Gloomhaven Scoundrel Guide – Single Target Poison Build & Strategy

The Scoundrel is the rogue of the Gloomhaven starting characters. She moves quickly, hits hard and scoops up the loot. This Scoundrel guide focuses on playing like a ninja who dashes into melee range, hits monsters, ideally deals poison, then dashes out again. 

Scoundrel Guide Structure

This article is a complete guide to playing a Gloomhaven Scoundrel that focuses on high-hitting single target damage with a poison status effect. The guide covers all levels from 1-9 and assesses the cards at each level for how well they fit with this build. 


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This Scoundrel guide follows this structure: 

  • Why a Scoundrel single-target Poison build?
  • Scoundrel poison ninja strategy
  • Level 1-9 cards and decks
  • Scoundrel Perks
  • Scoundrel Items
  • Scoundrel Enhancements
  • Scoundrel Experience
  • Scoundrel Combos
  • Scoundrel Names
  • Conclusion

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

Scoundrel miniature gloomhaven
Gloomhaven Scoundrel class board and character miniature

Why a single target poison build?

I play in a four-player Gloomhaven group. When I played the Scoundrel I was playing alongside a Brute, a Spellweaver and a Tinkerer. The Spellweaver is great at hitting multiple monsters at once, the Tinkerer at supporting the group and the Brute at attracting the attention of monsters. That left me free to hit single monster targets. 

Fortunately, hitting single monsters really hard is where the Scoundrel excels! With the smallest hand limit of the starting classes, it’s so important that the Scoundrel cards have synergies with each other. You can’t be a versatile all things for all situations kind of player – you just don’t have the cards for it. 

Along with the hard-hitting single-target abilities, the Scoundrel also has several abilities that inflict Poison or enhance its effect – especially from level 6 onwards. That’s why Poison is the secondary focus of the build. 

In my first run as a Scoundrel, I really didn’t get along with the class because her effectiveness is so dependent on the position and actions of other party members. However, when I picked the class up again I was a much more experienced player and this build has features built-in that overcome the positioning weakness. 

Scoundrel Strategy

Run, hit/hit, run

The Scoundrel doesn’t have the highest hit points for a melee-focused character so you can’t hit things and then stand around and hope for the best. But that doesn’t matter because you have super low initiative cards and plenty of Move abilities! 

Enter the run, hit / hit, run strategy. 

Your turns will go something like this. 

Turn 1

Lead with a high initiative card so you can see the position of most allies and monsters.

1st action – Move – Get into a decent position for a damage bonus (if you can)

2nd action – Hit – Whack the bad guy (ideally with a damage bonus)

Turn 2

Lead with a low initiative card so that you can take your turn and get out of there!

1st action – Hit – Get the bad guy again (ideally with another bonus)

2nd action – Move – Get the heck out of there before they take their turn! 

Poison

The Scoundrel’s deck has several abilities that inflict Poison and the Poison perks allow you to add Poison cards to your modifier deck too. 

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Poison is such a great way to boost your damage with a +1. And of course it helps your allies too, we’re not completely selfish. 

If you like, with Poison you can become the markswoman for your group. You dash into the fray, hit a monster for Poison so that your group knows which monster they need to target on their next turn. Then you can carry on dishing out Poison to other monsters giving everyone bonuses on their damage against those monsters too. 

Modifier deck and perks

Because it takes a lot to set up your hits, and a lot of potential damage is riding on one card, the last thing you want is for it to miss or deal sub-par damage. 

One of the best things about the Scoundrel is that she can remove all the negative modifier cards from her deck through perks! That’s what we want to do. 

While you level up, even though your damage value on the cards doesn’t increase, your chances of drawing decent modifiers increases. So overall you’re doing higher damage more consistently leading to more damage per scenario! 

Stamina and exhaustion

You have the lowest stamina of all the starting characters so more than anyone else you really need to be careful with your card management. That means taking in no more than 3 Loss abilities per scenario.

The Scoundrel can last up to 20 rounds with her hand limit of 9, without using potions and using no Loss abilities. Of course, we want to use some Loss abilities, we just need to be careful about when we use them! 

The sooner in a scenario that you play a Loss ability, the more it reduces your overall stamina. 

  • If you play a Loss card before your 1st rest you can last up to 16 rounds. 
  • If you play a Loss ability before your 2nd and 3rd rest you can last up to 17 rounds. 
  • If you play a Loss ability after your third rest you can last up to 18 rounds.

My advice is to save one-off Losses until the final room and persistent Losses until after the third rest. 

With our use of Losses being restricted, we want to beef up our best repeatable actions with enhancements. I have some recommendations towards the end of this guide. 

Jump

Considering that movement and positioning is so key to a Scoundrel, not having a Jump option will really hold you back. 

You don’t want to let a wall of monsters stop you from getting to where you need to be for your bonuses! 

It’s expensive to upgrade a card at the start of the game when you don’t have much gold. Instead, try to get your hands on the Winged Shoes so that you have a Jump option available right from the beginning. 

Single Target Poison Build Deck Strategy

There are no good or bad cards in Gloomhaven. It’s just that some are better or worse for different builds. For this build, I looked for cards that offered:

  • Single target, high-damage abilities
  • Movement controlling abilities
  • Poison

Scoundrel cards

There are 28 cards in the Gloomhaven Scoundrel’s deck. The Scoundrel has a hand limit of 9 cards, the smallest hand limit of all the starting characters, so we’ve not got a huge amount of cards to play with. Every single card has to be flexible and count for us. 

It also means we can’t take a huge amount of loss abilities into a scenario with us. If we do, we’ll become exhausted really quickly. 

None of the cards in the Scoundrel’s deck are ‘bad’. It’s just that some will fit better with this build than others. 

