Valve announced its first major update to Artifact since launch and it includes an update to introduce skill ratings, account leveling, and a big change to card balance which could drastically affect the game going forward.
The update introduces levels that track players' overall experience in the game. As players progress, they can unlock level icons along with tickets and packs. However, the other big change is what Valve is doing to card balances, or rather the frequency in how Valve handles card balances.
Previously, Valve said that it would resemble physical trading cards and only make card changes or bans in "extremely rare cases." Now, Valve will embrace its digital nature and be more like Hearthstone in that the game will now embrace ongoing card balance changes.
There were plenty of reasons for Valve to go this route. Ongoing balance changes opens up long term engagement with cards, it would help combat any drastic changes in the meta, and free the developers from trying new mechanics. "Once we shifted over to this new mindset, it became obvious to us that it was a more natural fit with how we tend to develop games," Valve writes in a new blog post.
However, this change also affects one of the biggest aspects of Artifact, which is the real-time card market. Several cards were balanced with today's update including Axe which was nerfed from having 7/2/11 stats to 6/2/10. Axe was previously valued at $15, but with the changes it will no doubt affect its market price.
Valve is pushing ahead however and is offering a one-time buyback program for any of the cards changed as a result of today's balances. You can see a full list of balanced cards in Valve's blog post.
How this will affect Artifact going forward remains to be seen. Valve's card game seems to be having a slow start among players and is dropping uninterested parties fast. For more on the mechanics of Valve's Dota 2 card game check out our Artifact guide.