Last Updated on Samuel Franklinby
Gloomhaven Summoner Guide – Cards, Builds, Perks, Enhancements & Items
In this Gloomhaven guide to the Summoner we explore how to leverage the ability to summon allies onto the battlefield to maximum effect for your party benefit. With a different playstyle to the majority of characters in Gloomhaven the Summoner offers a unique and initially difficult experience although with optimise play can prove to be a fun and powerful ally in battle. This Gloomhaven Summoner guide provides players key information across card choices, perks, enhancements and equipment options to maximise your summoning power.
The Summoner (Circles) is an unlockable class within Gloomhaven that focuses on a summoning theme with a gameplay style that revolves around summoning different creatures and commanding them to attack. While other mercenaries have minor elements of summons no Gloomhaven class has the tools necessary to make these summons effective in battle like the Summoner has. These summon powers come from your Aesther nature given this races ability to draw from trans-planar travel with their intellectual powers that has also provided them with the ability to observe the infinite possibilities of the universe. Using this power to literally forge summoned beings to do your bidding the Summoner prefers to rely on these summoned allies for damage and defence with cards that allow you to control summon actions pivotal to your gameplay alongside a few direct damage cards. With these summoned ally control cards available the Summoner can overcome one weakness of summons in Gloomhaven although you’ll have to wait until the mid to high levels of this class to unlock your strongest ranged summons that ensures they stay out of harms way during a full scenario. To ensure you enjoy your time as the Summoner and maximise your damage output having a strong understanding of the core game mechanics and in particular the mechanics of summons is critical and why I recommend the Summoner be a character you play towards the back end of your Gloomhaven adventure.
For information and build guides on other Gloomhaven character options visit our Gloomhaven classes overview and the related Gloomhaven class tier list. Note that from this point onwards this guide contains full card spoilers for this class and minor item spoilers (general themes only and not specific non starting items).
Gloomhaven Summoner Guide Overview
In the quick section of this Summoner guide I provide the template I recommend players follow from level 1 to 9 in order to maximise your effectiveness when playing as this Gloomhaven character. This overview section includes a summary of cards, perk, enhancements and equipment to follow in a convenient and compact manner. While it doesn’t dive into the broader detailed elements of playing the Summoner and why certain decisions are optimal these are explored in the detailed section further down the page.
By following this overview players will obtain all of the critical ranged summons that only grow more powerful if you can accumulate the gold necessary to upgrade their range or movement values. Importantly when following my recommendations you’ll obtain the necessary mind control cards to give you greater control over the turns of your summons to give you a level of agency similar to that of the other Gloomhaven heroes. With a small hand size of 9 it is critical that players manage their turns carefully, minimise summon losses and time the use of Unending Dominance carefully which generally means leaning into the few damage and support cards available to keep the Summoner while you work towards some of your stronger cards and limiting the use of the melee summoning cards. Melee summons are still an effective source of experience though when used towards the end of a scenario and also allows the Summoner to quickly level up compared to others.
Summoner Cards Overview
- Level 1: Remove Ethereal Vines, Leathery Wings and Forged Ferocity to create your starting deck of cards.
- Level 2: Earthen Steed replaces Black Fire
- Level 3: Oozing Manifestation replaces Volatile Bomb
- Level 4: Divided Mind replaces Unwavering Hand
- Level 5: Strength in Numbers replaces Biting Wind
- Level 6: Inexorable Momentum replaces Bonded Might
- Level 7: Negative Energy replaces Living Night
- Level 8: Otherworldly Rage replaces Mighty Bond
- Level 9: Horned Majesty replaces Oozing Manifestation
Summoner Perks Priority Overview
- Remove two -1 cards
- replace one -2 card with one +0 card
- Replace one -1 card with one +1 card (take three times)
- Add one +2 card (take twice)
- Ignore negative scenario effects and add two + 1 cards
- Add two rolling wound cards
- Add two rolling poison cards
Summoner Enhancements Priority Overview
- Add Move to the top of Wild Animation (Thorn Shooter summon)
- Add Range to the top of Negative Energy (Void Eater summon)
Summoner Items Priority Overview
- Minor Stamina Potion
- Cloak of Invisibility
Gloomhaven Summoner Guide Detailed
In the detailed section of my Summoner guider I dive deep into the decisions in the overview section above to ensure players understand why these decisions are made and importantly how to use these decisions for maximum effect. It also explores some of the potential alternative choices based on your party specific situations although these are limited on the Summoner in comparison to other Gloomhaven mercenaries that have greater flexibility in choices.
Summoner Cards Detailed
The Summoner detailed cards information below discusses the cards to take at specific levels and reasons behind particular replacement card choices. As noted above the Summoner is reliant on particular cards and combos which means when combined with our small 9 hand size our choice of cards to take each level is quite limited.
- Starting Cards: Our goal with starting card choices as the Summoner is to find an appropriate balance between our available summons and ensuring we have some attacks and healing available to provide something of value to our team given our weak level 1 status. This means removing Ethereal Vines as one of our weakest attacks available and the two weaker summons of Leathery Wings and Forged Ferocity. Of the cards that remain you’ll find Wild Animation to be our staple summon card with its long range and poison attacks with a priority enhancement of movement on the Thorn Shooter significantly boosting its effectiveness.
