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Gloomhaven Saw Guide – Build & Strategy – Locked Class

The Sawbones (aka Saw) is a melee damage dealer, crowd controller and healing class in Gloomhaven. They really shine at handing out negative conditions to monsters! This Gloomhaven Sawbones guide focuses on building and playing a versatile Saw character as a melee crowd controller with some support.

Sawbones Crowd Control Support Guide Structure

This article is a complete guide to playing a Gloomhaven Sawbones with a good mix of melee damage, crowd control, healing and support.

The Sawbones guide covers all levels from 1-9 and evaluates each card for how well it fits with this build.

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This Sawbones guide follows this structure:

  • Why a Sawbones Crowd Control Support build?
  • Sawbones Crowd Control Support strategy
  • Level 1-9 cards and decks
  • Sawbones Perks
  • Sawbones Items
  • Sawbones Enhancements
  • Sawbones Experience
  • Sawbones Combos
  • Sawbones Names
  • Conclusion

This guide does not contain campaign spoilers or items beyond starting items.

Sawbones class miniature and character board
Sawbones class miniature and character board

Why a Sawbones Crowd Control Support build?

Although the Sawbones can be seen as a traditional healer support class on first glance, when you take a closer look, there are a couple of other roles they can fill as well.

Support

Medical Packs, heals, abilities that remove negative effects on allies, and two persistent Shields that can only be played on allies all make the Sawbones an effective support class. Especially if you have tank in your group that can take advantage of those Shields!

The main drawback to playing solely as a healer is that sometimes you and your allies are at full health with no negative status effects, so there isn’t a huge amount to do.

Melee damage

Sawbones only has 3 ranged damage-dealing abilities in their entire deck, and two of these are at levels 8 and 9. So if we want a damage-focused build, it’s melee.

Saw isn’t the hardest hitting melee class in Gloomhaven, but they do a pretty decent job. Their lack of overall damage is more than made up for with their crowd control!

Crowd control

Saw’s damage abilities often have negative monster status effects on them like Poison, Wound, Disarm, Stun and Immobilize. There’s even a Muddle in there somewhere. It makes them an effective crowd controller.

CC, Damage & Healing

For this build, I went with a mixture of all three roles because my 4 player group had a tank that could benefit from some shields, and we also had two ranged damage dealers who lacked healing abilities.

Our general strategy was to take down monsters as quickly as possible before they had a chance to do too much damage to us. This meant that while healing was helpful, it wasn’t needed all the time.

Similarly, with two damage classes already playing, I could bring more to the group with crowd control abilities to support the tank and some hard-hitting melee abilities to pick off irritating monsters!

Sawbones Strategy

I played in a 4 player group with a tank and two ranged damage dealers. Here are the strategies that I found helped our group.

Damage over healing

Dealing damage is often the best way to prevent your allies from taking damage. If the monsters aren’t there, they can’t hit your friends!

For the Sawbones, healing can be done as a nice bonus (especially as you level). For example, you can Move and heal an adjacent ally as part of the same action. I found this to be the best of both worlds. I could be an effective damage dealer, tank support and crowd controller and still give out the occasional heal!

To heal as a Sawbones and to hand out a Medical Pack, you need to be adjacent to an ally. This meant that most of my healing went to our tank because I was closest to them. It worked out pretty well because they needed the healing more often anyway!

Careful positioning and initiative

We need to be in melee range to be effective, but that comes with the risk we might be hit. To avoid taking too much damage myself, I made sure to stay to one side of our tank and slightly further away from most of the monsters than them.

In each round, I aimed to take my turn after the tank so if we were the same distance from monsters, the tank drew the monster focus.

Make yourself hard to hit

We don’t want to be on the front lines the entire time just waiting to be hit! Ideally, we’ll go late on one turn after the monsters have settled into position, do some awesome AoE, then go early on the next turn, hit them again and move out of the way!

We don’t have that many late initiative cards though, so we’ll need to be smart and use conditions like Disarm, items like an an invisibility cloak and occasional shields to keep ourselves safe.

Medical Packs

I found the best time to hand out Medical packs was either at the start of a scenario when allies were adjacent to me or when between rooms. During combat, there was usually too much else going on!

I discuss the pros and cons of Medical Packs in a later section.

Sawbones Crowd Control Support card analysis

There are no inherently good or bad cards in Gloomhaven. There are so many factors at play to what makes a card a good fit, such as group, scenario, build type, personal playstyle etc.

For this build, I looked for balance across my whole deck to make sure I had a good mix of:

  • Crowd Control
  • Healing
  • Damage

At each level, I wanted to take the card that looked like the best value to me. By ‘value’ I mean one with abilities that I could see myself using in a wide variety of situations and which complemented the other cards in my deck and my allies.

Sawbones cards

There are 29 Sawbones cards in the standard deck, plus seven Medical Pack cards and four Large Medical Pack cards.

The Sawbones has a hand limit of 10 cards so our stamina is average. If we use a persistent effect shield card to help out a tank, then we’re running with a 9 card hand which isn’t massive. A stamina potion can help though!

The cards contain a good mix of melee damage, negative status effects, healing and ally support actions.

Level 1 Sawbones cards

We can just grab the 10 level 1 cards and start playing to see how the Sawbones fits with our group if we like. But chances are you’ll be starting your Sawbones at a higher level than 1 and you want access to those more powerful higher-level abilities!

But let’s give those level 1 cards a chance. With some Gloomhaven classes, level 1 has some incredible cards that stick with you until retirement. Does the Sawbones have any such cards?

Medical Packs

Medical Pack and Large Medical Pack

Sawbones Medical Pack and Large Medical Pack cards
Sawbones Medical Pack and Large Medical Pack cards

Medical Packs are a card that’s unique to Sawbones. We have access to the regular Medical Pack and the Large Medical Pack from level 1.

