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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Final Battle

Ganondorf sneers at the young princess. "You can't rely on anyone. Putting your faith in 'friends' is just exposing your back to a knife."

Zelda looks back at her friends.
Link, battered and bloodied, but still struggling to rise and fight.

Impa, one arm badly broken, readying a throwing dagger in the other.

Darunia and the other Goron, pinned under a fallen stone column, methodically breaking it with their fists to free themselves.

Ruto, her magic spent, weakly gripping a trident and resolutely marching towards their foe.
The princess turns back to Ganondorf. Half closing her eyes for just a moment, she focuses, drawing on the energy of the Triforce, pulling power from herself, from her love for her friends, from her hope for a better future.
"It's dangerous to go alone," she says. "Take THIS!"

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Advice for Game Masters: Play With The Players

Tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Vampire: The Masquerade, and many more are seeing a huge surge in popularity, and rightfully so. Imagination and roleplaying are important parts of learning, self-discovery, and social exploration. More importantly, TTRPGs fun! 

Collaborative storytelling is part of human nature, and roleplaying games provide structure for that kind of narrative play. Hit shows such as Critical Role have helped bring roleplaying into mainstream popular culture, enticing many new players to explore the wonders to be had in these kind of games.

Most TTRPGs require a Game Master, or GM, to guide the story. The GM is not the boss, but is a team leader who acts as the rules arbitor and who controls all characters not controlled by the players. They set the scenes and present the problems to which the players respond. It's a lot of work, but can be very rewarding.

In this series, I would like to provide some useful advice for Game Masters that want to provide a fun, safe, and engaging experience for their players. This advice will primarily be aimed at GMs who are already familiar with the system in which they will be playing and are hoping to up their game. This will also be skewed towards D&D fantasy-style games, mostly because that's what I've been able to get my players to play, but can of course be adapted for other settings.


When looking to start a new campaign, one of the first tasks to solve is providing a reason for all the player characters (PCs) to come together for their adventure. This can be difficult, as the players may not have created their characters yet. Even if they have, the characters may or may not already canonically know each other. Some of them may want to play curmudgeonly, "lone wolf", or introverted characters. It can be difficult to find a narrative reason for all the characters to band together.

I suggest building the beginning of the campaign around a specific non-player character (NPC) who knows all the PCs, or around a specific location which all the PCs have a reason to visit. Give the players plenty of latitude on how they know this NPC or why they are at this location. 

Some quick examples:

  • A wealthy merchant wants to hire some people they trust as escorts through treacherous territory
  • A member of the nobility is appointed as regent, and needs some capable people to help them establish good relationships with potential allies
  • The characters all have different reasons to visit the university, not knowing that it is about to be attacked by a group hoping to raid the magical tomes
  • The characters all attend the wedding of a noted adventurer, but the wedding is attacked by the adventurer's old nemesis, and the PCs must work together to escape alive
  • The characters all happen to be attending funerals at a large cemetery when the dead begin to rise
  • The characters are all sailing on a colony ship to start new lives when pirates attack
Give the players prompts relevant to the opening of the story. "Why does this merchant trust you?" "Why are you at the university?" "Why did you receive an invitation to this wedding?" Be sure to leave the players plenty of room to build their own unique backstories, while giving them a hook to incorporate the character into the narrative.

Keep in mind that these are initial story hooks to pull your players into an adventure together. The campaign can revolve around a different set of circumstances, but you should have an initial inciting incident that unites the PCs.


Your players often put time and effort into their backstories and want to see that effort pay off in the game. Whatever your initial story hook may be, don't invalidate that effort. 

I once had a GM who, in the first session, had all of our characters "killed" by a giant Cthuluian creature and wake up on a completely different world. Suddenly, the fact that my character had run away from home to be with her lesbian lover didn't matter. It was frustrating to discover that my character's backstory simply didn't matter, as we got railroaded into an entirely new location.

The big rule of TTRPGs is "Yes, and...." Don't negate what the players say about their characters. Take what the players give you and expand upon it.