For each level, I’ll suggest a deck, however, always look at the scenario ahead of you and mix up your deck accordingly. Your party composition may also change before you retire your Scoundrel, so depending on the classes alongside you, you may find that you need to adapt your playstyle. 

For example, if you can see that the goal in your next scenario is to get to a specific location, you may want to take all your high movement cards. Similarly, if the healing class in your group retires, you may want to take along some healing abilities and rely more on invisibility.

Level 1 Scoundrel cards

Conveniently, there are 9 starting cards for the Scoundrel in Gloomhaven so if you’re starting at level 1 you can just take this starting hand and go. Get a feel for the class and how you want to play it. 

I’m going to look at how each of these cards fits with a single target poison build so we can start to think about what may work well together for that playstyle. 

Backstab

Scoundrel Backstab card
Scoundrel Backstab card

Top ability

The first ability is such a good indicator of how the Scoundrel plays. Everything is about positioning. 

The sweet spot is to use this on a monster that’s next to an ally and also away from the other bad guys. That’ll deal an epic 7 damage. That is high on a single target at level 1 and will usually take them down in one go! And if we set it up with Smoke Bomb beforehand, we can double the value to 14! Take that boss! 

To pull that off, you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time. How often that happens will depend on your ability to move to where you need to, and your ability to manipulate the position of your monsters too. You can always ask a Brute to shove a monster your way if you can’t move them yourself. 

This ability is also a Loss. So while it’ll be epic to pull off, you’ll lose the card for it. 

Bottom ability

High movement is the name of the game for us. We are quick. We need to be to pull off our best moves. This Move 6 is our highest Move from the starting nine cards so going to get a lot of use. 

Overall Backstab card rating

Backstab is a pretty cool card for us. 

The 6 initiative basically guarantees that we can go first when we need to, the Move 6 means we can usually get into a decent position. Then, when we get to the final room, we can set up our awesome top ability (ideally boosted by Smoke Bomb to double the damage value!). 

Flanking Strike

Scoundrel card Flanking Strike
Scoundrel card Flanking Strike

Top ability

How useful this ability is to you really depends on the composition of your group and your ability to get into position. 

You really need another close-range character in your group to make this card valuable. While there was another melee class in my group, a Brute, he very rarely stayed still for very long and loved to go early in a round! 

So to pull this off, it was vital that I spent one turn going late in the round, moved into position, and then used the 04 initiative on this card to go first in the next round and get the bonus damage before the Brute moved away from the monster! 

Bottom ability

Move 5 is a decent movement for us, but wherever you can you’ll be using the top of this card for the 5 damage. 

Overall Flanking Strike card rating

Because we need to alternate between going first and going late, the 04 initiative on Flanking Strike makes it an awesome card for our hand. Having two useful repeatable abilities helps our stamina too. 

Quick Hands

Scoundrel card Quick Hands
Scoundrel card Quick Hands

Top ability

This little shift then jab ability is really nice. It really brings to mind the image of the Scoundrel dodging around and getting in cheeky little hits when monsters least expect them! 

The extra Move 2 can be just the Move we need to get into the right position for an adjacency bonus. 

Or, the Move 2 can be added to your Move 6 from Backstab for a Move 8!

Bottom ability

It’s no Loot 2 for sure, but it is reusable. A few Loot 1s spread throughout the scenario is a nice way to pick up a few extra shinies. 

Overall Quick Hands card rating

I like that the top of Quick Hands can be paired with bottom Moves to allow you to Move for 8 several times in a scenario. 

The initiative is not ideal for me. It’s not high enough to ensure that you’ll go last which leaves you with some risk that people will move away from where you want them to be after you’re in position. 

Single Out

Scoundrel Single Out card
Scoundrel Single Out card

Top ability

This is exactly the same ability as the top of Flanking Strike. So it’s a handy one to have so long as you can set it up correctly.

The high initiative on Single Out is actually a good thing. It means that you can go late in the round after everyone has moved. Pair it with a decent Move ability, run into position first, then whack the bad guy.

Bottom ability

On a first glance, a bonus of 2 to monsters away from the other bad guys sounds great. But given that it’s situational, it’s not actually so great. 

But for me, what’s worse is that it’s a Loss ability. 

You’ll need to play it reasonably early in a scenario to make sure you have four opportunities to use it. But that comes at the expense of your stamina. The earlier in a scenario you play a card, the greater the impact it has on your stamina. 

Overall Single Out card rating

The top is the same as Flanking Strike, and the high initiative is great for when we want to go late in a round.

As for the bottom ability, it sounds good, but in reality, it is just too situational which forces us to use a loss earlier than we’d like to get the most from it. So is it worth taking a card when we’ll only really be using the top ability? With a hand limit of 9, probably not.

Smoke Bomb

Scoundrel card Smoke Bomb
Scoundrel card Smoke Bomb

Top ability

Sneak ability for double damage?! Yes, please! That’s right up our street. 

The awesome thing with Invisible is that we can’t be targeted by monsters until it’s removed at the end of our next turn. It gives us the freedom to spend one turn setting this up to partner with the top ability on Backstab or Sinister Opportunity for 14 or 10-14 damage, respectively. 

Several monsters have lower total hit points than 14 so we can take them out in one go. It’s a great ability to have up your sleeve for bosses in the final room!

With all the setting up that Smoke Bomb takes, the last thing you want to do is miss your next hit. So, the best bet is to put a Strengthen enhancement on it for 50 gold. 

Bottom ability

If you can’t get to them, make them come to you. That’d be the flavour text I’d write for this card! 

Given the situational bonuses on several of our abilities, the Pull 2 on Smoke Bomb is surprisingly useful. It can be the difference between getting that bonus damage on a monster away from its allies/adjacent to your allies, and not.  

