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Defiler of Dreams Art by Ryan Pancoast

Dominaria United Defiler Cycle Card Analysis and Theorycraft: Mono-Colored Decks for Standard

Phyrexian mana is coming into prominence with the Defiler cycle of creatures in Dominaria United! Find out which Defilers DoggertQBones is most excited about and the best lists to put them in!

Hello everyone! Dominaria United is right around the corner, and with it, we’re getting a slew of sick cards to look at! I don’t know about you, but to me, these are some of the most exciting spoilers I’ve seen in a long time. Between super cool designs and beloved callbacks, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up being one of the best sets of all time.

Today I’m not doing just one card review, but five! The Defiler cycle is a new rare cycle that’s extremely exciting as it’s further pushing the resurgence of Phyrexian mana back into Standard!

We’ll break down each in WUBRG order with associated deck lists!

Before we get into it, let’s get the similarities out of the way. All of these are mid-game creatures that can reduce the cost of permanents of the same color by one color if you pay 2 life in it’s stead. So for example, with Defiler of Faith, you can reduce the cost of a White spell by {W} by paying 2 life. While you can do this for every spell of the associated color that you cast, you can’t do this multiple times for the same spell. The second similarity between them all is that they all have an effect whenever you cast a permanent of their associated color, not just any spell. This is likely to prevent people storming off in some capacity or to always have cheap interaction open even when tapped out.

Now that we established the similarities, let’s get into the differences!


Defiler of Faith

As far as Defiler of Faith‘s stat line, a 5/5 Vigilance is a reasonable body for 5 mana, but a little underwhelming if you compare this to Ao, the Dawn Sky since that has Flying as well. Nevertheless, that is a relatively big body and there aren’t too many creatures that are going to be able to tussle with this.

However, we’re more interested in the White cast ability which makes a 1/1 Soldier with each permanent cast. While pretty unexciting, I don’t think that’s particularly bad. 1/1s can put in a surprising amount of work depending on the deck you’re playing/facing as that can represent a lot of damage over a period of time or a lot of life gained if you’re blocking with them. Are the 1/1s outstanding? Obviously not, but it’s a solid ability.

Overall, this seems like a fine Rare that has some utility, but likely isn’t overpowering other White threats that may be vying for the same spot. I have to give this slightly more credit as being able to convert life into mana is still a very powerful ability, even if you’re not using it in a deck that can make amazing use of it.

Dominaria Mono White Midrange
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $326.23
Standard
Midrange
best of 1
9 mythic
21 rare
4 uncommon
26 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (20)
4
Serra Paragon
$91.96
Instants (4)
Enchantments (8)
Lands (24)
22
Plains
$5.50
60 Cards
$332.8

VERDICT

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Defiler of Dreams

As I’m going to with all of them, we have to analyze the stat line of the Defilers.

A 5 mana 4/3 Flier doesn’t seem too bad for Defiler of Dreams, but you have to consider that this is the only Defiler that can be killed by Lightning Strike which is a huge issue. I’m not one to say that creatures are bad because removal exists, but Lightning Strike is going to be very ubiquitous so it’s very much an issue that this dies to this.

The ability on this one is also a real head scratcher. Out of all of the Defilers, this may be the best one as recouping the card you spent to cast it each time is pretty nuts. The issue I have is that there aren’t necessarily many Blue permanents that are both cheap and good. Like this card is strong in theory (barring the Lightning Strike issue), but it’s hard to imagine where this would even fit. Sure you can mock up some mostly Blue deck to maximize the power of the ability, but it seems unlikely that this is going to be anywhere near strong enough to justify the deck building restriction.

For Defiler of Dreams, this is the only Defiler where I’m going to skip the deck. Looking at the options, I can’t imagine making anything playable that truly benefits from being able to play this card. If this could reduce the cost of all spells, even if it didn’t get the draw per cast, this would be an entirely different story, but Blue cards are too spell based to make good use of this. Maybe this can have legs in an older format, but I’d be surprised if this ever saw Standard play.

