Malifaux July 2023 Errata Hot Take: The Nerfs

Well, well, well.  Look what we have here!  A hot steaming pile of errata!  And not a moment too soon, too.  The Madness of Malifaux was a little too mad, and we’re all a bit sick of The Damian Show (with headliner performances from Harrison Frodsham and the Pass Token Boys, Tiri’s Bygone Band, and Jethro Harold Tull).

Fortunately, the Balance Hatchet has done its wicked work.  Mali-folks, I have to tell you, I feel good.  I feel really good.  This errata may be the first time in almost three years that the meta is without truly oppressive outliers.  First it was Nexus and English Ivan, then before they got tweaked in February 2022 we had the Malifaux Burns titles tearing it up, and by the time they faced the music in November 2022 we had the Madness masters out in the wild.  But there haven’t been any major releases since Madness, and so the errata cycle has finally caught up to where the game is now.

There are still a few models that I think are a scosh too strong: Damian Ravencroft, Aspirant; Youko Hamasaki, Unseen; Dashel Barker, Butcher; potentially something in the Angler and Red Library/Story keywords.  But even if these models are a bit too good, they’re less too-good than the previous metagame titans, and the game is likely to be better as a result.

I also feel overall like these changes were more thoughtful and considered.  The November 2022 errata had to happen, but it was incredibly heavy-handed; Brewmaster, Ophelia, Nexus, Maxine, Yan Lo, and Kirai all got basically chopped off at the knees.  I don’t think any of the nerfed models this time will entirely stop seeing play… well, maybe Damian2, but only because Aspirant is probably still too strong. You can find the errata’d cards here and the changelog here.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into things!  This article will cover the nerfs; I’ll address the many buffed models separately.  I’m also going to skip over the Witness models, since I previously covered them.

Harrison Frodsham and the Watchmen Keyword

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

I won’t bury the lede here.  Frodsham was the single most broken model in Madness of Malifaux, worse even than Damian.  He made every list he was in better.  A single look at his card made it obvious how broken he is; I’m shocked he made it through playtesting the first time.  Fortunately, reason has prevailed.

Harrison was broken for three reasons:

  1. He gave you activation control just for showing up.
  2. His entire Keyword acted as a Focus battery for your team.
  3. Everything else on his card!  What the hell man!!!

Let’s see what’s changed.

  1. No more activation control.  Now both players get a Pass Token and the Gearlings can’t generate any.  Good riddance.  This was the most broken thing about him and it had to go away.
  2. Isochronism can now only be used to give conditions to the Watchmen models – they can take, but not give.  Very good!  Handing out Focus is extremely strong in Malifaux.  It should not just be something you get for free.  Frodsham can still hand out one Focus, once per turn, to a friendly model, by hitting the Preparations trigger on Let’s Fix That For You.  This is fine, and he can even channel the ability through other Watchmen, letting him do so from safety.
  3. The biggest offender in this category was his Spycraft action, which not only ignored Concealment and could be channeled through Watchmen but also forced the discard of a card or Pass Token, effectively giving you hand pressure and activation control.  It no longer does the latter.  You’ll just have to be content with your 2/3/4 that ignores Concealment and can target enemies with impunity from downtown.

There are a couple of other little changes – the weird “swap places with Harris J-5” trigger now just teleports to J-5, which is fine, and Frodsham only can clear Slow on nearby models (which often didn’t come up but absolutely sucked for the opponent when it did).  He also can’t push enemies when a player discards Pass Tokens, which was annoying when it came up.

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

I guess Synchonize Fate is kind of a neat way of forcing bad conditions on enemies?  But also, who cares.  These guys cannot generate pass tokens anymore but at least are reasonable scheme runners, especially with Watch Chain if there is lots of terrain on the board.

Sabertooth Cerberus

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

The nerf here is weird, but it sort of makes sense in context.  The only Chimera beast that saw a meaningful amount of play was the Cerberus.  The Rattler and Mauler are being buffed and the Cerberus nerfed, flattening the power curve among the three.