Overall Smoke Bomb card rating

A 12 initiative is always good for us, with our go early and go late strategy. The top ability of Smoke Bomb is just awesome and it’ll scale well with our other abilities as we level. Double damage is always double damage! 

The bottom of the card gives us a useful Pull ability when we need it.

Special Mixture

Scoundrel card Special mixture
Scoundrel card Special Mixture

Top ability

A minor heal 3 is ok. We will likely get hit on the odd occasion because we’re upfront and personal with the monsters, even if we are dodging in and out of the fray. 

Ideally, we’ll have some allies along with us who can take care of the healing though. 

Bottom ability

I really like the bottom ability of Special Mixture. It’s a handy way for us to move up to our next target and give out some Poison to boost our next hit on them. Of course, our allies will also benefit from +1 to all their hits too, but we’re mostly interested in us, right? 

Overall Special Mixture card rating

That 33 initiative on Special Mixture is just, meh. It’s not going to be the initiative you lead with because it won’t guarantee you’ll go first in the round. However, the Poison on the bottom is nice.

In an ideal world, we’ll always use the bottom of this card and never the top. 

Thief’s Knack

Scoundrel card Thief's Knack
Scoundrel card Thief’s Knack

Top ability

I get that disarming traps is a rogue thing. It’s just not as exciting as sneaking up on monsters for me. 

It’s usually more useful in Gloomhaven to push a monster into a trap instead of disarming it. At least that way, you do some damage to it. If your group doesn’t have anyone with Push, then I guess you’ll use this more often. In my group, the Brute always shoved monsters into traps before I had a chance to disarm them!

Bottom ability

A bottom damage-dealing ability gives us some nice flexibility in our turns. There will be occasions where you start your turn next to a monster on low health. You can use Thief’s Knack to finish them off, then use the top of Quick hands to Move to the next monster and hit that monster too.

The problem with that pairing though is that you’ll have 23 initiative for the round which may mean you take a hit yourself before you can move out of the way. 

Overall Thief’s Knack card rating

The disarm trap ability may or may not be useful depending on your group and the scenario. If you see lots of traps coming up, it may be worth taking along.

The bottom ability gives us some flexibility but the 23 initiative makes it less flexible. 

Throwing Knives

Scoundrel card Throwing Knives
Scoundrel card Throwing Knives

Top ability

We don’t have many ranged ability options available at Level 1 but Throwing Knives is a pretty good one. It gives us a 4 damage ability across 2 monsters which is good for when we first enter a room and they are out of reach. 

However, as soon as monsters start to get Shields your knives will just bounce right off unless you flip a decent modifier. 

Bottom ability

It’s abilities like this that give the Scoundrel her name. Scooping up all the gold and treasure from the 18 hexes surrounding her is crazy. No wonder it’s a Loss card! 

I initially felt that grabbing loads of loot was selfish, but then I realised that I spend it on stuff to make me better that helps the party overall. Or at least, that’s how I justify it to myself! 

Overall Throwing Knives card rating

That 10 initiative is lovely. It means we can go early when we need to. The Loot card is what gets us our bad reputation for kleptomania. But, hey, we need the gear and enhancements more than everyone else!

With our tiny hand limit, we’ve got to make sure every card works as hard as it can, and enhancements don’t come cheap!

Venom Shiv

Scoundrel card Venom Shiv
Scoundrel card Venom Shiv

Top ability

Not a huge damage value here, but at Level 1, 3 is not terrible. The Poison, however, will be useful way beyond level 1. Every hit against that Poisoned monster will get +1. In a 4 player group, that adds up. 

Poison is a nice option to use on bosses with high health points to help take them down more easily. Similarly, it’s a nice way to help allies get through monsters’ Shields. 

The 1 Experience point is always a nice bonus too. It’s not like you have to work that hard to get this one either. Hitting any monster is enough to get it. 

Bottom ability

Move 5 is the second-highest distance we can move at Level 1 and moving is always going to be useful. 

Overall Venom Shiv card rating

The top ability is solid and the Poison is a cool bonus to have. Move 5 is a good movement. It’s the 60 initiative that I’m not crazy about. I’d rather it was higher so we’d be more certain of going last. 

Level X cards

At level 1, we can also choose from the level X cards so that’s what I’m going to do. 

Scoundrel level X cards - Sinister Opportunity, Swift Bow, Trickster's Reversal
Scoundrel level X cards – Sinister Opportunity, Swift Bow, Trickster’s Reversal

Sinister Opportunity

Top ability

Consume Dark you say? Well, I know something that will create Dark for us – Smoke Bomb! It just so happens that Smoke Bomb would also double the value of this! Very nice. 

You’d only be able to consume Dark once per scenario unless you have an ally that can create Dark for you.

Without the Dark and doubling bonus, Sinister Opportunity is not amazing. The +1 for all allies adjacent to the target sounds awesome, but in reality, you’ll probably have one, maybe two melee allies in your group. They’d also need to be in the right position for you to get the bonuses. 

Bottom ability

Mind control is not something I’d associate with a rogue, so I like to think of this ability as you tricking them to move instead. Perhaps the Scoundrel dodges quickly into and out of range so the monster takes a step closer as they try to grab you.

Controlling a monster to move them is great when all the monsters have formed a wall and you can’t get through to get into the best position. It can also be great to move one monster away from the group to get the bonuses for when they are away from allies.

Overall Sinister Opportunity card rating

The top ability can be a nice follow up to Smoke Bomb if you’ve already used Backstab, or you can’t get the bonuses from it. 

The 93 initiative is a great, high number for when we want to go last in a turn. And to top it all off, the bottom ability allows us to manipulate the room to get people just where we want them. 

Swift Bow

Top ability

This is the only other ranged ability available at level 1. It deals more single-target damage and has a longer range than Throwing Knives, but deals less damage overall. 