The players are going to come up with weird and unexpected ideas. Don't ignore those! Use them!

Are your players convinced that the guy who hired them is a vampire? Maybe he is... but why are the players suspicious? Take their reasons and play with them. The NPC never seems to eat or sleep, and has very stiff mannerisms? He is, in fact, a golem, a simulacrum of the real person.

A player is convinced that her character found a powerful magical artifact? Maybe she did! You could build a huge story arc around discovering the true power of this artifact and protecting it from those who would exploit it for nefarious purposes. Could it distract from the main plot you've been developing? Perhaps, but if it seems like it will be fun for you and your players, give them a "Yes, and" and follow the new thread.

A player thinks their father is the Big Bad Evil Guy? What makes them think that? Could they be right? If they're not, could their father at least be involved in some way? That's some juicy drama that you could incorporate into the game!


You're going to put in a lot of prep work to try to give your players a fun and satisfying game session. And that work is very appreciated! Just keep in mind that things are going to come up during gameplay that will send things off course. Be prepared to roll with the twists that your players send your way. Their ideas will often create wonderful new story arcs!

Go in prepared, have a plan, and then improvise when the need inevitably arises. Your players have as much say about where the story goes as you do. Follow what interests them, rather than force them toward what interests you.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Slaying the Spire for Fun and Profit, Part 5: The Watcher


I'll be honest, I have not found a lot of good strategies with the Watcher. Her cards are very conditional. Apply 2 Vulnerable IF the last card you played a Skill. Apply 1 Weak IF the last card you played was an Attack. If the previous card played was a Skill, draw 2 cards. 

It's just a real house of cards that feels very fragile. You need to draw and play the correct cards in the correct order, otherwise they are underpowered. That wouldn't be a problem, accept that the effects don't always feel powerful even after jumping through all the necessary hoops.

The Watcher has, unequivocally, the weakest starting relic in the game. Pure Water adds a single Miracle card to your hand at the start of combat. Miracles, like a lot of Watcher cards, have Retain, meaning they stay in your hand instead of being discarded at the end of the turn. That one Miracle card gives you a boost of 1 energy, once, before being Exhausted and leaving your deck for the rest of the fight. So basically the Watcher gets 1 extra energy per fight, maybe, if she needs it.

The Watcher introduces Stances, which grant her different abilities during combat:

  • Calm stance: No effect while in Calm. When you leave Calm, gain 2 energy.
  • Wrath stance: Deal AND receive double damage.
  • Divinity stance: When you enter this stance, gain 3 energy. Deal triple damage. Leave this stance at the start of your next turn.
Quite a few cards allow you to enter Calm or Wrath. Divinity takes more work. You have to gain 10 Mantra, which is generated by various cards, in order to enter Divinity. When you do, you lose 10 Mantra. It's a lot of work, and hopefully a big payoff; if you don't have very many Attack cards in hand when you enter Divinity, you'll have just spend a lot of turns and cards for very little advantage.

I have found this to be the case with a lot of Watcher cards--a lot of effort, not necessarily a big payoff. She feels very inconsistent. And in a game like Slay the Spire, when you're limited on when you can heal, consistency is important.

I did do well with this strategy, though:


The Watcher introduces a mechanic called Scry. Scry lets you look at the top few cards of your deck, then dump any number of them into your discard pile. It can let you dig past the chaff, like Strike and Defend, to get to your good cards. 

Cut Through Fate, Just Lucky, and Third Eye are easy to acquire cards which provide acceptable value for their energy cost while letting your Scry as a bonus. Foresight can be more difficult to obtain, but is a nice inexpensive 1-energy Power card that lets you Scry 3 each turn.

There are two important payoff cards for the Scry deck: Weave and Nirvana.

Weave is your damage payout. It's a 0-cost attack that plinks enemies for 4 damage (6 upgraded). It also returns to your hand for more damage each time you Scry. With enough Scry cards, you can Scry two to four times a turn. If you're returning 1 to 3 copies of Weave each time, that adds up to a lot of damage.

