You’ve made your way down the Haligtree branches, passed through the Haligtree Town, and defeated the Knight of the Haligtree. That means you’re roughly halfway through Elden Ring’s most challenging environment.
Don’t rest on your laurels, though. Elphael, Brace of the Haligtree is a maze-like fortress with tons of branching paths, filled with secrets and some of the toughest foes in the whole game.
Luckily, we’re here to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Elphael General Tips
- Spend your runes often. You’re going to accrue a ton of runes exploring this zone. Spend them on levels or smithing stones or anything else you need as often as you can, because you’re also going to die and lose them a lot.
- Watch out for knights. The Cleanrot and Haligtree Knights in this area are some of the toughest enemies in the whole game. Each one you face is basically a micro boss fight. Never underestimate them.
- Bring ranged weapons. Many times throughout this guide, we’re going to recommend you take out enemies at range. Spells or incantations are best, but arrows or even throwing weapons can do in a pinch.
- Max out your flasks. At this point in the game, you should have access to most areas of the map. Go collect all the Sacred Tears and Golden Seeds you need to max out your healing flasks.
- Level up. Elphael is a hyper-challenging area, even at level 150. If you’re not at least approaching that ballpark, go do some grinding and level up.
- Advance NPC quests. If you haven’t yet followed the quests for Millicent and the Dung Eater, check out our guides for them and advance them both as far as you can before reaching Elphael. Both quests will require you to explore certain corners of this zone, which we’ll highlight in the guide below.
Chapter 1: Brace Yourself
From the Haligtree Promenade site of grace, continue beyond the arena where you fought Loretta and take the downward slope on your right.
As you wind around the tree, you’ll get a fantastic view of Elphael from above. If it reminds you of Anor Londo, you’re on the right track. Slide down the comically long ladder.
Go past the doorway and up the stairs to find an Ancient Dragon Smithing Stone in a chest (yay!), then return down the stairs and into the room. Ride the elevator down and head outside for another great view, and then head west toward the Cleanrot Knight in the distance. Pick up Holy Grease x3 from a corpse on the way.
These guys are no joke. They have powerful abilities that can one-shot if you aren’t careful. Take them seriously.
Beyond the Knight is your first site of grace, the Prayer Room. This is a great spot for PvP, if you’re into that sort of thing. In addition, if you’ve been following Millicent’s quest, you’ll find her waiting inside.
Head out the door and backstab the nearby Haligtree Soldier. Three more will approach from down the path. Don’t let them get close, as one will explode when it’s near you. Enter the doorway on your left and defeat two more soldiers to loot a Golden Rune .
Return to the path and backstab the soldier sitting on the ledge. The two soldiers up the small stairway ahead will pull out crossbows as you approach. Down the stairs underneath their platform, the soldier with his back to you is a trap — there’s a guy sitting on the ground behind the tree who will run at you with his spear while you’re distracted. Kill them all and loot the Lightning Greatbolt x5 from the body draped over the broken railing.
Continue down the stairs, but instead of turning around and continuing on the path, skirt around the edge of the wall ahead.
A Greatshield Soldier will greet you. Three more soldiers await within what looks like a wine cellar on your right as you proceed. Hilariously, they’ll chug a flask and spit poison at you. Two more soldiers patrol the area as well, and they can sneak up while you’re fighting in the cellar, so be careful. Loot the Smithing Stone  on the north wall. Continue south toward the Stonesword Key fog door, then turn around to find one more soldier sitting against the wall.
Inside this fog door is the Triple Rings of Light incantation, which requires 23 faith and 23 intelligence to cast. If you’re not playing a mixed caster build and you don’t care about collecting everything, you can safely ignore it.
From this ledge, you can look down to the east and see the Erdtree Avatar patrolling the walkway below. You can hit it from here with ranged abilities, but not safely — it can and will strike back with its own magic. There will be better opportunities to attack it later.
Continue north and kill the two soldiers having a chat near the railing. Loot the Immunizing White Cured Meat from the corpse near the doorway, and take note of the Cleanrot Knight you can see on the other side of the room. If you enter here, you’ll be attacked by a second one, and fighting two of the guys together is not fun.
