The Taken King: Touch of Malice Exotic Review

“Let them feel every lash, every curse, every touch of malice that they first dealt to me.” —Eris Morn

Touch of Malice is an Exotic primary scout rifle that can only be acquired through its Exotic Quest.

7.9/10
9.6/10

The good: Infinite ammo, perfect for bosses.

The bad: Not great in PvP, long Questline to get it.

Conclusion: “Keep calm and Touch of Malice.”

This is an Exotic Weapon
Scout Rifle (Primary Weapon)
Kinetic Base Damage310
Best In?PvE
Rate of Fire
52
Impact
35
Range
64
Stability
40
Reload
51
Magazine Size
11

Aim Assist
40
Equip Speed
45
Recoil Direction
80
Zoom
20

Talent Upgrades Tree

TOUCH OF MALICE

Final round of the magazine regenerates and deals bonus damage at the cost of the wielder’s life force.

SOFT BALLISTICS

Less recoil. Penalty to Impact.

EYE OF THE STORM

This weapon becomes more accurate as your health gets lower.

SNAPSHOT

Aiming this weapon is incredibly fast.

TOUCH OF MERCY

Three rapid kills will return a portion of the wielder’s health.

SMOOTH BALLISTICS

Increased recoil. Boost to range.

HAMMER FORGED

Improved range and accuracy.

SMART DRIFT CONTROL

Predictable and controllable recoil. Penalty to range.

FLARED MAGWELL

Reload this weapon even faster.

Weapon Review

Destiny’s latest ultimate Raid weapon makes the Necrochasm look like Atheon’s Epilogue…

It’s quite a grind to acquire, but the reward is well worth it, and this review will detail why this is the case. If you’re still confused as to how to acquire it, we invite you to read our guide that explain the steps required to obtain it. The most prohibitive among them is needing to collect a total of 45 Calcified Fragments. The rest can be done with a solid fireteam and good communication.

Basics

The Touch of Malice is an Exotic Scout Rifle essentially unlike any other. Much like the recently-reviewed Tlaloc, its base stats belie an incredibly powerful weapon that in this case may define high-end PvE for months to come.


This Scout Rifle shares the same base RoF/Impact class as Destiny’s fastest-firing Scout Rifles before it. These include Wolves’ Leash and B-Line Trauma, as well as the NL Shadow 701X. This archetype is difficult to handle and rewards players with excellent thumbskill. Because of the natural bullet damage of a Scout Rifle, even with the reduction in Impact, rapid-fire Scouts like the Touch of Malice have a very high base DPS.

In spite of this, although it is tempting to use them to handle big crowds in closer ranges, the naturally high zoom and low hip-fire accuracy makes this inadvisable. If you get one of these Scout Rifles, you’ll be crossing your fingers that it comes with enough recoil control to handle its kick, as well as Full Auto to lessen the strain on your trigger finger. Fortunately, Touch of Malice has the latter as a hidden, innate perk.

Stats

You often have to sacrifice the natural base Range of a Scout Rifle for this archetype, but Touch of Malice has a best-in-class base 61 in this area. It still doesn’t approach alternatives like Gheleon’s Demise, but does in fact outstrip the Vision of Confluence, which is notable. Range is a great stat to have plenty of, as it it plays important roles in mitigating damage drop-off, and widening effective hitboxes when aiming for consecutive crits. Less impressive is Touch of Malice‘s base Stability of 40.

It’s not the worst among its fellow High RoF Scouts, but as a Full Auto weapon, without some light downward pressure, you’re going to see your reticle climb quickly with each shot. Its ammo efficiency looks abysmal at first glance, with a middling Reload Speed of 50 and a very low base 11 Magazine Size, but we’ll see very shortly that this is the furthest thing from the truth.

Perks

It’s impossible to evaluate the quality of Touch of Malice‘s perks without explaining first in great detail how its intrinsic one functions. The signature “Touch of Malice” perk is what makes this weapon the one of the most ‘Exotic’ of The Taken King. You’ll empty your 11 round magazine as normal, and the weapon will function as a standard Scout Rifle for the first 10 shots. On the 11th and final round, Touch of Malice will deal double damage, while removing a very small portion of your available health pool. To double down on this sacrifice, Touch of Malice will immediately refund this round and you’ll be able to fire again at the cost of a little more health.