Nirvana is your defensive payout. For just 1 energy, you get a Power card that grants 4 Block every time you Scry. Again, with the amount of Scrying you hope to do, you can get 4-12 Block a turn without breaking a sweat, more if you can get multiple copies of Nirvana.

Of the two, Weave I think is the more important payout card to acquire. You can scrounge up Block in other ways, such as with Third Eye, but your damage output is going to be very poor if you don't manage to scoop up a copy or two of Weave with the archetype.

The nice thing about this strategy is that, when the elements come together, you have a great mix of offense and defense. You can consistently dish out decent damage while putting up a good defense. It feels very balanced.


I will freely admit that the above strategy is the only one that I have successfully used to beat the game. I have made quite a few Watcher runs in Slay the Spire, and nearly all of them have eventually stumbled. However, Mantra decks seem feasible, if you can get a good mix of three types of cards: Mantra-generators, card draw, and big attacks. 

Prostrate and Devotion are good ways to consistently generate Mantra. Pray feels like a dangerous way to generate Mantra, as it does not provide any attack or defense for its cost of 1 energy; this means that there will be turns when you cannot afford to use it. However, Pray does provide some card-draw, which is important.

Once you generate 10 Mantra and enter Divinity, you want to be able to use the energy and the boost to your attacks. Brilliance is a good damage payoff, easily dealing 70+ damage on the turn you enter Divinity for just 1 energy. However, you need to have your damage payoffs in-hand on the turn that you enter Divinity. This makes any card draw, especially cheap card draw, very important to this deck type.

Wheel Kick is both damage and card draw, which makes it ideal for this kind of deck. 

Ragnarok is a fantastic damage payout.

Cards that generate Insight, like Evaluate, Pray, and Study, let you stockpile 0-cost card drawing with Retain until the turn you need them.

Colorless cards like Secret Weapon let you fetch your best damage cards out of your deck on the turn you go off.

I have found that this decktype can take a lot of punishment while it sets up. There are enemies that just won't give you the three to five turns you need to come online. Thus, reaching the end is very difficult. However, if you are able to assemble a Mantra deck that goes all the way, please let me know in the comments!

Other Ideas

The Wrath deck is an obvious idea and has plenty of good setup cards, like Rushdown, Simmering Fury, and Indignation. 

There are plenty of good inexpensive ways to enter Wrath, and if you're transitioning from Calm into Wrath, you'll have extra energy for throwing powerful attacks at the enemies. Be careful, though. Wrath giveth, and Wrath taketh away. If you don't finish off the enemies right away, you'll likely take a LOT of extra damage. 

Omega decks feel very powerful once you complete your setup. I have found setup to be unbearably slow sometimes, which means that, as with most
Watcher decks, you'll be taking a lot of hard knocks while you build towards your payout. With Omega decks, you want to pick up one or more copies of Alpha.

Alpha puts Beta into your draw pile. Once you draw Beta, you play it for 2 energy to shuffle an Omega into your deck. Omega is a MASSIVE payout--a 3-energy Power that deals a whopping 50 damage each ALL enemies EVERY turn. I keep trying this deck type, and it's never quite come together for me; I just can't find the right mix of card-draw and defense. I'll keep trying, though!

I'm also interested in making Big Energy decks work. The Watcher has a lot of energy generation with cards like Deva Form and Deus Ex Machina. Combine these with payouts like Conjure Blade, Vault, and Omniscience, and you could have a very powerful deck. Again, though, my attempts thus far require too much setup time to withstand all the attacks that enemies can throw in the first few turns.

Final Thoughts

These are by no means the only deck types available for each character. However, I hope this helps give you ideas of new decks to try. Slay the Spire is a very fun roguelike cardbuilding game. I highly recommend you try it out if you haven't already. 

Let me know in the comments what deck types you've enjoyed!

Slaying the Spire for Fun and Profit, Part 4: The Defect


The Defect has some of the strongest Power cards in the game, and has incredibly good passive damage. It has an intriguing starting relic, Cracked Core, which is your introduction to one of the Defect's primary mechanics, Orbs. 

