A lot has changed in the past 6 months for Summoner. Since the March update which introduced unique Pet:MAB+ and a BP Delay- backpiece, Summoner has become an open book where once it was only Merit BPs. In this review I'm going to look at the new options for Summoner and try to think of where the Devs want to take the job.
Arguably the biggest change for SMN is that when you are inside Abyssea and get an Atma, it will transfer over to your avatar as well. This allows SMNs to do something they've never done before outside of actually levelling up, increasing the attributes of your avatar. There are several atmas which stand out for our damage-dealing pacts:
-Atma of the Baying Moon (MAB+30 Attack+30)
-Atma of the Beyond (MAB+30, Ice MAB+30, Light MAB+30)
-Atma of the Minikin Monstrosity (INT+50, 10mp/tick refresh, Enmity-)
These atmas are hard to get unless you're in an Abyssea LS, but can do wonders for your Lv75 Merit BPs, particularly Heavenly Strike and Atma of the Beyond. Some weaker but easier to get atma are called "Synthetic Atma" and come from completing Mission lines. Synthetic Atma include:
-Atma of the Heavens (Windy)
-Atma of Ambition
These both have 5mp/tick refresh on them and can really help give yourself a free avatar rather easily. As for what to look for, you should mainly follow what BLMs do. That is, Magic Attack Bonus. INT+ does help Merit BPs, but should only be used in large quantities (e.g. Minikin) and with some Refresh to help for perpetuation.
Physical atmas provide strong competition to the Magical atmas.
-Atma of the Voracious Violet (STR+50, 2tp/tick Regain, DblAtk+5%)
-Atma of the Razed Ruins (DEX+50, Crit Hit Rate+30%, Crit Hit Damage+30%)
-Atma of Stout Arm (STR+40, Atk+50, RAtk+40)
-Atma of the Harvester (STR+40, DblAtk+5%, Resist Sleep)
Again, these are tough to get atmas, but really help increase Predator Claws and other Lv70 BP damage to insanely good levels. There are also synthetic alternatives which are easier to get:
-Atma of the Sellsword (STR+20, ...)
-Atma of the Hero (STR+10, 5hp/tick Regen, CritHitDamage+)
As for what to look for in Physical Atmas, primarily STR. Attack is fairly worthless for avatars as shown in testing, and STR+ and Critical Hit Rate+ will help a lot more.
There are also other niche atmas which are worth considering, including 15hp/tick Regen atmas which can turn your avatars into worthy tanks, a BP- delay synthetic atma which can supposedly bypass the 45sec hardcap recast of blood pacts (Verification Needed), or perhaps you want to kite on your SMN instead, and utilise Ambition to increase your avatar's movement speed whilst launching merit BPs from afar. Abyssea has added a whole new facet to Summoner through Atmas.
Also known as SMN AF3 (+1) (+2), this gear is absolutely fantastic in general, like most AF3. It's worth noting that the +2 set bonus occasionally does 1.5x 1.75x or 2x damage on blood pacts when Blood Boon procs. It's also worth noting that the TP bonus on the legs increases from 25% to 50% from +1 to +2 and that the refresh on the head increases from 1 to 2 between +1 and +2. Unfortunately, the extra perpetuation on the feet are sucked up by increasing perpetuation costs as we level up... The one gem which shines out is Caller's Pendant, which grants Regain to your avatar and gives -1 perpetuation with matching weather. Spiffy.
Several new blood pacts have been added over the level increases. The increase from 75>80 pretty much gave Carbuncle/Fenrir/Diabolos their own 'merit blood pacts' and the increase from 80->85 gave.. well not a lot. Tidal Roar which gives ATK-20% which is nice but doesn't last long enough, and Earthen Armor (Mitigates the impact of severely damaging attacks for party members within area of effect.) which seems to only proc on ridiculously high damage attacks (1k+) and so has limited use.
Abyssea in itself has provided toys, in the form of 2h restore chests. This allows SMNs to spam Zantetsuken on 2~5 monsters for instant-kills and happy party members. In addition, there are a plethora of MP+ meds and Pet:restore HP meds/afflictions which add a lot more strategy to the job than simple BP>Release.
With the December 2010 update in sight, promising a Caller's body and hands, suffice to say SE will look for inspiration from current gear (it's no coincidence all the jobs who mained Walahra Turbans now have 5% haste on their AF3 heads...). For that reason, I suspect to see some of the following:
Hands = Massive amount of SMN skill, -2 perp
Body = -perp (perhaps mix of that and Refresh), BP delay-6 or more
And of course, countless more juicy Atma for our avatars to play with (including a potential third lunar abyssite).
This will be updated in December with the new goodies. If you feel I've missed something, chime in and I'll toss it in.