VERDICT

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Defiler of Flesh

Now we’re talking. Finally we hit a Defiler that I’m happy with the stat line as a 4 mana 4/4 Menace is quite reasonable. Furthermore, giving a creature +1/+1 and Menace is pretty solid for a stat boost as you can push a lot of damage in quickly that way.

So in theory, you could play Defiler of Flesh in a more midrange deck as a way to help close games. Obviously it’s not ideal to have a higher curve with this (or really any of the Defilers), but it’s not unreasonable as you can get big damage bursts out of nowhere. However, I think it’s much more sensible to put this in an aggro deck. I know that I’m a fiend for Mono Black Aggro, but come on!

Being able to suddenly storm out a bunch of threats and damage seems really good for an aggro deck, especially when the base creature is also a 4/4 Menace. It is sad that Defiler is relatively narrow, but it does have a pretty solid use. My main concern is I’m not sure that it’s better top end than Invoke Despair, but having a cheaper top end threat is definitely nice considering Liliana of the Veil may make it difficult to get to five mana.

Dominaria United Mono Black Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $262.78
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
9 mythic
18 rare
8 uncommon
25 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (22)
4
Evolved Sleeper
$9.96
2
Cult Conscript
$0.50
Instants (6)
3
Cut Down
$5.37
3
Infernal Grasp
$3.87
Enchantments (4)
Lands (24)
21
Swamp
$5.25
1
Hostile Hostel
$1.29
60 Cards
$277.02

VERDICT

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Defiler of Instinct

Yet again we have another 4 mana Defiler with another solid body. While Defiler of Flesh was a bit more aggressive with it’s menacing body, Defiler of Instinct is a huge pain in combat as a 4/4 First Strike. Then for the triggered ability, you can send one damage wherever you please!

For Standard, this is going to function very similarly to Defiler of Flesh. Both are looking to be played in aggressive decks to get the most out of their abilities as both allow you to push a lot of threats onto the board, and consequently, a lot of damage. However, unlike Defiler of Flesh, Defiler of Instinct has one distinct advantage, utility. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were constantly sending this face, but being able to ping down blockers or planeswalkers is definitely a big deal whether you’re an aggressive deck or not. It’s really easy to underestimate free damage in small increments, but even getting a free Shock from playing threats can make a big difference.

Another neat part about this card is that it’s even a combo engine in older formats! In conjunction with Grinning Ignus, you can keep looping it for each 2 life you spend which gives you a damage in the process. By itself, this wouldn’t be a particularly strong loop, but in conjunction with something like Prosperous Innkeeper, you now have a combo kill that lets you win if you are at a higher life total!

Overall this is similarly powerful to Defiler of Flesh as it has relatively the same stat line and you want to put it in an aggressive strategy, just with a little more play to it.

Dominaria United Mono Red Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $135.81
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
6 mythic
13 rare
12 uncommon
29 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (2)
Instants (8)
4
Play with Fire
$11.16
Enchantments (4)
Lands (22)
21
Mountain
$5.25
60 Cards
$116.52

VERDICT

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Defiler of Vigor

For the final Defiler, we have the big mean green machine of Defiler of Vigor!

I already spoke about Defiler in the above article, but I’ll give another break down.

First off, a 5 mana 6/6 Trample is quite the good stat line as extremely few creatures are going to be capable of beating it in combat. Furthermore, adding a +1/+1 counter to EACH creature you control when you cast a green permanent spell is pretty nuts. So between the already huge body, Trample, and you being able to scale your whole board makes this quite the insane threat. This does so much and will kill extremely quickly if uninterrupted. While Green Aggro may not be the lowest curve deck as it stands, this is only getting better and better in the future as if we’re able to ever trim the curve down, this card gets so much more threatening.

Mono Green Aggro
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $143.89
Standard
Aggro
best of 1
5 mythic
25 rare
4 uncommon
26 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (5)
4
Tail Swipe
$1.00
Lands (24)
23
Forest
$5.75
60 Cards
$131.02

VERDICT

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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DoggertQBones
DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on
Twitch and Discord.

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