Fox’s Cunning – Summon-Dex Part 1

Welcome to Summoner-Dex! Are you as excited by those still fresh copies of Bestiary 2 in your bookshelves!? The monster design in Pathfinder Second Edition is some of the best I’ve ever seen, and both Bestaries are giving GMs all new and exciting ways to t̶o̶r̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ challenge their favorite players! But what about PCs? Well fear not, for Pathfinder Second Edition has ways to summon a wide variety of monster types: from outsiders and animals to constructs and fey! So many monsters that I can’t even fit them all in a single article! So let’s spend a couple weeks going over our options and picking apart which monsters will make the cut, not to mention giving us a handy-dandy reference guide for when we find ourselves in those awkward niche situations that can nest be solved by throwing a hippo at it!

This week we are looking at options for Animals, with some general tips about the uses of summoned monsters. Next time we will look at the limitations of summon monster spells, plus look over our options of plants, constructs and other terrestrial allies.

Summon-Dex Navigation:
Part 1: Summon Animal (arcane, primal)
Part 2: Abberations (occult)/Constructs & Dragons (arcane)/Giants & Plants (primal)
Part 3: Celestials (divine)/Fey (occult, primal)/Elementals (arcane, primal)
Part 4: Undead (arcane, divine, occult)/Fiend (divine)
Part 5: Lesser Divine Servitor/Anarch/Axiom (divine)

Important Notes about Summoning

Summoning is a versatile and potent tool in Pathfinder Second Edition that has been overlooked for certain limitations. Yes, by level 6 you are still only capable of summoning level 2 monsters. But not every spell is intended for a solo final boss battle. Summoned minions are about three things:

• Maximizing Action Economy: A summon takes one of your actions per round. Having a threat between you and the enemy means using up actions dealing with that threat. This is only improved with effects like Grab, Haul Away, Knockdown or just using Athletics.
• Dishing Out Debuffs: Whether its stench-clouds, spell-like abilities, poisons, grabbing, flanking or just drained, monsters have a suite of unique debuffs that can offer the party that precious tactical edge in a game where even a +1/-1 is invaluable.
• Overcoming Specialist Obstacles: From Area of Effect Attacks and Capsize to just being an emergency mount or scouting ahead, being able to pick just the right summoned creature for the job is as invaluable as ever. Make a special note about monsters with special senses and movement speeds, against those pesky invisible creatures and fliers/burrowers!
Dealing With Mooks: Your Giant Ant wont’ likely help very much against that level 7 boss. But you know what level 7 bosses often have with them? Level 2 and lower mooks. Being able to distract or even dispatch minor threats can help declutter the battlefield and even distract the boss who needs his minions to complete his diabolical plan. Summoned creatures can also help get friendly NPCs out of harm’s way, or deal with non-combative NPCs who are trying to throw a wrench in the works.

Sources Note: Going by Pathfinder Society guidelines, I’ve only included monsters from the Bestiary, not from Adventures. Bestiary 2 is not yet sanctioned, so there is a chance options marked B2 may not be legal for Society, but they are still more likely to be allowed by most GMs.

Summon Animal (Arcane, Primal)

Spell 1:

★★★★☆ Bloodseeker (B1) — Good Debuff. Bleed damage and drain. A fly speed will also help you catch those pesky low level flying targets.
★★★★☆ Compsognathus (B2) — Good Striker. Good hit-bonus and a solid poison effect. Swim speed is a nice bonus too!
★★★★☆ Monkey (B3) — Good Specialist. Attack isn’t bad. Grab and Go makes it an excellent specialist at Stealing. Climb speed.
★★★★☆ Skunk (B3) — Good Striker Debuffer. Spray Musk is quite effective and can be attempted each round. Great high attack and damage for this tier. Scent.
★★★☆☆ Common Eurypterid (B3) — Decent Striker. Attack bonus and Poison DC are low, but it is medium sized with Grab. Swim speed and wavesense.
★★★☆☆ Flash Beetle (B1) — Decent Tank. Dazzle isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible. It will hit more often than other summons and it can fly. Decent athletics.
★★★☆☆ Pufferfish (B3) — Decent Aquatic Tank. Toxic Body and Inflating Rush means it can envenom multiple opponents in the same round. The save is pretty low, but the effects are excellent (flat-footed and paralyzed).
★★★☆☆ Raven (B2) — Decent Utility. A solid utility summon for out of combat. Want to try to steal something, but you don’t want to initiate a fight? Gotta reach those keys on the other side of the prison without the guards noticing? GM’s usually don’t plan for Fly speeds at level 1. Caw!
★★★☆☆ Three-Toed Sloth (B3) — Decent Striker. Attack and damage are pretty good, and Rend is great. But if the opponent moves even a little the Sloth will be spending entire rounds trying to catch up. Scent and (slow) climb speed.
★★★☆☆ Weasel (B3) — Decent Niche Controller. It can squeeze, grab and constrict, but it’s only grabbing tiny creatures. That’s really good against tiny creatures, though! Scent.
★★☆☆☆ Guard Dog (B1) — Mediocre Striker. It could have dealt a little more damage than anything else if it wasn’t for its sad attack bonus. No special movement. It does have scent and a decent Athletics if pushing small or tiny enemies is your goal, but I’d still rather have a flash beetle.
★★☆☆☆ Snapping Turtle (B2) — Mediocre Tank. Comparable to the guard dog. Probably a little worse just because of its poor land speed. The swim-speed makes it manageable, but worse than the Compsognathus. The highest athletics at this level, but its tiny!
★★☆☆☆ Red Fox (B3) — Mediocre Striker. I wish I could rate it higher, but it’s just barely better than the guard dog if you are looking for scent, and even that is debatable. Scent.
★★☆☆☆ Trilobite (B3) — Mediocre Aquatic Striker. It can run away and hide. The attack bonus and damage aren’t bad, but there are better aquatic options.
★★☆☆☆ Viper (B1) — Mediocre Striker. Terrible damage and mediocre poison, but it can climb and has scent!
★☆☆☆☆ Eagle (B1) — Terrible Striker. The premiere level 1 animal has fallen a long way from its heyday in Pathfinder 1e. The only niche use for it in 2e is to try to goad an enemy from hundreds of feet away. Flight is useful, but the Raven beats it for utility and the Flash Beetle and Bloodseeker for damage. The only advantage would be if all creatures on the battlefield were quickened, which shouldn’t happen at level 1.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Centipede (B1) — Terrible Striker. Low attack bonus, low damage and a low DC on its poison makes this considerably worse than the Compsognathus or Viper. It does have a good Climb speed.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Rat (B1) — Terrible Striker. The disease has a 1d4 hour incubation period. The damage isn’t terrible and it does have a climb speed, but there are better options.

