Deadliest Warrior (2010): S02E11 – Vlad the Impaler vs. Sun Tzu


Deadliest Warrior is a 2009 documentary series in which the great warriors of history are examined for fantasy combat simulations.


Vlad the Impaler, the Romanian prince who inspired the Dracula legend, vs. Sun Tzu, the author of “The Art of War” and one of the greatest military strategists in history.

  • Vlad the Impaler team: Vaclav Havlik (Medieval Sword Master), Brahm Gallagher (Vlad Historian)
    Vlad the Impaler weapons: Kilij, Halberd, Steel Crossbow, Hand Cannon
    Vlad the Impaler armour: Plated mail, Steel Helmet, Steel Shield
  • Sun Tzu team: Johnny Yang (Chinese Martial Arts Champ), Tommy Leng (Ancient Chinese Weapons Expert)
    Sun Tzu weapons: Jian, Zhua, Repeating Crossbow, Flaming Arrows
    Sun Tzu armour: Leather Lamellar, Bronze Helmet
  • This match-up is the most lopsided time-wise, with Sun Tzu traditionally believed to have been alive between 544-496 BC (during the Bronze Age), and Vlad III between 1431-1476 AD (during the Middle Ages), a difference of 1927 years between Sun Tzu’s death and Vlad’s birth.
  • For short-range weapons, the kilij was tested against the jian. The kilij cleanly sliced through a pig carcass with all of its four swings, leading the hosts to call it the only weapon they could compare to the katana. Meanwhile, the rapier-like jian could cleanly pierce through and cut up another pig carcass, piercing the aorta, and severing bone. The edge was given to the kilij for its devastating cutting power.
  • For mid-range weapons, the zhua (a solid iron pole with a claw) was tested against the halberd. The zhua tore apart a gel head in three strikes (causing a depressed fracture in every bone in the face), while the halberd pierced and ripped through the bones on a side of beef with the axe, hook, and pike portions of the blade, including severing 6 inches into the thickest part of the femur and piercing to the spinal cord. The edge was given to the halberd for its killing power and the flexibility of its hook, spike, and axe head.
  • For long-range weapons, the repeating crossbow was tested against the steel crossbow. The repeating crossbow fired 20 shots in the span of 30 seconds, and was shown capable of penetrating the chain part of Vlad’s plated chainmail although it was a glancing wound. In all, the crossbow delivered seven hits. However, the steel crossbow could only get off two shots and delivered only one kill with the second bolt bouncing off Sun Tzu’s leather armour. The edge was given to the repeating crossbow for its superior rate of fire.
  • For special weapons, the hand cannon was tested against the flaming arrow. The hand cannon was described as the most accurate black powder weapon yet seen on the show. It delivered three kill shots and could be used as a spiked club if Vlad missed or ran out of ammunition. The flaming arrow could kill a group of enemies standing in a large sesame oil-soaked area of dry brush through severe fire burns or smoke inhalation but when it was tested directly against Vlad’s plated chainmail armour, the first two shots bounced off the plates. A third shot only inflicted a shallow wound, with the flame actually aiding Vlad by stopping blood loss from the wound with the heat from the flame. The edge was given to the hand cannon for its firepower and secondary function as a melee weapon, as demonstrated by Gallagher.
  • Vlad’s method of impalement was also demonstrated in this episode on a gel dummy. The stake was inserted through the posterior and, as gravity carried the body downward as it pierced the lung and all major blood vessels in the torso before breaking the clavicle and exiting through the shoulder.
  • Vlad the Impaler was only the third warrior to receive the edge in 3 out of the 4 tests (the Māori Warrior and SWAT team being the others).
  • Vlad the Impaler is the first of two warriors who killed using non-factored methods in the simulation (coincidentally, the other warrior is the Vampire, which stems from Count Dracula, who was inspired by Vlad the Impaler).
  • This is the second of three episodes to have a warrior with at least one gunpowder-based weapon lose over one who does not.
  • The original episode is inaccurate, this page corrects the show’s mistakes.

Re-enactment 19

The battle starts out with Vlad sneaking up to Sun Tzu’s campsite, where Sun Tzu has sat down to a cup of tea. Close by, Vlad sets his shield into the ground and readies his hand cannon, firing a shot which destroys the general’s teapot. Vlad laughs as he has taken the general off guard, but Sun Tzu raises his repeating crossbow and gets off a few shots and runs away. Vlad ducks behind his shield but is struck in the shoulder. Relatively unharmed, Vlad pulls out the bolt and readies his hand cannon again, but Sun Tzu is nowhere to be seen. Collecting his effects (a steel helmet, his shield, and his halberd), Vlad runs off searching for Sun Tzu. But the general is not far away as he gets the drop on Vlad by shooting him from a tree with a flaming arrow. Vlad is thrown to the ground by the force of the shot, but still remains relatively unharmed as he scrambles to his feet while putting out the small fire. Sun Tzu jumps down from the tree, but is promptly stabbed in the thigh by Vlad’s halberd. Sun Tzu yells in pain and strikes the halberd with the edge of his hand, breaking it at the head, astonishing Vlad. Sun Tzu kicks Vlad in the face while he is still distracted and pulls out the halberd, hobbling away as Vlad gets back up and collects his helmet and shield again. Not far away, Sun Tzu pulls out a spare set of his armour and a Zhua hidden underneath fallen foliage. Above him, the Impaler watches him, preparing his steel crossbow. Vlad walks a little way and sees the general’s armour nearby and takes his shot. The armour falls over and Vlad goes to investigate, only to find that he shot a decoy. The real general then jumps down, disarming Vlad from his shield using the Zhua. Vlad dodges another swing from the Zhua and draws his kilij, slashing Sun across the midsection as he recovers. The general falls back again, as Vlad pulls off his gauntlet, revealing that the Zhua managed to cut his forearm. The enraged Vlad picks up his kilij and charges Sun Tzu, who pulls out his Jian and clashes with the warrior king. Both warriors cross swords until when Vlad thrusts, piercing Sun Tzu eye, as he falls to the ground, we hear offscreen screams of Sun Tzu revealing himself impaled on a cross dead.

Winner: Vlad the Impaler.

Deadliest Warrior Series

You can find a full index and overview of Deadliest Warrior here.

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 29 June 2010.
  • Rating: Unknown.
  • Running Time: 42 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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