You use an action to give a medi pack to an ally, but your ally doesn’t use it right away. Instead, your ally can use the medi pack whenever they want to.

Medical Pack cards are played in the same way as any other card. Your ally chooses a Medical Pack as one of their two cards to use on their turn and they can use the heal as either the top or bottom action. Your ally can even choose to use the standard actions on the card instead of the heals. That’s actually a pretty cool way to give an ally with a small hand size extra cards and therefore, extra turns.

In terms of action efficiency for heals, however, it’s more efficient to heal an ally using one heal action rather than giving them a Medical Pack. It costs one action for you to give them to Medical Pack, and one action for your ally to use the card to heal themselves.

However, given that all the Sawbones’ heal abilities require you to be adjacent to your ally to heal them, the Medical Packs allow your allies to heal themselves when you aren’t nearby. This can be a great way to give heal abilities to allies who may otherwise not have any way to heal themselves. It’s also a handy way to give some support to allies so they can help themselves while you take care of monsters!

Battlefield Medicine

Level 1 Sawbones card Battlefield Medicine
Level 1 Sawbones card Battlefield Medicine

Top ability

Given that Medical Packs already take two actions to use, it makes it worse that you have to also lose a card to hand out a Large Medical Pack!

Also, because you’ve had to lose a card for your ally to gain one, the cards in players’ hands remains the same across your group, so your party overall doesn’t benefit from an increase in stamina.

I’m not a huge fan of this top loss.

Bottom ability

Depending on the scenario, this ability can be really helpful. If your group keeps getting poisoned, for example, it makes healing difficult because your heal only removes the Poison.

However, it does very much depend on the scenario. Plus, it only lasts for the round. It’s not a persistent ability. So you could time it totally wrong.

One awesome thing about this ability is that it removes any negative conditions already affecting you and your allies! So it can be a great panacea for getting rid of them all. But again, it’s very scenario dependent.

Overall Battlefield Medicine card rating

The top isn’t a good value trade in terms of turn efficiency and overall group stamina. The bottom can be helpful on some scenarios. It’s worth remembering it’s an option to include in your deck if your group is being badly affected by negative status effects!

Bloody Saw

Level 1 Sawbones card Bloody Saw
Level 1 Sawbones card Bloody Saw

Top ability

Now we start to see some of the status effects Saw can hand out! A 3 damage ability with Wound and 1 experience is pretty decent at level 1.

That additional 1 damage from Wound per turn is helpful for doing direct damage to Shielded monsters each turn.

Bottom ability

There will sometimes be occasions to use this Loot 1, but they will be pretty rare because generally want to use the top ability instead.

Such looting occasions might be just before a short rest before entering a new room or at the very end of a scenario.

Overall Bloody Saw card rating

A pretty quick 25 initiative, a great reusable top ability and a loot to use occasionally make this a solid card.

Booster Shot

Level 1 Sawbones card Booster Shot
Level 1 Sawbones card Booster Shot

Top ability

Heal 4 is pretty good and heals for the same amount as the Medical Pack.

That range 1 means we can only use it when adjacent to an ally though. If we’re on the front lines supporting an ally, then that’s cool. Or if we’re the one taking the damage for the party, we can heal ourselves too!

Bottom ability

Wonderful ability to give to a tanking ally! An additional 1 shield makes a surprising amount of difference to the overall damage taken in a scenario.

This ability really shines if your ally already has some shields of their own. The more shields they have, the less chance they will get hurt, and the fewer actions that need to be spent healing rather than dealing damage!

Even if you don’t have an ally that’s specifically tanking, you may have one that’s playing in a melee role who could benefit from a shield.

Because it’s a persistent loss, you may want to get the timing right of when you chose to play it so that you don’t reduce your own stamina too much. But if you’ve got a stamina potion, then you may not mind playing it on turn 1.

Overall Booster Shot card rating

A solid heal on the top and a shield that an ally taking hits will be very grateful for!

Curative Mixture

Level 1 Sawbones card Curative Mixture
Level 1 Sawbones card Curative Mixture

Top ability

Here’s a nice reusable version of what the bottom of Battlefield Medicine can do – remove negative status effects.

Pretty cool that we get to heal them too. The order of the words on this ability is a bit unfortunate though because the heal applies before the negative conditions are removed. So if our ally is poisoned, we remove the poison with the heal, but then can’t apply the healing as well.

That also means that we don’t need to remove Poison as a negative condition. The heal would also remove Wound.

Which leaves Muddle, Stun, Disarm and Immobilize that can actually be removed by the second part. Given how often these come up, you may find limited use for this ability.

Bottom ability

A Move 3 is handy thing to have for anyone. Removing all negative condition is a nice bonus too! The perfect way to get rid of Poison or Wound on an ally without needing to use a separate heal action on them.

It’s also pretty handy if you’re playing tank support and your tank gets disarmed or immobilized. You can Move and help them all in the same action.

Overall Curative Mixture card rating

19 initiative makes this card a nice, fast choice. With two reusable options, it’s pretty versatile.

First Aid

Level 1 Sawbones card First Aid
Level 1 Sawbones card First Aid

Top ability

Here’s how we get Medical Packs into the hands of our allies. And we don’t need to lose a card to do so (unlike with the large Medical Packs on Battlefield Medicine!).

The best time to do this is of course, when we don’t have monsters in our face. So just before entering a new room is perfect.

Medical Packs are ok for healing, but they are even better at giving our allies more turns because they have more cards in their hand!

Bottom ability

A Move 4 is always a nice thing to have in any hand. So you’ll easily find opportunities to use it!

