Pathogens that invade the human host are confronted by a multitude of defence mechanisms aimed at preventing colonization, dissemination and proliferation. The most frequent outcome of this interaction is microbial elimination, in which the complement system plays a major role. Complement, an essential feature of the innate immune machinery, rapidly identifies and marks pathogens for efficient removal. Consequently, this creates a selective pressure for microbes to evolve strategies to combat complement, permitting host colonization and access to resources. All successful pathogens have developed mechanisms to resist complement activity which are intimately aligned with their capacity to cause disease. In this review, we describe the successful methods various pathogens use to evade complement activation, shut down inflammatory signalling through complement, circumvent opsonisation and override terminal pathway lysis. This review summarizes how pathogens undermine innate immunity: ‘The Hijackers Guide to Complement’.