So about a month ago I had managed to get past this fight with a solo caster, which as all Souls veterans know is the easiest way to solo anything. Even so it took a week or so of noodling around and getting used to the rhythm of things, especially the big change up in phase 2. She becomes much more aggressive in phase 2 and your attack windows become much smaller.
My next goal was to try and get past the fight with minimal casting. To do this I had been running a strength/faith build, mostly using fire damage swords and such since I could not find a faith spell that really worked for general purpose combat.
Let’s see how that went. Yeah, it was going well.
Actually, this video makes it seem worse than it was. I spent a long time trying to work out what my approach was going to be, and died a ton while doing this “research” since I did not really practice any one approach very well. Once I picked something it took about a week to build up enough muscle memory to get through both phases.
I saw three possibilities:
Parry strategy. This works great if you have the reflexes. Which I do not. More later.
Blasphemous Blade strategy. This takes advantage of my faith/melee build to do maximum burst damage because she is weak to fire. It has other issues though. And, the weapon skill on this weapon is a bit too … “casty”. That is, you do a lot of damage from distance if you have enough time to get it off. But those windows are more rare than with the spell caster because the wind up for the attack is too long.
Let’s go over these one by one.
Parrying Malenia has two main problems:
You have to learn all the moves that you can parry. There are about six which I will list below.
In a new twist Elden Ring makes you do three parries for every critical against the major bosses. This is to combat the “Gwyn Problem” where if you learn how to parry just well enough the fight is trivial. Needing to constantly get three in a row means that you have to be so good you hardly ever miss.
The main moves that Malenia does which you can parry are:
The short forward dash followed by a wide swing.
The “sword click” followed by a forward dash followed by three fast swings.
The jump to your left followed by a swing.
The jump to your right followed by a swing.
Two immediate fast swings.
The jump and quick twirl in the air, followed by a swing.
I should have cut together a video showing examples of each of these and me missing. But I forgot to do that before getting past the fight. This Reddit thread describes the moves in some more detail. And this video and this video show most of the moves. But the guy hits all the parries so it doesn’t help to teach you how this fails.
Of course she has other moves you can’t or shouldn’t parry. You can’t parry the spin kick that she uses to get into a lot of her other combos. You can’t parry Waterfowl. You also can’t parry some of the new stuff she does in phase 2. I think you can parry the move where she jumps up in the air and then dashes forward and stabs you to death (which she always does after you heal, because she’s a cheater) but it’s not worth it because the attack is so easy to punish anyway. Finally, you don’t need to parry the swing where she swoops up into the air and then lands and asks you to please hit her.
The problem with the parry strat for me is that I can only parry the first three of the six moves above with any reliability. God knows I tried. It seems to me that you not only need to get the timing just right, especially for the faster moves, you also need to get your spacing just right and your parries can fail if you are just a bit too far away, or too close, or not perfectly lined up left to right.
Worse, when my parry misses I don’t know why, because it feels like I did it just like before. If I could even have done five out of six I might have tried for this more because you can then dodge to the other. The two I just could not learn were the two fast swings and the floaty jump to the right. I could get each of them about half the time, but could never figure out what I did wrong when I missed.
So I finally gave up.
I did the fight this way for a while, but didn’t like the feel of it. Later, I also tried dual wielding this sword and a second large sword (Claymore) with fire and doing jump attack spam. That worked pretty well too, but I found it hard to keep the right spacing. So let’s talk about spacing in this fight.
Spacing for this fight is not an issue for the first quarter of her health bar. But, once she is down to 60% or 70% health, she will bring out Waterfowl Dance seemingly at any time, even in windows when you used to think you were safe doing a big attack. Like at the end of this video:
Here she does that jump dash, which you can roll through and then punish. But not this time. Joke’s on me.
So, what you want for this fight is something that can poke her for damage from pretty far away, so you can keep your spacing to escape things like Waterfowl as long as you are careful.
The great swords like the Blasphemous Blade and the Claymore are great, but a bit short for this. So I went looking around for other ideas, while at the same time continuing to noodle with this combo.
Note: I realize that if you are good you can evade a point blank Waterfowl Dance using that spin in place and then dodge out at just the right second move … or you can use Bloodhound’s Step, or you can switch to a shield for the first flurry and then dodge out. All of these things will work for you if you have faster muscle memory than I do but they don’t work for me because I don’t. I can only remember two or three moves at a time in a fight like this and needing to switch up in a window even as relatively long and telegraphed as the wind up to WFD is hopeless for me. Believe me I tried. It just never worked.
