Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith
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Author:  Haagrum [ Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

The question of "how can we best use Malekith?" came up a few weeks/months ago, and I'd intended to write an article about it before now. Life gets in the way. In any event, here are my humble (mostly theoretical) musings on our collective lord and master, the rightful king of Ulthuan.

Power incarnate – Malekith at a glance
Malekith combines the best of Druchii martial prowess with the power of a level 4 Supreme Sorceress (and then some). Compared to a Dreadlord, he has +1 WS, +1 S and +1 T, as well as guaranteed re-rolls to hit through Eternal Hatred, causing Fear, and being Immune to Psychology. Before taking magic items and spells into account, he also has a 4+ armour save (2+ if he’s on a Cold One, 3+ on a chariot or his Black Dragon). He’s also got Always Strikes First and Murderous Prowess, plus Hekarti’s Blessing – handy, since he’s forced to take the Lore of Dark Magic. Finally, he has an extended Inspiring Presence radius of 18”, 24” if he’s on Seraphon.

The upshot of all of the above is that Malekith can do just about everything well – it’s just that he can’t do it quite as well as single-purpose special characters like Teclis or standard builds like the Vampire Counts Blender-Lord. Against almost any opposition, Malekith will hit on a 3+, re-rolling any misses. Unaugmented, he will wound most targets on 2+ or 3+, re-rolling 1s, with a minimum penalty of -2 to enemy models’ saves. He gives you a 36” diameter bubble of Ld 10, and he’s got access to a “toolbox” Lore that can help him in almost any battlefield role. Bear in mind, though, that if Malekith is cutting down the lesser races in close combat, he won’t be able to cast Chillwind or Doombolt, assuming he has them.

Power like that doesn’t come cheaply, though. At 510 points as a base, Malekith swallows your entire Lords allowance in games of less than 3000 points. He will be a natural target for your opponent, should the opportunity arise (if only for bragging rights). An investment like Malekith requires careful planning to maximise the benefits he is capable of providing.

Garbed in destiny – Malekith’s equipment
Malekith has some fairly interesting magical items. At first glance, all of them may seem a bit situational. However, they work quite well together, and all of them can have a significant psychological impact on how your opponent plays: what spells they cast and at which units, who they throw at the Witch King.

Destroyer – In my view, this is the most interesting of Malekith’s items. Sadly, several editions have gone by without reinstating this weapon’s ability to actually steal the powers of your opponent’s magical equipment. Nevertheless, it is a terrifying prospect for most opponents. Enemy characters tend to be equipped towards a particular battlefield role, with magic items selected for the optimal performance of that role. Combat characters will have magic weapons and some other protections.

Although Destroyer only works 50% of the time, its effect triggers as soon as Malekith lands a hit. Given that he has ASF and Eternal Hatred, you are almost guaranteed to be rolling for a 4+ - the odds of missing completely are less than 4% even if you’re hitting on 5+ - and usually before your opponent has a chance to swing at Malekith. As soon as Destroyer’s effect triggers successfully, a random magical item is destroyed. If it’s a magic weapon, then Malekith is usually going to have a 2+ ward save against any attacks coming back at him from that model. If it’s a talisman, or magic armour, the target is going to take more damage from Malekith than they would otherwise. If it’s an enchanted item or arcane item, you’ve probably just disrupted an important part of an enemy’s equipment combination.

If the enemy model has an expensive item like Skabscrath or a Runefang, it’s more likely that this item will be the only target for Destroyer. As a general rule, your odds of destroying a particular magical item carried by an enemy model in a given turn can be worked out with the formula P = 1/2X, where X is the number of items carried by your opponent’s model.

Finally, remember that you can direct your attacks against a standard bearer if a champion or other model with different statistics is in base contact with Malekith. Destroyer works once per model struck, not once per hit – but as Malekith can divide his attacks, you may be able to destroy a unit’s magical standard and its leaders’ items in the one turn. Sure, it’s a 50-50 proposition, and one we can’t rely on to happen – but can you imagine the look on your opponent’s face when the Banner of the World Dragon suddenly stops working for the rest of the game just as his Prince loses his Giant Blade while he’s toe-to-toe with Malekith?