The Cerberus is actually cheaper now. It’s lost a point of Health, but gained a point of Terrifying – a net bonus, probably, since the difference between Terrifying 11 and Terrifying 12 is pretty significant in a world where most models are Wp 4-6.  Its Savage Bite has gone to Stat 5, which hurts.  The most significant change, though, is the loss of Leap.  That really stings – Leap on a 50mm is a truly huge amount of displacement, and the Cerberus’s leap was even suited.

It’s been replaced by Stalk Prey, which has undergone quite a glow-up.  The ability is now a Bonus Action, meaning you will actually do it sometimes, and its range is infinite.  The Cerberus still moves towards its target (actually, 1″ faster), and while it no longer gives Adversary at baseline, it can do so via a trigger – or just make a free melee attack.  And it’s a Tactical Action with a very affordable TN, so you’ll actually get this off!

I think this still nets out to a nerf, mostly on the back of that Stat 5 melee attack, but it’s a close-run thing.  The loss of Leap stings less when it’s replaced by another movement ability, this one with a more manageable TN and with some useful triggers.  You do lose some fun play patterns – notable, charging an enemy and then Leaping away, relying on the Disguised you got from Marcus’s upgrades to keep safe.  But even with that loss I would not expect Marcus players to shelf their Cerberi, especially at Cost 7.  Bad kitty!

Harold Tull, Artillerist and the Cavalier Keyword

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Hoo boy.  Wyrd was a bit too Cavalier when they wrote Corporal Tull’s rules.  His Keyword was a bit too efficient at everything, and both Louisa and Watson were showing up a lot out of Keyword.  That’s always a pretty strong hint something’s going to get nerfed.  Cavalier ate four nerfs this time, targeting Tull’s original form and three of the named models in the Keyword.

Starting with the man himself, his front of card remains mostly the same, although Get to Position now affects two models within a 6″ pulse – which means it can’t affect Tull himself.  This is a good change, since tabletop-wide effects are bad enough when they require LOS, and this one didn’t even have that limitation.  It also effortlessly countered the one meaningful type of counterplay available to Tull’s opponents, which was, you know, fun.

You’re going to see more significant changes on the back of his card.  Tull’s MFGL no longer ignores Friendly Fire.  A simple change, and not likely to be too crushing (you can just spend your Focus on this), but it does make Calm Under Fire a bit tougher to pull off.

The real changes are to Heavy Salvo, which is now called Forced Retreat.  That ability was bullshit; pushing a model 6″ through terrain, and Staggering it, often just meant that it didn’t get to do anything that turn.  Not only was it out of position, but if you shoved it through a forest or a house, it couldn’t even see the action, and with Staggered other friendlies couldn’t help get it back into the fight.  And ignoring models and terrain meant there was no counterplay at all.  Even Cover didn’t help, since the attack targets Mv!

It’s lost the projectile symbol, letting you use it while engaged (handy now that Tull doesn’t have a get-out-of-engagement-free card), but that’s the only good news.  (Also, you can’t use it with King’s Glory anymore, so it’s not all good news).  The ability no longer ignores terrain during a push and no longer deals damage.  It’s still great at putting problematic models in time out, but it doesn’t just delete them from the board for a turn, and you can play around it with clever placement.

Finally, Artillery Strike was just a bit too efficient.  It’s lost the built-in suit, so if you want a 5th AP on your activation you’ll have to pay for it, and it entirely lost Clear It Out.  Here’s a fun game you can play at home: boot up Vassal and place Harold Tull right in the center of the map.  Then give him a 21″ aura.  That aura is almost as big as the distance from which he could remove all enemy Scheme Markers, regardless of LOS, with no resistance possible, needing only a four or more of Tomes (which your Walking Cannons can tutor for you)!  Isn’t that fun!

That trigger belongs dead.

King’s Wall

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

The King’s Wall is oddly tiny on its base, but had a massive impact in games.  Not only was the damn thing next to impossible to remove (especially with a Lead Lined Cloak, double-especially in John Watson’s aura), but it made all of your other models even harder to remove!  Hooray!  The one weakness it had – bad Wp – was handily mitigated by Laugh Off, since we can’t let enemies with Lure or similar abilities interact with our impenetrable castle.

