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Gloomhaven Circles Guide – Build & Strategy – Locked Class

The Summoner (symbol name Concentric Circles, or just Circles) is a summoning class from the Gloomhaven unlockable characters. She can summon and command allies to take down monsters. This Goomhaven Summoner guide focuses on building and playing as a ranged damage Summoner who picks off monsters one by one! 

Summoner Ranged Damage Guide Structure

This article looks at playing a Summoner that focuses on dealing ranged damage and using ranged summons to increase her damage per turn. All the damage across all her summons and own abilities add up to some fantastic damage on a typical turn!

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

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This Summoner guide follows this structure:

  • Why a Summoner Ranged Damage build?
  • Summoner Ranged Damage strategy
  • Level 1-9 cards and decks
  • Summoner Perks
  • Summoner Items
  • Summoner Enhancements
  • Summoner Experience
  • Summoner Combos
  • Summoner Names
  • Conclusion
Summoner class miniature and character board
Summoner class miniature and character board

Why a Summoner Ranged Damage build?

There are several different ways you can play the Summoner class, which is great because whatever your party composition and playstyle, you can find a build you enjoy!

I’d suggest choosing one of these roles as your primary builds type so that you can choose abilities that work towards that aim. With a 9 card hand limit and multiple summons to control, trying to fulfil more than one role is just an extra complication that you don’t need!

Tank

Using your tough summons, commands and healing abilities you can play a half-decent tank. You need to play close to the front lines to be adjacent to your summons for commands because when engaged in melee and tanking, positioning is very important. You’ll need some good movement abilities yourself to keep out of harms way, and equally to move up and take the occasional hit yourself.

Support

The heals, debuffs and stat boosts available to the Summoner makes a support build an interesting option. I say this build is only really valid in a 4 player group when the damage and tanking roles are already taken care of and you have an additional damage dealer to get those monsters off the board quickly.

Ranged damage

This is the build that I played and the one that this Summoner guide focuses on. I played my Summoner in a 4 player Gloomhaven group that already had a tank, a melee damage dealer and a crowd controller.

With this build, I prioritized ranged summons and ranged damage abilities with the occasional melee summon along for the ride. I spent most of my time away from the front lines as did my summons. It meant that I could keep them alive and contributing for longer each scenario and it was easier to get adjacent to them to issue commands.

For this build, your ideal partner is a tank. With their high initiative and melee range, they can keep the attention of the monsters away from your summons leaving them free to deal more damage!

Failing that, any melee class with fast initiative will help this Summoner build work.

Summoner Strategy for Ranged Damage

With summons you’re yelling, ‘Yes!’ just as often as you’re screaming, “No, no, NO!” And that’s because they work on the Gloomhaven monster AI system.

They will walk into traps, charge at monsters with high shields, block the way for allies, not walk towards closed doors even when there’s nothing else to do etc.

On the flip side, summons can be incredible at dishing out additional damage each turn, being meat shields for your party, and making the most of abilities that apply to all summoned allies.

Hopefully, these strategy tips help you to get the most out of playing a Summoner!

Long rests and card recovery

With our 9 card hand limit, we want to make the best use of our “Recover up to four of your lost cards” ability on the bottom of Unending Dominance.

To do this, use long rests until after you’ve used Unending Dominance, otherwise you might select it as your random card choice!

If you need to short rest and randomly pull Unending Dominance, then take the 1 damage to change it and lose a different card instead.

One great thing as the summoner is that your summons will still deal damage while you’re long resting AND your initiative will be really high when you rest making your summons less attractive to monsters! Hurrah!

Summons benefit from your modifier deck

As your modifier deck gets better, so do your summons!

Thankfully, the Summoner can get rid of all negatives modifiers, just leaving the null! Because of this, even low damage value abilities can actually make a decent impact and your damage output is generally predictable.

Adjacency to summons

One of the tricky things about the Summoner is that the commands which allow you to control your summons often require you to be adjacent to them.

With ranged summons, that’s not such a problem because you’re hanging out with them at the back. With melee summons, you’ll need to shifty up to them to use adjacent commands.

So that I could spend fewer actions moving up to summons and more on dealing damage, I only brought one melee summon along with me at each level and that’s what you’ll see in this guide.

Summon late, go early

When you bring a new summon to the fray, they can’t take an action until the next turn. So the last thing you want is for them to be whacked before they even deal any damage!

To get around this, on the round you want to summon an ally, go late after the monsters have already hit things. Then your summon will be safe!

On the next turn, go early so your summons can get a hit in before the monsters and your allies take their turn. This is especially helpful for ranged summons that apply status effects like Poison. Then your allies benefit from a +1 to their damage on every hit!

Use the monster AI to your advantage

Keep in mind how the monster AI works as you plan your turns. As a quick refresher:

  • Monsters will target the nearest player or summon first.
  • If there are multiple targets at an equal distance they will go for the player or summon that went earliest in the initiative order. Your summons act before you, so in an equal distance situation, they will always go for your summon before you.

Of course, monster command abilities are the most useful here for repositioning your summons away from monster hits!

Losing summons can help you win

It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes you may want to dismiss and lose an active summon so that you can get it back with Unending Dominance and redeploy it.

This could be for multiple reasons. For example, your Thorn Shooter could have fallen behind or your low initiative wolves could be blocking a doorway and preventing everyone else from moving through on that turn.

Take some hits for your summons

Sometimes, it’s worth taking hits for your summons to keep them alive to do more damage. You have more health than they do, especially as you level.

See summons as loss abilities

Your summons are your babies! Of course, you want to protect them. But unfortunately, your summons will die. You just want to make sure they contribute enough to make their life worthwhile.

To do that, see each summon as the Loss ability they are. With this damage focussed build, you want to make sure they do enough damage to warrant the loss.

