Wanna get on the hype train and have a mighty fine Watcher run? Let’s discuss how!
Watcher is an ultra-defensive Exodia-style character. She has multiple ways of demolishing enemies in one turn, however, they all do require careful and long setup. So your early turns will consist mostly of defending with minimum amount of effort being spent on preparations – Watcher doesn’t really have much in terms of freebie protection (nothing like Defect’s constantly growing frost orbs, for example), so she’ll have to pay a lot to survive.
From here stems the very defining aspect of this class – Watcher is always Energy starved. While there are ways of generating extra energy, they are fewer and less efficient than those of the other classes. With just a couple of exceptions and, needless to say, you’re going to abuse those exceptions intensely. This also means that energy generating relics should be prioritized – you really want to get one from the first boss or, at the very least, Snecko Eye. Scry is a great enabler of Snecko, btw. You also can use Runic Dome with minimal suffering as it suits your needs all right – it’s full defense then Exodia anyways. Just don’t be fighting too much on the stage-3 then as spaghetti monsters are too much of a pain with it.
Likewise, keep an eye out for Art of War (you’re gonna be having plenty of non-attack turns), Happy Flower (you’re very slow anyways so you’re not in a hurry), Runic Dodecahedron (you’re playing very defensive so it’s relatively easy to keep it online) and Sundial (Watcher is the best class to use it – Scry means that a proper deck can trigger it almost every turn). The beauty of these things is that they’re common & uncommon so, if you just prioritize fighting and shops as your route, it’s quite possible to get a couple of these fast. That should be your plan.
2. Class Mechanics
There is one big exception here – Violet Lotus. Now that thing does turn various Calm-combos into energy generators and pretty much establishes a loopy combo archetype of its own (that has very obvious support with all those stance-switching cards; that’s the only place where they’re usable, btw). That’s a boss relic, though, so it’s tough to build around – you either get it from the start as a trade-off (that’s the best scenario possible, less than 5% chance, though) or you just go towards the first boss and pray it’ll be there (once every seven attempts). Good luck with that.
Wrath – this one is a big newbie trap. You see, I’m saying control, exodia, etc., but during the first act you’ll be able to burst down foes rather easily while under this one, without much need for shenanigans. So you look at this and think – hmm, this is an excellent aggro character, what could go wrong? What goes wrong is that double damage dealt only takes you so far and Watcher does not have amazing burst cards. Not the ones that are always reliable, anyways. So, while she pops small monsters easily, bursting down tough foes is a much more difficult task. And, once it’s act 3, one bad turn under wrath (where you’ve drawn all the kill cards, but they’re still not enough to finish enemies) is pretty much a game over. I’m not saying that no one ever will finish this game while playing a bursty build, but it’ll require a lot of stars to align – good relics, lots of specific rares, nice enemy flow.
That doesn’t mean that wrath is bad – it’s perfectly usable for that Exodia turn and, early in the game, there are no other options, really. Ideally, however, you want to switch out of it. Also, you don’t need to many sources of it unless you’re in a switcheroo archetype. If it comes down to worst, your initial Eruption can easily serve you until the end of the game.
One very important thing to understand about both Wrath & Calm is that the cheaper their source is, the better they are. That’s why the initial deck of this class sucks so much – both Eruption and Vigilance are abysmal at what they do. Eruption means that you do double damage, only now you’re not really having any energy to play cards. Vigilance says you draw 2 cards, only now you’re out of energy to play them. Sure, Eruption’s flaw is supposed to be compensated by a previous Calm setup and Vigilance is more about finding Retain cards, but that’s just making lemonade out of lemons which are given to you. So you’re starting with 10 cards to clean out (11 at later Ascension) and that’s tough. At least you’re having Scry and exhaust-others card so you can manage having a bit of chaff in your deck.
Divinity – in the ideal scenario (which is not that hard to achieve), this is what you’re going to use instead of Wrath. Triple damage secures a kill much better than double damage, it comes with 3 free energy included (and switching Calm into Divinity still generates 2, so that’s up to 5 bonus energy in total) and there’s no hangover attached. Ofc, it’s not as easy to attain, but are you hurrying somewhere? You’re not in a haste with this class.