Instead, jump over the railing and drop onto the support brace to your right. Drop down again from there and venture down the stairs. Be careful in the darkness, as you definitely don’t want to fall into the room below. Skirt around the edge and pick up the Seedbed Curse from the corpse. This is part of the Dung Eater’s quest.
On the ground below are three Putrid Crystalians. You can try to defeat them with magic from up here, but they can hit you at range as well, and they’ll often move out of sight to avoid your spells. Plus, it’s not easy to make a scratch in their tough armored skin. As a spellcaster, we found Night Maiden’s Mist effective, so there may be something in your kit that works on them.
If you do manage to take them out, they can drop unique weapons like the Rotten Crystal Spear, which scales with intelligence and causes scarlet rot buildup. There’s also a Somber Smithing Stone  and a Pickled Turtle Neck on corpses in this room.
If you exit this room, you’ll find yourself at Elphael’s lowest level. It’s a single, long alleyway patrolled by Royal Revenants, one of Elden Ring’s most dangerous (and irritating) enemies. We’ll venture down here eventually, but for now, you probably need a flask refresh, so let’s fast travel back up to the Prayer Room.
Continue along the path again, defeating the enemies as you go, until you reach the stairs that lead to the two crossbowmen. There’s a small, semi-hidden doorway next to the statue holding a candle here.
Kill the two soldiers inside, climb the stairs, and kill the soldier on the ledge here. Pick up the Smithing Stone  from the corpse, then jump onto the root and head upward, then down the brace toward the large bell tower. Pick up the Miquellan Knight’s Sword, then head down the ladder on the other side. Watch out for ranged attacks from the Erdtree Avatar.
This ledge wraps around a square pillar that houses an elevator, but you can’t use it just yet. Instead, jump to the wide walkway below to fight the Erdtree Avatar if you didn’t already kill it at range (or kill it at range from this walkway, which has enough cover for you to trade shots with it and come out on top). Defeat it to receive the Rotten Staff.
Either way, you should now find yourself on the wide walkway on which the Avatar patrolled. Head north. Another Putrid Crystalian waits at the far end of the room ahead.
If you’re still carrying Unseen Form in your spell inventory, you can get pretty close to it and cast Night Maiden’s Mist before it sees you. It may not be honest, but these guys don’t exactly fight fair either. It guards a Somber Smithing Stone . There’s more to the south, but for now we’re going to explore another path above you.
Return to the Prayer Room yet again and progress until you reach the room under the crossbowmen (the one with the spearman waiting behind a tree to ambush you). Jump over the railing on your right onto a downward-sloping brace.
From there, leap across to the platform with the small, pillared gazebo on it. There’s a Crimson Teardrop Scarab here that will refill your healing flasks, but don’t get too distracted trying to kill it, because there’s a soldier here, and a Cleanrot Knight waits inside the doorway on your left. The chest inside that chamber holds the Cleanrot Knight Finlay Spirit Ash.
On the north side of the platform where the scarab was is another brace you can jump to. Follow it upward to find a Somber Ancient Dragon Smithing Stone inside a chest. Keep going and you’ll find another Seedbed Curse on a corpse.
Jump onto the root beyond it and follow it downward to a ledge with a corpse holding Old Fang x5. Continue downward onto the platform below. Be cautious, as you might attract the attention of the ballistae to the north, and fighting the soldiers here while trying to dodge greatbolts is not fun. Do as much as you can from range.
Directly to your south is the room with the two Cleanrot Knights inside. There are also several soldiers in the vicinity. Kill them all, but do your best not to attract the attention of the knight inside with its back to you. Once everything outside is dead, attack that knight from range, drawing it outward while the other knight hopefully stays inside.
With one knight dead, head inside and kill the other. There’s a Smithing Stone  in here, as well as a Golden Rune  on the balcony outside.
You’ve now explored everything above ground level in this section of Elphael, so return one more time to the Prayer Room and prepare to head downward.
Chapter 2: Revenant Alley
Make your way back to the wide avenue where you fought the Erdtree Avatar. The simplest path there is to run down the brace next to the soldier sitting cross-legged by the edge down the street from the Prayer Room, and then jump from the pillar ledge to the walkway below.