Armour of Midnight – Wonderful against mundane weapons, terrible against magical ones. While a 2+ ward is brilliant, most enemies that can stand up to Malekith will have a magic weapon (assuming it hasn’t been Destroyer-ed). Unless you can put them down before they swing, the Armour of Midnight will be of limited value. Nevertheless, if you’ve taken away someone’s magical toys with Destroyer, this armour makes Malekith almost invincible. Furthermore, it also prevents him from being one-shotted by Killing Blow or Multiple Wounds. All in all, it’s pretty good – it’s just that Malekith lacks a true ward save, leaving him vulnerable against enemies with innately magical attacks which are not susceptible to Destroyer (such as Daemons and Ethereals).

Supreme Spellshield – This is a very handy item which gives Malekith Magic Resistance (2) and the chance to injure enemy spellcasters targeting his unit. Although the hits are distributed as shooting, lone casters will suffer terribly, while most wizard bunkers will take a few wounds as well. This may discourage the enemy from targeting Malekith’s unit for fear of the repercussions, meaning that it’s more likely to arrive in combat unscathed. We don’t have too many units with a ward save to be boosted by the Magic Resistance (Cauldrons notwithstanding), but the extra protection for any unit that Malekith accompanies into battle won’t go astray either.

Circlet of Iron – I believe that this is the best item Malekith possesses. It allows you to take bigger risks with his casting and dispelling – almost like a once-per-turn Sacrificial Dagger that doesn’t cost you models, can be used for dispel dice as well, and always works. Malekith can semi-reliably throw one or two dice at most of the spells in the Lore of Dark Magic, safe in the knowledge that he can use the Circlet to get over the line if he falls short. You won’t need to play as safe with Power of Darkness, Word of Pain or even Soul Stealer with this item at hand. Similarly, Malekith gets an extra dispel die to throw at that spell you really need to stop, which also prevents him from losing concentration and being unable to dispel for the rest of your opponent’s turn. This item is a tactical weapon and should be used as such.

Majesty is never hurried – mount options
Unlike many special characters, Malekith has several options for mounts. In my view, Malekith is at his best (and is best protected) when he’s with a unit, whether mounted or not. However, he has different uses on a Cold One Chariot or his Black Dragon, Seraphon.

On foot – Unless you have a unit of Cold One Knights, this is a perfectly good way to field Malekith. Taken on foot, Malekith really needs to be in a unit. He substantially boosts just about any unit you add him to – although I would suggest that units with more attacks (such as Corsairs, Dreadspears, Witch Elves, Sisters of Slaughter and Black Guard) are the best units to follow Malekith into battle. All of these units benefit substantially from Magic Resistance (2) and the +1 Strength from Power of Darkness, which Executioners don’t really need and which Bleakswords are less able to exploit. Malekith also hits a lot harder than these units do, giving you a partial counter to heavy armour.

Fielding Malekith in an infantry unit also allows you to throw a relatively disposable unit champion under the wheels of an enemy’s challenge character while Malekith goes about killing rank and file models, if such a glorious sacrifice is required to win a combat. It’s worth noting that Witch Elves may attack Malekith, but with Toughness 4, a 4+ armour save and a 2+ ward save, he’s unlikely to be take more than one wound from an average of 2-3D6 S3 hits over the course of an entire game.

Cold One – For 25 points, it’s hard to go wrong with a Cold One mount if you’re fielding a unit of Cold One Knights. It gives Malekith an extra 2” of Movement, a 2+ armour save, and a few extra attacks into the bargain. Of course, it does make him subject to Stupidity, but a battle standard or the Gleaming Pennant and Ld 10 will substantially reduce the risk of this. With Power of Darkness, it also means that your Knights will hit at Strength 7 on the charge and Strength 5 in ongoing combat (with rerolls from ASF and Murderous Prowess), while their Cold Ones will strike at Strength 5 with 2 attacks each.

A unit of 9 Knights with Malekith will cost around 850 points, so it will need to be well-protected and will struggle to earn its points back. It will attract a lot of unfriendly attention, so having monsters or fast infantry to guard its flanks is also a good idea. Malekith’s Magic Resistance and the Supreme Spellshield will discourage spell-based attacks, meaning that heavy missile fire and high-Strength infantry blocks are the only real threats to worry about. Such a unit needs to be supported with some chaff removal and strong anti-war machine options to ensure it is not wasted.