Keep in mind that, at the moment, Divinity is pretty much synonymous with Devotion – that’s the only good way of attaining it. Prostrate is literally vulnerable and should only be considered if you have Odd Mushroom. Worship suffers the same problem as your basic cards – you can’t spend 2 energy per turn as a future enabler. Your spread is 2-3 for the defense, 0-1 for the set up. 2 just doesn’t fit in here. Blasphemy is needlessly risky. Pray is ok but it’s a rare. 1-2 Devotions are easy enough to attain and they’re much more flexible and forgiving.
Retain – once again, our plan is to be mostly defending then having a good turn with 2x-3x-4.5x overall damage multiplier when we’ll be attacking a lot. Retain is just the way we secure that turn – otherwise, you’re feeling stupid once that Divinity comes and you have nothing to attack with. Retain also has Establishment and that’s arguably one of the most broken cards that this class currently has. Energy generation is pretty good and this thing basically generates a ton of it. Then there’s also Protect and that means that, no matter what, you won’t have a dreadful turn where you’ve drawn 5 combo pieces and no protection at all. You play this class in a paranoid fashion, having contingency plans within contingency plans.
Scry – is a very welcome mechanic. Many of our cards will be dead until Exodia turn. Some combo pieces require time to get fully charged up so the faster we have them, the better they are. And it’s yet another guarantee that we have our protection up. We also have those 10 stupid cards to cleanse and, as that’s not really possible, Scry will negate their negative presence somewhat. I guess we’re also able to take curses a bit more liberally so you can get greedy. Scry also becomes much better the higher Ascension goes as you’ll be having basic curses and you’ll be forced to take some chaff for the sake of early survival. My only complaint is that this is already a slow class to play and Scrying constantly makes it go even slower. I guess it’s the trainspotter kind of watcher.
3. Defensive Build-UP
Commons (in order of relevance, top to bottom):
Protect – it’s quite aptly named. Lots of block in one card, lots of safety and it swiftly becomes free under Establishment (which is almost an auto-include in every Watcher deck; you also need only 1, preferably upgraded as it becomes Innate and you really like it always being available). Keep in mind that, unlike other discounts, discounts of Establishment last through the battle. So you’ll be able to cast one and the same zero-cost protect several times through the combat. You want 2-3 of these easily.
Third Eye – 1-2 of these easily. One way or another, you benefit from thinning your deck a lot. Say, once those Protects are at zero Energy cost, you don’t mind replaying them every turn. Which is what this potential self-mill of 5 is enabling.
Sanctity – 0-1. I like this much less than Third Eye – your cards are played out in very specific patterns so scrying 3/5 is much better than drawing 1. Especially when that draw is conditional.
Empty Body – very conditional, though. If you have really cheap and recursive ways of becoming calm (either Inner Peace+ or Fear no Evil) then this can be a great way to produce extra Block for essentially free. Without them, however, this is much worse than your basic defense. So first you get those and then, I think, for each such Calm card you can afford 1 Empty Body.
Just Lucky – 0-1. More of an early game survival helper as there’s a lot of value packed it this card. It gets quite good when upgraded (maybe even 2 copies worthy) but you’re a very upgrade starved class so doing that won’t be easy.
Halt – it’s only serviceable in the switcheroo decks as a 1-2. Those decks are starved for cards and card advantage so even they can’t afford having much filler like this. Everywhere else it’s a pass.
Deceive Reality – it’s a more flexible version of Protect. Either spend both it and the Safety it gives now or save Safety for the later. Defensive value is real good and that’s what you’re looking for.
Swivel – this is half-defense, half-enabler. Key note here is that, unlike many other such cards, the effect lasts indefinitely. So you cast Swivel now, you attack 3 turns later, the cost is still zero. That’s, generally speaking, the plan – just more stuff you’ll be able to do on your Exodia turn. Sometimes it might be good instantly, the primary suspect being Wallop, but Watcher’s card pool is not overcrowded by big, splashy attacks so such decks are not easy to assemble. Anyways, you can run 2 of these easily. Keep in mind that they’re the reason why Watcher’s 0-costed attacks are not that good – playing them still takes that counter down so it’s a great counter-synergy. And, generally speaking, Swivel will produce more value than the occasional play of 0-cards.
