Slay the Spire Ironclad Guide: Builds, Strategies and Tips

| By Yaroslav Moklyak
Slay the Spire Ironclad Guide

Slay the Spire is not an easy game to master, especially if you’re new to it, or not at all familiar with the roguelike game genre. That’s why you may need a guide on how to play as Ironclad – the only available hero in Slay the Spire at the beginning of the game.

I’ve played about 100 hours in the game, and become familiar with it pretty well. In this guide I want to break down the style of play for the Ironclad, to look at his cards, combinations, and strategies.

Playing as Ironclad may seem easy at first, but to get through all 4 acts and rises, you need to dive a little deeper into the character mechanics.

If you are a beginner player, you may find a Slay the Spire review helpful, describing the game mechanics, characters, bosses, and more. I also recommend reading our collection of the best tips for Slay the Spire, which will greatly improve your game already at the start.

Ironclad Basic Mechanics

Ironclad is not very difficult to master, but it still has some features that you need to understand. When playing as him you can choose 1 of 4 strong strategies of the game: defensive, increasing strength, exhausting cards, and negative statuses.

At first, you may think that the most effective strategy is increasing the strength of the hero. I personally used mostly this style for a long time before I started figuring out how the others work. We’ll break them all down, but you need to understand a few more basic things about Ironclad.

Starting Relic

Ironclad’s starting relic is Burning Blood, which will heal you for 6 health points at the end of each battle. This makes it much easier to upgrade and strengthen your deck in the future, since there is no need to constantly heal your hero in rest areas. What’s more, it allows you to play more risky and opens you up more options in combat.

Burning Blood

More Health Points

Another feature of Ironclad is that he also has the highest starting HP among the four characters in the game – 80 HP. Thanks to this, in the initial stages of the game you can not think about the health of the character at all, as there is a lot of it, and it is constantly restored thanks to the relic.


Every character has the ability to increase their strength, but Ironclad has the most opportunities to do so. There are many cards that maximize this ability and focus on increasing strength many times over. Ironclad also has several class relics to help with this.

How to Build a Deck on Ironclad?

Strengths Deck Ironclad

The basic principle when building a deck on Ironclad is not to get hung up on certain cards. This approach will be correct for all Slay the Spire characters: Defect, Silent and Watcher. However, it will not be superfluous to know the basic builds for Ironclad in advance, so that in time to orientate in what direction to build the deck.

Choose Your Tactic and Game Strategy

If you’ve found some of the key cards in one of the strategies, it makes sense to skip any other cards that don’t fit your deck, as they can greatly hinder you later on.

However, it’s important to understand that if you choose a particular strategy before the race and start skipping other cards, you might miss strong cards from other builds. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that the game will even give you the cards you originally planned to find, and this can lead to the failure of the race.

The most relevant way is to take the first good cards and suitable relics that you can find, and then, as you progress, choose cards for synergy and adapt that to one of the strategies of playing for Ironclad.

Remove Unnecessary Cards

Remove Cards

An important point is to remove unnecessary cards that don’t fit your synergy and only get in the way. During combat they can come into your hand at the most important moment instead of the ones you really need, so you should not leave such cards in your deck.

Main Ironclad Builds

Ironclad Builds

As I mentioned earlier, there are many paths you can take to the end of the Spire with Ironclad. Many players highlight some specific ones, especially on increasing strength or defense scores.

I have read and tested many guides and I can say for myself that there is no one universal strategy that will be the strongest. All 4 Ironclad strategies described below are powerful if done correctly.

1. Strategy on Hero's Strengths

Basic Cards: Spot Weakness, Limit Break, Inflame, Demon Form, Whirlwind, Heavy Blade, Rupture.

One of the most popular and easiest builds on Ironclad is the strength increase. Strength adds extra damage to your attacks, and over time (over the course of a battle) you can build up so much strength that you will deal colossal damage from attacks (3-5 times higher than normal).

Increasing your strength works especially well with certain cards. A good example would be attacks that deal more than one hit at a time, since the damage multiplier from the strength buff is triggered for each hit. Such cards might be Whirlwind, which hits all enemies X times. There’s also a great attack for 2 mana – Heavy Blade, which multiplies your strength by 3/5 times and deals incredible damage to the enemy.

