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The Maurezhi has:

Raise Ghoul (Recharge 5–6). The maurezhi targets one dead ghoul or ghast it can see within 30 feet of it. The target is revived with all its hit points.

A cleric has:

Destroy undead. Starting at 8th level, when an undead of CR 1 or lower fails its saving throw against your Turn Undead feature, the creature is instantly destroyed.

When a Cleric destroys a (CR 1) Ghoul, can the Maurezhi still raise it? Or is it so utterly destroyed that it can't be raised again?

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Destroyed undead can be revived

In the absence of some additional effect, such as a wording like "the creature is instantly destroyed and cannot be revived", a destroyed undead is the same as a dead undead and would be valid for Raise Ghoul. I came to this conclusion by analyzing other places that reference undead being destroyed.

"Destroy" has precedent for not preventing revival

As mentioned in Carcer's answer, "destroy" doesn't seem to be a game term with specific defined meaning, and thus normally its plain English definition would be used. However, the plain English definition of "destroy" doesn't specify whether it means "cannot be turned into an undead", so we're going to need more work. After examining the Undead type creatures described in the Basic Rules, I have found many references to undead being destroyed. Of those references, here are the ones I've found where "destroyed" explicitly does not prevent the undead from returning:

  • Mummy Lord

A destroyed mummy lord gains a new body in 24 hours if its heart is intact, regaining all its hit points and becoming active again. The new body appears within 5 feet of the mummy lord's heart.

  • Lich

If it has a phylactery, a destroyed lich gains a new body in 1d10 days, regaining all its hit points and becoming active again. The new body appears within 5 feet of the phylactery.

  • Flameskull

If the flameskull is destroyed, it regains all its hit points in 1 hour unless holy water is sprinkled on its remains or a dispel magic or remove curse spell is cast on them.

From these features, clearly "destroyed" isn't a special state meant to permanently prevent an undead from returning. Based on the "regains all its hit points" line present in all of these features, I would extrapolate that it happens by default when an undead is reduced to 0 hit points.

"Destroy" being mechanically different from "kill" has some weird consequences

First, the above creatures have the ability to return after being destroyed, but those features do not mention being "killed". If "destroyed" and "killed" were different then reducing those undead to 0 hit points normally would be a much more effective method of dealing with them than any effect which specifically destroys them.

Additionally, skeletal undead such as the Skeleton, Warhorse Skeleton, and Minotaur Skeleton have this line in their description (not their stat block, but as far as I'm aware the whole description is also "rules"):

They attack without mercy and fight until destroyed

If "destroyed" was a condition that could only be caused by effects which say so, then any group without such an effect would be entirely unable to defeat a skeletal enemy; if reducing it to 0 hit points doesn't count as "destroyed" then it keeps fighting.

"Destroyed" is used instead of "killed" to avoid some ambiguity

A possible reason undead are usually described as "destroyed" rather than "killed" when reduced to 0 hp can be seen in the description of the Zombie:

Zombies appear as they did in life, showing the wounds that killed them.

Having "destroyed" as the normal word used to describe "an undead which has been reduced to 0 hit points" means that the word "killed" is available to describe what happened before the undead was created. It's possible this choice could have been done without causing your confusion, perhaps the term "first killed" could have been used to distinguish "killed before becoming undead" from "killed after becoming undead" instead, but it is at least a plausible explanation why a distinction is made. Regardless of whether this reason is true, or if there is no specific reason at all, I think the various uses of the word are sufficient for at least saying "Destroyed" isn't a special condition which prevents killed undead from becoming regular undead.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ your text-searching was a lot better than mine - I think the examples support quite well that "destroyed" is really just the equivalent of "killed" for undead creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 23 at 17:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about Disintegrate? \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    May 24 at 2:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 Disintigrate says "The creature can be restored to life only by means of a true resurrection or a wish spell." Perhaps one could argue about some weird technicality about whether a "revived" undead is "restored to life", but I would definitely rule a Disintegrated Ghoul is not a valid target for Maurezhi. \$\endgroup\$ May 24 at 3:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your last para is onto something even simpler: they probably write undead are "destroyed" since it's simply better English. It sounds weird to say you "kill" undead (or constructs). You can only kill something which is alive. You destroy an animated table or zombie. \$\endgroup\$ May 24 at 5:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OwenReynolds That may be a good point, it's less consistent but looking at Constructs some of them also reference being "destroyed" rather than "killed" \$\endgroup\$ May 24 at 5:54
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Yes, it probably can, but it will depend on the DM's ruling

In normal English usage, when we say something is destroyed, that usually means it has suffered quite extreme damage, beyond any effective repair; and if we were to use it to describe the body of what had been a living creature, it would strongly suggest that beyond simply being killed the body had suffered quite catastrophic damage and probably no longer resembles a body at all.

