'Artifact' Isn't a Game on Steam, It's Steam in a Game

Proxies don't exist in Artifact. That's the point.

If you’ve ever been involved in competitive Magic: The Gathering, there’s a decent chance you’ve encountered what’s known as proxy cards. Playing Magic seriously is an expensive endeavor, and a competition-ready deck can set you back $1,000 or more. So, if you want to play—but not pay—like a pro, you use a proxy card: A homemade simulacrum of a costly, unowned card that, with two players willing to shake on it, stands in for the real thing. They aren’t strictly legal, but they are pervasive enough to be accepted (one online tool will even print an entire deck of them for you). And, in any case, Magic publisher Wizards of the Coast’s provision against proxies is about as impotent as the “don’t remove this tag” message on your pillow. As a result, proxy cards have become part of the experience of competitive Magic. Whether you’re just getting into the scene, or a serious player testing out new permutations of cards, proxies offer something akin to the “real” experience without the financial burden.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/j5za97/artifact-isnt-a-game-on-steam-its-steam-in-a-game

I always thought proxies were for when you didn’t want to have the card in the deck to protect it. If you had some expensive, rare card you would put a proxy in the deck to stand in for it. If I had known i could have subbed in any card I would have gone even more buck wild with my decks :slight_smile:


Proxies are commonly used for casual play and playtesting of new decks. It is not allowed in sanctioned competitive play, and could lead to a DCI ban last I checked.

In social settings, proxies rules are dependent on your group’s preferences. My group used to allow proxies on a case by case basis. Want to try out a wacky combo deck but are missing certain cards? Go nuts. Want to copy a netdeck that won the last Pro Tour? No dice.

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This seems to be the case in most MTG groups. I play at my local shop but only the EDH/Commander format and since that format is generally for people wanting to try out new and weird things or play for fairly cheap, proxies are a little more accepted in even “formal” events. Of course, I don’t go overboard with proxies of cards over $50 I have about 3 in my main deck, but no one has said much other than a shrug or an “ok”.

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CCGs are like this wonderful idea that is just crushed into the ground by the reality of their existence. It’s increasingly frustrating that in the age of digital card games where they could easily wipe out the problems of artificial scarcity and absurd cost of entry for serious play, they have instead doubled down as if the only reason to get involved in the first place was fleecing that cash.


In competitive play, they are actually only allowed to be used for that. It’s been a while but i believe you are allowed to use proxies in official play as long as you can present a play set of actual cards to a judge beforehand. You also kind of have to do this if you’re using foils so you don’t risk a penalty for playing with marked cards (Magic foils have a tendency to bend themselves in a way that normal cards don’t). Which led to a whole lot of mountains with black marker scribbled on them being played when Nexus of Fate was popular for a hot minute since it was a foil-only buy a box promo card.

On the actual subject of artifact. It’s slightly cheaper for a full set than the article says http://howmuchdoesartifactcost.com has it pegged to about 182 dollars right now for a full set. And it’s still technically cheaper than a full set of hearthstone but still…It just feels wrong somehow. Maybe it’s the fact that the card balance is pretty firmly in favor a few chase rares (just compare drow ranger’s signature card vs rix) and the monetary value has followed suit but it feels like even if it is technically cheaper on the whole it’s a more significant investment to scrape together a constructed deck you’d actually want to use. I still can’t believe they wholesale copied magic online and expected people to be ok with that.

Also, Richard Garfield blathering on about “no games without metagames” etc. is kind of rich considering his original idea for magic (and kind of now with keyforge) was that no card would ever go above 10 dollars and there would be no concept of discussion around the game or netdecking. You’d just show up with what you have and your opponent would have cards you’d never seen before and have to read what they did which is not really at all how human beings work.


Really interesting read. Slight nitpick: the article says 2 of the 3 cents on the marketplace go to valve, but from my recollection, one of those cents actually goes to taxes.

Gonna write a longer response when I get the time

The fact of the matter is, that having to start from basically zero and forcing players to put money into it is just a hard barrier to swallow for many people, many included. Yeah, 30ish for a competitive deck is acually really good in the overall tcg scale, but the fact that you have to put in an orginial fee just for the pleasure of spending more money is just ehhhhhhhhh.

