I love Monster Train. Train goes choo-choo straight into the mouth of hell! But this game can be very weird and difficult even by roguelike deckbuilder standards. Its tower defense-esque combat is unique and as a result it has some quirks you’ll need to get used to before you can drive your Pyre back into the Heart of Hell, purging those angels from your home forever. Here are some Monster Train tips I’ve found to make sure you arrive at your destination on time.
Train Stewards Aren’t a One Trick Unit
Train Stewards are incredibly effective for the first two or so layers of hell. Enemy health and damage output is so low that you can effectively roll through anything. Depending on which faction you’re using, Train Stewards fall into one of three roles: meat shield, supplementary DPS, or stopgap.
The Stygian Guard and Hellhorned faction leaders are very easy to kill at the beginning of a run and, as such, need some bodyguards before they can get up to full speed. When it comes to the Awoken you can use Stewards to do direct damage while the Sentient tanks hit and counter using their spikes or explosive healing. The Umbra and Melting Remnant treat Train Stewards like a stopgap; they damage enemy units and hold them back while buffing themselves and creating legions of Waxen. If you want to upgrade your Train Shepherds that’s fine! Just don’t expect them to last long or have much utility beyond what any other unit could do.
But You Should Ditch Train Stewards After Ring Three
By the time you’ve defeated Daedalus, the game’s first major boss, you should have at least two faction specific units that will more than outperform your standard Train Stewards. As the run continues you’ll find yourself discarding Steward after Steward, not needing them for anything beyond an occasional meat shield. I promise you that more efficient card draw for your most powerful spells will be far more useful than the 5/8 Train Stewards filling up your valuable deck space. Throw them into portals! I’m sure they’ll be fine and that there are no consequences for this, as we all know Hell is very pleasant for its myriad denizens.
Pour Upgrades Into One Or Two Units or Spells, Then Duplicate Them
Investing heavily in upgrading a single monster may feel like a big gamble, but I promise it’s way safer than you think. Hellvents let you duplicate any card other than your champion, so duplicating a card you’ve buffed to the point of absurdity is a really good deal. One of my favorite examples of this is a run where I managed to acquire a 0-Cost Hellical Crystallis (a Stygian spell that deals 25 damage to the front-most enemy unit twice) with Holdover, which is to say that I had a guaranteed 50 damage every single turn. When I duplicated that card, I was basically set for the entire rest of the run.
You Don’t Always Need To Take A Trial
I have a bad habit of looking at additional difficulty modifiers in video games and saying to myself “Well, I might as well turn that on because if I’m just good at the game it’ll be fine.”
There’s a reason you can enable and disable trials at will, because sometimes the smarter tactical decision is to just let it go. If you don’t have a very strong floor clear on turn one, then don’t let enemies spawn on every floor. Even if you have a phenomenal deck there are some trial and enemy combos that will leave you burned, badly. Learning to pick your battles is an important part of making sure your Pyre can reach its destination intact.
Artifacts Are Your Friends
The buffs provided by artifacts can be completely game changing. If I have to choose between anything and a Trinket Merchant, if I have the money, I will always pick the merchant. The chance to make everything about your deck better is way too good to pass up. In a recent Umbra run I found an artifact that granted three mana every time I summoned two monsters in a single turn, given that this was an Umbra deck which should be summoning at least two or three monsters per turn, I was basically never going to run out of mana again. This allowed me to load up on incredibly powerful spells that carried me well through the end of the run. That’s just the tip of the iceberg for what good artifacts can do, if you can find them use them.
Build For The Boss You Want To Beat
At the beginning of your run you’re told who you will be facing in the final encounter. Use that information to your advantage!
The particular traits of each boss can completely derail an otherwise perfect run if you aren’t careful. Take for example a Stygian Guard deck based on deploying powerful spells every turn in conjunction with their champion’s incredible ability to apply stacks of spell weakness. If this deck is played against the Seraph (the game’s final boss) with the Power Drain Emblem (which consumes the first spell you play each turn) you can quickly run out of spells and lose your basic DPS. You can easily build around this by either playing a more Unit heavy deck, or by filling your deck with so many spells that the consuming actually improves your chances of drawing the most powerful spells in your deck. The Seraph is difficult, and building for them may involve getting really creative and building very differently
You Don’t Always Need To Build Around Your Champion
Your champion will likely be the strongest and most central unit in your entire deck. This is compounded by their guaranteed appearance on turn one, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. If you find a unit you really love, and you take the time to buff them, you can build a real deck around said unit.
Consumer of Crowns is a great example of this. His dependency on having multiple imp units in play means building your deck towards keeping imps alive while you wait for him to be drawn. When building a deck around the Consumer of Crowns, your Hornbreaker Prince’s job is to slow the enemy down while waiting to draw the correct combination of imps and the Consumer itself. He’s an incredibly powerful stopgap, but he’s still a stopgap.
Each champion has a more supportive mode you can build them towards if you decide to make a different unit the heart of your deck. Penumbra’s Architect increases the amount of units you can play, Hornbreaker Prince’s Brawler lets him quickly wipe out smaller enemies, and the Sentient is defined by their supportive power.
While the game’s ever escalating difficulty may throw you off your balance, these early tips will keep you on track until you find your own… uh, train legs. We’ll go with train legs. On the land ocean. In hell. You could say this guide has run out of steam. Train joke.