Orbs float about the Defect's head and have passive abilities. They also have an ability when "Evoked" or consumed for a one-time effect. The Defect can increase the power of Orbs by gaining Focus, the same way that Strength increases the power of Attacks.

Cracked Core lets you start each fight with one Lightning Orb, which deals 3 damage to a random enemy each turn. Without help from Power cards and relics, the Defect can have up to 3 Orbs in play each turn. Because Orbs are such a unique part of the Defect's kit, we'll go over the different effects briefly.

  • Lightning Orbs: Deal 3 damage to a random enemy each turn. Deal 8 damage to a random enemy when Evoked.
  • Frost Orbs: Gain 2 Block. Gain 5 Block when Evoked.
  • Dark Orbs: Store 6 damage. Deal damage to the lowest-health enemy equal to the damage stored when Evoked.
  • Plasma Orbs: Gain 1 energy at the start of the turn. Gain 2 energy when Evoked.
The Defect has cards that can Evoke its Orbs, but it can also Evoke Orbs simply by generating more Orbs than it has capacity for.

Below are three of my favorite Defect strategies.


As mentioned, the Defect has some of the strongest Power cards in the game. Its Power cards tend to feed each other very well. You can build an extremely good deck with almost nothing but Power cards.

The Power.dek strategy has two major payoff cards: Storm and Heatsinks. Storm allows you to generate Lightning Orbs each time you play a Power card. Heatsinks draws you cards each time you play a Power card, which hopefully draws you into more Power cards, which generate more Lightning Orbs and draw you more cards... Wash, rinse, repeat.

Another important payoff card in this strategy is Force Field, which gains you 12 Block, and which costs less and less energy as you play more Power cards. Once you've played 4 or more Power cards, Force Field is hefty 12 Block for 0 energy. Combine this with Hologram, which gains you Block and returns a card from your discard pile to your hand, and you can rapidly and repeatedly generate a lot of block while your Lightning does its job.

Alongside your payoff cards, you can pick up a lot of great Power cards that offer combat utility. Loop is only 1 energy and will cause your Orbs to trigger multiple times. Self Repair gains some of your life back at the end of combat. Buffer blocks incoming damage. Machine Learning lets you draw additional cards--hopefully more Power cards! 

Static Discharge causes you to generate Orbs whenever you take damage--this is particularly powerful against enemies who attack for small amounts of damage multiple times, as they can end up taking way more damage than they've dealt.

There are some great Skill cards for this archetype, too. White Noise generates a random Power card for you. It will almost always be a good card, and it will cost 0 energy to play that turn. Amplify doubles your next Power card. So if you Amplify your Storm, you'll play Storm, then play a copy of Storm and immediately gain a Lightning Orb, and from then on, all Power cards will generate 2 Orbs!

Because your primary damage output is from Lightning Orbs, Electrodynamics is a huge pickup for this deck. Instead of holding your breath and hoping that the Lightning will strike the target that you need to die, Lightning Orbs will start hitting EVERY enemy. This massively increases your damage output when facing multiple enemies.

One card I would discourage you from using is Hello World. It adds random Common cards to your hand each turn. This usually just fills your hand and deck with junk that does not fit your strategy. It IS a cheap Power, so if you're desperate for 1-energy Power cards, it's not completely useless, but I would recommend avoiding it and just picking up cards that contribute to your strategy.

If you are interested in having random cards added to your hand, though, Creative AI specifically adds Power cards to your hand every turn, AND those Power cards are not limited to Common cards, which means you can strike gold and hit some really good cards. This is a much better card for Power.dek. You can guarantee that you'll trigger your Storms and Heatsinks each turn, and occasionally you'll hit really strong Power cards like Echo Form, Electrodynamics, or Biased Cognition.

Hologram is a good pickup for this deck, especially if you can upgrade it.  Hologram lets you repeatedly replay Force Fields and other defensive cards, or scoop up a Power card from your discard pile that you didn't have the energy to play the previous turn.