Wave of the Hand – applying weak is pretty much the same as multiplying your block generation by a third, you know. Since you’re mostly playing Block cards, it’s crazy good. And that’s the only on-class Weak source you’re having. It does require being calm but calm is much easier to maintain than Wrath and, overall, Calm sources are better cards than Wrath sources so you’re likely to have them. You probably don’t need more than one of these but you want that one.
Evaluate – pretty close in meaning to Swivel. Only whereas that funnels more Energy into your Exodia turn, this one adds more cards to play during it. And, I suppose, both are pretty important so the gap between the two here is minimal. Or it’s just a tie. They also get better with each other so 1+1 is better affair than 2-0.
Perseverance – this one is more of a luxury. While you generally want to keep your Retain cards so they get cheaper (and, in this case, better), Protects you often have to play immediately, otherwise you’re taking damage. This one, however, is not that good until you keep it for 2-3 turns. So it adds quite a bit of variance to your deck and that’s not something you enjoy in Exodia. These can be nice to take once you have lots of other protection layers, but they’re quite bad as the first such cards to take.
Deva Form – it’s like a free defense card played each turn. Turn, after turn, after turn. What’s not to like? The cost is annoying, that’s true, but usually there is an opening to squeeze it in and then it’s just gravy.
Master Reality – it’s much less about Smite and much more about Safety. Once you have your Establishment up (you have to always have it up), that’s pretty much the same dozen of freebie block each turn, just a bit delayed. I rate Deva a bit higher as it’s somewhat easier to play, but both of these are excellent at what they do.
Vault – here’s your Ice Block. It’s far below the upper two in terms of power, though. First, you need it mostly on very specific turns and you’re not guaranteed to have it then. Second, it exhausts so it’s not a long run kind of a card. It’s still decent and pickable, it’s just that it doesn’t solve your issues as well as those two. Theoretically, it may serve as the foundation of “Deus Vault” archetype where you jump straight into Wrath and bombard your enemy with high power attacks while hiding behind the Vault. The only issue that you need 2-3x Vaults for that and they’re rare. And good, fast attacks for this class are also quite rare. Maybe if they degrade it into uncommon…
Keep in mind that, in terms of upgrades, defensive cards have the highest priority. You need these 3-4 points of block value you’ll be getting per card. They’re the way you survive instead of slowly bleeding out.
Retain plan – Establishment + Sands of Time + Windmill Strike + Carve Reality. Establishment is very important, but as you need only 1 you can consider picking the other two above it early on. That’s the simplest plan as it relies on Uncommons only. Collect a bunch of attack cards in your hand (Windmill Strike is much better than its brotherly Perseverance – unlike block cards, attack Retain cards will be gathering dust in your hand for turns and turns; carve reality is the weakest of the three), discount them all down to zero, enter Wrath/Divinity, kill. Safe and steady. You don’t even need much in terms of Rares to kill – maybe Master Reality for the Smite, but that only.
Retain plan alternative – Establishment + Wreath of Flame + Flying Sleeves + Flurry of Blows. Wreath of Flame is yet another Swivel – it lasts for a while so it’s all for the purpose of channeling your exodia turn. It’s quite easy to cast on defensive turns and then, on exodia turn, it’s actually good value. Divinity + Sleeves means Wreath+ is producing 48 points of damage, + Flurry is 72. So 2x Flurry+, 2xWreath+ and divinity is 234 damage. Good enough. Mind you that, when it comes to Flurry, the plan is much less endless recursion and much more reliability – you just play them on a previous turn then, once you switch from Calm into Divinity, they are summoned to your hand. This plan is a bit more iffy and will rely more scry than the previous one so this one is less desireable but, well, you never know how the cards flow.
Ragnarok plan – Divinity + Ragnarok + Wreath of Flame. That’s 252 damage in total when in upgraded versions. That’s as good as it gets. The sole downside is Ragnarok being rare and you can’t keep it in your hand so even more emphasis on Scry is needed.
The Looper Plan – Meditate + Clarity + Path to Victory + Follow-Up + Cut Through Fate + Empty Mind. Neutral Madness is also real good if you’re able to find it. Neutral Discovery too. As well as Chrysalis and Purity. That’s a bit of an oddball play. The idea is to have a deck that’s as thin as possible. Then, on the first turns, you Meditate and Clarity until nothing but these cards remain. Then you’re setting up and make some of them 0-costed with Path to Victory and Madness. So Meditate + Empty Mind endlessly generate 1 Energy and draw 1 card. Add something like Cut Through Fate + Follow-Up or a neutral Flash of Steel and you’re also doing endless damage. Obviously, Unceasing Top amplifies this greatly. Or Violet Lotus – makes discounts to zero a bit less important. If you want to achieve some first-turn kills with this class, this is the way to go. This also means that you’re caring much less about defense than other builds. You’ll need some luck with the card flow, however. And no snails allowed!