It’s good to have a ranged ability for flexibility, but because our hand limit is so small and we’re looking for melee damage synergies, we just haven’t got the room for two ranged abilities. 

Bottom ability

This is barely better than the standard Move 2. We get to loot an additional hex rather than only the one we end our turn on, but it’s not amazing. Good that it’s not a Loss ability, but it’s not that great. 

Overall Swift Bow card rating

I find Swift Bow a bit underwhelming for what we’re looking for. If you prefer it to Throwing Knives, then take it as your ranged option, but Throwing Knives wins for me. It deals more damage overall, has 10 initiative and has that crazy Loot 2 ability for the final room. 

Trickster’s Reversal

Top ability

Our equivalent of an ability with Pierce. It’ll get your damage through that Shield and then some. Imagine a monster with a Shield of 2. This would be worth 6. That’s a high-value at level 1 but it’ll only reach its potential against Shielded monsters and it’s a Loss. 

For me, it’s better to take a card that’s useful in more situations, or at least gives bonuses if I manipulate the positioning of people. That’s something within my control. 

Bottom ability

Importantly, it’s only the first set of damage that gets mitigated so this ability isn’t a license to head into the fray and just stay there for a round. 

It can be useful if you’ve found yourself blocked by a wall of monsters unexpectedly, but to be honest, if you’re playing the run, hit / hit, run strategy, this won’t happen very often.

Overall Trickster’s Reversal card rating

I really like the 9 initiative on this card, but we have enough low initiative cards to choose from.

The top ability is too situational for me and it’s something beyond my control. Having said that, if you’re heading into a scenario where everyone has Shields you may want to take this along. Personally, I’d rather just get bonuses to my other abilities to get through the Shields. 

Level 1 Scoundrel build

For the core cards in our deck we’re looking for high initiative cards and low initiative cards to help us with our run and hit/hit and run strategy. 

We also want any cards we can get that have Poison on will help us and our group with large health monsters. We want those high-hitting single target abilities that the Scoundrel is known for, along with decent movement and monster position manipulation abilities to help us get our bonuses. 

We need to balance all of those requirements with a nine card hand limit so we can’t overdo it on the losses. 

It’s a tall order but it can be done, my friends! 

Level 1 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel single target Poison level 1 deck
Scoundrel single target Poison level 1 deck

While each card is useful for both abilities, we’re often taking a card for one main ability. If we ignore Moves (which we just need to make sure we have enough of in our hand) here are the main categories each card falls into. 

Single-target

  • Backstab
  • Flanking Strike
  • Thief’s Knack
  • Quick Hands

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Special Mixture
  • Venom Shiv

Ranged

  • Throwing Knives

Level 2 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 2 cards - Flintlock, Open Wound
Scoundrel level 2 cards – Flintlock, Open Wound

Flintlock

Top ability

A top loot is pretty cool. It means that if you’ve just wiped a monster and you’re about to run off, you can pick up some shinies before you do. The 90 initiative won’t help you with that though!

Bottom ability

This is a tougher version of the ability from the top of Swift Bow that didn’t make out level 1 hand. The main issue is that it’s a Loss.

It has a couple of decent enhancement slots but ideally you don’t want to put enhancements on a Loss card because you’ll only see the benefit once per scenario.  

Overall Flintlock card rating

The top Loot is too situational to be useful most of the time and the bottom is a Loss that’s just not as good as our other Losses. We already have a ranged ability. That 90 initiative would be useful though… 

Open Wound

Top ability

A nice single-target ability that will leave monsters Wounded and taking some nice additional damage every turn. It’ll help us knock the high health targets down a peg or two. Or help us to deal with low health, high-shield monsters.

The target will need to be next to an ally for us to get the benefit, but we’re building our deck with adjacency bonuses in mind, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.  

Bottom ability

Yep! I’ll take that, thanks. 

Overall Open Wound card rating

Both abilities on this card are always going to be useful to us. The situational Wound bonus on the top ability is great and if we don’t manage to get it on that try, never mind. We still do a nice 4 damage and get more chances to get the Wound bonus on another turn. 

Move 5 is high enough to be useful too if we want to use the move rather than the hit. That 11 initiative is low too so we can go early in the round. 

Level 2 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Open Wound. It’s far more flexible than Flintlock and we aren’t building a klepto Scoundrel. 

What to drop

Throwing Knives is our only ranged damage-dealing ability in our hand so it’s tempting to hang onto it. However, the damage is low, the bottom Loss loot action is only useful in the final room, and we’re focusing on melee so we won’t be using the top action that often. 

Instead, to get within melee range of far away monsters, use a bottom Move action and then the top of Quick Hands to add an additional 2 Move and jab the bad guy. 

Level 2 Scoundrel build

Scoundrel single target Poison level 2
Scoundrel single target Poison level 2

Single-target

  • Backstab
  • Flanking Strike
  • Thief’s Knack
  • Quick Hands
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Special Mixture
  • Venom Shiv

Level 3 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel cards level 3 - Duelist's Advance, Hidden Daggers
Scoundrel cards level 3 – Duelist’s Advance, Hidden Daggers

Duelist’s Advance

Top ability

A direct upgrade to Quick Hands giving us one additional move and hit. We already know how useful that can be allowing us to run even further on a turn when we need to and deal a nice bit of damage too.

The only issue is that we’ll lose the high 64 initiative if we replace it with Duelist’s Advance.  

Bottom ability

A nice bonus if monsters are on their own. With our Pull 2 on Smoke Bomb and our ability to control the movement of a monster for 1 with Sinister Opportunity, we can make this happen. 

Overall Dualist Advance card rating

A better card than Quick Hands with a stronger top and a damage bonus on the bottom. But really, we’ll use the top of this card most of the time so that matters less. 

Hidden Daggers

Top ability

The Loss trait of this ability jumps out more than anything else. It means it comes under more scrutiny than reusable abilities. 

