Hollow Knight is known for its numerous engaging and punishing boss battles. Unfortunately, when the game was originally released, the Traitor Lord wasn’t one of them. Initially, he was too slow and only had two melee attacks which ripped of the regular Mantis Traitor. He was a glorified mob and a pushover, a disappointing end-game boss.
The Lifeblood update, released last April 20th, 2018, enhanced the technical and visual components of the game, as well as balanced gameplay elements. The Traitor Lord received significant buffs to his kit and stats during this update. The major additions were two ranged attacks: two wind-scythes with a confusing travel path and a ground pound that releases two shockwaves that spanned the whole room.
They also improved his attack speed and shortened the delay between his attacks, making him string combos together without a pause. Aside from that, most of his attacks deal two masks of damage. The icing on the cake is that he forces the player to master their new ability (Shade Cloak) through his mechanics.
Though some players may find him a tad overtuned, I believe his status as a gatekeeper is now well-deserved—he is denying access to one-half of the Kingsoul charm after all. As a result, this 800 hp behemoth is now a suitable challenge as an end-game boss. In this Hollow Knight Traitor Lord guide, I have written the framework to find and defeat him, whether through a fair fight or other more accessible methods.
Where to Find Traitor Lord
The Traitor Lord is located inside the Greenhouse at the top left part of the Queen’s Gardens, guarding the way to the White Lady. There are two ways to access the Queen’s Gardens, both from the Fog Canyon. First, you can phase through a Shade Gate using a Shade Cloak at the upper entrance.
The other way is going through the lower gates using Isma’s Tear, where you’ll meet Cloth on the other side (if you saved her on the Ancient Basin). An advanced alternative technique is using a precise Crystal Dash across the acid pool, a standard speedrunning trick. But chances are if you know how to execute that, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
How to Defeat Traitor Lord
One of the common complaints players have against the Traitor Lord is that the trek towards his arena is a headache. The nearest respawn point is the Queen’s Garden Stag Station bench. From there, there is a moderately tricky platforming section filled to the brim with Mossflies and thorns. Without getting this section down, the average player can expect to lose a few masks just getting to the boss fight. If you aren’t the best at platforming, it would be best to unlock the dream gate. Placing a dream gate right below the arena ensures painless travel.
As soon as you enter the building, you’ll be ambushed by three Mantis Traitors. If you’re having trouble disposing of them without taking damage, it is acceptable to use spells to kill them without receiving a scratch. Since it is almost impossible to heal during the boss fight without the right charm combination because Traitor Lord strikes quickly and with a slight delay between his attacks.
Lastly, Cloth can join the fight as long as you rescue her from the Ancient Basin beforehand. She deals fifteen damage per hit, which isn’t much, but it racks up throughout the fight. Her best contribution is that she can temporarily distract the boss away from you, giving you ample time to heal or sneak a few hits. The Traitor Lord serves as the perfect challenge for her, and she will fight with you until the bitter end.
I recommend using your comfortable choice of charms for your charm set-up but leave the last two remaining notches for the Sharp Shadow charm. Whether you’re a nail master or a spell slinger, Sharp Shadow will single-handedly win you this fight. It extends your Shade Cloak dash range while simultaneously allowing you to deal a percentage of your nail damage when you dash through enemies. You can find the charm in Deepnest hidden behind a Shade Gate. Additionally, Sharp Shadow might cause you to misjudge your dash distance during the platforming segment leading up to the fight, so be careful.
As mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend trying to heal through this fight because he doesn’t stagger, giving you breathing room. But if you need a safer strategy, you could take Quick Focus and Shape of Unn to pop a quick heal while staying mobile.
Against Traitor Lord, you generally want to dash through his attacks. Sharp Shadow’s extended dash range lets you do so with ease while also dealing damage to him. In addition, if you’re struggling to land a few hits after dodging, you can pair the charm with the Dashmaster charm, which boosts your dash damage even further.
The Traitor Lord cycles through four attacks, and by this point, you’ve seen two of them from Mantis Traitors:
- Dash: Traitor Lord dashes towards the player while swiping with his claws. Before he rushes forward, he steps back a little to ready his claws. You’ll primarily be using Shadow Cloak to dash right through this move. It’s easy to execute since he also zones towards your location. If caught with your Shadow Cloak on cooldown, you can use either dash away if there’s enough space or jump over him. You can throw in a hit or two after phasing through this attack.
- Dive: Traitor Lord leaps into the air and then dives towards the player at a 45-degree angle. He first jumps into the air then rushes downwards; getting hit by either of these causes two whole masks of damage. Avoid jumping since you’ll most likely get caught by his hitbox. When he performs this attack, simply walk towards his location. As much as possible, avoid dashing since you want to save your Shadow Cloak ability. Be aware of this ability when using your downward slash attack (pogo), as there is a higher chance he’ll prime this attack.
- Dancing Glaive: Traitor Lord throws two spinning orange scythes towards the player, similar to the Mantis Petra. Initially, the two wind-scythes have the same path until one pulls away from the other, creating a small gap in between them. This is the best time to heal during the fight if you can determine where that gap is. You can bait this attack by increasing the distance between you and the boss.
- Ground Pound: Traitor Lord baby rages into the ground, repeatedly smashing his claws while creating deadly shockwaves that cover the full height of the room. It is essential to use your Shade Cloak ability to avoid the attack. If you’re right next to the Traitor Lord upon landing, you can land a few free hits on him. In case the shockwave is about to hit you while your Shadow Cloak is on cooldown, you can use the invincibility frames on Desolate Dive/Descending Dark to avoid the attack.
