Updated for patch 1.3.
Pestilus is one of the most unique support champions due to his complex mechanics. He has a lot of utility in his kit, and once you add in all of his nifty battlerites, you’ll find that he has a high skillcap, many ways to aid his team, and huge potential to outplay opponents.
The downside is that this complexity comes with a learning curve. Due to some of his unique mechanics, Pestilus doesn’t play like most champions in Battlerite and it may take a while for things to click. But once they do, he can be a frightening force.
Good Moth management is key to Pestilus. But before we even talk about that, it’s important to note that this simple projectile hits both enemies and allies. This makes proper positioning with Pestilus more difficult than normal because he can’t hide behind teammates without gimping his offensive capabilities.
When Moth hits an enemy, it deals damage and applies a Moth debuff that drains health over time. When Moth hits an ally, it heals health and applies a Moth buff that heals both of you over time. Regardless of who you hit, you get healed a bit as well on hit. Both versions of Moth last 6 seconds. For maximum impact, you want to keep Moth applied to as many enemies and allies as possible at the same time so that you’re constantly getting healed over time, which helps mitigate incoming damage.
Don’t forget that Moth also affects Queen!
Move 7% faster for each nearby enemy or ally affected by Moth. Stacks up to 3 times.
Overlord is a must-pick against double melee rushdown comps. Think about how easy it is to maintain three counts of Moth: one on a teammate, one on an enemy, and one on Queen. This battlerite basically gives you a permanent 14% haste with very little effort with the occasional dip up to 21%. That can be the difference between outpacing melee champions or getting stuck and eating a ton of otherwise avoidable damage.
Bloodsucker only has a 4-second cooldown so don’t be afraid to spam it. Even though Moth is really strong, it can’t deal burst damage or keep up with burst healing needs — and that’s where Bloodsucker comes in.
Always be mindful of recovery health. If you see a teammate with a lot of “black health” (i.e. missing health), hit them with a Bloodsucker to top them off. If you see an enemy with a lot of black health, use Bloodsucker to inflict permanent damage. But the cost of Bloodsucker is that it hurts you whether you hit an enemy or ally, which is why Moth management is so important: you need to recover that lost health as soon as you can.
One cool interaction is that you can instantly pop Queen by hitting it with Bloodsucker. Doing this does not inflict self-damage! But it’s something to keep in mind when positioning yourself and positioning the Queen. It sucks when you want to burst an enemy or heal a teammate but fail because your own Queen got in the way.
Lastly, Bloodsucker is crucial for orb control. More on that in the Orb Control section below.
When landing Bloodsucker on an ally, you take no damage.
The self-damage from Bloodsucker can have quite an impact over the course of a round, which is why I find this battlerite useful. Bloodsucker is most needed when your team is being pressured, and if your team is being pressured, there’s a good chance you’re already injured. This lets you burst heal at any time without worry.
Landing Bloodsucker on a Queen or a target affected by Moth causes it to spread to nearby enemies.
Colony is surprisingly good with melee teammates but isn’t picked often because its value isn’t so straightforward. As your teammate engages, you’ll be healing them with M1s with the occasional M2 for burst healing. This causes the Moth debuff to spread to all enemies, which amounts to 6 damage and 6 self-healing per target. It spreads to Tree and Queen too, making it useful against Blossoms and Pestiluses.
The spread radius is bigger than you might expect, and using M2s on allies should be pretty common, so wringing value out of the Colony battlerite isn’t hard at all. Of course you can also M2 an enemy with Moth to spread it to their teammates.
The only downside is that the Moth spreading mechanic is a projectile, so it may not spread to every enemy in clumped situations.
When Bloodsucker hits a target affected by Moth, it deals 6 bonus damage to enemies and heals 6 bonus health to allies.
Insectivore is a strong pick. Moth upkeep shouldn’t be difficult, which means the majority of your M2s should benefit from the extra damage or healing. Bringing Bloodsucker up to 36 means wiping out almost all recovery health in one blow, or dealing a huge amount of quick permanent damage on targets with black health, or healing all of an ally’s recovery health.
Infest is Pestilus’s most important ability to get right. It’s his only iframe so you need to save it for big dodges. We’re talking ultimates, disables, and one-hit bursts like Shifu’s max-charge Impale. If you’re up against sustained pressure, you’re better off tanking the damage with Queen heals and Moth heals or trying to fear them with Arachnophobia.
When you use Infest, always try to Infest somebody — whether enemy or teammate — instead of just teleporting to a new location. Not only does this add value with the damage or heal, but it basically becomes a two-second iframe.
