Today I am going to talk about the Menite Battlebox Warcaster who has just been updated in the November 2020 Dynamic Update: Malekus, the Burning Truth aka Baron Harkonnen aka Who ate all the pies? He has been changed in a few aspects, not completely reworked like, for example, Xekaar, but in significant ways. I am not going over all the stats as these can be found on Warmachine University, but wanted to give my hot-take view of the caster.
I played him vs Tim from smeerlapperij.home.blog last weekend and am also currently putting him through the paces for another solo machine report, so look forward to that towards the end of the week. Nevertheless, as the update only happened a week ago, a lot of this is still fresh and might be subject to change.
Compared to his previous iteration, he feels more proactive by having Brand of Fire as a spell that both deals fire damage and always applies Continuous Fire, not just on a Critical hit. While that may be a small change, it is a way for him apply Continuous Fire and also potentially kill models with higher DEF that he has a hard time hitting with his flamethrower by casting Brand of Fire on an easier to hit model near them. Together with Hymn of Might, this lets him spam fire tokens without having to completely design his list around it.
Speaking of Hymn of Might, there are two Divine Passages he can use every round on his activation that greatly modify the way he plays. Hymn of Might giving him a free spell makes an assassination run based on a free Scourge to knock down the target, followed by a spray attack and some spells a definite possibility. Fable of Ash might even be better as it gives all friendly faction models in his control range Ashen Veil, which opens up the potential for a Defence skew list that the Protectorate has little access to otherwise. Admittedly, those lists might not be as efficient as DEF skew lists in other factions, but seeing them in a Menite list pair might give people pause. The third Passage, Verse of Cinders, is unfortunately less likely to come up, but as there is no limit on how many times you can use each Passage per game, having two strong options and one that is hardly used is not an issue.
On the negative side, he is still rather light on defensive abilities, having Banishing Ward, that, while a good way to remove enemy upkeeps like Rebuke, can be circumvented by a number of spells, and control range-wide Ashen Veil, that can be useful in some matchups, but useless in other ones, for example as melee-heavy construct or undead lists. Obviously not every caster can have Defender´s Ward and Ashen Veil is actually preferable against lists that have access to Blessed weapons, but it still feels somewhat less that ideal in terms of defensive tech.
In addition to that, he still doesn´t have a way to get around rough terrain (other than literally going around it) nor a way to increase movement ranges or other movement shenanigans. This makes him somewhat static compared to other casters and occassionally at the mercy of table layout, especially if the opponent forces you on a bad side.
Finally, a lot of his, admittedly huge, damage potential is tied to fire damage, so models that are immune to fire damage are relatively safe from him. In addition, fire damage is usually applied via ranged attacks, which can be denied or mitigated by many effects, or continuous effects, which expire in one third of all cases and might even fail to do damage when not expiring. This means that his place in a list pair depends on the other list´s ability to face off against the lists that he cannot deal with. Fortunately, if he is paired with Cyrenia or Harbinger, they can deal with such lists.
How does Malekus fare in the different Menite themes?
Creators Might: While this theme gives him access to two Menite Archons, he doesn´t really offer much to the jack-heavy lists the theme can create. It might be possible to run a gunline using fire-based warjacks, but he has little to offer such a list beyond the feat damage. He also has little focus to hand out each round or other abilities that increase mobility, which is the main problem of Menoth warjacks.
Exemplar Interdiction: Here his lack of defensive tech comes to the fore, as the theme is already capable of an enormous damage output on account of being almost entirely composed of Weaponmasters. The Ashen Veil zone is great, but it only raises the medium Exemplars´ DEF to 13 and the small-based ones´ to 14, which are numbers that most gunlines can deal with. Therefore, he doesn´t bring much to the table that helps Exemplars mitigate their key vulnerability, which is actually getting to the enemy.
Guardians of the Temple: Our most maligned theme or at least not one in the top tier of the Protectorate lists might be revived by the changes to Malekus. In fact, his Fable of Ash works well with Temple Flameguard in Shieldwall, or at least in base-to-base with each other, as they will have up to DEF 17 against charges with Set Defense and Ashen Veil, as well as being Tough and cannot be knocked down. This lets them absorb charges and that in turn might enable counterstrike elements like Flame Bringers or warjacks to destroy the enemy´s assault elements. He also has Ignite as a much-needed damage buff and could even run Flameguard Cleansers to synergise with his feat, but the Cleansers´ low DEF makes them a choice target when everyone else´s DEF is higher and their RAT of 5 makes shooting less attractive as they have no boosting mechanic or other hit buff. This might be something to investigate and I am currently running a list with TFG and Flame Bringers to see if it has legs.
The Faithful Masses: Our best theme is also one that has a significant number of models with fire-based attacks as well as the highest native DEF scores. This means that is possible to build a list leveraging both the increased fire damage on the feat turn and the DEF buff created by Fable of Ash without having to radically taylor your list to do so. Of course, a few key models like Menite Archons and Hand of Silence already have Ashen Veil, but that only means that it is easier to switch from Fable of Ash to Hymn of Might when needed. Hand of Vengeance on all heavies also makes the counterpunch more reliable. Finally, I am a big fan of Holy Zealots as regular readers of my battle reports might have gathered and he offers them more than most other casters.
Which models and units synergise well with Malekus?
Eye of Truth: It might sound obvious that Malekus likes his bonded warjack, but it not only gives him an Arc Node without having to buy an expensive light or heavy Warjack only to have an Arc Node, but it is also reasonably hard to remove, has a good, if short-ranged gun and a unique bubble of buff negation.
Menite Archons: Again, an extremely strong model to begin with, they also give fire damage rolls in 5″ +2 to the damage roll and their melee weapons cause Continuous Fire, which his feat can boost and cause not to expire for a round.
Hand of Silence: A great fire-typed gun on a model that would be powerful enough in the infantry-based lists he likes even without the gun, meaning that his inclusion doesn´t skew the list too much into a niche. He can also provide focus to warjacks, thus letting Malekus concentrate on maintaining or toggling Ignite or just setting enemies on fire.
Holy Zealots: A cheap unit with limited recursion that can easily deal PoW 10 blast damage and sometimes even PoW 16 direct hits, which can both be boosted on the feat turn.
Where does he sit in the faction power ranking?
Let´s rip off the band-aid straight away: Malekus will not kick Harbinger and Cyrenia off the top tier of the Menoth faction ranking cake. His lack of defensive tech and hit buffs gives him too many matchups he wants to dodge. However, he can easily be a second list to supplement one of them, going for a more brute force approach while still keeping his force relatively safe.
It should also be mentioned at this juncture that as he is the Menite Battlebox caster, he will always be available to play in the Champions format.
Army list ideas
For people who like to burn things: Malekus with a flame-heavy battle group, backing up a horde of reasonably high DEF models.
Malekus, the Burning Truth + 30
- Eye of Truth: 20
- Revenger: 8
- Revenger: 8
Pyrrhus, Flameguard Hero: 0 (5)
Nicia, Tear of Vengeance: 0 (5)
Hand of Silence: 7
Vassal of Menoth: 3
Choir of Menoth (min): 4
Temple Flameguard (max): 11
- Officer & Standard: 0 (4)
Temple Flameguard (max): 11
- Officer & Standard: 4
Flame Bringers (max): 17
Flame Bringers (min): 11 (The Faithful Masses)