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Slay the Spire: Tips for Beginners

Slay the Spire is essentially the father of the roguelike deck builder genre. Many similar games have come about since the game first launched (a fact for which I am very grateful), but Slay the Spire is still the most popular. For those who are unfamiliar with the genre and its somewhat unique conventions, we’ve put together this list of beginner tips for Slay the Spire! We’ll cover a handful of tricks to help you navigate the spire and hopefully not die too much.

Let’s get started!

Slay the Spire | 5 Tips for Beginners

As a quick disclaimer, this particular guide is meant for true beginners. You won’t find the best deck builds or specialized tips for each character in Slay the Spire here (stay tuned, though!). Instead, these tips are dedicated to helping you figure out the core gameplay loop and how to make the most of each, basic run in Slay the Spire.

With that in mind, let’s jump in.

1. Get ready to die (a lot)

A hallmark of roguelike games is that you don’t have lives, and you don’t have respawn points. If you die, you have to start over from scratch with a new run. It’s brutal, but it’s what you signed up for.

The key is that you’re meant to play a lot, learning a little more from each new run. The more you play, the more familiar you become with the different cards, bosses, and relics the game throws at you. You’ll start to learn which things synergize well, which strategies work best against certain enemy types.

Most importantly, you’ll learn which tradeoffs are worth it in the end. For example, is it really worth losing 14 HP to upgrade two random cards in your deck right now? HP is crucial, and your deck has a lot of nothing cards in the early game (more on both of those things later). Sometimes it’s best to play it a little safe, and multiple runs will teach you where your sacrifices will mean the most.

If the idea of having to start over a bunch sounds daunting, let me assure you that it is worth it. Eventually, you will have that one crazy game where you manage to one-round that Act 3 boss!

2. Keep a close eye on your HP

It’s become the rule (rather than the exception) these days that HP heals over time, and that even non-tank characters have a decent amount of HP. This is not the case in Slay the Spire. The tankiest class you can play is the Ironclad, who starts out with 80 HP. Stacking the right buffs can get you as high as 100 HP or more, but that’s not super common. What is common is for later-game bosses to deal 50+ damage on some of their attacks.

It’s also worth noting that healing is rare in Slay the Spire. There are a few potions and cards that can heal you, but they’re rare enough that you shouldn’t count on them. The most consistent form of healing is from campsites (the fire icons on the map), but choosing to heal means giving up on upgrading one of your cards. You have to give up one benefit for another.

All of this is to say that HP is important in Slay the Spire, and you actually need to factor that into your long-term plans with deck-building and route planning. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to focus on decks with a good balance of offense and defense, otherwise that HP will run out right quick.

3. Take calculated risks

Slay the Spire is fundamentally a game of balancing risk and reward. When you begin a new Act, you’ll be able to see all the rooms on your map and plan your route accordingly. Depending on your goal for a given run, you can choose which elite enemies, shops, and campsites to hit. This largely lets you determine what you’ll encounter in the game, and when.

In our last tip, we mentioned the risk/reward tradeoff as it applies to healing or upgrading your cards at campsites. Even more important, however, is taking on the risk of elite encounters. Defeating an elite enemy earns you more gold than a normal encounter, and grants you a relic on top of your usual card rewards. Relic effects range from improved card draw at the start of the battle to healing you when you use potions, from permanently increasing your strength to temporarily upgrading certain cards, and much more. Relics can drastically increase your power during a run, but they are random — sometimes they won’t help your current build at all.

Because of how impactful (and just downright fun) relics can be, you might be tempted to jump at every elite encounter on your map in order to maximize your rewards and get stronger. But you should keep in mind that elite encounters are aptly named. Those fights are hard, and usually cost you a fair bit of HP, if they don’t just kill you outright. This is not to say that elite encounters should be avoided at all costs (in fact, some will be unavoidable). Just take care to evaluate when you can afford to pick an elite route and when you should avoid them.

Ultimately, the key top on how to win Slay the Spire is to figure out how much risk you can get away with in order to maximize your power without getting yourself killed.

4. Don’t be afraid to scrap cards

Unsurprisingly, deck building is important in a deck building game. Your starting deck will vary from class to class, but will be around ten cards, give or take. Most of these will be evenly split between Strikes (low-cost attacks) and Blocks (low-cost defense), with the remaining 1–2 being class-specific cards. Every time you win a fight, you get to choose one of three new cards to add to your deck. You can also buy cards from merchants and get them from certain “?” room events.

It might be very tempting to just grab every fun-looking card you’re offered, but don’t fall for that trap. As it turns out, one of the most powerful things in Slay the Spire is the ability to remove cards from your deck. There is even an achievement for winning with a five card or less deck (and let me tell you that is hard to achieve, indeed).

Don’t run too far in the opposite direction and never pick up cards, though. That’ll just leave you with a weak deck. Instead, get yourself a focused strategy, acquire some key cards to enable said strategy, then (ideally) remove less efficient options from your deck to make it as consistent as possible. The more you play, the better you will get at evaluating the strength of cards.

Ultimately you want to keep your deck size as low as possible while still being functional. Remember, if your deck only has five cards, but they are all really strong and synergize well with each other, then you don’t need any others. You’ll get to play all five of those cards every turn and repeat your brutal combo each time.

5. Keep your options open

If you’re trying to play optimally in Slay the Spire, you want to avoid the trap of committing too early to one specific deck archetype and refusing to draft any cards that don’t fit your build. Personally, I do this very thing quite a lot, but the strategy often leads to either getting decently lucky with your card offerings or dying early.

To give yourself the best chance of succeeding in Slay the Spire, you want to be flexile with which cards you add to your deck. If you’re playing the Silent, for example, you might get an incredibly strong poison card early on and want to build your deck around it, but the game keeps offering you really good shiv related cards. If you stubbornly refuse to take any non-poison cards, then not only will you miss out on a strong deck being offered to you, but you won’t improve your own deck and most likely lose quickly. Be willing to change your strategy when a better one presents itself!

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That’s it for our list of Slay the Spire beginner tips — thanks for reading! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with future guides on Slay the Spire and your other favorite games.

Happy gaming!


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