The Galaxy's Fate in my Hand: An IA Probability Compendium

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1 hour ago, Golan Trevize said:

"What' s a good replacement for Mak's stater weapon?" is the fourth most important question after "Where Do We Come From?", "What Are We?", "Where Are We Going?"!

Well, the short answer is "just about anything" ;) 

I ended up settling for the A-280 with the Plasma Cell and Targeting Computer, mostly for the outside chance at 7D + Pierce 5 which is pretty good for a Tier II weapon with Tier I and II mods (and a pretty low credit cost, too). But there are lots of solid candidates thanks to Ambush's Pierce 2 (which guts most defense dice).

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The Galaxy's Fate in my Hands
Part the Sixteenth(B): "So Convert is actually a thing...," or why it's dangerous to upset a Wookiee period, whether or not he's already wounded. :P 
So I need to start this one off with a couple of mea culpas.
First, if you came here hoping to see some stats on our final tiered melee weapon (the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber), that's unfortunately going to have to wait until next time (for reasons I'll explain in a moment). Sorry about that.
Here's its picture if that makes you feel any better... It's coming, I promise...
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
The reason goes back to what turned out to be a pretty serious oversight of my part. Shortly after I posted the original write-up on the Tier III Ryyk Blades, Stompburger pointed out that the special "Convert" rule on the  Ryyk Blades had the potential to be far more powerful than I'd originally suspected. Here's a refresher in case you--like me--have never paid much attention to this weapon:
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
In our own campaign play, my group had assumed that the "Convert" rule allowed the wielder to spend any number of surges for +1D results. And in most cases, this is in fact how the Ryyk Blades function (particularly if we're using the Ryyk Blades to proc Cleave 2 or to trigger a surge ability like Recover).
But not always. And as it turns out, that "not always" can have a tremendous impact on the damage of our Ryyk Blade.
So after re-running all of our Ryyk Blade damage numbers again this week, I figured I'd spent waaaaaaay too much time (more on that in a moment) and discovered things waaaaaaay too interesting to just throw them out there in an "update" post. So here's a second attempt at correctly analyzing the damage output of the Ryyk Blades.
(And again, if you're disappointed about the Ancient Lightsaber... mea culpa )
Another RRG deep dive
So if you've been following this thread and have already read this post, most of this will be review. But for those of you that haven't (and since I have to write it anyway for the extensive edit of the original Part 16 that's coming), here's why this oversight impacts our damage (in some cases drastically).
In order to properly understand how "convert" works, we need to dust off our faithful RRG. The rule is found on p. 9:

Some abilities convert one die result into another. When resolving one of these abilities, the old result is treated as if it did not exist, and is completely replaced by the new result.

  • These abilities are resolved during the Apply Modifiers step of an attack, unless they require a (surge).
  • After being converted, the new result may be converted again by other effects.

This rule nuances how the Ryyk Blades work. Technically we still turn surges into +1D, but we're not actually "spending" any surges. Instead, we're "converting" any number of surges, forcing them to undergo a sort of metaphysical transformation where their very essence is changed from that of a surge to that of a natural damage.

Now wait a minute... :huh:

We discussed the difference between natural damage and surge damage way back in this series, when we were trying to improve the dependability of our starter melee weapons (boy, that was a while ago). The basic gist is that if we have a choice between a 1-for-1 trade between natural damage and surge damage, we should take the natural damage every time because it's harder for defense dice to deal with. Each defense die has a limited number of blocks on it, and Evades are useless against natural damage. So the more of our total damage we deal as natural damage, the more likely we are to push that damage through (especially against a White die). This is part of what makes the Vibrogenerator so powerful as a single-mod (coupled with ignoring the whole odds-of-proccing a surge thing). The Ryyk Blades allow us to do this by literally "converting" surge results into damage results, in a 1-to-1 ratio. This on its own is huge.

The other major factor is the timing. "Convert" abilities are resolved during Attack Step 4, Apply Modifiers (again, RRG p. 9). And as it turns out, this is the same Attack step when Evades are spent to remove surges:

4. Apply Modifiers: If players have any effects that gain or remove icons or Accuracy, they are applied at this time. This includes spending (evade) results to remove (surge) results.  Any (surge) abilities that provide modifiers are not resolved until step 5.

Since both the Ryyk Blade's "convert" and the defense die's Evade are resolved during the same attack step, we need to figure out if there's a defined order in which they trigger. If we can trigger the "convert" first, we can change any surges we rolled into damage before an Evade is spent. If we do, the Evade can then be spent, but there won't be any surge results to remove (since "convert" means that the original result is considered to not exist anymore). And fortunately for us, the timing for attacks in both campaign and skirmish favors the Attacker's results:

During an attack, in both a campaign and a skirmish, resolve mission rules first, followed by effects triggered by the attacker, then effects triggered by the defender.

Thus, in the majority of circumstances, our hero will be able to convert any number of surges rolled by the Ryyk Blade into damage, and should (in theory at least) never lose any damage as a result of the target rolling an Evade. This should also apply to any other surges added by the attacker (from something like the Balanced Hilt or being Hidden), as well. The exception would be if a "mission rule" removes a surge from the attacker... but when and how that happens is its own kettle of fish, so ask your IP (or A1bert) if you want to explore that. ;-)

Once I had my head around the correct Convert rule, it became evident quickly that most (if not all) of the damage stats in our original write-up on the Ryyk Blades were incorrect (meaning they were on the low side). My initial thought was that Convert should result in a slight damage bump across the board (a smaller one against Black defense dice, and a more sizable one against White dice). I didn't anticipate that it would result in a damage swing of more than +1D in any given trial, given that we were only testing against a single defense die (no Black-Blacks) and no single defense die has more than one Evade on it.
I also hypothesized that the High-Impact Guard stats were probably correct, too, given that its effect only triggers if there is at least 1 surge rolled past a defense die. That meant reevaluating four basic weapon-mod combos (Balanced HiltShock EmitterVibrogenerator, and Weighted Head / Extended Haft / Naked), and since those weapons didn't have any surge abilities for more than +2D, my guess was that for each of these, its highest damage output would probably be achieved by always converting all surges to damage so that no damage was ever peeled off by an Evade.

As it turns out, the math suggests that not all of these conclusions were incorrect. ;) 

Speaking of which...