This time, go south instead of north along the walkway. A corpse hanging over the edge on your left holds a Numen’s Rune, while one on the far southern end has a Somber Ancient Dragon Smithing Stone. From there, jump over the railing and down to the west. When you drop down from this platform, you’ll be attacked by a single Royal Revenant. Try to remain in this area while you fight it; if you advance too far north, another will spawn and join the fray.
Royal Revenants are seriously tough to fight, no matter what your build is. They teleport all over the place, attacking from all angles while you try to heal or get a spell off. The poison cloud they spit does crazy damage, and they regularly bust out combos that can one-shot any character. Thankfully, you can use healing spells to stun them, and you can also summon Spirit Ashes down here. Do so to make this area slightly more bearable, then try to hit them with ranged attacks while your Spirit Ash holds aggro.
Pick up the Golden Rune  on the ground in front of this Stonesword Key fog door. The item inside this one is Marika’s Soreseal, a talisman that raises mind, intelligence, faith, and arcane, but increases the damage you take.
The corpse across from the fog door holds Aeonian Butterfly x4. Continue north up the street and another Revenant will spawn past the third tree on your left. Beyond that, another will spawn across from the dark archway with the lit torch in front of it. Inside that room is Beast Blood x3.
Continue north and you’ll spy another Revenant in the distance. Try to grab its attention from the dark part of the alleyway so you don’t wind up fighting it where more will spawn. Continue onward and you’ll pass the room with the Putrid Crystalians on your left. Hopefully the geography here is starting to make sense.
A room on your right contains a Lord’s Rune. Beyond it, look upward to spot a soldier who’s going to slide down the ladder ahead when he notices you. He’ll often be followed by two Cleanrot Knights, depending on how long you remain in this area.
Entering the courtyard on your left past the ladder causes yet another Revenant to spawn.
The body near the tree holds a Smithing Stone . The ladder in this courtyard takes you up to your ultimate destination here, the platform on the far end from the Prayer Room. But there are a ton of enemies on it, and this isn’t your best approach. Turn around and climb the other ladder instead.
The bodies at the tables inside this room hold Spiritflame Arrow x15 and Warming Stone x2. Watch out for more enemies patrolling this area, as they may wander into your range at any point. Climb the stairs and destroy any soldiers you encounter, including the two manning ballistae and the one standing near the railing beyond them. A Smithing Stone  rests between the ballistae and the Haligtree Soldier Ashes Spirit Ash waits at the base of the large chalice.
Look to the northwest side of this platform for another brace platform you can run up. Jump off it onto the ledge to the north. Take care here, because if you fall, you’ll face a horde of enemies, including another Erdtree Avatar. The Haligtree Knight Helm sits in the room you’re jumping to. Drop down and grab the Smithing Stone , then turn around and activate the Elphael Inner Wall site of grace.
From here, you’ll have an advantage when you take on that Erdtree Avatar. There are two shockingly tough Erdtree Knights flanking the doorway back outside, but you can lure the Avatar inside and fight it without their interference. Thankfully, by now, you’ve probably fought two dozen of these things, so it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. It drops a Lord’s Rune when defeated.
There is a bit more loot behind you, but nothing too exceptional. If you want, you can safely rest at the site of grace and proceed onward.
If you’re a completionist, your first task will be to clear the remaining enemies now that the Putrid Avatar is dead. You can fight the knights flanking the doorway head on, or draw them into the Grace room one at a time. You an also travel back to the Prayer Room Grace and return to the Revenant-filled ground level, then fight your way back up to where the upper two ballistae are located. With the Avatar dead, you can safely pick off the two Erdtree Knights and the remaining soldiers from above, though it’s a lot more work to get back up there.
With everything within five square blocks dead, you can loot a Sacramental Bud in the bushes, while the stairs and bridge directly in front of the ballistae hold an Arteria Leaf and a Golden Rune . (Told you it wasn’t worth it.)
Chapter 3: The Swamp of Rot
Down the stairs from the Elphael Inner Wall, turn left to find another trio of Putrid Crystalians.
Do whatever you must to fight them one by one, or even better, kill them where they sit. The sorcerer in the center is particularly dangerous, as it can easily trap and kill you with a single attack. Apologies for repeating ourselves, but we’ll once again mention Night Maiden’s Mist, which doesn’t even aggro them. The chest they guard holds the Rotten Crystal Sword.