Cold One Chariot – I’m not sold on this option. Yes, it makes Malekith an effective counter-charger and responsive threat. However, it also makes him slower other than on the charge, only gives him a 3+ armour save, and still hits him with Stupidity. In this capacity, Malekith becomes a roving magical artillery piece and force multiplier for ongoing combats. I’m sure it could be done effectively, but it’s not an easy or obvious use for our dark lord.

Black Dragon – Expensive enough that it’s not an option unless you’re playing at 3500 points or more, but Malekith on Seraphon will rip huge holes in just about anything. Between Malekith’s spells and the combined brute force of both rider and mount in close combat, these two are best used to destroy targets of opportunity and war machines first, before engaging in combat in a combined charge situation or where combat is ongoing. Don’t send Malekith up against a unit alone if it has any characters in it, though – one challenge will see your combat resolution dwindle, as Malekith’s four ASF attacks will probably put paid to his enemy and leave Seraphon with nothing to swing at. Still, this is a viable choice in larger battles, particularly if you know how to use a dragon-riding character effectively, and nothing says “dark majesty” quite like Malekith on Seraphon.

Master of darkness – spell choices
Malekith is limited in his choice of spell lores, but thankfully, the Lore of Dark Magic is now a very versatile option. The optimal spells for the Witch King will depend to a large extent on his intended battlefield role – Malekith on foot or in a unit of Cold One Knights is a different proposition to Malekith on a Black Dragon. At some point, though, you will want Malekith to get stuck into the enemy in close combat, and this should inform your spell choices.

Power of Darkness – If Malekith is in a unit, it’s hard to go past Power of Darkness for utility. This is particularly true if he also has Soul Stealer to recover lost wounds or if you have a Sorceress in the army using the Lore of Life. Thanks to the Circlet of Iron, he can reliably one-dice this spell with no risk of miscasting, and the benefits to his unit are substantial. His Magic Resistance gives you a 1-in-3 chance of avoiding damage in the event of gaining 3 extra power dice, in the worst-case-scenario. On a chariot or Black Dragon, it’s arguably less useful, but can still boost the Impact Hits and crew/Cold One attacks (for a chariot) or Seraphon’s basic attacks and Thunderstomp.

Word of Pain – This is another spell that’s hard to go past, no matter how you’re using Malekith. Whether it’s cast on his direct opponents or to assist another unit, dropping WS, S and I together is a huge boost for the survivability of Dark Elves fighting the hexed unit. With +5 to cast, even the boosted version can be cast relatively safely with 3 dice (2 if you still have the Circlet of Iron up your sleeve). It can also reduce shooting casualties with either version of the spell, depending on your opponent. This has a nice synergy with Chillwind, albeit a situational one. Remember, too, that Word of Pain does not specify that the target unit cannot go below a minimum WS or BS – a well-placed Word of Pain can potentially render your opponents entirely unable to strike back or to shoot.

Chillwind and Doombolt – Both of these spells are a bit more situational – the former moreso than the latter. Doombolt is great for blasting tougher targets, and you can guarantee access to it. Furthermore, the Circlet of Iron means that Malekith can have a better chance of casting a boosted Doombolt than any other character we have (even Morathi). While it’s a great spell to have, it has a relatively short range, and Malekith can’t cast it while he’s in close combat. Unless you’re up against a tougher/well-armoured army with minimal shooting, Chillwind is a handy spell to throw one die at, towards the end of the magic phase. It can even be worth casting at a war machine that rolls to hit, although there are better options in the Lore of Dark Magic. Again, though, Chillwind is a magic missile, making it less useful for a combat-oriented character.

Soul Stealer – Assuming that your opponent’s army has a few viable targets for the spell, this is a very good option for Malekith. The spell is fairly inaccurate, and you need to roll a 4+ to gain an extra Wound for each one inflicted - there are likely to be relatively few wounds caused against T4+ enemies. However, if Malekith can boost himself up to 6 or 7 Wounds, he will be almost impossible to kill. The risk of making Malekith near-unstoppable will probably be useful as a tactical weapon – many opponents will be more likely to try to block this spell if Malekith’s casting it than they would be if a Supreme Sorceress was using it. This, of course, can play into your magical strategy, opening holes in your opponent’s magical defences to push through the spells you really want. Bear in mind, too, that this spell can be cast out of combat in order to boost Malekith's wounds total.

