*NOTE: SPOILERS BELOW*
Few classes can match the potential power of the Triforce. If you can slog through the low levels, you will be rewarded with an extremely fun and flexible class that makes a great addition to any team composition. I recommend you read various guides and decide what’s best for your team and how you want to play this class. He struggles early on, so be patient.
You can go for a melee build, but I just don’t see a melee version being as strong, especially with such low health and fantastic ranged abilities. You can’t afford to spend turns healing and long resting when you could be attacking instead.
Either way, you always need to plan ahead. Don’t rely on opponents to go before you and make elements for you. Also, you should hate seeing elements go to waste, so do your best to use as many as possible. Ask your teammates to invest in Mana Potions for you. They will be rewarded for it.
Finally, I won’t give you a specific card build to follow. Every scenario, you should re-assess which cards to bring based on your objectives. Even some of your best cards should sometimes be left out when they just don’t make sense for a particular scenario.
Best level 1 cards
The first four cards all feature a Move 2 action with an element on the bottom. At low levels, these will be staples.
Infernal Vortex is your earliest initiative level 1 card and generates Frost, a valuable element. The top action is a situational loss, but this can dish out significant damage, even if you only hit two or three enemies.
Much of my guide focuses on this card. It’s your second earliest initiative level 1 card and produces Wind, but the best part is the top loss action, once you have the items to synergize with it. Since you hit everything within range 4, sometimes you’ll hit more than 10 targets. With no items and against high-shield enemies, this won’t do much other than generate elements from your modifier deck, but later in the guide I explain how to make this incredible with items.
Of these four cards, I took Tremulant Cyclone least often. If you have a teammate in your party who can use Earth, you might find this useful, but pushing is situational and the damage up top isn’t reliable enough to justify taking this card much.
You only have two Stun cards, so Stoking Hail is a valuable one. Plus, Fire can often be put to good use.
Even as you level up, you will find it difficult to leave Formless Power behind unless the scenario doesn’t require a lot of damage or you can’t afford to lose cards so early. Play this for the bottom ability early on and boost your damage for the rest of the scenario.
These two are almost identical cards. Often you will want both, and sometimes you should only bring one or maybe even neither. The top can be a decent attack with the right elements, but the bottom can be a game-changer for a class that struggles with movement. Consider enhancing this with a Jump.
See Raw Enhancement. Same initiative and abilities with elements swapped.
Level 1 cards to consider
You’ll never want to play the bottom loss early in a scenario, and if you don’t really need a Wound or can’t generate Fire reliably, you’ll be stuck using this for the default Move 2 or a weak attack.
What an oddly terrific level 1 card. Until you can generate plenty of elements, this might not do much. Later, Malleable Evocation provides extra options every round. The Heal and Jump on the bottom both come in handy, and the top puts multiple status effects on two targets. As you level up and have elements to spare, you won’t find many better flex cards than this.
Easy choice to leave this behind most times, unless you desperately need a Heal or Loot.
Shaping the Ether
You can’t afford to lose damage just for an element, as you should have other ways of producing those.
The top is much better, and along with Stoking Hail this is your only other stun card. Unfortunately, by the time you can generate enough elements to benefit from this, you’ll have plenty of better, more reliable cards.
Worst level 1 cards
You don’t benefit from Dark at early levels, and allies who need to be Invisible can probably do it themselves. I never once used this card, but maybe with an ally who uses Dark this could see play.
Similar to Ice Spikes but worse, and again the bottom is a situational loss. Although the top can hit two targets, it’s a melee attack, and even with the Pierce it usually isn’t worth it.
If you start at level 1, for the average scenario I recommend you take:
- At least three of the Move 2 + element cards
- Raw Enhancement and/or Pure Augmentation (usually both)
- Formless Power
- whatever else fits the scenario, or Brilliant Flash if you can take advantage of the Loot
Boiling Arc isn’t bad, but it’s for a melee build, which I don’t like for this class.
Crystallizing Blast is great, and some people suggest you enhance the top with a Curse. Although tempting, I think 175 gold can buy you better things, and enough other classes specialize in cursing. Consider enhancing it with a Wound, which I did shortly before I retired. Once your modifier deck is loaded with element cards, play this for the top early in a scenario, giving you plenty of options on your next turn with a full hand of cards. Also, you can now Move 4 without elements. Some guides suggest adding a +1 Move enhancement or even a Jump, and although I didn’t, it’s not a bad idea.
The top loss on Chain Lightning is appealing, both conceptually and against shielded targets, but it’s not worth taking over Burial for a reusable Heal 3. Burial not only has a decent reusable bottom attack, which is rare, but the top loss is also less situational than Chain Lightning.
Even though Gravel Vortex’s Loot 2 is appealing, it’s not worth taking a card at level 4 specifically for the Loot, and the top is a melee attack. Besides, Primal Duality now becomes your earliest initiative, gives you a Move 2 plus two elements which will be essential later, and has a strong top loss for late in a scenario. Only consider Gravel Vortex if you go melee or desperately need the Loot 2.
