Ultimate Defect Guide: Conquer Slay the Spire with These Expert Tips

I love Slay the Spire. I have now sunk over 70 hours into this game. I can’t stop playing. And by far, my favorite character to play, the Defect, is also the one the game says I’m the worst at. Undeterred, I have now not only slain the spire but reached the true ending with the Defect. 

Slay the Spire is a roguelike deckbuilder featuring four characters trying to reach the top of the titular Spire. During the game, you’ll have to choose what path to take and what cards to include in your deck. If you’ve made the right choices, you may even reach the top! (But is that really the end?)

The Defect is one of the most complicated characters to master. Their signature mechanic centers on creating various orbs that produce different passive and active (evoked) effects. Climbing the Spire and reaching the true ending means mastering the use of the orbs. Here is a guide to speed you on your way from one Defect lover to another.

A map of one path up the Spire.

Student of the Spire

If you’re new to Slay the Spire, there are a few important strategies to internalize that will help across all characters. 

First and foremost, make sure to pick up as many relics as you can. Relics are items gained from fighting elites and bosses, from chests, from special events, and from buying them in the store.

Simply put, relics break the game. Each relic provides a passive buff that varies in strength from useful to busted. The more relics and the more buffs you stack, the easier it will be to reach the top of the Spire and beat whatever dangers you face there.

By far, your most reliable method of gaining relics will be fighting elites. Other methods of relic hunting are less reliable. You can find more chests and events that give relics in event spaces, but it’s far from guaranteed. Fighting an elite enemy will always net you a relic. 

One of the most important relics to keep an eye out for is the Black Star. Picking up this relic will change elite encounters to reward you with two relics instead of one.

To get as many relics as you can, as safely as you can, make sure you’re plotting your route through the Spire beforehand. Carefully planning your path at the start of each act can give you access to more elite fights. Ultimately, this can net you more relics. Expert planning can also give you exit routes to back out of powerful fights to keep your run going.

The Defect in Slay the Spire.

The Defect’s Defect

The Defect’s biggest handicap is that the starting deck sucks. Each character’s starting deck has four copies of Strike and Defend, but these cards are awful for the Defect’s deck.

The Defect needs three main categories of cards to really get the deck going. You’ll need a good combination of energy creation, card draw, and orb creation. Card draw and energy creation are crucial for building a loop to draw and play as many cards per turn as possible.

While your starting deck is a handicap, there are a few ways you can overcome it. Most of these options involve some amount of risk, but you might find your gamble is rewarded.

Act II has two events that can upgrade your Strike and Defend cards into something more useful. If you hit the Ancient Writing event, you can choose to upgrade all Strike and Defend cards. 

The second, more risky event in Act II is encountering the Vampires and choosing to trade Strike cards for Bite cards. Bites deal more damage than Strikes and restore hit points. However, this is only recommended if you can trade away the Blood Vial relic to the Vampires instead of losing out on max HP.

The other way to eliminate your Strike and Defend cards is to transform them into other cards! The easiest way to do this wholesale is to pick up the Pandora’s Box relic from a boss fight, which transforms all your Strike and Defend cards into random cards. Alternatively, you can look for events that transform a few cards.

A Double Energy+ card.

Endless Energy

The Defect wants to play a lot of cards per turn, and the best way to do that is to find ways to gain more energy. All cards cost a varying amount of energy to play, so having more energy means you can play more cards. Building a solid base of energy cards may be your key to reaching the top of the Spire.

When you need energy in a pinch, you can’t go wrong with Turbo and Double Energy. While both have drawbacks, like Double Energy’s use limit in combat, these cards are great on their own and in tandem. 

If you’re at a loss for what cards to upgrade at the smith, Double Energy is a great choice. Upgrading it reduces the cost to zero energy. This can lead to some wild turns with more energy than you know what to do with.

Though it is less consistent, Aggregate is a good companion to Turbo and Double Energy. Since Aggregate adds energy based on the number of cards you have yet to draw, this card may not add that much energy early in the run. However, Aggregate shines in the late games, where decks can have 40 or more cards, and you might find yourself gaining 10 energy by using them.

While not quite on the same level of raw energy production, the Defect has cards that can allow you to store energy for later. Fusion, Charge Battery, and Meteor Strike are good examples. Charge Battery is a great option to block damage and store energy for later, but Fusion is my pick for the upgrade here. Fusion costs two energy and creates a plasma orb that passively gives you an extra energy each turn. Upgrading Fusion makes it much more efficient by costing one energy.

Fastest Draw in the Spire

If you’re playing the Defect, you’ll want to be drawing lots of cards. Drawing more cards will let you loop your energy cards and draw cards to consistently find and dump out your most powerful cards.