Take the Shadow Wolves at level 1 for example, if they can both get in a hit each before a monster smashes them off the board, then that’s like playing a 4 damage ability. Not great value for a Loss. But if they each get two hits in, that’s an 8 damage ability. That’s not too bad for a loss ability at level 1.

Of all the things I had to learn playing a Summoner, seeing my summons as loss ability numbers instead of my babies was the hardest thing!

Summoner Ranged Damage Build card analysis

I looked for cards that offered:

  • Low initiative to allow summons to go early
  • Late initiative to summon safely
  • Ranged summons
  • Summon control
  • Ranged damage

At each level I also wanted a good balance between summons and reusable abilities in my hand.

Summoner cards

There are 30 cards in the Summoner deck from level 1-9. They have a good spread of cards allowing you to focus on whichever build you’d like from damage to tank to support.

Level 1 Summoner cards

With a 9 card hand limit and 9 level 1 cards, we can just pick them up and run through a scenario or two with them to see how the class works. How do the level 1 cards align with the ranged damage summoner build?

Biting Wind

Summoner card Biting Wind
Level 1 Summoner card Biting Wind

Top ability

Look at that. A ranged ability! Ideal.

Add a little Wind and you also add a +1 and can Push some monsters into traps. That’s pretty sweet. It’s also at that lovely 3 range sweet spot that we want. Enough distance between us and the monsters that they get distracted by our allies instead of coming after us!

Bottom ability

For when your summons or allies get hit in the face you can heal them! Prolonging the life of your summons is something you’ll want to do of course. The longer they live, the more damage they can do!

It’s nice that this heal is on the bottom of the card so that you can use the top ability to hit things or summon friends.

Overall Biting Wind card rating

That 25 initiative is the second fastest we have access to at level 1 which makes Biting Wound an even more valuable card. You can go early with your summons when you need to or hand out that heal quickly when allies or summons are in desperate need!

Black Fire

Level 1 Summoner card Black Fire
Level 1 Summoner card Black Fire

Top ability

1 damage across two targets is less useful than the 2 damage being focused on one monster, especially as they start getting Shields. The Wound can help bring more pain to each target, though.

To get Wound we need Fire. At level 1, we can get Fire using Volatile Flame on the turn before. It’s doable, but a bit restrictive to get the most from this ability.

At least it has a generous range 5 which plays to the strengths of Wound as a status effect because it ticks down the monsters before they even get close.

Bottom ability

Move 3 is always useful. The Muddle less so because we’re not usually going to be adjacent to monsters.

Overall Black Fire card rating

Black Fire is our fastest initiative card at level 1! And it’s that initiative that takes this card from being a bit below average to something we’ll use regularly.

Bonded Might

Level 1 Summoner card Bonded Might
Level 1 Summoner card Bonded Might

Top ability

One of only two summon command abilities we have access to at level 1. It’s a shame we don’t get any +1s to our summon’s base stats but controlling it ourselves usually makes it far more effective anyway.

The command action scales quite nicely, though. As our modifier deck improves, so does the damage we flip when using it.

We just need to make sure we’re adjacent to our summon to use this.

Bottom ability

Loot 1! Nice if you can get it. But if you’re like me, you’ll end up using the command ability over the Loot most of the time. Unless you aren’t adjacent to a summon and there happens to be some Loot around!

Overall Bonded Might card rating

A middling 61 initiative means that to make the most use of the command action you’ll need to pair this with an early or late initiative card. The command action at the top makes this card essential really.

Forged Ferocity

Level 1 Summoner card Forged Ferocity
Level 1 Summoner card Forged Ferocity

Top ability

Retaliate, Shield, low 1 damage and 5 health – meet Iron Beast, a level 1 tanking summon.

It’s pretty good at early levels. Of course, as monsters get tougher it becomes less effective. For this build, it’s not a perfect fit because it’s not ranged nor a damage dealer. But at level 1, it’s not a bad choice.

Bottom ability

Like the top ability, this Shield 1 is more helpful at lower levels when we’re using melee summons more to make up for the lack of ranged abilities and summons. The Shield 1 is also good at lower levels, but doesn’t protect your summons from the heavy hits from higher-level monsters.

What makes this ability a bit more interesting is that the Shield is applied to self and summons. That makes it the perfect candidate for a Bless or Strengthen enhancement!

The Earth generation isn’t used by any damage-dealing abilities in our deck, so it’s not really needed for this build.

Overall Forged Ferocity card rating

The 96 initiative is great for the summon, but bad for the Shield ability. We want that Shield on as early in the round as possible to make the most of it!

Overall, the card is an ok option at early levels, but not so much at higher ones.

Living Night

Level 1 Summoner card Living Night
Level 1 Summoner card Living Night

Top ability

Grr! Grr! How cool is this summon? Not one, but two shadow wolves!

It’s great value for a level 1 ability! We get two summons doing 2 damage each and they’ll consistently deal direct damage too because they have Pierce. When I played them, I usually did 6 damage with one wolf getting in two hits and the other getting in one before they were knocked out.

But they also drew the monster attention during that time keeping those hits away from allies. Good doggos.

With that little enhancement dot on the damage value, we can cheaply get the wolf damage up to 3 per hit.

Bottom ability

What a lovely ability for those tanking and melee summons! It’s surprising how much Disadvantage can reduce the damage your summons take especially if the monster deck is littered with Curses.

When we’re using ranged summons though, it becomes less effective because they’re out of monster range. So this ability becaomes less and less appealing as we level.

It’s a good option to have on a turn when you don’t need to move, though.

Overall Living Night card rating

The wolves are fantastic value and a really effective melee summon at early levels. I tended to summon the wolves rather than use the bottom of this card, even though it can be good. It comes down to the focus for this build being on damage, not tanking or support.