What makes Infest hard to use is its secondary benefit: amplified damage when Infesting an enemy, damage reduction when Infesting a teammate. The damage reduction is far more valuable than the amplify, so try to prioritize that. A well-time Infest can, for example, reduce Bakko’s Heroic Charge damage down from 63 to 16. Knowing whether it’s safe enough to burn your only out to save a teammate requires game sense and experience.
Infest lasts 0.5s longer, drains 10 health from enemies, and heals allies for 10 health.
Defiler is okay, but overshadowed by many other battlerites. Note that the bonus damage/health is over time, meaning you have to Infest the full duration to get the full amount. The problem is that you could get similar value just by ending Infest early and hitting them with a single M1. I never pick this.
Allows you to Infest an additional target.
Scourge is the best of the Infest battlerites because it doesn’t require full Infestation for value yet at the same time doesn’t penalize you for full Infestation. The double Infest is mainly used for extra mobility, allowing you to quickly cross huge distances, especially if you use the middle orb as one of your Infests. It also comes in handy against heavy DPS pressure, allowing you to stay hidden for several seconds and reset your cooldowns while your teammates pummel the enemy team’s support (or come back to help you).
Infest reduces damage and healing output of an enemy by 50% and increases the damage and healing output of an ally by 25%.
While the design is fun on paper, Spores is rarely useful in an actual match. The duration of Infest isn’t long enough for the buff/debuff to have much of an effect. What’s the best case scenario here? Infesting an ulting enemy and reducing damage by 50% (you’re better off Infesting a teammate and reducing damage by 75%) or Infesting an ulting teammate and boosting damage by 25% (highly questionable because you’re sacrificing a critical out).
Queen is the most versatile ability in Battlerite, especially when augmented by its available battlerites. It’s safe to say that every smart Pestilus build has two Queen battlerites.
When summoned it provides an instant heal to all teammates in its radius, then provides additional healing over time. This is the best way to keep your team alive because the heal values are insane. In an ideal 3v3 situation where your team is clumped, a single Queen can restore more than 100 total health (expect about half of that during actual play).
Queen is the most reliable way to heal yourself. Summon it for the initial heal, stay around it for the heal over time, and use M1 on it for the self-sustain plus Moth buff. The Moth buff synergizes well with the Overlord battlerite. When you’re in trouble in a 1v1 situation, Infest the Queen for an easy iframe.
Queen can also be used offensively. When its duration runs out, it deals damage and fears all enemies within its radius. You can hit it with an M2 to explode it prematurely, but the Queen doesn’t explode if killed by enemies. It’s a pretty short fear duration, so treat it like an interrupt — great for disrupting counters and channels.
Don’t forget that the Queen’s explosion damage affects the middle orb!
Queen panic duration increases by 0.6s.
This battlerite turns Queen’s fear into a proper one — the extra duration gives you a lot of breathing room against melee pressure. The problem is that Queen isn’t primarily used for its fear, so there may be rounds where you never actually benefit from this. Adjusting your playstyle just for Broodmother means dedicating M2s to explode Queen, which sacrifices a lot of your offensive and healing potential. For that reason, I don’t like it.
Queen cooldown is reduced by 1s and recasting the Queen commands it to fly towards target location.
If Pestilus has a must-pick battlerite, it’s this one. The recast opens up several new maneuvers, which means increased outplay potential. The reduced cooldown increases Queen uptime, which means more healing, more fears, more damage, and more zoning.
One maneuver you need to know: summon a Queen to heal up your team, then send it off into the enemy team near the end of its duration. If you time it well, it should explode just as it reaches them (or you can more reliably pop it with an M2). This means getting double value off of one Queen, which is huge if consistently done across the round.
Another big maneuver is Infesting the Queen, then recasting the Queen to safety. It’s faster than walking, can move much farther than Infest can, and you won’t take any damage during travel. Even if an enemy kills Queen while you’re in it, you still get the Infest release, which should put enough distance to let you get to safety.
Queen slows nearby enemies movement speed by 20% and deals 8 bonus damage when it explodes.
Sacrifice can be good against melee tunnelers. Often you’ll end up summoning a Queen on yourself and dancing around it while the melee tries to get on you. The snare helps you stay outside of their range while the extra damage provides just a bit more pressure if they eat the Queen explosion (especially if you follow up with an M2 while they’re feared).
Queen spawns with a Swarm shield that absorbs up to 28 damage and lasts 1.2s.
Swarm Queen is great against comps with big burst. The shield essentially boosts the Queen’s health up to 58 and makes it near unkillable, and when using Queen to block big burst projectiles, the Queen can stay alive (so you don’t have to sacrifice it completely) and you get free Moth applications due to Swarm breakage.
