Malus Darkblade is a new addition in Total War: Warhammer 2 thanks to The Shadow & The Blade DLC. His unique campaign mechanics involve a battle of wills against the daemon Tz’arkan, as well as collecting the Scrolls of Hekarti to do Malekith’s bidding. Being fully possessed and, conversely, being fully in control, will have their own pros and cons. I guess you can say Malus will end up with a malus during his Total War: Warhammer 2 campaign. Let’s find out more in our mini-guide.
Note: For an overview of Malus Darkblade’s campaign and some changes to Black Arks, head over here. For more information about Total War: Warhammer 2‘s The Shadow & The Blade DLC, check out our guides and features hub.
The Daemon Tz’arkan – Possession and control
For the first time in Total War: Warhammer 2, you’ve got a character who can transform. You can do that as Malus Darkblade if you desire and, given Tz’arkan’s nudging, you might end up doing that sooner than you think. Tz’arkan will start blabbing the moment you’re losing a bit of self-control, leading to some wacky banter and your screen’s borders having a purple hue.
Anyway, the Daemonic Possession mechanic functions on a scale of -10 to +10 with varying effects:
- -10 (Full control) – lords have a chance to gain +2 loyalty; -50% construction cost for all buildings; +10 public order to all provinces; unlocks Rite of the Warmaster; -10 melee attack for all units
- -9 to -6 (Very low possession) – lords have a chance to gain +2 loyalty; -20% construction cost for all buildings; +5 public order to all provinces; -4 melee attack for all units
- -5 to -1 (Low possession) – lords have a chance to gain +2 loyalty; -10% construction cost for all buildings; +2 public order to all provinces; -2 melee attack for all units
- +1 to +5 (Medium possession) – +5% ward save for Malus
- +6 to +9 (High possession) – +10% ward save for Malus
- +10 (Full possession) – +30% ward save for Malus; lords have a chance to lose -1 loyalty; -50% replenishment rate for all armies; gain “Tz’arkan” transformation ability
Note 1: Malus will gain +2 possession each turn. Completing Tz’arkan’s Whispers (essentially mini-quests that pop up from time to time) will also give you +2 possession.
Note 2: You can also click on a button to instantly gain full possession status, but this is only possible every 40 turns. Malus can also use an elixir to remove 10 points of daemonic possession, but this will come at a cost. This is explained more in detail later on as it’s related to the Scrolls of Hekarti mechanic.
Note 3: Malus cannot activate full daemonic possession if you’re attacked and you’re seeing the battle/auto-resolve screen. If an enemy catches you unawares, then you’ll have to make do with his regular abilities.
Malus Darkblade’s abilities
Normally, I’d add a lord’s skill tree in the overview, but Malus Darkblade is a different case. That’s because several of his abilities can be upgraded or will be changed outright depending on whether he’s turned into his daemonic form or not.
For clarity’s sake, here’s Malus’ stat line pre-transformation:
And here he is with boosted stats after he’s already transformed:
Let’s go back to abilities. These are two of Malus’ default abilities in his normal form:
- Blood Price (self) – increases weapon damage, armor-piercing damage, and damage resistance; causes minor damage to self
- The Daemon’s Curse (AoE hex around Malus) – lowers enemy melee defense and leadership; causes minor damage to self
If you have the “Full possession” status while on the campaign map, you can use the “Tz’arkan” transformation ability while in battle. This will change Malus’ looks ever so slightly, and he’ll gain the aforementioned boosts to his stats. Unfortunately, his health will also slowly drain over time. His original abilities will be replaced by:
- Reaper of Souls (AoE hex around Malus) – causes damage to surrounding combatants while absorbing health; lasts 9 seconds
- Bloodstorm (AoE explosion around Malus) – adds 22% damage resistance and the explosion doesn’t damage friendly troops; lasts 9 seconds
When triggered, these abilities are cast instantly with no waiting time. You might think that these abilities would turn Malus into a frontline fighter. Sadly, that’s not the case. Without the usual yellow line buffs or decent armor, as well as the Warpsword of Khaine (which bugged out for me as mentioned earlier), Malus will get mauled by dinosaurs and stronger melee-focused lords.
You could opt to use spells that buff melee defense — Wyssan’s Wildform and Pann’s Impenetrable Pelt (Lore of Beasts) or Cascading Fire Cloak (Lore of Fire) — but don’t risk it too much. The Reaper of Souls doesn’t absorb enough HP to offset any damage that Malus takes. I realized, the hard way, that it’s not as viable as Gotrek’s and Felix’s own augments.
Note: Malus Darkblade can still use the Tz’arkan transformation ability in multiplayer.
Malus Darkblade’s skill tree
Several of Malus Darkblade’s perks in the skill tree will also be changed, nullified, or disabled assuming he’s been transformed into Tz’arkan’s willing host:
- The Waking – lowers the cooldowns of The Blood Price and The Daemon’s Curse; useless if you’re planning on staying transformed
- Pain Tolerance – increases missile resistance and melee defense until you’re transformed into Tz’arkan
- Lying in Wait – increases ambush and interception chance and gains “Stalk” until you’re transformed into Tz’arkan
Then, there’s also another section that’s not mutually exclusive with the previous one. These would boost your abilities when transformed:
- The Slumber – lowers the cooldowns of Bloodstorm and Reaper of Souls
- Avatar of Terror – lowers leadership in enemy armies within the region; causes “Terror” when transformed
- Supernatural Tissue – +30% replenishment rate (lord’s army); +10% ward save when transformed
There are also a couple of skills that you can pick up (apart from Malus’ Cold One mount, Spite) to give you some buffs throughout the campaign. These are active regardless of your possession state:
- Cold Heart – +5% campaign movement range; -30% attrition (lord’s army); -50% vigor reduction for Cold Ones units (lord’s army)
- Drachau Tyrant – lords have a chance to gain +1 loyalty (local region); +3 public order (local province); -10% upkeep (lord’s army)
- Contempt & Hatred – +20% weapon strength “when fighting against anything and everything”
The tricky Tz’arkan
When you combine all of the above, Malus Darkblade is one of the trickier lords to use. Blood Price and Daemon’s Curse are already very helpful as a frontline fighter, so switching to weirder daemonic abilities might be moot. Likewise, the benefits when Malus has control of himself (loyalty gains, province growth, public order, and construction cost reduction) outweigh whatever boons Tz’arkan provides.
Being fully possessed means losing troop replenishment faction-wide, so you’d be hard-pressed especially if you’re expanding. Just as well, it takes a long while to turn Malus into a monster in melee, so he’ll also need a lot of support to get in the thick of the fray to use his daemonic abilities. It’ll be a balancing act when you’d want to have a turn wherein full possession is active (likely when you’ve got a pitched battle as Malus), and when you’d want the possession levels lowered to various thresholds (which is more preferable throughout the campaign).
In any case, let’s move on to another mechanic: the Scrolls of Hekarti and your Total War: Warhammer 2 Vortex campaign progression.