In order to find success, you’re going to have to have some level of consistency and synergy in your decks. Each character has their own card libraries and a few relics unique to them, and some of these builds are more or less reliant on relics. One thing to keep in mind that there are no recommendations on how many of each card you should have in each deck. This is because you’ll never be able to get the “perfect” deck, or at least not reliably enough to warrant listing how many you should aim for. There are also cards that are good in just about any deck. For the Ironclad, Clothesline, Flex, Cleave, Shrug it Off, Pommel Strike, Thunderclap, Battle Trance, Infernal Blade, Seeing Red, Uppercut, Demon Form, and Offering are all generally good cards to pick up, especially when not going for a very specific build. For the Silent, these cards are Adrenaline, After Image, A Thousand Cuts, Backstab, Cloak and Dagger, Dagger Spray, Die Die Die, Escape Plan, Glass Knife, Malaise, Noxious Fumes, and Slice. For the Defect, consider Auto Shields, Ball Lightning, Beam Cell, Boot Sequence, Cold Snap, Core Surge, Double Energy, Echo Form, FTL, Fusion, Genetic Algorithm (if you can pick it up on the first or second act), Go for the Eyes, Hyperbeam (if you don’t want to focus on orbs), Leap, Melter, Reboot, Seek, Stack, and Turbo. Another important thing to consider is that the player should try and get rid of their base Strikes and Defends while climbing. Personally, if I’m picking up lots of defensive cards, I get rid of my Defends, and if picking up lots of Attacks, I focus on throwing out my Strikes. Personally, I’ve found that getting rid of Strikes and Defends is most important on the Defect. Each Strike and Defend has the same power across all three characters, but to me, it’s felt especially necessary on the Defect.
- CLASH & BASH
This build, available from the beginning, is the most simple and best way to kill the enemy. Clash, a card that costs 0 to play but can only be played if you only have attacks in your hand, deals 14 damage without being upgraded. This is more than double the standard Strike. Ironclad has a whole host of powerful attacks, but nothing makes a Goblin Nob more scared than an Ironclad staring him down with a hand full of Clashes. You’ll only want to focus on taking Clash, Thunderclap, and maybe a few Iron Waves in this build, making sure you avoid anything that gives you Curses or Status cards (these will make it so you cannot use Clash). While this build is very offensive, holding onto a few (not too many) Defends and Shrug it Offs means that you can play 2 Defends and 3 Clashes in one turn for 10 block and 42 damage.
Getting rid of your cards for the rest of a fight can seem counter-intuitive when you’ve spent time and resources curating them, but with one or two of the right relics, it really works. Charon’s Ashes and Dead Branch combo powerfully into an Ironclad deck that leans hard into exhausting. Feel No Pain and Corruption let you exhaust to your heart’s content, and Apparition adds a whole new layer of safety on top of being able to spam Defend and Shrug it Off’s for free. This deck is very reliant on the listed relics, but they are not necessary to make this build work.
- TURTLES ALL THE WAY UP
The Ironclad’s a simple man. He likes big weapons, but he also likes big shields. While Shrug it Off is arguably the best blocking card in the game, one can’t dismiss the sheer power behind Impervious, Entrench, Flame Barrier, and Ghostly Armor. There are plenty of powers and attacks that greatly aid in your attempts to be tougher than a literal tank, like Metallicize, Juggernaut, Body Slam, Iron Wave, and Barricade, which makes block not expire for the rest of combat. This build can be hard to pull off, especially since there are many enemies that are on timers. Some explode in your face, others will endlessly ramp up in damage. The damage on this build is generally low, and you’ll only find consistent success here with a relic like Bronze Scales.
Slay the Spire took an interesting stance on how poison works. At the end of your turn, each poisoned enemy takes as much damage as they have poison stacks, and then the number of stacks goes down by 1 on each enemy. As you can imagine, this can get out of hand fast. An enemy with 5 poison on them will take a total of 15 damage over 5 turns without you having to lift a finger, but why stop at 5 when you can put 90 poison stacks on an enemy and watch them wither away? This build is simple and not very set in stone. Any card that adds poison will work, though Catalyst and Noxious Fumes and the relics The Specimen, Snecko Skull, and Twisted Funnel will all make this build far more powerful.
Where the Ironclad exhausts cards, the Silent would rather just discard them. With relics like Tingsha and Tough Bandages, you can easily construct a deck that revolves around discarding cards. Acrobatics, Calculated Gamble, Concentrate, Dagger Throw, Eviscerate, Tools of the Trade, Tactician, and plenty more cards work in this versatile deck. While you technically don’t need Tingsha or Tough Bandages since discarding is generally associated with drawing or energy gain and can get you the perfect hand, each turn.
- STABBY, STABBY
The only thing the Silent loves more than poison is her knives. Many of her cards (and even a relic) give you handfuls of Shivs to stab your opponents with. Ninja Scroll can help immensely with Shiv decks, and while Accuracy seems like a no-brainer, I’ve found that it can slow you down more than it helps against non-boss fights. All the cards that give you Shivs (Blade Dance, Cloak and Dagger, Infinite Blades, and Storm of Steel) are pretty efficient even if Shivs aren’t a big part of your deck. They especially combo well into decks with Panache, one of my favorite cards.
- ORB SPAM
Whenever the Defect has no more slots for orbs and he gains another, he evokes it for a particularly powerful effect. Keeping a small number of orb slots while channeling a large number of orbs can give the player a deceptively large amount of damage and block each turn. Ball Lightning and Cold Snap are the bread and butter of this deck but Consume and even Darkness can work well. Dark orbs may not intuitively seem like a good choice for this build since they won’t stay out long enough to stack up damage, but even if it stays out for one turn, that’s 12 damage on the enemy with the lowest health. That kind of damage I wouldn’t scoff at, especially if a card reward offers no other good options for orbs. Focus does help here, but putting too much into Focus cards can take away from your ability to evoke and refill orb slots.
- NO COST? NO PROBLEM
The Defect features many versatile cards that have a cost of 0 Energy without even being upgraded. This build can be difficult to pull off since it relies on low-damage cards, but with enough Claws (your main damage source) and Go For The Eyes/Beam Cells to supplement power and slow the enemy down, you can easily drop large enemies. FTL and Seek are also good general-purpose ways to draw cards and get what you need; Claw, in this case. All For One (yes, it’s a BNHA reference) puts all your 0-cost cards from your discard pile into your hand and Scrape draws 3 cards, discarding any non-0-cost cards drawn this way. With these cards, spamming Claw becomes that much easier.
- BIG ORBS FOR BIG PROBLEMS
The antithesis of Orb Spam, this build focuses on getting lots of powerful orbs out to do your dirty work for you. Capacitor, Defragment, and Electrodynamics are all good choices if you want a really powerful array of orbs, and relics such as Data Disk, Inserter, and Runic Capacitor will give you free orb slots and Focus to help you get started each combat. Once you have ways to buff your orbs, it’s up to you to decide if you want more offensive channeling cards like Lightning Ball and Cold Snap, or more non-damaging options like Chill, Glacier, and Tempest.