I’ve been giving some thought lately to my pet battle team. Luckily, unlike some things like talent changes, pet battles won’t go live until Mists does, so I’ve got about a month to work on it. Whoo!
There’s lots of ways to build pet teams. You can build theme teams, like an all-Murloc team or all-robot team. You can pick one superstar pet that you like a lot and have others to support him. You can level lots of pets from lots of families so that you’ll always have access to strategic combinations of pets (a lot of people will do this eventually, I figure). But there’s never a bad time to start thinking about that first team of three.
Unfortunately, I can’t help it - the first thing I start thinking about, probably due to too many years of in-depth Pokemon strategy (shut up), is pet types, strengths, and weaknesses.
But first, a disclaimer
A lot of what I’m about to say is really only important for that first pet. You only start with one, and after a few levels you’ll unlock other slots. Any pet who participates in a battle - even if that means just showing up and leaving immediately - gets experience (much like that other pet battle game), so once you’ve got one pet who can whoop some butt on his own, you can start using pets that are harder to level by putting them in first then switching to the stronger pet.
You can also freely ignore pretty much everything I’m saying below and use whatever pets you want, how you want, in whichever combination you want. That’s your prerogative! This kind of stuff is fun for me, but it may not be fun for you, and I get that. Do what’s fun for you.
And now, on with the show.
Pet types, strengths, and weaknesses
Look at that hot mess of a chart. Each pet type has a family that it deals extra damage to (150% damage, to be exact) and one that it does less damage to (67% damage). More specifically, it’s the type on the move that matters - a hypothetical Aquatic pet using a Dragonkin-type move on a Magical pet will deal extra damage, for instance.
So what’s this have to do with your first team? Most of the starting areas are absolutely lousy with critters and beasts. Aquatic is also really common. I blame frogs. There are some exceptions - Tirisfal Glades also has a good concentration of flying and undead - and this is an issue Blizzard is aware of, but in the end, you may want to carefully pick your first battle pet. It’ll be leveling solo for a while, and:
- Elemental, critter, and undead-type pets will have difficulty leveling by themselves early on due to taking more damage from, or doing less damage to, beasts, aquatics, and critters.
- Flying, mechanical, and beast-type pets will be easy to level early on because they deal extra damage to, or take less damage from, beasts, aquatics, and critters.
- Humanoid-type take less damage from critters, but deal less damage to beasts, and are neutral to aquatic pets. As long as you’re careful about what you fight (check the tooltip first!) a humanoid can be okay to level early on.
- Dragonkin, aquatic, and magical-type pets are neutral in the beast/critter/aquatic trifecta, being neither hard nor easy to level in the early areas.
Each type also has a passive ability unique to their type, which can change your opinion.
- Aquatic pets reduces the duration of DoTs on them by half.
- Beasts deal extra damage below half health. (A lot more.)
- Critters reduce the duration of crowd control (stun, sleep, etc.) on them by half.
- Dragonkin deal extra damage the round after they knock their opponent to 25%.
- Elementals ignore all weather effects (darkness, burning, snowstorm, etc.)
- Flying pets gain extra speed above 50% health.
- Humanoids recover a small pittance of health every time they attack.
- Magic pets cannot be dealt more than 50% of their health in a single attack.
- Mechanical pets return to life once per battle, at 25% health.
- Undead pets return to life for one round when killed.
You might also want to take some time and look at the future moves your pet will receive (these are visible in the Pet Journal). While some pets primarily only have moves of the same type that they are (Lil’ Ragnaros basically does only Elemental damage, for instance), some pets are more diverse (the Enchanted Broom, a Magical-type pet, learns moves that do Mechanical, Magical, Flying, and Humanoid-type damage)
Pets learn moves at set levels, regardless of pet - at levels 1, 2, 4, 10, 15, and 20. Pet moves are arranged in pairs (1 & 10, 2 & 15, 4 & 20), and you can only have three at a time readied for battle. You can’t have more than one ability from the same pair, either. Example: the Core Hound Pup learns Howl at level 2 and Dodge at level 15. 2 & 15 are paired, so you can have either Howl or Dodge readied on your pet, but not both. Abilities can be changed outside of battle.
Advice on first pet choice
My advice would be to pick one of the ‘easy’ category pets - or, if there aren’t any you like, one of the neutral ones - for your very first pet. Flying pets are nice because of the early speed boost, while mechanicals can get back up if you overextend yourself in an early battle and get whooped (and many of the mechanical pets, although not all, have a self-repair move available to them early on).
I will probably go with a Mechanical for my first pet - although choosing which one could be tough. Lil’ XT for flavor? Personal World Destroyer because Personal World Destroyer? Perhaps a Mechanical Chicken? (I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered a team of Mechanical, Ancona, and Westfall Chicken.)
Covering your a–I mean, weaknesses
One way to build a team after that is to consider what your first pet is weak to. Let’s assume for argument’s sake my first pet is Lil’ Smoky, an all-out offensive mechanical pet. Smoky, unfortunately, has little to deal with elementals - seeing as how the mechanical/elemental relationship is one of the few symmetrical weakness/strength relationships there is, a Lil’ Ragnaros or a Pebble would absolutely tear him to bits. So what takes care of Elementals, hmmm?
- Aquatic pets deal extra damage to elementals. They also are the most likely to have non-type-specific healing spells!
- Critters takes less damage from elementals. How convenient - the beasts that a critter is weak are easily handled by a mechanical!
But in the end…
There is absolutely no reason you have to put this much thought into pet battle team building. I just do it because I like to, but you know what? If you want to storm the field with Grunty, Lurky, and Murkimus the Gladiator, don’t let me - or anyone else - tell you not to. Sure, there might be times you hit a difficult patch of leveling, or you get whooped in a completely anonymous pet battle from the queue. So what? This is a totally fun thing to do in your downtime; pick yourself back up, heal your battle pets, and get back to the serious business of having fun.
Much like that other pet battling game, there is room for both serious nerd-core theorizing and pedal-to-the-metal, f*ck-you-I-do-what-I-want fun in pet battles. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Even me.
I’ll see you - with Team Chicken Power!