Go past the roots on the other side of the room to find a Hero’s Rune  on a body behind the large chalice. Backtrack and climb up the root through the wall, and cross the threshold to behold the rot swamp festering among the Haligtree’s roots.
This area is inhabited mainly by Kindred of Rot, the shrimp-like enemies also known as Pests. They often wait half-buried in the ground, ensuring you’ll be jump-scared at least once while traversing here (unless you stick with this guide, of course). In addition, walking through the muck here will infect you with scarlet rot. If you don’t yet have the crafting recipe for Preserving Boluses, go grab the Armorer’s Cookbook  by teleporting to the Siofra River Bank site of grace and using Torrent to explore the cliffs to the west. In addition, anyone with 12 faith can use the Flame, Cleanse Me incantation to alleviate build-up and cure scarlet rot. Get it at the Fire Monk camp southeast of the Church of Vows.
As you descend from the root, there’s a Pest leaning over the edge behind you, though there’s no loot and little reason to explore over here. Similarly, climbing the ledges nearby yields little more than a nice view. Instead, proceed east, down the slope, and prepare to be ambushed by a Pest on your left. Walk through the muck behind it to find Rot Grease on a corpse.
As you approach the wide swamp ahead, use target lock to spot the small Kindred crawling through the rot muck. If you can take these guys out from a distance, do so, because otherwise they’ll stay true to their name and pester you the whole way across.
Luckily, there are no items to grab here, so you can make your way to the southwest corner (turn around and backstep to move slightly faster than walking) and jump over the edge to a hanging root below. Follow it around to the next root, and look down to catch a glimpse of the boss arena where you’ll shortly be bashing your head against Malenia.
The candlelit doorway ahead holds a Golden Rune . Slide down the ladder and proceed down the waterslide to reach the Drainage Channel site of grace. Don’t forget to activate the Summoning Pool nearby.
Before continuing, backtrack up the ladder and out the door. Another pest waits half-buried up the slope on your right. Kill it and proceed southwest across the roots to the area on the other side of the room.
You can safely explore around the edges of this rot pool, picking up Aeonian Butterflies. But the only real loot is in the middle of the muck pool. Unfortunately, as soon as you step foot near it, you’ll be attacked by an Ulcerated Tree Spirit boss.
The item is a Great Grave Glovewort, which is surely worth it, since it allows you to upgrade a Spirit Ash to level 10. However, don’t feel obligated to fight the boss itself, especially if you’ve already maxed out your flasks, since all it drops is a Golden Seed.
If you do want to fight it, you can always drop off the platform onto the roots and climb out of its range, since it has no distance attacks. Plus, you’ll have to defeat the Tree Spirit if you want to finish Millicent’s Quest here.
Chapter 4: The Roots of Rot
Return to the Drainage Channel and continue outside. Follow the roots and drop onto the building brace below. Drop to another root on the north side, then to another brace. Ignore the item you can see below you and head upward instead. Traverse onto yet another root, and then to the roof of the church.
Drop through the hole in the roof that allows you to land on the ceiling beams, but watch out for the Kindred on the balcony below. Take them out at range or close the gap quickly to avoid their annoying Pest Threads magic attack. In the chest is the valuable Dragoncrest Greatshield Talisman.
This balcony is a decent spot from which to kill the rest of the Pests inside the church. When you’re ready, hop off the right side and head out to the item you saw earlier. It’s a Nascent Butterfly.
On the ground floor, there’s an Aeonian Butterfly on a corpse hanging over the northern railing, guarded by more Pests. There’s more to explore out here, but we’re going to activate another Grace first. Head through the doorway where the altar should be and down the elevator to find the Haligtree Roots site of grace.
Rest here if you need to, though doing so will respawn all the Kindred above you. If you’re doing OK on flasks, you might want to simply head back up the elevator.
The large Pests outside the church here are shockingly powerful. They can two-shot you even at level 150. Killing them at range is also difficult, since they’ll constantly spam their Pest Threads at you. If you ever engage more than one at a time, simply run away.
Outside the church and to the left is a long ladder that will take you back up to the roots above the church, but there’s nothing more up there to loot. Instead, go past it toward the graveyard ahead. Kill every Pest you encounter. They can drop the Pest’s Glaive.