In contrast to Tull, all of the Wall’s changes are front-of-card – its actions haven’t changed a bit.  Headlining the changes is the loss of For King and Country, the Wall’s overpowered defensive aura.  It is gone, replaced with Confident Stance: 2 damage to any enemy that ends a charge within 3″.  This is a massive nerf, removing the Wall’s incredibly powerful signature ability and replacing it with… not nothing, but the next closest thing to nothing.  It’s a bit of chip damage now and then.  At best.

The only change beyond that one is the loss of the Wall’s Demise, Broken Armor, though you may not even notice since the Wall is not really a kill priority anymore.  Really it should never have had that ability in the first place; it was definitely one thing too many on a model already redlining what a 9ss henchman should be capable of.

The King’s Wall will likely still show up, since it lets you take a ton of free actions without discarding cards, but it’s pretty pricey now.  You’ll have to really be aggressive with it to get value, taking advantage of Symbol of the Realm to set up those juicy MFGL shots.  It still has Shield Slam with a built-in Daze and still has Bulldoze, one of the best actions in the game, so it should be alright, but nine stones is a lot and you might not find room for it every time.

Louisa Fusi

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Louisa is just the best scheme runner in the faction, by a huge margin.  There’s really no reason to take any other model to scheme.  Not great – so Wyrd reined her in a little.  Her Df has gone down to 5, but her Mv has actually gone up, to 7.  She’ll need that extra movement – she’s lost All-Terrain for Trample.  She used to ignore models, vertical distance, severe terrain, and hazardous terrain; now she only ignores models.  She can also be Staggered like everyone else!

Those are the only najor changes, (Soulstone Flare got a little easier to do and Claim the Land got a little harder) but they’re good ones.  Louisa is still a scheme runner.  She’s just a normal scheme runner now, and has a weakness: terrain.  She’ll still show up when pools suit her skills and won’t when they don’t, which is a good place to be.

John Watson

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Ah, John Watson.  Basically an 8ss Versatile that Cavalier got a one-stone discount on.  Name me a Guild list that’s better without John Watson in it.  You can’t!  He’s super AP-efficient, incredibly hard to remove, and bizarrely deadly.  (Why is his gun Range 14″?)  And he makes all your other models hard to remove, too.  The combination of Hard to Kill, Sawbones, and Field Kit is particularly sadistic, since it’s very difficult to one-activation kill him (especially through Warning Growl) and if you don’t he probably just heals up and does a ton of damage to whatever was engaging him.

Watson’s card text changes are minimal.  He lost Hard to Kill, making him a bit less frustrating to deal with.  In trade, he’s gained a point of health.  His Emergency Syrette lost a point of stat and his Take Two of These and Call Me In the Morning trigger is now other Cavalier only.

Also, he costs 9ss now.

I mean… fine?  That’s about how much that package should cost, at least without HtK.  I still think this model is kind of ludicrously overstuffed with value, and might make more sense back at 7ss but with a stat 5 melee attack and no Warning Growl or HtK, but if you want to keep his text the way it is, 9ss is probably right.  That makes him a bit too expensive to ook, but he’ll show up in Cavalier lists still because of how nuts his Take Two of These trigger is and how durable he makes your crew.

Overall, these are some pretty significant body blows to the Cavalier Keyword – about in line with what Witness got.  It’s hard to argue that those two aren’t two of the best Keywords in the game, though, so they’ll probably both be fine.  Cavalier will rely a bit more on its ridiculous minions instead of its ridiculous enforcer/henchmen.  As God intended.

Guild Mage

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Another model that showed up a bit too often.  Versatile models are supposed to fit into a lot of lists, but this one was in, uh, every list ever.

Mages have actually gained a point of Df, and a new bonus action that’s less situational than Disillusion – Arcane Ward gives any number of friendlies within 6″ the opportunity to discard a card in exchange for Shielded +1, no TN or anything.

