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First play through, playing on Hard. Party is full custom: a Shieldbearer Paladin main character, two Ciphers, a Ranger with a wolf companion, a Priest, and a Wizard. My play style involves very little resting; I hate Vancian spellcasting.

The utility of my animal companion in this play style is bonkers. The single target damage is pretty good, but what I like best is all the stuff that having an animal companion enables. For example, animal companions have typical endurance but infinite health, so all those weenie encounters that would gradually wear you down cost you nothing if you can get your animal companion to tank everything. You can set up fights in chokepoints with the animal on point, and just shoot/CC with the rest of your party. There are a lot of fights like this.

Pulling enemies with the animal companion doesn't risk a character. The Wolf gets disengagement bonuses; not sure how big, but they seem to be pretty substantial. Combined with the next trick it can eat the initial volley and shrug it off.

The animal companion enables Shieldbearer pre-buffing without costing you health. If you've taken the Shieldbearer-specific talents that give bonuses to Flames of Devotion and Lay on Hands, you can drop these on your animal companion and start the fight with +22 deflection on the animal companion, a short lived regen effect, and +10 deflection for the rest of your party. Since these are per-encounter powers, they come back right away since you haven't initiated combat yet. If you did this by hitting an actual character, it would cost you health every time you did it.

The animal companion eats friendly fire like it doesn't matter. More infinite Health shenanigans, basically. I park my animal companion (with Resilient Companion) in a doorway, blast a squishy target with a shotgun Cipher, and throw Pain Block on it. Now it's tough enough that I can cast my Antipathetic Fields right through the animal companion, which ignores almost all of the damage because their DR is so high and they're regenerating anyway, but everything lined up to get through the door gets shredded. I could do this with a non-animal companion, but the health damage thing would bother me tremendously.

Out in the open, where you can't engineer chokepoint tanking, the enemy loves to chase the animal companion around while the rest of your party shoots at them, so whatever the tactical environment looks like you can do something useful with the animal companion.

The animal companion comes with its very own Ranger! That's a nice bonus.

Last, and least, the animal companion can eat traps and it's okay. I always disarm them anyway, but if it came down to it, the infinite health thing means not caring about face-tanking random crossbow bolts or whatever.

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The animal companion comes with its very own Ranger! That's a nice bonus.

ROFL! :lol:

 

I like your love letter and also like the animal companions. Nice trick with the Shieldbearer by the way.

 

Did you know that wounding weapons trigger Predator's Sense of your wolf? So an early weapon like Persistence (hunting bow) is perfect for that. Your pet's damage per hit will match that of rogues then. Makes it even more awesome. Another nice combination: a char with Shod-in-Faith boots who's standing next to the wolf. Once the spell "Consecrated Ground" triggers the wolf will live much longer.

 

What else? A wolf can be a great tractor for your Ectopsychic Echo, too. And with a paladin who knows "Behold the Martyr" even a dead wolf can be of great use. ;)

Reinforcing Exhortation also works on the animal companion. 

 

A Litany against Minor/Major Afflictions is also good on your pet if you like to send it in first. One of the best things for me is Triumph of the Crusaders - combined with a high dps pet build. It kills fast enough that it gets healed all the time and can't die (unless the target is very sturdy). Your ranger can also help with the killing, just let the pet do the last blow. When you focus on weaker targets and have a Litany on the pet it won't go down as long as it can kill (aided with Persistence). If done correctly, it turns into a supertank with superdamage. You can put Champion's Boon on top if you fell like creating an even more awesome wolf.   :)

 

Edit: By the way: doies anybody know what will happen if you cast "Barring Death's Door" on an animal companion? I suppose nothing...? 

Edited by Boeroer

Deadfire Community Patch: Nexus Mods

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What else? A wolf can be a great tractor for your Ectopsychic Echo, too. And with a paladin who knows "Behold the Martyr" even a dead wolf can be of great use. ;)

Reinforcing Exhortation also works on the animal companion.

Yeah, been doing that too. Another somewhat unconventional use for it is to target the wolf with Mind Wave so as to knock down all the enemies in front of it. In a typical situation if you get three enemies moving forward to engage the wolf, you likely won't be able to knock any of them down if you target them with the Cipher unless you flank (in which case you'd get two of them). If you just hit the wolf, you can knock down everybody, and Mind Wave is super cheap and fast to cast. Even after the enemy has engaged, you can usually prone three enemies engaging the wolf in melee just by targeting the wolf, and the raw damage inflicted is likely less than you'd take from non-disabled enemies unless they're really trash.

 

You can also use the wolf to precisely target Mind Waves to knock over a somewhat spread out back row on your way in to eating their squishies. Honestly, it's spammy enough that you can knock over their front line with it and then knock over their back row as the pet goes in if you want, but usually that isn't necessary, and I don't like letting their front line past my wolf if I can help it.

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I've said it before but Stag early game is bonkers, with Vicious Companion you have 8 DR penetration carnage at level 2, granted not a big radius but you'll still often hit 2-3 additional enemies when they clump together, and then you get 15 DR on level 4 with resilient companion. At low levels before you get good weapons it honestly feels comparable to a similar level barbarian on it's own.

 

Late game animal companions defenses don't really keep up though and I feel they get disabled all the time, but thats when the ranger itself starts to shine with twin arrows and really good bows.

Edited by limaxophobiacq
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I have the Stormcaller Ranger with a bear companion and it's great. He's been knocked out a couple of times, but that was before I could build the other character's healing abilities. 

 

The ranger is still at level 6, so the bear is the star for now. Very good for a party that otherwise would have only two tanks.

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Last, and least, the animal companion can eat traps and it's okay. I always disarm them anyway, but if it came down to it, the infinite health thing means not caring about face-tanking random crossbow bolts or whatever.

Either my game is bugged or traps ignore my animal companion :-/ And yes, that has been my first thought as well.

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