- Level 2 Cards: Level 2 may seem like an odd choice at first glance given Grasping the Void seems like an attractive card the first time you are presented with these two choices given it’s got a double attack option with a curse, stun and self heal all in a single card. In practice though these attack 2 options are quite weak especially with a level 2 modifier deck which means this could be only 1 damage most of the time. Instead Earthen Steed provides us our core movement card all the way to level 9 and importantly is our only opportunity to pick up a fast initiative card as the Summoner. This ability to go fast is critical early to maximising the potential of our melee summons where you might go late one turn to summon them into battle and then go quickly with Earthen Steed and one of our control cards to get several attacks in before our summons are even at risk from enemies.
- Level 3 Cards: While melee summons are generally difficult to utilise the Slime Spirit is the best of a bad card archetype with the 2 shield allowing it to take several hits which we can even heal that means it has the potential to last through an entire scenario with careful play and ally co-ordination. Even better with the Oozing Manifestation card is the bottom attack that gives us a nice attack prior to the appropriate summoning moment. Compared to the other level 3 card that has a heal self when we shouldn’t be taking damage in the first place and highly conditional burn top this is an easy decision of which card to pick.
- Level 4 Cards: Another easy choice for the Summoner with Divided Mind having two useful halves that can either allow us to bring forward our summons if they fall behind or instead trigger two attacks that allows us to give potentially three summon attacks in a turn with one of our many top control actions on other cards. This is obviously significantly more useful than a moderately tanky melee summon with a bottom move and loot action. From here on we will start to remove some of our healing cards from our hand in order to make room in our small hand size although players in a party that lack any other source of healing may want to hold onto this a little longer by shuffling the recommended replacement cards between level 4 and 8 as you see fit.
- Level 5 Cards: Level 5 is really the first level where the Summoner has an active decision to make given both cards are viable options for us. On the one hand my default recommendation in Strength in Numbers provides an upgraded version of our top control actions with an average bottom that most of the time will be somewhere between a 2 or 4 attack/range action. On the other hand if your team is in desperate need of a source of healing the Conjured Aid summon of the Healing Sprite is quite consistent and generally stays out of harms way while also dishing out small consistent attacks.
- Level 6 Cards: Level 6 returns the Summoner to a no choice situation with Inexorable Momentum simply providing too much value to miss with a simple to use pierce card giving our team great utility when necessary and another option to help move around our summoned cards. Endless Spikes simply doesn’t live up to the retaliate fantasy given retaliate is already a weaker mechanic and is made weaker when used on summons that simply do not have the health necessary to survive repeated attacks.
- Level 7 Cards: A key level for the Summoner with the player unlocking their second (or third if you selected Conjured Aid) ranged summon that means we can start to feel like a real Summoner that surrounds themselves with a host of creatures to attack for us. Negative Energy is simply too good to even consider the alternative card (even though it is actually not too bad) with a priority enhancement to extend the range of this card to ensure our Void Eater stays alive by extending its effective range.
- Level 8 Cards: At level 8 we get another upgrade to our control cards with the top of Otherworldly Rage adding wound, poison and a hefty attack boost of +2 which we can even cast at range. The bottom action also helps us move our summons towards the fight or away from danger although this is less of a factor now if you’ve accumulated both recommended enhancements in this Summoner guide.
- Level 9 Cards: Level 9 provides the Summoner another easy choice with the Horned Majesty providing a powerful melee summon that can pierce through enemy shields although suffers the same issues as other melee summons in Gloomhaven in that they are often quick to be sent to the burned pile. The bottom is an incredible attack though when we have many summons available as it has no limits on the attacks we can create for a huge burst potential and can result in some fun attacks when we pair equipment summoning options with our own card summons.
Summoner Perks Detailed
As the Summoner perks grow in power so does the damage from our summons as they draw from the same attack modifier deck which provides a steady sense of progression like most Gloomhaven mercenaries. The Summoner has a fairly typical path to this power level with removal of negatives before empowering ourselves with as many positive options we can find that land us with a reasonable attack modifier deck. Along the way players can also obtain the quality of life mechanic of ignore negative scenario effects and some rolling debuffs through wound and poison that we can trigger fairly often with the large number of attacks our summons will be casting.
Summoner Enhancements Detailed
Of all Gloomhaven characters available the Summoner has the smallest pool of core enhancements I recommend with these also being the most critical to giving your summons the extra power they need. These recommendations are an additional move on the Thorn Shooter as this helps it move between rooms in a scenario with ease by effectively doubling its move from 1 to 2. Second to this is an additional range to the Void Eater summon as this helps it stay out of the danger zone and ultimately keep it alive longer. For players that want additional enhancements upgrading attack on both of these summons is quite potent given they will generally attack multiple times a turn when you factor in your control actions.
Summoner Items Detailed
The good equipment choices for the Summoner are quite small given our summons cannot utilise our equipment so the usual Gloomhaven favourite items are not as applicable with only the minor stamina potion and cloak of invisibility being useful of the starting item choices. This isn’t all bad though as helps us save the gold our group is allocating to us for our core enhancements instead and this is always where our focus should be.
Beyond starting items there are still a few interesting options for the Summoner and players will want to look out for items that allow us to recover our pocket items to mitigate our small hand size and manipulate our summons. Other options to fill our equipment slots include items that provide utility to our teammates or allow us to summon additional summons although these are more for thematic than gameplay purposes.