Near a grave ahead is a Ghost Glovewort . Continue carefully downward for a Ghost Glovewort . A corpse on the ledge below the preaching Pest holds a Numen’s Rune. Near a tree with a Pest waiting to ambush you behind it is another Ghost Gloveworst , and among the graves at the bottom of this area are the Ghost-Glovewort Picker’s Bell Bearing  and a Ghost Glovewort .
Now rest at the Haligtree Roots again and head back up the elevator, but this time turn right when you exit the church. Thankfully, you’ll meet no more Kindred on this side, though the Haligtree Soldiers and Knights in the area are quite challenging enough on their own. The knights in particular have crazy range and damage, especially when they imbue their weapons with lightning or magic. They also have massive health pools, can guard effectively with their shields, can respond with guard counters, and can chug health potions. They are not fun to tangle with.
Be careful not to get ambushed by the Knight waiting around the corner in a dark recess of the church’s exterior. In addition, if you spend a while fighting this guy, two small Pests will exit the church and attack you from behind.
As far as loot in this area, there’s not much, so it’s safe to skip if you get too annoyed with the enemies here.
There are Miquella’s Lily scattered about, and the enemies can drop high level Smithing Stones. A body in a muddy clearing holds Arteria Leaf x3, while another further down has a Hero’s Rune . A knight near that body dropped the Haligtree Knight Armor and Greaves for us, while the bow-wielder nearby dropped the Haligtree Knight Gauntlets, though we’re unsure whether those are guaranteed or random drops. There’s nothing further down besides more Miquella’s Lily and Aeonian Butterflies, so feel free to return to the Drainage Channel if you don’t feel like continuing to fight these near-unstoppable knights.
Back at the Drainage Channel, take the southern passage past the large scarlet rot bloom.
Loot the Traveler’s Armor Set from beneath its leaves. At the far end of this passage is the elevator that you encountered much earlier. It takes you to the hollow column from which you may have fought the Putrid Avatar in Elphael’s first area. You can use it now to activate it, though by this stage, doing so is completely pointless.
With that, you’ve explored every inch of Elphael, Brace of the Haligtree. All that remains is to defeat Malenia.
Boss Guide: Malenia, Blade of Miquella
Malenia, Blade of Miquella, Goddess of Rot and bearer of a shard of the Elden Ring, is one of the most difficult challenges the designers at FromSoftware have ever crafted. This boss fight is so tough that the majority of players simply will not be able to defeat her without using very specific strategies.
Things to know about Malenia
- She heals with every hit. Malenia regains health every time she lands a hit on you, even if you block it. For that reason, using a shield in this fight is not advised.
- She has multiple one-hit-kill attacks. No matter how high you pump your vigor or how heavy your armor is, you can and will be one-shotted by several of Malenia’s attacks. You must learn to avoid them. We’ll go over them below.
- She does have weaknesses. Malenia is almost unbelievably strong, but she does have weaknesses. We’ll tell you exactly what to bring to this fight.
- Summons are recommended. Summoning other players for this fight is a gamble. You might get lucky, or your phantom helpers might die the first time Malenia uses Waterfowl Dance, leaving Malenia with beefed up health while you’re still fighting her solo. Using a Spirit Ash is a more reliable choice. We’ll go over your best options in the guide.
Prepare for the Malenia boss fight
Malenia’s resistances and strengths limit a lot of typical builds right off the bat. First, let’s go over everything that doesn’t work against Malenia:
- Most magic won’t work. Malenia will easily dodge most sorceries and incantations you can throw at her. There are exceptions, like the Night sorceries, Ranni’s Dark Moon, and Dragonice. But even then, Malenia is so good at closing the distance between you, her attacks so unrelenting, that you’ll have a hard time casting much unless your summons are drawing her attention. To top it off, landing spells on Malenia often triggers her most devastating attack, Waterfowl Dance.
- Shields won’t work either. There are isolated instances during this fight when using a shield can work, such as when Malenia catches you off guard with Waterfowl Dance. However, if you spend the whole fight blocking, you’ll never make progress against her, because she’ll be constantly healing. You simply have to learn to avoid her attacks entirely.
- Parrying also won’t work. For a boss this aggressive, it might be tempting to try parrying. But Malenia’s designers ensured that parrying would not be an efficient strategy. It’s a risky tactic in the best of times, and unfortunately, Malenia will only be staggered by every third parry, instead of every parry like a normal enemy. It’s doable, but not recommended.
