Death Cult is an interesting civic choice and can be the core of a great Megacorp run. Note before beginning that you can only build Death Temples on your worlds, not branch offices (sadly). At first blush this might seem very underpowered, because pops are the foundation of everything in Stellaris. However, you can couple this civic with complementary ones for a surprisingly powerful build. The civic has fee requirements and can even be reformed away if you choose. I'll focus on two pairings for this guide – the church and pirate Megacorps.
The Death Cult unlocks three decisions – one for unity, happiness, and energy/ minerals, up to 30% buff (plus they all boost pop growth by 5%). It also unlocks a special temple that creates a mortal initiate job role. When a decision is taken, all mortal initiates are killed. This has no diplomatic impact. The size of the bonus is random but influenced by more pops being sacrificed. Because of the growth speed bonus, you want at least one pop sacrificed continuously whenever you can afford the influence even if you never build more than 1 death temple.
You need to carefully choose where to build temples as repeated sacrifices can crush the development of key systems. Stack growth speed buffs and settle many worlds and habitats to counteract the pop reductions, or cheese it by never building more Death Temples til late game. There are two obvious pathways to making this work – Xenophile and Xenophobe. Either way you should finish the traditions tree very fast and be a contender for Galactic Community Council Member.
Xenophile Death Cult is an easy introduction to the mechanic. Take the megachurch civic (or the one that gives extra envoys) and whatever origin makes you happy. Basically you want to accelerate the normal development of a spiritualist megacorp by sacrificing pops for unity, and replenishing those pops through migration. Join or form a federation to acquire easy targets for Branch Offices and protection. Stack immigration buffs, accept all refugees and sign migration treaties – with luck you'll absorb a huge amount of new pops, a small but steadily growing percent will be sacrificed for the greater good. The Xeno Compatability perk greatly helps this build as does anything that helps immigration.
Xenophobe Death Cults take a more aggressive approach to indoctrination. Start with the pirate civic and a path opens up – steal pops from other empires and sacrifice them instead. First use pirate bases to destabilize neighbors. Then attack them, raid their planets, build death temples on their conquered worlds, and use the sacrificial buffs to gain strength for the next war. Later on, when your primary species is dominant, replace the temples with something else. Just beware not to enslave or nerve staple the pops you want to sacrifice. Pirate death cult isnt meant to be a great purge build; the pops from raiding/conquering are a 'free' way to max out the ridiculous 30% sacrifice buffs.
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