Malifaux Burns, Part 3: The Arcanists

The Arcanists never really liked the Governor-General.  He sabotaged their strikes, threw their ringleaders in prison, sicced his Guards on them, and was generally the kind of boorish creep who these days would be shitposting on Twitter and being investigated for securities fraud.  So they cheered when he blew himself up (a fate that can only be wished for his modern successors, alas), but now they’re coming to regret that hasty celebration.  The return of the Burning Man has made things worse for everyone, and for an organization that was already teetering on the brink of civil war, a sudden infusion of chaos has scrambled everyone’s best-laid plans.

Franco Marlow had chosen his moment to move on the fugitive terrorist Kaeris, and was in the process of ambushing her when the Burning Man arrived.  Ramos’s fire-loving protege quickly found her incandescent powers burning out of control.  She survived – in fact, she’s thriving – but the source of her power is, uh, suspicious, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for the organization going forward.

But that’s a problem for later.

Sandeep Desai, Font of Magic

as the elemental-summoning mystic said to the hot dog vendor… Credit: Wyrd Games

Sandeep is trying to do his best, really he is.  The Arcanists brought him a fugitive a few months ago – a man cursed by gamin, unable to stop himself from summoning the destructive spirits.  Sandeep tried to help him, but failed, and the man was lost to his powers.  In the wake of that failure, Sandeep has sought the inner peace that others come to him seeking.  It worked, too– when the Burning Man arrived, Sandeep felt his self-control fraying and Banasuva straining at his tether, but Sandeep was able to keep him contained.  He meditates instead, dwelling in the eye of a storm of elemental power.  It seems to work for him.

The biggest headline here isn’t any of Sandeep’s new rules: it’s his new Keyword.  He’s now an Elemental as well as an Academic.  This unlocks a bunch of cool interactions – Banasuva can Obey him, he benefits from Mantras, and so on.  Of course, this power comes at a cost; Sandeep is no longer a summoner.  However, there are compensations.

All the various types of Gamins have Demise effects, and the most common ones – Ice, Fire and Metal – all drop Markers when they die.  This version of Sandeep loves him some markers.  He has a Shockwave attack that drops a marker of one of the above-mentioned types instead of the typical Shockwave Marker, and the effect is based on the type he dropped.  He also has a reasonable if low-damage ranged attack that can spike up in damage if the target is near multiple types of markers, and his Mantra allows Concentrating elementals to move non-Scheme markers near them.  He lets nearby Academics and Elementals ignore friendly Terrain Markers and each other’s Demise and Shockwave abilities, so you can cluster up for Mantra sharing without hurting yourself.  His own Demise pulses Staggered to any enemies near a Marker within 6″ – and remember, as long as Banasuva is nearby, you get to trigger his Demise every time he Concentrates.

There are some fun tricks for Academics, too – he gives them a version of Perdita’s A Por El ability to let nearby Elementals take a free action after they activate, channeling it through the Academic.  Amusingly, he can also “shift” Gamin from one type to another, cycling from fire to ice to metal and so on as needed.

This version of Sandeep litters the board with markers, then takes advantage of them to trigger his effects.  He still buffs elementals – he has a neat action to effectively give them Price of Progress for a turn – but his games are going to rely on pumping out markers and moving them around.  I’m not certain that’s a strong enough gameplan to base a whole crew around; some types of markers do very little on their own, and there are whole categories of models who don’t care about them.  It’s unique, at least, and he’s very versatile… so maybe the crew has legs.

Rasputina, Abominable

the cold never bothered her anyways. Credit: Wyrd Games

Tough times on the mountain.  December’s not the only cult in town anymore, and Malifaux’s residents seem to prefer things burning hot to ice cold.  Worse yet, Burning Man Madness has claimed several small frontier towns, removing sources of both supplies and recruits for December’s acolytes.

Needs must.  Rasputina’s been making friends.  With December’s powers fully under her command, she’s breathing life into ice sculptures, recruiting new “cultists” from winter itself.  You do what you gotta do.

The headline of this new Tina is her ability to summon.  She can turn Ice Pillar markers into living December models (so no gamin or golems), giving them armor in the bargain.  That’s a pretty interesting power; December Acolytes are a little pricey to justify hiring, but they’re powerful summons, especially with Tools for the Job fixing your hand.  Tina’s lost her offensive mojo but picked up some cute new powers, mostly themed around wind.  Whenever a nearby friendly is pushed, if they’re not already Shielded, they gain a stack of it – and to help trigger that ability, she can push people around with her Northern Winds attack, doing damage if the target’s an enemy.  She also has a trigger with a very unique piece of tech; she can push a friendly, create an Ice Pillar in base contact with them, and then until that marker is removed the friendly can’t be moved or buried.