Panache and Sadistic Nature can be decent cards for this strategy, if for no other reason than they're 0-energy Power cards that can trigger your payoff cards like Storm and Heatsinks.


The Blizzard! deck is just so fun and satisfying when you can assemble the pieces for it. The big payoff card is the eponymous Blizzard, which deals 2 (or 3 when upgraded) damage to each enemy for every Frost Orb you have generated during the fight. Combine that with a whole bunch of cards that generate Frost Orbs, and you can build up a high amount of Block each turn, while dishing out increasingly high damage with Blizzard.

This strategy is surprisingly difficult to assemble. It is VERY easy to pick up cards like Cold Snap, Coolheaded, or Glacier to generate Frost Orbs while providing useful effects. Strangely, I've found that it's difficult to consistently acquire a copy or two of

Blizzard to tie the deck together. Blizzard is an Uncommon card, which means it's less frequent, but should come up more often than I feel it does. I bring this up because it can be difficult to force this archetype. If the cards just aren't coming, you'll have to be willing to pivot into a different strategy.

Having said that, this deck really doesn't need a lot to do well. Pick up a copy or two of Blizzard, snag some cards that generate Frost Orbs, scoop up some ways to boost your Focus, and you've got a strong defensive deck that will quickly ramp up to dealing 30-40 damage a turn to each enemy.  

Forethought is a good colorless card for this deck. You need time to generate Frost Orbs before playing Blizzard for value. Forethought puts a Blizzard on the bottom of your draw pile, so you can play your Frost cards before finally drawing Blizzard and playing it for 0 energy.

All For One

This is perhaps my favorite archetype. It's just so much fun when it comes together! 

The idea behind this deck is to play a lot of 0-cost cards, like FTL, Beam Cell, Go for the Eyes, upgraded Zap, and the almighty Claw. These cards deal small amounts of damage on their own, but have useful effects, such as debuffs, card draw, generating Lightning Orbs, or ramping into more damage as the fight continues. Dig for more 0-cost cards with Scrape if you must.

Once your discard pile is full of great 0-cost card, hit an enemy with All for One. This will bring all those nice little cards back to your hand for another round of fun. Apply more Vulnerable and Weak, deal more damage, draw more cards, charge up Claw, and have a ball.

Hologram, as always, is great for this deck. Recur copies of Claw to charge them up, or bring back All for One for more fun and happiness!

This archetype absolutely needs All for One to get through the later acts, but works pretty well early on just on the strength of its attacks. You'll probably want some card draw, like Machine Learning or Coolheaded, and keep in mind that your damage output can be incredible, but you won't always have good defense on the turns when the enemies hit your hard.

There are plenty of good colorless cards for this strategy, like Flash of Steel, Finesse, Bandage Up, and Good Instincts. And of course, Panache, mentioned in the Shiv section of the Silent, is incredible, as it is very easy for this deck to trigger it once or twice in a turn. Sadistic Nature is also good. You have a lot of ways to add Vulnerable and Weak with Beam Cell and Go for the Eyes, so Sadistic Nature will trigger regularly.

Other Ideas

The Defect can get a lot of mileage out of its Orbs. I have absolutely done well with Big Orb decks, which just continually generate Orbs with Chaos, Rainbow, etc., constantly cycling through the different effects to get a mix of offense and defense.

Dark.dek can be really fun, focusing on generating Dark Orbs and Evoking them for big damage. 

Thunder Strike can be a massive payoff card when you're generating a lot of Lightning Orbs. Late in the fight, you can easily cap enemies for 70+ damage. 

Don't discount Fission in a lot of Orb-related decks. It CAN look bad, because it clears out all your Orbs, but it also draws you a lot of cards and gives you a burst of energy, so you can immediately play more cards, generate more Orbs, and get your important key cards into play.

Slaying the Spire for Fun and Profit, Part 3: The Silent



The Silent can be a tricky character to play. She has some of the strongest defensive cards in the game, but can struggle to deal damage. Built well, however, she can wear down any enemy while taking little to no damage.