Switcheroo – Meditate + Clarity + Fear no Evil + Adaptation + Flow State. It’s also a loop, just a bit weaker one due to rarity concerns. So the idea is that you’re hopping between wrath & calm, getting a lot of energy and cards in the process. Something like Fear no Evil + Flow State is an endless damage/card/energy loop under Adaptation if you’re having nothing else in your deck. And you can have multiple Adaptations so the loop is even easier. As always, Violet Lotus helps a lot too, allowing much more room for bad draws. Keep in mind that, unlike the previous one, this takes some time to set up so you’ll need all the protection. Also, Mental Fortress is not as naturally good as it seems – without multiple Flow States+ (that’s a very hard demand as they’re rare), you’re not doing much switching before your winning turn. On your winning turn, you don’t care much for Blocking. You also don’t need that much switching outside of these cards – even if enemy is not attacking, Meditate guarantees calm. Then just have 2 Adaptations (not that difficult) and 1 0-cost attack card to secure the kill. Too many mood cards can ruin such a deck as you’ll be having hands full of them and no other gas.
Kung Fu Girl – Swivel + Third Eye + Signature Move + Reach Heaven. That’s as simple as this class can only get – keep up your block high while using one of the big hitters on each and every turn. Scry pretty much guarantees that. The only issue is that your hitters are rare so, unless you get them early in Act 1, this build is difficult to guarantee. Also, with Signature Move you want almost no attacks except maybe zero-cost stuff and Sands of Time, which are basically zero-costed too.. Reach Heaven is a bit slower but more forgiving. You don’t even need Wrath with such plays. Divinity still helps, though.
Logos – Alpha + all the good scry cards. I won’t spoil what Omega does but it’s a great wincon on its own. It’s still slow so you’ll need protective engine anyways but it’s also very safe & steady. You’ll need some extra mana to cast both Beta & Omega so either Miracle cards (this is the only archetype where they’re really good) or efficient ways of Calming & ending stance will be required. I guess Wish can also be good here.
Hyakuretsu Ken – Talk to the Hand + Flying Sleeves + Cut Through Fate + Weave + Empty Mind. It’s a strong build but you really need a couple of Talk to the Hand for it to work out and, ideally, a Bottled Flame for the Talk. Or any other means of securing it on turn 1. So, after a couple of Talk+, every attack you make against a foe is giving you 6 Block. As long as you play cards that give at least 2 attacks per 1 mana invested, we’re talking about 36 block per turn minimum. Should be enough. So we’re running good multi-strike cards (Flurry of Blows is not efficient here, btw) and cards that’ll draw us more zero mana stuff – Cut Through Fate, for example, can deal damage, then scry out a Weave, then draw Just Lucky, thus getting a minimum of 9+2 armor in the process. This is the best deck for Follow-Up, only here it’ll be good in multiples. You probably still run Establishment + Protect, if only to buy yourself time while those Talks are set up. Besides, that’s also good with Sleeves. But, otherwise, your defense is your offense right here. You also very much prefer fighting big solitary targets versus groups of mobs – your bonus lasts only as long as your victim, so against swarms Talk does not provide that much protection. On the other hand, this build is great for elite hunting. The biggest threshold here are the talks, obviously – you need to get that pair of them stat.
Janitor – Cleanse Evil + Collect + Establishment + all the 0-cost cards. The idea is that, if you’re using 0-cost stuff, you can invest as much as possible into Collect, then use even more mana to produce great Cleanses (otherwise, you’re never having enough spare energy to play them), then Wrath/Divinity lots of smites for the Kill. The downside is that you’re not really Defect so your 0-cost stuff does not have as much synergy and card draw is also not that easy. I see this more as a fun archetype for low difficulties than anything else.
