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I am planning on making a Druid as part of a 3 person party in an upcoming game, the other two people are a life based cleric as our tank/healer, and a champion fighter as a dual wielder/archer.

I am going to be a Circle of the Moon Druid who focuses on casting spells but can still be good at melee. Specifically the form should have at least 10 health, and 10 ac, and the highest damage possible. If the damage is tied, choose the one with the higher health, if the health and damage is tied, choose the one with the higher AC. I am currently thinking about what to use at level 2 (the beast must have a challenge rating of 1 or lower and cannot fly or swim).

What should I use for my wild shape animals?

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    \$\begingroup\$ And welcome to our stack! Please take the tour to learn more about how we operate and you can also visit the help center for more information. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 17 '20 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is good to see you researching this kind of thing! I would recommend knowing your go to shapes for every eventuality you can think of and having the stat blocks ready. Don't get in a situation where you have to go digging up stats mid session. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 18 '20 at 10:00
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I'm going to provide two options here--one that is a strict answer to your question (highest damage that meets your criteria) as well as an alternative that provides more reliable damage, along with a special feature that can aid your allies.

Max Damage

Brown Bear AC 11 and HP 34, and packing a Multiattack that, if you hit with everything, hits for d8+4 and 2d6+4.

This is, in my experience, a very common choice for low-level moon druids--one of the most durable CR 1 creatures and the damage it deals is significant, especially for a level 2 character.

Alternative

Dire Wolf. It has the highest AC (14) and HP (37) of any CR1 beast, will always have Advantage on attacks if it has an ally in melee with it, and in addition to hitting like a Greatsword (2d6+3), every attack it makes can knock the target prone (giving your melee buddies Advantage on their attacks, too).

It has a lower peak damage than the bear but the constant Advantage means it makes the same number of Attack Rolls as the bear and if either d20 it rolls connects, it is hitting with the 2d6 damage attack. It's a trade of peak damage for improved consistency and the Knock Prone will help boost the damage of your allies (as long as they are also in melee).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am a huge fan of Dire Wolf, but I also like dogs ... +1 as usual. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 17 '20 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Aaron Are you sure? "you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before.". From the description of wildshape \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 17 '20 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Aaron Polymorph the spell is not restricted to creatures you have seen. Wild Shape is. Thomas quoted it directly from the dndbeyond entry: "Starting at 2nd level, you can use your action to magically assume the shape of a beast that you have seen before." \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Sep 17 '20 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was not aware of this, and that completely bunks my comment. I'm curious if this was an errata, or if I had just never noticed before. \$\endgroup\$ – Aaron Sep 18 '20 at 0:30
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Although we of rpg.stackexchange are happy to answer your questions, I want to note that there are some really good player-created guides that answer this specific question. For example this Practical Guide to Wild Shape seems pretty good.

At CR1, it recommends the Dire Wolf for the reliable advantage and trip. It also offers reasonable suggestions for levels past that.

(guildsbounty's answer is entirely correct, but I wanted to note that there are more comprehensive sources for this specific question.)

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Another option to consider at CR1 is the Giant Spider. Giant Spider:

  • Deals 3d8+3 damage
  • Has a web attack that can restrain enemies. Your allies attack a restrained enemy with advantage on the attack.
  • Can climb around on walls and ceilings, which is fun and gives a lot of options and helps make up for the lower HP (only 26).

This is my personal favorite with Druids.

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For Level 2:

  • Brown Bear (CR 1) Monster Manual page 319.
    • 34 HP, 11 AC
    • Multiattack for 1d8+4 / 2d6+4

For considerations at level 6.

  • Cave Bear (CR 2) Monster Manual page 334.
    • 42 HP, 12 AC
    • Multiattack for 1d8+5 / 2d6+5

Since your Moon Druid table scales slower than your character level, your mid-game goals will be to cast Polymorph to become the following:

  • Giant Ape (CR 7) Monster Manual page 323.
    • 157 HP, 12 AC
    • Multiattack for 3d10 + 6 / 3d10 + 6
    • Ranged Attack for 7d6 + 6
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex (CR 8) Monster Manual page 80.
    • 136 HP, 13 AC
    • Multiattack for 4d12 + 7 / 3d8 + 7 (against different target)

You'll be jumping straight from CR 2 forms to CR 7 forms. However, be aware that your character's features are not retained with Polymorph as they are with Wild Shape. Though, once you get access to the Polymorph spell, your Wild Shape is best used for utility rather than becoming a Beast-type Beat Stick.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Moon Druids at level 2 can go straight to CR 1 creatures.... \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Sep 17 '20 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could be improved by explaining why the choice is the best choice. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 17 '20 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Polymorph is vastly different from wild shape. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 17 '20 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also worth pointing out that some of these may not be available since it must be a beast that the druid has seen before. For example, Cave Badger is likely not something they're going to see unless they're running the Out of the Abyss campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Sep 17 '20 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed you did. But the question didn't ask about Polymorph; you went beyond the scope of the question for a beginner Moon Druid. What you say is certainly true, but it's irrelevant to the question beyond "nice to know if your character and your game lasts until Level 7" I didn't down vote the answer, but I think that scope creep may have attracted a down vote or two. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 17 '20 at 21:04

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