The rules for a colored artifacts are consistent with those for artifacts. Colored artifacts appear in frames that have elements of both artifact cards and colored cards. Besides the frame, you can tell that the card is colored by checking its mana cost, and you can tell that the card is an artifact by checking its type line.
The only difference between a colored artifact and a colorless artifact is, obviously, its color. Unlike most artifacts, a colored artifact requires colored mana to play. Also unlike most artifacts, a colored artifact has a color in all zones. It will interact with cards that care about color. Other than that, a colored artifact behaves just like any other artifact. It will interact as normal with any card that cares about artifacts, such as Shatter or Arcbound Ravager.
The Dissension expansion introduced the concept of colored artifacts with Transguild Courier, which did not not yet require colored mana to cast. The Future Sight expansion's Sarcomite Myr was the first and only artifact card at the time of the set's release to require colored mana for its casting cost. The Shadowmoor expansion's Reaper King was the first artifact card with a hybrid mana cost that contained colored mana symbols, but which enabled players to not have to pay any colored mana to cast the card due to the specifics of the card's hybrid mana cost.
The use of colored artifacts as a game concept was taken even further in Esper shard theme of Shards of Alara, which was the first expansion to contain many artifacts that require specific colors of mana to cast. The entire Alara block prominently featured colored artifacts that require colored mana to cast. Colored artifacts returned in New Phyrexia, each costing Phyrexian mana to cast. Artifacts with colored mana in their casting costs have appeared only a few times since New Phyrexia. Theros had a cycle of colored artifact enchantments while Journey into Nyx included the colored artifact equipment Godsend. Kaladesh introduced the Gearhulk cycle, one colored artifact in each color. War of the Spark as well had one colored artifact in each color. By Core Set 2020 they had become deciduous.
Gameplay & Design
Colored artifacts function very similarly to enchantments. The main distinction is flavor and what cards can destroy it. Artifacts are also tapped when they are activated, while Enchantments aren't; a divide that gives artifacts cheaper, once-per-cycle use, while enchantments get weaker, repeatable abilities.
Because traditional artifacts with colorless casting costs can be played by any color, they have a limited design space, and they often must be inefficient to avoid breaking the color pie. Using colored mana in an artifact's casting cost opens up design space for more interesting or efficient artifacts because they can be limited to the color(s) where their effect is appropriate. This is most critical for equipment and vehicles, two artifact-exclusive subtypes; compare Crystal Slipper to Swashbuckling and Strider Harness. Colored artifacts are now considered deciduous. R&D has slowly been ramping up colored artifacts and has concluded that the majority of players seem fine with them.
With Zendikar Rising's "snap-on" Equipment, where all Equipment attaches upon entry, and many of them being colored, the line between Equipment and Auras have been blurred further. Notably, Zendikar Rising is the first set since Scars of Mirrodin where no Auras were designed to be placed on one's own creatures due to this prevalence of Equipment.
- 301.4. Artifacts have no characteristics specific to their card type. Most artifacts have no colored mana symbols in their mana costs, and are therefore colorless. However, there is no correlation between being colorless and being an artifact: artifacts may be colored, and colorless objects may be card types other than artifact.
- Colored Artifacts were featured as rules card 2 of 5 in the Shards of Alara set.
- Mark Rosewater (September 22, 2008). "Shard Tricks". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (June 22, 2019). "As they become more “normal,” do you think colored artifacts continue to have a special frame?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Magic Arcana (April 25, 2006). "The Gold Artifact". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Doug Beyer (September 17, 2008). "Time for Esper". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (April 25, 2011). "Phyrexian Powers: International Mana Mystery". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (June 24, 2019). "Core Than Meets The Eye". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (September 11, 2018). "If colored artifacts really are the future, how are you going to distinguish them from enchantments?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater (March 25, 2019). "How has R&D’s philosophy on that front changed?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Sam Stoddard (September 30, 2016). "Artifacts and Color Identity". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (August 22, 2016). "Would you consider colored artifacts to be deciduous?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
- Mark Rosewater (2019-03-25). "Storm Scale: Kaladesh and Amonkhet". magicthegathering.com. Wizards of the Coast.
- Mark Rosewater (March 25, 2019). "do you forsee any problems with colored artifacts diluting the flavor of artifacts or not really satisfying players who like artifact sets?". Blogatog. Tumblr.