5. Energy Accelerators
Devotion – look at this thing in such a way. You play it then every five turns you’re entering Divinity, thus gaining 3 extra Energy. So every 5 turns it generates 3 energy, thus 0.6 per turn. Pays off in two turns and then it’s just gravy. Gets even better in plus version, generating 0.9 energy per turn. That’s good even without taking the slightly significant “do triple damage” part into account.
Establishment – as you’ve already seen, it’s obviously amazing. Still, don’t need more than 1 upgraded. Try to get it fast, though.
Path to Victory – instantly nerfed, lol. It’s still good enough in the slow decks, just play it after Scry so it generates 1+ Energy. Gets especially good after receiving some bonkers rare like Alpha or Deva Form. It’s also a key card in Looper builds where you want to save it for the killing turn. It’s even playable in 0-cost aggro when upgraded as, at the end of the day, they’re still playing some cards that cost something that Scry just guarantees hitting that. This is one of the biggest payoffs for scry.
Inner Peace – it’s great in all the slow watcher builds. Which are most common, mind you. And yes, while this does not look like it, it is an Energy generator when it’s upgraded. You Inner Peace at the end of turn for zero, you Empty Mind on the next turn for 1, you gain 1 mana and 1-2 extra cards. Obviously, you need some exit stance cards to play this one, but with both Empty Mind and Empty Body being common, it’s not a problem at all. Doesn’t do well in multiples unless your deck is real thick.
Collect – janitor-only. First, the issue with it is that most Watcher decks are long-term decks. And, realistically speaking, you can’t play it for x more than 1-2. So it just doesn’t do enough for you. Second, it’s only good in the + version where you can play it for free, but your upgrades are not exactly endless (unless they are). So chances are good that you get it in your initial hand and it’s a dud. And, with your honest defenses, you really cannon afford having any duds in your hands. I can see it being workable in faster archetypes if it’s a plus version, but otherwise it’s meh.
Battle Hymn – it’s a 0-1 Energy power that’ll generate 1 Energy each turn. What’s not to like? Even in 0-cost decks it’s still good as Scry, Scry, baby, Scry.
Deus Ex Machina – just a bit of fast Energy and that’s a big rarity in this class. What’s better is that it’s in the preserved form so you’ll use it whenever you need to, even if you’re drawing this card in the not so perfect moment. Faster builds (mostly hyakuretsu) can even consider this one to be much better than Hymn, everywhere else the long term nature of Hymn is probably better.
Pray – generates lots of slow Energy. Well, potentially faster if you Scry and you do Scry a lot. Just have an extra Empty Mind to compensate for card disadvantage.
Brilliance – sounds amazing but it’s not as good as it seems. It doesn’t give you much in terms of immediate mana and, if you’re able to wait long enough until it gets good, you’ve already stabilized and pretty much won anyways. I’m not against playing it but I wouldn’t sacrifice much to do that.
6. Value Cards
Empty Mind – it’s pretty much your only easily accessible card advantage tool and it’s a good one, 2-3 cards for 1 mana are a lot. It can get a bit iffy in Divinity decks as it won’t draw enough fuel to finish enemies on that turn, but that’s why those rely on retain or small-sized combos – there’s no need to draw. On the other hand, it finds those Retain cards fast (that’s important – you want to discount them as early as possible) and it just finds all the combo pieces. And, with cheap sources of Calm, it does that basically for free, if not for the Energy Gain. Can easily have 2 of these.
Crush Joints – this one looks like an attack but, since you’re either doing infinite loops or Exodia stuff, you value Vulnerability differently. In Exodia, it’s still good as it just adds 50% multiplier towards your combo. Divinity x Vulnerability is 4.5x damage multiplier, that’s why it’s a value card. You probably want only 1 and you want it to be upgraded, just so you can set it up beforehand. It’s also a 9 damage for 1 mana common, meaning it’s great for the early game survival. Loop decks are obviously disinterested – they’re killing anyways and they need to keep their consistency high so combo happens.
Wireheading – you want at least 1 and you can easily have 2. As you can already see, this is a high synergy class and cards that can just be dropped down are a huge rarity here. Everything needs to be paired very carefully. And freebie scry just guarantees that, enabling a boatload of synergy each and every turn. I’m afraid the numbers on all the scry cards will get nerfed into oblivion.
Carve Reality – the damage part doesn’t even matter (unless you’re hyakuretsu, it’s crazy there), it’s just a draw 2 for 1.