The Modest: Ryyk Blades + Non-Damage mods
Ryyk_card.png     +     EHaft_card.jpg     /     WHead_card.jpg
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
Let's start with the naked Ryyk Blades, Extended Haft, and Weighted Head variants, which I've categorized collectively as "non-damage mods." Not because they don't deal damage (they're actually quite dangerous), but because the mods themselves don't directly impact our damage dealt to our primary target (though they do other important things, like expanding our threat range with Reach or giving us some Cleave options if we're attacking a low-health target). As a result, their expected "at least damage" is basically whatever they roll, since we aren't adding any Pierce, damage, or surge abilities to further modify those rolls.
The calculation for these mods was relatively straight-forward. Since they have no surge abilities for more than +1D, the efficient play is to always convert any surge results into damage results (so that no surges are "lost" to Evades). So for purposes of their simulation, I took our simulator, removed any surge results that appear on our dice faces, and replaced those surge results with damage results. Simple enough, right?
As a brief aside, the blanket decision to always convert does some interesting things to our attack dice:
  • Red: our surges are reduced by 1, and our damage increases by 1 (from 13 to 14)
  • Green: our surges are reduced by 3, and our damage increases by 3 (from 8 to 11)
  • Blue: our surges are reduced by 2, and our damage increases by 2 (from 7 to 9)
  • Yellow: our surges are reduced by 5, and our damage increases by 5 (from 5 to 10)
In other words, the Red dice remains tops in damage by a fairly wide margin (3 damage faces), and now has a 3-in-6 chance of dealing a whopping 3 damage. This is fantastic. On the other end of the spectrum, the gap between Green, Yellow, and Blue dice has closed quite a bit. The Yellow actually deals pretty good damage (although both the Yellow and Blue have a 3-in-6 chance of only contributing +1D, versus 1-in-6 for both the Red and Green). The Green now has a 5-in-6 chance of dealing 2 damage, which is a very nice level of predictability. And the Yellow die has a 1-in-6 chance of contributing 3 damage, making it the ultimate risk-reward play.
Here's how that change impacts our Ryyk blade damage, starting with our YGB and RGB variants:
The gains are pretty minimal at 1-2D+ across the board. This isn't that surprising, given that the Ryyk Blades were pretty much at the damage cap anyway (just shy of 100% against black dice, and 83% or thereabouts against the White, with an ~17% chance that the defender rolls a Dodge). The YGB variants really start to pick up speed in the 3-5D+ bands, culminating in a roughly 13 percentage point gain at 4D+. For the RGB, the biggest bump is in also in the 3-5D+ range, though the gains are more modest (capping out at around 8 percentage points in the 4D+ band). And while the percentile gains aren't as large in raw figures for high-end damage, "Convert" nearly doubles the YGB's probability of dealing 6D+ and triples the chance that it will deal 7D+. The RGB gains are again more modest, but still improves the chance of 6D+ by about 50%, and doubles our chance of dealing 7D+. And the Weighted Head variants have excellent chances of getting that Cleave 1 off, too (better than 90%).
If we dig a little deeper into the impact on a Black vs. a White die, we get more of a sense for why this is so. "Convert" has an impact on damage vs. a Black die, but not until we get into the 4D+ bands. Prior to that, the impact is negative by a fraction of 1% (which probably means the dice in our 2000 trials rolled just a hair cooler in our "Convert" pool as compared to the "Standard" pool). The impact is greatest in our 4-5D+ bands, but tops out at under 6%. Against the White dice, however, "Convert" picks up healthy gains in the 3-6D+ bands, including three double-digit gains in 3D+, 4D+, and 5D+, topping out at over 20% in the 4D+ band.
The RGB pool follows a similar pattern (though not to the same extreme). vs. the Black, we actually start seeing some gains across the 3-7D+ range, all somewhere between 2% and 7% (topping out at 6.35% in the 4D+ band). Versus the White, we see gains in the same categories that are larger than those vs. the Black, although not as high (only one double-digit gain, though curiously it's in the 5D+ band (+12.35%).
For what it's worth, that +12% gain is the difference between a 1-in-3 chance of dealing 5D+ past defense dice and a 1-in-2 chance in dealing that same damage. Not too shabby, right?
We see a similar pattern in the gains from "Convert" in Onar's Ryyk Blade dice:
The bumps in the 1-2D+ bands are again fairly small (much smaller for RYB than YYB), and the bulk of the change happens in our 3-5D+ range. We don't have any gains of 13 percentage points, though--we cap out at almost 10 for YYB in the 4D+ band. It's worth noting that our YYB, which really should be abominable, has basically a 70% chance of dealing 3D+ past defense dice with no help from mods, which seems very high to me. Cleave 1 is again not a problem for the Weighted Head variants.
One interesting wrinkle is that our YYB and RYB variants actually have an outside chance (very outside chance, as it turns out) of dealing 8D+ past defense dice, which is one higher than what their YGB and RGB counterparts could do. The reason is that those Yellow dice now have a 1-in-6 chance of dealing 3D (that single-damage/double-surge face). Combined with a Red die (which now has a 3-in-6 chance of dealing 3D) and a Blue die (a 3-in-6 chance of dealing 2D), we can now cap out at 8D total (if the Black rolls an Evade or the White rolls an Evade or a Blank). Not great odds that this will happen, but if your Onar ever happens to roll 8D past defense dice on a Yellow-Yellow-Blue, please take a picture of your IP's face and post it in the comments. ;) 
Lastly we'll look at Shyla's GBB and RBB Ryyk Blades.  
In general, the same trend continues: 1-2D+ have a relatively small bump, and the meat takes place in 3-5D+. This time, however, the single-largest bump in both bands is in the 5D+ range (about 9 percentile points for both the GBB and RBB variants). Our top-end damage odds are also slightly lower than what we saw for Gaarkhan, Biv, and Onar's Ryyk Blades.
In sum, applying "Convert" automatically to turn every surge we roll into a damage result has resulted in a small-to-moderate gain across the board, for all six Ryyk Blade dice pools. So far, so good.
The Equivocal: Ryyk Blades + Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter
Similar to our basic (non-damage) mods, the damage calculations for both the Balanced Hilt and Shock Emitter were relatively straightforward as well. I left the dice with all surge results converted to damage results, and then instead of adding a surge result for the Balanced Hilt or a damage result for the Shock Emitter, I simply added 1 damage result for both. The result is identical damage for both the Balanced Hilt and the Shock Emitter (which makes sense: same roll probabilities + same combat additive = same probability change).
Ryyk_card.png     +     BHilt_card.jpg     /     Shock_E_card.jpg
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
Starting again with our YGB and RGB damage, we once again see an uptick in damage dealt when we apply "convert" uniformly across the board:
The most obvious change from our "non-damage mods" is that we can now push up to 8D past defense dice (capping out at about 4% if we have the Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter on a RGB Ryyk Blade). This time, damage bands 1-3D+ remain largely unaffected, and the majority of the gains are picked up in the 4-6D+ range for the YGB variant (capping out with an 11 percentile point increase in our 5D+ band). For the RGB, "convert" has very little impact on our 4D+ band, and relatively minimal gains in the 5-7D+ range (capping out in a 7 percentile point increase in the 6D+ range). Of course, both the RGB Balanced Hilt and Shock Emitter were top-15 weapons before we started factoring in "Convert," so it's not unexpected to find that "Convert" suffers some diminishing returns on that weapon.
The returns are more pronounced on Onar's Ryyk Blade:
Here we have decent returns on the YYB in the 4-6D+ range (capping out at about 7 percentile points in the 5D+ band), but larger ones in RYB. WE pick up 8 percentile points in the 5D+ range, a whopping 10 (almost) in 6D+, and nearly another 7 in 7D+. And our max damage total is now up to 9D (though again, the odds aren't great).
That leaves Shyla's GBB and RBB. These picked up some pretty nice gains as well:
GGB manages to pick up 11 percentile points in 5D+, and almost another 10 in 6D+. RBB's gains were far more modest in comparison, and more in line with what Gaarkhan or Biv's RGB variant picked up (with a max gain of about 7 percentile points, though it's all the way up in the 6D+ band).