Best Cards for Increasing Strength

There are a few basic cards in this strategy to increase your strength:
  • Spot Weakness: gives 3/4 of your power if the enemy is going to attack
  • Inflame: Costs 1 mana and gives 2/3 strength
  • Demon Form: Worth 3 mana and gives 2/3 strength every turn
  • Limit Break: Doubles your strength
Another good option would be to make your deck through the Rupture talent, which gives 1/2 power when you take damage from cards. The best cards to activate it are Bloodletting, Combust, Offering, Brutality, and Hemokinesis. Most importantly don’t be afraid to lose health to gain power, as you have plenty of it and you can restore it with relics.

Useful Relics for This Build

The following relics are great for this build:

  • Vajra: Gives you 1 power every battle
  • Red Skull: Gives you 3 powers if you have less than 50% health
  • Mutagenic Strength: Gives you 3 strengths for the first turn of a fight
  • Akabeko: Increases first attack damage in combat by 8. This bonus works great with carats that deal more than one hit at a time (increases the damage of each attack)

Don't Forget to Defend

When increasing damage, it’s important not to forget about defense as well. Sometimes it takes a while to build up a decent amount of power, so you need a ‘defensive’ card.

How Does this Strategy Work?

The main principle of this build is to gain strength in a couple of turns and at the same time defend from the enemies attacks. Once you gain enough power you find the best attack cards and win in a couple of turns. However, your actions can vary depending on the enemies and available cards.

2. Strategy on the Defense of Ironclad

Ironclad Barricade Build

Basic Cards: Barricade, Entrench, Impervious, Power Through, Body Slam.

Another popular build focused on the Barricade talent, which prevents you from losing defense at the end of your turn. This allows you to build a huge amount of armor with cards like Impervious (gives 30/40 armor) and Power Through (gives 15/20 armor). Another very useful card is Entrench, which doubles your current armor.

With these cards you’ll be able to increase your armor up to a few hundred, so you won’t take any damage from enemies at all.

However, you need to defeat your enemies somehow. To do that, you can use Body Slam, which deals the same amount of damage as your armor to the enemy.

This means that you can focus on getting ready to defend, create hundreds of blocks, and then just play Body Slam, dealing hundreds of damage to end the fight on the spot.

If you can’t find this card, the alternative is the Juggernaut talent – it deals 5 damage to a random enemy every time you increase your armor.

How Does the Defensive Strategy Strategy Work?

In this build, we focus on accumulating the maximum amount of armor each turn. Once we accumulate enough armor, we can kill even strong elite enemies in 1 hit thanks to Body Slam. If we didn’t find Body Slam, we can simply increase armor every turn while the Juggernaut talent effect gradually kills our enemies.

3. The Build on Cards Exhausting

Cards Exhausting

Basic Cards: Corruption, Fiend Fire, Second Wind, Dark Embrace, Feel No Pain.

This deck is based on card exhaustion in your hand. It doesn’t sound very logical, but if you do it right, the effect is strong. What’s more, this game strategy is more variable than the previous two decks.

Important Cards and Exhaustion Mechanic

This deck is more armor-oriented than attack-oriented. For example, the Feel No Pain talent gives you 3 armor every time you exhaust cards, which will happen often. Another defensive card is Second Wind, which exhausts all cards except the attacks in your hand and gives 5/7 armor for each. It’s important to consider that status cards, unplayable or curses will also exhaust and give you armor.

Another useful card would be Dark Embrace, which gives you a card from your recharge deck whenever a card depletes, giving you the opportunity to replace the cards you have in your hand and get bonuses while doing so.

Another good choice will be the Cards that add statuses to your deck/hand or draw cards from your deck, as they can all potentially be exhausted and get a lot of bonuses.

Useful Relics for This Deck

There are several relics that reinforce this deck:

  • Charon’s Ashes: deals three damage to a random opponent each time a card is exhausted
  • Dead Branch: adds a random card to your hand every time you exhaust a card, giving you the opportunity to continually gain and exhaust cards

Game Strategy on Cards Exhaustion

This is a relatively difficult deck to master. You need to understand which cards can be exhausted and when, and which ones you should keep. One is more versatile, as it allows you to deal damage and accumulate a lot of armor.