Beyond that, she’s the same old Tina we know and live.  She makes things slow, she draws LOS for her attacks through Ice Pillars (including her melee attack, this time), she creates ice pillars, and now she has some neat triggers on her Df and Wp that end the attacker’s activation after resolving.  However, she’s now competing with an original form that’s had quite a glow-up.  It’s hard to tell if picking up summoning is enough to make up for the loss of Original Flavor Rasputina’s damage output and card draw; December minions are nooooot awesome, so this one seems a bit more “cool” than “good.”

Toni Ironsides, Union President

remember blair mountain! bread and roses! bread and roses! Credit: Wyrd Games

Toni’s one of the few people doing better now than before.  As you may recall, she was the one who narced on Ramos, and in his absence she’s stepped up to lead the M&SU.  Unlike Ramos, for whom the Union was only ever a means to an end, Toni believes in the working men and women, and she’s got their back.  And they have hers!

This Toni is much less of a brawler, though she still gains Adrenaline Tokens, and can spend them to reduce incoming damage one to one (to a maximum of three, but able to reduce damage to zero, which many similar abilities can’t do).  This time, she gets one for every three M&SU models in play when she activates – she’s got people power!  And to help get those numbers up, she has the ability Labor Contract.  This lets any M&SU model in play discard a card whenever they drop a Scheme Marker to create a Drudge into base contact with that marker.  More on Drudges later, but this is a very potent ability, since it’s not once per activation and it’s not limited to Interact actions.  If you can drop a marker, you can get a dude.  Simple as.  And you’ll want to be dropping markers, since now M&SU models next to markers get to count as being below half health for their Grit abilities (formerly, you had to be near Toni to do that – though Amina Naidu is still available in a pinch).

Toni’s traded her brass knuckles for, uh, a picket sign I guess?  Which isn’t that strong at 2/3/4, but gets a +twist if her target is within 3″ of another M&SU model, and has two built in triggers: one to reposition Toni and one to let a friendly Minion take a swipe at her target (and grant her more Adrenaline if they hit).

She also has a very cool ranged attack that deals damage based on the number of nearby friendlies, to a maximum of 4, and draws a card for free if the target ends up at half life or below.  And her bonus action, Will of the Union, is righteous.  Discard up to three Adrenaline tokens; pick three M&SU models within 10″.  If they’re near friends, they get a little push, then all three get to take a non-Charge general action.

This Toni is boss.  Leaving aside the fact that she’s a union president that fights with the power of solidarity (which makes her an automatic A+ in my book), she can do a lot of crazy things.  The ability to take three Interact actions, out of activation, all at once lets you score out of nowhere, and she can also be a force multiplier by letting her models focus.  Drudges are a very cool tool, if only because they turn on friendly models’ Unionized.  And she can carpet the board in Schemes, making it very easy to stay maxed on Drudges.  She even has Draw Out Secrets on her ranged attack!  There’s a bit of a game here, balancing spending Adrenaline Tokens for Will of the Union vs. holding them to stay healthy, but it’s not particularly hard to start with a crew of 9 models and summon 3 Drudges on turn 1 before Toni activates, thus giving her 4 tokens.  Once she gets into melee, too, she can start printing the things with her Loyal Follower trigger.  I am very impressed with Union President and can’t wait to see what crazy things people do with her.

Colette du Bois, Smuggler

business up top, party down below. Credit: Wyrd Games

On the other hand, if you’re just looking for straightforward power, you want Colette2.  She’s thriving on the chaos, using the distraction of the Burning Man to ramp up her smuggling activities and rebuild her finances.  Life is good for Colette, especially with no Arcanists breathing down her neck, and she intends to keep it that way.

This Colette trades in her mobility for, uh, a lot.  She gains Disguised and Evasive, making her a bit more vulnerable to shooting (but not blasts or shockwaves!) and a lot less vulnerable to melee.  But she’s also not really vulnerable to anything because of… decoy markers!  Her key mechanic, the Markers are just Ht 2 Blocking Destructible.  She can make one per turn with her bonus action (and print a Soulstone if she has a 3 or higher of Crows).  She can also treat her Doves as decoys, and if that would remove the marker, it kills the Dove and she gains shielded.

What do they do?  Well, if you attack her, she can teleport to a Decoy within 4″ of herself, remove it, and give you Distracted.  How’s that?