Arachnophobia is a great control spell. Throw it on someone just as they begin to cast (or slightly before if you can nail their rhythm) and they likely won’t be able to avoid it. The fear is one of the best ways to relieve yourself of melee pressure, and it isn’t hard to pull off: just toss it on yourself. It can also be used to disrupt ranged enemies or peel for teammates, but only when you know for sure you won’t be tunneled.
Arachnophobia bounces forward, causing another impact. The radius of the second impact is increased by 15%.
Egg Carrier is a strong pick when you want to play really far back (usually when the enemy team has excellent zoning) or when you’re up against two or more melees. The extra bounce gives you extra reach, allowing you to fear targets from off the screen, which makes you a threat no matter where you are.
As for when you throw Arachnophobia on yourself, the extra bounce basically gives you twice the amount of time to deter melee pressure (they can’t come in while it’s still bouncing) and twice the chance to fear them away (even if they iframe the first bounce, they can get hit by the second).
Arachnophobia deals 8 damage on impact and Panic duration increases by 0.5s.
Spiderling Venom can be a good pick against melee pressure because the extra Panic duration puts more distance and gives you more breathing room. That’s about the only situation I’d get it for, and even then I think you can do better with something else. Synergizes well with Egg Carrier because both bounces get the extra damage and Panic duration boost.
Too infrequently used by inexperienced Pestilus players, but extremely important against sticky melee champions. Wait for them to use all of their chasing abilities (e.g. Shifu burns his Javelins to reach you, then uses Fleetfoot to dodge Queen explosion), then Vomit to knock them back and root them in place for a pretty long time.
Of course, this requires that you save M2, which means forgoing the Queen + M2 explosion tactic. Knowing whether to use Vomit or Queen + M2 will change depending on matchups and experience, but generally speaking, Vomit is preferable because it’s more reliable and doesn’t require two cooldowns.
Vomit is also useful when you’re running away, from melee or ranged, and about to turn a wall corner. Rooting them in place before you dip out of sight can give you all the time you need to catch your breath. Worst case scenario, they burn an out to chase you and you now have an opportunity to punish them.
Brain Bug (EX-E)
Brain Bug is a high-risk/high-reward ability. It’s hard to land because of its long cast time and telegraphed animation, and if you miss then you’ve wasted energy. If you do land it, the duration is only slightly longer than Arachnophobia’s fear, but the movement speed is much faster so you can put more distance on them. Plus, you can pick their direction.
I find that Brain Bug is best used as a setup tool for big burst damage or follow-up disables from teammates. Without that intentionality, it’s hard to justify the energy cost over a normal Arachnophobia. That said, one cool trick is to Brain Bug and move the target into your Queen for a free guaranteed explosion plus fear.
Brain Bug is key to winning Sudden Death scenarios. It doesn’t break until the target takes two ticks of vortex damage, and they can run pretty far in that time.
Swarm is incredible, not just as a way to support your team but for increasing your own self-sustain. Use it on a teammate who’s about to engage or about to get punished — it’ll save them from eating damage and nearby enemies become Mothed, leeching their health to you. The spread range is surprisingly long so don’t be too judicious with it.
Then again, if you or your teammate are about to tank a big damage ability like Snipe, go ahead and Swarm even if no enemies are around. The mitigation aspect is far more important than the Moth spreading mechanic.
You can also Swarm your Queen, which can be a nifty way to turn a risky Hive Mind bomb into a win-win maneuver. When you recast the Queen toward the enemy, cast Swarm on it. The extra health ensures that it’ll survive the trip and improves the likelihood of it exploding properly, and even if the enemy team does break the shield, they’ll get Mothed for it.
Scarab Pack (F)
Scarab Pack is one of the highest-risk/highest-reward ultimates.
Tagging one enemy deals 50 total damage and self-heals for 24. Tagging three different enemies means 150 damage and 72 self-healing. Or you can nuke the same target three times, dealing 102 damage and self-healing for 24. Everything also applies to teammates as well, except that the Scarabs heal instead of inflicting damage.
But the risks are plentiful.
Scarab Pack is a temporary transformation, so you have a limited time to fire all three scarabs. If you get chain disabled, you could potentially waste all your energy without firing a single one. Scarab Pack replaces your M1, which neuters your ability to apply Moth to enemies or teammates until the ultimate is over. The scarabs themselves trigger counters, get absorbed by d-barriers, can get reflected back at you, or simply miss.