Heightened (2nd):

★★★★★ Rat Swarm (B1) — Amazing Swarm. All the swarms are really good and this one is the best. It’s the bulkiest and does the most damage with the highest save. It will deal consistent damage each round to multiple enemies while eating hits. You can shape your swarm however you want and even has a climb speed!
★★★★☆ Cave Scorpion (B2) — Good Tank. It gives you the option to poison or grab and has one of the highest attacks of any creature on this list.
★★★★☆ Giant Skunk (B3) — Good Debuffer. Strikes aren’t bad, but you’ll be using this for the 15-foot cone of Sickened 3 that it can spray every round. It’s large, so theoretically you could ride it I guess? Scent.
★★★★☆ Goblin Dog (B1) — Good Debuff Tank. You are going to summon this because you want to sicken a clump of creatures using Scratch. Especially good if you’re a goblin (and thus immune to Goblin Pox), or have some way to enhance disease. It has a decent attack.
★★★★☆ Hunting Spider (B1) — Good Controlling Striker. Web is fantastic, especially for a single action. The venom isn’t bad and it has a climb speed!
★★★★☆ Hyena (B1) — Good Controlling Tank. Comparable to the wolf. Faster, +1 AC, doing more damage and it can drag enemies around the battlefield! This is a solid summon that can help a party get into position and the Knockdown, Drag and Pack Attack abilities synergize very well. One of the highest Athletics scores, and with only two actions per round you might need it to successfully drag an enemy closer to your melee strikers. If it had more movement options or senses I’d have given it five stars.
★★★★☆ Reef Octopus (B2) — Good Aquatic Tank. Solid stats, movement, damage and even poison. This is what you’ll summon if you’re underwater. It can hit up to four enemies at once, grab, and even unleash an ink cloud. It’s camouflage can make it a decent scout if you can actually communicate with it.
★★★★☆ Squirrel Swarm (B3) — Decent Debuff Swarm. Each round you get to attempt to make all enemies in the swarm Clumsy 1 or take 1d6 damage. Resistances aren’t as good and it’s not doing as much damage as the vampire bats, but don’t discount clumsy. Climbs. Scent. SQUIRREL!
★★★★☆ Vampire Bat Swarm (B1) — Good Flying Swarm. All the swarms are really good. This one flies and gives persistent bleed damage. It’s large and will clog up the battlefield and provide plenty of cover. Precise echolocation means it can track invisible opponents, which are rare at this level but happen on occasion.
★★★☆☆ Camel (B3) — Decent Tank Mount. Large size and high athletics make this a beefy boy. Not as fast as a horse at only 80 feet per round, but it can spit to make someone dazzled (and even sickened).
★★★☆☆ Giant Frog (B2) — Decent Controller Tank. I’ve always loved giant frogs. Since minions can’t use reactions, you won’t be able to do any readied action tongue shenanigans. But the Giant Frog has enough hit points to potentially take two hits to take it out, and snapping someone with that tongue will ensure the enemy will waste actions attacking the giant frog, even if they know it’s just a summoned animal.
★★★☆☆ Giant Solifugid (B2) — Decent Tank. It’s large with reach, has good athletics and can climb. It’s mostly a giant speed-bump, but it might also help trip enemies off a wall or out of the air.
★★★☆☆ Giant Tick (B2) — Decent Debuff. You summon this to inflict drains. It’s your upgraded bloodsucker, but climbs instead of flies. Good athletics, but it’s small sized.
★★★☆☆ Riding Horse (B1) — Decent Tank Mount. Large size and high athletics makes this a beefy boy. And the ability to move you 100 ft per round makes this a great choice for a mount.
★★★☆☆ Spider Swarm (B1) — Decent Debuff Swarm. All the swarms are really good. Being the 0 level swarm means it’ll take less punishment than the other swarms, but the venom isn’t bad against multiple enemies with a low fort and ref save.
★★★☆☆ Velociraptor (B1) — Decent Striker. It does more damage than a wolf, but doesn’t have knockdown and requires leaping charge to get the same attack bonus. Not bad if you are in tight quarters, since it’s small.
★★★☆☆ Wolf (B1) — Decent Tank. Nine-times-out-of-ten you’ll want the Hyena. But the +1 to hit means against high AC opponents you should probably consider the wolf instead. But it’s also a flavorful option that will see plenty of play for that reason alone.