- Big, slow weapons might work. If you’re fighting Malenia with other players, dual-wielding colossal weapons can work. Malenia does get staggered when you hit her hard enough — sometimes. That’s the rub: it’s extremely difficult to predict whether any given attack will stagger her, and if you lose that bet, you wind up trading shots with her, which negates any damage you might do thanks to her healing ability.
Here’s what does work:
- Dual-wielding. Since using a shield in this fight is more or less pointless, we highly advise that you dual-wield two weapons of the same type. That allows you to power-stance, which unlocks new attacks using the L1 button. Fast weapons like katanas or twinblades are best, but greatswords like the Claymore can work if you have more strength than dexterity. Whatever you choose, make sure to upgrade both weapons as high as possible. You want as much damage as you can get in this fight.
- Frost. For whatever reason, frost is Malenia’s biggest weakness. You’re going to want to imbue at least one of your weapons in this fight with the Cold Affinity. That means grabbing the Glintstone Whetblade from the courtyard of Raya Lucaria. You can also use Dragonice, purchased at the Cathedral of Dragon Communion in Caelid, though its slow cast time leaves you vulnerable. The same goes for Ranni’s Dark Moon, which you can get by following Ranni’s Questline and reaching the Moonlight Plateau. If you’d rather just chuck grenades at her, the recipe for Freezing Pots is in the Glintstone Craftsman’s Cookbook , located in a building on the east side of the main courtyard of Caria Manor.
- Bleed. This is undoubtedly Malenia’s other main weakness. If using a katana or another weapon with innate bleed damage is not an option for your build, go get the Black Whetblade at Night’s Sacred Ground, a part of Nokron, Eternal City accessed by jumping down the rooftops near the Ancestral Woods site of grace (down the meteor hole that appeared after you defeat Radahn). The whetblade enables you to add Blood Affinity to most weapons that have no innate element.
- Bloodhound’s Step. Dodging many of Malenia’s attacks is prohibitively difficult. You can make it easier by stripping off enough of your character’s armor to give them the “Light Load” roll, which is faster and has more invincibility-frames. However, going in naked leaves approximately zero room for any errors on your part. Thankfully, there’s a solution: imbue your right-hand weapon with the Bloodhound’s Step Ash of War. This is a souped-up dodge that causes you to briefly turn invisible and slide around the room, totally impervious to damage. Without a doubt, it’s the single best tool to give you a slight edge against Malenia. You can get it by defeating the Night’s Cavalry mini boss at the bridge to the north of Lenne’s Rise in eastern Caelid.
- Certain Ashes of War. If you’re determined to not use Bloodhound’s Step, there are other Ashes of War that Malenia has a hard time dealing with. Rivers of Blood’s Corpse Piler can rapidly proc bleed, and staggers her somewhat reliably (Rivers of Blood is a good choice for this fight, even in your off-hand). You get it from the NPC invader near the Church of Repose in Mountaintop of the Giants. Similarly, Eleonora’s Poleblade’s Bloodblade Dance lets you do heavy bleed and poise damage then dance away from her to avoid retaliation. It’s obtained from the NPC invasion at the Second Church of Marika in Altus Plateau. And the Blasphemous Blade’s Taker’s Flames does massive stagger damage, knocking Malenia down if you can manage to land it without her dodging the flames. You can trade Rykard’s Remembrance for it in the Roundtable Hold.
That might seem like a lot to take into account, but it’s actually pretty simple. Here’s an example loadout: Cold Uchigatana with Bloodhound’s Step in right hand, Rivers of Blood in left hand. When using Bloodhound’s Step, equip the Carian Filigreed Crest talisman, which you can purchase from the blacksmith Iji when following Ranni’s quest. It reduces the FP cost of skills, allowing you to teleport-dodge more frequently.
Strength-focused players can substitute, for example, the Claymore in one hand and Lordsworn’s Greatsword in the other. Imbue one with Cold and one with Bleed, and equip the right-hand weapon with Bloodhound’s Step.
For our most recent playthrough, we used Cold Godskin Peeler twin blade with Bloodhound Step in the right hand, and Eleonora’s Poleblade in the left.
