Slay the Spire Tips Guide: 17 Things the Game Doesn’t Tell You

Smite the tower.

Good Slay the Spire tips are easy to provide once you spend enough time, trial, and error with the seminal deckbuilder. Yet its roguelike mechanics go out of their way to push you back down — over and over again. Which is why we’ve decided to post a few Slay the Spire tips for players still making their way through the titular tower for the first time. Whether you’ve Ascended more often than you care to count, just picked up the fan-made “Downfall” expansion, or are just picking up the game for the first time: we hope we can help you think about the game in new ways. So let’s get started with our Slay the Spire tips guide!

The Silent is the True “Starting” Character

Your first run in Slay the Spire will almost certainly end in failure. This isn’t your fault. The game doesn’t want you to win right away! That’s the spirit of a roguelike for you. However, there’s a bit more to it than just heavy difficulty spikes and the need to unlock more cards or Relics. The game sets you up to fail by making you play the Ironclad.

That’s not to say the Ironclad is bad. Far from it. They’re just as powerful as any other character in the game. It’s just that they’re also deceptively complicated. The Ironclad is deeply built around the idea of risk and reward: sacrificing health and cards or giving themself status effects in exchange for high payoff. “Wild Strike” and “Power Through,” for instance, give you unplayable Wound cards that clog up your deck. That’s bad! Unless you pair it with “Evolve” and/or “Fire Breathing” — which benefit you each time these cards are drawn.

You won’t be able to properly build your deck around these concepts until you get a better handle on what enemies and bosses do. That’s where the Silent comes in. This second playable character unlocks after losing a run as the Ironclad. She’s also great. And, more importantly, the Silent is comparatively very straightforward to us. She doesn’t hit as hard, but moves much faster and deals damage over time with poison. If you’re struggling to finish your first run, try to teach yourself about the Spire by sticking to the Silent for a while. The knowledge you gain will be worth it on all subsequent characters.

Scroll and Then Go

This is a tiny little tip, but still feels worth mentioning. You can see the entire Spire from the map. Well, not the entire structure, but at least the region you’re on at the moment. By default, the game only shows you a small sliver of the total zone leading up to that area’s boss. Yet you can scroll (using the analog stick or the mouse while the map is open) to see the rest. This is obviously useful for planning routes. Especially once you start getting some location-based Relics. You might get something that lets you heal each time you visit a merchant, for instance, which gives you more available options than just resting.

Personally, I also like to use this method when hunting for Elites. It’s not always possible, but you can sometimes plan a particular route that will let you face three of these super-units in a single zone (without using the Ascension mechanic that unlocks after beating a run). More Elites means more Relics and other goodies. It’s a risk, but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the best ways to complete a run.

It’s a Sprint, Not a Marathon

Slay the Spire doesn’t want you to turtle up. It wants you to attack, attack, attack. It’s a hard lesson to learn in a game where death comes so very quickly. It might even sound counterintuitive! But it’s true. You will almost always die more assuredly by dragging fights out than by taking a little damage while you kill the opponent.

This is because, with few exceptions, Slay the Spire enemies either weaken you over time or grow stronger themselves. Lagavulin (i.e. the sleeping shellfish) is a perfect example. As the fight with this Elite drags on, it begins to use Siphon Soul, which drains the player’s Power and Dexterity. This means you not only hit less hard (dragging the fight on even further) but also block less damage. For the entire rest of the encounter. The longer the battle takes, the more damage you’re guaranteed to receive in the process. This goes for most normal enemies as well — just not quite as intensely.

As you add more cards and Relics, your playstyle will become more defined during that run. But one good, early combo is simply Strike → Strike → Defend (hitting a different enemy with each Strike). Or you can use Strike → Defend → Defend against early solo monsters (like the Jaw Worm).

In the first example, this puts two weaker enemies into kill range on turn two, allowing you to more flexibly target whichever becomes the greater threat. If one is about to attack on turn two, while the other plans to buff, you can kill the attacker outright, eliminating the need to block or the possibility of taking damage that turn. Then you can fully focus on the secondary target on turn three — likely killing it before it can attack as well.

In the Jaw Worm example, you will almost certainly take at least one damage. Your two “Defend” cards will block five HP apiece while the Jaw Worm hits you for 11. Yet the monster will be one action closer to death before it starts buffing itself — allowing you to hit it as much as you want on turn two and raising the odds of going for lethal damage on turn three.

Boss Battles Bring Breathers

Here’s another big reason why you should focus on consistent damage more than blocking every pip of damage. You get all your health back at the end of boss battles. This means there is absolutely zero downside in dropping all the way down to one hit point if necessary. Just as long as you can guarantee the boss goes down before you take another hit. The best way to accomplish that goal is by getting them into kill range before they can ramp up whatever special mechanic they usually bring to bear. Such as killing the Hexaghost (or at least dropping it very low) before it can fully charge its six flames and launch its Inferno.

