How to beat Malenia in Elden Ring

The Elden Ring Malenia boss cutscene - a rotten hand grasps a golden, winged helm resting on the ground
(Image credit: FromSoftware)

Elden Ring Malenia is one of the hardest bosses you'll come across in the Lands Between and, arguably, the whole of Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro. It's not just because she's fast and relentless—though she's certainly that—but because whenever she does manage to land a hit with her impossibly long sword, she heals herself. And yes, that includes if you're blocking with a shield.

Another reason Malenia is so tough to beat is her Waterfowl Dance move. You might not be familiar with the name, but if you've fought the rot-infested demi-god for any length of time, you'll know the one I mean. Yes, it's that attack. She comes at you in a whirling tornado of blades, and unless you're an absolute master, chances are, it's going to kill you. That said, there are a few ways to beat Malenia in Elden Ring, even if she is very hard. Here's how. 


Elden Ring Malenia location

If you're wondering why you haven't encountered this demi-god yet, it's probably because you haven't progressed to her region. Malenia feels like one of those bosses from a Dark Souls 3 DLC; like an optional endgame extra who is incredibly tough, but off the beaten track.  You can find her by the Haligtree Roots Site of Grace, in the far north of the region that you unlock using the Elden Ring Haligtree Medallion. You'll have to travel through multiple areas and complete the Ordina Gaol challenge, and make your way through the brace of the Haligtree itself.

First phase

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

How to beat Malenia in Elden Ring

I've seen a variety of tactics work with Malenia and with a number of weapon combos. In short, they are:

  • Gang up on her with three people, stun-locking her into oblivion.
  • Use one other player and trade her aggro between you.

Since Malenia is easily stun-locked in her first phase, ganging up on her with three people and effectively making sure you hit her constantly can work. However, you do need to be quite tanky to do it, since you can't stun-lock her indefinitely. This is extra effective if you have someone wielding the Sword of Night and Flame and using its beam to knock her down periodically, or Radahn's swords—basically any weapon or skill that floors her. Malenia staggers easily, allowing you to perform critical strikes, so jumping attacks are also effective. I can't recommend using dragon breath incantations, though, since they obscure your vision of her. As with a lot of other Elden Ring bosses, bleed and frost are also strong, as are shields, since these will stop her regen for at least one hit.

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Elden Ring storyteller

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

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The only issue with bringing a third person to Malenia is that it increases the amount of damage you'll need to deal, gives her another health pool to leech off, and makes her aggro more unpredictable which increasing your chances of getting hit. It's the same for Spirit Calling Bell summons, which are useless 9 out of 10 times in this fight due to their lack of self-preservation. While it is possible with them, they often just tank hits and give her health. This is one of the reasons why getting aggressive in this fight is tricky, because if you're getting hit, that damage counts for very little.

The best way to beat Malenia that I've encountered is two players with heavy weapons trading her aggression with jumping attacks. It takes a little longer than ganging up, but it prevents her getting focused on one character for too long. Since she staggers, you can often interrupt attacks on the other player entirely.

While strength weapons are ideal, this can be done with any weapon combo, or even just one strength weapon and a spell caster. The key point is passing the aggro between you so she never focuses too heavily on one or the other. This is also a dodging fight. You can use a shield if you want, but know that the fight will last significantly longer, if not indefinitely, since she'll regen health when she hits your shield. With her fast strikes, that eliminates most of the damage you're dealing. 

Respec if you need to, but this is a fight where it pays to have a decent amount of health and endurance, and having more health will also let you use a light equip load to make your dodges more effective. Still, there's an elephant in the room, and that's "what's the point if she murders you every time with that jump attack?" Well, there are a couple of ways to deal with/predict it.

Avoiding the fast attack

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

How to avoid Malenia's fast attack: Waterfowl Dance

The advantage of that three-person stun-lock fest is that sometimes Malenia won't even get chance to do her killer attack, but honestly, it's better to have a solution if it does happen, and there are two options I've used that work most of the time:

  • Equip a greatshield in your off-hand, and quickly switch when she jumps into the air, to tank the blows. Keep moving backwards and make sure you're not directly below her. You'll need a decent amount of endurance for this and it will heal a chunk of her health.
  • When she jumps into the air, run away as fast as you can until she's completed the first two phases of the attack, then dodge back through her when she comes at you for the third. Positioning makes this possible. If you are directly below her, or switch aggro as she's jumping, you are basically dead.

If you're facing her alone, though, clever Elden Ring players have discovered a simple counter for Waterfowl Dance that seems to work every time. Throwing a Freezing Pot while she's charging the attack in midair will completely cancel the attack, leaving her open for a follow-up. This will work twice, but after that, she'll gain resistance to Freezing Pots. It's still possible to stun her afterward, but you'll need to throw two pots instead of one.

Finally, consider optimising your talismans for max damage. If you're running a light equip load, you can use the Blue Dancer Charm to increase damage. The Ritual Sword Talisman will also do the same, as will the Claw Talisman for jumping attacks.

Phase 2

(Image credit: FromSoftware)

How to get through Malenia's second phase

If you've successfully completed the first phase, the second is certainly possible. The only real difference is that some of her blind spots are gone, since plumes of scarlet rot erupt from the floor after some of her attacks. The two new moves to worry about are:

  • She jumps into the air and sends scarlet spirits to attack you from multiple angles. These aren't instant, so if you dodge with a slight delay, you should be fine. Just be aware that she swoops down after. The aggro on the swoop seems to be proximity-related, and sometimes she'll switch right at the end, so watch out. Also watch out for a spirit near the end of the attack who comes out of nowhere from the left.
  • In the first attack of this phase, she swoops down and turns into a bloom that explodes, dealing damage on impact, and with the explosion. She can do this throughout the fight, and she can very suddenly change her mind about which player to hit. Just generally be ready to dodge, wait for the bloom to fade and fall, then run in and get an attack before she gets up. If you have spells, just blaze away at her.

On the whole it's a rough fight, and sometimes you will just die because of the sheer randomness of that jumping attack, or that you were in a bad spot for it. Either way, passing aggression between two players is the tactic that works for both phases, and has worked the most out of all of those I've seen in around 10 hours of summoning.

The final thing I'd say is, this isn't a main boss. If you don't think you're dealing enough damage, or you rushed to the Haligtree area, go somewhere else and level for a while. Elden bosses are tanky even when you're not underlevelled, so one of the biggest things you can do to make a boss easier is find some Elden Ring Smithing Stones with which to upgrade your weapons and get some more levels. Luckily the Haligtree area enemies give a crazy amount of runes.

Hand of Malenia

How to get the Hand of Malenia in Elden Ring

You may have already been invaded by someone wielding Malenia's sword who immediately jumped into doing that blade hurricane move. The Hand of Malenia is her weapon from the fight, and you can get it with her remembrance from Finger Reader Enia. Its skill is called Waterfowl Dance, and lets you recreate the attack from the boss fight, though I'm not sure I'd ever want to inflict that on someone again.

Sean Martin
Guides Writer

Sean's first PC games were Full Throttle and Total Annihilation and his taste has stayed much the same since. When not scouring games for secrets or bashing his head against puzzles, you'll find him revisiting old Total War campaigns, agonizing over his Destiny 2 fit, or still trying to finish the Horus Heresy. Sean has also written for EDGE, Eurogamer, PCGamesN, Wireframe, EGMNOW, and Inverse.

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