Overall First Aid card rating

Whoosh! Did you see that? 08 initiative! Yes, please!

Move 4 and the ability to give Medical Packs to allies are two staple actions that we need just as much at level 1 as we do at level 9.

Hand of the Surgeon

Level 1 Sawbones card Hand of the Surgeon
Level 1 Sawbones card Hand of the Surgeon

Top ability

Bash! A single target 4 damage is a pretty solid ability at level 1. It’s not going to help deal direct damage to shielded monsters like the Wound on Bloody Saw does, but it does hit hard enough to get through most shields!

It’s a nice way to grab an easy experience point too!

Bottom ability

If our party’s health is low overall, this action is a great way to heal them all at once. It can be tricky to pull off effectively though. We need to be alongside several allies to use it.

If you’re playing with a mixture of melee and ranged allies, then your group will likely be split up. So you need to choose who to heal with it. Otherwise, you risk your (probably squishy) ranged ally moving into melee range for a heal, or your tanking melee ally pulling the monster aggro towards your ranged friend so you can all stand together. Neither are ideal.

You could use it to heal up your allies at the end of a room, but then you miss out on using the top. And it’s not like we have that many decent damage options at level 1.

Overall Hand of the Surgeon card rating

The top is solid, the bottom can be helpful sometimes. The 62 initiative means we need to pair it with something faster really.

Hold Back the Pain

Level 1 Sawbones card Hold Back the Pain
Level 1 Sawbones card Hold Back the Pain

Top ability

Like Booster Shot but with 1 less heal point and an experience point instead.

Want to get some more experience in a scenario? Go ahead!

Bottom ability

Well, would you look at that for damage stacking! This is an amazing match for Bloody Saw! You’ll regularly be hitting 3 maybe 4 monsters with each use leaving them on lower health and Wounded!

You could completely surround yourself if you like and get 6 monsters in one go, but that would be really risky!

 

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As the damage of our abilities gets higher, so does the damage we can do with this ability!

Overall Hold Back the Pain card rating

The 57 initiative on this card would be better if it were higher. Then we could go super late in the round, hit the monsters when they’re in the perfect positions, then go early in the next and get out of there!

Fabulous ability on the bottom of this card, with a reusable heal and unlimited experience points on the top!

Mobile Response

Level 1 Sawbones card Mobile Response
Level 1 Sawbones card Mobile Response

Top ability

If we’re in a scenario where negative conditions are really affecting our party, then I guess you could take this along if you found that Curative Mixture wasn’t good enough. I found that it was enough for our party. Your allies are unlikely to have a negative condition on them every turn so if you had this in play, on some turns it would be sitting there doing nothing.

For my group, it was more helpful to play the Shield 1 persistent loss to support our tank. That was useful every turn.

Bottom ability

Move 5 is kinda nice but we aren’t struggling for movement as the Sawbones. Plus, Wounding all adjacent monsters is something we can do using our Bloody Saw + Hold Back the Pain combo which doesn’t require us to lose a card in the process.

Overall Mobile Response card rating

A double loss card with a very situational top ability and a bottom one which we can replicate the damage of with other cards. This card would be hanging out in your hand for most of the scenario being used for standard actions until you use the losses. The 12 initiative is would have been great to have though!

Syringe

Level 1 Sawbones card Syringe
Level 1 Sawbones card Syringe

Top ability

This plus the 1 persistent Shield on your tank will stop a lot of hits from getting through!

It’s perfect for those tense turns when they want to go diving into a group and need a little help staying alive for that round!

Bottom ability

Sweet! Because we have this as a bottom action, we can also use our top action to deal damage on the same turn. The Poison makes it even better. We get a +1 damage to our follow up damage action!

The Stun will keep us safe from taking damage from that monster on the next turn too! Bonus!

Overall Syringe card rating

We can choose whether we want to support or deal damage with some crowd control. Brilliant card for our hybrid build – and it has a fast 15 initiative too!

Triage

Level 1 Sawbones card Triage
Level 1 Sawbones card Triage

Top ability

If we were going hard down the healing route, we might find use in this top healing ability. However, even then I don’t think it’s hugely effective because two things need to be true for it to work.

We need to have an ally that wants healing on each of our next 4 turns and we need to be adjacent to them. But that’s not all

If an ally needs healing, it’s likely they need healing for more than 2 points and they need that healing quickly, not on our next turn. Given that our heals are all on the top ability slot at level 1, we can’t use this and an immediate heal on the same turn.

I don’t think this ability is worth losing a card for.

Bottom ability

Yes! A reusable Move 5! Always useful!

Overall Triage card rating

The top isn’t worth it in my opinion, but the bottom Move 5 is great! 53 initiative is middling but we can always pair it with something else.

Level X Sawbones cards

At level 1, we also have access to the level X cards. Let’s see how well they fit with this build and which offer the most versatility and value.

Sawbones level X cards - Prevention is Key, Teamwork and Vaccine
Sawbones level X cards – Prevention is Key, Teamwork and Vaccine

Prevention is Key

Top ability

Disarm ALL adjacent monsters?! Yes, please! Maybe we’re the tank!

It’s incredible! It stops all the monsters we hit from hitting us or our allies on this round and the next thanks to the amazing 13 initiative!

No need to heal our allies if the monsters can’t even damage them in the first place!

Bottom ability

I don’t think I ever used this ability. I always used the top because it made more sense to me to stop monsters from doing damage in the first place, rather than blocking 1 damage with a shield.

Overall Prevention is Key card rating

The top is absolutely amazing! With that 13 initiative, we get to go lightning fast too!

Teamwork

Top ability

What an amazing loss to use at the end of a room! Gather your team around you and give them a motivational speech. They’ll feel re-energized and a few cards further away from exhaustion!

