TL:DR AT THE BOTTOM IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ ALL MY THOUGHTS ON CHOICES.
"Best" is in quotation marks because THIS IS ALL SUBJECTIVE. "Best" is what you decide. If I don't mention your favorite move/skill/equipment feel free to tell me why you like it. I'm also not trying to degrade anybody's choices. It's not a huge deal if you decide you like something completely different than what I'm suggesting and want to use that instead. There are no wrong choices, use what you like. I could add "IMO" or "I recommend" after absolutely everything but I'm not gonna, it's implied.
This is coming from a current "endgame" player's POV. Which is that just like World, buddy damage is a non-factor compared to hunter damage once you get far enough along. If you want to optimize buddy damage and play Pokemon with them that's entirely possible but from my testing that's just not as useful as free status procs. I skip over a lot of things that give damage or defense solely to the buddies as there are always options that will help the hunter directly.
If you want to learn how to scout these buddies or simply want to see what all your options are for them I highly recommend giving
He's a new small MHR Youtuber who's putting out guides for various gameplay elements. He's also got some amazing showcases of new Longsword tech for those
Cats are up first.
Best cat type are gathering because their first and last slot are set to Endemic Life Barrage (free status procs) and Pilfer. In a game where every single HR material can be used in melding for charms this is the most valuable move of any Palico. More mats = more melding = less time spent hunting for the charms you want.
For the first move slot: Healing Bubble or Go Fight Win if you're a stamina consuming weapon.
Next slot is Power Drum always as it buffs your damage and defense. Vase of Vitality has niche uses for it's status clear capabilities but the extra raw and def of Drum makes me feel like it's never going to be as useful.
Lastly Shock Tripper or Shock Purr-ison. This is personal pref and a little weapon Dependent. Shock tripper applies thunderblight. If you hit the head of a thunderblighted monster you get a KO proc no matter your weapon. This is pretty handy for weapons that can't KO on their own but not as useful for those that KO consistently. Shock Purr-ison is free shock traps. In my testing the only downside to it is Palicos really like to use this only when the monster becomes capturable so it kinda only saves you the crafting mats of having to use your own shock trap to capture a monster. It's still useful.
For passives I look for Status Attack Up, Knockout King and Attack Up (S). That last slot is flex but if KO works like it does in World than it's based on your damage so that helps a small amount.
Lastly because I've gone full into status, weapon choice is rather simple. Jelly has the highest Blunt/Paralysis weapon. Cat-aclysm Knell has the highest Blunt/Sleep. Pukei has the highest Blunt/Poison. There is no Blunt/Blast currently but it's an option if you want to go Magnamalo weapon for Severing/Blast. Pick the status that you want to see happen at least once in a hunt. Paralysis is my current favorite.
Dogs are easier as they just have the passives and equipment which are the same best ones for cats. The GEAR however is where we get some choice. Ruling out any dog damage or defense focused gear we're left with few options.
Steel Fang. This kinda acts like a flash pod where the monster will just do random shit because there's a dog on their back. I personally don't like it because I want the monster to focus on me so I can take advantage of all the awesome new counter moves that Rise gave to practically everything. I can see this being useful for gunners where you're standing back anyway and something taking monster aggro off you seems more useful. (But then again HBG and Bow now have their own counter moves so…)
Guarding Parasol. I've seen a few clips of dogs using this to protect their owner from attacks while they were sharpening or stunned. Seems really useful, am currently running it.
Heal Blade Scroll. From my testing this healing number is PUNY. I feel like it's not worth but there's so little impactful options that it's a good choice.
Heavy Strike Scroll. The chance to stagger here matters. Not much, but it matters.
Blitz Scroll. It seems like it'd be another damage move to safely ignore but attack speed = more status procs. I'm currently using this and I feel I notice the difference in how quickly the monster gets status'd.
Diversion has the same effect as Steel Fang, it's just that the monster will actually be able to hit the dog instead of the dog being on it's back. Less random monster moves, more actual aggro swap to dog.
Each of the mentioned equipments have their benefits, pick the ones that fit your playstyle.
TL:DR. These are my opinions: It's like World. Buddy damage bad. Buddy status good. Best stuff is:
Palico: Gathering. Healing bubble/gofightwin. Power Drum. Shock bugs/shock traps. Skills are Status up/KO up/Atk small. Weapon is highest blunt/status you can make for what status you want.
Palamute: Same skills and weapon as cat. Gear is personal pref between Steel Fang, Guarding Parasol, Heal Blade Scroll, Heavy Strike Scroll, Blitz Scroll, Diversion Scroll.
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