Even though I prefer Winter’s Edge, I see the argument for Obsidian Shards. The potential to hit two targets is nice, but Winter’s Edge offers the piercing damage, and for my build I generated Frost and Wind much more often than Earth. Plus, as a low health character, having a Heal is nice when a teammate can’t bail you out. Winter’s Edge gets the nod here for the piercing and guaranteed Attack 5 even when you don’t have the elements for the upgraded attack.
Some people like to go back and take Obsidian Shards here, which you should definitely consider. Simulacrum has some appealing options, but when you have that many elements available, you usually have even better options elsewhere.
I took Eye of the Hurricane for many reasons: early initiative, good movement, another Jump, and the top loss can be pivotal at times. Plus, the Frost and Wind set you up perfectly for Winter’s Edge the following turn. If Eye of the Hurricane doesn’t fit into your build, I suggest taking Obsidian Shards.
Here, everything changes. Pragmatic Reinforcement offers plenty of flexibility, but Vengeance is just devastatingly good. Executing up to three (or four once enhanced) targets feels game-breaking at times. Even so, Vengeance shouldn’t just automatically be taken in every scenario. If you expect mostly elite enemies or the goal of the scenario doesn’t require killing anything, taking Vengeance is wasting a card slot. But when you maximize its potential, you feel like no scenario can stop you.
This was an easy choice to go back and take Pragmatic Reinforcement. If you go melee, this might work, but even then you probably have better choices.
Volatile Consumption offers more, but the top action isn’t worth the loss, especially since you shouldn’t be your team’s healer. The bottom spreads status effects and offers a decent amount of movement, but it’s not as good as Pragmatic Reinforcement.
Ethereal Manifestation provides some good flexibility on the bottom, and since you can use up to all 4 of those abilities at once if you have the elements, it can be really strong. However, the summon up top is nothing special, and the card has very late initiative. Overall, it feels a bit underwhelming for a level 9 card.
Eternal Equilibrium has a fantastic reusable top action similar to Lava Eruption; less range but more damage along with the Curse and Muddle. Plus, you can get Light and Dark from Primal Duality.
Your modifier deck cannot be relied upon for much extra damage. Instead, it excels at producing elements to supplement your cards. Various guides break down the math behind why a certain order makes sense, and they make great points, but go for what you prefer based on how you choose to play the class.
I prioritized removing and replacing -1s and adding element cards, leaving Earth for last. For the element cards, I went for the +3 element perks before the replacement ones. I left the Push and Add Targets perks for last.
*SPOILERS UP TO PROSPERITY LEVEL 6 IN ITEMS SECTION
Many of these items revolve around the top of Lava Eruption. Combine it with Major and Minor Power Potions, Piercing Bow, and Pendant of Dark Pacts. Use both Potions and the Bow, activate the Pendant to refresh both Potions, use them again, and then use the top loss of Lava Eruption. Without boosts from Formless Power, enhancements, or allies’ abilities, you have an Attack 7 on everything within range 4, ignoring shields. Not only will you shred entire rooms to pieces, but since you’ll often hit upwards of 10 to 15 targets with this, you’ll make plenty of elements for next round.
There are many solid item options but I mostly built around maximizing Lava Eruption.
Here are some of my recommended options:
Head – Pendant of Dark Pacts
Body – Cloak of Pockets, Robes of Evocation, Sacrificial Robes
Hands – Piercing Bow
Feet – Boots of Striding/Dashing, Boots of Levitation, Elemental Boots (solo item)
Small/Consumable items – Major Power Potion, Minor Power Potion, Major Stamina Potion, Minor Stamina Potion, Major/Minor Mana Potion, *Giant Remote Spider
My final level 9 build was:
Head – Pendant of Dark Pacts
Body – Robes of Evocation
Hands – Piercing Bow
Feet – Boots of Striding
Small Items – Major/Minor Power Potions, Major/Minor Stamina Potions, Major Mana Potion
Since so many enhancements can work well for this class, it comes down to preference. Although I understand the power of adding a Curse to Crystallizing Blast, I think 175 gold is expensive. I spent most of my money on items and I had no regrets about it. Here are the enhancements I got, in order:
- Jump to Raw Enhancement (you can also do Pure Augmentation)
- +1 Attack to top of Lava Eruption
- Wound to Crystallizing Blast (late game, I was already level 9 with full items)
- 4th Hex to Vengeance (when I retired)
Always plan ahead, keep your distance, and save your big movement cards to get in perfect position for Lava Eruption or Vengeance.
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I am extremely impressed with your writing abilities as neatly as with the structure to your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it your self? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it is rare to see a great weblog like this one these days.
Thank you so much! We use a paid theme but we’ve also modified it.
Very interesting guide, this is going to help me a lot as I just started playing the elementalist.
If you don’t mind, there are a few things I’d like to ask :
– At each level, you suggest what card to pick, but not what card to drop. I understand this can vary a bit depending on the scenarios and the way you want to play, but could you give a few pointers regarding that ? (or just show what your final set of cards look like ?)
