Commander Spotlight: Defiler of Souls

Welcome back to week eight of Monday Magic: COVID Edition. It has been a full 100 days since my last summoning, which seems almost unimaginable in terms of having to put one’s entire social life on hold in order to keep people we don’t even know safe. But that’s precisely what we did. What so many, many people did. And while it is undeniably the right move in these bizarre and unpredictable times, it’s still a little hard to grapple with at times.

Imagine what sort of things you normally can do in 100 days. Consider the number of projects you could start or finish. The number of social outings that can transpire. The number of ways your life can drastically change. In normal periods, 100 days can zoom past in the blink of an eye as the hustle and bustle of everyday life careens ever forward. Instead, right now 100 days is an eternity, as if someone took a single sobering moment and looped it over and over again for months on end. It’s neither exciting nor whimsical. Rather, it’s simply what needed to be done.

I absolutely take solace in the fact that though the lockdowns have decimated the economy and obliterated our social lives, it also saved potentially millions of lives. (And no, that’s not an exaggeration.) I am fully aware that my capability to throw down overpriced cardboard in the same room with friends is infinitesimal compared to the real world problems surrounding us. However, I would by lying if I said it didn’t bother me a a tad all the same.

Yet although here in the Northeast things have been trending in the right direction for a few weeks now, it hasn’t normalized quite to the point in these parts where throwing open the doors to my fellow card-floppers is a possibility. Which means, as you may expect, the COVID edition continues on.

For those new to this truncated series version, because normal gameplay has been halted – generally the inspiration for the topics and cards discussed – I’ve lately instead been choosing cards to highlight that I’ve always wanted to put into an EDH deck but to this point never has for one reason or another.

Sometimes a card doesn’t make it into a deck because it was unfortunately cut during the build phase or was bumped out in favor of something else. Other times it’s because as much as the card is appealing in a vacuum, it doesn’t quite fit the theme of the deck itself. And sometimes it hasn’t made it into a a deck merely because it isn’t the right colors.

Today’s is very much the latter case.

Today we have: Defiler of Souls

Name: Defiler of Souls

Edition: Alara Reborn

Rarity: Mythic Rare

Focus: Creature Removal

Highlights: Magic has always brought with it a subset of cards that, for one reason or another, don’t particularly play well with others. These are cards that are terrific in isolation but can become jarring even amongst other cards of its kind. Being part of the collective of particularly lethal cadre of demons, Defiler of Souls very much fits that blueprint. For as with all demons, the power you get from their assistance always comes with a price.

At its most basic, Defiler of Souls is a 5/5 Flying creature for six mana, putting it on par cost wise with the plethora of other demons, dragons, sphinxes, and angels out there. Moreover, the mana involved isn’t all that prohibitive in a dual-colored or possibly tricolored deck. Yet what elevates this creature to its mythic worthy status is its creature-devouring effect.

Living up to its namesake, Defiler of Souls states that during each player’s upkeep they must sacrifice a monocolored creature, putting it in the same space as a creature-based version of Call to the Grave or a slightly less abusable Braids, Cabal Minion. The particular restriction in this case is that it only forces players to sacrifice monocolored creatures. At the time of its original release this was actually more restrictive than it sounds given the absolute abundance of multicolored cards in the Alara block (Alara Reborn especially so). Over time, however that particular rider has largely gone from a potential negative trait in the Constructed formats of its day to a positive one in an EDH setting.

For one, despite Commander being chock full of multicolored cards, monocolored creatures still more common by far, ensuring that you likely will be able to pick off numerous creatures just by having it on the battlefield. How long it survive will ultimately depend on the table state at the time and the general makeup of your opponent’s decks.

Moreover, unlike many other similar demons, the Defiler neither punishes you for not sacrificing a creature, nor does it make you sacrifice itself if you have no other options. If the player has no monocolored creatures, it simply shrugs and moves on.

This fact cuts both ways, though, illustrating one of the card’s two limitations. That is, thanks to the abundance of multicolored cards in the format, you definitely will run into creatures during Commander games to which this demon does nothing against. Generally speaking, the more colors an opponent’s deck has, the less fruitful the Defiler becomes. Monocolored decks can be particularly gutted by such an ongoing trigger, for instance, whereas a tricolor deck may largely be immune from its deadly battlefield glares.

Secondly, though Defiler of Souls may not devour itself, it’s sacrifice effect affects you as well – which means that your monocolored creatures are just as vulnerable as other players. Unless everything you’re running is gold templated, you will need to be cautious on when to drop this creature out.

Still, so long as you time its use right, Defiler of Souls can be incredibly useful at picking off numerous creatures over time – even if it can be somewhat indiscriminate at times. And even in the worst scenarios, it will always be a particularly sizable Flying creature for you opponents to contend with.

Someday I’ll have a deck it fits in. Someday…

Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.

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