A decent multi-target ranged ability. For us, we’ll only really be using ranged abilities when we first enter a room, because we’re building for melee. If we use this in melee range we’ll be disadvantaged. 

So, realistically we’ll use this once per game on entering a room. It’s not worth it. 

Bottom ability

Reusable invisibility so we can’t be targeted. Super useful as we’re playing at close range with relatively low health and no shields. 

But then again, we mostly protect ourselves by not being there when monsters have their turn, so do we really need another invisibility ability when we already have Smoke Bomb? 

Overall Hidden Daggers card rating

The top ability is not great, but to be honest, the Gloomhaven designers could have put anything there because it’s all about the bottom ability on this card. But is that bottom ability enough to beat out Duelist’s Advance? 

Level 3 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Duelist’s Advance. It fits better with our melee build. 

What to drop

Quick Hands. Duelist’s Advance is an upgrade. 

Level 3 Scoundrel build

Scoundrel single target Poison build level 3
Scoundrel single target Poison build level 3

Right now, we have a lot of low initiative cards in our deck, but not many high ones. That’s not helping us with our run, hit/hit, run strategy in terms of people being in the positions we want them to be in. The good news is that at least we can get out of there before anything happens to us! 

Single-target

  • Backstab
  • Flanking Strike
  • Thief’s Knack
  • Duelist’s Advance
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Special Mixture
  • Venom Shiv

Level 4 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 4 cards - Flurry of Blades, Gruesome Advantage
Scoundrel level 4 cards – Flurry of Blades, Gruesome Advantage

Flurry of Blades

Top ability

Another ranged option. You know my thoughts on these by now. They don’t really align with our build. 

Bottom ability

Advantage on all your abilities for a round is awesome. But by now, you’ve likely got Advantage on Smoke Bomb so that you don’t critical fumble on your double damage ability. That’s the one that really matters. Plus, your modifier deck is getting better with every perk you get, so we’re drawing pretty well at Level 4.

The Move 4 isn’t super quick either, and we need to be able to dart around. 

Overall Flurry of Blades card rating

For the way we’re building this Scoundrel, Flurry of Blades isn’t aligned. The ranged ability isn’t for us and the Move 4 is actually just average for us!

The 03 initiative is insanely fast, but right now, we need more high cards to allow us to go late in a turn. We have plenty if we want to go early. 

Gruesome Advantage

Top ability

If you thought Backstab was good – think again! Welcome to your upgrade. Now instead of doing up to 14 unmodified damage when you line up the ability with Smoke Bomb, you can do 18! 

That will take down bosses in one hit! It is crazy! 

Bottom ability

As if the upgraded top ability wasn’t enough, we also get an extra 1 to our movement. Awesome! 

Overall Gruesome Advantage card rating

Gruesome Advantage is a direct upgrade to Backstab with higher damage and move. While the 62 initiative might look bad, for us, it’s not too bad. We have plenty of low initiative cards to get out of harm’s way. We need more high initiatives so we can move into the perfect position after everyone else has taken their turn.

Level 4 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Want to take down bosses with one hit? Then take Gruesome Advantage! 

What to drop

Backstab. Gruesome Advantage is a straight upgrade.

Level 4 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel single target Poison build level 4
Scoundrel single target Poison build level 4

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Thief’s Knack
  • Duelist’s Advance
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Special Mixture
  • Venom Shiv

Level 5 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 5 cards - Cull the Weak, Visage of the Inevitable
Scoundrel level 5 cards – Cull the Weak, Visage of the Inevitable

Cull the Weak

Top ability

This top ability is an upgrade to the top of Flanking Strike as it gives us an additional 1 to the base damage. At Level 5, that’s not a huge increase to an ability. 

Bottom ability

Now is this persistent Loss better than our other Losses? Seeing as we can’t inflict Disarm, Immobilize or Stun on monsters ourselves right now, it’s not looking very appealing. 

You might have other classes in your party who regularly apply these debuffs to bad guys, but that’s not within your control. 

Given that we are already paying careful attention to where allies and monsters are every turn to get our bonuses, the idea of adding another unpredictable, situation-dependent bonus into that mix is not good. 

To make sure you get all six chances to use this bonus across the scenario, you’ll need to get this card out pretty early on, and we know that isn’t good for our stamina!

Overall Cull the Weak card rating

A very small upgrade to Flanking Strike on the top and a situational Loss on the bottom. It’s not for me. 

Visage of the Inevitable

Top ability

Instant monster removal ability! Yay! No Scoundrel deck would be complete without one of these. We are the ninja of the starting characters, after all. 

It’ll only take down a normal monster but there are plenty of irritating normal bad guys. Especially when they have Shields! 

The best thing about this ability? It’s reusable! 

Bottom ability

I love this ability. You run into the middle of a group of monsters, drop some Poison on all the bad guys and then run straight back out. 

From that point on, they are all easier to take down. It gets even better when you get to level 6 and this Poison build really comes into its own! 

Overall Visage of the Inevitable card rating

A high initiative of 88 gives us a nice late round turn option. The instant monster removal is great. It doesn’t matter if the monster has Shields or not, they are gone! It’s so cool to be able to use it multiple times per scenario. 

The Move 2 isn’t amazing, but the multi-target Poison is great. 

Level 5 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Visage of the Inevitable. It’s just too good to pass up the ability to get rid of a monster, no questions asked. And that Poison spamming bottom ability is awesome!

What to drop

Special Mixture. The Heal 3 isn’t essential and the Poison is only single target instead of the multi-target Poison we get on Visage of the Inevitable. 