Her starting relic, Ring of the Snake, lets you draw 2 additional cards at the start of combat. This is weak early in the game, as the extra cards you draw are all weak starter cards. Later in the game, however, this can help you get set up quickly by drawing you into your key cards. 

I have found success with two very different strategies with the Silent.

The Silent has access to the Poison mechanic. An enemy who is Poisoned takes damage equal to their Poison level at the start of their turn, then their Poison level drops by 1. So an enemy with Poison 5 will take 5 damage before they attack, then their Poison level will decrease to 4.

What this means is that applying even small amounts of Poison can yield a significant amount of damage over time. Hit an enemy with one Deadly Poison and do literally nothing but block damage for the next few turns? The enemy will take 5, then 4, then 3, then 2, then 1 damage, for a total of 15 damage for just 1 energy. 
That's not bad, especially if you can ramp up the Poison counter instead of letting it tick down, or have cards and relics which interact with Poison.

The Poison deck wants a high amount of efficient defensive Skills, like Dodge and Roll, Leg Sweep, and my personal favorite Blur. Blur not only gives you 5 or 8 block, depending on whether or not it's upgraded, but prevents your Block from being removed at the start of your next turn. Normally, your Block only lasts through the enemy's next turn. With Blur, you can load up on Block and store it for the turn afterwards. Thus, you can get value out of the turns when you draw nothing but defensive cards, even if the enemy is not attacking you that turn.

In addition to defense, your deck also needs to (obviously) apply Poison. While Deadly Poison should be easy to pick up and is quite efficient, Noxious Fumes is your bread and butter. It applies 2 or 3 Poison each turn to every enemy, which starts small, but means that you're applying Poison faster than their Poison levels are ticking down. Initially, they'll only be taking a couple points of damage each, but as combat progresses, a single Noxious Fumes can deal hundreds of points of damage.

This archetype also benefits greatly from cards that apply Weak, for two major reasons. First, Weak decreases the amount of damage the enemy can dish out, which buys you time to assemble your defenses and begin applying Poison. Perhaps more importantly, though, cards that apply Weak help punch through an enemy's Artifact. 

Artifact is a buff that some tougher enemies have which prevents a debuff from being applied. Against these enemies, attempting to apply Weak with Neutralize, Sucker Punch, or Malaise will help clear out the Artifact and make way for your Poison. Subsequently, cards like Crippling Cloud can be absolutely clutch for this deck type.

Sadistic Nature is a strong colorless card for this deck type. It is a 0-mana Power, which makes it a very low investment, yet will trigger frequently as you apply Poison and Weak debuffs.


If Poison is too slow for you, perhaps you'll want to try the Shiv deck.  This archetype generates a high number of Shivs each turn and throws them at the enemies. Shivs are 0-energy attacks that deal 4 damage before vanishing in a puff of smoke. It's not a lot by itself, but if you can generate 8 or more of them each turn, you can dish out good damage.

In addition to the Shiv damage, this deck type abuses cards that scale based on the number of cards you play in a turn.

Key cards for generating Shivs will be Blade Dance, Cloak and Dagger, and Infinite Blades.  You'll likely want a mixture of each of these, as they each fill an important role. Cloak and Dagger serves as both offense and defense, giving you Block while creating one or two Shivs to throw at the enemies. Infinite Blades ensures that you'll always have at least one Shiv ready to go each turn. Blade Dance provides you with a big burst of Shivs for your One Big Turn.

Accuracy, of course, will greatly ramp up your damage output. With one Accuracy in play, a single Blade Dance can deal 24 damage for just 1 energy. Not bad at all!

(Note the image to the left is from an older version of Accuracy. The updated version increases Shiv damage by 4, or 6 when upgraded. Let me tell you, dealing 10 damage per Shiv feels EXTREMELY good!)

In addition to generating Shivs, you'll want to pick up cards and relics that reward you for playing a lot of cards in a single turn. Choke is a great example. Hit an enemy with Choke, then throw all your Shivs at a different target; the first enemy will lose 3 HP each time you play a card, and with Shivs, you can play a LOT of cards in one turn.