In sum, we've once again seen an uptick in damage dealt, just as we predicted we would. It's not earth-shattering, but it's consistent. And speaking of consistency, with the exception of the YYB variant, all of these Ryyk Blades dealt 5 or more damage past defense dice in at least a 50% of our trials (YYB reached the mark in 45% of our trials), so this is pretty good damage output.
With those encouraging discoveries out of the way, time to test our hypotheses on something more... challenging...
The Headache: Ryyk Blades + High-Impact Guard
In our last campaign, my brother (who was running Gaarkhan) was seriously considering the Ryyk Blades, and he and I ended up in a very... spirited... discussion about the best way to upgrade them. He was all for the Weighted Head (for reasons I still don't completely understand... I think it has something to do with flexibility), I was all-in on the High-Impact Guard. Not because I generally like the Guard (the math suggests it's not the most efficient choice for most weapons), but because in a world where the Ryyk Blades gave us infinite access to +1D surge abilities, I felt the Guard made them more surge-efficient. If I could get +3D out of 2 surges instead of just +2D, why not?
Ryyk_card.png     +     High_G_card.jpg
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
So it was not without some cosmic irony that this ended up being the hardest simulation to perform. By far. :P For all the others, it was a simple fix: the most efficient choice was always to convert all surge results into damage results, so a simple swap of dice faces was sufficient. But here, the most efficient choice is to keep the surge results as surge results (if we have more than 1) and get the extra +2D out of them... I think.
Tackling this challenge meant really breaking down exactly what "Convert" nets us and what it helps us avoid. We like +1D, but not as much as +2D, so if we have a chance to add +2D instead of +1D, we should jump at it. But we like +1D better than +0D, so if we can't trigger that +2D surge ability we might as well cut our losses. In other words, most of the time we want these Ryyk Blades to function exactly how other weapons normally function when they roll surges. If it rolled no surges and the defender rolled no Evades or 1 Evade, the math is exactly the same (we get whatever damage we rolled, minus whatever blocks the target rolled). Based on what we know about dice attributes, we'd expect this to be common for high-damage/low-surge dice (RBB in particular, and to a lesser extent RGB and perhaps GGB), especially against a Black die which has just a 1-in-6 chance of rolling an Evade.
  • vs. Black (2/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [1 Block] = [damage - 1]
  • vs. Black (2/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [2 Blocks] = [damage - 2]
  • vs. Black (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [3 Blocks] = [damage - 3]
  • vs. Black (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [Evade] = [damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [Blank] = [damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [Evade] = [damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [Block] = [damage -1]
  • vs. White (2/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [1 Block + Evade] = [damage - 1]
  • vs. White (1/6): [all damage, no surge] vs. [Dodge] = [no damage]
At the other end of the spectrum, there are times when we will roll one or more surges, but we manage to roll more surges than the defender rolls Evades (1 surge if the defender rolls no Evades, or 2+ surges if the defender rolls 1 Evade). When this happens, we again want the Ryyk Blade to perform exactly the same way as they did in our original tests, spending the first surge on +2D and then any subsequent surges for +1D (effectively the same thing impact numerically as converting those surges). Intuitively, we'd expect this to be the largest category for dice pools with Yellow-dice, especially YYB and YGB, probably GGB, and maybe even RYB, and again we'll probably be victimizing the Black die and its low Evade total.
  • vs. Black (2/6): [damage + X surge] vs. [1 Block] = [damage + X surge damage - 1]
  • vs. Black (2/6): [damage + X surge] vs. [2 Blocks] = [damage + X surge damage - 2]
  • vs. Black (1/6): [damage + X surge] vs. [3 Blocks] = [damage + X surge damage - 3]
  • vs. Black (1/6): [damage + 2+ surge] vs. [Evade] = [damage + 1+ surge damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [damage + 2+ surge] vs. [Blank] = [damage + 2+ surge damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [damage + 2+ surge] vs. [Evade] = [damage + 1+ surge damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [damage + 2+ surge] vs. [block] = [damage + 2+ surge damage - 1]
  • vs. White (2/6): [damage + 2+ surge] vs. [Block + Evade] = [damage + 1+ surge damage - 1]
  • vs. White (1/6): [damage + X surge] vs. [Dodge] = [no damage]
The only exception would be if our attack dice rolled exactly one surge (no more, no less) and the defense die rolled exactly one Evade (no more, no less, and no dodge either). In that single case, the most efficient play would be to convert the surge into a damage result (since we can't resolve the +2D ability on the High-Impact Guard anyway) and milk 1 extra damage out of the whole process. And as it turns out, this is an extremely rare outcome (although it seems like it would be slightly more probable if we take a low-surge dice pool like GGB or RGB against a White die).
  • vs. Black (1/6): [damage + 1 surge] vs. [Evade] = {convert 1 surge to 1 damage} = [damage + 1 damage]
  • vs. White (1/6): [damage + 1 surge] vs. [Evade] = {convert 1 surge to 1 damage} = [damage + 1 damage]
  • vs. White (2/6): [damage + 1 surge] vs. [Block + Evade] = {convert 1 surge to 1 damage} = [damage + 1 damage - 1]
Ultimately, our goal is that whenever one of these precise circumstances occurs, we convert that single surge that we're about to lose into a single damage result (as we would if we were confronted with that roll scenario), but we want to do this while leaving every other circumstance exactly the same. 
My first task was to figure out exactly how many times this precise roll occurred in our 2000 trials. To accomplish this, I told the simulator to flag any of our 2000 simulations where we either rolled exactly 1 surge on three dice or the defender rolled exactly 1 evade. I then had the simulator cross reference this data and compute how many times both conditions occurred in the same trial. And as you might expect, it turns out there's actually a fair bit of variance as to how often this occurs (or doesn't), ranging from about 3% of the time up to almost 25%:
As we expected, the number of trials where we have to "settle" for conversion instead of that +2D surge ability is much greater against a White die than against a Black die, and especially when a red die is involved. Conversion against a Black die topped out at no more than 9% (8.95% of our 2000 trials for both RGB and RYB), and bottomed out at no less than 13% against the White die (again for our YGB and YYB pools). Here are them all sorted again, this time by ascending conversion proc rate:
Once we've identified these results, we need to bump their total damage up by +1D. So I told the simulator to run through those cross-references again, and if both conditions occurred simultaneously it was to bump up the total damage scored in only those simulations by +1D. This ought to account for that painful decision where we almost land that +2D from the High-Impact Guard, but the defender rolls an Evade and we decide to cut our losses by cashing in that surge we're about to lose for +1D instead.
Here's what I discovered, starting with the YGB and RGB pools, broken up by defense die type (Black vs. White):
Once again, the theme appears to be "modest gains." Taking the "convert" damage instead of just losing the surge to an Evade does result in a small damage bump, but usually in the order of just 1-3 percentage points (if that). The YGB pool sees gains in the 3-6 percentage points against the White die, which is definitely larger but still not earth-shattering. The largest gains are for the RGB against the White die, with most in the 3-9 percentage point range. Again, intuitively, this makes some degree of sense: the RGB is not likely to roll more than 2 surges, but does have a pretty good chance at rolling 1 surge. So it makes sense that this attack pool would lose a larger number of surges to Evades against a White die, and thus benefit more than any other set from the ability to convert that surge into damage before it is lost.
Onar's dice follow essentially the same pattern. There's once again a minimal impact on the Black dice rolls, and a slightly higher impact on White dice rolls, with the largest gains made by the least-surge-friendly of the pools (RYB):
The biggest impact was on Shyla's dice:
The Black dice trials are again hardly affected, but against the White dice the GBB pool picked up some decent gains in the 4-6D+ bands, and the RBB pool made some pretty large gains from 3D+ through 6D+.The RBB is the least surge-friendly of our six Ryyk Blade pools, so again this makes sense conceptually.