Level 5 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel level 5 cards - Cull the Weak, Visage of the Inevitable
Scoundrel single target Poison level 5 build

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Thief’s Knack
  • Duelist’s Advance
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Visage of the Inevitable
  • Venom Shiv

Level 6 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 5 cards - Cull the Weak, Visage of the Inevitable
Scoundrel level 6 cards – Burning Oil, Crippling Poison

Burning Oil

Top ability

Ranged ability. Nope, not right now.

Bottom ability

Oh man, looting from all those hexes multiple times per scenario. That would be so cool! It would drive our allies crazy! 

Overall Burning Oil card rating

With this single target Poison build, it doesn’t really matter what Burning Oil has on it because we’re all about the other card on offer…

Crippling Poison

Top ability

Yes! Now, that’s what we’re talking about. This ability is the linchpin around the poison strategy. 

Anything that’s Poisoned we get a +2 against it. That +2 is in addition to the standard +1 bonus that Poison gives. So we’re getting a +3 on all our hits against Poisoned bad guys. That’s a lot more damage over a scenario! 

The only issue with it is that it’s a Loss. So you need to be careful when you play it so that you don’t become exhausted. I suggest playing it after your third rest cycle so that you’ll only reduce your stamina by two rounds. 

Bottom ability

While you’re waiting to play the amazing top half of the card, you’ve got the bottom to entertain you. The bottom ability gives you flexibility and the debuffs are nice. Hit the monster, Poison them, and leave them Immobilized while you run off. Nice. 

Overall Crippling Poison card rating

The top of this card is super important to our build. It gives us consistent bonus damage to monsters that isn’t dependent on their position. What a relief! Even if they aren’t adjacent to allies or away from their own allies, we’ll still get bonus damage! Yay! 

Level 6 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Crippling Poison. We’ve been waiting for it! 

What to drop

Thief’s Knack. We still have a bottom hit and the top ability is far more useful to us. 

Level 6 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel single target poison level 6 deck cards
Scoundrel single target Poison build level 6

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Duelist’s Advance
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Visage of the Inevitable
  • Venom Shiv
  • Crippling Poison

Level 7 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 5 cards - Cull the Weak, Visage of the Inevitable
Scoundrel level 7 cards – Spring the Trap and Stick to the Shadows

Spring the Trap

Top ability

Up until this point, we’ve been using the Pull on the bottom of Smoke Bomb and the Move 1 on the bottom of Sinister opportunity to make monsters trigger traps (and get them into a nice position for us). 

This ability does allow us to trigger a trap and hurl the damage at a monster which is pretty cool. Especially because traps increase in strength as you level, so this could be worth up to 9 damage. For a repeatable ability that’s pretty cool. 

It’s quite situational because you need the trap and a monster within range 3, but it can happen fairly often. Plus, you can use the damage on flying creatures. 

Bottom ability

This has the same double damage effect that Smoke Bomb has but it’s a bottom ability. With it being a Loss ability you need to balance choosing this over other Losses. 

Personally, I prefer Smoke Bomb for the Strengthen enhancement to make sure the ability doesn’t miss, the Invisibility buff and the Create Dark to boost Sinister Opportunity. 

The advantage of Smoke Bomb is that you’ll still get double damage on your next ability regardless of the position of everyone. That makes it far more versatile.

With Spring the Trap, you have to make sure everyone is in the perfect position to get the double damage. 

Overall Spring the Trap card rating

The damage dealt by Spring the Trap depends on your party’s average level and the scenario difficulty you’re playing at. It could be great. For me, the situational double damage on the bottom ability is not as good as the top of Smoke Bomb. 

Stick to the Shadows

Top ability

The situational bonus on Stick to the Shadows makes it really unappealing. The 4 damage is fine, we have a 4 on Open Wound. 

The bonus +4 damage requires Dark. The only way we can create Dark is with Smoke Bomb, once per scenario. So we’re not going to see this bonus very often unless we have an ally who is creating Dark but doesn’t want it for themselves. Pretty unlikely!

Bottom ability

The Move 2 is good for a position shift but won’t help us to run out of range. Although, Invisible is handy to mitigate the damage that getting out of range would. 

Overall Stick to the Shadows card rating

The situational top bonus makes this card unappealing. The invisibility buff on the bottom ability is more useful. 

Level 7 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Level 7 is the trickiest level so far for card choice. 

Both are situational cards and I can see either of them working depending on your playstyle and group. For me, I went with Stick to the Shadows because there will usually be a situation where a 4 damage and a Move 2, Invisible are useful and I don’t think the Spring the Trap Loss is better than our other Loss abilities. 

What to drop

Nothing. Keep this card in your card pool for when you’re playing with an ally that generates Dark that they don’t want. 

Level 7 Scoundrel build

Scoundrel single target poison build level 7 deck
Scoundrel single target Poison build level 7

And so, our level 7 build is identical to our level 6 build. 

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Duelist’s Advance
  • Open Wound

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Visage of the Inevitable
  • Venom Shiv
  • Crippling Poison

Level 8 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 8 cards - Pain's End, Stiletto Storm
Scoundrel leveScoundrel level 8 cards – Pain’s End, Stiletto Storm

Pain’s End

Top ability

Healing isn’t our focus at all and to use up one of our Loss slots with a heal isn’t an idea I’m crazy about. We’re all about the damage, ‘bout the damage, no healing. 

Bottom ability

Another instant monster removal ability, but when you look at it more closely, it’s not actually that powerful. It’s effectively a Move 3 which sometimes does up to 3 direct damage. 

Overall Pain’s End card rating

Not great for our build. I don’t want to have a Loss slot taken up by a heal and the bottom instant monster removal isn’t very powerful. I’d rather have a higher Move ability on the bottom and take care of the low-level monster. I’d also like to have an ability on the top that’s more useful. 

Stiletto Storm

Top ability

Even though ranged abilities are not hugely aligned with this build, this one is worth considering. The small damage spread over 4 targets adds up to a decent amount, especially if those targets just happen to be poisoned. 

