After examining aggro in the previous article, we continue our “Learning Artifact” series with zooming in on the next archetype.
We already covered the basic archetypes of card game. Simply put, aggro is offense, control is defense, and midrange is somewhat in-between (well, not really, but kind of). Once again, we can revisit Ken Nagle’s graphic illustrating where the archetype peaks in power as opposed to its diametrical opposite, the aggro.
As you’ve already figured out, control is nothing like aggro. It wants to do exactly the opposite things: play more spells than creeps, keep itself alive rather than killing the enemy, and finish games late, rather than early. In Artifact, blue identifies the most with the archetype, followed by the spells of black. In control decks, red and green will then be used to provide threats or some utility.
The archetype’s strategy is defined (and countered) by the following elements:
- Lots of removal — To stay alive, control decks need to keep the board clear. Since their early and mid game creeps and heroes are usually weak, they establish board dominance not through battle but by removal spells. To counteract this, proactive decks will either play more threats than the control has removal, or play resistant creeps and effects: high armor (damage resistant), death shields (point removal resistant) and death effects (positive effects upon dying).
- AoE removal — As proactive boards will usually grow wide despite single-target removal, control decks want to play AoE removal spells, i.e. using one card to kill many. These are control decks’ most powerful tools and the soft-counter to those is tricky. Experienced players will know just how much they can extend with their threats to bait an AoE removal, after which they can repopulate and continue to pressure.
- Card advantage generators — To get to the point and AoE removals they need, control decks will want to draw extra cards.
- Utility cards — Slow decks rely on machinations before pure board stats. Apart from removal and card advantage mechanics, they’ll look to play defensive or healing cards to protect their towers; silence and disarm cards to disrupt the enemy; or mana refresh cards to always have the upper hand in the threat-answer-threat tug-of-war.
- Late-game finishers — Control decks top their curve with expensive powerful creeps that act as game finishers. These can be just massive beasts that green offers, or game-ending buffs like red’s Time of Triumph. An alternative, but less desired game plan, is just chipping away at the enemy tower after establishing total board control.
After a good control deck has rounded up all these elements, it has to start planning its strategy — from its basic game plan to how it reacts to every single turn and initiative pass.
The basic question every such decks asks is this: how much damage can I get away with? Control decks are very weak on the early turns and as a result take a lot of damage, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In a traditional aggro vs. control match-up, aggro will always have more threats. This is even more true in Artifact due to the heroes mechanic. With the heroes respawning, using removal effects on them doesn’t generate permanent card advantage. So, Artifact controls would go even further in their desire to kill many birds with one stone.
This is what separates the bad player from the good. The latter will know how much he can extend this greed without losing a tower.
Going a step further into the second tier of strategic planning is the next question: am I in card advantage or card disadvantage and how much? This one stems from the lower tier of threat vs. response management. Control decks want to have card advantage, or resources, and this comes from being efficient in how they answer threats. In the aggro vs. control match-up this is easier to track. Aggro will almost always be in card disadvantage, but things get trickier the slower the deck the control plays against. If the control deck starts being inefficient with his resources, i.e. goes towards card disadvantage, it’s a sign it’s losing the game.
Finally, we arrive at the third, most difficult question in Artifact in general: what’s happening in the lanes and what’s my plan for them? Playing the archetype is already strategically challenging, but in Artifact it’s all multiplied three-fold because of the lanes. Most of the spells can’t be played cross-lane so defensive decks will have to plan ahead and know which spells to use in which lane.
This decision making is tied to two corners:
- The aforementioned damage intake planning. Unless the game is fully in your control (which will be a rare occasion), you’ll have to live the fact that you’ll lose a lane. Your decision making for that and the other lanes will then stem from a) how fast are you losing the lane and b) how much control you have over the other two leading to c) how much and what resources you should invest in defending either of the three lanes
- Knowing what threats to expect. This is true for every deck, but especially so for control. As control, you’ll not only want to track what heroes are spawning next turn as threats, but also what other units/spells can the opponent play. In many match-ups, the control will “save” a removal for a very particular threat, for example. Why use a Condemn on a mid-game minion when you know there will be Thunderhide Alpha in 2 turns?
Cards you’ll find in control decks
1. Heroes and their signature cards
2. Point removal
3. Mass removal
4. Utility and card advantage
5. Big finishers