Slay the Spire Tips Boss Icon

You Always Know Who’s Waiting

Speaking of bosses and their predictable behavior, Slay the Spire always tells you which one you’re about to fight the moment you start a run. You just need to scroll up on the map. The symbol sketched on the boss room (i.e. the big black-and-white drawing at the top of any zone) is unique for each one. Every standard region of the game has three possibilities: such as the Hexaghost, Slime Boss, or Guardian in act one. The Slime Boss has a sweaty slime icon; the Guardian has a four-sided diamond with a wreath; the Hexaghost features a hexagon surrounded in six flames. With this information, you can memorize each symbol and build your deck / Relic / potion choices around whatever you’re about to face!

Enemies Take Turns, Too

Bosses aren’t the only predictable foes. Normal enemies — or Elites and their Minions — always act in the same order. This basically always from means left-to-right. Knowing this can help you plan moves ahead of time. You’ll be able to tell if someone is about to mess with your block before their buddy follows up with direct damage — which becomes extremely useful as you unlock more esoteric Relics and cards.

Attack Enemies When They Buff

This doesn’t just mean “attack enemies when they’re not attacking you.” Though you should… also do that. Just in case that wasn’t clear. This refers to groups of enemies that attack and buff in staggered patterns. Continuing the advice to always be attacking (when it’s safe to do so of course) you should follow a loose sort of priority against groups.

  1. Attacking monsters that you can kill first
  2. Monsters that are buffing themselves this turn
  3. Everyone else

The reason for this is that monsters which buff their own damage will almost always attack on the subsequent turn. Not always, but often enough. Damaging them on the turn that they buff raises your odds of killing them on the next turn when they attack. Which brings us back to priority one: attacking monsters we can kill. Going for the kill is always the best defense in Slay the Spire. Enemies that are about to damage you (and especially enemies that are about to kill you) take lethal priority. But buffed enemies will only become more of a threat on subsequent turns.

The reverse is also typically true. When enemies alternate between buffing and attacking, attackers will often switch to a “harmless” state of buffing themselves on their following turn. This means you get two future turns to kill an enemy set to attack you on this turn. It’s usually better to take the brunt of their unbuffed attack on turn one and kill them on turn three than to eat a buffed hit from their friend on turn two.

Colors Say a Lot

This one is pretty obvious, but just for posterity, every card in Slay the Spire has two sets of colors: the color of the card itself and the color of the color its circular banner. The banner color indicates the rarity of the card. Gray means common, blue means uncommon, and gold means rare. Less common cards are generally more powerful than their basic cousins, but… That’s not a hard and fast rule. Rare cards often have extremely powerful effects, it’s true, but just as often have notable drawbacks. Even if that drawback is just “costs three energy” or “it only really works in tandem with another kind of card.” Don’t count out very useful common and uncommon cards just because a golden rare is available in your rewards list!

As for the card color, this mostly just depends on which character you’re playing. Ironclad cards are red; Silent cards are green; Defect cards are blue; Watcher cards are purple. When a special effect refers to “colorless” cards, it’s talking about the gray variety, which are mostly available as purchases from the merchant. Any class can use any of these cards. Effects that allow characters to play cards from other decks are exceptionally rare — though they do exist.

Watch the Glow

Speaking of colors, there’s actually a third type of card color to plan your strategies around. Though it’s not found on item itself. Cards with conditional effects will produce an orange glow around themselves in your hand when that condition is met. Cards such as “Dropkick.” This attack normally does five damage to an enemy. Yet it also refunds on energy to the player when used against a Vulnerable enemy. So, if there’s a Vulnerable enemy on the field, “Dropkick” will glow orange. That’s a pretty straightforward example, but a few other conditionals can be harder to remember or see for yourself at a glance. Especially as the screen starts to fill with dozens of Relics, status effects, damage numbers, etc.

Negate Status Effects with Good Timing

This only comes up in specific circumstances, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. Cards and Relics that cause you to take status effects — such as Vulnerable — can be mitigated with proper timing. “Berserk” is a good example. This is a very powerful Ironclad card that gives them one extra energy on every turn. The downside is that they also take two stacks of Vulnerable. However, since these negative effects disappear by one stack at the end of every turn, you can use “Berserk” on a turn where you’re not under threat to mathematically halve its drawback (functionally making it last just one turn instead of two).

Granted, in this example you would almost always use “Berserk” as soon as you drew it anyway. It’s just that good. But this sort of logic is worth keeping in mind. Using nothing but Skill and Power cards on a turn where you have Weakened, for instance, functionally negates one stack of Weakened. It’s all about how you play around things.

Slay the Spire Tips Merchant

Top Shelf, Bottom Shelf

If you’re still getting your feet wet in Slay the Spire, you might not know which items look like what yet. Especially at the merchant. Yet their inventory almost always follows the same pattern: five cards for your class up top, two colorless cards below that, the card removal service, and six items.

