Slay the Spire's final-final boss is an absolute jerkbag

I'm on my twelfth attempt trying to beat the Corrupt Heart as the Defect. I narrowly skitter past the Spire Shield and Spire Spear, forced to use my Fairy in a Bottle potion just to stay alive. I'm close to yet another failure that sends me back to Act One to restart the journey all over again, but I have to keep going. I arrive at the Heart with pitiful health and begin scrambling to stack Frost orbs to block an obscene amount of damage on the second turn. 60 damage spends my Lizard Tail relic, and I'm at 43 HP. There's no way I can make it. 

I draw Biased Cognition+ and continue frantically cycling through orbs. I manage to stabilise, but as my focus depreciates I can see the last couple of turns are going to rely on the perfect draw to pull this off. Blizzard+ steals a chunk of health from the Heart, and Buffer+ keeps me safe as it moves in for an otherwise lethal hit. I can't believe I've finally beaten the Heart. Naturally, I have to finish it off with a Strike just to add insult to injury. 

Building the perfect deck to defeat the Heart has consumed my evenings for a couple of weeks now. I've been grinding through Slay the Spire's ascensions with each character for months, but I never really considered trying my luck in the fourth act. Drifting between characters and finding the ideal build with each has been enough to keep me occupied, and the additional challenges attached to each new ascension ensure I'm never short of a frustratingly new thing to sulk about. I was quite happy working my way through each ascension blissfully unaware of the true Slay the Spire ending.

After watching others show the Heart who's boss, I decided to give it a go myself. My Defect strategy usually relies on using lots of Power cards to gain orb slots and focus. Then it's just a matter of constructing a wreath of orbs that do the heavy lifting for me. If I can achieve that setup on Ascension 10 without breaking much of a sweat, surely dropping down to Ascension One to take on the Heart should be easy in comparison? I was painfully mistaken. 

Decks that usually shred through enemies can struggle to reach Act Four. I've breezed through a run in under 20 minutes in the past, but having to pick up the Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire keys deviates from normal journeys just enough to derail an attempt. Foregoing a rest site, or taking a beating from a powered-up elite can prematurely scupper my deck building plans. Even managing to inch past the Spire Spear and Shield elite—located just before the Heart—can lead to an untimely defeat.

Contending with the Heart's nasty tricks then introduces an entirely new challenge. After shuffling five debilitating cards into your deck, its attacks hack away at your HP at an alarming rate as it continues to gain strength. Its looming advantage made my pathetic attacks seem futile, and it was only by chance that I drew the cards I desperately needed to win. Not only does this fight test your calibre as a player, it'll shatter your perspective of what you think a powerful deck actually looks like. If you're anything like me, your expectations are far too low.       

Despite the wounds I'm still nursing following my tussle with the Heart, I'm more determined than ever to pay it another visit with a different class. Over 130 hours in, I'm still discovering new things that demonstrate the incredible intricacies of Slay the Spire's design. I also have a newfound respect for players that manage to consistently annihilate the Heart on Ascension 20. Did you make some sort of deal with the devil to get this good?

Defeating the Heart has taught me that defaulting to the strategies I've carved across countless runs are not necessarily the correct decision when taking on Slay the Spire's final boss. Card combinations that I've come to depend on are nowhere near as effective against the monstrosity that awaits in Act Four. 

Habitually relying on Glacier+ for block won't bail you out of trouble as the Defect, and Catalyst+ feels essential before you can take on the Heart with the Silent. I've learned a lot watching talented players like Jorbs, who can teach you how to adapt your play style for the best results later on in the run. Before watching him I wouldn't hesitate before adding Storm to my deck early on, in hopes that the rest of the Power cards I needed would just fall into my lap. Once you find a build that continuously performs well, it's convenient to keep using it, but fighting against the Heart will condition you to approach deck construction very differently. The final boss may be a jerk, but it's forced me to up my game.   

Emma Matthews

As PC Gamer's guides writer, Emma is usually juggling several games at once. She loves competitive first-person shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty, but she always has time for a few rounds of Hearthstone. She's happiest when she's rescuing pugs in Spelunky 2.