In a 4 player group like the one I play in, this meant we could recover three cards each. So we all had at least 1 more turn. In a 2 player party, you’ll only recover 1 card each. Seeing as you’re losing this card to do that, it may not be worth it.

It did mean we needed to be well co-ordinated at the end of a room to pull it off though and every player needed to have some discarded cards to pick up. This worked ok sometimes!

So while it was a fun ability to try it out, it didn’t always work out as planned! This was especially frustrating because for the rest of the time, I only had the mediocre bottom action or standard top action to use.

Bottom ability

We get a standard Move 2 and so do any allies who happen to be adjacent to us. It’s ok. Can be handy on the front lines so a melee ally can reposition themselves, not have to move on their next turn and can use that second action for something else.

Overall Teamwork card rating

The top was really cool when it worked, the bottom was a nice bonus for an ally sometimes, but in the end, this card didn’t stay in my hand.

Vaccine

Top ability

Our only ranged damage ability at level 1 which also happens to be an area of effect! Nice!

It’s a neat way to put some Poison onto a group of monsters before you get close enough to do some damage to them. Then when you do get close, you and your allies get an extra 1 damage on every hit against them. They are off the board so much faster!

Bottom ability

The party member this ability will help the most is your melee ally that’s taking the most hits because they’ll be the one picking up the conditions! If that ally also happens to be your tank, in most scenarios the persistent 1 shield on Booster Shot will be more helpful.

You could play both on them of course, but then you’re running with an 8 card hand.

Overall Vaccine card rating

The top ability is fantastic! Having a ranged ability is much needed! The bottom is a good trick to have up your sleeve on scenarios with lots of negative conditions.

Level 1 Sawbones build

With this build, I was looking for a good mix of abilities that let me heal, support the tank in my group, do some damage and crowd control. Variety is the spice of life!

Our starting hand actually has a pretty good balance of all three and enough Moves on the bottom of heal cards to keep us mobile. We have enough fast cards but could do with a slow initiative card to help us go late in a round to safely use Hold Back the Pain.

Level 1 Sawbones deck

Gloomhaven Sawbones Level 1 build cards
Gloomhaven Sawbones Level 1 build cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Booster Shot
  • Curative Mixture
  • First Aid
  • Hand of the Surgeon
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Triage
  • Vaccine

Level 2 Sawbones cards

Level 2 Sawbones cards - Hamstring and Precaution
Level 2 Sawbones cards – Hamstring and Precaution

Hamstring

Top ability

Lovely! Something that plays to two of the things we want – damage and crowd control. Granted, Immobilize isn’t as universally beneficial as something like Stun, but it’s still useful. We can use it to keep slow-moving, hard-hitting monsters away for a while and buy us time to tackle other monsters.

It also gives us another top damage card. We don’t have a huge amount of these, so another one is welcome.

Bottom ability

Seriously?! A move 6 that we can reuse? That’s awesome! We can easily skip our way across rooms now!

Unfortunately, we twist our ankle or something along the way because we’re Immobilized when we get there. But that’s ok. If we’re moving into a good position, we don’t need to move on the next turn.

Plus, if we’re smart about it, we can use this at the end of a turn where we go late and the monsters are exactly where we want them. Then we can go early on the next turn and use something like Prevention is Key to Disarm all adjacent monsters so we’re safe even without moving.

Overall Hamstring card rating

A super useful double reusable action card! A good top damage ability and a high movement. Ace! It would be even better if the initiative were a bit higher.

Precaution

Top ability

If we were going heavy on the support, then a Shield 1 for the round is a smart move. Especially because this one doesn’t need you to be next to an ally to use it.

In my group, there was only me and the tank up front so this would have only been useful for us two. While it would have been quite helpful, I already had the persistent 1 shield to play on the tank so it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

Bottom ability

Having the ‘give a Medical Pack action’ on the bottom of a card makes it a prime candidate on turns when we don’t need to move.

Overall Precaution card rating

09 initiative! That’s the kind of initiative you want when you’re playing a Shield on all allies for the round! A great support card!

Level 2 Sawbones build

What to pick up

I went for Hamstring because I felt like I had enough support cards and wanted more movement and damage dealing cards in my deck at this point.

What to drop

There were two main candidates for dropping at this point – Curative Mixture and Triage. I decided to drop Curative Mixture because dropping Triage at this point would mean that my only large Move would have Immobilize attached to it.

Level 2 Sawbones deck

Sawbones level 2 build cards
Sawbones level 2 build cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Booster Shot
  • Hamstring
  • First Aid
  • Hand of the Surgeon
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Triage
  • Vaccine

Level 3 Sawbones cards

Level 3 Sawbones cards - Regenerative Tissue and Vital Strike
Level 3 Sawbones cards – Regenerative Tissue and Vital Strike

Regenerative Tissue

Top ability

Heal just myself? That wasn’t really part of the plan! I guess you need to take of yourself to be able to take care of others. And we do spend our time in melee range, so I understand the thinking behind this card. But for my party, far more often I needed to heal my allies (especially the tank) instead of myself.

And on those occasions when I did need to heal myself? Well, I my regular heals do that anyway!

Bottom ability

With the persistent Shield already in play, any other persistent card needs to a lot better for me to use it instead. Unfortunately, this doesn’t cut it. I’d rather use the Shield 1 to prevent damage from being done to my ally in the first place, as opposed to healing them afterwards.

The heal 1 will remove Poison and Wound, but so will our other heals so we can just use those if we need to.

Overall Regenerative Tissue card rating

I guess if you really want a self heal, then it’s an ok option. But the lower persistent heal wasn’t as useful as a shield 1 for my party.