★★☆☆☆ Kangaroo (B3) — Mediocre Striker. It can Push, but the attack bonus is lower than most and the damage is nothing to write home about. I wish Claw were agile.
★★☆☆☆ Blue-Ringed Octopus (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Specialist. A tiny, weaker Reef Octopus. Virulent poison that can paralyze isn’t terrible, but ultimately the other octopus is just better. Aquatic only.
★★☆☆☆ Dream Spider (B2) — Mediocre Controlling Striker. Would have a higher score if Hunting Spider didn’t exist. You might want to consider this against casters, but it’s basically a Hunting Spider that stupefies instead of making the target flat-footed, but has lower numbers across the board. Web is still fantastic.
★★☆☆☆ Electric Eel (B1) — Mediocre Aquatic Controller (Decent Specialist). The attack on its tail attack is low, but the incapacitation effect is fantastic. It is an incapacitation effect so it won’t work as well against Level 3 or higher creatures. It shines against creatures with electricity vulnerability.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Gecko (B1) — Mediocre Specialist. Underrated, but still not great. The only reason to summon a giant gecko is to have it try to use its athletics to shove a climbing enemy off a high surface. And you are probably better using a giant solifugid for that.
★★☆☆☆ Manta Ray (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Mount Striker. I much prefer this to a hippocampus. The strafing rush means it can zip around doing damage while eating attacks of opportunity. Not bad, but not worth it unless you desperately need that aquatic mount.
★★☆☆☆ Spear Frog (B2) —  Mediocre Debuffer. Low stats. Mediocre poison. It can do what it does well on land and water, but it’s not that good. Better than a sea snake thanks to its toxic skin ability. Ribbit.
★★☆☆☆ Vampire Squid (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Debuffer. Reef octopus is better, but it’s not terrible.
★☆☆☆☆ Badger (B1) — Poor Striker. Minions can’t use reactions, so the badger cannot rage. It does have a burrow speed.
★☆☆☆☆ Bottlenose Dolphin (B2) — Poor Aquatic Striker. Echolocation is neat, but there are far many better options for underwater creatures. Ramming speed isn’t bad. It’s not technically an aquatic creature, but you should treat it like it is.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Fly (B2) — Mediocre Striker. Still better than the Cockroach in terms of speed, durability, damage and actually-having-an-ability. But unless you have a way to speed up disease onset, it’s a worthless rider.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Maggot (B2) — Mediocre controller. The only reason to summon this over a Ball Python would be against an enemy with a high fortitude save and abysmal reflex save, comparing gnaw flesh to constrict. And I’d still want the python in most combats. Tremorsense.
★☆☆☆☆ Hippocampus (B2) — Aquatic Poor Mount. I’d rather ride a giant manta ray. Only advantage is this is an aquatic creature with a land speed, but it’s only 5 feet and since it’s aquatic it will start suffocating on land.
★☆☆☆☆ Ringhorn Ram (B3) — Poor Striker. Low stats. Charge isn’t as useful on a summon. Can move on difficult terrain caused by ledges, so maybe as a mount for small PCs?
★☆☆☆☆ Sea Snake (B2) — Poor Debuffer. Low stats. Mediocre poison. It can do what it does well on land and water, but it’s not that good.
★☆☆☆☆  Stingray (B2) — Poor Debuffer. Mommy, mommy, I want a manta ray. But we have a manta ray at home. And this is the manta ray we have at home. Terrible damage and poison. Electrolocation is still kind of neat, but it’s an imprecise sense.
★☆☆☆☆ War Pony (B1) — Poor Mount. Better than a riding pony, but I’d rather ride a wolf. I suppose if you wanted a normal-looking mount and couldn’t fit a large sized horse this would be an option, and it does have high athletics if your looking to shove, trip or grapple.
☆☆☆☆☆ Giant Cockroach (B2) — Terrible. I guess it has Fly, but it won’t be doing much more than giving you a bonus on getting a tavern closed down.
☆☆☆☆☆ Riding Dog (B1) — Terrible Mount. Only reason this exists in the same book as a wolf is because you can buy one in most cities and it won’t eat the wizard’s familiar.
☆☆☆☆☆ Riding Pony (B1) — Terrible Mount. Worse than a war pony.


