In the roguelike deckbuilder Slay the Spire, you can chose between four characters for each run. Those are the Ironclad, the Silent, the Defect, and the Watcher. Of these four, the Ironclad is the most beginner-friendly and straightforward character — there’s a reason the game starts you off with him first. But this isn’t to say that you can just pick up the Ironclad and win effortlessly, nor is it to say that the Ironclad is a simple or boring character. In this Slay the Spire Ironclad guide, we’ll go over the basics of the character, as well as the two major gameplay strategies and his various builds.
Let’s get started!
Slay the Spire Ironclad Overview
As mentioned above, the Ironclad is your starting character in Slay the Spire. As you progress in the game, you unlock the other three. Ironclad is the best choice for an intro character. The Ironclad starts with 80 health, which is the highest starting health of any character.
Starting Relic: Burning Blood
The Ironclad gets the strongest starting relic, Burning Blood. Burning Blood heals you for 6 health at the end of each fight. As you can tell, the Ironclad is designed to be the tankiest character in the game, at least on a basic level. Each character has their own ways to tank, but the Ironclad does it the easiest and most straightforwardly.
The Ironclad Starting Deck
The Ironclad starts out with a deck of ten cards:
- (5) Strike: A 1-cost attack that deals 6 damage
- (4) Defend: A 1-cost skill that gains you 5 Block
- (1) Bash: A 2-cost attack that deals 8 damage and applies Vulnerable (target takes +50% damage)
As you can see, it is a deck fairly balanced between offense and defense, with a slight tilt towards offense.
Basic Ironclad Strategy
The basic Ironclad strategy is a simple one. As the starting deck suggests, you want to balance your offense and defense, blocking more strongly on turns when enemies have big attacks, then cracking back with some big hits of your own. But thanks to the starting relic Burning Blood, we can afford to be a bit more aggressive, since we have that healing.
Best Deck Builds for the Ironclad
The Ironclad’s best deck builds are basically the basic strategies taken to the extreme. In other words, you want to focus on an overwhelming offense that crushes both body and spirit, or an impenetrable defense that makes you all but untouchable. This being said, you will likely end up with a hybrid deck, at least in the beginning, as your card drops are largely subject to the whims of the RNG gods.
Body Slam Deck
The Body Slam build is based around a card of the same name. The idea behind this build is to get as much block as we can, then hit for a huge burst of damage to finish off our enemies.
Body Slam is obviously essential for this build, as the whole thing is literally based around the card. This 1-cost attack deals damage to an enemy equal to your current block. Upgrading Body Slam turns it into a 0-cost card, meaning we want several copies and to upgrade them early and often. The other essential cards vary based on whether or not you can assemble the basic version of this build, or the ultimate streamlined version of the build.
The strongest version of the Body Slam build I’ve ever made ran three upgraded copies of Body Slam and 3–4 upgraded copies of Shrug It Off. That was the whole deck. Shrug It Off is a 1-cost skill that gives you 8 block (11 when upgraded) and draws you a card. Because of the card draw, a deck like mine guarantees you hit all of your Body Slam+ cards while you have around 33 block, meaning each turn dishes out about 112 damage. But that is, of course, if you can make this hyper-streamlined version of the build.
Otherwise, you’ll also want Barricade. Barricade is a 3-cost power that prevents you from losing block at the end of your turn. When upgraded, it becomes a 2-cost card. This means you can really start to stack up the block, which is great for us.
The next cards to look out for are Entrench, a 2-cost skill (1-cost when upgraded) that doubles your block, and Ghostly Armor, a 1-cost skill that grants 10 block (13 when upgraded). It has the Ethereal quality, meaning it gets removed from the deck if you don’t play it. Finally, I want to highlight Metallicize, a 1-cost power that gives 3 block at the end of your turn (4 when upgraded).
There are no relics that are essential to this build, but there are a few I recommend keeping an eye out for:
- Anchor gives 10 block at the start of each battle.
- Oddly Smooth Stone gives +1 Dexterity at the start of each battle.
- Bottled Lightning/Tornado lets us choose a skill/power to always start in our opening hand.
- Horn Cleat grants 14 block on Turn 2.
- Captain’s Wheel grants 18 block on Turn 3.
- Black Blood replaces Burning Blood, and heals for 12 at the end of each battle instead of 6.
This is my favorite version of the block strategy for the Ironclad. I call it the Thorns build after the game’s Thorns mechanic, which deals damage to an enemy whenever they attack you. We also deal damage with relics and special abilities, which you’ll see below.
The most important card for this deck is Barricade, as it lets us store block between turns. As we mentioned above, this is a 3-cost power that becomes 2-cost when upgraded.
Our next key card is Juggernaut. This is a 2-cost power that deals 5 damage to an enemy whenever you gain block (7 damage when upgraded).