Vital Strike

Top ability

Whack! This hits hard, but only once per scenario. It’ll do some decent damage especially at level 3 when paired with Hold Back the Pain! 7 damage across 4 monsters say is huge!

We have to go on 38 initiative to pull that off so need make sure our timing and positioning is spot on.

Though remember, we can already do 3 damage across all monsters and give them Wound at initiative 25, or we can do 4 damage with Immobilize at initiative 57 without losing a card.

7 damage is impressive at level 3, but as we start facing tougher monsters at higher levels, or even monsters with Shields, we’ll come to appreciate Wound much more.

Bottom ability

A move 4 is exactly the kind of ability we want on the bottom of a card with a top loss.

Overall Vital Strike rating

A big loss for when we can pull off the combo and a reusable move. It’s a shame the initiative is only 38 though.

Level 3 Sawbones build

What to pick up

I took Vital Strike even though I liked Precaution because I wanted to replace Triage and it’s top half that I wasn’t using. If I’d swapped in Precaution I’d have lost a reusable Move leaving me with only 2 Movement abilities.

What to drop

Triage. It’s time we replaced that top ability with a more useful one!

Level 3 Sawbones deck

Sawbones level 3 deck cards
Sawbones level 3 deck cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Booster Shot
  • Hamstring
  • First Aid
  • Hand of the Surgeon
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Vital Strike
  • Vaccine

Level 4 Sawbones cards

Level 4 Sawbones cards - Blood Transfusion and Do No Harm
Level 4 Sawbones cards – Blood Transfusion and Do No Harm

Blood Transfusion

Top ability

This is a huge heal! It comes at a cost of 3 health to us, so overall for our party, we’ve got a 5 health gain. That’s only 1 more than a Medical Pack or Booster Shot.

It is enough to bring an ally back from the brink, but again we have that ‘adjacent ally’ requirement. Plus, because we’re in melee range most of the time, we don’t really want to be giving our health away!

Bottom ability

A bottom damage dealing action is always nice to see! This one comes with the bonus of being able to heal any allies who happen to be adjacent to us at the time. Chances are, this will be any tanking allies you have and even then, only sometimes.

For the rest of the time, it’s 3 damage only.

Overall Blood Transfusion card rating

Not a big fan of the top ability, we have other heals that don’t cause us to lose life. The bottom damage dealer is a nice option. The 52 initative isn’t helpful.

Do No Harm

Top ability

Yes! An instant elimination ability! ‘normal or elite’ is what really sells this one! Elites can be very tricky to get rid of! Now we don’t need to worry about that anymore!

The Disarm and Immobilize self affect isn’t as lovely, though! But I bet you’ll be saving this until the last room and ideally one of the last turns so you aren’t in a risky situation when you use it. Then you can just long rest to make the most of the next turn or put Curative Mixture back in your hand and use that on your next turn to remove negative conditions.

Bottom ability

This is exactly the combo we want on a class that can only heal when they’re next to an ally! Now we can Move and heal in the same action – efficient!

Overall Do No Harm card rating

Love this card! The bottom is wonderful for letting us heal while also being able to move. A perfect ability for us. Then at the end of the scenario, we can use the top! 76 is at least in the top quarter for going slowly when we need to.

Level 4 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Do No Harm.

What to drop

So we’re adding a lower heal, a Move 4 and a powerful top loss. Hand of the Surgeon has a lower heal action that’s less helpful but it does have a reusable damage ability, instead of a loss.

At this point, across the top of the cards we have we have 4 reusable damage dealers and 1 damage dealing loss, so we can afford to lose one reusable damage dealer. Especially one that doesn’t give out any negative status effects.

I dropped Hand of the Surgeon.

Level 4 Sawbones deck

Level 4 Sawbones Deck Cards
Level 4 Sawbones Deck Cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Booster Shot
  • Hamstring
  • First Aid
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Vital Strike
  • Vaccine

Level 5 Sawbones cards

Level 5 Sawbones cards - Amputate and Research the Cure
Level 5 Sawbones cards – Amputate and Research the Cure

Amputate

Top ability

Very nice! A Wound and Immobilize with 4 damage! Hello, Hold Back the Pain! It combines the conditions we have on Bloody Saw and Hamstring on one ability.

Bottom ability

This is a decent heal, although we still have to be adjacent to our ally to use it. When timed right (say just before a long rest), the Stun doesn’t matter. However, in reality, getting turns in sync isn’t always the easiest.

At least we have late initiative, so we can use this ability at the end of the current turn so our ally is only out of action for the next turn and not the current one too!

Overall Amputate card rating

Great card with a good mix of damage and healing! it even gives us a late initiative which we really need.

Research the Cure

Top ability

Another 4 damage ability! This time, we get bonus support rather than bonus damage. In my group, the support bonus would only really affect my melee tank ally, but that didn’t matter because I played the bottom of this card anyway!

Bottom ability

What’s better than a persistent Shield 1? This is. Now my tank friend can’t be Stunned, Poisoned, Muddled or anything else!

Plus, I’m now free to play the top of Vaccine every scenario instead of needing to use the bottom of it to stop my tank getting Poisoned on Poison heavy scenarios.

Overall Research the Cure card rating

Fabulous card for a party with a tank!

Level 5 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Both cards are awesome! I picked up Research the Cure because my tank would benefit hugely from it! Amputate is also fantastic though.

What to drop

Booster Shot. I tried using Research the Cure and Booster Shot simultaneously on my tank but found that it reduced my stamina too much. I can only give good support if I’m ok myself!

