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Theory time: free hero cards in Artifact

15 April, 2018Sannio
Everybody likes making conspiracy theories, don’t they? The young community of Artifact isn’t an exception, and we would like to tell you about the most interesting theories out there.
For example, chimpan_z believes that hero cards must be free. Why?

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  • Exactly 5 different heroes per deck
  • Heroes determine which colors your deck has access to, not the other way around
  • Heroes are "free" and guaranteed in-game -- you start with 1 in each lane, then play the other 2 for free later on, and each hero continuously respawns for free.
  • Heroes are generally powerful compared to creeps and have important effects.

Considering all the facts, we’ve reached a conclusion that heroes are central to both deckbuilding and in-game dynamics; they are analogous to Hearthstone's Hero+Hero Power, and MTG's Lands, at minimum. It goes a bit further than that - heroes really seem to make up the core/shell/engine of the deck.

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What does this mean? If heroes are not freely accessible, they will undoubtedly be the most sought-after cards. In MTG, top-tier lands routinely cost on the order of $10-$100 or more per card, depending on the format. Players who aren't willing to shell out $100s for the optimal heroes will notice immediate strategic difficulties, both in deckbuilding and in-game. In HS, recently there have been legendaries like Quests and now "Start of the Game" cards that are costly but critical to building certain decks.

If Hero cards are freely accessible to everyone, then they are quite a lot of advantages:
  • Financial Accessibility: Artifact will be more accessible to new players comparing to Hearthstone and MtG.
  • "Set" Rotations: Valve has strong control over manipulating which archetypes are viable by simply rotating heroes in or out. Meanwhile, player card collections are not impacted nearly as much.
  • Balance: Valve can safely buff/nerf heroes without affecting their non-existent market value. The meta can be changed without affecting players' wallets.
  • Cosmetics: Heroes can still participate in the market through marketable cosmetics, particularly new art as well as Immortal/Arcana effects for their abilities.
  • Straightforward Draft/Sealed: as in MTG, first you choose your non-hero cards, then you select freely from the pool of heroes (lands) and build a deck from there. Otherwise, if there is limited hero selection, players will beunnecessarily shoe-horned into particular deck types, and the randomness of the packs will feel very influential. In competitive modes (ranked), it's possible that there could be a Dota-esque Hero drafting phase, but I think this still takes away from deckbuilding and the game overall.
  • Hero Additions: New heroes can be introduced painlessly without causing a market mania. Every player will be able to test new heroes, make new decks, etc.
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For example, in Hearthstone to get all the cards from a new expansion that you will need to be able to compete will cost you at least 100$.Apart from that, the game’s economy won’t be hurt, they are still 35 cards left in the deck (most of them will be marketable).

And most importantly the money factor won’t be that significant in deck-building.Since heroes will be the core of the decks, community will adopt slang to refer to decks based on 2-5 of their core heroes, rather than using MTG-esque color codes and nicknames (Jund, etc.). For example, you could name the deck “Luna PA Lycan” (or a nickname for that) instead of saying “UBG” (Blue Black Green). A name like "Blue Spells" might imply thatCrystal Maiden is in the deck.

It would be shocking and devastating for the community if the heroes aren’t free and accessible to every player. There are many pros to making heroes free, and few/no cons. Anyway, if there is at least 1 Hero in every pack opened, it will solve the problem.

It is interesting that Valve differentiate Heroes and Cards in general, it could mean that they will have different value on the market.
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