Heightened (3rd):

★★★★★ Giant Ant (B2) Amazing Control — Good stats. It poisons. It grabs. But most of all, it hauls. Running away with an enemy will completely ruin that creature’s day, and by the time it gets back you’ll have likely dispatched his friends with ease. Not to mention the ant can always climb while holding onto the creature and just drop it into a hazard.
★★★★☆ Cave Fisher (B2) — Good Control Tank. The filament will let you tether people to your cave fisher, which can climb up walls or onto ceilings to suspend victims over the battlefield or even drop them for extra damage.
★★★★☆ Giant Leech (B2) — Good Control Debuffer. It grabs and confers the drained condition. It’s athletics is high enough that you won’t always have to rely on the bite to grab (2 actions) if you are afraid it won’t survive a round to use its blood drain. It also swims and has temorsense!
★★★★☆ Giant Monitor Lizard (B2) — Good Control Tank. The monitor lizard has a potent poison and a more reliable grab than the crocodile. Very solid choice, and it has a swim speed!
★★★★☆ Giant Opossum (B3) — Good Control. It can grab and carry away Tiny creatures like the Giant Ant.
★★★★☆ Giant Porcupine (B3) — Good Bleed Striker. Passive bleed damage against unarmed attackers is great. Rearward Rush with good stats means it can easily quill at least once per round.
★★★★☆ Hippogriff (B2) — Good Flying Mount. At this tier there are plenty of enemies who can’t fly. You can use it to keep a damaged party member safe, escape a hairy situation, or to just swoop down and hit an enemy each round. Against a single enemy, go with a pteranodon.
★★★★☆ Monkey Swarm (B3) — Good Swarm Specialist. The way monster blocks are written makes taking a “random item of negligible Bulk” often “take that one McGuffin the party needs” or “take something the monster needs to function”. Large swarms with passive anti-auditory effects are great. Climbs.
★★★★☆ Pteranodon (B1) — Good Flying Mount. At this tier there are plenty of enemies who can’t fly. You can use it to keep a damaged party member safe, escape a hairy situation, or to just swoop down and hit an enemy each round. Against multiple enemies, go with a hippogriff.
★★★★☆ Slurk (B1) — Good Debuffer. The entangling slime is really good, especially if fighting enemies who are trying to close in on the party. It can easily climb up walls and just start squirting on two enemies a round, sliding down to bite if you desperately need the extra damage. You can also command with Draconic, which is neat!
★★★★☆ Giant Toad (B2) — Good Controller. It has the same great tongue grab as the giant frog with better stats, plus a decent poison that can cripple casters or even outright confuse low fortitude save targets. Swallow whole is super fun.
★★★★☆ Terror Bird (B3) — Good Striker Mount. Fast with reach, bleed damage, and a Knockdown attack. 50-foot speed!
★★★☆☆ Blindheim (B2) — Decent Area of Effect Debuff. If all your opponent’s succeed at this save, you will regret this decision. If they fail? You will probably win. It is unlikely to take more than one-and-a-half hits before croaking…but you can somewhat communicate with it if your GM let’s you use Recall Knowledge to learn about its signal lights and you have a hooded lantern!
★★★☆☆ Crocodile (B1) — Decent Control Striker. Bite. Grab. Deathroll the following turn. The crocodile will do plenty of damage while keeping a creature occupied. A solid choice for any summoner at this tier. If you want a better swimming lizard at the same tier, go for a giant monitor lizard instead.
★★★☆☆ Fading Fox (B3) — Decent Specialist Striker. It can stealth really well and gets sneak attack damage, but its stats aren’t great for combat. Great stealth. Scent.
★★★☆☆ Giant Bat (B1) — Decent Flying Mount. Doesn’t have the swoop abilities of a Hippogriff or Pteranodon, and is a little slower. It does have echolocation, if you need it. Also has higher Athletics, if you’re looking to trip a flying creature.
★★★☆☆ Giant Flying Squirrel (B3) — Decent Striker. Very high attack bonus and decent damage. Can fly and glide.
★★★☆☆ Leopard (B1) — Decent Striker. A deceptively versatile combatant, the leopard can pounce and grab, grab and maul or just double claw depending on the perceived fort save of the target and how well you can set up a flank to trigger it’s sneak attack. One of the best damage dealing summons at this tier!
★★★☆☆ Rat Snake Swarm (B3) — Decent Striking Swarm. Bites twice a turn. Scent. Climbs and Swims.
★★★☆☆ Rosethorn Ram (B3) — Decent Striker Mount. Can deal persistent damage with a high attack bonus and a climb speed.
★★★☆☆ Shocker Lizard (B2) — Decent Area of Effect Specialist. Use this if the opponent has a weakness to electricity, or you need that 3d6 burst of electricity damage. It can also swim, which can be useful if your GM uses special rules for how electricity works underwater. Electrolocation is useful
★★★☆☆ Wolverine (B2) — Decent Mobile Striker. The wolverine does lots of damage and has climb/burrow speeds, but that’s basically it. It isn’t enough damage to make this worthwhile, unless your party desperately needs to finish something off.
★★☆☆☆ Black Bear (B2) — Mediocre Control Tank. Grab isn’t bad, but other creatures do it better. It does inspire bear puns though, which is a plus or a minus pending your group.
★★☆☆☆ Boar (B1) — Mediocre Mobile Striker. The charge has respectable damage, but if you’re using this spell just to do 2d6+4 piercing damage per round you are wasting your spell.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Badger (B2) — Mediocre Striker. It does 1 more damage than a wolverine, but loses 4 HP, its climb speed and Sudden Charge. Summons can’t use ferocity. It does do decent damage, just nothing else to warrant a third star.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Crab (B2) — Mediocre Tank Controller. Did you know James Jacob’s Monstrous Crab was one of the strongest level 3 monsters of 3.5? This is not that. Not at all. It can at least grab and constrict, but not as well as a crocodile.
★☆☆☆☆ Deinonychus (B1) — Poor Specialty Striker. The only reason to play this would be if you had a dedicated bleed build. It does have high athletics, but that +9 to hit makes it unplayable without some kind of Area of Effect bleed.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Viper (B1) — Poor Striker. If you’re using this, you’re probably dedicated to your snake theme. The poison is mostly extra damage and the coil ability is laughably useless without the ability to use reactions.
☆☆☆☆☆ Cockroach Swarm (B2) — Terrible Swarm. The resistance is too low to call this bulky, especially at this tier. There are no riders to its damage and the damage itself is unnervingly forgettable. Best use for this is getting a pub closed down.
☆☆☆☆☆ War Horse (B1) — Terrible Mount. If you want a War Horse, just buy one. There are even better mounts on the summon list by now. It does have the highest athletics of any other summon at this level, but the Cave Fisher is only 1 behind and gets so many other toys.

Heightened (4th):