Finisher is also huge in this deck type. Finisher deals 6 damage to an enemy for each Attack that you played that turn. Since you could easily be chucking 5-10 Shivs in a turn, Finisher can rapidly, uh, finish off the monsters.

My two favorite cards for this archetype are A Thousand Cuts and After Image. They're both rare cards, so you aren't likely to get them right away, but they greatly enhance your deck's power later in the game. A Thousand Cuts is a Power that states, "Whenever you play a card, deal 1 damage to ALL enemies." Upgraded, this damage is increased to 2 per card. With A Thousand Cuts in play, just think of all the incidental damage you can deal with a turn of playing Burst, Blade Dance, Blade Dance, and 9 Shivs.

After Image can be an important piece of your defenses. Whenever you play a card, gain 1 Block. Not a lot by itself, but when you're playing 6-12 cards a turn, it adds up to a lot of incidental Block.

Keep in mind that this archetype, while strong, can be very reliant on Power cards or on drawing the right combination of Skill and Attack cards each turn. This can mean that you may need some time to set up before dishing out the damage. Be prepared to take some damage at the beginning of each combat as you get set up. You'll likely have to heal up at Rest Stops rather than upgrading your cards, unless you're able to acquire some good colorless healing cards or healing relics.

Speaking of colorless cards, Panache is incredible for this deck. Frankly, Panache is my favorite colorless card, and possibly my favorite card in Slay the Spire. It is VERY easy to trigger, often multiple times per turn, with this deck.

Other Ideas

The Silent has a few other strategies you can try. There's a discard-matters theme within the Silent's kit that seems interesting, but I've never been able to make work; it's possible that the payoff cards like Sneaky Strike and Eviscerate just aren't strong enough? If you get a good discard deck going, please let me know in the comments!

The Silent is also capable of drawing a lot of cards under the right circumstances, which makes Flechettes a really intriguing card that can potentially deal a lot of damage. I've had it do good things for me, but only as a part of a deck focused on other things. I'd love to see it used as a payoff card for a One Big Turn deck that draws lots of cards to load up on Skills.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Slaying the Spire for Fun and Profit, Part 2: The Ironclad



The Ironclad has, in my opinion, the strongest starting relic in the game. Burning Blood heals the Ironclad for 6 HP after each fight. This means that the Ironclad can make riskier plays and take damage, confident that they will recover some of the lost HP.

The Ironclad has, on average, the best Attack cards in the game. His defenses tend to be weaker, but he makes up for this both by healing, and by simply killing the enemies quickly, before they can injure him too much.  I have found two strategies for the Ironclad that have been successful:

Strength Ramp

This deck type relies on gaining high Strength as quickly as possible. Strength enhances the damage of your attacks.  A Strike, for example, normally deals a mere 6 damage for 1 energy. If the player has 3 Strength, though, that Strike will hit for a much more acceptable 9 damage.

The Ironclad has several options for gaining Strength. Some of my favorites are Flex and Ignite, but you will encounter others as you work through the game. 

For this strategy, try to pick up cards and relics that increase your strength. Additionally, look for cards that reward you for having high strength. The obvious card here is Heavy Blade, as high Strength significantly raps its damage. However, cards that hit multiple times, like Sword Boomerang and Twin Strike, also become much stronger when your Strength increases.

Because your defenses will be pretty weak, cards like Metallicize and relics like Orichalcum will be important for maintaining your HP. You may also want to pick up one or two copies of Reaper, which can hit for high damage (and therefore heal a lot of HP) once your Strength is ramped up.

This archetype can also heavily benefit from cards like Feed, which can permanently raise your current and max HP if you use it to kill an enemy. Wait until the opportune moment, then strike with a big Feed to gain a bigger health pool!

One important interaction to take advantage of: Flex + Limit Break.

Flex allows you to gain 2 Strength, but you lose 2 Strength at the end of the turn. It's a nice boost in Strength for 0 energy, which can make for some strong turns by itself, but it's only a temporary boost.

