Slay the Spire Defect Guide: Best Relics, Builds, Strats (2024)

Slay the Spire is a roguelike deckbuilding game where you can play a mighty warrior, a deadly assassin, a mystical monk ascetic, and…a robot? That’s right — in Slay the Spire, you can straight-up play a robot, known in-game as the Defect. The Defect has some of the more unique playstyles in the game, utilizing an interesting mechanic called Orbs for extra damage, defense, and energy. In this Slay the Spire Defect guide, we look at these unique mechanics and put together some of the strongest builds for your future runs.

Let’s get into it, shall we?

Guide Summary

  • Orbs are a central mechanic in the Defect’s gameplay, providing passive effects and can be evoked for stronger effects. Focus increases Orb abilities.
  • The Defect’s starting relic is Cracked Core, which channels a Lightning Orb at the start of each battle. It can be traded for a boss relic.
  • The Lightning build focuses on channeling Lightning Orbs for high damage output, with key cards like Electrodynamics and Storm. Important relics include Captain’s Wheel and Emotion Chip.
  • The Frost build focuses on defense, utilizing Frost Orbs and key cards like Blizzard and Glacier. Important relics include Data Disk and Bottled Tornado.
  • The Reprogram build ignores Orbs and focuses on powerful attack and defense cards. Key cards include Hyperbeam and Claw. Important relics include Inserter and Nuclear Battery.

Slay the Spire Defect Overview

We’ll start our Slay the Spire Defect guide with a quick overview of the character and mechanics. This includes a breakdown of their Orbs, as well as their starting relic and cards.

Starting Relic: Cracked Core

The Defect Starting Relic
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

The Defect’s starting relic is called Cracked Core. This relic channels one Lighting Orb (more on that in a moment) at the start of each battle. This can be really nice if you end up going for the Lightning build. I personally trade it out for a boss relic from the Whale when given the opportunity, but there’s no harm in holding onto it. That early game damage can be quite nice, and it works great with your starting deck.


The Defect Orbs
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

Orbs are central to the Defect’s gameplay, offering a variety of effects depending on their type. Each Orb you have channeled provides a passive effect at the end of your turn, and you can Evoke the Orbs (thereby consuming them) for a stronger version of the same effect.

Orbs are accompanied by Focus, another of the Defect’s unique mechanics. Each stack of Focus increases the abilities of your Orbs by +1 (much like Strength and Dexterity for damage and Block, respectively).

There are four types of Orbs: Lightning, Frost, Dark, and Plasma.


Lightning Orbs are the main source of damage for the Defect. At the end of your turn, you deal 3 damage to a random enemy for each Lightning Orb you have channeled. If you Evoke a Lightning Orb, it instead deals 8 damage to a random enemy. Each stack of Focus increases your damage by 1.


Frost Orbs are your main source of defense as the Defect. At the end of your turn, you gain 2 Block for each Frost Orb you have channeled. When you Evoke a Frost Orb, you gain 5 Block. Each stack of Focus increases your Block by 1.


Dark Orbs are interesting. At the end of each turn, they increase their damage by 6. When you Evoke a Dark Orb, you deal its current damage to the enemy with the lowest health. Each stack of Focus raises the damage increase by 1.

This can be incredibly strong, but a build centered on Dark Orbs is hard to put together — cards that generate Dark Orbs are few and far between.


Finally, we have Plasma Orbs. Plasma Orbs are different from all the others for two reasons. First, rather than activating at the end of each turn, they activate at the start of your turn and give you an additional energy to play cards with. The second unique aspect of Plasma Orbs is that they’re unaffected by Focus.

Defect Starting Deck

The Defect Starting Deck
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

The Defect starting deck is the standard ten cards in size. The deck is:

  • (4) Strike: A 1-cost attack to deal 6 damage.
  • (4) Defend: A 1-cost skill that grants 5 block.
  • (1) Zap: A 1-cost skill that channels a Lightning Orb.
  • (1) Dualcast: A 1-cost skill that Evokes your next Orb twice.

As you can see, the starting deck for the Defect is designed to make good use out of our Orb slots from the beginning. With early Lightning Orbs, we can get some explosive damage to close out fights. However we also have a fairly standard suite of Strikes and Defends so that we aren’t forced into an Orb-centered build if we don’t want to be.

Basic Defect Strategy

The Defect Basic Strategy
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

The Defect has multiple options for builds that can very how they play wildly. However, the fundamentals lie in learning how to manage your Orbs. You’ll want to know when to Evoke an Orb while not emptying all your slots too soon. What you can do with your Orbs will obviously depend on your build, but you’ll still want to practice the basics of cycling through them to maximize the number of channeled Orbs you have, as well as the payoff.

The Defect has many cards that play around with Orbs, and you can do some really strong things with mixing and matching Orbs if you get the right cards. However, the Defect can also destroy opponents without any Orbs at all.