– About the items, I see you’re recommending the bow, but what do you think about volatile bomb + a wand that generates en element (especially since winter’s edge has a strong piercing value) ? And what about eagle-eye goggles vs pendant of dark pacts ?
Sorry if that’s a bother, I’m just trying to get all the info I can on this class since I want to get the most out of it but it seems quite complex.
Glad you found the guide helpful! It’s probably been over a year since I last played this class, but I’ll do my best to see if I can remember this stuff…
– Honestly, once I reached level 9, every single scenario I had to re-assess which cards I’d be bringing next time. I can’t stress enough how flexible it helps to be with this class rather than just sticking with the same cards every time. BUT, if this helps, I’d say you should almost always take: Crystallizing Blast, Burial, Primal Duality, Winter’s Edge, Vengeance, Eternal Equilibrium, Lava Eruption and Malleable Evocation. Your other 2 should probably be any combination of: Eye of the Hurricane, Pragmatic Reinforcement, Stoking Hail, and sometimes Formless Power. Might also be worth taking one of Pure Augmentation or Raw Enhancement, if you need more movement. Take whatever seems most useful based on the scenario.
– The Volatile Bomb option isn’t bad, but it’s still situational due to the AOE hexes, and you already have Vengeance for that. Eagle-Eye Goggles can be good too, but the Pendant has much higher potential if you’re going for that big combo I’ve outlined with Lava Eruption. If you’re going for the big Lava Eruption explosive attack like I went for, I just don’t see a more effective way to hit that many enemies in that big of a space for that much damage. Maybe I’m missing something in your suggestion though that I haven’t considered.
I hope that helps. No need to apologize, it’s not a bother at all! Gloomhaven is amazing, and Dylann and I are always happy to talk about it more. Good luck, and don’t hesitate to reach out here or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have more questions about this.
Thank you for the answer man !
I thought Formless power was always a must so that’s interesting. Alright, I’ll experiment as I gain a few levels because, well, a lvl 4 elementalist doesn’t really have a lot of options… :p
I’ll take you up on the offer if I have more questions ^^ but I think that’s plenty.
That helps a lot, thanks again !
Don’t get me wrong – Formless Power is a great card, and until probably level 5 or 6, I think I took it in most scenarios, but it’s a tricky one. Obviously the earlier you get it in play, the more you get to use it, but it also means you exhaust sooner. So as I leveled up and got stronger in general, I found the utility of other cards like Malleable Evocation, Pragmatic Reinforcement, etc were just more useful to me than Formless Power. If you’re not aiming for the Lava Eruption strategy I’ve outlined, then Formless Power might be more useful to you later on, but again, positioning and elements are so important to this strategy.
And you’re right, at level 4 you don’t have a ton of options. Once you hit level 5 and get Winter’s Edge, you get a taste of what the class has to offer.
I’ve personally found that the Eagle Eye Goggles aren’t very good for the elementalist. Most of the time, you’re not drawing cards for bonuses or extra damage, you’re drawing them to generate elements. According to the rules, you could therefore draw a +1 and an element, and would have to take the +1 even if you might want the element more, and in the case of drawing two elements, you take the first one, not the one you want. I’ve found the Circlet of Elements or Empowering Talisman to be more useful.
Personally, I have had a lot of success with the Winter’s Edge + Volatile Bomb combo though, so decide between that or the Piercing Bow, whichever works best for you. Level 5 is an excellent one for the elementalist, and I’ve found that adding elemental augments onto your Move 2 elemental generators to reliably generate Frost + Wind or Fire + Nature together is a worthwhile investment. Both are excellent, but if you have to pick one to support, I agree with the guide and lean towards Winter’s Edge. Hitting two targets gives Obsidian Shards excellent damage potential, but there are so many situations where pierce is critical. Combine that with a well placed Volatile Bomb and the results can be devastating.
I have to give my respects to Carlo, excellent guide! While I think building around Lava Eruption is a bit overspecializing for my tastes, many of the tips and advice here have been incredibly useful. Thank you for publishing this!
Zane, thank you so much for the kind words and the thoughtful comment!
The Winter’s Edge + Volatile Bomb combo is absolutely an effective choice, and the more reliable one. Knowing about Vengeance in advance before I actually got to level 7, and reading other guides at the time, I wanted to try something different and I decided I wanted to build around something that didn’t focus on AoE hex grouping, which Volatile Bomb does as well.
After my very first Elementalist scenario, I saw the potential in Lava Eruption and decided to pursue it and try to exploit it as much as possible. After approx 70-85 scenarios between the base game and Forgotten Circles, peak Elementalist with Lava Eruption is still the most devastating thing I’ve seen for multi-target damage. Can’t compete with many others for the single-target burst, Elementalist is nothing special against bosses.
Also, based on the cards I usually took, I found the Eagle-Eye Goggles quite useful for constantly having tons of elements up to choose from. Cards like Malleable Evocation and Pragmatic Reinforcement can do so much for you if you trigger most/all of the elements.
Anyway, thanks again! Always happy to see other people as excited about the Elementalist.