Level 5 Sawbones deck

Level 5 Sawbones build deck cards
Level 5 Sawbones build deck cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Research the Cure
  • Hamstring
  • First Aid
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Vital Strike
  • Vaccine

Level 6 Sawbones cards

Level 6 Sawbones cards - Euthanize and Prescription
Level 6 Sawbones cards – Euthanize and Prescription

Euthanize

Top ability

Goodbye monster! And you. And you as well!

Reusing an instant monster removal card like this makes Gloomhaven feel so broken! It’s even easy for us to get two negative conditions on monsters thanks to Vaccine, Bloody Saw, Hamstring and Prevention is Key and Syringe.

We can even use the bottom Syringe directly before this to set it up on the same turn!

Bottom ability

And if you haven’t got any monsters around who fit the bill for the top, well you can use this awesome ability instead!

1 damage looks measley, until you realize that the Poison will give all subsequent hits on the monster a +1, Wound will tick its health down by 1 each turn and Stun puts it out of action.

This does so much stuff in one action!

Overall Euthanize card rating

Fantastic card. The top is great and not too difficult for us to set up. We get a reasonable 27 initiative too.

Prescription

Top ability

This is a lot better than just giving one ally a Medical Pack! Perfect for right at the beginning of a scenario before everyone moves away. You can even do it again when everyone is clustered around a door before heading into the next room.

Bottom ability

Pretty cool to hand out large Medical Packs to everyone! We will lose the card in the process though. I don’t think that trade-off is worth it.

Overall Prescription card rating

There’s a lot more value in this ability than the top of First Aid. But on a typical card cycle when you aren’t between rooms this card will become a standard Damage and Move one. Which is a bit of a shame. The lightning-fast 06 initiative is pretty amazing, though!

Level 6 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Euthanize. It’s very easy for us to use the top thanks to Syringe, and the bottom ability is also really cool for when we can’t use the top for some reason.

What to drop

We’re bringing in a damage focused card so we can afford to let another damage dealer go. But which one?

Bloody Saw we need for the fast initiative for our Hold Back the Pain combo. Hamstring is our other reusable top melee ability with that nice Move on the bottom. Vaccine is great because a ranged option is soo helpful to have. Which leaves Vital Strike.

It is amazing once per scenario when we get to hit everything for 7, but the rest of the time it’s a Move 4. Now we have a reusable ability that instantly removes monsters! So we can help in other ways!

I dropped Vital Strike. Don’t worry though. When we get to level 8, there’s another awesome card waiting for us that will fill Vital Strike’s boots and then some.

Level 6 Sawbones deck

  • Bloody Saw
  • Research the Cure
  • Hamstring
  • First Aid
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Euthanize
  • Vaccine

Level 7 Sawbones cards

Level 7 Sawbones cards - Master Physician and Surgeon's Satchel
Level 7 Sawbones cards – Master Physician and Surgeon’s Satchel

Master Physician

Top ability

More ways to remove negative conditions on allies!

In my group, the negative conditions were most likely to affect our tank or me. For the tank, that wasn’t a problem anymore thanks to Research the Cure’s amazing Shield blocking them. And for me, I could always heal myself if I really needed to remove them.

Bottom ability

‘to all your heal actions this round’ sounds good, right? Well, it would be if we’d gone for a healer build that could do more than one heal action in a round!

As we are, this is actually a +4 to one of our heal 3 actions, giving us a Heal 7. If we really need to heal an ally, we can always use the bottom of Do No Harm and the top of Hold Back the Pain to heal them for 6. Plus, we get to Move with that combo as well, unlike with this heal.

Overall Master Physician card rating

We already have ways to manage negative conditions and the healing boost isn’t much better than the healing we can do anyway.

Surgeon’s Satchel

Top ability

A loot action in the top slot is pretty rare and really nice to see. It means we can Move using a lower action and then Loot with the top.

Plus, because we’re using that Move to position ourselves in a good spot for looting, we can just make sure we’re also next to an ally or two and give them a heal at the same time. Actually pretty easy to accomplish in practice.

Always nice when an ability is easy to use!

Bottom ability

This is both abilities on First Aid in one action. Nice and efficient! It’s a great combo too, we can use that Move to get next to an ally to give them the Medical Pack and still do something else on our turn.

Overall Surgeon’s Satchel card rating

Great card! 10 initiative just tops it off.

Level 7 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Surgeon’s Satchel.

What to drop

It’s basically an upgrade to First Aid, so it’s an easy swap.

Level 7 Sawbones deck

Sawbones level 7 deck cards
Sawbones level 7 deck cards
  • Bloody Saw
  • Research the Cure
  • Hamstring
  • Surgeon’s Satchel
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Euthanize
  • Vaccine

Level 8 Sawbones cards

Level 8 Sawbones cards - Bedside Manner and Gentlemen's Anger
Level 8 Sawbones cards – Bedside Manner and Gentlemen’s Anger

Bedside Manner

Top ability

This is not something I would want to lose a card for. At level 8 when monsters hit harder and our allies have higher health pools, I’d have expected a much higher healing value. Especially on a loss!

We get to give them a Large Medical Pack, and we get 2 experience points too, but it’s just very underwhelming.

Bottom ability

With the right classes in your party, this ability can be incredible! With a two card recovery, your ally can back their best combo and do it again!

Overall Bedside Manner card rating

The top is really not a good trade for losing a card, the bottom can be amazing but it depends who you’re playing with. At 05 initiative, it’s certainly fast!

Gentlemen’s Anger

Top ability

Woah! Prevention is Key but now with 5 damage and 1 experience for every use. Come on Hold Back the Pain! Let’s play!

This represents some serious damage across all your adjacent monsters with that combo and it keeps us safe from harm and we can reuse it! I told you we wouldn’t miss Vital Strike that much!

Bottom ability

And here’s our second ever ranged ability. While 3 damage won’t knock any monsters out, that 5 range is huge! We get a nice 1 experience for using it too. The only problem with this ability, is that the top is so, so good, we won’t ever use it!