When we combine all this data, we once again see that when we adjust for defense dice our High-Impact Guard variants all pick up some extra damage when they resolve the "Convert" ability instead forking over a surge to an Evade.
What's far less certain is my original hypothesis that the High-Impact Guard is the best upgrade for the Ryyk Blades because it makes them more "surge-efficient." In fact, the High-Impact Guard seems to be the only situation where the Ryyk Blades don't function as a totally surge-independent weapon. And given their damage output (which is better than a naked Ryyk Blade, but not as good as the damage when the Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter are equipped), I'm not sure the Ryyk Blades function at their best unless they're functioning in a way that's surge-independent.
Speaking of which...
The Cheater: Ryyk Blades + Vibrogenerator
So the most annoying thing about missing the significance of "Convert" is that it deprived me of yet another opportunity to riff on my favorite melee mod: the Vibrogenerator! :D
Ryyk_card.png     +     Vibro_G_card.jpg
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
(Nah, just kidding. If you missed the original riff, you can find it here, and it's probably best to let it breathe instead of smothering it.)
The basic gist is this: a Vibrogenerator is basically a guaranteed +2D to our attack roll, no matter what else we roll, so long as we pay the "opportunity cost" of potentially resolving up to 2 surges. What makes it work is that for the majority of melee weapons (which don't have a surge ability for more than +1D), we get more damage out of the Vibrogenerator than we'd get from resolving surge abilities anyway, and the Vibrogenerator saves us the trouble of actually rolling surges past defense dice (which can be troublesome for lots of dice pools, especially 2-dice pools with a Red).
This "free" damage in exchange for an opportunity cost (that we usually don't pay, at least in full) made the Vibrogenerator the king of Tier I and II damage mods, but it's tapered off a bit in Tier III as we've added a third die to our pool. This has upped our odds of rolling 2+ surges, and thus increased the opportunity cost of triggering the Vibrogenerator. It also doesn't help that our other Tier III melee weapons actually can add 2 damage through surge abilities (the Force Pike requires 2 surges to do it unless it has the High-Impact Guard attached, and the Electrostaff has a surge ability for +2D). The Vibrogenerator still performs well with certain dice pools (after all, our RGB Ryyk Blades + Vibrogenerator placed second in total damage in our original Ryyk Blades discussion, though it did trail the Electrostaff + Shock Emitter by a decent margin), but it's become much more situational as we've begun losing more surges to it.
But what if we could declare at the start of an Attack that we're using the Vibrogenerator, and then after rolling our dice we could magically "convert" any surge results that we rolled on any of our dice into damage results instead? Wouldn't that mean that we never have to pay the Vibrogenerator's opportunity cost? That the Vibrogenerator no longer has an opportunity cost?
Why yes, I believe it does.
Which makes the Vibrogenerator a complete beast on the Ryyk Blades:
For the most part, "Convert" has resulted in what I'd originally predicted: a damage bump, but a slight one. But that's decidedly not the case here.
For the YGB pool, the difference is observable almost from the outset. We have a bump over 90% in the 2D+ band, and see major increases in every band after that (78% to 90%, 60% to 87%, 35% to 75%, 15% to 50%, 3% to 25%, less than 1% to 9%). The gains are slightly smaller overall in the RGB pool, but still impressive. A 19% chance to deal 7D+ jumps all the way to 43%??? Where do I sign!?!?!
As we dig down into the different defense dice, we might expect (as we've seen before) that most of this gain is attributable to the White die, but that the gains against a Black die are relatively minor. But again, that's not the case here:
Convert still does a number on a White die (actually, it basically guts them--like having a free "Pierce 1" that applies to Surges instead of Blocks), but it does a major number on a Black die, too. That +22% gain in the 3D+ band? That's huge. A +17% gain in the 7D+ band? Wowsers. And just so we're clear, this is comparing one YGB Ryyk Blade with the Vibrogenerator against another YGB Ryyk Blade with the Vibrogenerator. The only thing we've changed is we've factored in the impact of "Convert." And that "Convert" is potentially saving us three damage: 1 if we roll 1 surge {which we'd otherwise lose to the Vibrogenerator}, roll 2 surges {ditto}, or roll 2 surges and the defender rolls an Evade. That's an enormous damage swing in its own right, and when you consider we're also adding +2D (literally, now, for free) to our attack roll on top of that, it's easy to see why things escalate so quickly.
And while the returns are predictably somewhat less with the RGB pool (which hardly ever rolls 3 surges, let alone pushes all three past a White die), convert still results in a dramatic increase in our Ryyk Blade damage, regardless of what the defender is rolling.
The trend holds up for Onar and Shyla's Ryyk Blades where we once again have huge gains throughout when we pair "Convert" with our Vibrogenerator.
The great irony is that a Yellow-Yellow-Blue weapon with the Vibrogenerator equipped actually becomes our first weapon with a (very, very, veeeery) outside chance at dealing 10D+ past defense dice. Just think abut that for a moment. Let it sink in. Marinate. Stew. Whatever. :D
Correcting our Top 15
Unsurprisingly, these corrected stats result in a pretty major shakeup in our top-15 "damage" rankings, which were previously dominated by the Electrostaff. Will that continue to be the case? Well...
For reasons that I'll explain in a moment, we're actually starting at the top of our chart (real suspense killer, I know). Although in light of what we've just finished talking about, should there really be any suspense?
So the first thing we should note is that if we treated each Ryyk Blade dice variant as its own separate weapon, all six Vibrogenerator variants--and yes, that includes that Yellow-Yellow-Blue variant which I would have never thought in a million years would have been good--instantly become our top 6 damage dealers. Gaarkhan and Biv get the best overall variant (#1 when RGB, #4 when YGB), Onar gets the most variant... variant... (#2 RYB, #6 YYB), and Shyla has the variant with the least upside but excellent dependability (there's basically no drop-off between the #3 RBB and the #5 GBB until we start dealing 6 or more damage past defense dice, while the others start getting swingy in the 5D+ range).
Our previous number one, the Electrostaff with the Shock Emitter, now comes in as the fourth best weapon (though it offers the seventh best damage if we separate the different Ryyk Blade variants. It's competitive with the worst of these (the YYB variant), but it's quite a bit behind the GBB from 3D+ through 6D+ before it starts closing the gap. And it's way behind any of the Red Ryyk Blade variants. It still has some nice things going for it (that "free" Cleave 2 that procs at an absurd 90% clip every time we attack still looks awfully good), but it's no longer the king of damage.
In fifth is our RGB Ryyk Blades with either the Balanced Hilt or the Shock Emitter, though it's worth noting that its damage in this layout only becomes top-tier once Gaarkhan or Biv becomes wounded. When our hero is healthy, it's still giving us top-25 damage (24th best weapon), but not top-5. Onar's RYB take on the same weapon comes in at 6th, although once again its damage is considerably weaker if Onar is healthy (32d highest damage with YYB):
Our BD-1 with the Vibrogenerator and Shock Emitter drops from a remarkable third to a still-very-good-but-more-realistic 7th highest weapon (12th highest damage overall), but given that our current champion deals 6 or more damage past defense dice 67% of the time, there's no doubt that the BD-1 (and its 36% 6D+ clip) is a bit out of its league. The Electrostaff + Vibrogenerator comes in at #9, and Shyla's RBB Ryyk Blades with the Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter rounds out our top 10.
Our top 15 is then rounded out by three more Electrostaff variants (the Balanced Hilt, RRB Energized Hilt, and High-Impact Guard), another BD-1 with +2D, Pierce 1, and Reach, and... surprise surprise, the RGB Ryyk Blades with the High-Impact Guard.
Oh, the irony. :P
So there we go. One RRG-deep dive, simulator-rejiggering, and extensive mea culpa later, I think we're finally at the place where we actually understand the real impact of the Ryyk Blades. And I'll be honest... I'm not sure any of our remaining melee weapons have the juice needed to get past this monster when it's firing on all its surge-independent cylinders.
Maybe next time we'll actually find out. ;) 
We'll see if Ol' Ben has anything to say about them Wookiee Weapons...
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
Inevitable post-posting edits