So the main other thing I tried was to use longer weapons with moderate bleed and/or frost to get my pokes or longer jump attacks. Obviously Rivers of Blood would also have worked here, but I’d already done that.
The real problem with this idea was that this character was a Faith/Strength build and all the moderate bleed weapons are Dex weapons. I tried to do some moderate respecs to get more Dex damage but ultimately didn’t have the patience to try and get to a 50/50/50 Faith/Strength/Dex build … which even if I had done it would have been the ultimate try hard move anyway.
Still, for those of you with Dex builds who don’t want to use Rivers … try cold katanas. These are nice because you can get two kinds of burst damage: one from the frost procs and one from the bleed. I used an Uchi and the Nagakiba with dual wielding. Both are great. They just did not hit hard enough with my build so the fight took too long.
I also tried the Bloody Helice for a while because I saw someone using it in a youtube video. Again, this could have worked on a Dex build. But that’s not what I had.
At this point I had to take an enforced one week vacation from this job to visit some folks and eat Chinese food and stuff. While I was away, I found the way that I would ultimately beat this fight, and of course it was Emarrel who showed me what to do:
This person has been showing me how to play these games better for almost a decade now, and here they are using a giant strength-oriented sword to beat this fight.
Since I had this weapon already, I gave it a try when I got back. And after a week or so it finally worked.
Success, and Why it Worked
The reason it worked is that the poke attack with the Greatsword (and all the other colossal swords) is super overpowered. It’s as fast as the katanas, faster than the medium sized swords, has fast recovery, and hits harder and from a longer distance than almost anything else. Finally, you can get the poke out of a roll or a crouch, so it’s easy to get into as well.
So here is the setup:
Greatsword and 60 strength.
Giant Hunt ash of war, which is also a sort of forward poke and has the added bonus of often throwing the boss up into the air and leaving her to land in a heap. Always fun. Also very good damage for not much FP use.
Put Cold on the sword, for the occasional frostbite burst damage.
Various other body buffs, the strength and stamina Physick for phase 2, and the Godrick rune. You can save scum to not run out of rune arcs and buff items if you want.
Now just keep your spacing, do an R1 poke for fast attacks, and L2 poke for bigger hits, and take the frost bonus when you get it.
If you are better than me you can also chain a bunch of pokes and maybe a jump attack or two to get a stagger for even more burst damage. But I’m not aggressive enough to get this to happen that much. When I try too hard for the stagger I mostly end up out of position and get Waterfowled to death.
Speaking of Waterfowl. If you watch the Emarrel video you will notice that you can dodge this attack if you have almost any distance between you and Malenia when she does the first hop up in the air. So the things to avoid are:
Ending up directly under her when she starts the thing.
Running away too slowly at the start and getting murdered by the first flurry.
Still, I have recently managed to survive this attack even being as badly out of position as in this video:
So maybe some day I’ll be able to avoid it even point blank. But I would not get my hopes up.
What I do instead is try to keep enough distance to be able to run away from the attack and use the long range of the sword pokes to get damage in. This is actually the hardest thing about phase 1 of the fight. She is so passive in phase 1 that to make any progress in the fight you have to walk about and try to hit her in the face. But if you do that you risk being right next to her when the WFD starts.
I ended up using Lightning Spear from range to try and bait out the Waterfowl when I know it’s likely coming anyway. This works remarkably well at least once or twice per run.
Once you are pretty good at phase 1 you just have to see phase 2 enough to learn how to parse the visual cues with all the wings and shit on the screen and get used to the much higher level of aggression. Where in Phase 1 she does a lot of slow walking followed by long combos, in Phase 2 she really doesn’t let up at all and you have to get a tactical poke in here and there to interrupt the flow of attacks. Otherwise you just lose control and die. Like here:
When you can put this all together, and get some good RNG, you will finally win, and it will feel pretty good.
I’m amazed that I only took one hit in that run. I wonder if I can duplicate the effort at level 1. Check back here in six months to see how I do.
After all this time with this fight I still mostly like it. The main obvious bullshit is the blatant input reading (dash attacks after every heal, Waterfowl whenever you over-commit and get too close) that the boss is doing. Phase 1 is also too slow, while phase 2 is too fast. But for me these are minor issues. It’s still the most interesting fight in the game, and I would not really mind going right back to it again right now.