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Why should I use deformation bones instead of just parenting w/ automatic weights straight to the armature? The octahedrals act as bones while adding keyframes... However would deformation bones possibly lessen the possibility of import export errors especially to UE4?

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When you generate the rigify rig after adjusting the initial meta-rig and pressing generate in the armature tab (in the properties window), rigify genetates a host of control bones with ready made complex behaviors such as IK, foot roll, fist open/close, and many more.

If you're animating the deform bones directly, and ignoring all these features, you probably don't need to generate and can bind to the meta-rig directly.

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