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Thursday 21 July 2016

Focus vs. Target Lock: A fresh look with R3 in mind


Because of the blog post on poorgreypilot and the recent Mynock Squadron episode covering the R3 astromech, I felt that there were additional points that needed to be made. Namely the fact that R3 astromech shifts the balance between Target Lock and focus.
The debate on Target Lock vs. Focus is as old as the old core set. Which is better? Target Lock is purely offensive, can set up torpedo shots, carries over to the next round. Focus is temporary, but can be used for either attack or defense, as needed. I will talk about the established consensus (feel free to disagree on this or other aspects in the comments section), then I will try to explain why R3 shifts the balance between the two actions.

Math and Context

Let's start with the basic math: A single red die has 8 faces: 1 critical hit, 3 hits, 2 focus symbols and 2 blank faces. So the success rate for a single die is 4/8= 0.5 (50%). It is also rather easy to see that with a focus token you have 6/8=0.75 (75%) chances of a success. What about TL? Well, it's a bit more complicated, but you can break it down like this: You have your initial dice roll which gives you 50% chances of a success. In the other 50%, you get to reroll the die, which nets you another 50%. So the TL is 50% plus another 50% of the times you get to reroll, which means 75%, identical with focus!

To summarize:
  • An unmodified die gives you 50% with 1/8 chance of a critical hit
  • A focused die is 75% with 1/8 chance of a critical hit
  • A TL-ed die is 75% with 3/16 chance of a critical hit (the reroll grants us that)
So math-wise, for attack, there doesn't seem to be much a difference! The true difference comes from context:

For Target Lock:
  • If the ship you target locked dies, you lose the target lock
  • You cannot change targets if you target lock
  • You may keep the target lock for next round if you don't use it 
whereas for Focus:
  • You can spend it for attack or defense. If your Pilot skill is lower than your opponent, you may prioritize defense over attack on some of your ships (if 3 Academy Pilots have focus tokens and there's only one attacker, 2 can spend focus for attack while 1 can spend focus on defense if needed)
  • You can choose your target when you activate

Chance to spend 

The biggest difference, however, and one that I've never seen in written form anywhere, is the chance to spend. If you're the first to shoot, what is the chance you'll spend your token?

The main assumption is that you're spending the TL if you have less than the maximum number of hits/crits. If you're shooting at a low agility target and you're confident you're shooting the same target the following round, you can get away with keeping the TL at 2 out of 3 hits for example for a 6% boost in damage over 2 rounds (considering you focus the next one). This is a conversation in of itself.

With that assumption in mind, for a 3-dice shot you have:
  • chance to spend focus: 58%
  • chance to spend TL: 88%
In other words, with TL you have a 12% chance  of keeping your TL for the next round, with focus you have 40% chance of it being used defensively, not needing it for offense.

What is the source of this? Hidden information. Focus gives you complete information of how many extra results you're getting if you spend the token, with TL it's literally a dice roll. Reasons that people don't use Target Lock can also be psychological: how many times have you picked up the dice, spent the TL, rerolled, then got nothing? Even if, on average, the results are the same as with focus, the disappointment felt is real.

Where does R3 come into play?

Where am I going with this? The fact is that when you're using TL, you are discarding a lot of unused results. You're very likely ignoring whether they're blanks or focus symbols but the reality is that 50% of symbols that aren't hits or crits after rerolling are focus symbols. 

How many times are you going to roll perfect 3/3 with a single TL? How many times 4/4? My point is when you're using TL, the are many unused focus tokens. Otherwise said, there's a niche for R3 astromech usage where the impact on damage output is 0. 

What are those odds you say? For any red dice, there's a 7/8 chance that after rerolling you don't get a focus symbol (initial focus symbols are rerolled). So a 3-dice attack has 1 - (7/8)^3 = 33% chance of getting at least 1 focus it's not using. For a 4-dice attack it's 41%.

Assume you're playing with TLs instead of focus: you don't get any added defense, you have a slightly higher damage output (via keeping the token 12.5% of the time), and now you get 33% chance of an evade for 2 points.

Contrast this with Autothrusters, an extremely cost-efficient card, which is also at 2pts (but on a more precious slot, at least for a T70). If you're attacked only once, and it triggers, you get 61% of it generating an extra evade.

Or compare this to Shield Upgrade. This is half the points, and it needs to trigger only once before you get shot to make up its cost.

To summarize:
  • It is half as efficient as Autothrusters when you have one attacker at lower PS, but you have no range/arc restrictions, with better stats at range 1
  • It is much more efficient than a Shield upgrade if you get shot at least once after getting a token
  • It is a low-cost astromech that can be used with Integrated Astromech
  • Coupled with Comm Relay, it's a 5pt Shield upgrade that regenerates 33% of the time. 
  • It can be comboed with Autothrusters for extra tankiness.
  • Coupled with Juke, it's 33% chance of triggering Juke, while also retaining your offensive action


All in all, I think there's a place for the R3 astromech. I'm not advocating its use, but it's not as bad as people say. I would use it on a high-PS T-70 that can't use R5-P9 or R2-D2 effectively. It's also best on a ship that is taking off-fire and isn't the centre of attention. Ello seems the best target, for now, the only high-PS T-70 that isn't Poe (until further HotR spoilers). He also can't use R2-D2 effectively (he wants to T-Roll) and R5-P9 reduces his damage output (actually, with the statistic that 40% of focus tokens aren't used..). Juke is the cherry on top and makes him quite dangerous.


  1. Great article! I was thinking along the same lines. I was going to try it out tonight.

    1. It was in the back of my mind since I read the article, because at first glance the card seemed terrible, especially when put side by side with Norra, it looked like we were getting a "spend 2pts and a TL to get an evade" card. But then you think about ways to have a focus that you can discard without losing damage output..

  2. Great post, and I love Ello. Makes him expensive but looks fun to fly!

  3. Great post, and I love Ello. Makes him expensive but looks fun to fly!

  4. A guy I played on Vassal yesterday fielded the following list:

    Red Squadron Veteran + Juke + Sensor Cluster + R3 + Integrated Astromech x2
    Sabine Wren in Attack Shuttle + TLT + Chewbacca + Lone Wolf + Hull Upgrade

    and thoguh it looks like nothing scary, it really was. I was really surprised how scary those X-wings can be and reliably durable at the same time.

    1. Yes, exactly! You can say that in a bubble R3 is not that good, but then you factor in that you have Autothrusters and Integrated Astromech (or in this case Sensor Cluster) and X-wings become pretty tanky.