★★★★☆ Bunyip (B1) — Good Aquatic Debuff Tank. This has the aquatic trait, so it can’t breathe air. But it can get a grab in its snake form and bites with a persistent bleed. The roar is its best quality, giving you an area of effect frightened effect. It has a swim speed and scent, including blood scent for tracking a bloodied creature up to a mile away!
★★★★☆ Centipede Swarm (B1) — Good Swarm Debuff. Those resistances aren’t as impressive at this tier, but it still has some of the survivability that swarms enjoyed at lower tiers. The big advantage here is the poison is at a decent DC and makes enemies flat-footed. Most enemies will be rolling two saves against the poison per round given they will still have to roll even if they take half damage from swarming bites.
★★★★☆ Giant Whiptail Centipede (B2) — Good Tank Debuffer. It’s huge. It can go through doors. It has tons of reach. And you get to choose between Knockdown or Poison. What’s not to love?
★★★★☆ Gorilla (B1) — Good Debuff. You’ll be using this for the Frightening Display. If there is any water nearby, go for the Bunyip instead. What’s neat is the creatures aren’t automatically immune if they succeed, so you can go ahead and let King Kong pump his chest each round to re-up the frightened condition.
★★★★☆ Narwhal (B3) — Good Aquatic Mount. 60 foot swim speed and an impaling grab with great stats. It also has precise echolocation.
★★★★☆ Platecarpus (B3) — Good Controller. Not Aquatic, but needs water or only two stars. Good stats. Aquatic Drag lets you pull those pesky air-breathers away from the party. Strafing chomp eats attacks of opportunity. Swallow whole is icing on the cake. Good athletics and stealth. Swim speed. Scent.
★★★☆☆ Ankhrav (B1) — Decent Specialist. It can dissolve armor, but it is unlikely to actually hit an armored opponent at this tier. It can also spew a cone of acid, but not well enough to give it the area of effect role. It does have a burrow speed and tremorsense!
★★★☆☆ Giant Mantis (B1) — Decent Control Striker. Do I lose my Fox Clan cred card for liking the Mantis? The best Grab choice at this tier, with 10 (sometimes 20) foot reach on an agile chassis, it can even strike like a rogue if summoned during the first round of combat. It can fly, climb and has the highest Athletics in the tier (great for grabbing flyers, since you have to spend an action to fly or else you start to fall). Remember that minions do not get reactions.
★★★☆☆ Giant Vulture (B3) — Decent Debuff Mount. It flies. It beaks. It vomits and sickens (once). It’s large enough to ride too.
★★★☆☆ Megalictis (B3) — Decent Control Striker. I love my giant weasels! Grabs. Lower attack than a Giant Mantis, but Constrict makes up for that. Can squeeze and scent.
★★★☆☆ Moose (B3) — Decent Striker Debuff Mount. Moose are super scary. Thundering Charge can very easily Stun. It has great stats. Kick Back is okay; You’ll probably want to use it after a combat maneuver with that high athletics skill. Scent.
★★★☆☆ Piranah Swarm (B3) — Decent Swarm Striker. Deals damage twice a round with bleed. Causing that already decent Reflex save to lower on a fail makes this a very potent summon. Blood scent.
★★★☆☆ Raven Swarm (B2) — Decent Specialist. Awful in combat. But the cloud of angry birds can spend it’s minute running down a hallway unlocking doors, opening windows, cracking safes, going down pit-traps and otherwise clearing a path for your adventuring party before you apply your buffs and charge. It’s a niche value and just being trained in thievery at this level should give you a +9 before applying your Dex.
★★★☆☆ Wolliped (B3) — Decent Niche Debuff Mount. It flies. It can throw up like a vulture, but it moves across ice really well instead of flying. Scent.
★★☆☆☆ Dire Wolf (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. It has Grab and Knockdown with Reach. Worry isn’t a bad ability, but will take a turn of set-up since it doesn’t have improved grab. I’d rather summon a lion, but the wolf is more likely to hit and does have knockdown. Has one of the highest Athletics in this tier.
★★☆☆☆ Fen Mosquito Swarm (B2) — Mediocre Area of Effect Specialist. Malaria is still mediocre in combat without disease support. The persistent bleed isn’t terrible. In terms of flying swarms, it’s better than the Ravens in combat.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Chameleon (B2) — Mediocre Control Specialist. Climb and tongue together let you potentially turn an enemy into a tetherball, but the tongue is laughably easy to slice at this tier. The ability to climb, hide without cover and its high perception makes this a decent potential scout, but it has no special senses.
★★☆☆☆  Giant Scorpion (B1) — Mediocre Control Debuff. It hits a little less often than the Mantis and the poison has a super low DC. It does have tremorsense and grabbing invisible creatures can be fun!
★★☆☆☆ Giant Seahorse (B3) — Mediocre Aquatic Tank. Not as good as a Bunyip. Camouflage can help you disguise the fact you are mounted. Anchor has some niche utility, such as severe weather or a tsunami.
★★☆☆☆ Grizzly Bear (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. It can grab. But not as well as other monsters, like the Mantis.
★★☆☆☆ Hyaenodon (B1) — Mediocre Control Striker. Knockdown and drag are still decent battlefield control options. Bonecrunching bite is pretty useless, so for the sake of table time tell your GM in advance since most enemies don’t use dying. Has one of the highest Athletics in this tier.
★★☆☆☆ Lion (B1) — Mediocre Control Striker. Pack Attack plus Sneak Attack means you can summon the Lion on the other side of an ally and stack on the bonus dice. You’ll want to use grab shortly after, but if a creature goes down it can always pounce to a new target.
★★☆☆☆ Trilobite Swarm (B3) — Mediocre Aquatic Swarm. They bite. It’s hard to give a swarm a lower score than this. Wavesense is neat.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Dragonfly Nymph (B2) — Poor Striker. This non-flying aquatic baby dragonfly is best left in the nursery. It does do a little more damage than usual and has agile, but the Bunyip is just so much better if you are looking for a swimming partner.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Wasp (B1) —Poor Specialist  Striker. It does roll a d12 if you want a flyer you plan on hitting with Magic Fang. The poison is pretty useless, but it can implant eggs into unconscious enemies which is…really gross?
★☆☆☆☆ Pachycephalosaurus (B2) — Poor Striker. If it got sudden-charge I’d give it two more stars, but minions don’t get reactions. Stunned 1 is amazing, but less so when it only works 5% of the time.

 Heightened (5th):

