Defiler of Instinct – Dominaria United
Date Reviewed: August 29, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.00
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I’m quite sure I’ve seen this guy in a movie; or possibly Mortal Kombat X downloadable content. The fact is, though, the Defiler cycle from Dominaria United doesn’t need any borrowed horror from the silver screen – they all stand up well on their own, and this one could be the end monster in a story all its own. In a deck with a lot of red permanent spells, you can get quite a lot of extra damage out of him, more than enough that you won’t mind that extra life loss. It adds up over just a turn or two, taking out one-toughness creatures and things you were near to killing anyway, chipping away planeswalkers, and changing how your opponent/s block. I’d be curious to see how he affects the value of creatures that deal damage themselves, like Fanatical Firebrand or Fanatic of Mogis. And don’t let that overshadow a simpler, but perhaps equally frightening fact: first strike is a “French vanilla” ability, but putting it on a 4/4 results in a creature that many decks simply cannot stop in combat.
Commander [EDH]: 4
When Phyrexia goes hard, they go hard. The Defiler cycle is a group of rare creatures that reference New Phyrexia‘s Phyrexian mana mechanic, in part, allowing you to pay 2 life instead of a red mana. Thankfully, the Defilers aren’t completely catastrophic in that regard, as you can only substitute the mana for permanent spells, and you only get to do it once…for each copy of a Defiler you have out, but seeing how they’re all higher on the mana curve, that seems minor enough in the grand scheme of things.
In addition to Phyrexianizing one red mana pip on permanents, Defiler of Instinct turns your permanent spells into pinging pressure, which is subtly vicious in a late game. In particular, both halves of this play nastily well with Goblin decks, thanks to them being low and to the ground. And the Defiler, despite being a Kavu and not a Goblin, is quite potent on its own, thanks to a 4/4 first strike body that will win out early and often. I feel like all five of the Defilers will see play to some degree, and while I’m not sure as to if Defiler of Instinct will be the ace of the cycle just yet, a solid body on top of enabling red decks to go wider (and pinging down things in the process) may be the midrange pop they need to eke out a win.
Limited: 4.75 (the body is phenomenal on its own)
Commander [EDH]: 4
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