Limit Break doubles your Strength. If you play Flex and then Limit Break, you will gain 4 Strength, but still only lose 2 Strength at the end of the turn. This essentially makes the Flex boost permanent! 

Upgrade your Flex to give you a temporary 4 Strength, and upgrade your Limit Break so that it doesn't Exhaust, or leave your deck until the end of the fight. That way you can repeatedly combo these cards throughout the fight. It can be very easy to get 20 or more Strength very rapidly!

Because this deck tends to play a lot of 2- or 3-energy Attack cards, Mayhem can be a very strong colorless card to pick up if you have the opportunity. J.A.X. is also great, as it is a 0-energy card that boosts your Strength.

Fire Breathing/Evolve

The Fire Breathing deck can be tricky to assemble, but if you get the cards you need, it can dish out an absurd amount of damage to all enemies each turn.

The key to this deck is the card Fire Breathing, which deals 6 damage to each enemy every time you draw a Status or Curse card. The damage is increased to 10 if you upgrade the card, which you absolutely should, as it will be the primary source of damage in your deck.

Now, some enemies will very obligingly add Status cards to your deck as you fight them, such as Wound, Dazed, Slime, or Burn. You don't want to rely on this, though, so it's up to you to add Status cards to your deck yourself. You can also scoop up some Curse cards as you go along; they're not as bothersome for you as they are for other decks!

Cards like Immolate, Wild Strike, Power Through, and Reckless Charge allow you to add Status cards into your deck. They are also aggressively costed, dealing very high damage or providing very high block for the cost.

This means that you can often clear out smaller creatures or prevent a lot of damage while you get set up. Your deck does need time to draw and play Fire Breathing, and your "setup" cards which make Fire Breathing strong will also help you survive the early turns.

Once you have Fire Breathing in play (or hopefully two or three copies of it!), all you need to do to dish out damage is draw lots of cards. As you draw, Fire Breathing will dish out the damage to all enemies, and you can keep adding more Status cards to your deck for value until Fire Breathing takes care of things.

The best way to draw cards in this deck type?


Evolve draws you an extra cards every time you draw a Status card. Under normal circumstances, all this means is that you don't get punished by enemies who are shuffling Slime and Dazed and so forth into your deck.

In this Fire Breathing deck, though, drawing extra cards means dealing extra damage! An upgraded Evolve means drawing TWO cards each time you draw a Status card. Once you've set up with a couple copies of Fire Breathing and an Evolve, you can draw half of your deck or more each turn and easily dish out 30+ damage to all enemies, before having ever played any cards that turn!

Take note, Evolve does NOT trigger off Curse cards. Fire Breathing will still deal damage from Curse cards, so you can absolutely keep those Curses in your deck; just be aware that Evolve will only draw cards when you draw Wound, Dazed, Burn, Slime, Void, etc.

This strategy can be difficult to set up, as it requires some very specific cards, but is incredibly strong if you are able to acquire the pieces.

Other Ideas

I keep trying to make a Body Slam/Juggernaut deck, but it has yet to come together. It's possible the cards are a trap. While the Ironclad is capable of generating a massive amount of Block with cards like Barricade and Impervious, it's possible that overall the defensive Ironclad cards are just too weak to make a Block deck work.

The Ironclad also has a lot of cards built around Exhaust, which removes cards from your deck until the end of combat. Many of them are strong on their own, such as the aforementioned Reaper, or Exhume, which lets you get back one of your Exhausted cards. I'd really love to build a deck that exhausts a lot of cards, perhaps with Corruption, Fiend Fire, Second Wind, and/or Burning Pact, and just leave myself with a slim couple of cards that are real heavy hitters, like Carnage or Bludgeon.
There are a fair number of cards that reward you for Exhausting your cards, like Dark Embrace and Feel No Pain, but primarily I'd like to see a deck that just clears out almost all the cards in the deck and just continually play and redraw the same really strong cards. If anyone can do it, it would be the Ironclad.