★★★★☆ Army Ant Swarm (B2) — Good Control Swarm. Solid damage, especially biting twice a round. Clumsy and the flat-check to any concentrate or manipulate action are going to hurt. It even has decent defenses for it’s level, and a climb speed!
★★★★☆ Brood Leech Swarm (B2) — Good Debuff Swarm. Bleed damage without strikes or saves is really good. The poison is legit. It even has a swim speed and tremorsense! And if you’ve already caused every enemy to become poisoned and bleeding? It can even attempt a grab or shove!
★★★★☆ Ogre Spider (B2) — Good Control Tank. The only terrestrial huge creature at this tier. Web is great, poison isn’t bad, and it’s stats are solid. It can even move freely in large spaces!
★★★★☆ Owlbear (B1) — Good Debuff Tank. It’s numbers are a little lower than a Giant Frilled Lizard, but it’s intimidation effect is only one action and the gnaw effect adds yet another debuff you can throw into the mix. It’s also an owl. And a bear.
★★★★☆ Rhinoceros (B2) — Good Control Tank. This tank has good enough stats to survive in an encounter against multiple foes of lower level. Rhinoceros charge damages, shoves and knocks prone, which means the melee enemy will have to stand and shift just to hit your horny new friend.
★★★★☆ Terror Shrike (B3) — Good Deuff Striker Mount. Would be a 5-star if it had Creature 5 stats. The screech can stun multiple enemies and doesn’t have the incapacitate trait, but watch out since it’ll affect the party. Sudden charge is great on a mount.
★★★☆☆ Amphisbaena (B3) — Decent Deuff Striker. Would be a 4-star if it had Creature 5 stats. Being able to strike two creatures without suffering MAP, inflict enfeebling poison, and blind on a critical hit makes this a pretty good summon. It also climbs, swims, and has tremorsense. But the DC on the poison and attack bonus isn’t the best.
★★★☆☆ Bore Worm Swarm (B3) — Decent Debuff Swarm. Sickened 1 and acid damage. Also a burrow speed and tremorsense.
★★★☆☆ Emperor Cobra (B1) — Decent Deuff Striker. Single action 20-ft emanation fear effect and an (albeit mediocre) poison. It’s not great, but it fills a niche thanks to its swim and climb speed.
★★★☆☆ Giant Dragonfly (B2) — Decent Control Specialist. The dragonfly can grab enemies and fly away with them. Even if the target breaks free or kills your summon, they will be at least 30 feet away (if not further) and likely prone. It can even drop enemies and swoop back down to pick up other enemies. And, of course, it can grab other flying creatures. The numbers aren’t in your favor against enemies around your tier, but it can declutter the battlefield or even save a low-level NPC from the horrors of battle. Wavesense is kind of funny when it doesn’t have a swim speed, but I guess it’s a call-back to its childhood.
★★★☆☆ Giant Hermit Crab (B3) — Decent Amphibious Control Tank. Grab and constrict. Pretty good stats, but that’s not too useful at this tier. Grab can be deadly on an amphibious creature, though. Retract is only worth it if enemies are focused on the crab since it can’t react as a summon.
★★★☆☆ Giant Pangolin (B3) — Decent Debuff Niche Tank. Summon this against swarms. Emite Musk is a decent sickened aura. Roll Up could let it survive an extra hit if you can get an enemy to focus on it. But you will mostly summon this for a devourer of swarms. Burrow and climb.
★★★☆☆ Megatherium (B3) — Decent Debuff.  A cloud of sickened isn’t bad. Knockdown is great too. Climbs and has scent. Isn’t so slow that enemies can just run away like against the sloth, and it has reach which works great with knockdown.
★★★☆☆ Orca (B1) — Decent Aquatic Specialist Tank. It’s a huge sized meat wall if you are underwater. It can double as a mount. Grab and echolocation!
★★★☆☆ Spiny Eurypterid (B3) — Decent Control Striker. It grabs and uses enfeebled poison. It swims and has wavesense. Chitinous Spines means it will damage each round it can keep something grabbed, and amphibious grabbers are super effective against air-breathers when you have a source of water.
★★☆☆☆ Daeodon (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. It can knock you prone? But it’s not as good as a Rhino.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Frilled Lizard (B1) — Mediocre Outclassed Debuff Tank. You summon this for its intimidating display to try to make all your enemies frightened. Not as good as the Emperor Cobra since it only frightens adjacent creatures and takes two actions to do it..and then provides nothing of value.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Moray Eel (B1) — Mediocre Aquatic Control Tank. It takes three rounds to actually use the bite, jaws and then swallow whole, and the eel is unlikely to last that long against most enemies. The resistances make it pretty bulky, and it’s nice to have piercing resistance on an aquatic creature.
★★☆☆☆ Griffon (B1) — Mediocre Striker Mount. Another flying mount with strafe, like we saw in the prior level. Extremely low stats for this tier. And most enemies at this tier will have options against flight.
★★☆☆☆ Hermit Crab Swarm (B3) — Mediocre Amphibious Swarm. You shouldn’t be summoning for damage at this tier. Even with persistent damage, tremorsense, and a swim speed.
★★☆☆☆ Hippopotamus (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Specialist Striker. If you are summoning a hippo, you’re doing it to capsize a large or smaller vessel. It’s not 100% reliable, but you can attempt it twice per turn. There are probably better ways to do it, like just having an orca flop on the raft and let the GM arbitrate a capsize. The deadly d10 means it does technically do more damage than an orca, but good luck critting with a summon spell!
★★☆☆☆ Tiger (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. You can spend an action doing a grab and then wrestle to knock the target prone, but it has very low stats for this tier so it probably won’t work unless the target is flat-footed and pretty weak. It also has sneak attack, but that wasn’t quite enough to give it a third star.
★★☆☆☆ Viper Swarm (B3) — Mediocre Swarm. You shouldn’t be summoning for damage at this tier and the stats of the creature aren’t good enough to expect the poison to reliably go beyond stage 1. The spritz is pretty neat if you can enhance the venom somehow. Climbs and swims.
★★☆☆☆ Wasp Swarm (B1) — Mediocre Swarm. You shouldn’t be summoning for damage at this tier. Even with a fly speed and a poison, this summon just isn’t good enough. At least the damage is done with a save instead of a strike, so you are more likely to find enemies at this tier to damage.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Stag Beetle (B1) — Poor Striker. It cannot use trample without haste, so it’s not even a flampler. But it does fly and you can ride it, but the griffin is better for that.
★☆☆☆☆ Giant Wolverine (B2) — Poor Striker. It has lots of ways to say “I deal damage”, and gnaw would be a decent source of bleed damage if it didn’t have that terrible attack bonus and require grabbing the creature. Rage is always a feel-bad action when you only get two actions per round.
★☆☆☆☆ Great White Shark (B1) — Poor Aquatic Striker. It does damage. I’d rather grab as an orca. I guess it’s better against a sharkshasa.
★☆☆☆☆ Hadrosaurid (B2) — Poor Mount. There are better ways to move 100 feet.
★☆☆☆☆ Polar Bear (B2) — Poor Striker. It can out-damage other options while grabbed and sneak-attacking, but it won’t do as much damage as buffing an ally or casting cloudkill.
★☆☆☆ Scorpion Swarm (B1) — Poor Swarm. All it does is damage, and even then not well. It doesn’t even fly like the wasp swarm.