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On 9/12/2017 at 0:28 AM, Stompburger said:

If you could, please post to let us know when you've made the updates; I'm really interested to see how it affects the damage output over various dice and attachments, especially because it's so hard to calculate the impact with the usual Attack Calculator.

@Stompburger As promised, the updated write-up on the damage output of Conversion Ryyk Blades is now available here.

At some point I'll update the original post to have the corrected information, but there was enough interesting stuff that I felt it merited its own separate discussion.

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On 2017-09-12 at 4:24 PM, Rythbryt said:

@Golan Trevize Definitely yes. :D Hence the recent facelift on the "Recent Updates" post.

I actually began looking into weapon stats while building a weapon for Mak, but ended up starting the written series with melee weapons due to the added difficulties of charting accuracy (amazingly enough, damage probabilities often change depending on distance to target ;) ).  I think I've settled on a way to chart the data that doesn't present an incredible mess, so that should be ready to roll out soon.

Hello All,

here are some spreadsheets I made a while back.  I was looking at ranged weapons, trying to find out which ones did the most damage and what were the best attachments for each weapon, followed by a simple cost analysis.  I was also going to tackle melee weapons, but then a friend showed me Rythbryt's AMAZING analysis already underway, so I didn't bother.  ;)  (his work is clearly FAR superior) 

A few notes on the spreadsheets:

The first looks at weapons without mods, showing their damage against defense die, while the second ranks those unmodified weapons by cost as well.

The third looks at weapons with mods, listing which ones are the best for each weapon, while the fourth spreadsheet ranks them by cost as well.

A few notes on my process:  (this should read 'Disclaimers')

1.  I came up with the damage percentages using the http://mattyellen.github.io/imperial-assault-calculator/

2.  I did not factor in any keyword information.  This is strictly an analysis of damage done to a single unit. 

3.  For the Modified Energy Cannon, I assumed the hero had a GBY attack pool.  So either Mak, Jyn, Saska, or MHD-19.  (who I like to call MVP-19!)

4.  The cost analyses are flawed.  I used the least expensive attachments to determine the cost.  There should be a range there to include the cost of the most expensive mod combinations as well.  The high end of those ranges may throw off the ranking and summaries.

