How to Counter-Play Falkreath Defiler
How do you counter-play Falkreath Defiler? The Imperial is a key card of control decks like Ramp/ Rage-Warrior and Ramp/Rage-Ebonheart. The Ramp/Rage decks currently see a tremendous amount of play on the ladder across all ranks due to their amazing late game. While Falkreath Defiler is not the deck’s sole win condition, the Imperial plays a pivotal role in fetching some of the most powerful creatures from your discard pile.
Maybe you have played against such a deck already and not yet found a good way to deal with the Defiler? Maybe you have even encountered him in other control decks like gravedigger dragon control decks (involving Alduin), or Slay decks that run cards from the Endurance attribute. One of the key interactions of any of these decks is to use the Defiler’s slay effect to bring back a very powerful creature to the board for no additional magicka.
Being able to play around the Defiler is pretty critical to push through your own game plan. But is it even possible to play around him? In Falkreath Defiler – Uses & Synergies, we saw that opponents like to play Defiler in combination with an item to earn the slay benefits immediately. So in what situations do you need to be prepared for a Falkreath Defiler?
Understanding your Opponent’s Plan
Recognizing Falkreath Defiler Decks
The very first step to develop any form of counter-play to Falkreath Defiler is to recognize that your opponent is in fact running him in their deck. You might want to study the popular Ramp Rage Warrior or Ebonheart decks. The following images show a few examples that can be found on popular websites like legends-decks.com or teslegends.pro.
What do these similarities imply? For example, Tree Minder or Venomtongue are signs that your opponent is on a ramp mission. Scout’s Report and Merchant’s Camel are also cards to alert your Defiler awareness. Always check if they dropped a big threat into the discard pile early in the game. That’s a potential sign of a…
Falkreath Defiler Incoming…
Oftentimes, your opponent will use Falkreath Defiler to kill a low-health creature. From the moment your opponent has 6 magicka (5 magicka if they have a ring charge) they can combo the Defiler with Swords of the Inferno to kill a creature with two health or less. Quicksilver Crossbow or Archer’s Gambit allows them to trigger the slay effect on a creature with one health. Thus, every time your opponent brings any of your creatures to 1 or 2 health it can get dangerous. Particularly alarming is if you have multiple creatures on board and your opponent damages multiple without killing any, even though it would have been possible to kill at least one. Are your Defiler alarms sounding by now? They better be…
Noticing Falkreath Defiler-Trickery
There is one particular Defiler-play which is maybe a little less obvious. It involves discarding a high-power creature during the first few turns using cards like Scout’s Report or Merchant’s Camel and “reviving” the creature with the Defiler. This trick can summon any creature (e.g. Iron Atronach, Hulking Scalon, Divath Fyr, etc.) as early as turn 4 or 5. Therefore, you should always be double-checking your opponent’s discard pile carefully. There is counter-play…
Memory Wraith, Hallowed Deathpriest & Wake the Dead
Memory Wraith is a secure way to completely wipe your opponent’s discard pile. This voids Falkreath Defiler’s special ability and is probably the only proactive play to prevent a Defiler combo. If you did not get Memory Wraith to hand early enough, your Hallowed Deathpriest might have a shot at turning your opponent’s Most-Valuable-Player into a 2/2 Mummy. Since both the spirit and the skeleton can be summoned by the 2-cost action Wake the Dead (see Wake the Dead – Uses & Synergies for more), you can easily increase your odds of drawing one of those cards when needed.
Another way to counter-play Falkreath Defiler is to banish him. By using Cast Into Time, you can banish a Defiler from the board and remove all copies still in your opponent’s deck. Make sure to check how many actually got banished by hovering over the in-game play history in the upper left corner.
An almost devious, but also very expensive way to banish the Defiler is to play Cast Into Time on your own Defiler. Another way to banish Falkreath Defiler is Piercing Twilight (see Piercing Twilight – Uses & Synergies). In this case, you first need to kill a Defiler in order to discard him from your opponent’s discard pile. Sometimes your opponent might be forced to discard a Defiler because they require a different card (e.g. when they are using their Cornerclub Gambler, Merchant’s Camel or Scouting Patrol). In this case, Piercing Twilight can do a neat trick to reduce your opponent’s chances of coming back at a later stage. Always check that discard pile…
Another option to banish a copy of the Defiler and potentially some high-power creatures with him is to use Alliance War’s Soul Shred. This action can be used to discard a larger number of cards from your opponent’s deck.
The Obvious – Buffing, Healing, Wards, or Stat-Manipulation
In order to trigger the Defiler’s slay effect, your opponent will need to get your creature’s health to below three. If your opponent attempts to do this across multiple of their turns, you can easily buff or heal your higher-health creature. While cards to heal your creatures are not widely played due to their low tempo or their variance, High Hrothgar-style decks certainly include such cards.
It’s almost needless to mention that item-buffs or wards can be used effectively to play around Defiler’s slay ability. But a tool is a tool. Giving a creature cover – via Shadowmaster, for example – is another possible way to protect them from a direct, imminent slay.
Instead of boosting your own creature’s health, you might also want to reduce the attack value of the Defiler. Cards like Curse, Shearpoint Dragon, or Murkwater Scourge can be used to deny your opponent another successful graveyard interaction.
Another very situational (but cool and surprising) option is to use Hatchery Meddler on a creature that your opponent has wounded. Let’s say, for example that they have hit your Valerion Aquilarios by 5 into a wounded 4/1. By switching his power with his health stats you can bring him out of range of Defiler.
Another way to deny your opponent another Defiler-play is to kill-off your own creatures. Normally, you are incentivized to trade in a way that lets your creatures survive trades. However, with Defiler on board (even in the other lane), it might actually be better to trade two of your creatures into your opponent’s bigger threat. Particularly at parity, this might allow you to draw another top deck to deal with the Defiler rather than giving your opponent an edge during this important phase in a game.
Lane Placement and Fighting in the Shadow Lane
Sometimes, your opponent sneaks out a Falkreath Defiler into the Shadow Lane to benefit from the cover protection. They usually intend to follow-up with an item-removal or even a lane shift to slay a low-health creature. If you have an opposing creature or one with charge, you can counter-play Falkreath Defiler in the Shadow Lane by playing Shining Saint, Underworld Vigilante or Stand Watch.
Falkreath Defiler counter-play is not easy. Keeping cards in hand that can handle him or the threats being summoned by him can be pivotal in keeping control over the game. The best defense against Ebonheart / Warrior Ramp Rage decks is a great offense, as these decks can struggle against very aggressive decks (e.g. Token Crusader, Aggro Hlaalu, Aggro Archer, …). If you prefer to play a midrange or control deck, you might want to consider including some of the tools mentioned in this article to be able to deal with Falkreath Defiler. Banishing him or your opponent’s discard pile are your safest bets. But you can include some combat-trick cards in your deck to be on the safe side.
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