Axe is one of the red hero cards in Artifact. It’s considered one of the strongest heroes of the color and in the game overall, which makes him a core hero to play in a variety of red decks.
|Attack / Armor / Health||7 / 2 / 11|
|Signature card||Berserker’s Call|
Many Artifact players will name Axe the strongest hero in the game and with good reason. The hero comes with a formidable stat line and brings a unique tool to the red color, his power rooted in several key aspects.
- Stats-wise, Axe is the strongest hero in the game. This isn’t to say that the total on his stats is the highest, as Bristleback‘s numbers also add up to 20 and Tidehunter even goes to 21. With Axe, however, it’s more about how these numbers are distributed.
- With 7 attack, Axe can kill 21 of Artifact’s 48 heroes in a single blow, and 26 more more over two turns. Only one hero, Tidehunter, can withstand more than two attacks from Axe.
- With 2 armor and 11 health, there is no hero that can kill Axe in a single blow, not even an 11 attack Bounty Hunter.
- Axe’s signature card, Berserker’s Call, is a power area-of-effect board clear. It’s a unique and outstanding tool for the red color, which isn’t supposed to have such board clear mechanics in the first place by design.
That said, Axe is a no-brainer addition to red decks, as none of the other heroes with the exception of perhaps Legion Commander, offer such value for money. Axe remains as the best hero in the game to have on the “flop” (that is — the initial deployment phase), because he can’t be killed “for free” or in fact easily chased away.
The statline of Axe alone makes him a top of the line hero, but where he truly shines is Berserker’s Call, his signature card. Berskerker’s Call value comes from it breaking the design norm of its color. Red is made to rely on strong heroes and effective statlines moreso than spells. Red wants to win by trial in combat, not by playing cards in the action phase and removal cards — and especially area-of-effect removal cards — are reserved for blue and black.
Berserker’s Call manages to turn red’s best asset (strong heroes) into a two-for-one killing tool. At times, Berserker’s Call will be even more powerful than Annihilation, Eclipse or Chain Frost, opening attack lines while crippling the enemy board.
Countering Axe in Artifact
Due to how powerful he is as a body, Axe doesn’t have direct counters, as in there is no single strategy that directly cripples the hero. However, there are many ways to get him out of lane or circumvent him and from there to win the game.
- Use heroes that trade equally with Axe — There are a handful such heroes in the game, but fortunately they are good enough by themselves to warrant their inclusion in a deck. Black’s Phantom Assassin and Red’s Bristleback are the best examples, as they trade one-for-one with Axe over two turns, all else being equal.
- Phantom Assassin — PA’s Coup de Grace is the most efficient way to get rid of a hero, Axe included. The longer the game goes and the more items a hero equips, the harder it is to kill them with just damage. Coup de Grace circumvents that and straight up condemns the hero and not even Axe can say no.
- Bristlback — While Bristleback trades one-for-one with Axe at the start, he is a hero that grows progressively more powerful the more heroes he kills. A good strategy to fight Axe head on and win is to get him to face your Bristleback. Then, right before the decisive battle, use items to heal up your Bristleback, have him survive and collect the +2 armor bonus. Once at 8/2/12, Bristleback will now trade favourably against Axe.
- Gank him — Wait for Axe to sustain some damage and then use some of the stronger black heroes to Gank him. You will get the best value if you use an already heavily injured hero to perform the killing or pair Gank with unwounded Phantom Assassin to kill Axe while keeping your hero alive.
- Abandon the Axe lane — Axe is designed to snowball lanes and win them by himself. If this was any other it would’ve been a critical problem. Artifact, however, only asks you that you win two of the lanes, or sometimes even just one. Therefore, a common strategy is to just ignore problematic heroes and leave them stranded on the lane they’ve won. If you don’t put resources into the Axe lane, your opponent will either have to choose to stay there and try to rush down the Ancient tower (not very effective with Axe); or evacuate Axe with Blink Dagger or Town Portal Scroll — plays that require a gold investment.
- Use more hard and soft removal — building upon the Coup de Grace approach, non-damage removal will always be good against Axe. Unconditional killing tools like Annihilation will get rid of the red monster with ease, alongside everything else on the lane. Cards like Intimidation, on the other hand, can shove Axe in a bad lane for him where he can’t do as much damage.
Use in decks
Axe best shines in proactive decks, meaning ones that like to go on the offense and thrive in combat.
In the current constructed meta, there are a number of decks that use Axe on the flop.
- The standard red/green midrange/ramp deck. The list was one of the most popular early on in the beta and after Artifact’s launch and is still a great deck to play. It relies on value heroes and minions to win battles and ramps up to Time of Triumph as one of the win conditions.
- Black/red aggro decks also use Axe on the flop. A recent popular version was created by SK Telecom T1’s Frederik “Hoej” Nielsen. In it, Axe is used as a lane-winning hero, who in turn enables tower-melting cards like Sorla Khan and Disciple of Nevermore to come in and turn a won lane into a won game.
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