Part I, how they work
Nota : Most of the knowledge summarized here comes from discussions and articles posted over the years at eqmagetower and on Sammana's website, thanks to the pionneers of pet science back in the days !
Mages, Necromancers and Beastlords(1) get items which have a particular effect improving their pet. These are called “pet foci” ; by extension in the current game, people refer to the item yielding the effect as their 'pet focus', but technically it's the focus effect, and the same pet focus can exist on different items who can even drop in different eras.
Before we review available foci in the early expansions (which will be covered in part II), we need to clarify some basic stuff, explained in part I. There are many false rumors and legends about pet foci because the only visible data which is displayed in databases (see Allakhazam, EQResource, etc.) is a three slots effect :
- Slot 1 : Pet Power Increase (insert number)
- Slot 2 : Limit Max Level: (insert number) lose 100% per level
- Slot 3 : Limit Min Level (insert number)
→ What do these number mean and how do they improve your pet ?
Pet Power Increase (N). Well, it means absolutely nothing The devs have put a number N on each focus only to classify them from weakest to strongest, meaning 'Increase Pet Power (35)' is better than 'Increase Pet Power (30)' but by no means is there any mathematic relation to the pet's stats. The first one won't make the pet 16,66% better in any field (35 is a 16,66% increase to 30). You cannot deduct anything related to your pet by considering the N.
The reality is : pets are NPCs. NPCs have an unique stat sheet in EQ's database. The same pet conjuration spell summons a different NPC from that database if the pet owner has a different pet focus. For every pet type, there is an unique NPC for every available pet focus (as long it is in the level range, see below), and this NPC has its own stats (level, hit points, AC, ATK, min and max hit, STR etc.). The developpers make the NPC summoned by a better pet focus stronger, but there are no arithmetic guaranteed rules. For the pet owner, only the pet's level, its spell procs, the minimum hit and the maximum hit can be monitored, and the pet's hit points can be estimated. The rest is pretty much unknown.
Let's give an example to understand : in Luclin era, mages still use the Kunark pets (which includes the epic pet) but get access to a new raid dropped pet focus (Vex Thal, Gloves of Dark Summoning, yielding the pet focus Minion of Darkness -pet power 20-). The same pet, let's say the level 60 water pet summoned by the Greater Vocaration: Water spell, will summon three different NPCs : the unfocused one (mage has no pet focus), the Phinny staff focused one (even if nobody uses that as the Phinny staff is needed for epic, but it has a focus effect Servant of Water -pet power 10-), and the Vex Thal gloves focused one. Last two gain +1 level. VT gloves will give more hps, a higher max hit, etc. But they don't add stats to a base pool, they make you summon a different NPC (your level 60 water pet model).
This explains why the impact of pet foci is so unpredictable, especially in regard to the level of the pet. A better pet focus sometimes adds a level to your pet, sometimes not. Your pet's melee output will get better but the jumps can be small or large with absolutely no proportionality (to a certain degree of course). Your pet's innate procs can be affected or not (this is very important to mages and their fire pet ; sometimes the new pet focus makes the bolt a bit better, sometimes not, there are no rules). Because every focused pet was designed as an unique NPC, there is no rule, only a general guideline to make the next focus a bit better than the previous one, but the steps may vary (small improvement or big improvement).
Also, the devs have changed (and will continue changing) in the past all these different models in terms of game balancing. In 2017, there was a revamp of pet foci making the early expansions ones comparatively stronger – every time it means changing the data sheet of every pet model. Imagine : mages have five different types of pets (if you include the Monster Summoning line), not to speak of swarm and secondary pets, and all these pets have different NPC models according to which pet focus the mage is wearing. And you repeat this for every new rank of pets from expansion to expansion. There are thousand of different pet NPCs with their own stat sheet, so there are unlogical things or even mistakes (there is a famous example in PoP era regarding the water pet) which may happen.