With Poison that 2 becomes a 5. So it has the potential of doing 20 damage to 4 poisoned monsters! By level 8 you should be rolling some decent modifiers consistently too, so it’ll be worth even more!

Bottom ability

The Move 4 is just ok, the Retaliate is really not useful. We shouldn’t be taking hits anyway. 

There is an enhancement slot on the Retaliate buff though, so if we’re feeling rich we can always apply Strengthen to it to gain Advantage. It’ll cost us 225 gold though! 

Overall Stiletto Storm card rating

The top is the first ranged ability that has caught our attention thanks to Crippling Poison’s bonus to Poisoned monsters. The 80 initiative will help us to go late in a round, and the Move 4 will be useful when we’re unable to use the top ranged ability. 

Level 8 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Stiletto Storm. The multi-target ranged ability can deal some serious damage when you spread it across poisoned monsters. 

What to drop

Let’s look at our low-level cards to see what we can live without. We have plenty of single target high-level abilities now especially when we include position bonuses. 

So it’s between Open Wound and Venom Shiv. They both have a Move 5 on the bottom. Open Wound will give us 4 damage and adds Wound if the target is adjacent to an ally. Venom Shiv is only 3 damage but it applies Poison which we can take advantage of on our next hit against that target and all our allies gain +1 to their damage too. 

Open Wound goes. 

Level 8 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel single target Poison deck level 8
Scoundrel single target Poison deck level 8

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Duelist’s Advance

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Visage of the Inevitable
  • Venom Shiv
  • Crippling Poison

Ranged

  • Stiletto Storm

Level 9 Scoundrel cards

Scoundrel level 9 cards - Long Con, Watch It Burn
Scoundrel level 9 cards – Long Con, Watch It Burn

Long Con

Top ability

Wow! Get all adjacent monsters for 4 damage, then disarm them so they can’t hit us back, on a card with initiative 2! Oh, and it’s repeatable too. Yes, please! 

This ability is amazing. It’s exactly what you want when you get to level 9, a card that makes all the levelling worth it! 

We jump into the fray using one of our Moves with the Jump enhancement, smash everyone around, disarm them, then use a Stamina Potion to get this combo back! 

Bottom ability

The ability on the top of this card is just so incredible that you’ll rarely, if ever, use this bottom ability. It’s a cool idea, but isn’t going to do as much damage as the top ability. 

Overall Long Con card rating

Amazing card for that glorious top ability! 

Watch it Burn

Top ability

If we didn’t have such a low hand limit, the dream would be to have this and Crippling Poison in play for the entire scenario. But we just can’t do that. We won’t last until the end. 

So we need to assess this ability assuming that it stands alone. Poison and Wound to all our hits is pretty cool. It’ll give all our allies and ourselves a +1 to all hits and the monster will take damage at the start of each turn. 

It’ll certainly take monsters down faster but to make the most of it, you’d need to dart around monsters to spread Poison and Wound across them all, rather than focussing on high single-target damage which we’ve built this Scoundrel for. 

Bottom ability

Wounding all adjacent monsters after a move is a nice touch, but it’s not a super impressive ability for our final level. 

Overall Watch it Burn card rating

For a different Scoundrel build focussed on spreading low-level damage and debuffs across all targets, this card would be awesome. For our single target damage build, it’s not great. 

Level 9 Scoundrel build

What to pick up

Long Con! Enjoy! 

What to drop

Flanking Strike has served us well up till now, but it’s time for it to go.

Level 9 Scoundrel deck

Scoundrel single target Poison build level 9
Scoundrel single target Poison build level 9

So here we have the final Level 9 deck. 

Of course, it’s just a guide, you’ll want to swap cards in and out of your hand depending on the scenario ahead of you. If it looks like there are lots of rooms that you need to run through, then take lots of high movement cards. If there are high Shielded monsters, equip more Poison and Wound cards. 

We’re also a little low on low initiative cards so you may want to swap out one or two of the higher initiatives for lower ones if you find the balance isn’t right for you. 

Multi-target

  • Long Con

Single-target

  • Gruesome Advantage
  • Flanking Strike
  • Duelist’s Advance

Monster movement control

  • Sinister Opportunity
  • Smoke Bomb

Poison

  • Visage of the Inevitable
  • Venom Shiv
  • Crippling Poison

Ranged

  • Stiletto Storm

Scoundrel Perks

Gloomhaven Scoundrel Perks
Scoundrel Perks

I always take the negative scenario effects Perk because I really don’t like having any negative cards added to my deck at the start! It’s not the most mathematically beneficial perk to take first though, that would be just focussing on getting your modifiers improved. 

For me, that’s what I’d do second. Starting with removing the -2. That is very irritating to draw on your low abilities and can mean you do nothing on an ability like Quick Hands or against a shielded monster. 

Then I’d get the -1s out and then replace the final -1 with a +2. Then replace two of your 0s with a +2. 

After that, your deck has enough good modifiers in that you want to increase the frequency with which you draw them. So next, remove the four +0 cards. 

Then take the ignore negative scenario effects perk if you haven’t already taken it. And then start improving the deck. Start with the two rolling +1 cards. 

By this point, you’ll not be far off having Crippling Poison at Level 6 if you haven’t already got it. So we want to get those Poison modifiers in there to help us get our bonus Poison damage. 

Then add two Muddle cards. Muddle is always going to be useful no matter what monster you’re up against, unlike the next two perks…

Take add two Pierce 3 cards next. It can help you if you happen to be going after a Shielded monster with that turn. 

And finally, take the add one Invisible card. 

