Slay the Spire Defect Guide: Builds, Strategies, and Tips

| By Yaroslav Moklyak
Slay the Spire Defect

The Defect is one of the four basic Slay the Spire characters, and one of the most complex. He has his own special mechanics on which the game’s strongest strategies are based. However, figuring out these mechanics is not easy, much less learning how to use them successfully and effectively.

I’ve noticed that because of the Orbs mechanic, builds on Defect are very differ from builds on Ironclad, Silent, or Watcher. But, on the other hand, it gives a lot of variety in Defect’s playstyle and allows you to build interesting decks.

Playing as Defect may initially seem confusing and complicated, but there are a few important tips and basic strategies that will help you greatly improve your skill and master the character.

Moreover, you may find some additional tips for Slay the Spire, which will help you to improve your skill and understand the game better. If you are new to this game, you may find it interesting Slay the Spire review.

The Defect Basics

The Defect Basics

I’ve played Defect for dozens of hours, passed every level of Ascension, and I can say that Defect is the third hardest character to master, after Ironclad and Silent. It is quite difficult to play because of its own special mechanics and a lot of combinations.

The Defect has many strategies that can be used: the build on Lightning Orbs, Frost Orbs, Dark Orbs, Claw Build, and the build on random cards. There is another strategy through the Hyperbeam card, but it is too specific and suitable only for low difficulty, so I did not add it to this guide.

To understand how to play as a Defect in Slay the Spire you need to feel the strength of the character and understand its nuances.

Defect Starting Relic

The starting relic of Defect is called Cracked Core – it allows you to start each battle with one charged sphere of lightning.

This relic is great for the basic Defect build based on lightning orbs.

Unfortunately for other builds this relic is not very useful, so it seems to me that this starter relic is weaker than other characters’ base relics.

Starting Relic

Defect Orbs and How do They Work

Orbs is a unique Defect mechanic on which the character’s gameplay is based. Initially the character starts the game with 3 slots for orbs, but their number can be increased or decreased in the course of the game.

To increase the number of slots you can use the Capacitor talent (adds 2/3 sphere slots), as well as the Inserter relic (every 2 turns adds 2 slots for orbs) and Runic Capacitor (gives 3 extra orbs slots at the beginning of combat). If your deck is focused on a large number of orbs, these relics and talents are worth taking.

Each orb has a passive and an active effect. The first activates automatically at the end of each turn, without player action. The active effect triggers at the rightmost orb when you run out of free orb slots and add a new orb. After activation of this effect, the orb disappears.

Types of Orbs

Defect has four types of orbs in total, which can be activated by relics or cards:

  1. Lightning Orb: Passively deals three damage at the end of your turn. The active effect deals 8 damage.
  2. Frost Orb: Passively gives two blocks to the character at the end of your turn. The active effect gives Defect 5 points of block.
  3. Dark Orb: Passive ability increases this orb’s damage by six points at end of the turn. Active effect deals accumulated damage to one of the opponents.
  4. Plasma Orb: at the beginning of your turn gives 1 energy. The active effect gives you 2 energy.

What is Focus and How Does It Work?

Another unique Defect mechanic in Slay the Spire is the focus. It increases the power of orbs by the amount of focus the Defect has. For example, if you have 2 focus, the lightning orb will passively deal 5 damage instead of 3, the frost orb will give 4 defense instead of 2, and the darkness orb will increase the damage by 8 instead of 6.

It’s very important to increase the Defect focus during the battle, because without it it will be difficult to reach the last boss. You can use Biased Cognition, Defragment, Consume cards, as well as Data Disk relic (gives 1 focus at the beginning of the battle) to increase this figure.

The focus has no effect on the plasma orb.

How to Build a Deck on Defect?

Slay the Spire the Defect

When playing as any of the characters in Slay the Spire, you need to be attentive to the deck-building process, especially when playing as Defect. You can’t choose a strategy in the game beforehand, as you’ll get random relics and cards after each battle.