The 82 initiative is quite late and is usually enough to keep your doggos safe on the turn they are summoned.

Mighty Bond

Level 1 Summoner card Mighty Bond
Level 1 Summoner card Mighty Bond

Top ability

Our other command card at level 1 is identical to the top of Bonded Might. Again, we need to be adjacent to our summon to use it so in the most practical sense we’ll use it for our ranged summons so we aren’t getting close to the front lines. That’s not such a bad thing because an extra turn for Thorn Shooter gets us Poison on another monster!

The other common use is when a room is empty and we’re using it to tell our summons to move towards the closed door!

Bottom ability

Very nice! A Move 4 with Jump. Awesome! We need to move regularly to make sure we’re adjacent to our summons to command them.

Now we can avoid any untriggered traps, obstacles and monsters that happen to get in the way when we need to get next to our summons.

Overall Mighty Bond card rating

Essential card for getting your summons an extra turn to deal more damage and to stop them from doing stupid things. The Move and Jump is also great for when moving is the more sensible action.

51 initiative is ok. We can’t use it to plan for the position of our monsters and allies, so we need to pair it with another card if we want more certainty in our turn. But on the upside, if your allies act before you do, they will draw the attention of the monsters and keep them away from you and your summons!

Unending Dominance

Level 1 Summoner card Unending Dominance
Level 1 Summoner card Unending Dominance

Top ability

What an awesome summon! At level 1 too!

 

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7 HP, 2 Move, 3 damage with Wound, generate Fire, Retaliate and Range 2! Oh and 6 Experience. 6! From one ability. That’s a lot going on!

But will we ever use it?

Bottom ability

This ability, while way less flashy than the top ability is absolutely essential to playing a Summoner. With a hand limit of only 9 cards, and our best abilities and summons being losses, we need to keep this handy for getting cards back so we can last an entire scenario! We can use it to redeploy our summons more than once per scenario.

It’s so important that we should only take long rests so we don’t accidentally discard it!

Overall Unending Dominance card rating

Unending Dominance is a key card for us! The worst thing about it is that it’s a double loss and we need it for the bottom ability. So we can only use it as standard actions until we use it. That will mostly be the Move 2.

On the plus side, when we play it for the standard actions we benefit from the 98 initiative which guarantees we can go after the monsters. Super helpful if we’re getting a new vulnerable summon onto the board.

Unwavering Hand

Level 1 Summoner card Unwavering Hand
Level 1 Summoner card Unwavering Hand

Top ability

Whoop! A ranged heal! Just what we need to keep our summons and our tanking allies alive!

Unlike Biting Wound, this heal is on the top of a card which is usually where we want our damage dealers to be. So it makes this heal a bit less useful to us. However, it’s still effective at low levels when monsters hit weaker.

The 1 experience point is nice too.

Bottom ability

There are few situations where a Move 1 will have the impact that you need it to. Sometimes it can help you to move a monster out of the way, towards a trap, or into the path of a tanking ally, but you’ll more often find that you wish this was a Move 2.

Overall Unwavering Hand card rating

Unwavering Hand is our 4th fastest initiative card at level 1 which makes it extra appealing. The heal is more helpful than the monster controlling movement.

Wild Animation

Level 1 Summoner card Wild Animation
Level 1 Summoner card Wild Animation

Top ability

At last! Our little Poison sprayer. This summon is your faithful friend that’ll be with you till the end!

For every monster it Poisons, you, your summons and your allies all get a +1 to damage for every hit. Over a scenario, that’s a lot of extra damage! Ideally, it would target a different monster each turn, but it won’t. Even if it does target the same monster twice, you’ll still get the 2 damage and benefit from the +1 damage from the Poison it already applied! So it’s not all bad.

The range 4 means you can keep it alongside you at the back and it can find something to hit without moving into harm’s way. That’s both a benefit and a drawback for this little friend.

With a Move of 1, it will fall behind the group as you move ahead and go from room to room. If it falls a really long way behind, then scooping it up with Unending Dominance is a good choice. Then you can play it again!

Bottom ability

A reusable Move 5 with Wind at level 1 is pretty incredible. The Wind we can use to boost our ranged damage and get Push on the top of Biting Wind, so it’s definitely useful.

Overall Wild Animation card rating

Our only ranged summon at level 1 and a great reusable high Move on the bottom, what’s not to love? Even the 92 initiative is great for going late on the turn you want to summon your Thorn Shooter.

Level X Summoner cards

At level 1, we can also choose from the level X cards. Let’s see how well they align with the ranged Summoner build.

Summoner level X cards - Ethereal Vines, Leathery Wings, and Volatile Flame
Summoner level X cards – Ethereal Vines, Leathery Wings, and Volatile Flame

Ethereal Vines

Top ability

Anytime I see a bunch of hexes on a ranged ability, it’s exciting! But how does this one fare?

Well, it’s kind of average. The damage is low, so we look for a status effect that increases the damage.

We get Immobilize. That’s not going to increase our damage, and it’s not even great at preventing damage! It’s of no use against ranged monsters, and with a range of 3 and set hex pattern, it’s not even that helpful at keeping melee monsters at bay for another turn.

It does tick a couple of boxes though, it’s ranged and it’s damage dealing.

Bottom ability

This isn’t a great fit for us. The ranged summons we’re adjacent to are well out of monster range and won’t need the heal. For any melee summons we have, 1 heal isn’t going to do much.

Overall Ethereal Vines card rating

The top is better than the bottom. At least it’s a ranged damage ability, even though it’s not a great one. The 30 initiative is our third fastest card which does nudge the overall rating up because we can usually go after a tanking ally and before most monsters with this number.