5.  Some of the weapons have several attachments listed.  Sometimes there is a mod listed followed by an 'AND'.  In those cases, the first attachment listed is a must have to maximize damage output.  Sometimes there is an 'OR' between the mods.  I consider these to be interchangeable because the damage output between them is negligable.  However, I used the mod with the best stats when determining the percentages for damage output. 

6.  I did not consider any of the special actions found on some weapons.  i.e.  The DLT-19 or the Valken-38 focusing ability, or the DDC Defender using 3 attacks. 

7.  I did not factor in range.

8.  I did not factor in the special conditions required to use an attachment.  i.e. The Spread Barrel requiring a max. range of 3. 

9.  I was only looking at max. damage, so mods like the Marksman Barrel were not considered.  (too bad, because I recently built Jyn with a Deathhammer and Marksman Barrel, to allow for a minimum range of 4 while using Quick Draw)

10.  I did not cover starting weapons, which means I can't guarantee the bottom of the charts are even an improvement.

11.  There are no fancy 3D bar graphs, videos, or witty and humourous commentary between graphs to make this statistical read pure joy.  :( 

As a side note, you can not legally combine the Plasma Cell and Bolt Upgrade.  This was never one of my suggested combinations for top damage output, but it's worth keeping in mind on 2 mod slot weapons. 

Hopefully this will tide you over until Rythbryt has the time to cover the topic in far superior detail, without all the flaws and missing information.  :D 

Imperial Assault Ranged Weapon Ranking.xls

I.A. ranged weapons cost ranking analysis.xlsx

I.A. ranged weapons with mods ranking.xls

I.A. ranged weapons with mods cost ranking analysis.xlsx

Edited by Jedi Sidious
I forgot a point about legal modification combinations.
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48 minutes ago, Rythbryt said:

@Stompburger As promised, the updated write-up on the damage output of Conversion Ryyk Blades is now available here.

At some point I'll update the original post to have the corrected information, but there was enough interesting stuff that I felt it merited its own separate discussion.

Great, thanks for updating it! It looks like things were about as expected - a small but decent increase in damage across the board. Of course, in a real campaign, with additional ways to add surges an evades through class cards and conditions, there would be a lot more changes (but that is obviously beyond the scope of what you're trying to do here).

The one problem is that I believe your interpretation of how the Vibrogenerator interacts with the Ryyk blades is incorrect. There has been some discussion about this on the threads on this topic (which you seem to have read or at least looked at), but if I remember correctly the conclusion is that the 2 surges from Vibrogenerator are lost before you get a chance to convert them. Did you see the discussion on that topic?

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12 hours ago, Stompburger said:

Great, thanks for updating it! It looks like things were about as expected - a small but decent increase in damage across the board. Of course, in a real campaign, with additional ways to add surges an evades through class cards and conditions, there would be a lot more changes (but that is obviously beyond the scope of what you're trying to do here).

The one problem is that I believe your interpretation of how the Vibrogenerator interacts with the Ryyk blades is incorrect. There has been some discussion about this on the threads on this topic (which you seem to have read or at least looked at), but if I remember correctly the conclusion is that the 2 surges from Vibrogenerator are lost before you get a chance to convert them. Did you see the discussion on that topic?

@Stompburger I didn't see that discussion, though that was a question that I had, as well.

Without having referenced that discussion (which I intend to read shortly), I'll explan why I chose to interpret the Vibrogenerator as I did. For me, it boiled down to the fact that I didn't see any reason in the RRG for why the Vibrogenerator's effect would function differently from any other attack effects that add or remove icons to/from a die. 

  • The text in the Vibrogenerator refers to applying -2 surge to the attack results.
  • So far as I know, "attack results" isn't defined in the RRG and there's just one reference to it in the RRG (an example in the text on surge abilities, on p. 2, which didn't appear to me at least to be particularly helpful).
  • But the RRG does talk about dice "results" multiple places, including the rule on "Convert" which describes the conversion process as treating the "old result" as if it did not exist and replacing it with the new result (RRG p. 9). This seems to me to strongly suggest (if not state) that the "attack results" aren't set until the conclusion of Attack Phase 4 ("Apply Modifiers").
  • This seemed bolstered by the description of Attack Phase 4: "If players have any effects that gain or remove icons or Accuracy, they are applied at this time."
  • Both surges and damage are icons per the RRG (p. 28), which makes the Vibrogenerator (I think) clearly an effect that removes icons (and gains icons), so it seems to fit squarely within the "any effects" language (and therefore would be applied during Attack Phase 4).
  • Since both the Viborgenerator and the Ryyk Blade's special ability are attacker effects, any effects triggered during the same Attack Phase can be resolved in the order chosen by the attacker.
  • And if the Attacker chooses to resolve "Convert" first, and then Vibrogenerator, then it would function as I've described.

That was my final take on it, anyway. :P

The only potential hitch that suggested itself to me at first was the timing for the Vibrogenerator: the hero has to trigger it during Attack Phase 1 (when he declares an attack), at which point the hero incurs the cost. But the only way (that I could see, at least) that this language could preempt "Convert" would be if the entire Vibrogenerator effect occurs during Attack Phase 1. But doing it this way seems really odd to me, for several reasons.

  • First, if the Vibrogenerator is fully applied in Attack Phase 1, then it's being applied in a phase where there aren't any other attack results to add to or subtract from, since dice aren't rolled until Attack Phase 2 (Roll Dice).
  • If the Vibrogenerator's effect is triggered and fully resolved in phase 1, and I have 0 damage and 0 surge as my attack results (since I haven't rolled any dice yet), and I add 2 damage to my attack results and subtract 2 surges from my attack results, then my attack results are 2 damage and 0 surges at the end of Attack Phase 1. Then, in Attack Phase 2, I roll my dice, and add whatever damage and surges I roll to my original attack results of 2 damage and 0 surges. Which seems to produce exactly the same result as resolving "Convert" and Vibrogenerator in Attack Phase 4, right?
  • This would gut the Vibrogenerator of any surge penalty whatsoever, because every weapon rolls its dice after Attack Phase 1 (and thus replicates the problem described above).
  • This seems much more unlikely to me than the alternative, which is that the Vibrogenerator's -2 surge penalty is applied during Attack Phase 4, along with all other effects that add, remove, or convert icons. That seems to be the general rule in the RRG, and the Vibrogenerator appears to fit within that rule.