Overall Gentlemen’s Anger card rating

Brilliant card! Both abilities are very welcome. 29 initiative isn’t the fastest but we’ll still be taking our turn before most monsters.

Level 8 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Gentleman’s Anger.

What to drop

Bloody Saw. This is an upgrade to our top damage ability because we hit harder and get crowd control to boot. Now that we have a Loot on the top of Surgeon’s Satchel, we won’t miss our Loot action either.

The only drawback is that our initiative is 4 slower so there is a very small chance that an adjacent monster may have shifted position before we hit it.

Level 8 Sawbones deck

Level 8 Sawbones build deck cards
Level 8 Sawbones build deck cards
  • Gentleman’s Anger
  • Research the Cure
  • Hamstring
  • Surgeon’s Satchel
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Syringe
  • Euthanize
  • Vaccine

Level 9 Sawbones cards

Level 9 Sawbones cards - Grisly Trauma and Prep for Surgery
Level 9 Sawbones cards – Grisly Trauma and Prep for Surgery

Grisly Trauma

Top ability

It’s so funny, before I played the Sawbones class I assumed it was all about saving lives. How wrong I was! Here we are with our third instant elimination ability!

It’s not super easy to maximize because all the monsters do need to have taken some damage first. But if you’re playing with some AoE allies, it’s not that unusual to have a bunch of weakened monsters in a group.

“normal or elite” are the magic words here. Elite monsters can be tough cookies!

Bottom ability

Remember how Euthanize needs the monster to be affected by two negative conditions? Well, now we have another way to do that easily that’s not Syringe! Plus, we can affect several monsters at once with multiple conditions!

Makes it very easy to get Euthanize back with a potion and use it again!

Even if we don’t get it back, Poison and Wound will help our party finish monsters off quickly anyway!

Overall Grisly Trauma card rating

The top is great for when the situation is perfect for using it! For all the rest of the time, we have the bottom ability to prep everything nicely for Euthanize!

Prep for Surgery

Top ability

If we were playing a healing support build, then this is pretty cool. We are free to heal on pretty much every turn if we want to.

However, because we’ve gone for a balanced build that has some healing already, we don’t really need any extra. Plus, our persistent loss is the Shield we’re playing on our tank so we can’t really have another one in play without taking too much of a stamina hit.

Bottom ability

Fantastic crowd control ability. Move, Bam! That monster is out for a round or two.

Move with Stun gives us a lot of options in terms of which monster we want to take out of action.

Overall Prep for Surgery card rating

For a heavy healer build, the top is actually pretty cool. But I can’t help but think by the time you’ve got to level 9 if you were focussing on heal and support, you’d already have enough healing abilities and wouldn’t really need this anyway.

Level 9 Sawbones build

What to pick up

Grisly Trauma.

What to drop

Syringe. We can now put the two conditions that we need for Euthanize onto multiple monsters in one turn. Plus, the Poison and Wound across multiple monsters will make up for losing the 1 damage on one monster.

We will miss the Stun because we’ll be putting ourselves into melee range of a lot of monsters with Grisly Trauma! But hopefully, our tank or melee ally will go on a faster initiative than us and distract the monsters!

And for those monsters that do come for us, they will be Muddled so that will mitigate a little of the damage we would have taken!

Level 9 Sawbones deck

Sawbones level 9 build deck cards
Sawbones level 9 build deck cards
  • Gentleman’s Anger
  • Research the Cure
  • Hamstring
  • Surgeon’s Satchel
  • Do No Harm
  • Hold Back the Pain
  • Prevention is Key
  • Grisly Trauma
  • Euthanize
  • Vaccine

Sawbones Perks

Sawbones perks sheet
Sawbones perks sheet

With any Gloomhaven class, it’s usually a good idea to replace the negative modifiers first to deal higher average damage.

Then, when you’ve taken as many poor modifiers out as you can, remove the ‘filler’ cards like the +0s to slim down the deck and increase the chances of flipping a good card.

After those, take the Refresh an item card. In the Board Game Geek Gloomhaven FAQs thread, it states that this includes Spent items, not just refreshable items. Yes, that means Stamina potions!

Then we take the +2s extra damage which will always be useful whichever monster we’re hitting.

After that, we take Stun, Heal, Wound and Immobilize in the order of most likely to be useful. Stun is almost always useful and we don’t hand out that many Stuns. Heal is likely to help us because we will be taking some hits. Then Wound because we already hand out a lot of Wound so the monster may already be affected by it, and finally Immobilize which is the least helpful when we’re playing in melee range, even with the +1.

  1. Remove two -1 cards
  2. Remove two -1 cards
  3. Replace one +0 card with one +2 card
  4. Replace one +0 card with one +2 card
  5. Remove four +0 cards
  6. Add one +0 Refresh an item card
  7. Add one rolling +2 card
  8. Add one rolling +2 card
  9. Add one Stun card
  10. Add one rolling Heal 3 card
  11. Add one rolling Heal 3 card
  12. Add two rolling Wound cards
  13. Add two rolling Wound cards
  14. Add one +1 Immobilize card
  15. Add one +1 Immobilize card

Sawbones Items

Sawbones starting items – Iron Helmet, Heater Shield, Cloak of Invisibility, Boots of Striding, Minor Stamina Potion and Minor Power Potion.

Here are the starting items I’d recommend for the Sawbones. No spoilers for higher prosperity items here!

Iron Helmet

10 gold

We’re going to be taking some hits ourselves and we don’t have the highest health pool. Negating a double damage attack makes a huge difference to us!