Leathery Wings

Top ability

2 damage, 2 move, 4 hit points, melee summon. Is this worth a loss? It’ll last for 2 hits if you’re lucky and will do 4 damage in that time if the timing is right. So no, not really.

As summons go, it’s the worst we have at level 1.

Bottom ability

You need to be adjacent to an ally to get this bonus. So for us, this is only going to apply to our Thorn Shooter when they are adjacent to us. We have much better bottom actions for turns when we don’t need to move.

Overall Leathery Wings card rating

Not a great card. We have better summons and better bottom actions on other cards.

Volatile Flame

Top ability

Here’s a summon that makes us happy when it goes! That’s because it’s easier for us to see it less as a summon and more as the AoE loss that it is.

It’s a bit less effective than a standard AoE ability because we can’t control where it ends up. Especially because we need to summon it adjacent to us so it’s got some way to travel before it can hit. And then we have to wait until monster hits it! Even so, when it does blow up, 3 damage to all monsters within range 2 is amazing!

From a damage done perspective, even if we only get 3 monsters that’s a 9 damage ability plus a bonus 2 damage if it manages to get a hit in before blowing up. Not bad!

The Fire it generates we can use to add Wound to the top of Black Fire.

Bottom ability

Ah ha! Another ranged-damage ability! It’s only low damage, but we can deal it from a safe range and it’s another way for us to get Fire for the Black Fire Wound boost.

It’s also in the bottom slot and it’s nice to have a damaged dealing ability here for turns when we don’t want to move.

Overall Volatile Flame card rating

I really like this card! The living fireball is fun and the bottom reusable is a solid bottom damage option. The 94 initiative also means we can summon the fireball late if it makes sense to.

Level 1 Summoner build

As a refresher, in this build I looked for cards that offered:

  • Low initiative to allow summons to go early
  • Late initiative to summon safely
  • Ranged summons
  • Summon control
  • Ranged damage

We get some of what we want, be we also have to take some filler options.

Level 1 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner level 1 build cards
Gloomhaven Summoner level 1 build cards
  • Biting Wound
  • Black Fire
  • Bonded Might
  • Ethereal Vines
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 2 Summoner cards

Level 2 Summoner cards - Earthen Steed and Grasping the Void
Level 2 Summoner cards – Earthen Steed and Grasping the Void

Earthen Steed

Top ability

Wow, this is a pricey loss! Yes, it is persistent, but so are our summons and they do a lot more for us than this ability does. We can’t clutter our hand up with too many Losses.

Bottom ability

Move fast, jump high! This is an excellent move. Especially because we’re usually playing behind our allies, so big moves help us to catch up.

Overall Earthen Steed card rating

The top ability isn’t aligned with what we’re looking for with this damage build, the bottom is much more useful, but what really makes this card important is the 13 initiative. It’s the fastest initiative we have access to in our entire deck!

It means we can go early with our summons and they can deal some damage before the monsters do anything. So indirectly, it does contribute to us dealing more damage in a scenario and making the most of our summons.

Grasping the Void

Top ability

A ranged damage dealer with Curse and a bonus Stun if we can get it. This is actually pretty cool for us.

The damage is low though and the Stun we can only get by consuming Dark. Our only Dark creator is the bottom of Living Night, but we’ll generally be summoning the wolves instead of using the bottom of that card.

Bottom ability

Another ranged-damage dealer! We’re being spoiled with this card! The same damage as the top ability and we can heal ourselves too.

But it is unlikely we’ll need to heal ourselves – our summons and team mates are more likely to need healing than we are.

Overall Grasping the Void card rating

An average card with two reusable abilities and a below average initiative. It’s not a bad fit for our build, it’s just a bit underpowered with damage values.

Level 2 Summoner build

What to pick up

If it weren’t for the 13 initiative on Earthen Steed, then Grasping the Void would be a decent choice. However, 13 initiative is going to be just as good at level 9 as it is now – 2 damage ranged abilities will not.

I picked up Earthen Steed.

What to drop

Ethereal Vines. The Move 5 and Jump is much better than the Move 2, heal 1 adjacent summons on the bottom, and we get a much faster initiative.

Level 2 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner level 2 build cards
Gloomhaven Summoner level 2 build cards
  • Biting Wound
  • Black Fire
  • Bonded Might
  • Earthen Steed
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 3 Summoner cards

Level 3 Summoner cards - Oozing Manifestation and Tear the Fabric
Level 3 Summoner cards – Oozing Manifestation and Tear the Fabric

Oozing Manifestation

Top ability

An interesting tanking summon option. Its health is low, but its Shield 2 is amazing at blocking hits! Now we can have a high-shielded ally and annoy the monsters as much as they annoy us with their high-shielded goons!

The Slime Spirit is a fantastic meat shield at this level. But when the monsters start hitting harder, it’s not as good.

Bottom ability

Nice! A ranged-damage dealer with Immobilize and an optional Curse option. We’d need Dark to boost it though which we can only get from the bottom of Living Night which we don’t use very often.

Overall Oozing Manifestation card rating

A good tanking summon option and a reusable bottom ranged ability, solid card. The 86 initiative is decently high for when we’re bringing a summon in.

Tear the Fabric

Top ability

If we were ever near any monsters this could be an interesting loss. However, even then, they’d need to be low health. We can do more reliable and consistent damage with a ranged ability or a summon.

Bottom ability

More self healing! Could be good for an interesting tank build that uses the tanky summons and needs to be adjacent to them on the front lines, but for our ranged build it’s not very useful. We’re out of the way most of the time. We don’t have any source of Earth to boost it either.

Overall Tear the Fabric rating

Not a good fit for this build, but would be good for a Summoner that plays along the front lines.

Level 3 Summoner build

What to pick up

Oozing Manifestations is the clear winner of the two level 3 cards for this build. However, the Slime Spirit brings us yet another top loss action plus, it’s more aligned with a tanking and support build. We do get a decent ranged damage dealer in the bottom slot for when we don’t want to move, which is something we’ve been lacking.