What did they do to Glory of the Guild!, you ask?  Well… that ability had to be fixed.  The healing throughput was truly insane.  It used to be that (once per activation), whenever any model discarded a card within 6″, you could heal any model within 6″ based on the value of the discarded card.  Now, it’s (once per activation), when a friendly model within 6″ discards a card, you may heal that model for 2.

Big, big, big nerf.  The fact that models can only heal on their own activations is a huge deal (ok, if opponents make you discard, you can heal then, too – but you have no control over that).  The fact that you can’t heal from opponents’ models’ discards is a big deal too.  You are still going to get a lot of incidental healing from this ability, but it won’t be nigh-infinite.  And the Mages themselves are better at doing stuff and not dying, so they still will feel fine to take.  Still, if your crew isn’t actively discarding cards for value (or being forced to do so by your opponent), and your opponent doesn’t have markers you need to remove, I think you might leave these guys at home.  That’s fine; they’re tech picks, not always-hires.

Perdita Ortega, Neverborn Hunter and Her Upgrades

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Back in November 2022, the highest-performing Malifaux Burns masters got their wings clipped.  It certainly didn’t hurt overall game balance, though with Damian and Tull already in the wild, it didn’t exactly restore balance to the Force… and there were some strange omissions.  A few overpowered Title masters escaped the Balance Hatchet: Youko2, Dashel2, and most notably of all, Perdita2.

Perdita was a huge problem, partially because of the absolutely absurd action efficiency and card draw she could sustain with Head of the Ortegas and A Por El, partially because that combo incidentally generated insane healing throughput with Guild Mages, and partially because her Specialty Upgrades were some of the most anti-fun tools in the entire game; each one just hosed one or more Masters right out of the game with little counterplay possible.

She’s been reined in, and her Upgrades too.  The headlining change is to Head of the Ortegas; rather than grant you card draw, it now lets nearby Family Minions add one suit to their duels.  This is a complete reimagining of the ability; no longer does it grant you infinite card draw.  Free suits are great, but Family minions are… historically not great, because the whole point of the Keyword is its named members.

Her two Attack actions haven’t changed, but On the Job Training has – it has reduced its TN by 1 and added a Tome trigger to remove all non-Scheme markers within 2″ of the summoned model, which will be nice sometimes, even if you do have to stone for it.

The really spicy change, though, is to Protector.  This still pulses out Shielded in a huge bubble (though it no longer ignore LOS), and now it lets a Family member (not just a minion!) discard all Specialty upgrades and attach one!  Previously locked to Pistoleros de Latigo only, the ability to attach these upgrades to anyone is now a big selling point.

So what’s different about the upgrades?  Well, everything.  They no longer give the summoned model Slow and Shielded (although those models do gain Slow from being summoned now, so it’s a straight-up nerf) and they no longer have fun little comes-into-play effects.  No more free shots, free marker or condition removal, or free Concealment.  They still grant the ability to turn into a Monster Hunter, though it’s limited to Minions of cost 5 or less (so you can’t upgrade named Ortegas) and it’s now Once per Game to avoid the silly “infinite Death Marshal loop.”

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

The most significant change, though, is to the other abilities on the Upgrades.  Previously, these abilities granted special bonuses in an AOE, and granted their wielder a permanent +1 stat and free suit when it hung out near a Family member.  Your summons get their free suits if they stay near Perdita, but no more +1 stat, and the abilities that the Upgrades grant now only affect the model wearing them.  So Nephilim Hunter only protects the wearer from pulses, blasts and auras, Hag Hunter only protects the wearer from mind control effects, and so on.  There’s a little bit of upside – each Upgrade now grants a second ability, like +1 Mv on Nephilim Hunter and Counterspell on Hag Hunter – but the loss of massive, aoe anti-everything buffs is a big hit to the Keyword.

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

This is a very, very strong nerf.  All of the small buffs you see are just to compensate for larger nerfs elsewhere.  That said, I think Perdita2 still has play.  Partially that just reflects how stratospherically broken she was pre-nerf, but I actually really like the gameplay of handing out Specialty upgrades to other friendlies.  Giving Nino Ruthless, for example, is very strong, and giving Francisco Counterspell makes him even more durable.  I’d love to see what Dita2 looks like on the table now.