This pattern will repeat itself until you either: A) Choose to manually reload the magazine, B) Switch weapons, or C) Die. Yes, this Exotic will straight-up kill you if you don’t pay attention. Until that moment, though, it will deal the highest sustained DPS of any Primary Weapon in the game. It’s an inspired idea for a perk, and fully explains what Luke Smith meant when he joked that players would be repeating the mantra: “Keep calm and Touch of Malice” for Y2 in Destiny.

There’s plenty more to say about the above perk, but let’s quickly review the others first.
touch of malice sights
As far as sights go, your choice is between adding a bit of Range for some extra recoil with Smooth Ballistics, sacrificing Impact for less recoil with Soft Ballistics, or giving up Range for increased recoil control with Smart Drift Control. Tefty recommends Smooth Ballistics to maximize your Range, but we also would say that Smart Drift Control is perfectly acceptable. Soft Ballistics is not preferred, as it hurts your damage, which translates to less punch from the Touch of Malice perk.

Eye of the Storm seems designed to pair with Touch of Malice. This perk grants increased accuracy as your health narrows. We’re fairly certain this is going to be the status quo for anyone leaning heavily on this weapon, so although Accuracy as a stat is somewhat of a wild card in what it specifically does, it’s safe to say that the Eye of the Storm will be helpful to some degree whenever you are abusing the double damage round. Most theorize that Accuracy adds some small degree of magnetism to bullets and/or increases effective crit hitbox size.

In the middle column, you’ll select between Snapshot, Hammer Forged, and Flared Magwell. Tefty’s recommendation is Hammer Forged, and for good reason. While Snapshot decreases your ADS time by about 0.4 seconds, and Flared Magwell isn’t bad for recycling the magazine quicker, Hammer Forged’s no-strings-attached buff to Range is the clearly superior option. It’s also the reason why we think Smart Drift Control is a smart pairing; you’ll have a little extra Range and a little less kick – a net gain in two categories.

At this point, you may be thinking “Okay, so double damage is obviously great, but how long can I really keep it up?” The answer is “longer than you think.” This is because of the final perk, Touch of Mercy. This talent will reward you with a small portion of health, and instant health regeneration following three quick, consecutive kills. With double damage on the last round, you’ll be dropping weaker adds in record time, so the instances in which you proc this will be frequent. It’s designed to return a little over the amount of health you would have lost in firing 3-to-4 ToM shots, so your accuracy will have to be near-perfect to break even. This is a little frustrating; it’s tempting to just hold the trigger down and hope for the best, but in reality picking your shots may in fact be a better idea. Touch of Mercy is excellent, but it will only be the best players who can use it to its greatest potential.

PvE

If there was ever a Primary Weapon that was designed to be a boss killer, Touch of Malice is that weapon. Whereas you may be used to using your Primary for additional enemies, and switching to your Sniper or LMG for boss damage, be prepared to flip that formula on its head with the ToM. When the last round double damage is in effect, you’ll be putting out some of the best uninterrupted DPS possible. As your health drops, you can safely switch to your Special Weapon to continue your damage phase, and immediately swap back to your un-reloaded ToM upon health regeneration without missing a beat. Check out our review courtesy of Tefty to see some footage of this strategy implemented flawlessly.
touch of malice pve
Now, this Exotic won’t always be the best on bosses. There are plenty of fights in Destiny in which there are no true “phases” to damaging an Ultra. Older Strikes have you constantly menaced on all sides by additional foes, and you won’t be able to plant and burst down a boss without taking damage from suddenly deciding to stand still. In these fights, ToM will be a death sentence. In fact, it’s clear that ToM was designed to take some of the stress off of raiders in the King’s Fall challenge. The Warpriest, Golgoroth, Deathsingers, and even Oryx himself are suitable targets for ToM, as fire from adds is limited or non-existent – although all bets are off when the Taken show up. For the Deathsingers and Oryx, you’ll be DPS-ing from the safety and invulnerability of an Aura where – get this – you won’t take any damage at all from ToM. That’s right: you will have all the benefits with none of the downsides. This alone makes Touch of Malice a must-get, and we can imagine Hard Mode will make it even more of a necessity.