As far as your Spirit Ash goes, there are a few strong choices. Tanky spirits aren’t as good as you might think because although they may be able to survive Malenia’s attacks, the boss will regain health every time she hits them. Instead, try Black Knife Tiche, which you can get from the Ringleader’s Evergaol on the Moonlight Plateau (once again, part of Ranni’s quest). She dodges frequently, making her wily enough to survive during the fight without feeding Malenia health.
If you’re comfortable holding Malenia’s attention most of the time, you can use a ranged spirit like Latenna (you got her as part of the quest to reach the Haligtree) or Redmane Knight Ogha (dropped by the Putrid Tree Spirit boss in the War-Dead Catacombs Dungeon on the eastern side of Radahn’s boss arena).
And the classic Mimic Tear is always a good choice, especially if you’re using our recommended loadout, as you’ll proc bleed and frost on Malenia all the more quickly with your doppelganger helping.
Learn Malenia’s attacks
Here’s where things get tricky. Even if you’ve followed our advice to a “T” and have the most optimal loadout possible going in, you’re still going to have to learn Malenia’s attacks and abilities so completely that you can react to her every move within inches of perfection.
Thankfully, we’re here to help. Starting with phase 1, let’s lay out all of Malenia’s moves, including how to avoid them, and highlighting which ones present you with attack opportunities.
- Idling. Malenia’s idle state during the first phase of her fight is to simply walk slowly toward you. There’s an attack opportunity here, as It’s often safe to walk up and poke her with a single probing attack while she’s doing this. Just be ready to dodge away when she inevitably responds.
- Normal slashes. Malenia has a bevy of general slashing attacks using her extra-long katana. She combines these in unpredictable patterns that make them challenging to dodge. Bloodhound’s step makes it easier. In general, you want to keep a medium distance from her for most of the fight, and never try to sneak an attack in during her standard slashing combos. She will punish you for it almost every time.
- Spin kick. Malenia often opens her combos with a deadly spin kick. It can’t be blocked or parried. Thankfully, it’s slow and the windup is obvious. Since her follow-ups can be more deadly, get some distance when she kicks. Don’t try to attack after it.
- Spark Combo. One of Malenia’s most common attacks is a quadruple-slash combo that’s telegraphed by a mechanical sound effect and orange spark from her prosthetic arm. Get used to recognizing this cue and get the hell out of her way when she unleashes this, which she does constantly. With Bloodhound’s Step, you can easily teleport backward and get out of its range. It’s more difficult to avoid with a normal dodge, so you have to make sure you’re far enough away from her at all times. In addition, there are two variations of this. You can tell which version you’re getting by the fourth slash in the combo: If the fourth slash arrives quickly after the third, the combo is likely to continue. However, if there’s a slightly longer delay before the fourth slash arrives, she’s about to stop moving for a moment, providing one of your best attack opportunities in the fight.
- Spark thrust. This move is predicated by the same sound effect and orange spark as the previous one, but her stance is completely different. She hops in the air for a moment while drawing her sword back. This is the single best attack opportunity during phase 1. It’s incredibly easy to predict and dodge; you don’t even have to use Bloodhound’s Step. And she never follows it up with anything during this phase, so you’re always safe to get a slash or two in after she uses it.
- Slow lunge combo. When Malenia draws her sword slowly behind her in a crouch, she’s about to lunge toward you for a two-slash combo. There are two variations of this, with slightly different timing. You’ll have to learn the difference, although Bloodhound’s Step makes it easy to dodge either one. This is another attack opportunity — she’s vulnerable after the second swing, and if you’re near her when she starts winding it up, you can even get some hits in before she lunges.
- Overhead jump slash. This attack is similar to the previous one, but without the long wind-up. It’s always preceded by a standard horizontal slash, and often follows the fast version of the four-slash Spark Combo. It’s a great attack opportunity, as she’s vulnerable after landing.
- Lunging Grab. Malenia pulls her hand back and lunges at you after a short delay. Avoid this at all costs. It’s easy to dodge, but is also guaranteed to kill you if it lands. We’ve never survived this attack with any build. Thankfully, once you dodge it successfully, it’s another attack opportunity.
