Focus Group

Focus Group 3[credit]

Influence: ●●●○○

Play only if the Runner made a successful run during their last turn.

Choose a card type, then reveal the grip. You may pay Xcredit to place X advancement tokens on an installed card. X is equal to or less than the number of revealed cards of the chosen type.

"There's gonna be catering, right?"
Illustrated by Dimik
Decklists with this card

Downfall (df)

#52 • English
Startup Card Pool
Standard Card Pool
Standard Ban List (show history)

No rulings yet for this card.


While it is slightly situational, I think Focus Group is the one card in Downfall that really screams "overpowered" to me.

For starters, let's compare it to the most famous fast advance tool, Biotic Labor. While that operation might be more flexible, giving you an unconditional extra click, it will nearly always be used to score an agenda requiring triple advancement. For this purpose, you are set back 3 clicks, 1 card and 7 credits. For Focus Group, it only costs you 2 clicks, 1 cards and 6 credits, provided you "hit" at least three cards in the grip. If you hit two, it still gives you the same return as Biotic. Not cheap, but also not terrible in my opinion. Let's also not forget this card is harder to effectively counter with anti-FA-best-boy Clot.

But the real strength of Focus Group is in its potential upper limits. Many runner decks consist mostly of events and resources, and having 4 of either on hand isn't that uncommon. And if that happens, you can fast advance a 5/3 from hand. If you have multiple copies it even becomes child's play, while admittedly very expensive. It also works nicely with the never advance game, especially if you have won the game of Beale or no Beale, so that you can get 3 or even 4 points instead of 2.

Obviously the main balancing factor of FG is its dependence on the runner's hand, meaning it can backfire spectacularly. Luckily (for the corp), NBN has a few tools to peek at the runner's hand. The most obvious is Standard Procedure, which was always a decent card but willl become a staple in yellow FA. Peeping Tom and Waiver might actualy start seeing play. Harishchandra got a a fun new toy and I think Focus Group will be good in Azmari too since they have some control over the runner's plays, especially backed up with Scarcity of Resources.

Requiring a succesful run is another drawback, but as most runners will be set up and aggressive by the mid to late game, this card will rarely be dead, especially in non-glacier decks.

A possible counter play the runner has is of course keeping their hand size low, but this obviously carries the usual risks associated with having few cards on hand. I could totally see this card replace Biotic Labor in Jinteki PE decks, especially considering the lower influence. There are also ways to keep the runner's hand full, like Personalized Portal and Pālanā Agroplex.

Looking at the card pool again, I think Focus Group comes out strong in most comparisons. Game Changer and MCA Austerity Policy are technically stronger but take way effort to set up and can be trashed by the runner. Shipment from Tennin is cheaper for 3/1's and 3/2's but it doesn't let you fast advance a 5/3 and you need two copies in your hand for a 4/2. Calibration Testing, with Breaker Bay Grid and Team Sponsorship is also powerful but folds to asset hate.

So yeah, maybe I am overestimating the potential of this card, but I think it will be a serious problem for the upcoming meta.

(System Core 2019 era)
I don't think giving Corps a way to win is "a serious problem for the upcoming meta". Hopefully this is the first step to breaking up remote camp meta. —
I think the card's reliability will be its hard drawback. You mention that it has the chance to fail spectacularly, which I think is a great point. To FA a 5/3, you need to Install the 5/3, then use Focus Group and hit 4 or 5 of the same card type. If you get only 3, you now have a 5/3 on the table with 3 advancement counters on it, and no way to score it this turn. In that case you could choose to not pay X, but that sounds like a no-win situation. Never-advancing 5/3s seems quite within the realm of possibility. Definitely a strong card. But I'm looking forward to the spectacular fails. —
People who try to FA 5/3's with FG are either fearless or crazy. When you're using FG as a tool to FA 3/2's and 4/2's, only needing to hit 2 or 3 becomes easier and more reliable. And that reliability is what makes FG very dangerous. —

This card is hilariously bad.

First off, Focus Group puts advancement tokens on cards, not advancement counters. It doesn't matter if you put 99 advancement tokens on an Project Beale, you still can't score it because it has less than three advancement counters. This makes Focus Group bad in a hilarious way.

Assuming you are playing on, which has a bug which causes Focus Group to place advancement counters instead of tokens, it is still an under-powered card.

Here are the hoops you have to jump through in order to use Focus Group:

First, the Runner has to have made a successful run last turn. This is a pretty common occurrence, but still an annoyance.

Second, the Runner has to have at least two cards which share a card type in the grip. This is by no means guaranteed - most Runner decks have a healthy mix of Programs, Resources, and Events, along with a lesser amount of Hardware. If the Runner is on two-three cards in hand, it's pretty common for them to be of two-three different types. Additionally, if the Runner suspects you're playing Focus Group, they can deliberately sculpt their hand to avoid enabling the card. I suppose you could try to run some net or meat damage to prevent the Runner from holding less cards in hand, but good luck crowbaring that into a deck which is already using space for a Focus Group package.

Third, you need to be able to look at the Runner's grip. Unless Oracle May is on the docket for a reprint with support, you won't be able to guess what's in the Runner's grip without just using card effects to peak at it. Which of the options for revealing the grip do you think will make your Corp deck a winner? Waiver? Ibrahim Salem?Harishchandra ent.? Standard Procedure? Peeping Tom? Hyoubu Institute? Playing Focus Group forces you to compound the mistake of playing one bad card with the mistake of playing other bad cards. (Also known as the Jemison problem). The best of this bunch is probably Engram Flush and Salem's Hospitality, both of which trash the cards you were planning to feed to Focus Group. Don't forget that if you lack your grip reveal-er, Focus Group is almost useless! I might even be easier to just bounce cards back into the Runner's grip with cards like Self-Growth Program or Jua

Biotic Labor shows what the going rate for this kind of effect is. Assuming you have already met all of its conditions, using Focus Group to fast-advance a 3-for-2 has a the total cost-to-score of 6 credits and 3 clicks . Meanwhile, Biotic Labor has no preconditions and will let you fast-advance a 3-for-2 with a total cost-to-score of 7 credits and 3 clicks. Saving 1 credit is not worth the cost of jumping through Focus Group's hoops.

Thus, the only plausible use cases for Focus Group are in-faction as a worse but less influence-heavy Biotic Labor , or attempting to get 3 or more counters to fast advance larger agendas. I suspect both of these roles are much better fulfilled by a deck attempting to land Hard-Hitting News into Psychographics

Maybe this card could be good if something is printed with very high synergy with it. Perhaps an Operation with "The Runner draws 10 cards, then reveals the grip." Until that happens, throw this card in the jank pile.

(System Update 2021 era)

I think this review really nails why this card unfortunately just isn't very good. Maybe it should have cost less than 3. or placed the advancement tokens for free. To your point about counters or tokens, I was really stunned by this and looked it up. But NISEI Comprehensive Rules 1.9.1a says that "tokens" and "counters" are interchangeable terms. Also, it looks like NISEI and FFG cards have actually used "advancement tokens" for the majority of their cards, even though I could have sworn they said "counters". Some real Mandela Effect stuff, lol. This inconsistency is a bit of a shame, though.