Grasping the Void from Level 2 is actually not a bad choice to take over Oozing Manifestation at level 3. We get versatility in using the top or bottom ability to deal ranged damage.

It’s up to you what you pick up. I went for Grasping the Void.

What to drop

The candidates at this level were Biting Wind and Black Fire. Biting Wind’s lower heal isn’t a huge help for us because it rarely does enough to save the wolves for another turn because monsters can hit for 3 now anyway. The top does occasionally benefit from the Wind bonus, but not often because we usually have the Thorn Shooter with us.

Black Fire gets the Wound bonus from our delayed AoE fireball reasonably often. Plus, it has the lower Move 3 which is useful.

I dropped Biting Wind.

Level 3 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner level 3 build cards
Gloomhaven Summoner level 3 build cards
  • Grasping the Void
  • Black Fire
  • Bonded Might
  • Earthen Steed
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 4 Summoner cards

Level 4 Summoner cards - Divided Mind and Living Mountain
Level 4 Summoner cards – Divided Mind and Living Mountain

Divided Mind

Top ability

This is very nice! Now we don’t need to be adjacent to two of our summons to move them. Perfect for when we’re finished in a room and want to move our summons towards the door we haven’t opened yet! We don’t need to waste movement shuffling up to each summon first to command it to move. Result!

We also get an easy experience point every time we use this ability!

Bottom ability

We can command our summons to hit things even when we’re not next to them! Controlling our Summons can be like herding cats so this ability is very welcome!

It’s amazing that not one, but two summons get to do damage with this ability. If we use our Thorn Shooter and a Shadow Wolf, that’s a 4 damage Reusable ability on top of whatever damage we’ve done with our top ability on the other card. Pretty sweet!

We also get an experience point for doing what we do best!

Overall Divided Mind card rating

Divided Mind is one of the key cards for a summoning based build. Through controlling two summons at the same time, we are much better able to plan our next turn with positioning or to focus damage on a single target.

The 55 initiative will be fine if you’re using the move ability in an empty room, For the damage ability you probably want to pair this with a faster card.

Living Mountain

Top ability

The Rock Colossus is just like our Lava Golem from level 1 apart from: it has a slower movement, generates Earth instead of Fire, has no Retaliate or Wound and gives us 4 fewer experience points! How is it better at level 4? Well, it can be recovered when lost unlike the Lava Golem, otherwise it’s worse!

If you’re playing a tanking summoner then having a recoverable high-health summon is helpful. For our damage build though it’s not a good fit.

Bottom ability

The ideal loot ability combo. A Move to get close to the gold followed by a loot action to pick it up! As a ranged summoner, we could really use a loot ability like this, because a lot of the gold is dropped away from us!

Overall Living Mountain card rating

The 88 initiative is what we’d expect on a card with a summon on it and it’s not such a bad thing, it keeps them out of harms way when we bring them in. The tanking summon isn’t a great match for us but the Move 2, Loot 1 would be really useful.

Level 4 Summoner build

What to pick up

Divided Mind. It’s a much better fit for our ranged damage build.

What to drop

At level 4, the 1 damage on Black Fire isn’t doing much. We will occasionally miss the Move 3 on the bottom, but we can always use the standard Move 2 action on the bottom half of another card on those occasions.

Level 4 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 4 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 4 cards
  • Grasping the Void
  • Divided Mind
  • Bonded Might
  • Earthen Steed
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 5 Summoner cards

Level 5 Summoner cards - Conjured Aid and Strength in Numbers
Level 5 Summoner cards – Conjured Aid and Strength in Numbers

Conjured Aid

Top ability

Our first ranged summon option since level 1! But is it any good for our build?

It moves 2 so it can keep up, it heals for 2 at the end of each turn and has a decent range. But it only does 1 damage. And it’s only got 2 hit points so if it gets hit, bye-bye Sprite!

Although it’s ranged, this summon is support focused. And even then, it’s not very good at healing. It will heal whoever is closest to it – whether they need healing or not! The 1 damage hardly makes a difference and will likely be blocked by shields at level 5 anyway. It’s just not great for this build.

Bottom ability

It’s funny, this Move 5 would look amazing to another class. However, we already have 2 Move 5s, one which has Jump, plus another 4 Move with Jump, so it’s less impressive to us.

Overall Conjured Aid card rating

An interesting option for a support Summoner, or even a tanking Summoner because the Sprite might help to look after the tanks. But for us, it’s not a great fit.

Strength in Numbers

Top ability

Finally! An upgrade to the top of Mighty Bond or Bonded Might. Those +1s work nicely with the improved modifier deck we have at level 5! The summon still has to be adjacent for us to command it, which means we most often use this on our Thorn Shooter to deal Poison to another target! Nice!

As well as targetting one monster with the command, we can also position the Thorn Shooter so that the AI will cause it to target a different monster on its next turn. It’s the ability that keeps on giving!

Bottom ability

We’ll generally have at most 3 summons out at any one time, 2 wolves and our Thorn Shooter, so that X value isn’t going to get much higher than 3 most of the time.

If you’re playing with another class that uses summons, this ability could be incredible!

Overall Strength in Numbers card rating

The top command is a great upgrade! You’ll very rarely use the bottom ability. If you’re using the bottom of this card, you’re most likely going to use it for the standard Move 2 action. The 45 initiative isn’t great, but at least it’s below 50!

Level 5 Summoner build

What to pick up

Strength in Numbers.

What to drop

Bonded Might. We’ve got an upgrade to the top ability, and a bottom damage ability for versatility.