The bottom rows of items always have their own pattern, too. The top three are Relics (which provide passive buffs) while the bottom three are potions (which provide some kind of one-time effect). Even if you don’t think you want a potion right now, you should absolutely always check out these six items. Relics speak for themselves: they can completely change the flow of any run and are a major backbone to any successful run.

Potions, on the other hand, might seem disposable. Yet you shouldn’t overlook them. A few are almost as powerful as Relics (at least for one battle). The “Fairy in a Bottle,” for instance, effectively gives you a second life — resurrecting you to 30% HP on death!

Don’t Be Precious About Potions

The other side of this coin is that potions exist to be used. It’s very, very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you might need a particular potion later on down the line. You can’t think that way in a run-based game, however. Take the “Block Potion” for instance. It does pretty much what it says on the label: blocking 12 damage on the same turn it’s used. You might want to save that sort of thing for a boss. However, if a normal enemy is about to hit you for 12 damage and you don’t use the “Block Potion,” that’s 12 fewer HP you’ll have when facing the act boss anyway. At least under most circumstances.

The other thing about Slay the Spire potions is that you will always get more. You get them from events, relics, cards, and even other potions. Every successful battle also has a small chance of dropping a potion at the end. That chance then rises by 10% until you finally receive a potion or beat the act boss.

Damage Values Aren’t Always Accurate

This goes for block values, too, for that matter. Basically: Slay the Spire cards don’t always show you the correct number. This isn’t to say the game is buggy, or technically incorrect, or anything like that. What this means is that the numbers visible on cards usually don’t adjust for things like negative status effects until they’re in your hand.

For example, if you use “Foreign Influence” to create three random attack cards to choose from, those attacks won’t take Weakened into account until you specifically pick a card to put in your hand. Every possible card will instead show the normal damage it would do under standard circumstances. Take this into account when dragging and dropping new stuff into your hand mid-fight!

Slay the Spire Tips Slime

You Can Interrupt Intentions

Obviously killing an enemy is one way to interrupt its intentions permanently. However, there are also certain bosses you can interrupt with pure damage. The Guardian, for instance, has a signature ability to “Mode Shift” every time it takes 30 damage. This will automatically halt it from doing whatever it was about to do that turn (usually attacking). The same goes for the Slime Boss (and other slime enemies for that matter) which will always use “Split” to become two new enemies after falling to 50% HP or below. You can use this to simply hit a few enemies so fast they simply never get a chance to attack.

Click “Confirm” to Skip

This is another one of those fairly esoteric tips. It’s still pretty good to know, in case you never noticed it yourself. Simply clicking “Confirm” will let you skip certain special effects that you set up for yourself. Scrying, instance, is a mechanic that lets you look at the top of your deck. After which you can discard any of the cards you saw. “Can” being the operative word. If you don’t want to discard anything, just hit “Confirm” without touching anything!

“Well-Laid Plans” is another good example. This is a Power that lets you retain one card at the end of your turn. Since this activates passively, you might find yourself in a situation where the only cared you can retain is actively detrimental (e.g. “Burn”). You can “Confirm” without selecting any card at all in situations like this as well. Finally, this is a good way to avoid accidentally discarding debuff cards with the “Ephemeral” tag, like “Dazed,” which only disappear if they’re still in your hand at the end of your turn. Discarding a “Dazed” will simply place it back into your deck at the next shuffle.

“X” Cards Are Always Available

Here’s something that’s arguably the polar opposite of that last tip. You can play cards with an “X” cost even with zero energy. The downside, of course, is that most cards that cost “X” don’t actually do anything unless you spend something. Yet cards that benefit from playing a card — any card at all — benefit just as much from a useless card.

Let’s refer to another Silent card as our example this time: “Choke.” This causes one enemy to take three damage for every subsequent card played on your turn. Since “Choke” costs two energy, that usually means just one extra card per turn by default. However, you can play an “X” cost card for free whenever you have zero energy left. “X” simply means “however much energy you have right now.” If that number is zero, then the card costs zero, but still plays as normal. At least as far as “Choke” and cards like it are concerned.

Raising Max HP “Heals” You

There are lots of ways to raise your max HP in Slay the Spire. As the above subheading implies, though, this doesn’t just raise your upper limit. It always heals you for the same amount as the gain! Let’s say you have 75 out of 80 hit points, for instance. Raising your maximum health by another seven points would bring that upper limit to 87 — yet it also leaves you with 82 total hit points. Just as if you had also healed for seven points then and there. The gains are usually smaller than events that would heal you outright, but the tiny nubbin of health might be all you need to be an act while also carrying the extra maximum health into the next zone.


And that’s basically that for Slay the Spire tips right now! We hope this helps you on your way to the top — no matter which class you choose.

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