The best approach to mastering Defect is to learn how to make the best choices from what is offered and adapt your deck of cards as you play. This will get you through all 4 acts in the game and potentially allow you to complete all 20 levels of Ascension.

Choose Only the Needed Cards

It’s always important to remember the basic builds for playing Defect so you know which cards you should take and which you should skip. Moreover, every build has deck-building cards that are important to take in any case (for example, Electrodynamics).

Also, Defect’s arsenal has some powerful cards that will work with any build, so you should also pay attention to them, especially during the first act (for example Seek).

Don't Take Too Many Cards

Large deck size will often be a disadvantage in Slay the Spire, because instead of necessary and really useful cards, you may have mediocre ones come into your hand several turns in a row. It’s much more efficient to play all your cards in 3 turns, shuffle your deck, and start playing your strongest cards again.

So my advice would be to act this way:

  • During the first act, look at all the cards that the game gives, take the strongest of them, and pay special attention to the strongest cards from the builds. This will allow you to put together a basic deck for killing enemies and defeating the first boss.
  • During the second act, try to define exactly what build you want to use and start taking the cards that are necessary for it. I advise skipping other cards, so as not to fill up the deck with unnecessary cards. This will allow you to make a strong base for passing the second boss.
  • During the third act, the chance to get rare and unique cards is greatly increased. This is where it’s best to supplement and complete your build with the necessary, strong cards, as well as to focus on removing unnecessary and not very strong cards that you no longer need. This will allow your strategy to maximize its potential and pass the boss of the third and fourth acts.

Also, during the entire game as a Defect, try to remove the base Attack and Defense cards whenever possible, as any other attack or defense card will be stronger than these basic cards.

Focus on Available Relics

As for relics for the Defect, it’s ambiguous, because the game gives you random relics that may not always be useful. So don’t count on getting specific relics, especially rare ones.

It’s important to look at the list of the best relics on Defect and know which relics are good and can enhance your character. If you get one of the relics for a particular strategy at the beginning of the game, it’s worth thinking about choosing only those cards that synergize with that relic.

Moreover, there are some relics that unlock the potential of some seemingly bad cards, which ends up making Defect extremely strong.

For example, you’re unlikely to look at a Consume card during a game (takes away 1 sphere slot and gives 2/3 focus). However, if you have Insert relic (gives you 2 orb slots every 2 turns), the card won’t do any damage to your character, while still giving a lot of focus and increasing the effect of all orbs.

Another good option might be a Mummified Hand relic (when you cast a talent, makes the cost of a random card in your hand 0), since Defect has so many talents that you can use to make the cost of other expensive cards 0, and thus cast several strong and expensive cards at once in one turn.

Most Powerful Defect Builds

There are several builds that can get you through all 4 acts of Slay the Spire, and even through 20 levels of Ascension while playing as Defect.

I’ve looked at several guides, watched streamers play, tried many decks myself, and collected the 4 strongest strategies (+ 1 fan strategy) that can be used to walkthrough Slay the Spire on Defect.

1. Lightning Build

Lightning Orbs Build

Basic Cards: Thunder Strike, Electrodynamics, Ball Lightning, Static Discharge, Storm.

Lightning is the easiest of the four spheres to use, and a very powerful one at that. In turn, the lightning strategy is probably my favorite, and at the same time it is not difficult to master. However, it does require a lot of rare cards for maximum effectiveness.

Cards for the Lightning Build

There are a few must-have cards for success at any level of the game:

  • Electrodynamics: charges 2/3 of the lightning orb, as well as lightning strikes all enemies at once
  • Ball Lightning: Deals 7/11 damage and charges a lightning orb
  • Thunder Strike: deals 7/9 damage to a random enemy for each charged orb of lightning in combat
  • Storm: Charges 1 lightning orb when you cast the power
  • Static Discharge: Charges 1/2 lightning orbs when your enemies deal damage to you

Other good choices for this deck are Defragment (to increase focus) and Capacitor (to increase orb slots). You can also play a Seek card to get the necessary cards out of your deck and cast them faster.