I’ve played The Eternal Card Game for almost 2000 hours since i joined the closed beta over 2 years ago, and it does a really good job of feeding you a lot of rewards and making it easy to supplement your collection. I’ve spent probably between 100-200 dollars on it (and the newest set drops today, so yeahhhhh) and and it does an amazing job of finding that balance imo.

In short, more people should probably play Eternal, its defintily the best ive found between “good monitization” (kind of a misnomer) and great tactical gameplay

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In this case it’s 2 of the 3 cents to valve I’m pretty sure, who then maybe pay taxes on it later? It’s 5% cut for steam (min 1 cent) then a separate 10% cut to the game maker (min 1 cent) which is also valve but its a separate charge like every other game that uses the steam marketplace and then the rest goes to the seller. The percentages might be a bit off because my memory is fuzzy.

ed:had the cut %s backwards.

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The don’t remove this tag tag on your pillow isn’t for you, it’s for the dealership so that you the consumer can know what the pillow and its contents are made of. It’s also not impotent it is extremely effective as a consumer protection measure.

I didn’t know anything about Artifact though so thank you for this review. I wasn’t really interested in it at all, so that’s why I didn’t bother looking it up.

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In all the time I’ve spent being alive on this planet I’ve made an incredible amount of horrible decisions.
But I’m 100% certain that quitting Magic the Gathering and all other trading card games was one of the few really good decisions I’ve managed to make.


Eh, seeing how far that spiraled out of control would make him the most qualified person to speak about that sort of thing imo. If artifact actually has hard limits on how expensive any given card can be it’s a lot closer to Garfields original idea for Magic too.

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This was a great article! I haven’t followed Artifact closely but this was a fascinating look into how games function as markets.

I came away wondering: is there such a thing as a non-exploitative CCG?

As a kid I played a lot of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh (and dabbled in Magic), but it’s been years since I really played a CCG and I’m not up on the latest goings on. Nowadays I’m more likely to play a deck builder like Dominion, since it doesn’t require my friends to own cards and everyone starts on an even playing field. But I have to admit those games are missing some of enjoyable aspects of CCGs such as collecting and deck customization.

So I have two questions for y’all:

  • Are there CCGs out there now you consider non- (or less) exploitative?
  • What do you think the ideal non-exploitative CCG (physical or digital) would look like?
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This is a really interesting article and I appreciate the level of work that went into writing this piece, but literally all of this is a big reason why I will never in my life play a TTCG.

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The digital version of Pokemon is actually okay. There’s a mode where you can play with just theme decks. The theme decks are also really easy to aquire in game last I played.

There is also the older MtG games from about 2013 that I thought were fun. It’s theme decks you can slightly modify. Pretty cheap now and online still works to play against a friend.

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Thanks for the reccs! I may have to try the Pokemon one - even if only for the nostalgia factor :smiley:

I think the closest are the living card games like Android Netrunner or Arkham Horror Card Game. These game’s packs consist of full playsets of non-random cards. Still expensive, but you always know what your gonna get. I never played any of these beyond their base sets, but I feel like power-creep with new cards could be a huge issue.


It’s been a long time since I played it, but I remember Duelyst being pretty fair. I think I put 20 or 30 hours into and I don’t remember ever paying for anything.

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I mean, the theoretical max price of a single card in artifact is 1800 dollars which is the limit of what you can list an item for on the steam marketplace. Valve said they could effectively set a price ceiling but we don’t really know what that looks like since card prices have mostly dropped over time. The very short window of the rare market being up for the beta before the general release of 60$ axe and 40$ drow didn’t last because the supply shot way up and then demand dropped really low as the player count cratered. So if there is a ceiling, it’s higher than 60$ and honestly that’s already at the point where most people are gonna say fuck it.

So one of the thing that strikes me about the responses from developers (assuming they are in good faith) is the vision of the emergent equilibrium of the “free market”. But it’s pretty clear to me (and seems like everyone else here) that this is kind of a myth. Just looking the history of capitalism, it’s evident that it does not generate the “fairness” that a lot of liberals think it will. Free market capitalism results in the maximization of profit at all costs. Its what the system rewards. The invisible hand is a ghost, a lump of cheesecloth called ectoplasm peddled by mountebanks and followed by earnest fools.

Also, one big thing to me is like… This isn’t a free market. Valve is in total control of the market. And if you look at the way it’s structured, they’ve essentially generated their own monopoly on constructed commodities. That’s… that epitomizes late capitalism extremely well.