Heightened (6th):

★★★★★ Quetzalcoatlus (B1) — Amazing Control Striker Mount. A mount with a swoop-bleed is pretty cool. What’s even better is one who can grab, continue to fly and drop enemies so they are damaged, prone and too far away to do anything for a round or two!
★★★★☆ Elephant (B1) — Good Control Tank. With a single action it can attack, damage, and grab as a huge creature with 15 foot reach! Then it can carry the creature off to either attempt a solo-combat or at least give the creature multiple rounds before it’s able to come back. Since it’s a huge creature it can easily be a mount, and you can always use that reach to grab and reposition creatures around the battlefield, pending GM fiat.
★★★★☆ Empress Bore Worm (B3) — Good Niche Debuff. It deals acid damage and sickens. It doesn’t get its death throes because it is a summoned creature. So why four stars? Because it can create tunnels with its 40 foot burrow speed, potentially digging a 800-foot tunnel your party can use that will without a doubt stay behind after the empress leaves. Tremorsense.
★★★★☆ Fire Jellyfish Swarm (B2) — Good Aquatic Debuff Controller. The swarm can try to poison everyone twice a round and has a pretty good chance of inflicting clumsy. Plus it has a decent enough acrobatics score that it could potentially grab an enemy to keep it in the swarm. Solid resistances.
★★★★☆ Megalania (B2) — Good Control Tank. A huge creature with reach and grab with a darned good poison and a swallow whole attack? It even does pretty good damage. And a swim speed!
★★★★☆ Zetogeki (B3) — Good Tank. It can grab and mangle. It can get resistance to all physical damage while it chews on enemies. Probably not worth a spell-slot unless you’re facing multiple enemies trying to deal physical damage that you can block using a large lizard. Climb speed.
★★★☆☆ Stegosaurus (B1) — Decent Control Tank. Fifteen foot reach on a huge creature with the Athletics of a 10th level creature! Trip and shove!
★★★☆☆ Elasmosaurus (B2) — Decent Aquatic Tank Specialist. I’m saying specialist here because the best use for this is in a water-adjacent fight to try to drag enemies without swim speeds into the water. In most cases you are probably better off just summoning a Quetzalcoatlus and dropping them in the water, or a Stegosaurus who can shove them into the water. The ability to potentially have 27 AC and 125 HP makes it a decent tank, but it’s unlikely that the party will be in the water and the enemies won’t be. But many enemies instinctually attack the “biggest enemy”. And who doesn’t want to ride Nessie into battle!
★★★☆☆ Wooly Rhinoceros (B2) — Decent Control Striker. 80 feet range 3d12+6, reflex save or shove and knocked prone. Not bad, and you can even use it as a mount!
★★★☆☆ Smilodon (B1) — Decent Specialist Striker. Pounce and Sneak Attack work pretty well together, but if you’re summoning this it is because someone is wearing armor it can break. You won’t be using this against heavy armor, but that’s fine since it would be unlikely to hit heavy armor wearers anyway.
★★☆☆☆ Ankylosaurus (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. Fifteen foot reach on a huge creature with a small chance of conferring slowed? The only problem is the stats are much lower than anything else on the list, including the attack bonus. If you can buff it even a little, it becomes considerably better. But unlike lots of other creatures on this list, it isn’t significantly buffed by the best multi-target buff spell in the game (haste).
★★☆☆☆ Giant Jellyfish (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Debuff Swarm. Good poison. Decent Athletics. It is not as good as the fire jellyfish swarm, but there are situations where you don’t want a swarm. The piercing 5 weakness for an aquatic creature is the only reason this isn’t three stars. Its AC is so low it will get crit all the time.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Mosquito (B2) — Mediocre Specialist. The blood-sucker thing just isn’t as good at this tier and Malaria isn’t exactly great in combat.
★★☆☆☆ Giant Tarantula (B1) — Mediocre Area of Effect. The poison has a pretty low DC, but it can launch a cone of hair every round which you might need for some reason.
★☆☆☆☆ Cave Bear (B1) — Poor Control Tank. It can grab. But not that well.
★☆☆☆☆Sportlebore Swarm (B2) — Poor Swarm. Without the reaction, this monster is terrible. It is a swarm so will deliver somewhat consistent damage, and it can fly. It could try Athletics against a flying enemy, I suppose?
☆☆☆☆☆ Iguanodon (B2) — Terrible Striker. All it does is deal damage and not that well.


Heightened (7th):