Best Deck Builds for the Defect

In this guide, we’ll discuss three primary builds — the Lightning deck, the Frost deck, and the Reprogram deck. There is no Plasma build, as Plasma Orbs are an enabler for other builds to help you play more cards in a turn, nor is there a Dark build. Like I mentioned before, cards that generate Dark Orbs are infrequent enough that it’s not worth pursuing. If you find yourself lucking into a Dark build, however, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it!

Lightning Deck

Lightning Deck Build
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

Let’s start with the Lightning build. As you can probably guess, this build is all about channeling as much Lightning as you can in order to DPS your opponents into oblivion. This build cares much more about power cards than the Frost and Reprogram builds do.

It’s also the easiest build to go after from the start, as Cracked Core channels a Lightning Orb at the start of your turn, and you start with a copy of Zap.

Key Cards

The single most powerful card you can get in this build is Electrodynamics. Electrodynamics is a 2-cost power that channels two Lightning Orbs when played and makes them hit all enemies at end of turn, instead of just a random one. Once upgraded, it will channel three Lightning Orbs when played. You can see how absurdly strong this card is.

The next card we want to look out for is Storm. Storm is a 1-cost power that channels a Lightning Orb whenever we play a power card (which we’ll want a lot of in this deck). What makes this card really strong is that, when upgraded, it gains the Innate keyword. This means the card always starts in your opening hand, so upgrade Storm as soon as you can.

The third-most powerful card in our build is Static Discharge. This 1-cost power card channels a Lightning Orb each time we take unblocked damage (two when upgraded). Since this build is primarily offensive, this is huge for us.

Next, we have Self Repair. This card slots into every single Defect build, but especially the Lightning build. Self Repair is a 1-cost power that heals you for 7 at the end of the battle (10 at the start of the battle when upgraded). Remember that the Ironclad’s starting relic — objectively the best starting relic in the game — heals for only 6 at the end of each battle. You can see how strong Self Repair is.

Rounding out the power cards, we have Loop, a 1-cost power that triggers our rightmost orb at the start of each turn. When upgraded, it triggers our rightmost orb twice at the start of each turn. Defragment is a 1-cost power that gives us one stack of Focus (two if upgraded). Finally, Capacitor is a 1-cost card that gives us two extra Orb slots (three if upgraded)

As far as non-power cards, our build can run any cards that channel Lighting. The only one worth special mention is Tempest. This X-cost card channels X Lighting Orbs (X+1 when upgraded), then Exhausts.

Additionally, while it doesn’t channel Lightning Orbs, Thunderstrike is worth mentioning simply for its damage. This 3-cost attack deals 7 damage to a random enemy for each Lightning Orb channeled this combat. It upgrades to deal 9 damage instead.

Key Relics

As far as common relics go, we care specifically about four:

  • Anchor starts us off with 10 Block on the first turn.
  • Blood Vial heals us for 2 at the start of each battle.
  • Data Disk starts us off each battle with one stack of Focus.
  • Orichalcum gives us 6 Block at the end of turn (if we don’t already have it).

We also have four uncommon relics to watch out for:

  • Bottled Tornado lets us pick a power card to always be in our opening hand.
  • Frozen Egg upgrades all future power cards we add to our deck.
  • Gold-Plated Cables triggers the passive ability of our rightmost orb and additional time.
  • Horn Cleat gives us 14 Block on turn two.

For the rare relics, surprise! We care about four as well:

  • Captain’s Wheel gives us 18 Block on turn three.
  • Emotion Chip triggers all our passive Orbs if we lost HP the previous turn.
  • Fossilized Helix prevents the first instance of damage on our turn.
  • Lizard’s Tail is a one-time get-out-of-death relic, “reviving” us at 50% health.

Outside of these relics, keep an eye out for the Inserter boss relic, which gives us an extra Orb slot every two turns, and the Runic Capacitor shop relic, which gives us three additional Orb slots at the start of battle.

Frost Deck

Frost Deck Build
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

The Frost build is the opposite of the Lightning build, as it focuses almost purely on defense. And while it uses many of the same power cards, it is much less power-focused. They do, however, have three main things in common.

They both want cards and abilities that grant extra Orb slots (so you can have more than three channeled Orbs at a time), cards and abilities that activate Orbs multiple times (rather than just once), and finally, cards and abilities that grant you stacks of Focus.

Key Cards

There is one card that is the key to this whole deck, and that is Blizzard. Blizzard is a 1-cost attack that deals damage equal to two times the number of Frost Orbs you’ve channeled this combat to all enemies. When upgraded, it becomes three times the number of Frost Orbs. This is how our defensive deck actually damages our opponents, and it is quite effective.

The other Frost card I want to highlight is Glacier. Glacier is a 2-cost skill that channels two Frost Orbs and gives us 7 Block (10 when upgraded).