Level 5 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 5 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 5 cards
  • Grasping the Void
  • Divided Mind
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Earthen Steed
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 6 Summoner cards

Level 6 Summoner cards - Endless Spikes and Inexorable Momentum
Level 6 Summoner cards – Endless Spikes and Inexorable Momentum

Endless Spikes

Top ability

We are hanging out at the back of the room with our summons doing their thing and we conjure 3 nail spikes out of the ground in positions adjacent to us. Do you think monsters will be walking over these spikes any time soon? Me neither!

And therein lies the biggest problem with them! As a ranged damage-dealer we are at the back, out of the way and keeping monsters as far away from us as we can!

Even if a monster does walk over one of these, they’ll need to take a hit to deal 2 Retaliate damage anyway. At level 6, 2 damage doesn’t get us very far.

Bottom ability

Given that our summons can’t survive more than one hit at level 6, Retaliate doesn’t help them!

Having said that, if you’re playing a tanking style Summoner with the Lava Golem and Rock Colossus, I can see this ability being really helpful.

Overall Endless Spikes card rating

Not a good fit for our build, but great for a tanking style summoner.

Inexorable Momentum

Top ability

At last! We have a potentially high-damage single-target ability that we can use ourselves! We can even boost it with the Wind from Wild Animation before we summon the Thorn Shooter.

That Pierce 3 is going right though those Shields too!

Bottom ability

This move is perfect for us! We can move up to a summon that we want to reposition and then issue the command to move them somewhere useful all in the same action. It’s wonderful!

This ability is super helpful for pushing your Thorn Shooter along. A Move 3 is like a sprint for it!

Overall Inexorable Momentum card rating

Fantastic card! We even get a 32 initiative which is much-needed!

Level 6 Summoner build

What to pick up

Inexorable Momentum.

What to drop

We are bringing in a ranged damage ability, so ideally that’s what we want to swap out. In this case, that means we swap out Grasping the Void. The top ranged ability is higher powered and more damage focused, and the bottom is more helpful for managing our summons.

Level 6 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 6 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 6 cards
  • Inexorable Momentum
  • Divided Mind
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Earthen Steed
  • Living Night
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 7 Summoner cards

Level 7 Summoner cards - Negative Energy and Staff of Visions
Level 7 Summoner cards – Negative Energy and Staff of Visions

Negative Energy

Top ability

Whoop whoop! The Curse Sprinkler! Here’s the ranged summon we’ve been waiting for!

With a movement of 3 it has no difficulty keeping up with us, the 5 hit points mean it can take a hit and the 2 damage is low, but reliable. It’s the Curses that make it amazing! Monsters will be flipping Curses so often that your range-damage focused Summoner is also pretty good at negating damage to allies too!

The only little niggle is the range 2, but we can always enhance it if we’re feeling wealthy!

With your Void Eater and your Thorn Shooter out, you’re doing 4 damage every turn on autopilot. That’s before your own damage or any commands you use! Divided Mind on those two summons gets you another 4 damage and Strength in Numbers gets you another 3 damage. That’s 11 damage, Poison across two monsters and 3 Curses in the monster deck in one turn!

Bottom ability

You’ll very rarely use this bottom ability because your Void Eater will be in play for most of the scenario. Plus, you rarely have monsters adjacent to your summons!

Overall Negative Energy card rating

This card is what makes playing the ranged damage summoner was worthwhile! The 95 initiative is great at keeping it safe too.

Staff of Visions

Top ability

Eek! A melee ability! This is the opposite of what we want! Even if it is 5 damage with Muddle, plus a bonus +1 and Wound from Volatile Flame’s Fire!

I imagine if you’ve been playing as a Summoner near the front lines, that by level 7 you’d be really excited about finally getting a melee ability!

Bottom ability

This bottom ability also plays really well with a frontlines Summoner. You can move up just behind your melee allies and give them Advantage.

Overall Staff of Visions card rating

Look at that 27 initiative! That would be amazing to have in our hand! But the abilities, less so!

Level 7 Summoner build

What to pick up

Negative Energy. Enjoy the Void Eater!

What to drop

Living Night. The wolves can’t survive more than 1 hit at level 7, plus we have our ranged Pierce ability on Inexorable Momentum to help us with high Shield monsters.

Level 7 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 7 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 7 cards
  • Inexorable Momentum
  • Divided Mind
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Earthen Steed
  • Negative Energy
  • Mighty Bond
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 8 Summoner cards

Level 8 Summoner cards - Intervening Apparitions and Otherworldly Rage
Level 8 Summoner cards – Intervening Apparitions and Otherworldly Rage

Intervening Apparitions

Top ability

Now that we don’t have any melee summons (other than our fireball, which we actually want to get hit!) this ability is pretty useless!

Even if we did have it at earlier levels, we’re already carrying plenty of Loss abilities as summons so we can’t really handle another one without being exhausted.

I guess if you’re using the Lava Golem and Rock Colossus, then this would help them to tank for another 3 hits which is ok I guess.

Bottom ability

In scenarios with Cursing monsters, Summoners with several melee summons can get more than their fair share of Curses in their modifier deck.

However, because our summons are out of the way and are not the main targets, then it’s our allies who get the Curses, not us. So this ability is less essential for our Summoner build than it would be for a melee build.

Overall Intervening Apparitions card rating

Not a good match for our build. That 68 initiative sucks too. If you did want to use this card for the top ability, you’d have to pair it with a much faster card to make that ability worthwhile on that turn.

Otherworldly Rage

Top ability

Ooh, yes! This one please! When we use this on our Void Eater, we get a 4 damage ability which also deals Wound, Poison and Curse! Fabulous!

We’ll take the 1 experience point too, thanks!

Bottom ability

This ability is quite fun on the rare occasions you use it. It’s a nifty trick to swap places with a summon and then use the Move 3 to catch back up with your group!

