The ladder gets reset with each update anyways, and is a somewhat neutral goal to aim for. Wouldn't worry about your positioning in it as a new player. Yeah, it takes a while to get all the Legendary cards needed to be competitive, but new players are already in a way better position than we old guard ever will. You've got the Black Market (Which is a guaranteed legendary drop) and the ability to specifically forge the cards you want. Use those, build your deck on an "as needed" basis.
Thats not true though lol. All of the christmas presents ... Spectral cape/dagger combo being available on the black market ... You can only forge cards you want "if" you can clear golden grounds. With bad RNG thats not possible. I rolled 10 common duplicates the last time I tried.
OK, I'll go through a few things here: The Christmas presents were just setting one particular gift on the Black Market. Those same gifts are all still available on the Black Market (With the sole exemption of Kiwi Egg, which is not a particularly useful one). If you want the Spectral Cape and Dagger, just keep trying the Black Market as we all did. You should be able to clear an Easy run on Golden Grounds with even a few token "base cards". I know I cleared mine with not a single card above Yellow rarity, Darkness only. You won't go far in to the bonus, but clearing a 200 wave run should be child's play. Just focus your skills on clearing the main run (So ignore Challenge damage, bonus gold and extra waves). It is hard building your deck to start, but it gets significantly easier as you keep going.
There are currently only 3 items available on the black market so no. Spectral Cape and Dagger are not on the black market anymore. Yes if you have certain cards clearing 200 is childs play. The last 20 draws I have had have all been duplicates, I haven't missed a quest since starting this thread and you can see that my profile hasn't changed much.