The same pet focus may work differently when you change the era and get your next rank of pets. The focus will stop working when you pass the maximum level (see below), but even within the level range, the way it works will change. The same Vex Thal gloves add +1 level to Kunark pets (including epic pet which becomes level 50) but they add +2 levels to PoP pets. Other way around (which is more common of course as an older pet focus is supposed to yield less benefits), the LDoN raid pet focus (Ritual Summoning, which drops as an augment in Prison Break raid) adds +4 (level 64 pets !) levels to PoP pets, but only +2 levels to OoW pets. The best GoD focus (Minion of Discord, which drops as an earring from ZMZT in Txevu) adds +5 (level 65 pets !!) levels to PoP pets, but only +2 levels (your pet is level 67) to OoW pets. However, it will still improve your pet compared to the LDoN one, but not the level anymore.
Limit: Max Level (X) lose 100% per level. This is very important as it shows when one particular pet focus will stop working past a certain level X (or expansion if you want). It makes sense in terms of gameplay (your pet focus is outdated, as it happens for every other spell focus), it also avoids (for the devs) to make thousands of unneeded NPC (the particular pet model) data sheets. What you need to remember is the Max Level refers to the level of the conjuring spell (therefore the era/expansion), not the base level of the pet NPC model. To keep our example with Minion of Darkness (Luclin+, first available as a raid drop in Vex Thal in Luclin era), these have a max level of 75, meaning they will stop working in SoF era because the first pet conjuration spell will be level 76 in SoF (the air pet as usual). 'Lose 100% per level' only means the focus stops working, as you cannot do it gradually like for regular spell foci – the gradual decrease of its power is already covered by the different data sheets for each pet model : in TSS era, pets focused by Minion of Darkness will only get very small improvements over the base unfocused pet ; I haven't tested on live, but it's likely the pet won't get any level increase. This is also why pet foci which are on unique high end raid items in one expansion may appear on lower raid targets or even on groupable stuff in later expansions: Minion of Darkness is available on a groupable range item which drops in RSS in OoW era. Minion of Eternity, which drops only from Bertoxx in Plane of Time during PoP era, is available on a ring dropped by Primals in Yxtta, which are lower raid targets during GoD era.
Limit: Min Level (Y). Same applies. Higher pet foci are not supposed to work on lower rank pets past a certain point. It's the level of the pet conjuration spell, not the pet's actual NPC level, therefore it shows the minimum pet rank (expansion/era) you need for it to impact your pets. Keeping our Luclin+ example, Minion of Darkness works only with the second rank of Kunark pets and with the epic pet (min spell level 56). Once you get your Plane of Time focus in PoP, your Kunark pets and your epic pet won't be focused anymore : the PoP era focus is Minion of Eternity, and has 'Limit: Min Level (61)', exceeding therefore the spell level/rank of Kunark pets (and the epic pet).
From PoP onwards, the item yielding the pet focus usually also has Tiny Companion as clicky, but it's not always true (LDoN augment has not, and quested high end raid armor pieces in later expansions don't have the clicky either).
Pet foci have unique names related to the expansion lore till the TSS expansion. The highest 'classical' pet focus is Servitor of Scale -pet power 50- you'll find on Ashengate/Frostcrypt class armor (sleeves). From TBS onwards, pet foci are all called Enhanced Minion [insert roman number], starting at Enhanced Minion I (Enhanced Minion I is the same as Servant of Solusek, which is the last 'named' pet focus, both names are in use for TBS). The whole line becomes more complex to understand because pet foci are less tied to an expansion, but become rather a linear hierarchy where the difference lays in the differentiation raid/group/solo related to a particular era. EM VIII drops in tier IV SoD raids, but it becomes the groupable pet focus for the mage in House of Thule era (at least it was when I was last on live).
Part II will be an overview of the pet focus hierarchy till TBS and what items are available for mages in each expansion.
(1) Beastlords are disavantaged in Luclin era. The one item with a pet focus (on Vex Thal gloves) is MAG/NEC only. In later expansions, pet foci are always opened to MAG/NEC/BST.