Cards for Defense

In this build, it’s very important not to forget about defense, because lightning orbs can not always kill the enemy quickly. The following cards are great for Defect defense:

  • Boot Sequence: Gives 10/13 defense and burns (costs 0 energy)
  • Charge Battery: Gives 7/10th of a shield and an extra energy point the next turn
  • Auto-Shields: Gives 11/15 defense if you don’t already have any
  • Genetic Algorithm: Gives 1 block. Permanently increases this card’s block count by 2/3 when played
  • Leap: gives 9/12 defense
  • Steam Barrier: Costs 0 energy, gives 6/8 protection and reduces this card’s defense number by 2

Another great option to defend against single enemies would be the Buffer talent, which blocks 1/2 of the enemy’s next attacks.

How Does this Build Work?

The idea of the lightning strategy is very simple. During the battle, you need to charge the maximum number of spheres in 4-5 turns while killing all enemies with mass attacks and blocking attacks with defense cards. If any enemy is left after that, you can end the battle with a Thunder Strike card.

It’s important to understand that you can find Thunder Strike closer to the third act, and that’s okay. You can confidently get to the third act without this card.

Alternatives of the Lightning Build

This build has many varieties. You can use them in case you haven’t found some of the key cards.

  1. You can get some cards to charge spheres with lightning orbs and play the Electrodynamics talent, thanks to which each orb of lightning will hit all enemies at once. This is already a strong combination, but unfortunately, this talent is not always found. Also, the disadvantage of the strategy is that it’s effective against several enemies at once, but not very strong against single bosses or elite monsters. You can use the usual Defect attacks, or add a few cards with orbs of darkness.
  2. A strong version of the build on lightning can be done through the card Thunder Strike (if you can not find Electrodynamics). Drawing up to 10 spheres of lightning in a few moves you can easily finish off all enemies, even the strongest ones. However, it’s important to think about increasing the Defect’s power. This can be done with relics, or with Reprogram card.
  3. Another option for this strategy is to increase the number of available spheres, fill them with lightning orbs, and increase the focus and defense. Thanks to this you will deal a lot of passive damage to enemies, and with defense cards, you will block the damage of monsters. The plus side of this strategy is that it’s easy to build since almost any Defect block cards will work, as well as Lightning cards. However, it’s not a very strong build, and it’s unlikely to get beyond the 5-6 level of Ascension.

2. Build on Frost Orbs

Frost Orbs Build

Basic Cards: Chill, Coolheaded, Glacier, Cold Snap, Blizzard.

The second strongest build on Defect is the Frost build. It’s not very hard, but it can be hard to deal damage to enemies since most of your cards give protection rather than damage.

Cards for the Frost Build

There’s only 1 required card in this deck, but it’s worth knowing about all the others. The following cards are great for this build:

  • Blizzard: deals double/triple damage to all enemies from the number of ice spheres charged. Key card to win on high-difficulty levels
  • Coolheaded: charges 1 frost orb, gives 1/2 card
  • Chill: Charges 1 Frost Orb for each enemy in battle
  • Glacier: Gives 9/12 block, 2 ice spheres.
  • Cold Snap: deals 6/9 damage and charges 1 frost orb

Furthermore, this build can be best utilized with Defragment and Capacitor cards. You can also boost this deck with the card Loop (it activates the effect of the orb at the beginning of the turn, and thus gives you extra protection).

Useful Relics for the Frost Build

There are a few relics that may be useful for this build:

  • Frozen Core: An extremely strong relic for this build. Frozen Core replaces the starting relic, charges 1 frost orb at the beginning of combat, and adds 1 frost orb every turn if there are free orb slots.
  • Insert: adds 2 orb slots every 2 turns. A great choice for this build, since charging a lot of frost orbs is not a problem for Defect.
  • Gold-Plated Cables: The rightmost sphere is activated 1 more time at the end of the turn.