Though, to be honest, you’ll mostly use the top ability on this card!

Overall Otherworldly Rage card rating

Pretty good 35 initiative, powerful top command and a funky summon move option. This card is ace!

Level 8 Summoner build

What to pick up

Otherworldy Rage. We just can’t pass up that top ability!

What to drop

Mighty Bond. We can now command a summon from Range 3 instead of needing to be adjacent to it, plus we get a Move 3 that also allows us to reposition a summon in the process. Oh, and we get a better initiative too!

Level 8 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 8 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 8 cards
  • Inexorable Momentum
  • Divided Mind
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Earthen Steed
  • Negative Energy
  • Otherworldy Rage
  • Unending Dominance
  • Volatile Flame
  • Wild Animation

Level 9 Summoner cards

Level 9 Summoner cards - Horned Majesty and Interplanar Mastery
Level 9 Summoner cards – Horned Majesty and Interplanar Mastery

Horned Majesty

Top ability

A Unicorn! Yes. A Unicorn! Wow. Can we just get it for the cool points and move on?

Ok, let’s tear our eyes away from it’s beautiful flowing mane for a moment and break it down.

It’s super fast with a Move 4, it hits for 4 with 3 Pierce but it only has 6 hit points which means it usually goes out in one or two hits, and it’s melee. If we can get it to do a couple of hits before it goes out, we’ve got an 8 damage, two-hit absorbing loss ability that we can bring back for another rodeo. That’s pretty cool!

Bottom ability

Very nice! A bottom summon command that deals damage with no cap on the number of summons it applies to! The best time to use it is of course when you’ve got the Void Eater, Thorn Shooter and fireball out. But if there are other summons on the board from allies or elsewhere, then this +0 can get to 4, 5 or 6 reasonably easily.

But let’s not forget the status effects that our Thorn Shooter and Void Eater apply! We can choose to focus all that damage on one monster, or scatter it across a few to get those status effects working!

Overall Horned Majesty card rating

A fun unicorn summon that’s just calling out for a special miniature to represent it and a great damage command as the bottom action! The 80 initiative is a little bit low to protect our unicorn but thanks to the 4 Move we can summon it behind us and it can run in on the next turn.

Interplanar Mastery

Top ability

Want to bring back a couple of summons for the third time? Now you can! You will lose this card in the process though, so you’ll be up one Loss card in terms of stamina.

It’s more useful for a melee summon build because those summons don’t stick around as long. Our ranged summon friends aren’t so flaky so it makes this ability look less appealing.

Bottom ability

Move 6 with Jump covers a huge distance! Very nice.

Overall Interplanar Mastery card rating

22 initiative is fast! That can help us to get more damage out of our summons before the monsters have chance to blink. With a top Loss ability like this that we need to carry around with us until we’re ready to use it, we need a good reusable bottom ability. We have one in the Move 6 with Jump.

Level 9 Summoner build

What to pick up

I think Horned Majesty fits better with the ranged damage build so that’s what I went for. I can understand you taking Interplanar Mastery though.

What to drop

Volatile Flame. It’s served us well as a blast damage AoE until now, but the Pierce 3 on our Unicorn combined with the 4 damage helps us get through Shielded monsters like the fireball can’t.

Plus, the bottom of Horned Majesty usually gives us at least a +2 damage ability and we won’t miss the Fire generation from Volatile Flame because we don’t use it.

Level 9 Summoner deck

Gloomhaven Summoner build level 9 cards
Gloomhaven Summoner build level 9 cards

So here’s our final deck! We have two decent ranged summons that wear monsters down and hand out some nice status effects as they do. We have plenty of commands to give them extra turns, we have decent movement and don’t always need to be adjacent to our summons to use commands. And to top it all off, we have some ranged abilities of our own so we can do something when our summons are getting along happily.

  • Inexorable Momentum
  • Divided Mind
  • Strength in Numbers
  • Earthen Steed
  • Negative Energy
  • Otherworldy Rage
  • Unending Dominance
  • Horned Majesty
  • Wild Animation

Summoner Perks

Summoner perks sheet
Summoner perks sheet

The Summoner perks are great at getting the negative modifiers out of your deck.

The only poor modifier we have left in our deck is the null. Although, we don’t have any way of getting rid of our +0 modifiers, which does dilute the positives a bit because it reduces the likelihood of flipping the great modifiers. However, it does mean you will at least flip the damage amount you expected to do or above (unless you get unlucky and flip the null!).

In terms of perks order, I started by removing negative scenario effects because I hate starting a scenario weaker than I should be.

Improving the damage modifiers is next. This is even more important than with other classes, because as a summoner all our summons also flip modifiers from our deck.

After the numbers, the rolling Wound and Poison modifiers can be helpful if they are drawn at the right time. Drawn on the turn a monster is getting removed from the board, they are less helpful. Wound is a little more helpful than Poison because Thorn Shooter will be dishing that out reliably for us anyway and we can’t give a monster 2 doses of Poison!

Heals are the same, they can be great if things need healing or are Poisoned, less so otherwise. And finally, we add the rolling element cards because we are not reliant on elements in this build. We’d probably flip them at a time when they weren’t needed anyway – leaving them floating around to be used by monsters!

  1. Ignore negative scenario effects and add two +1 cards
  2. Remove two -1 cards
  3. Replace one -2 card with one +0 card
  4. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  5. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  6. Replace one -1 card with one +1 card
  7. Add one +2 card
  8. Add one +2 card
  9. Add two rolling Wound cards
  10. Add two rolling Poison cards
  11. Add two rolling Heal +1 cards
  12. Add two rolling Heal +1 cards
  13. Add two rolling Heal +1 cards
  14. Add one rolling Fire and one rolling Wind card
  15. Add one rolling Dark and one rolling Earth card

Summoner Items

Summoner starting items - Cloak of Invisibility, Piercing Bow, Boots of Striding, Minor Stamina Potion.
Summoner starting items – Cloak of Invisibility, Piercing Bow, Boots of Striding, Minor Stamina Potion.