Oh, and her Routine Performance action lets her take an attack or general action as though she were in place of any Decoy Marker on the board.  Let that sink in.  You can “walk” (move a marker 6″).  You can Interact.  And you can take either of her bonkers attacks.  Her melee is a fairly weak Stat 5 1/3/4, but it has a built-in positive twist and gains +1 to its stat for each Scheme Marker within 3″ of the target, and it teleports the target 4″ on a hit… or, on a mask, into base contact with any Decoy Marker within 8″ of Colette.  Her ranged attack, by contrast, is a straightforward 2/3/4, but it also automatically Distracts or Staggers the target (dealer’s choice) and has a tome trigger to summon another Dove.

Colette2 is another outrageously powerful master that’s likely to get toned down (so enjoy her while you can!)  The ability to act anywhere on the board through her Doves and Decoys is huge, and with Don’t Mind Me there’s almost nothing your opponent can do to stop you maxing out certain strategies and schemes.  One Marker per turn doesn’t seem like much, but remember Cassandra can copy that action and make one too (and you can churn out Soulstones with ease!), and you start with three Doves with an option on resummoning them when they die.  Colette can give her opponent fits and there’s really no good answers except for “stay on top of the dove swarm” (good luck with that!).

Kaeris, Reborn

it’s probably fine. Credit: Wyrd Games

Of all the Masters touched by the Burning Man’s power, Anasalea Kaeris is probably the most impressive.  Cornered by Guild forces due to a well-laid ambush, Kaeris was on the verge of being apprehended and sentenced to death.  In her desperation, she called out for help… and help came.  It’s not clear whether she understands where her new power come from, but it’s also not clear she’d care if she did.  Her golden winged harness has melted, as has any vestige of control… she’s Reborn now, and woe betide those who stand in her way.

Original Kaeris was a highly mobile blaster that loved setting enemies on fire.  New Kaeris is a highly mobile beater who loves setting herself on fire.  She’s fast as hell, and with Wings of Fire if she started her movement in a Pyre Marker, she can ignore models and terrain while moving, and deal a point of damage to any model she moves through (though note she no longer has the Flight special rule).  Why would you want to stand in a Pyre Marker?  Well, first of all, if she’s within 3″ of another model, she doesn’t take Burning damage – they take it instead.  This was a lot more impressive before they capped Burning at 5 damage, since you could just load her up and then instantly delete an enemy model, but it’s still pretty nice.  Second, as long as she’s your Leader, Wildfire models with Burning +3 or more get to build in the suit of their choice to all of their duels.

That ability is insane.  I’ve written before about how strong building in triggers is, and this is just every trigger, forever.  3 burning equates to 1 damage, and many Wildfire models don’t care about that, either via Flameborne, Carlos Vasquez’s Fireproof, or Deacon Hillcrest’s Spirits in the Flames.  Nobody uses it better than Kaeris herself, though.  She has replaced her ranged attack with a 2/4/5 melee attack that drops blasts on moderate and severe, and can choose to drop Pyre Markers instead of those blasts.

She also has the rather fun combo of Frenzied Charge and Rampage (a trigger shared by a few Pigs; you push 5″ through your melee target and they must take a TN 13 Mv duel or take a point of damage).  That is, she can charge through an enemy (dealing a point of damage due to Wings of Fire), hit them, drop a pyre marker onto herself, build in the Rampage trigger, and push 5″ through them… triggering another point from Wings of Fire, a potential point from Rampage if they fail the duel, and putting her outside of melee, so she can charge again.

When you’re not cosplaying a flaming pinball, she does have the ability to sling around Pyre Markers and pulse out Burning +2 and a 2″ push, and her bonus action heals her, gives her Burning and drops a Pyre Marker.  This helps keep her alive – she’s lost Armor but gained Hard to Wound, at least, so she’s not a pushover.

This Kaeris is a lot of fun.  She’s got a combo playstyle; you load her up with Burning, drop Pyre Markers in strategic locations, and then just let her rip.  She’s not too tough to kill, but no Master is easy to take down, and as long as she’s alive she’ll badly punish your opponent for clustering up.

Four Winds Golem

The Gamin/Golem pattern leads to some weird outcomes.  There’s no Grave Gamin yet (and probably never will be) and there’s no Poison Golem.  But finally there’s a Wind Golem… a joint project between Sandeep and Shenlong, both of whom can take credit for what is basically a pocket tornado encase in magical bracers.

This Golem’s a weird one.  He’s Sz 4, as you might expect, and fairly hefty.  He Flies (obviously) and has Leap and Demise: To the Sky (like his little brothers).  Beyond that, he’s a weird blend of Monk and Elemental.  He generates Chi tokens, but only when nearby models Concentrate (which both crews want to be doing a lot of, naturally), and can spend them for +twists on any duel.  Beyond that, a lot of his toolkit is defensive; he has Butterfly Jump to keep himself alive and Middle of the Storm to protect the rest of your crew.