How does this Deck Work?

The main idea of the Frost Build on Defect is to accumulate as much block as possible each turn, while activating frost orbs at the same time. By picking up the necessary cards you can easily get 30-40 defense passively every turn, which will protect you from almost any attack. Once you’ve played enough Frost Orbs for the game, you can play a Blizzard card and end the battle.

3. Claw Build

Claw Build

Basic Cards: Claw.

Another interesting strategy to play for Defect you can play without using orbs. This strategy focuses on the Claw card, which costs 0 mana, deals 5/7 damage, and increases the damage of all Claw cards in the deck by 2 after each draw. This may not seem like the strongest build, but if you take a few Claw cards, as well as draw cards, you’ll understand the strength of this build.

Cards for this Build

There are no rare cards in this deck, so it’s easy enough to collect. What’s more, apart from Claw, there aren’t any cards you need. For this deck, you can use any of these cards:

  • Scrape: deals 7/9 damage and gains 3/4 of a card (discards all but 0 cards)
  • FTL: Costs 0 energy, deals 5/6 damage, and gains 1 card if you’ve played less than 3/4 cards this turn
  • Machine Learning: Gain 1 additional card from your deck each turn
  • Reboot: You shuffle your cards into the reboot stack and draw 4/6 cards
  • All For One: deals 10/14 damage and puts all cards for 0 from the discard stack into your hand (very strong addition to this deck)
  • Skim: you take 3 cards
  • Rebound: deals 8/11 damage, and puts the dealt card on top of the rebound stack

Also, you can take a Reprogram card, which takes away 2/1 focus and gives you 1 point of strength and dexterity.

Remember About the Defense

Since this deck is based on physical attacks, you should definitely think about defense as well. The cards I mentioned earlier are great for that: Boot Sequence, Charge Battery, Auto-Shields, Genetic Algorithm, Leap, Steam Barrier, and Buffer.

Relics for This Deck

There is one really useful relic for this build – Unceasing Top. It will draw a card whenever you have no cards in hand during your turn. So, if you have lots of Claw cards in your deck, this relic will be perfect for you.

However, this relic is rare, so it will be hard to get it.

How Does This Deck Work?

The way the deck works is simple – the more Claw cards you play, the more damage you deal, and so on until all the enemies are dead. It’s important to pick up enough cards to draw, to get as many Claw as possible during the battle. Furthermore, it’s important to remember to protect your Defect character so that enemies don’t kill your character before you can increase the damage of your Claw card.

4. Deck on Dark Orbs

Dark Orbs Build

Basic Cards: Doom and Gloom, Darkness.

Another interesting strategy for Defect is based on orbs of darkness. However, it is very difficult to realize and requires a certain experience in the game. To be honest, I haven’t mastered it properly myself.

The difficulty with this build is that Defect only has 2 normal cards to charge orbs of darkness:

  • Doom and Gloom: deals 10/14 damage to all enemies and charges 1 dark orb
  • Darkness: Charges 1 dark orb

Moreover, the orbs of darkness passively do not give any useful effect while charging, so you need to kill small enemies and defend yourself by playing other cards. It’s important to know how to balance attack and defense, as well as how to feel the character and the game.

It’s also important to find a Symbiotic Virus relic that charges 1 dark orb every turn. Without this relic, this build is doomed to failure.

The basic strategy for playing with orbs is to charge all available slots and wait until they accumulate enough damage while playing cards to protect them. After that, you need to unload all orbs, but to do that you also need to play cards. That’s why I would call this build on Defect one of the hardest to implement.

5. Deck on Talents

Basic Cards: Creative AI, Hello World.

This deck is more of a fun game than a walkthrough, but I decided to add it to the list since it’s a fun deck to play with.