There are a few common options to draw cards. While you’ll have to pick which ones work best for your run, Sweeping Blade and Compile Driver are two great examples. Sweeping Beam will damage all opponents and draw a card. Compile Driver deals damage to one creature and draws up to four cards, depending on the different orbs you have. 

While not strictly card draw, Hologram is a spectacular pick up when it comes to the consistency to loop together powerful turns. Hologram produces a small amount of defense, but more importantly, puts a card from your discard into your hand. This card potentially allows you to recur energy producers, card draw, or your most powerful card in your discard pile.

When it comes to rare cards, the two best options are, without a doubt, Reboot and Seek. The best way to draw cards is to draw exactly the card you want, and Seek does just that. Reboot shuffles basically all your cards back into your draw pile and draws four cards. This keeps your deck fresh and allows you to keep your combos going when you have energy to spare.

Lastly, a special mention goes to Fission. Fission simultaneously accomplishes both missions of drawing cards and making energy. While this comes at the hefty cost of removing all of your orbs, the upgraded version of this card is invaluable. A quick trip to the smith will let Fission instead evoke all your orbs instead of removing them, making it ridiculously strong.

A screen shot of the defect with several orbs.

Ponder the Orbs

The Defect lives and dies by creating powerful orbs. It’s a smart strategy to grab cards that produce an effect and also creates orbs. Regarding attacks, Ball Lightning and Cold Snap are the quintessential examples of cards that do damage while gaining you an orb.

While you’ll inevitably encounter cards that gain orbs for the Defect, it’s also important to consider the focus mechanic. Gaining focus can dramatically enhance the strength of your deck, so it’s well worth investing in a few cards that increase focus. Defragment and Biased Configuration will passively amplify your focus for only one energy, so they’re great options, though the latter will put you on a ticking clock.

Another mechanic to remember with the orbs is the option to increase your orb count. While there are several options to increase your orb count with the Defect, I generally find that keeping orb count lower is more beneficial. Having more orb slots means it is harder to trigger active orb abilities.

Ride the Lightning

When piloting a deck with the Defect, the biggest choice to make on cards is what orbs to focus on. The two best strategies I’ve found are to focus on creating decks with many different kinds of orbs or creating decks that focus on lightning orbs.

There is a lot of support for lightning orb decks. The Storm and Static Discharge are both uncommon power cards that create passive buffs that generate lightning orbs. Storm, in particular, generates lightning orbs when you play more power cards. This card synergizes not only with Static Discharge but also with many of the strong rare cards (which happen to be powers).

When it comes to rare cards, there are two gold standards to pick for a lightning orb build. Electrodynamics is a power card that lets your lightning abilities hit all enemies and generates orbs, potentially evoking orbs the turn it is played. Thunder Strike is an attack that deals 7 damage for each lightning orb you have created in the current combat. I have seen this number reach 15 without much effort in a lightning orb deck, making it THE powerhouse in this deck.

The Chaos card.

Rainbow Road

If you cannot find the best lightning cards, you can always build a deck that uses many different types of orbs. I think this build offers some of the most fun you can have while playing the Defect.

Playing every type of orb card does make consistent card recommendations difficult, but there are a few staple cards. Chaos creates one random orb, and its upgrade is a standout, creating two random orbs instead. The upgrade of Darkness is similarly powerful, increasing the power of any dark orbs you’ve channeled. Compile Driver is also a wonderful card in this deck that will usually allow you to draw two or three cards consistently.

Finally, the best card in any rainbow orb deck is Rainbow. This card creates one orb of every basic type. This means with three standard orb slots, Rainbow completely evokes any channeled orbs and gives you a new set. This makes Rainbow the perfect tool to evoke all of your orbs.

Rainbow is balanced only by the fact that playing it removes it from play for the rest of the combat… and the upgrade removes this handicap. If you are playing a rainbow deck with the Defect, Rainbow should be your first pick over almost anything.

The opening of a Custom game of Slay the Spire.

Without Defects or Flaws

While Standard is the default way to play Slay the Spire, the most fun I’ve had in this game is during Custom Runs. Custom Runs offer a list of Modifiers that can change anything from the loadout of your deck, the types of cards you encounter, and the frequency of the elite monsters.

By loading a Custom Run of Slay the Spire with the Defect, you can draft a deck, choose a deck of 50 random cards, or start with a deck with every rare card. While you won’t be able to get any achievements from Custom runs, this experience lets you play this game at its most fun and least stressful.

When I want to relax and play a run for fun without the stress and difficulty of a Standard run, I load up a Custom run on my favorite character. If you love this game but struggle with the difficulty of Standard runs, I highly recommend you do the same.

The Spire Waits…

I wish you luck on your journeys through the Spire. This game has quickly cemented itself as a Rougelike addiction, and I can’t wait for its sequel. In the meantime, I wish you all the greatest luck slaying the spire.

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