The only other alternative I can see is if the "-2 surge" on the Vibrogenerator doesn't mean "subtract 2 surges from the attack results," but rather "institute a value of positive 2 damage and negative 2 surges as your initial attack results, before you roll any dice." If that's the case, and the "-2 surge" means our attack results start in Attack Phase 1 with a negative surge value that they have to overcome before they can "convert" the surges, then I can see how the Vibrogenerator couldn't cheat around "Convert." But that seems like an awfully unique way of reading that "-2 surge" effect. I'm not sure it has any other corollaries in terms of other game effects (Hidden, maybe?), and didn't see anything in the RRG to suggest that was the appropriate interpretation. And again, I come back to the "any effects" language for Attack Phase 4. It doesn't say that "any effects that . . . remove icons" have to be triggered during Attack Phase 4 (clearly there are lots of campaign effects that aren't), but it does say that "any effects that . . . remove icons . . . are applied" in Attack Phase 4, which I read to mean that they're applied during Attack Phase 4 regardless of when they're triggered. Maybe that's not the only reading of the language, but it seemed to me a fair reading (and certainly seemed to make the most sense with how attacks generally progress).

But like I said, that was the conclusion I reached without looking through the other discussions (and I've been wrong before). So if there's another argument I haven't considered (or a rule or clarification I've missed), I'd be very interested in seeing it, as I'd definitely like our stats to be as accurate as possible. :)

Edited by Rythbryt

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So after re-reading what I believe is the thread @Stompburger referenced (which is located here, if you're curious), I'm just as confused as I was before. :P Here's what I think I think now:

  • I think the discussion of "Weakened" and "Cunning" is interesting, but not particularly helpful here. All I really know for sure after reading the e-mail response from FFG is that "Weakened" (like all conditions) is treated as a Mission Rule, and thus resolved before Attack Effects in Attack Phase 4. But the Vibrogenerator doesn't impose a condition, isn't a condition, and thus isn't a "mission rule." So that explanation for "Weakened" and "Cunning" isn't the right one for the Ryyk Blades + Vibrogenerator interaction.
  • Having said that, I think I agree with @rowdyoctopus that to the extent the "Weakened" and "Cunning" interaction does teach us anything useful about how the Ryyk Blades and Vibrogenerator interact, the fact that the conflict was resolved as a timing issue (Mission Rules vs. Defender's effect) suggests whatever the interaction is between the "-1 evade" and evade is occurring during Attack Phase 4 (which I think supports my case? I think? :huh: )
  • This may just be the lawyer in me, but I think part of this may come down to a "read" vs. "speak" problem. When I read "apply -2 surge" on the Vibrogenerator, I read it as "apply minus two surges." But it seems like others in the thread read it as "apply negative two surges." If you read "-2 surge" as I do, then resolving that "minus 2 surge" during Attack Phase 4 is the only answer that makes any sense (minusing 2 surges from 0 surges leaves us with 0 surges). But if you read "-2 surge" to mean "negative 2 surges," I could see the contrary argument. Unfortunately, I believe both are perfectly reasonable readings, and the RRG doesn't seem to clarify either way (the word "minus" doesn't appear at all in the RRG, and the word "negative" appears only once, at the top of p. 7, and in a completely different context--whether heroes get a "positive" or a "negative" event based on a successful or failed attribute check).

In the face of the uncertain meaning of "-2 surge," I'm inclined to revert back to the RRG's definition of Attack Phase 4 as the phase where "any effects that . . . remove icons . . . are applied." The language as written allows the possibility of removal effects to be triggered during other attack phases (as we know they are), but states that whenever triggered they are applied during Attack Phase 4. This is consistent with the "mission rules" vs. "defender effect" rationale for "Weakened" v. "Cunning," and works the same way no matter how we read "-2 surge," so it seems (to me, at least) to best account for all the data.

At least until more data turns up. :P 'Cuz like I said before, I've been wrong before (and it's late at night where I live). So tell me if you think I'm off the reservation. ;)

Edited by Rythbryt
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I actually asked the devs via email what the intent was with the Vibrogenerator vs the Ryyk Blades.  It took them like 3 months to answer me.  They finally said that the intention is that the surges are lost immediately and you cannot convert them, but they also admitted the rules don't clearly convey that is how they should work.

I forgot to go back and update that other thread.h

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39 minutes ago, rowdyoctopus said:

I actually asked the devs via email what the intent was with the Vibrogenerator vs the Ryyk Blades.  It took them like 3 months to answer me.  They finally said that the intention is that the surges are lost immediately and you cannot convert them, but they also admitted the rules don't clearly convey that is how they should work.

I forgot to go back and update that other thread.h

Well that's... fascinating. Did they have a RAW rationale for that decision, or was it more of a RAI call? I'd be very interested in how they parsed it.

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2 hours ago, Rythbryt said:

Well that's... fascinating. Did they have a RAW rationale for that decision, or was it more of a RAI call? I'd be very interested in how they parsed it.

This is what he said, and is actually how others had argued it.

"Vibrogenerator’s effect specifies that it happens when the attack is declared. It immediately applies the +2 damage and -2 surges to the attack’s results.
Any surges rolled by the Ryyk Blades would be canceled out before any modifiers can be applied.
The games printed rules do not adequately express the issue between modifiers with specific timings and those without. However, effects with specific timings apply those modifiers at those timings. Step 4 of the attack is for those effects with unspecified timings like “while attacking.”
Hope that helps! I’ll definitely look to put this clarification in the next FAQ update."
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29 minutes ago, rowdyoctopus said:

This is what he said, and is actually how others had argued it.

"Vibrogenerator’s effect specifies that it happens when the attack is declared. It immediately applies the +2 damage and -2 surges to the attack’s results.
Any surges rolled by the Ryyk Blades would be canceled out before any modifiers can be applied.
The games printed rules do not adequately express the issue between modifiers with specific timings and those without. However, effects with specific timings apply those modifiers at those timings. Step 4 of the attack is for those effects with unspecified timings like “while attacking.”
Hope that helps! I’ll definitely look to put this clarification in the next FAQ update."

Well, if it's going in the next FAQ update, we have our answer :) Thanks for posting.

Now if I could just figure out how to adjust my simulator to parse that out... :P 

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My poor brain has been enjoying (and struggling to follow) all this!  I am looking forward to the conclusion of the Ryyk Blades and what I assume will be a relatively straightforward look at the Ancient Lightsaber.