Flame Barrier is a 2-cost skill that grants 12 block and deals 4 damage to any enemy that attacks you during this turn. When upgraded, it grants 16 block and deals 6 retaliatory damage. It’s worth noting that each hit in a multi-hit attack will trigger the effect, meaning this card simply annihilates certain enemies. (I’m talking about you, you damn birds. You know what you did.)
Finally, I want to highlight Combust. This is a 1-cost power that deals 1 damage to you at the end of your turn, but also deals 5 damage to all enemies (7 when upgraded). If you have enough block stacked, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for you.
All the relics from the previous build are good here as well, especially Bottled Lightning and Tornado, as well as Black Blood. There are a few new ones I’d like to highlight, though:
- Bronze Scales gives us 3 stacks of Thorns, meaning we deal an additional 3 damage to an enemy whenever they hit you (or, more accurately, our block).
- Mercury Hourglass deals 3 damage to all enemies at the start of your turn.
- Stone Calendar triggers at the end of Turn 7 and deals 52 damage to all enemies.
Switching over to our DPS builds, we’ll first talk about the Strength build. Simply put, this is the build where we try to get as much Strength as possible and maximize its effectiveness with our deck.
Heavy Blade is the first card I want to highlight. This is a 2-cost attack that deals 14 damage, but is affected by Strength 3 times (5 when upgraded). If you have a way to stack up Strength (which we will), the damage gets crazy.
Next, I want to highlight all the multi-hit cards. These are great in this build because Strength will affect each individual hit on the card separately, so look for any card that attacks multiple times. But the best of these for our deck is Pummel. Pummel is a 1-cost attack that deals 2 damage to an enemy 4 times (5 if upgraded) and then Exhausts.
Next we have Inflame, a 1-cost power that grants 2 Strength (3 when upgraded). Straightforward. Get as many of these as you can.
Spot Weakness is a 1-cost skill that gives us 3 Strength (4 when upgraded) if the enemy we target is planning to attack us. And finally, Demon Form is a 3-cost power that gives us 2 strength at the start of each turn (3 when upgraded).
Akabeko makes your first attack in each combat deal 8 additional damage. This is fine on its own, but like Strength, it counts for each hit of our multi-hit cards (which we will have a lot of). If we open combat with a Pummel+, that’s 40 extra damage.
We also want Black Blood, obviously. Beyond that, here are the relics we’re looking for:
- Red Skull gives us 3 Strength as long as we are at 50% HP or less.
- Vajra gives us 1 Strength at the start of each combat.
- Bottled Flame lets us pick an attack card to start in our opening hand.
- Molten Egg auto-upgrades any attacks we add to our deck.
- Girya gives us the option at rest sites to gain a permanent 1 Strength (up to three times per run).
- Brimstone gives us 2 Strength at the start of each turn, but gives all our enemies 1 Strength as well.
The other Ironclad build I want to highlight in the DPS category is the Strike build. This build is centered around cards with Strike in the name for some interesting synergies.
Perfected Strike is the core of this build. It is a 2-cost attack that deals 6 damage, plus an additional 2 damage for each of card in your deck with with “Strike” in the name (3 additional damage if upgraded). Then we simply want to load up our deck with Strike cards (getting rid of all the other cards if we can).
But there is one non-Strike card I would recommend in this build, and that is Clash. Clash is a 0-cost attack that deals 14 damage (18 if upgraded), but can only be played if all other cards in our hand are attack cards. Ideally, this deck is all attack cards, making Clash great.
Most of the relics for this build are defensive or healing based. This is because we want only attack cards in our deck, so we need them in order to survive the run. Along with Black Blood, here are our recommendations:
- Anchor gives us 10 block on Turn 1.
- Blood Vial heals us for 2 at the start of each fight.
- Meal Ticket heals for 15 every time we enter a shop.
- Orichalcum grants us 6 block at the end of our turn (if we don’t already have any).
- Red Skull gives us 3 Strength as long as we are at 50% HP or less.
- Toy Ornithopter heals us for 5 whenever we use a potion.
- Bottled Flame allows us to start combat with Perfected Strike in our hand.
- Meat on the Bone heals us for 12 at the end of combat if we’re at 50% HP or less.
- Molten Egg auto-upgrades all attack cards added to our deck
- Striking Dummy adds +3 damage to all “Strike” cards.
- Captain’s Wheel gives us 18 block on Turn 3.
- Fossilized Helix prevents the first instance of damage we take during a battle.
- Lizard’s Tail revives us at 50% health the first time we die during a run.
Join the High Ground
And that’s our basic Slay the Spire Ironclad guide — thanks for reading! Enjoy stomping your enemies and gaining excessive amounts of block. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more guides like this.