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The Artifact 1/28 update arrived with more than a dozen changes, all to the game’s items, reducing their gold costs.

This is a very Valve-esque change. Making things cheaper has been one of the company’s methods to attempt and promote metagame diversity (see CS:GO for example), but it’s unclear whether all affected items will become meta staples.

That said, there are a handful of clear winners from the 1/28 update, which are likely to take prominent positions in future meta iterations.

#3: Cloak of Endless Carnage

Gold cost decreased from 13g to 10g

Cloak of Endless Carnage (CoEC) is an item with a powerful effect but one that’s been snubbed by players due to its gold cost.

You see, there’s one inherent characteristic of the middle-cost items in Artifact (gold cost 8-15, for example), that makes them less attractive. Collecting gold is not easy and to get to, say, 13 gold, you need to save for a few turns and not buy anything. This means no potions, no TP scrolls and no essential early game items like Revtel Signet Ring, Jasper Daggers or Stonehall Cloak.

That is, unless you run a Payday econ deck, but in that case, why waste cash on a mid-tier item? Wouldn’t it be better to save just a bit more and Payday into a Horn of the Alpha or Vesture of the Tyrant? Yes, of course it would be. Which is why no one thought of running even a single copy of the 13g CoEC.

The item’s gold cost reduction to 10g, however, is game changer. It’s more than a 25% decrease and now CoEC costs as much as a Claszureme Hourglass. It can be reliably purchased as early as Turn 2-3 and can start netting you card advantage.

I expect CoEC to make its way to decks which can’t run the likes of Foresight or Unearthed Secrets. Think RB Aggro or UB Swarm decks where CoEC makes your Sorla unkillable and turns her neighboring cannon fodder units like Untested Grunt, Oglodi Vandal and the melee creeps into card draw engines. No, it won’t be an auto 3x like Stonehall Cloak, but a one-off as tech choice is not outside the realm of possibilities.

#2: Phase Boots

Gold cost reduced from 6g to 5g

This is a boring change for two reasons. First, it’s not as significant as CoEC’s cost reduction. And second, Phase Boots is already a metagame staple.

Granted, not every deck is running Phase Boots, but the item has been getting more and more popular as players started figuring out the importance of mobility in Artifact. Not only do the boots give a nice +4 Health bonus, they allow you to find favorable battles in the lane — or escape unfavorable ones.

A cost reduction from 6g to 5g makes it that much easier to purchase Phase Boots and can be done as early as T1 if you pull off a hero kill. From there, you can start doing the combat dance and keep killing whatever targets you want.

#1: Assassin’s Veil

Gold cost reduced from 6g to 4g

By far the biggest winner of them all is, in my opinion, Assassin’s Veil. Like Jasper Daggers’ buff in Patch 1.2, I expect Assassin’s Veil to become a metagame mainstay and challenge other early game items for deck slots.

Previously, Assassin’s Veil was too expensive to warrant its inclusion. There were items like Revtel Signet Ring which not only provided the same stat increase, but had an additional effect at a lower cost. Yes, Assassin’s Veil came with a target selection effect, but was that worth the additional 2g? Not at all.

Now, though, Assassin’s Veil costs exactly as much as Revtel Signet Ring. Both items provide +4 health either and are then distinguished by their secondary effect. And since Revtel Signet Ring’s bounty reduction is not always helpful (especially when it’s equipped on a red hero that just never dies), I expect Assassin’s Veil to seriously challenge it for the slot. The ability to manipulate combat direction is an important one in Artifact. It not only counteracts annoying arrow RNG when it happens but it makes for more efficient killing strategies.

Therefore, Assassin’s Veil will likely become a core item in RB Hero Killer decks. It might actually push out Revtel Signet Ring out of these builds completely, because aggressive decks care less about giving the enemy resources and more about, well, killing the right targets and pushing for the win. Red decks are good hosts for the Veil too, because why would you need a Revtel Signet Ring on a 6-armor Bristleback? You’d much rather have it spar heroes of your choice so it can get even fatter.

The item will become very good in draft as well, because combat situations there are even less predictable than in constructed.

1/28 update: a damn good way to balance a game

Valve deserve all the critique in regards to their lack of communication during these critical times for Artifact. One thing they should be commended for, however, is their gentle but active balancing of the game.

1/28 update is different than the major shakeup Patch 1.2 introduced, where cards like Gust and Axe were significantly nerfed. The current item revision provides just enough change for players to perhaps consider different options without forcing them to always pursue a certain strategy (well, except maybe Assassin’s Veil) or avoid one at all times.

It also adheres to Valve’s promise from earlier where the company vowed to be active in their balancing as they search for the perfect state of the game. And perfection never comes with sweeping changes; it’s accomplished instead through finetuning — exactly what we see here.

It’s foolish to think this update will revive Artifact or be a gamechanger in the way it’s enjoyed. But as far as balance updates go, that’s one damn good way of doing them.

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