Hades 2 Arcana Cards explained and the best cards to use

Hades 2 Arcana Card Judgement final card
(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Using a good selection of Hades 2 Arcana Cards will massively boost Melinoe's power with passive buffs and new abilities, helping your chances of success each night. You need to unlock cards at the Altar of Ashes in the Crossroads, but the system gets complicated when you have to factor in Melinoe's Grasp level, forcing you to make tough choices about your build in Hades 2. To help you understand how Arcana Cards work, which cards are best in Hades 2, and how you can upgrade them, I've laid out everything I know below.

How to unlock and activate Hades 2 Arcana Cards

Hades 2 Arcana Cards Altar of Ashes in the Crossroads

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

After finishing your first run in Hades 2, head to the Altar of Ashes at the entrance to the Crossroad's training area and here you can start unlocking Arcana Cards from the Altar menu. Arcana Cards cost varying amounts of Ashes and sometimes rare resources to unlock. Buying a card also reveals other cards in the adjacent spaces below and to the right, gradually filling out the entire 5x5 Arcana Card grid.

However, unlocked Arcana Cards will only grant their buffs and benefits if they are activated, which is done by selecting a card. You'll notice that this fills Melinoe's Grasp gauge on the right of the Altar menu. Each card has a number and the green hand Grasp icon in the top-right corner, which indicates how much Grasp the card uses. Since Melinoe's starting Grasp is only 10, you are very limited in the number of Arcana Cards you can activate at once, so increasing Melinoe's maximum Grasp by spending any Psyche is crucial to letting you activate as many Arcana Cards as possible.

Hades 2 Arcana Cards Grasp upgrade

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Each Grasp upgrade increases your Grasp by two but costs more and more Psyche. You still won't be able activate that many Arcana Cards after several upgrades, but you will have space for a good mix of low and high-Grasp cards for a range of buffs. You can also freely activate and deactivate your Arcana Cards whenever you use the Altar between runs to change your buffs, so long as you don't exceed Melinoe's Grasp limit.

Additionally, some Arcana Cards cost 0 Grasp but will automatically activate if a specific condition is met instead – these are marked as Awakening Cards and they're usually pretty powerful. The Awakening conditions are based on the other Arcana Cards you activate (for example, one Awakening Card requires you to activate all five cards in a row while another activates only if the three cards surrounding it are also active), so you can try and build your deck to activate as many Awakening cards as possible, though you might end up with a less focused build.

Best Hades 2 Arcana Cards

Hades 2 Arcana Card Eternity fully upgraded Death Defiance

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Now that you've grasped the basics of the Arcana Card system in Hades 2, it helps to know which cards are worth activating to boost Melinoe's strength. Here are the Arcana Cards I've found to be best in Hades 2, thanks to the incredibly useful buffs or extra abilities they provide:

  • II, The Wayward Son: After you exit a Location, restore 2 health or double that if you have 30% health or less.
  • III, The Huntress: While you have less than 100% Magick, your Attack and Special deal 30% more damage.
  • V, The Messenger (Awakening): You have a +6% chance to Dodge. Activate at least three Cards that use the same amount of Grasp to activate this card.
  • VI, The Furies: Deal 20% more damage to enemies in your Casts.
  • VII, The Titan: Increase your maximum health and magick by 20.
  • VIII, The Unseen: Restore 2 Magick every second.
  • XII, Eternity: Start each run with one Death Defiance, letting you come back to life with 40% health and Magick after falling to zero health.
  • XIII, The Centaur (Awakening): Your maximum health and Magick increases by 3 for every five Locations you pass through. Activate Cards that use 1 Grasp through to 5 Grasp to activate this card as well.
  • XVII, The Boatman: Start each run with 200 Gold to spend on Charon’s wares.
  • XIX, Excellence: Any Boons offered during a run are 30% more likely to be Rare.
  • XXII, The Champions: Start each run with one more Change of Fate, letting you reroll Boons and certain other choices only.

How to upgrade Arcana Cards with Moon Dust in Hades 2

Hades 2 Arcana Cards upgrade with moon dust the wayward son

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

As you keep playing the game, you'll eventually unlock the "Consecration of Ashes" Incantation at the Crossroads cauldron that grants the ability to upgrade your Arcana Cards with Moon Dust. I learned this Incantation from Hecate on my fifth time defeating her, and it requires these ingredients:

  • 6 Ash: A common Encounter reward and can be traded for Bones with the Wretched Broker. Can also be acquired in larger sums through Charon's Gold Rewards and by completing certain Fated List challenges.
  • 1 Cinder: Earned from defeating Hecate in Hades 2.
  • 6 Fate Fabric: Can be traded for Bones with the Wretched Broker and ordered through Charon's Gold Rewards. Arachne also has a chance of offering an Outfit that immediately grants one Fate Fabric if chosen.

Cast the Incantation then head over to the Altar and follow the 'Insights' button prompt to switch to the upgrade mode. When you select a card, you can spend Moon Dust to increase its effectiveness, with higher-Grasp Arcana Cards generally requiring more Moon Dust to upgrade and sometimes rare resources.

While casting the Incantation automatically gives you three Moon Dust to get you started, you can get more Moon Dust by trading 80 Bones for 1 Moon Dust with the Wretched Broker at the Crossroads camp, redeeming some from Charon's Gold Rewards, or brewing it at the Crossroads Cauldron with two alchemy recipes. You can also upgrade cards a second time to increase their effectiveness even more, but the upgrade costs are substantially higher with a lot more Moon Dust needed and often very rare resources too.

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Will Sawyer
Guides Writer

Will Sawyer is a guides writer at GamesRadar+ who works with the rest of the guides team to give readers great information and advice on the best items, how to complete a particular challenge, or where to go in some of the biggest video games. Will joined the GameRadar+ team in August 2021 and has written about service titles, including Fortnite, Destiny 2, and Warzone, as well as some of the biggest releases like Halo Infinite, Elden Ring, and God of War Ragnarok.