The Iron Matron

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Pretty obvious change to anyone who was paying attention: the Matron’s Last Matriarch now says other friendly Bygone, so she can’t make four attacks in a single activation anymore.  I say this as someone who played a lot of Tiri: good.  This combo was not fun to play and it can’t have been fun to be on the receiving end of.  Her Pass Through trigger was also restricted to Once Per Activation, which is smart, because otherwise people would just put her in Tradition mode for her attack run and lose maybe 10% efficiency at most.

Somewhat surprisingly, she actually gained a second Bonus action: Shield Generator, a nice little free shielded on a suitless 5+.  I like this!  Gives her a little more survivability.

Which she needs, because she lost Cruel Disappointment too.  I understand this loss, because that ability is cracked in a crew with Armor +2, Shielded, Take the Hit Ancient Constructs; and more broadly, it’s not good for the game to have too much Cruel Disappointment out there.  That ability is strong on its own but it’s really ungodly strong when combined with Armor, healing, and/or Shielded, and ES has a lot of all three.

I think just cutting Cruel Disappointment would have merited a points drop, especially with the other changes, but luckily Wyrd gave her back some mojo: she’s now Hard to Wound, which is surprisingly almost as good as CD in many situations (specifically, when you’re making an attack run that takes you out of 3″ from nearby friendlies).  She’s also Unimpeded, which comes up a lot.

I like where the Matron is now.  She’s still very good, but she’s less brainless to use.  You have to be more careful about positioning since you can’t just waltz into melee with Matriarch.  My one complaint is that, while they’ve increased Auan Chains’s range to 5″, the ability just still doesn’t feel… actually… useful?  Like, increase the TN maybe, or give it a better trigger.  As it is it just feels kinda there, and certainly worse than just making attacks, or even charging.

Koji + Wandering River Style

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Another really obvious change.  Taker’s Bane is now enemy only (why was it ever not?) to stop you from just drawing a billion cards by blasting your own dudes in the face.  Partners in Crime now triggers during Koji’s own activation, which makes a bit more sense than how it used to be, and it’s a little better since it moves another friendly rather than pushing it towards Koji.

I don’t think you see too much Koji anymore.  He just doesn’t really synergize with what other crews are doing.  He’s got some powerful tools, but he has to be pretty close to enemies to make best use of them.  Menacing is a strong defensive ability to hand out, but it’s rather vulnerable to marker removal.

Credit: Wyrd Games

Wandering River Style has been reworded to Place the markers it moves instead of Dropping them, so it doesn’t trigger Protection Money.  Our long national nightmare is finally over.

Yannic Waller

Credit: Wyrd Games

Credit: Wyrd Games

Ahhhhh… this change makes me sad.  Yannic was way, way too good, especially with Freikorps; the amount of card draw Ingenuity enabled was obscene.  Still, I harbored hope that it would just be Keyword-locked to Syndicate only.  That would curtail the most busted combos while still giving a much-needed boost to a keyword that, while fun, is mostly poop.

Alas, ’twas not to be.  Ingenuity now does not draw you any cards.  It just removes the scheme marker, so you don’t have to spend a card, but you don’t draw one.  Le sigh.  No free cards for Giacomo?

Also, they traded out Yannic’s extremely confusing and not-very-good Unexpected Results trigger for Surge, which is good.  You can always ping yourself for a tome, draw a card, and heal yourself with Elections (as long as there’s an enemy nearby to ping).  And Yannic got Draw Out Secrets on her Consolidate Power, which is actually a pretty solid combo.

But still.  Press F to pay respects to Anya2 lists using Austera and Twigge to discard 1 card and draw 3.  I feel this change, because while Yannic’s absurd card draw brought Von Schill from “good” to “busted,” it brought Anya from “poop” to “functional.”  And now… she has returned from whence she came.

That’s all for this article!  If you haven’t yet, check out my companion articles on the buffs and the FAQ.  And let me know in the comments which newly adjusted models you’re most looking forward to not having to deal with anymore!

Have any questions or feedback? Drop us a note in the comments below or email us at