To "destroy" or be "destroyed" is never given any special definition by the rules of the game, so we rely on the context it is used in and the normal English meaning to understand what is meant when something is destroyed. However, based on how the term is used within the game's text, it seems most likely to me that "destroyed", in relation to the undead, is used to be equivalent to being "killed" - and the word choice is simply because the writers think it does not make sense to say that an undead creature is "killed", because they're not strictly alive. On inspection, the game's text is pretty consistent in that it avoids describing undead as being "killed", only "destroyed". A smattering of examples from monster descriptions:

[...] the periapt of mind trapping doesn’t restore the alhoons to undeath if they are destroyed. Instead, a destroyed alhoon’s mind is transferred [...]

[...] they quickly dissipate when the atropal is destroyed.

A zombie might stumble into a fast-flowing river to reach foes on a far shore, clawing at the surface as it is battered against rocks and destroyed.

A boneclaw can’t be destroyed while its master lives. [...] the boneclaw is permanently destroyed.

Destroying the crawling claw while it is away from the body kills the murderer.

A death knight can arise anew even after it has been destroyed.

And so on. The same language is used in other contexts, such as with magic items; for instance, the description of a certain artifact from Curse of Strahd mentions "destroying" Strahd, as opposed to killing him:

The Sunsword’s special purpose is to destroy Strahd, [...]

The Bonecounter from Sleeping Dragon's Wake uses the language:

Whenever this weapon is used to destroy an undead creature [...]

Neither of these items has any special property that would more thoroughly obliterate an undead creature beyond their normal ability to hit things.

The description of the Grave Cleric, as well, states:

Followers of these deities seek to put wandering spirits to rest, destroy the undead, and ease the suffering of the dying.

In full context, I don't think there's any reason to believe that the "destruction" that would be caused to a ghoul by a Cleric's ability to Destroy Undead is intended to be more thorough than the "destruction" that would be caused by thwacking one a few times with the Bonecounter. It's simply that you don't "kill" undead creatures, you "destroy" them.

In other contexts - when referring to a killed creature that was previous actually alive - the game does sometimes use "destroyed" to mean a rather more comprehensive obliteration of a body. For instance, in the Death Tyrant's negative energy cone ability, it emphasises that a body might be "completely destroyed":

The dead humanoid retains its place in the initiative order and animates at the start of its next turn, provided that its body hasn’t been completely destroyed.

Or in the wight's life drain ability, which does not work on a destroyed body:

A humanoid slain by this attack rises 24 hours later as a zombie under the wight's control, unless the humanoid is restored to life or its body is destroyed.

There is a fair argument that the game rules are unclear about this, and it is certainly the case that many DMs would describe the Cleric's power to destroy undead as vaporising the unfortunate creatures or turning them to ash or dust; in those circumstances, it does seem unreasonable that a Maurezhi could eyeball a pile of ghoul ash and cause it to spontaneously pop back up into a healthy ghoul again. However, it's also a valid interpretation of the Cleric's ability that an affected undead creature simply loses their animating force and falls down dead without the physical body being any worse for wear.

Ultimately, the rules are not explicit about the results, so it's the DM's call whether or not a "destroyed" undead creature is a valid target for the Maurezhi; but I at least would rule that it is, and normal amounts of destruction are within the Maurezhi's power to reverse (unlike, say, a ghoul that was disintegrated).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems clear enough to me there is an intentional distinction between “destroyed” and “killed”. What is that distinction if it isn’t “destroyed means there’s nothing left to raise”? \$\endgroup\$ May 23 at 12:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I think my answer is pretty clear that in my estimation the difference is simply that you don't "kill" an undead creature, because it's not alive; instead it is destroyed, in the sense that it is damaged beyond the point of functionality. I don't have the impression from my reading of the books that a more significant distinction is intended, though I am certainly not surprised that others would read more into it than I have; I think my answer already addresses that, too. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 23 at 14:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to apply a spoiler tag to the Adventure references \$\endgroup\$
    – Jorn
    May 23 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jorn done for the Strahd ref, the Bonecounter is just a random magical item though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 23 at 17:01

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