So... now that a rough date on release is planned and the mechanics are mostly set in stone, I thought I'd compile a list of some of the strongest combinations for each hero and how I've found they impact the game.
Standard disclaimer: I have only been playing since April and have not reached max prestige so my experience is not all inclusive of what the game offers in full. I'm currently only on P6 for Sal and Rook, with several additional runs on P0 done for play-testing. I am not advocating for any mechanics to change, I'm just putting down in writing what my general impressions of the game and battle system are, and the strongest card combinations I've found and how they compare to the other 95% of cards. That said, I've spent a crap ton of time examining the game and compiling data to expand the Gamepedia Wiki for Griftlands so I've seen/experienced more than most.
Sal and Rook's campaigns feel very different from each other. I was extremely happy to jump into Rook's campaign after beating Kashio the first time, thinking I was hot ****, only to have Grout Bog put me face down in the mud several times. Holy crap Bossbit and Flekfis can be a rude awakening the first time fighting them. In contrast, at lower prestige Sal's campaign really doesn't feel like a rogue-like much at all. There aren't really any random events that just... hinder you as a player. You're almost always given an option to either ignore an event or choose a beneficial option once you know what different selections result in. Compared to games like Darkest Dungeon and FTL, there don't seem to be any events thrown at you that are specifically meant to screw you over. It mostly boils down to weighing your deck strength against the idea of "Can I afford to lose health to survive this and the boss" and "Does taking this item give me enough strength to outweigh whatever health is spent getting it?" I don't mind that design choice, but the game overall really doesn't feel rogue-like in the same sense that other rogue-likes I've played have felt. There's rarely any "oh ****" moments where a 50-50 or RNG based decision gets you hurt or really puts you in a bind. The only event close to that I can think of is Rook's 'misty walk' event where you either take on a status card or lose some resolve... which is hardly threatening.
The story focused elements of the game are its highlight to me. The writing is witty, compelling, and interesting. It certainly shows that the game was initially pitched as an RPG and that concept has bled through to its current state. The take-away for me so far has been not to expect Griftlands to be a downright dirty 'you're going to regret that decision' rogue-like, but rather a deck building game with a good story and some light rogue-like elements where your choices open up new story elements and character development. Exploring the dialogue options and trying to piece together how some decisions affect the story is really satisfying to a player like me. Enough with that for now, though. Let's talk about battle.
Sal has many fairly powerful options and build paths you can expand upon depending on what cards are offered. It's also very easy to earn shills for her to buy cards so her options increase quite a bit if the merchants are feeling generous. Overall, Sal's campaign feels good to play as power gains are noticeable and steady throughout a run, though most enemies don't seem to match that curve besides maybe Kashio or Oolo. It sometimes feels like it's all too easy to murder everything in your way and challenge really only seems to come when intentionally trying to force enemies to surrender to avoid Banes, as overkill becomes an issue with bleed and counter. Knowing what enemies give what banes, however, allows you to avoid a lot of issues and can result in you freely killing enemies that have banes you don't care about.
Sal's biggest strengths seem to lie in being able to easily stack defense with counter or bleed damage, or otherwise potentially gain an obscene amount of burst through the use of discard, wound, and ambush cards. However, her 'specializations' could lead to situations where normal enemies present very little challenge, but bosses with special mechanics completely decimate a run (I'm looking at you, Hologram Projection Belt Kashio). Kidney Shot is rare, and for good reason. Extremely powerful 0 cost card (when upgraded) that essentially lets you do w/e you want for 2 turns unless facing crowds.
Sal's High Points:
Sal's Low points:
Rook's Parasite is a small hurdle to jump but under some circumstances you could reduce your max hp to 10 and it wouldn't matter due to almost no enemies in his campaign having pierce attacks (I assume this design choice is intentional, and it makes perfect sense if there's no infinite to exploit). The free defense from spending charge makes his lower overall defense gains from maneuvers even out. Annoying to hatch but powerful once acquired, Bog Doom and Bog Down are worth acquiring if given the option. There is one slight issue of Rook having many, many cards requiring charge as a resource but he only has 2 cards that reliably build charge without additional requirements (Induction Blast and Crank), and that's if you get offered Induction as an upgrade (43% chance). Otherwise, you're stuck building it 1/turn only to spend all of it on 1 card, and ~20 cards require either multiple charge or full charge to be more useful than your common Sear, Burner, etc.
Rook's High Points:
Rook's Low points:
The card pool is large enough that any one of these combos can be difficult to pull off. That said. action point gain is significantly stronger than any other card effect (as is expected when the base action point pool is so small). Combined with any of the grafts that grant extra action points, it's almost too easy to end most fights before any significant threat is posed to the player. Status effects inflicted on the Hero can mostly be completely ignored, with really just wound being the only threat to a player.
Progress in a run feels significant, with the power curve being noticeable between days 1-2, 2-3, and 3-4. However, certain cards are significantly powerful on their own, while most other "powerful" effects require 3+ cards to feel just as impactful. Most cards can/have to be passed up in favor of focusing on specific effects or strategy.
There's almost never a point where taking some of the rarer but unique cards pays off over the more powerful (but often expendable) common cards. This mostly feels like it comes down to the fact that battles rarely take more than 3-6 turns, thus expending low cost but powerful cards is how most runs are played out. Letting fights drag out longer just results in the player taking too much damage, as healing is either very limited or expensive. Certain card rarities and their synergy requirements significantly impact their usefulness and makes it so the player is forced to either draft a deck using Veteran with these cards, or completely ignore them in a normal run.
I'm done writing now. If anyone read the whole thing, kudos and thanks to you. Let me how your experience has differed from mine.
Tempvirage's Top 10 Cards for Sal and Rook:
Battle feels good. Cards costing 2+ are risky to play even on P0 without AP grafts or Boons as they essentially skip your turn. Most common and uncommon cards are straight upgrades to base cards. 9/10 Rare cards feel bad/synergy requirements feel too steep over the more powerful common/uncommon cards even when the lower rarity cards have Expend, unless you draft a specific Rare early using the Veteran mutator and are able to build around it. Some exceptions I found were Boulder Stance, Kidney Shot, Amplifier, and Wildfire. Most abilities are worth drafting early if you have time/health to spare to play them or can build around them. Stun is such a powerful effect it's worth drafting every time (except maybe crushing blow).