The issue here… and I’m sorry, but I do have to find an issue… is that offensively, he’s just a bit lackluster.  He has Up We Go, always a fun action, and his has a couple of neat triggers, but it’s still a 2/3/4 (I guess a 3/4/5 with the right trigger).  He doesn’t have armor or self-healing.  His ranged attack is cute, dealing 1/3/4 and pushing the target 3″ away, but it’s fairly short ranged.  Most of all, he’s ten stones.  That’s a lot of stones; at that price the Ice Golem has a 3/4/6 (up to a potential 5/6/8 with the right setup), Armor +2 and Flurry, and the Metal Golem has a 3/4/6 with a built-in positive twist, Armor +2, Shielded and Concealment on command.  Ten stones is a hefty price to pay for a guy who’s basically just pushing models around 3″ at a time, and it’s tough to see how he finds a place in most lists.


After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab. A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a waterlogged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with. Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his Master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab hasn’t.
Jack London, Ode to a Scab

Malifaux may be filled with blood-drinking demons, ancient Tyrants, and tyrannical Guild fascists, but until now we haven’t faced true evil.  Drudges are vile opportunists, seeking only to pillage the welfare of their fellow man and woman to make a quick buck.  Truly depraved creatures, they…

Ahem.  At least some of the Drudges have started siding with Toni, which shows even a scab can reform.

Drudges can technically be hired, but you’ll almost always be summoning them; both Toni and Anya Lycarayen, Rail Magnate, have the ability to summon Drudges whenever one of their Keyword models drops a Scheme Marker.  Drudges are dirt-cheap, but boy do you get value for your scrip.  They’re both Mindless and Insignificant (accurate, he nodded), but as long as they’re in base contact with a Scheme Marker, your opponent can’t remove it – and when they move, they carry their Marker with them.  That by itself would be enough; giving all of your Scheme Markers a little bodyguard that your opponent has to waste AP chewing through is pretty potent by itself.  But they’ve also got Unionized, the ability that M&SU models share that gives them a +twist to defensive duels when near a buddy, which means you can spread your crew out a bit more and summon in Drudges to fill the gaps.

They can also pulse out a little healing, and on a trigger, give nearby Syndicate models Unionized, so they can get the defensive benefits too.  And they even have an attack!  A truly crappy one, but hey, if you’re not using the AP…

Drudges are absolutely key to the playstyles of both Union President and Rail Magnate, and you should never leave home without 3 if you’re playing either master.  I don’t think I’d hire them outside of a Toni crew, but in her crew, you will be relying on them.

Deacon Hillcrest

a surprisingly dapper doom cultist. Credit: SoylentRobot

Finally, we come to the one person in Malifaux who’s worshipping the Burning Man, on purpose, without having gone insane first.  Or at least, without going too insane.  Deacon Hillcrest is a follower of Ephraim Wade, the Earthside madman who founded the Cult of the Burning Man and wrote the Flammae, and he sees it as his duty to spread the Good News on this side of the Breach.  He’s got the ears of both Kaeris and Reva Cortinas now, and with Nellie’s printing press firing off new copies of the Flammae and Maxine making tentacled friends, it’s only a matter of time until his congregation grows.

Hillcrest is mostly a utility model, and he’s a bit pricey at 7 stones, but he does bring a lot of utility and it’s rare you won’t need him for something.  First of all, he has a 6″ aura in which the Burning condition can’t be reduced or removed by enemy effects.  That’s essential in some matchups, which can otherwise no-sell your whole gimmick).  He has fairly weak ranged and melee attacks, but they at least hand out some burning.  His big sell is Translocation Ritual, an 8″ attack that teleports the target anywhere within 6″ of its position, as long as it lands within 1″ of a Pyre Marker.  This requires a suit to go off, so he’s a lot better with Kaeris where he can guarantee that suit, but it’s super strong.  Both versions of Kaeris want to take lots of attack actions and hate having to walk to get there.  The Deacon can control his own burning with Blaze of Glory, cashing it in to get a +twist on duels; he also gains Shielded the first time he takes Burning from a Pyre Marker each turn, so it isn’t too hard to stay at that magic Burning +3 where he can gain a free suit but not take damage.

He’s a bit fiddly and a bit frail (but Manipulative helps), but you can get a lot of use out of him… just make sure you have a plan for how to Translocate your way to greatness.


That’s all for the Arcanists!  Next time we’ll be seeing how the Burning Man’s return has affected Malifaux’s original inhabitants, the Neverborn, who have got to be pretty sick of Earthside threats crossing over by now.

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