Damage is king. By chapters 4 or 5 you want to be able to 1 shot at least 1 enemy each round so that you can kill whatever is doing a bs attack. Other utility is nice. Exhaust, lowering enemies attack, but they are plan B not plan A.
To get this damage you need to do things more powerful than just play cards. Cards without buffs just do not have high enough numbers. When you are in events the most important stat you are looking for is +damage for a character, even if they have terrible social stats for the encounter if you can use their damage buff, get it.
Treasures that give damage buffs are good, for example ‘for each 40 souls you have, your disciples have +1 damage’ can win a run on its own, giving +1 or +2 in the early/mid game then suddenly giving you +8 or more as you near the boss and no longer has as many things you want to buy.
Multiplication is also strong. Vlad vulnerability, mary mirror. These are the simplest default strategies. Get a way to reliably turn on something that doubles the value of every card you play, then give that character 7 cards and all of the card upgrades.
Energy. You need some way to break the default mana curve, 5 mana per turn and full price for cards is simply not good enough.
Headless horseman gets a card that deals damage to himself to gain mana next turn. It is insane, giving you extra economy and triggering his passive. Treasures that give you free action refreshes, bonus mana, cheaper cards. All of them are really strong and very high priority.
Choose carefully on what cards to upgrade. If you have a 2 cost card that does 8 damage and gives exhaustion, then giving it +4 damage from an upgrade is almost pointless. The value of the card is the exhaust and that did not change.
Generally speaking you want to upgrade your primary damage cards or cards which have upgraded utility as they level up.
Rough upgrade order: Your best damage cards > cards that become cheaper > cards that inflict more status’s.
That is how you deal enough damage to burst your way through late game fights in the first few turns. energy + additive damage increases + multiplicative damage increases. All of them scale off each other and multiplicatively raise your power level.
Once you have strong damage gold rarity cards you do not get much value from picking up mid rarity damage options, because it will be more efficient to just refresh your character and use the gold cards again.
Once your main damage is set up you should start looking for utility cards to cover problematic situations. Exhaust or flat damage reduction are great. Debuff and buff removal. At least one card that can deal damage of both sp and hp so you do not instantly lose the run to fanatic. Anything that looks fancy to round out your weaknesses.
More Specific Advice
In standard fights the most important thing early game is terror and the least important thing is cards. Paper rarity cards are mostly useless late game (notable exceptions for some utility cards like give an enemy exhaust). If you end up getting paper rarity cards you should focus on trying to triple them rather than ending up with multiple different weak low tier cards.
Higher terror increases how many mid rarity cards you are offered. You don’t really want to draft cards at all until you are at least terror level 2, but if you can get terror level 3 before spending time drafting that is even better.
Battle elites. If you are fine early game then you are dying from lack of scaling late game, fighting elites and getting relics for one node is a great way of leveraging early power into later game advantage.
Reminder for events.
The most important thing is to pick up additive damage on characters who can use it.
Don’t pick up physical damage on white lady, but other than that you should have a very good reason if you are going to pass a damage increase from an event. Special case, headless horseman. He might not want to pick up damage increases, because it increases how much self damage he does with his best card.
When shopping try to always use the 20 soul upgrade a card. It is super efficient if you can survive till you get the card back.
General Early Game Priority for Nodes
- Elite > Shop If You Have High Money > Event/Normal Battle > Sacrifice Alter > Shop With Low Money > Heal Shrine