★★★★★ Roc (B1) — Amazing Control Striker Mount. What else is there to say about a gargantuan flier with improved grab and improved push? Oh how about the fact it has snatch and flying strafe?! You should know the drill by now: pick up an enemy. Fly away. Drop enemy. There is a reason the Roc has always been near the top of most animal companion lists!
★★★★★ Giant Octopus (B1) — Amazing Aquatic Control Mount. It can grab four targets like the squid, but it also has a really solid poison! Ink cloud can completely end an encounter. Jet makes this a very solid aquatic mount.
★★★★☆ Giant Anaconda (B1) — Good Controller. Solid stats. Just start wrapping up mooks one by one and slither them away. Grab or Push with Swallow Whole? Oh and it has a climb and swim speed because of course it does.
★★★★☆ Giant Squid (B2) — Good Aquatic Control Tank. Great crowd control. It can strike and improved grab four creatures in two actions! Construct gives it a good second action if it has already grabbed everyone.
★★★★☆ Giant Snapping Turtle (B2) — Good Tank Control (Aquatic Alt). Improved grab into swallow whole is great, especially on a gargantuan creature. Shell defense means it can actually serve as a decent wall, especially if it does so after swallowing a nuisance enemy. Capsize is a fun ability and will completely change the nature of the encounter.
★★★★☆ Khravgodon (B3) — Good Niche Controller. Solid stats. Can reduce AC with Crush Chitin. Grasping Tail is the MVP here, letting you haul away bothersome opponents (or allies who don’t want to be rescued for some reason). Has a burrow and climb speed, so can theoretically use its tail to drag people underground with it.
★★★★☆ Mastodon (B2) — Good Control Tank. If you liked the elephant last level, you’ll still like it this level. Standard clause about scaling with summons applies.
★★★☆☆ Anancus (B2) — Decent Area of Effect Controller. A 15-foot cone of tusk damage each round isn’t that great at this tier, but it can knock all those enemies prone. Use against low Reflex.
★★★☆☆ Aurumvorax (B2) — Decent Specialist. Use Gnaw Metal against enemies wearing armor. You’ll likely want to use Athletics to grab them and just ignore your grab ability so you can Gnaw Metal the same round, leaving them prone, grappled and wearing broken armor!
★★★☆☆ Megaprimatus (B1) — Decent Debuffer Specialist (Hands). The terrifying display is really lame at this tier. Mangling Rend would be really nice if it ignored MAP and/or only required one fist Strike to land to apply those debuffs, but without buffs it’s a RNG fest. It can climb and does have bulk, plus it has hands being a giant ape so there’s lots of neat things you can have it do depending on your GM.
★★★☆☆ Tylosaurus (B3) — Decent Amphibious Controller. Gargantuan creature with grab and aquatic grab. A little less effective at this tier, but has use against lower level enemies you want to drag under a sizable body of water.
★★☆☆☆ Deinosuchus (B1) — Mediocre Controller. It can grab a little better than other creatures in this tier, but all it does is grab and swallow whole. It does swim…but I’d rather have an octopus.
★★☆☆☆ Slug (B2) — Mediocre Specialist. You’ll probably do double strides with the slug just to make big areas of difficult terrain. It’s also good against stuff that’s weak against acid.
★★☆☆☆ Triceratops (B1) — Mediocre Control Tank. It charges and knocks people down. 2d6 bleed isn’t bad. But it’s attack bonus is really low.
★★☆☆☆ Bulette (B1) — Mediocre Specialist Striker. Maybe I’m biased because I like land sharks. Or maybe because 30 feet burrow speed has it’s niche uses. But if your GM lets you choose a favored prey when you summon this can dish out quite a bit of focused damage. 4d10+22 per round probably isn’t worth a 7th level spell, but the burrow speed will sometimes make up for it when you need a way to get at another burrowing enemy.
★☆☆☆☆ Krooth (B1) — Poor Debuff. It can give the drained condition and it is amphibious, for what that’s worth.
★☆☆☆☆ Titan Centipede (B2) — Poor Tank. It’s a gargantuan creature that can squeeze and the poison isn’t terrible, but at this tier the impaling critical will almost never work.
☆☆☆☆☆ Tick Swarm (B2) — Terrible Swarm. By now swarms have lost most of their luster. This basically just does damage since minions don’t get reactions. It doesn’t even fly.


Heightened (8th):

★★★★★ Deadly Mantis (B1) — Amazing Control Striker. Leaping Grab will let you pull creatures away from the thick of battle. Rending mandibles let’s you rip apart armor. And if you manage to get a grab, you can even fling enemies away, costing them upwards of two actions just to get back into the fight. They have the highest Athletics, AC and HP in this tier, with a climb speed!
★★★★★ Goliath Spider (B1) — Amazing Control Debuff. Against a big scary target, you can eat away their actions with a web. Against slightly weaker mooks, it has a poison that causes slowness!
★★★★☆ Brontosaurus (B1) — Good Control Striker. Tail-sweep is incredibly good for knocking down up to three enemies at once. And being gargantuan with 20-foot reach, you will easily find three enemies to hit!
★★★★☆ Mammoth (B1) — Good Control Tank. The elephant’s final form! It can grab two creatures with a single action and run off 45 feet with them where even if they escape it’ll burn most of their turn just getting back into the fray!
★★★☆☆ Tyrannosaurus (B1) — Decent Control Tank. It grabs and swallows whole. It’s not that great to be king.
★★☆ ☆☆ Behemoth Hippopotamus (B2) — Mediocre Aquatic Specialist. I’m putting aquatic here because the only reason to summon a hippo at this tier is to capsize a ship. Otherwise, it’s just your standard grab creature.
★☆☆☆☆ Spinosaurus (B2) — Poor Area of Effect Striker. Staggering Sail is only good against creatures level 12 or lower since it’s an incapacitation effect, which you are unlikely to encounter at this tier. It’s good against those creatures, but without that ability, you are looking at a mediocre 30-foot cone each round with a 5% chance of slow 1, or using its mediocre grab capabilities. It does swim.


Heightened (9th):

★★★★★ Purple Worm (B1) — Amazing Mobile Striker Specialist. Thrash means you can attack probably the entire battlefield, grabbing one victim and poisoning another. The poison enfeebles and the grab will likely become a swallow whole. Regurgitating creatures to make ranged attacks at other creatures is a hoot. It can even start with swallowed boulders to shoot or swallow an existing boulder on the battlefield in a single action, potentially changing the appearance of the battlefield itself. Rock tunneler can make an entrance or exit for your entire party, burrowing through solid stone at 20 feet and leaving behind a convenient tunnel for the rest of the party.
★★★★☆ Frost Worm (B2) — Decent Specialist Area of Effect Tank. Compared to the purple worm, it does have 1 point of higher AC and immunity to cold. But unless your targets are susceptible to cold or the fascinated condition, it’s probably best to go with a purple worm.


Heightened (10th):

★★★☆☆ Black Scorpion (B2) — Decent Tank. At size gargantuan it’ll fill up the battlefield and take quite a few hits. It can grab and poison to inflict clumsy 2, though most things are immune to poison at this level. The rapid-stinging means it can hit three opponents without worrying about MAL, which is nice. It’s your only option right now, and I don’t feel like it’s worth a 10th level spell.

Dustin Knight

Dustin has been playing and improving on RPGs since AD&D in 1999. He ran games and conventions around California while studying Graphic Design, Philosophy, English & Architecture. After developing a tabletop game seminar he began working freelance for Alderac Entertainment Games. During his stint on the East Coast, he became a Venture Lieutenant and began reviewing Pathfinder mechanics for Organized Play. After moving to Washington in 2019, he met Alex Augunas at Paizocon and developed, designed and wrote for Everybody Games LLC. He has since published work with Rogue Genius Games and Paizo. He can be found on the Know Direction discord where he goes by the username "KitsuneWarlock".