Heater Shield

20 gold

Same thinking as the Iron Helmet. A shield helps! What’s even better is that after we take the ‘Refresh an item’ perk, we get to use our shield even more often!

Cloak of Invisibility

20 gold

Turing invisible immediately after whacking all adjacent monsters is priceless! Just make sure your nearest ally can take the heat or block the monsters from getting to them!

Boots of Striding

20 gold

An extra 2 movement gives us a lot more manoeuvrability in general, especially because we’re a melee class. But these boots really come into their own at level 9.

Your wish to make the bottom of Grisly Trauma was 4 Move instead of 2 just came true!

Winged Shoes are also a valid option so you can Jump into great positions. But they don’t extend your movement.

Minor Stamina Potion

10 gold

The Sawbones has so many awesome two-card combos that you can use even more frequently with a stamina potion! At later levels, this work wonderfully with the bottom of Hold Back the Pain and Gentleman’s Anger or with Grisly Trauma and Euthanize.

Minor Power Potion

10 gold

This is a nice boost following Hold Back the Pain to do an extra 1 damage to all the monsters around! Not hugely essential though, if you want to save your gold for an enhancement instead.

Sawbones Enhancements

For the best return on investment, we want to enhance reusable abilities and ideally ones that are in our hand until retirement. These enhancements are in no particular order and are just suggestions.

Curse on top of Vaccine

150 gold

This little ability is a workhorse and one of our very few ranged damage-dealers. It’s a really easy way to sprinkle a few Curses into the Monster deck!

Curse on top of Prevention is Key

150 gold

There are plenty of valuable enhancement options for this dot. I like Curse because it’s not something we can deal using the conditions on our cards. Wound and Poison are also ok options here, but because we can already hand out those conditions, we run the risk of those conditions already being on the monsters when we hit them with this.

Strengthen on the bottom of Do No Harm

125 gold

Thanks to the Move 4, Heal combo on this ability, with Strengthen, we can now move into the perfect position and then get Advantage on whatever we do next.

Jump on the bottom of Hamstring

75 gold

Our big reusable Move 6 is so much better with Jump on it! Just make sure you don’t jump into the middle of too many monsters because you’re Immobilized afterwards!

Sawbones Experience

Sawbones character board with health and experience
Sawbones character board with health and experience

We’ll level up pretty quickly thanks to the experience points being sprinkled across our reusable abilities! We’ll get them when we deal damage, hand out Medical Packs and even give out Shields. It’s nice to be rewarded just for doing what we do best. A bit of everything!

Sawbones Combos

The combos you have access to will differ depending on which cards you have at each level. Here are some of my favourites!

Grisly Gentleman (level 9)

Turn 1 – Go late to get in and smash

  • Lead with the 81 initative on Grisly Trauma to move into position after the monsters have taken their turn.
  • Use the bottom of Grisly Trauma to move into position, use Boots of Striding to get a Move 4 instead if you have them. Apply Poison, Wound and Muddle to all adjacent monsters.
  • Use the top of Euthanize to remove one of the monsters.

Turn 2 – Go early to disarm

  • Lead with the 29 initiative on Gentleman’s Anger
  • Use the bottom of Hold Back the Pain to affect all adjacent monsters
  • Use the top of Gentleman’s Anger to hit all adjacent monsters for 5 damage + 1 from Poison + 1 from Wound and Disarm them all for the remainder of this turn and the next

Hold the Saw (level 2)

Turn 1 – Go early to move in and disarm

  • Use the fast initiative on Prevention is Key to Disarm.
  • Use the Bottom of Tirage for Move 5 to move into position.
  • Use the top of Prevention is Key to Disarm all adjacent monsters for this turn and the next.

Turn 2 – Smash!

  • Use the fast initative on Bloody Saw
  • use the bottom of Hold Back the Pain to target all adjacent monsters.
  • Use the top of Bloody Saw to deal 3 damage to every monster and Immobilize them.

Sawbones Names

Our human sawbones follows the Great Oak. They are religious healer, doing whatever is necessary to protect allies from harm and save them – even if that means hacking off a leg! This level of grit and determination makes them a formidable ally on the battlefield.

My Sawbones was called Henry Jekyll. Here are some more Sawbones name ideas in keeping with the spirit of the class.

  • Maxim Zhivago
  • Murphy Montgomery
  • John Watson
  • Emmet Brown
  • Igor Hyde
  • Ludwig Faustus
  • Alexander Xavier
  • Vlad Rasputin
  • Charles Baker
  • Lloyd Feelgood

Conclusion – Gloomhaven Sawbones Build – Crowd Control Support

The Sawbones is a fantastically versatile class to play where there is always something to do on your turn. We can crowd control, support, heal, and deal decent damage! It’s awesome being such a versatile class!

I hope you enjoy playing the Sawbones as much as I did!

I’ve created guides for all the locked classes! If you enjoyed this Sawbones guide, check them out! Listed here by their code names: Triforce class guide, Two Minis guide, Eclipse / Moon guide, Sun guide, Lightning Bolt guide, Circles guide, Angry Face guide, Three Spears guide, Cthulhu guide and Music Note guide.

I’ve created build guides for all the Gloomhaven starting characters – ranged build guide for the Cragheart, tank build Brute guide, Tinkerer crowd control build guide, Mindthief damage and stun guide, Spellweaver AoE guide and a Scoundrel single target poison build guide.

If you enjoy Gloomhaven as much as I do, it’s natural to want to upgrade it to improve your gaming experience. I especially like these cards sleeves and this organizer insert on Amazon, and this incredible 3D 108 piece custom Gloomhaven scenery set  on Etsy! Seriously, go check it out!

For more upgrade ideas, check out my article 15 Awesome Gloomhaven Accessories and Upgrades.

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Emily
Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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