- Waterfowl Dance. This is the big one. Once her health drops below 75%, Malenia can unleash the deadly Waterfowl Dance at any time. She jumps into the air for a long pause, then flies toward you with her sword moving so quickly you can barely perceive it. This will kill you if she catches you in it, and yes, it’s borderline unfair. Thankfully, it can be dodged. As soon as she rises into the air, you have to sprint or Bloodhound Step away from her as quickly as possible. (This is the main reason why you can’t spend the whole fight up in the boss’s face pressuring her with attacks; if you’re right under her when she does this, it’s almost impossible to survive, even with Bloodhound’s Step.) If you can catch enough distance, the first two parts of the Dance will miss you. For the third flurry, she always teleports directly to you, no matter how far away you got; you have to dodge toward her as soon as she does it. She’ll shoot past you, and you can hover just outside of her range for the fourth part, including the final spherical slash that marks the move’s conclusion. After this, she’s vulnerable for another attack opportunity — provided you survive that long.
Master those moves and learn to recognize each attack opportunity when it arrives, and you’ll be able to get Malenia’s health down to zero in no time. You’ll often get lucky with her combos; if she opens the fight with several moves that leave her vulnerable right away and you’re able to proc bleed and frost multiple times, you can burn her down before she even gets a chance to use Waterfowl Dance. Most of the time, mastering this phase is simply a matter of keeping your distance so she doesn’t catch you by surprise, managing your FP so you can always use Bloodhound’s Step to get away from Waterfowl Dance, and being smart about when you try to get in a hit or two.
Of course, that’s phase 1. And beating phase 1 does not mean the fight is over.
Malenia’s second phase is considerably more difficult than the first. She adds several new attacks to her repertoire, and changes up her combos significantly. Many of your attack opportunities from phase 1 are gone, or at least inconsistent, during phase 2; let’s go over all the new abilities, and the changes to existing ones.
- Rot Nuke. Malenia flies up into the air, orange and scarlet wings fluttering, and pauses before dive-bombing you. You can survive this by dodging at the exact right moment — try activating Bloodhound’s Step as soon as she begins moving from her floating stance. Then, if you survive the initial impact, the boss explodes again as her petals open. Wait out of range as the petals open to avoid the damage and scarlet rot build-up they cause. This is your one reliable ranged attack opportunity during the fight; you can unleash spells, incantations, and throwables while she’s recovering. You can also rush in as the petals finally dissipate to attack her briefly up close. She always opens the second phase with this attack, so it’s imperative that you learn how to dodge it.
- Phantom clones. Malenia floats into the air and sends a series of phantom clones slashing and thrusting your way. The weird timing on these makes them hard to dodge. With Bloodhound’s Step, you can simply spam L2, provided you have enough FP. She ends this attack by lunging toward you herself with a powerful sword thrust. She’s vulnerable for an attack opportunity afterward, if you’re close enough to her after dodging, though it’s a small one, since she usually starts up another combo a moment after landing.
- Small scarlet flower. Malenia plants a small orange bloom in front of her, which then explodes a moment later, causing damage and scarlet rot build-up. Sometimes she flies into the air for a moment first, but not always. This is the reason why your attack opportunities from phase 1 are unreliable now. Malenia retains all the same moves and combos from before, but now, she has a roughly 50% chance to follow up any move with this ability. Any combo after which she would have previously been vulnerable, from the Spark Thrust to the Slow Lunge, can be followed by this attack instead. Luckily, she always pauses on the ground as the small flower blows up. If you can get behind her and avoid the small explosion, there’s still an attack opportunity here.
In addition to those new abilities, Malenia retains all the moves from phase 1, and her combos are even more unpredictable. During phase 2, she tends to fly up into the air more often — sometimes unleashing new abilities — while other times she’ll simply lunge at you with a normal slash or thrust. Since she spends so much time in the air during phase 2, it also gets much more difficult to predict when Waterfowl Dance is coming. Your only safe bet is to run away any time she flies upward, and get ready to dodge whatever it is. Keep your distance, be patient, wait for your attack opportunities, and keep your FP and health topped up. It is possible to beat her, with or without using summons.
When defeated, Malenia drops the Remembrance of the Rot Goddess, Malenia’s Great Rune, and a whopping 480,000 runes on your first playthrough. If you manage to take her down, congratulations — you’re a true Tarnished, no matter how you did it.