touch of malice aura of weaving
No damage while in the Deathsinger/Oryx Aura

For when there aren’t bosses to take care of, Touch of Mercy becomes much more essential. As discussed before, the raw damage per shot ensures that very few red-bar enemies can stand up to more than one shot, and a steady hand shifting deftly from target-to-target will proc health regeneration often enough to give you longevity even in low-stakes content. The problem is, of course, that there are plenty of regular Scout Rifles that can dispatch adds – without the risk of killing their wielder. If you can drop an enemy like an Acolyte without Touch of Malice, then you might want to stow it away. However, when the level 42 Taken make an appearance, and other Primary damage begins to fall off, Touch of Malice once again becomes a strong pick.

All in all, there are very few PvE situations in which Touch of Malice won’t give you a big edge. Ironically, most of these are in lower-end content, where you simply don’t need to rely on the huge high-risk/high-reward presence of ToM. If you’ve got it, you’ll want to use it, but unless you’re consistently disciplined, you might prefer to engage autopilot with another weapon in these scenarios.

PvP

Perhaps wanting to avoid another early Mythoclast debacle, Bungie fine-tuned the intrinsic perk to not offer even close to double damage. Instead, it simply bumps up the Impact class to that of weapons like the Vision of Confluence or Saterienne Rapier. Unfortunately, there was no such normalization for the health loss, and you’ll be taking the usual damage from that as you fire your final round.
eye of the storm pvp damage
So what does this mean? Well, for the first 10 rounds, you’ll be firing what we established in the “stats” section as a pretty middling Scout Rifle. When you get down to that last round, you’ll suddenly have quite a powerful weapon, but the cost in PvP might be too much to bear. While you’ll be able to kill other Guardians in 4 shots, you’ll also be making yourself progressively more vulnerable as you fire. When you’ve flanked an opponent and are engaging unmolested, this is an acceptable trade-off. However, in one-on-one firefights, you’re essentially agreeing to a contract of low-TTKs both ways: high Impact HCs will kill you in two headshots, Sniper Rifles like Black Spindle will be able to drop you in a body shot – anything that’s on the threshold of a lower TTK will be much stronger against you once you’ve lost a little health.

This basically makes it a very high skill PvP weapon. The only way you’ll see success is with fantastic positioning and discerning judgment in when you choose to abuse the last round. For average players, the stress of knowing when and how to juggle all these things will lead to frustration. For great players, it could mean some highlight-reel worthy matches – and some you’d just rather forget about.

touch of malice pvp damage
45 (normal) critical vs 62 (ToM) critical

Full Auto does lessen the strain on trigger fingers, and leaves you able to focus on placing your shots. As for Touch of Mercy? Well, if you’re proc’ing that with any regularity, it’s safe to say you could probably get a Mark of the Unbroken with the Khvostov.

Cosmetics & Sound

Easily the most unique weapon design Destiny has ever seen. Each of the components you harvested from King’s Fall has been fused to the others. The heart is in constant motion and appears to power the gun, and the blade forms the chassis and “muzzle” of the weapon itself. Leaving something to the imagination, the shroud encircles the entire assembly to effect an impression of concealed power. It’s really something to behold, and instantly recognizable in the wild.

Conclusion

The Touch of Malice is a worthy prize for felling Oryx (and completing all the other steps). It is a PvE gun through-and-through, and its perkset is geared towards dominating in high-end content. The ability to deal high DPS unrelentingly means that even with the drawback of health damage, ToM will always have a place in Destiny’s meta. In PvP, while its potential is markedly more modest, it can still be deadly in the hands of a player who knows when to lean on the Touch of Malice perk, and when to let it be. When you’ve scoured the Dreadnaught to scrounge for every last Calcified Fragment and are finally awarded the Touch of Malice, enjoy the moment: you’ve got one of the best guns in Destiny.

For PvP this weapon earns a 7.9/10 and for PvE a 9.6/10.

Joel
I'm aWrySharK, your resident Exotic guru and lover of all things min/max. At PlanetDestiny, my perfectionism is no longer simply a matter of form over function.

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