There’s no card limit in this deck, but it’s important to find 2 talents: Creative AI (gives you 1 random talent per turn) and Hello World (gives you 1 random normal card per turn). Thanks to these cards, you can generate random cards at the beginning of each turn, and in the end each battle will be different from the previous one. What’s more, the game sometimes gives you very exciting combinations.

However, it’s important to find a Mummified Hand relic for this deck, because Defect has so many talents, and with the relic you can play many more cards during combat.

Tier List of the Best Cards for Defect

Defect, like the other characters in Slay the Spire, has several cards that are great for any deck. What’s more, you can make a pretty good deck out of them to start the game and get to the second act without any problems. A list of the best base cards for Defect to look out for:

  1. Seek: costs 0 energy, and allows you to pick 1/2 a card from your deck and add it to your hand. A great card for any deck and at any stage of the game
  2. Self Repair: Restores 7/10 of the Defect’s health at the end of combat
  3. Boot Sequence: Costs 0 energy, gives 10/13 defense, burns
  4. Streamline: Costs 2 energy, deals 15/20 damage, and reduces the cost of the card by 1
  5. Steam Barrier: Gives 6/8 protection
  6. Beam Cell: costs 0 energy, deals 3/4 damage, and puts 1/2 Vulnerable on the enemy

Defect Relics Tier List

There are a total of 139 relics for each character in the game. When playing for Defect, it’s important to understand which relics you need the most, as well as which ones you should choose as you progress through the game.

Here’s a list of the best relics for Defect in Slay the Spire:

  1. Mummified Hand: already mentioned several times in this article. After playing a talent, reduces the cost of another random card to 0. An extremely strong relic, because Defect has so many useful talents and expensive cards that can be cheapened.
  2. Tungsten Rod: reduces all damage taken by 1. An extremely useful relic for any character on any difficulty level.
  3. Singing Bowl: Instead of adding a card, you can take +2 HP for a character. A great relic for playing a certain strategy, as you can not just skip the card selection (if you don’t need the cards the game offers), but boost your character a bit.
  4. Bird-Faced Urn: restores 2 HP every time you cast a talent. Another useful artifact for Defect, which has many good talents for any deck.
  5. Nuclear Battery: charges 1 orb of plasma at the beginning of each battle. Useful relic for any run, as it gives +1 energy passively, which will help you play all necessary cards at the beginning faster.
  6. Runic Capacitor: Gives 3 extra orb slots at the start of combat. A good addition for almost any deck, considering that Defect has almost half of its cards charging orbs.
  7. Inserter: Also mentioned several times in this article. Gives 2 extra orb slots every 2 turns. It’s a strong relic, but you should be careful with it. If you can’t play a lot of orbs, then this artifact can play a trick on you, because you won’t have time to fill slots with orbs and won’t be able to cause an active effect of your orbs.


Slay the Spire is a rather complex game for the unprepared player, especially when you play as Defect.

When playing as Defect you should be very careful with your card selection and the cards you play during combat. I advise you to start getting to know your character by playing the strategy on Lightning Orbs. Remember that you need to get a good feel for the character, otherwise it will be extremely difficult to pass all levels of Ascension. Don’t forget that it’s important to practice as much as possible: test different combinations, strategies, builds, and everything will work out.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How to Unlock the Defect in Slay the spire?

To unlock Defect, you need to finish the race for the Ironclad character, and then for the Silent character. You don't have to kill the final boss. Defect will be unlocked even if you lose somewhere in the middle of the race.

2. What is the Strongest Strategy on Defect?

As I mentioned before, I think the strongest strategy on Defect is the lightning build. It's the one that got me through Act 4 and then all of the Ascension levels.

3. Is it Worth Removing the Base Attack and Defense Cards?

Yes, definitely. Take every opportunity to remove cards. If you need all the cards you have in your deck, start removing attack and defense cards. That way your deck will be smaller and you can play the strongest cards more often.

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