To avoid spoilers, I only look at the Summoner starting items here.

Cloak of Invisibility

20 gold

Perfect for when you need to get close to monsters to control your summons, or take a hit for a melee summon, but then need to get to safety!

Piercing Bow

30 gold

The bow is very much a nice to have item if you’re flush with gold! We don’t have many ranged damage abilities and those we do have don’t have Pierce until level 6. So the bow can be helpful, but if you have an area of effect ranged ally let him have the bow instead!

Boots of Striding

20 gold

Several of our commands rely on being adjacent to our summons and the boots help us hugely with positioning.

Minor Stamina Potion

10 gold

With our small hand limit, the Minor Stamina Potion is incredibly useful at giving us another turn and allowing us to replay our best abilities again!

Summoner Enhancements

Whenever I look for enhancements, I’m looking for ones that give me a good return on my hard-earned gold. That means reusable abilities which are in my hand for a long time. Enhancements are expensive and we don’t collect that much loot, so this list is more suggestions than absolutes! If you’re only prioritising 2 of them, I’d go for the +1 move on Thorn Shooter and +1 range on Void Eater.

+1 Move on Wild Animation top

100 gold

The Thorn Shooter summon is fabulous and with us from the beginning of our career right up to retirement. Its 1 movement means it doesn’t keep up with the group very well though and can’t get in range of monsters as easily. So, adding a +1 helps hugely!

+1 damage on Wild Animation top

175 gold

Because we’ve previously enhanced the movement on the Thorn Shooter, it costs a little more to add +1 to the damage but it’s well worth it. This little friend is a workhorse and that extra 1 will do a lot of work during your time as a Summoner.

+1 damage on Living Night top

100 gold

Two for the price of one here! The Gloomhaven FAQs clarify that even though there are two wolves summoned, this enhancement does not count as a multi-target enhancement! Wahey!

We do retire our wolves at level 7 though, so you may decide this isn’t for you.

+1 Range on Negative Energy top

200 gold

The most expensive enhancement I’ll suggest! With that additional range, the Void Eater can sprinkle even more curses into the monster deck!

Summoner Experience

Gloomhaven Summoner class board with hit points and experience by level
Summoner class board with hit points and experience

The Summoner levels pretty quickly thanks to the experience points you get from summoning your creatures across the planar boundaries!

Plus, because you summon each of them a couple of times in a scenario you get those experience points again!

The same is true for the commands you use to control your summons. Each of these includes an experience point every time you use it and they are all reusable abilities.

Summoner Combos

The combos you have access to vary depending on your level and which cards you have. However, here are some of my favourite summoner combos!

Poison Bites (Level 3 combo)

Turn 1

  1. Use the high initiative on Wild Animation to summon the Thorn Shooter.
  2. Use the bottom of Volatile Flame to do 2 damage and generate Fire.

Turn 2

  1. Your Thorn Shooter deals Poison damage to the nearest monster.
  2. Use the 82 initiative on Living Night and summon the Shadow Wolves.
  3. Use the bottom of Grasping the Void to deal 1 damage to 1 target, 2 damage to another target (due to +1 Poison bonus) consume Fire to Wound them.

Turn 3

  1. Use the 13 initiative on Earthen Steed to go early so your Thorn Shooter and Wolves both deal damage before the monsters (including bonus Poison damage on their hits).
  2. Use the Move 5 Jump to position yourself adjacent to a summon.
  3. Use the top of Bonded Might to command your summon to do a move +0 damage +0.
  4. At the start of the monster’s turn, apply their Wound damage.

Double trouble! (Level 4)

Turn 1

Thorn Shooter and Shadow Wolves are already in play for this combo.

  1. Use the initiative on the bottom of Earthen Steed to go early.
  2. Your Thorn Shooter and Wolves both do their thing.
  3. Use the Move on Earthen Steed to Move adjacent to a wolf.
  4. Use the top of Mighty Bond to get an adjacent wolf to have another turn ideally repositioning them safely too.
  5. Stamina Potion to get back Earthen Steed and Mighty Bond back.

Turn 2

  1. Use the initiative on the bottom of Earthen Steed to go early again.
  2. Your Thorn Shooter and Wolves both do their thing.
  3. Use the Move on Earthen Steed to Move adjacent to a wolf.
  4. Use the top of Mighty Bond to get your adjacent wolf to have another turn and move them into a safe position.

If this all goes to plan, and your wolves survive the first round of hits, you and your summons will deal 16 damage over these two turns, and that’s without adding on the bonus damage for Poison!

Summoner Names

Our Aesther Summoner has a talent for pulling allies from across the planar boundaries. They are eternal, intellectual can see the wonders of many realities all at once. Along with these traits, our Summoner build focuses on ranged damage and ranged summons. With these attributes in mind, I called my Summoner Infinite Isle.

Here are 10 Summoner names I came up with inspired by these themes!

  • Visi Vapor
  • Eternity End
  • Aeon Axis
  • Iris Opti
  • Time Vial
  • Unity Fades
  • Imm Ortal
  • Helios Hart
  • Auris Age
  • Fee Nix

Conclusion – Gloomhaven Summoner Guide – Ranged Damage

The Summoner isn’t the easiest class to play effectively in Gloomhaven. Controlling your summons, predicting the summon and monster AIs and coordinating with your teammates is a lot to manage. But seeing all those damage numbers stack up each turn is really rewarding!

As you level, you get access to more ranged summons and ranged commands which makes this build even more fun to play! I hope you enjoy playing the Summoner!

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