Shroud of Despair – Honestly, I think this spell is a hit-or-miss proposition for Malekith. Yes, you want him in the thick of the fight, and that is where Shroud can be very effective. On the other hand, Shroud is best used when you have control over where it is cast from, to maximise the number of affected units, and this normally requires a flying mount or Dark Steed. It is also less useful against Undead and Daemonic armies, when it should be substituted for a signature spell. I think Shroud of Despair is a better choice for Malekith on a Cold One or Black Dragon, particularly if you’re using a Kharibdyss, a Bloodwrack Shrine and/or a Death Hag with Cry of War nearby. However, it may not be the best option if Malekith is on foot, as he won’t be as mobile. On a chariot... there is a certain appeal to being able to add the Shroud alongside D6+1 Strength 6 Impact Hits and a Fear test for any combat, but it would require excellent planning to use effectively.

Bladewind and Black Horror – These spells aren’t particularly more or less useful for Malekith than any other Dark Elf spell-caster. Both are excellent in conjunction with a boosted Word of Pain and against hordes of enemies, and Malekith’s Circlet of Iron allows you to take a few more risks with your spellcasting. With Strength 5, Malekith is almost immune to Black Horror misfires himself (the risk of death for Malekith from casting Black Horror is roughly 1 in 54), and if he uses Power of Darkness, he can improve his unit’s survivability even if the spell misfires. If Malekith is on Seraphon, he can easily get to a location where Black Horror can roll down an enemy battle-line. If he’s on foot, or even on a Cold One, you may also be able to use the vortex as a roadblock for enemy units.

Immortality and staying alive
Despite his awesome equipment, Malekith suffers from the same basic weakness as most Elves. He’s only T4 (admittedly, that’s good for an Elf), his basic armour save is not excellent, and he has no true ward save against magical attacks. Although he’s immune to Killing Blow and Multiple Wounds, he can be killed reasonably easily by Daemons and enemies with innate magical attacks which are not susceptible to Destroyer (such as Skullcrushers, Ethereals, and Death Shrieking Terrorgheists). If your opponent has a reasonable chance to take out Malekith, or even put a couple of wounds on him, you can all but guarantee that they’ll throw every attack they have at him specifically.

First and foremost: avoid the fights where Malekith’s armour and ward against magical attacks will not help him. Putting Malekith on a Cold One or Seraphon will help to guard against this – in the first instance, by giving him a 2+ armour save, and in the latter case, by making him highly mobile. Have a backup plan to deal with units that have magical attacks, such as redirecting opponents and using chaff. If you absolutely must engage with Malekith, try to boost his Wounds with Soul Stealer and/or drop your opponents’ Strength with Word of Pain and Soulblight (assuming you take Warlocks).

Of the rank-and-file enemies that can present a threat to Malekith, most are either Ethereal or Daemonic. Most Ethereal units rely heavily on their immunity to mundane weapons and are quite vulnerable to magical attacks, and Malekith has both ranged and melee options in that respect. Daemonic units are a more substantial problem – the best option is probably to kill enough of them quickly enough with Malekith’s unit that there are not enough left to present a credible threat, although this may be easier said than done. Daemonic characters, on the other hand, are a real mixed bag. Malekith can handle most Daemonic Heralds relatively easily. Greater Daemons and Daemon Princes, however, will take Malekith apart (particularly if he’s on foot) unless you have put a few wounds onto them before combat starts, hexed them into impotence, or have boosted Malekith’s number of wounds before engaging them.

The real threats are resilient units with magical attacks (such as Skullcrushers) and magical war machines (such as most Dwarf weapons). These will require a situation-specific response – for the above examples, these might include redirectors and war machine hunters. Malekith isn’t resilient enough to simply wade through such enemies, but thankfully, he has an entire army at his command to remove such annoyances. Dark Elf armies will have to deal with such threats in any case, so there should not be too much tinkering required in order to prevent such low-born scum from threatening Malekith.

