The choice of a mercenary in Everquest II can be an uncertain process. There are so many choices and the choices are different if you are an All Access member or playing for free. I can't speak for the free members, I am All Access, but even so, the choices can seem overwhelming. Each month I get a "Two Mercenary" crate or 500 DBC. Since the crate is worth about 100,000 plat (1/10 of a typical price for a Krono) on the Broker, on a purely economic basis I should choose the DBC. But both of these are not "real money" in the Dollars ($) sense, and what I need most is usually in-game plat. So I generally choose the mercenary crate.
From a merc crate I received Warrick the Stormcaller and by comparison, I like him better than Perrin (the original rare Stormcaller). The comparison between those two was very simple. Not all choices are that simple, though.
On another character,I bought a "monstrous" mercenary crate and received Fangefan, an inquisitor (Archon - which I'm not sure about, but it looks like Archon means, "inquisitor without Verdict but his heals are faster). The choice I had was to keep Kluuron (the AoM Collector's Edition merc), or switch to Fangefan. I am mostly playing mages these days (aren't we all?), so the buffs to Intelligence from Kenny looked good until I took note of the other stats, and that he has to be told to stop attacking or he "forgets" to heal you.
In the end, looking at one stat, Ability Modifier, turned out to be the easiest Litmus test for a "modern" versus "older" merc. Any "modern" merc has 8000 AM to start with, before modifiers or leveling. This left me with Kluuron vs Fangefan for a companion to my pure mage that cannot heal much or at all. Ability Mod levels show Zhugus Blightstrike to be one of the "standard" mercs, as such he may be an improvement on Stamper, but it depends on how much you value Verdict.
Kluuron VS Fangefan head to head comnparison
In practice, Kluuron has seemed a bit slow to me, but Fangefan seemed to go down to half health several times in a battle like the Fens PQ. Mercs put the focus on healing you instead of themselves and they don't help if they are dead, so that was a major point against him from the start. In a side by side comparison he has about half the health of Kluuron.
In all screenshots that follow, Kluuron and Fangefan are wearing exactly the same gear with a total of 28 Resolve (9,9,5,5), and are level 1 (they have not been leveled at all yet). Note that at this time, merc gear doesn't actually attune, though it says "attuneable" maybe more changes are coming in the future. Here is the gear (click the image to see the whole screenshot):
Next we have the stats comparison.
However the stats don't tell you much other than that the two are comparable on most stats. The place where Fangefan has a big minus is on health. Fangefan literally has about half the health of Kluuron while wearing the same gear and at the same level.
One thing you notice right away is that many stats are not visible, but they are modified by the merc armor and accolades. Not sure what happens to the stats thus modified but not visible. The most obvious of these is Resolve. It isn't listed in the Stats window for mercs. And can mercs doublecast or not? It's a mystery.
Reuse speed helps Kluuron (a Defiler) to reduce some of his longer recast times, but he wont' ever get as fast as Fangefan (an Archon). Thus I have my first consideration and the possibility of modifying some negative quality. Reuse speed isn't listed as a merc stat, but the effects of having reuse on merc gear is visible if you take it off and look at the skills.
Now I looked at skills, reuse being the most important to my thinking, but also the differences between a buffed % or a buffed static number. The next two screenshots compare the skills, paying special attention to the resurrection skills and cooldowns.
The first skill of all mercs I've seen is Mercenary's Resolve which provides a +400% Resolve buff from worn gear.
The individual skills of Fangefan the Trapped:
So he's fast and his rez gives you 50% health and power. That's still a "dirty rez" that you wouldn't want in a group fight with AoE's going off, but it's better than Kluuron's 15%... Kluuron's skills:
For my needs, since my mage can't do any useful healing, it's better to have the merc with the higher health to begin with, and mitigate the slow heals with Reuse speed on Kluuron's gear. As he levels I'll look for recast speed on new armor. He will never be as fast as the Archon, but he may pass muster until someday I get something better.
Fangefan has some bonuses I like such as the buff to base avoidance, and Kluuron is lacking there too. The dirty rez that Kluuron provides is my main problem, or perhaps his long casting times (over 2 seconds? really?). In small groups (duo, trio), I'm likely to die twice if I'm hit right after being rezzed. I plan to mitigate that with health potions of various kinds and tinkered items. Kluuron's wards are many and it gives him and me a chance to get my health up. In practice, he is fast enough with resurrection.
If Fangefan had more health, I'd stick with him, hands down. But a dead merc is one who can't rez or heal you, and he seems to either take aggro a lot, or his avoidance isn't as good as it seems to be. Technically the Inquisitor is the template for the Archon, so that would mean he could use a shield, and get blocking skills. But I just can't tell and I suspect he can't block, since I don't have a shield option for his gear and his block is 0 in the tooltips. as a test, I plan to put parry adorns on alternate gear and see if it helps how quickly he gets damaged.
So which is the best merc?
Although I bought the CE of Kunark Ascending as well, I did not consider the merc that came with it because fast heals are more important to my mage than extra dps. The new Ranger merc does have a heal and a cure,and even though one could say that "dead enemies are as good as healing" I just don't see it that way. OTOH my Shadowknight loves the new Ranger Merc. YMMV (Note: the original Ranger merc can be hired in Kelethin if you want to compare.)
It takes more than a rumor to make a "best merc." Some of the considerations are:
- What class are you playing, and does the merc give you buffs you need?
- Is the merc available to you? (Waiting until you get an Ultra-Rare isn't very efficient.)
- How fast is the recast on the skills you depend on? If it were half as long, would it still be too long?
- How do the stats of the mercs you have compare with each other? Health, power, potency, etc?
- How do they seem to work in practice? Survivable, casts resurrection quickly, heals themselves as well as you, with tank mercs - does he/she hold aggro against you? etc.
A final thought: One of the main things that happens to mercs in long fights, is running out of power. Unless you have power heals, their ability to heal you is temporary. If you often run long battles, you may be better off with a Templar merc who doesn't attack and saves power for healing. The much-ignored Templar merc cannot be attacking the wrong mob, thus breaking the strategy of a group battle.
Now that all mercs can be hired for 0 gold, it's easy to switch mercs, take screenshots and consider the differences.