Good usage of Scarab Pack comes down to positioning (you don’t want to accidentally hit the wrong targets), timing (ideally when enemies have no defensives), and aim (at the end of the day, you have to hit the scarabs).
Lord of the Flies
Scarab deals 4 bonus damage or healing on impact and inflicts a Fading Blind that reduces enemy sight range by 50%. The effect wears off over the duration of Scarab.
The extra damage is nice, but the fading blind is the real reason you’d pick this battlerite. Tagging three separate enemies immediately gives your team a massive advantage, but only if you can coordinate an attack while the blind is up. If you don’t capitalize on it, it’ll at least give you a few seconds of reprieve from enemy pressure.
I find Lord of the Flies most useful against melee champions, because blind ranged champions can still spam attacks using game sense whereas melee champions need to see before they commit to an engagement. The blind can also help you disengage.
M1 spam is a huge part of playing Pestilus — not just healing your teammates, but tagging enemies with Moth as often as you can. You don’t necessarily have to go out of your way just to tag them, but whenever an enemy dips near and your team isn’t in dire trouble, Mothing them should be a high priority.
Bloodsucker is Pestilus’s main source of burst damage. Avoid using it randomly or as soon as it’s off cooldown because the self-damage hurts. Instead, save it for targets with lots of black health so the damage you inflict is permanent. Arachnophobia > Bloodsucker is a good way to guarantee the hit, but not if you need pressure relief. Sometimes it’s smarter to fear and let them run away instead of breaking it.
The difference between a good and great Pestilus comes down to Queen usage. The initial heal, the heal over time, the fear and damage, the recast, the Infest travel… there are so many aspects to this one ability, and you need to weigh all of the pros and cons of each aspect every time you cast it. Skill with Queen only comes with practice.
Swarm shields are crucial for absorbing nukes and should be the first line of defense. Obviously it won’t always be available because it costs energy, but it’s better to burn this than waste Queen just to block, for example, a Shadowbolt because Queen has so many other uses besides blocking projectiles.
Use Arachnophobia to peel, whether for yourself or for a teammate. Like Bloodsucker, randomly thrown Arachnophobias don’t really do much for your team. It’s only when you interrupt something — a big cast or overwhelming pressure — that it matters. Brain Bug can be great if you need a slightly faster interruption.
Don’t forget to Vomit against melee tunnelers. The knockback will push them out of M1 range and the root gives you time to get away. Just remember to do it after their outs are burned, or else it’ll just be a waste of energy.
The primary tactic for orb control is 3 M1s > M2. It breaks the orb, doesn’t cost any energy, both cooldowns are short, doesn’t burn any of your outs, and ends with a big fast-casting nuke which reduces the chance of an enemy stealing the last hit. For these reasons, Pestilus is one of the best orb controllers in the game.
But his projectiles are bodyblocked by enemies and teammates, so the above combo isn’t always possible. In that case, if you have the Hive Mind battlerite, you can try using a Queen’s explosion to last hit the orb. It’s tougher to pull off, but the AOE lets you attempt it no matter how bodyblocked you are. A small twist on this is to use the Queen’s explosion to fear enemies away from the orb, then snatch it yourself while they’re feared.
- Blood Leecher (M2)
- Insectivore (M2)
- Hive Mind (Q)
- Swarm Queen (Q)
- Egg Carrier (E)
This is my go-to build for Pestilus because it’s safe, consistent, allows you to make lots of errors, and puts out a lot of easy pressure. Blood Leecher lets you mindlessly burst heal teammates and Swarm Queen lets you mindlessly summon Queens. Insectivore’s extra burst value is easy to exploit as long as you M1 > M2 every time. Hive Mind and Egg Carrier enable you to pressure from very far away, so you’re always a threat.
- Overlord (M1)
- Hive Mind (Q)
- Sacrifice (Q)
- Egg Carrier (E)
- Lord of the Flies (F)
Very situational and only recommended against two or more melees. Overlord gives you the movement speed edge that you need to escape M1-spamming tunnelers. Hive Mind gives another way to travel away from tunnelers. Sacrifice lets you play ring-around-the-rosie with melee enemies near Queen, then punish them for sticking around. Egg Carrier’s double bounce helps with peeling yourself. And the blind from Lord of the Flies helps you disengage and force melees to wander aimlessly for a few seconds, relieving pressure.
Pestilus is perfect for players who want a challenge, simply because he has so much versatility in his kit and you’re always forced to make important decisions on the fly. He’s the kind of support that can control the flow of a round when played well, yet flounders and pops in the blink of an eye with one major mistake. You won’t find a more interesting support beyond Pestilus and his Queen.