This build also wants the same power card package from the Lightning Orb build, that being Self Repair, Loop, Defragment, and Capacitor. Check out that build above for details!

Key Relics

Many of our recommended relics will be the same as the Lightning build, though we don’t need quite as many. The only common relic we specifically care about is Data Disk, which gives us a stack of Focus at the start of each battle.

For uncommon relics, we want Bottled Tornado for the opening power card, and Gold-Plated Cables to trigger our rightmost Orb slot an additional time.

For rare relics, we want Emotion Chip for the sake of triggering all our orbs if we took damage last turn (as unlikely as that might be). We also like Lizard’s Tail because every Slay the Spire build likes Lizard’s Tail.

For boss relics, we again want Inserter, as well as Frozen Core. Inserter gives us an extra Orb slot every two turns, which combos nicely with Frozen Core. Frozen Core replaces Cracked Core and channels us a Frost Orb at the end of each turn if we have the open Orb slot, rather than Lightning.

There are no specific event relics we care about. The only shop relic we specifically care about is Runic Core, which gives us three additional Orb slots.

Reprogram Deck

Reprogram Deck Build
Image: Mega Crit via HGG / Joel Stadler

Finally, we have the Reprogram build. This build ignores the Orb mechanic almost completely. It’s a very powerful build, but understandably difficult to get into.

Key Cards

This build is centered around the card Reprogram. Reprogram is a 1-cost skill that gives us one stack of Strength and one stack of Dexterity, but loses us a stack of Focus. When upgraded, we gain two stacks of Strength and Dexterity and lose two stacks of Focus. You can see why we ignore Orbs for this build. Thankfully, the Defect has so many powerful attack and defense cards that you can just ignore special gimmicks and stomp face.

Let’s start with offensive cards. Hyperbeam is a 2-cost attack that deals 26 damage to all enemies at the cost of 3 Focus. It upgrades to deal 34 damage to all enemies. Since we don’t care about Focus in this build, this card is amazing.

Sunder costs a whopping 3 energy, but it deals 24 damage to an enemy (32 when upgraded), and if fatal, we gain the 3 energy back. Melter is a 1-cost attack that deals 10 damage to an enemy, but first removes all their Block. It upgrades to deal 14 damage. This cheeky card wins us certain fights almost by itself. Streamline costs 2 energy and deals 15 damage. However, it costs 1 less energy for each time you’ve played it this combat. It upgrades to deal 20 damage.

Finally, we have good old Claw. The “Claw is Law” meme posits that any time you’re offered the Claw card, you must add it to your deck, which is great for this build. Claw is a 0-cost card that deals 3 damage (5 when upgraded) but increases all damage done by future Claws this battle by 2. This card counts itself when played later on in the battle, so even just one Claw can start to scale nastily. This also means that with the help of some other cards like Go for the Eyes, the Defect is the only character other than the Silent that really has a viable 0-cost build.

Now comes the defense cards. Leap is a 1-cost skill that gives us 9 Block (12 if upgraded). Genetic Algorithm is another good defense card, especially if gotten early. For 1 energy, you gain 1 Block and Exhaust the card. However, you permanently increase the Block gained by this card by 2. It upgrades to permanently increase the Block gained by 3.Finally, Charge Battery is a 1-cost skill that gives you 7 Block (10 when upgraded) and 1 energy next turn.

As with every Defect build, I recommend Self Repair, because recovering health is huge in Slay the Spire. Any cards that channel Plasma can also be nice additions, especially since Plasma isn’t affected by Focus.

Key Relics

For common relics, Oddly Smooth Stone, Red Skull, and Vajra are the ones to look out for. Oddly Smooth stone gives us a stack of Dexterity, Red Skull gives us three stacks of Strength while we’re at 50% or less health, and Vajra gives us a stack of Strength.

As far as uncommon relics go, all the Bottled relics (Fire, Lightning, and Tornado) are nice, as they let us start combat with a specific attack, skill, and power respectively. The other relics of this rarity we specifically want are the three Eggs (Frozen, Molten, and Toxic), as they automatically upgrade any new powers, attacks, and skills respectively.

The rare relic standouts are Girya and Lizard’s Tail. Girya lets us get a permanent stack of Strength at rest sites up to three times, and Lizard’s Tail of course gives us a one-time heal to 50% instead of dying.

For boss relics, Nuclear Battery is the one we want. It channels us one Plasma at the start of combat, making it strictly better in our build than any of the other boss relics that give you an extra energy at some cost.

There are no event relics that specifically stand out for our build, so all that remains is the Brimstone shop relic, which gives us two stacks of Strength each turn, at the cost of giving opponents one stack as well.

Join the High Ground

And there you have our Slay the Spire Defect guide — thanks for reading! Have fun doing the robot and electrocuting your way to victory. Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this.

Happy gaming!


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