Second: do not fight fair. There is no good reason to risk a model costing 500+ points purely for bragging rights, and proud though he is, even Malekith is not willing to risk dying for the sake of a principle. Dark Elves generally have access to plenty of methods to stack the deck in our favour. The most obvious for Malekith specifically are offering or accepting a challenge where he’s likely to win, throwing a unit champion into the path of an enemy challenge if he’s unlikely to succeed, hexing his opponent with Word of Pain or Shroud of Despair (which will make the Fear test he causes harder for most enemies to pass), and boosting his Strength with Power of Darkness and his Wounds with Soul Stealer. These can be added to the usual Druchii repertoire of combined charges, magical banners for the unit, destroying the problem at range with spells and missile fire, and inflicting Fear tests on enemy units to drop their WS to 1.

Where the threat is a large, mobile enemy, our bolt throwers and magic can take a few wounds off the target before it engages. A Daemon Prince or Greater Daemon without ASF is unlikely to want to charge into Malekith if it only has 1-2 wounds remaining, as there’s a good chance Malekith will kill it before it strikes. Hexes will reduce the risk of losing Malekith to enemy attacks. Skullcrushers who have had their Strength reduced to 1 or 2 through Word of Pain and Soulblight will typically have much less appetite for close combat, although you’ll probably still want to challenge the unit champion, if there is one, to reduce the number of incoming attacks.

The 8th edition version of Malekith is quite worthy of his title and station as lord of the Druchii. Unlike some over-specialised characters, he is quite vulnerable if your opponent plays their cards right. However, if you use the various tools available in our army lists, he can quite easily be protected from anything too dangerous while still being effective against just about any opponent.

Thoughts, comments, refinements and observations welcome.

Author:  Amboadine [ Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Thanks for the write up. That is a whole lot of text.
Some good observations. I haven't used Malekith as I don't generally play in a special character environment, so I won't try to add anything further, but an interesting read for me to absorb for future reference.

Author:  Calisson [ Tue Feb 11, 2014 10:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Thanks for this thorough analysis. D.R.A.I.C.H.ed.

Author:  AemKei81 [ Thu Feb 13, 2014 6:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Great write up and well done. Thanks for that. Makes me want to use him in my next match.

Author:  toots [ Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Destroyer

Destroyer - is that once per turn he can attempt to destroy an item from an enemy character on a 4+? RAW it could be interpreted as once per game per character.

What say ye?!

Author:  Calisson [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 12:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Wording is clear, it is as often as Malekith hits.

Author:  toots [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

It certainly is not clear! It says 'one or more hits', so if he hits three times then on a 4+ ONE item is destroyed. In my mind the only ambiguity is whether that's per combat phase or per game. Most likely per combat phase

Author:  Calisson [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Per combat phase, that is what makes the most sense with the previous paragraph telling that at the start of each combat phase, all models in base contact must reveal their magic objects.

Author:  toots [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

unfortunately it's against one character per game!!

"Finally, remember that you can direct your attacks against a standard bearer if a champion or other model with different statistics is in base contact with Malekith. Destroyer works once per model struck, not once per hit – but as Malekith can divide his attacks, you may be able to destroy a unit’s magical standard and its leaders’ items in the one turn. Sure, it’s a 50-50 proposition, and one we can’t rely on to happen – but can you imagine the look on your opponent’s face when the Banner of the World Dragon suddenly stops working for the rest of the game just as his Prince loses his Giant Blade while he’s toe-to-toe with Malekith?"

Author:  Calisson [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

Toots, I don't know where you take your information from.
I don't have the rules in English at hand (I have them only in French), so why don't you quote the Destroyer's exact rules so that we could comment, not speculate?

Author:  toots [ Tue Sep 01, 2015 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Absolute Power - making the most out of Malekith

well that quote was from the big chunk of text at the start of this thread. anyway, this is what it says in the book:

"Magic Weapon. At the start of every Close Combat phase...

Furthermore, if Malekith scores one or more hits against a model with any magic items, roll a D6; on a 4+ one randomly determined magic item is immediately destroyed and cannot be used further in this game. Do not include items that are mounts..."

Re-reading this, it does say at the start of 'every Close Combat phase' about enemy models in base contact with Malekith, so it's fair to assume that it's every combat phase that this occurs. Phew!!!

Thanks for your input!

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