Prostrate – only really good with Odd Mushroom and/or couple of Vaults. You can prioritize question marks at the end of the act 1, I suppose. But first get the mushroom, then these.
Clarity – good in specific decks. The thing here is that you must exhaust the cards cards. So if you’re having a slow deck and looking at two killer cards, well, you’re out of luck. You can scry to prevent that, but then it’s kinda scry to do more scrying. So treat it as a combo piece, not as a value card.
Scrawl – hyakuretsu-only. Every other deck will be consisting of skills mostly and so these draw 3-4 is more like “draw 3-4 cards, you can’t cast them”. Which isn’t that fun. In hyakuretsu – sure, 1 might make sense. But no more than that.
Lesson Learned – Watcher is a patient and methodical class with excellent deck digging. Which means that you have all the time and abilities to be finishing your foe with this precisely. Thus getting a freebie upgrade in each and every battle. That’s just excellent and exactly what this class needs. Pretty much every archetype of Watcher can play this, except maybe Ragnarok. Too much value to ignore. By the same grace, btw, neutral Hand of Greed can be amazing on slow Watcher builds. It’s way too easy to be slaughtering through entire encounters with it and so being flooded with money. Just prioritize fights & shops and you’ll do fine. Courier and discount card are your dreams in such a case.
Nirvana – another great solution to upgrade deficiency. You’re either slow or you’re having tons of Scry and card draw, meaning that each card in your deck gets played several times anyways. So you spend your precious upgrades on non-replayable stuff (powers, exhaust-cards) and everything else will be fine as it is. This can also be innate and that’s a great plus. And it’s very cheap and affordable.
Omniscience – creates a perfect second turn. Or, if you have some good draws, a much better first one. Keep in mind that there’s a big gap of quality between this and the previous one – this thing is nifty but not amazing, your deck is not bottomless and it’s quite consistent, so humbler scries of 3-5 can be almost as good. Also, this is a weird card that you probably don’t want to upgrade – you’re very unlikely to need this more than once so it’s actually good that it self-exhausts.
Wish – this might be considered as an Energy card but, more often than not, you’re more interested in value here. Just get 2 copies of card played for the price of one. As this thing exhausts, the ideal targets are either powers (Devotion or Deva Form are the best candidates) or Talk to the Hand, i.e., the stuff that’s usable only once anyways. The major limiter here is the price, though – 3 Energy is a lot. Like, really. And that’s in upgraded shape. You also need to have that desired card in your library to play it, so there are some potential dud draws – say, both this and Deva in starting hand is real bad. It’s much more honest than it seems to be.
Metaphysics – much less awesome than it sounds. It’s mostly good in Ragnaroc decks to secure that killing turns, otherwise it’s a literal overkill if only because you’re having tons of Retain cards anways so it’s hard to get an empty hand in the first place. The sole exception is Hyakuretsu – there it can easily be the best rare card possible.
7. Trap Cards!
Spirit Shield – never produces that much value, is less reliable than uncommon and even common counterparts.
Step and Strike – are much more difficult to play for free than it seems. At the same time, don’t do anything that switcheroo decks need at their kill turn.
Worship – mantra is good but you can’t freely assume that you’ll be having 2 spare Energy to use it. Devotion is much easier to use than this. Worship+ is even worse as it becomes innate and it’s not a card that you want to be using on your first turn.
Blasphemy – too much risk for no real gain.
Unraveling – generally speaking, this class relies on Retain, timing and very careful plays. This thing ignores pretty much all those factors altogether, creating a huge mess. I’m not saying there aren’t cases where this might be useful, but it’s extremely unstable and you don’t want to play unstable cards. There are enough risks in the game as it is.
Some let’s plays too but I won’t be doing much Slay the Spire stuff – it’s very popular with the streamers so small fish like me won’t get much views.
I’m also a game designer (first and foremost) and I’m also developing roguelites, although of totally different and unique and ultra-hardcore and totally buyworthy nature. Well, why would I do something that’s already been done, duh. Clones are sad. Anyways, here’s our first project on steam:
- ManaRocks: Yellow Aggro Deck Guide
- ManaRocks: Mind Bender’s MillOTK Guide
- Born of Fire: All Card Lists
- Monster Train The Ragtag Bunch and Only Determination Achievement Guide
- Slay the Spire: 100% Achievement Guide 2020