  1. Negative scenario effects
  2. Replace one -2 card with one +0 card
  3. Remove two – 1 cards
  4. Remove two -1 cards
  5. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  6. Replace one +0 card with one +2 card
  7. Replace one +0 card with one +2 card
  8. Remove four +0 cards
  9. Add two rolling +1 cards
  10. Add two rolling +1 cards
  11. Add two Poison cards
  12. Add two Poison cards
  13. Add two Muddle cards
  14. Add two Pierce 3 cards
  15. Add one Invisible card

Scoundrel items

I just look at the starting items here so I don’t reveal any item spoilers!

Scoundrel single target Poison build starting items - Cloak of Invisibility, Poison Dagger, Minor Stamina Potion, Winged Shoes
Scoundrel single target Poison build starting items – Cloak of Invisibility, Poison Dagger, Minor Stamina Potion, Winged Shoes

Cloak of Invisibility

With our trusty cloak, we don’t always need to move out of the way between turns. We can stay there and blend into the shadows instead. 

Minor Stamina Potion

With a hand limit of 9, we need to recover cards more than any other starting class! 

Poison Dagger

It’s a nice way to get another monster with Poison it for our Crippling Poison bonus. We won’t have that bonus until level 6, so there’s no rush for this item, but the dagger is pretty cheap. 

Winged Shoes

These shoes are cheaper than the Jump enhancement on Venom Shiv, so will come in very handy at helping us get where we need to be for our bonuses! 

Scoundrel Enhancements

Like all enhancements, they are cheaper to apply to lower-level cards than higher-level ones. To get the best bang for your buck, you probably want to enhance mostly repeatable abilities. However, there is one exception with the Scoundrel… 

Strengthen on the top of Smoke Bomb

50 gold

After you’ve gone to all the effort of lining up everything for your epic double loss, double damage Smoke Bomb and Backstab/Gruesome Advantage combo the last thing you want is to draw a miss! 

Strengthen on Smoke Bomb will make sure that you always hit!

Jump on the Venom Shiv Move 5

50 gold

You are all about positioning. You don’t want to be stuck behind, or in front of, a wall of monsters that are blocking you from getting your adjacency bonuses. You’ll have Venom Shiv for the whole game so you may as well enhance this high movement. 

+1 damage to Venom Shiv

Having a solid 4 damage with Poison is always going to be useful. It’s not an urgent one as the 3 damage will serve you fine at lower levels, but it will help Venom Shiv keep pace with monsters as you level. 

+1 to the Pull 2 on the bottom of Smoke Bomb

30 gold

Smoke Bomb will be with you until retirement and adding an extra Pull to this will help massively with moving monsters into the right places. It means that as well as pulling a monster to directly in front of you, you can pull them an extra hex to your left or right. It gives you more options. And 30 gold is pretty cheap!

Add Poison to the 3 damage of Sinister Opportunity

It’s a pretty cheap enhancement and adding Poison to the monster can give you and your party the boost you need to finish off a monster.

Scoundrel Experience

In my group, I levelled up really quickly with the Scoundrel, second only to the Brute in the party. It’s because a lot of her experience points are on repeatable abilities as opposed to Loss cards like the other classes. 

Using Smoke Bomb and a maxed-out Backstab or Gruesome Advantage will net you 4 Experience in one turn in pretty much every scenario. 

Then between times, so long as you’re lining up you bonus damage with positioning, the experience will come. 

Scoundrel Combos

There are so many cool Scoundrel combos. Obviously, they change according to what cards you have available but here are some of my favourites. 

Smoke Bomb top followed by Gruesome Advantage

Spend your first turn getting into position and using Smoke Bomb. Then use a low initiative card to go early on your next turn and hit a monster for double damage. You can deal 18 damage – and that’s before you’ve drawn a decent modifier!

Smoke Bomb bottom followed by Visage of the Inevitable top

Get over here! Pull them towards you into the perfect position and finish them off all in one turn without even using a Loss. Classy!

Visage of the Inevitable bottom followed by Long Con top 

This is just so, so powerful, especially if you have Crippling Poison in play. 

Use the Move 2, Poison target all monsters action to get into the middle of everyone and Poison them. Then, use your 4 damage (now boosted to 7 because of Crippling Poison) to hit the monsters and Disarm them!

This has the potential to deal 42 damage in one turn if you jump into the middle and have a monster in all of the 6 hexes surrounding you!

Backstab bottom followed by Quick Hands top

This combo turns the Move 6 from Backstab into a Move 8 by adding the Move 2 from the top of Quick Hands. 

Gruesome Advantage bottom followed by Duelist’s Advance top

At later levels, you can Move 7 from Gruesome Advantage and then Move another 3 from the top of Duelist’s Advance for a Move 10! No one will beat you to that treasure! 

Scoundrel Names

This Scoundrel build is fast and poisonous. She hits single targets hard and manipulates their locations for higher damage. I’ve played with these character traits for the name ideas!

  • Cipher Blackfall
  • Whisper Lightfoot
  • Flint Hawk
  • Onyx Silentfall
  • Toxic Bolt
  • Swift Blade
  • Raven Strike 
  • Viper Quickmoon
  • Nic Lotus
  • Silent Thunder

Conclusion – Scoundrel Guide 

I hope you have a lot of fun with this Scoundrel build! Dashing in and out is a fun way to play. When you add the hard-hitting abilities and the Poison damage, it makes it a really cool build! 

If you love Gloomhaven as much as I do, you might want to check out this 3D scenery set on Amazon designed especially to hold the Gloomhaven tokens.

For other upgrade ideas, check out my 15 Awesome Gloomhaven Accessories & Upgrades article

I’ve created guides for all the Gloomhaven starting characters. If you enjoyed this Scoundrel guide, check out – ranged build guide for the Cragheart, tank build Brute guide, Tinkerer crowd control build guide, Spellweaver AoE guide and my Mindthief stunning damage guide.

I’ve also created a guide for the locked Sun class.

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Emily Sargeantson
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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