artifact’s critics note that the same amount of money will grant you enough cards and dust to build multiple competitive decks in Hearthstone.
So how expensive is Artifact?
Right now, it appears as if it’s too expensive. Many popular CCG streamers are giving up on the game before it comes out. Maybe this “Hearthstone Killer” isn’t as killer as people once thought it was.
Pricing schemes can make or break a game, and one of the things that keeps Hearthstone alive is that it’s actually accessible as a free to play game.