After reading through his attack patterns, you would notice that the fight is heavily centered around your Shadow Cloak ability. You have to get comfortable with the timing, range, and cooldown of the ability to make it through this encounter. If you try your best to stay near him during the bout, he’ll stick with his melee attacks.
Ideally, your flow should be dashing right through his dash attack while swiping him in the back in return. Then moving towards his dive attack when he jumps for it. However, occasionally you’ll have to phase through his shockwaves, and as long as you stay within melee range, he’ll avoid using his dancing glaive attack.
As long as you’re acutely aware of your Shadow Cloak, you’ll overcome this boss, especially with Sharp Shadow equipped. However, if you’re getting punished for overcommitting attacking him, you can fit Nailmaster’s Glory and patiently wear him down with nail arts.
If you followed the last segment and just can’t seem to get through the boss, I have prepared two strategies to cheese your way through him.
First, the Summoner/Pet Build. You’ll need to equip these following charms: Grimmchild, Weaversong, Glowing Womb, Defender’s Crest, and Grubsong. Once Traitor Lord spawns, use your Mantis Claw on the right side of the room, jumping all the way to the top. There, you can either stick to the wall by charging up Crystal Dash or by repeatedly hopping. Cloth and your army of minions would slowly whittle the lord down while he attempts to swat you off the wall. It helps that Glowing Womb and Defender’s Crest synergize to create explosive babies, dealing even more damage.
His dash attack is no threat to you up there, while his dancing glaive shouldn’t hit you if thrown far enough. If he gets right under you he could still hit you with his dive attack, but it’s unlikely. The only attack you need to watch out for is his massive shockwave, which you should easily phase right through with Shadow Cloak.
Second, this is a build I use to cheese through most bosses, the Relentless Knight build. Combine Quick Slash, Fragile/Unbreakable Strength, Stalwart Shell, Thorns of Agony, and Spell Twister to create the ultimate, face rolling, zero-brain, yet ruthlessly efficient build. This build is so good you’ll feel disgusted after using it and might be tempted to use it again in the future, ruining the challenge for other bosses. It works best when you possess the pure nail by collecting all the pale ore.
As soon as Traitor Lord foolishly enters the area, start walking towards him menacingly while jamming the nail button. Always push forward, swing that nail like a maniac, and release a barrage of spells when you’re about to go down. Then, through sheer force of will, he will die. Of course, you could increase your chances of winning by using Shadow Cloak right through his attacks to negate some damage. But I assure you, I fought him multiple times where all I did was walk forward, eating up all his strikes, and I won with no problem. It’s so easy.
I made my friend, who has never played Hollow Knight before, beat Traitor Lord with a few simple instructions of walk forward and press this button. We have sent an email to a team of scientists about whether they could reproduce the same results with a few lab rats and are eagerly waiting for their reply.
Hollow Knight is a great game and if the Traitor Lord is preventing you from enjoying the rest of its content, then, by all means, use this build. In fact, use this build whenever a boss is giving you trouble. It might not work against longer fights like against Radiance, but it will do the trick for most of the ensemble.
Question: Who is the Traitor Lord?
Answer:The Traitor Lord initially ruled the Mantis Tribe alongside his sisters. He detested the White King of Hallownest and willingly took in the infection to become stronger. That is why he and his followers were banished from the Mantis Village. They made their way into the Queen’s Gardens, intent on pursuing the White Lady out of her home. But they were kept away by her personal guardian Knight Dryya, causing them to settle outside her area.
At some point, Ze’mer (Grey Mourner), one of the Five Great Knights of Hallownest, had a spicy relationship with the Traitor Lord’s daughter. However, he disproved the relationship because she was an outsider. He may be xenophobic, but at least he isn’t a homophobe. Eventually, she died, and her grave can be found above the Queen’s Gardens Stag Station. Her gravestone is the end destination for the Delicate Flower quest given by the Grey Mourner.
Question: Can Cloth survive the Traitor Lord fight?
Answer: Yes. The Knight can encounter Cloth at the Ancient Basin, near the end of the Tram tunnel. If you save her by clearing out the enemies nearby, she will be inspired by your heroic feats. Then, with renewed courage and vigor, she can be seen standing outside the Queen’s Gardens, ready to challenge the Mantis Traitors. However, this leads to her inevitable death, even if it is during the epic battle she wanted.
Therefore, to save Cloth during the Traitor Lord fight, she mustn’t be there for the encounter at all. Simply avoid her location in the Ancient Basin before killing the Traitor Lord. Afterward, she will appear at Dirtmouth sleeping outside Sly’s shop. Since she couldn’t find the fight to the death she wanted in Hallownest’s ruins, she would look for one elsewhere or die trying.
Question: What is the reward for beating Traitor Lord?
Answer:The reward for beating the Traitor Lord is access to the White Lady. Interacting with her gives you the first half of the Kingsoul charm. You can get the second half of the charm from the White Palace, which grants you access to the Birthplace in the Abyss, transforming the charm into the Void Heart. The Void Heart unlocks new endings and allows access into the Pantheon of Hallownest.
You also receive the Execution achievement after your encounter with the Traitor Lord.
Again, the reason why the Traitor Lord is a sharp difficulty spike is that his attacks deal two masks of damage, and he forces you to engage with your new Shade Cloak ability. You have to unlearn your habit of mad dashing around the arena so that you would have your ability on cooldown when you really need it.
Keep close to him so that he doesn’t use his range skills and focus on phasing through his dash attacks while throwing a few hits here and there. Eventually, it will click for you, and you’ll merrily be on your way to visit the queen herself.