4. Deck on Status Cards

Status Cards

Basic Cards: Fire Breathing, Evolve, Power Through, Wild Strike, Reckless Charge, Immolate.

This deck is based on adding status cards to your deck to damage enemies in the future, using the Fire Breathing talent – dealing 6/10 damage to all enemies for every status card you draw.

One of the perks of this deck is that many monsters and elite enemies shuffle negative statuses into your deck, which will only make you stronger with this strategy.

This deck is suitable for more experienced players, as it can be difficult to master. It’s important to balance the number of statuses and normal cards in your stack so that you don’t end up in a situation where you only have statuses in your hand and have nothing to play.

Strong Cards for This Build

This deck combines with many Ironclad cards:

  • Power Through: Gives you 15/20 protection and adds 2 status cards to your hand
  • Wild Strike: Deals 12 damage and adds a status card to your deck
  • Reckless Charge: Deals 7 damage for 0 mana and adds a status card to your deck
  • Immolate: Deals 21 damage to all enemies and shuffles a status card into the deck
  • Evolve: Talent that grants 1 additional card every time you draw a status card.

Useful Relics

There are a few relics that will help you avoid problems with this deck and boost it:

  • Medical Kit: allows you to cast status cards, which can save you from overloading your deck with status cards
  • Mark of Pain: Gives extra energy every turn, but shuffles two Wounds into your deck

How Does Status Cards Build Work?

The main point of the deck is to get a lot of status cards, and then deal more damage to all enemies through the Fire Breath talent. It would be nice if you could get a few Fire Breath cards. Then you can passively deal 50-70 damage to all enemies every turn without too much trouble.

Moreover, it is very important to upgrade all the Fire Breath talents you find, as they have top priority in this deck.

Best Starting Cards to Look For

Compared to the other characters, Ironclad is a universal character because he has many cards that are used in several strategies at once.

As I mentioned earlier, the best way to get to the end of the spire is to adapt as you go along, find strong cards and build your deck around them, while removing unnecessary cards. Because of that, I’ve decided to highlight a few basic cards that beginners should look for, and with which you can start building a specific strategy game.

Demon Form

This is one of the strongest cards that will come in handy in any deck. The card will allow you to constantly increase your damage over the course of the battle, which gives maximum effect in long battles. However, you shouldn’t always use it, because it costs 3 mana.


One of the strongest cards on Ironclad in principle, which does not come up very often. If you encounter it in the early game, you should take it in almost all cases. This card will be especially useful at high levels of Ascension, where bosses do a lot of damage with their attacks, and you need something to defend against that.


Slay the Spire is not a simple game, and even experienced players need time to figure it out. Moreover, at first Ironclad may seem to be a simple character to pass, but it’s not so. He has a lot of interesting mechanics and strong combinations, but you need to understand them if you want to pass the game 100% on Ironclad.

Try to take risks, don’t be afraid to skip adding cards to your deck after combat, look for the main cards and try to build different combinations and decks around them. And don’t forget that the most important is practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When to Upgrade Cards and When to Heal?

If you have a lot of health, and you understand that you will survive a few battles until the next campfire, then you need to improve the cards or dig up relics. However, it is important not to leave the health below 50%. In that case it's better to restore health.

2. What Ascension Level Can I Reach with These Bilds?

With these strategies, you should be able to get through 20 level of Ascension. However, it is unlikely that you will be able to do it the first time. Patience and persistence are key in this case.

3. What Cards to Upgrade First?

In this article, I've pointed out a few key cards that are necessary for each strategy. These cards should be upgraded first. Next, you need to upgrade the supporting cards (I also mentioned them in the article).

4. How Many Cards to Collect?

Try not to get too many extra cards. If you are sure that the card will be useful, take it. In other cases, it's better not to add cards to the deck. Moreover, when you have collected the entire deck with one of the strategies, it's worth removing the extra cards.

You May Also Like