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So at some point (probably after the next FAQ drops), I'll attempt that major re-write of the Ryyk Blades section that I mentioned last time. For now, though, I'd like to move on to the Ancient Lighsaber:P But before I do, I wanted to thank all those who chimed in on the discussion, shared links, e-mails, thoughts, reservations, computations, etc. :)

If you're not burned out by the topic already and are curious about how the whole Ryyk Blades + Vibrogenerator shakes out, here's how the different Ryyk Blade variants do in terms of raw damage output depending on the synergy you choose ;) 

  1. The black-outlined synergy on the left is your basic Ryyk + VibroG if you (for some reason) decide not to "convert" your third rolled surge into damage before the defender applies an Evade. That'd be weird and inefficient, but remember, one of the cardinal rules of this thread is that we never knock each other for doing something fluff related, so... :D
  2. The Yellow-outlined synergy in the middle is what happens if you Ryyk + VibroG and you follow the unofficial e-mail guidance from FFG shared by @rowdyoctopus here (we lose the first two surges we roll before we can convert them). The indications are that this reading will probably make its way into the next FAQ, so I fully expect this will be where we'll end up. As @Stompburger and I originally surmised, these are pretty modest gains for most pools--and mostly concentrated in our higher-damage bands, although the RGB, GBB, and RBB pools all end up with a gain or two of greater than four percentage points (which in some cases comes closed to doubling their probabilities, which seems significant).
  3. The purple-outlined synergy on the right is what happens if you can convert all your surges before you apply the Vibrogenerator's -2 surge modifier. Again, I don't expect this to continue... but for the moment it hasn't been officially overruled (so if your IP is curb-stomping you, trot it out now before you lose your chance! :D )


Alright, that's the last I'm going to say on the Ryyk Blades (for a bit anyway  :P ). We're actually on to the Ancient Lightsaber next (hopefully later this week *fingers crossed*).

In the meantime, here's a taste of what's to come...


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The Galaxy's Fate in My Hand
Part the Seventeenth: "To Pierce or not to Pierce..." in which try to untangle the beauty from the seduction of the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber...
Well, we're here. Today we're considering the last of the itemized melee weapons: the Tier III Ancient Lightsaber. Like the Ryyk Blades, this weapon's attack pool depends on our hero's attribute (Insight), which makes it a niche weapon (although the niche of heroes who can wield this weapon with three dice is larger than the Ryyk Blade's niche).
It also boasts one surge ability that we love (+2D) and one that we'd like in a vacuum (1D and Pierce 3) if it didn't require that we spend 2 surges to trigger it. This makes it intriguing... and also poses no end of theoretical headaches for us as we try to math it out.
So buckle in... this last one's a whopper.
Okay. *deep breath* here we go...
To Pierce... or not to Pierce...
So let's get the obvious out of the way first. For most of this series, we've ended up gravitating towards weapons that tend towards being surge-independent. The Tier I Gaffi Stick + Tier III Vibrogenerator was the gold standard of Tier I. In Tier II, our Red-Green BD-1 Vibro-Ax got maximum damage with the Vibrogenerator and Tier III Shock Emitter (and that damage has been good enough for that weapon to still place in our top-15). And both the Tier III Electrostaff and Ryyk Blades achieved their maximum damage output with surge-independent mods (the Shock Emitter and Vibrogenerator, respectively).
Even before we look at dice, we get a sense that the Ancient Lightsaber is very definitely not a surge-independent weapon. It has two fantastic surge abilities that result in major damage swings (a 2-damage swing and up to a 4-damage swing). We always want at least one surge (for that +2D), we're very temped by two (especially against Black defense dice), and in an ideal world, we'd want three (or maybe even four if we're exceptionally greedy, for another +2D from the High-Impact Guard... that's five damage and Pierce 3--or an EIGHT DAMAGE swing--out of just 4 surges, people!).
On the flip-side, this weapon is clearly not a keyword weapon. It doesn't have any basic keyword abilities (no Cleave, no Bleed, no Weaken), and while we could add some with the Weighted Head (Cleave) or Shock Emitter (Stun), that means coming up with one (or more) more surge(s) to spend, which will be a tall order. Again, the key to unlocking this weapon's potential seems to be adding more surges, not less. In other words, this is the closest we've come so far to a surge-dependent weapon.
Now I could stand here and preach to you about how surge independence is better than surge dependence. And maybe it is (we'll see at the end, I guess, when we compare how the Ancient Lightsaber does toe-to-toe with the Electrostaff and Ryyk Blades). But since this is a lightsaber (and therefore powered in some mystical way by the Force), I feel like we can afford to take some more chances with this weapon than we could with, say, a glorified walking stick. Which means we'll spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting this weapon's surge chance (and just how high we can bump it up).
So let's start with our basic "rolled" stats. This time, we only have three total dice pools to simulate: Yellow-Green-Blue for the majority of our healthy heroes and Green-Green-Blue for Vinto, both of which revert to Red-Green-Blue when those heroes become wounded (assuming that Ko-Tun has the same wounded dice pool as other Yellow-Green-Blue heroes). This is great news for us, because all the other math is more complex for the Ancient Lightsaber than it was with the Ryyk Blades. :P (hehehehehehehe... riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...)
So here's what Yellow-Green-Blue, Green-Green-Blue, and Red-Green-Blue roll (natural damage, natural surges, no surge abilities factored in) against actual defense dice. And since this particular analysis is so surge-focused, we'll go ahead and break them out into "versus Black defense dice" and "versus White defense dice," just for kicks:
So first the surprising. Each of these weapons is actually surprisingly good, in its naked form, at getting at least 1 surge past defense dice. The worst pool is the RGB vs. 1 White, which is what we expected. And yet this pool still managed to roll at least 1 more surge that the defender rolled evades better than 50% of the time (55.79%). That's not exactly something we can count on, but if that's where things bottom out, we're in decent shape at getting that +2D. The Yellow-Green-Blue manages 1 or more surges 80% of the time against the White die, and almost 90% of the time against the Black, both of which are excellent odds. Ultimately, if we're content to trigger the +2D, and especially if we're content to attack figures who roll only Black dice, we're probably in good enough shape surge-wise with just our dice, and can look to fill our mod slot with an upgrade like the Extended Haft or Shock Emitter to boost our damage or attack range.
The trouble comes if we want to prioritize that +1D and Pierce 3 surge ability first, which requires 2 surges to proc. And it's quite a bit of trouble. Our odds at 2 or more surges top out at just under 60% (YGB vs. 1 Black), and our RGB pool has less than a 20% chance of performing the feat against a white die (18.82%). 
Now obviously, we can problem-solve some solutions for this trouble given what we've learned from other weapons. We know we can boost our weapon's surge chance with a mod: either the Balanced Hilt (our strong preference) or if we're desperate and willing to settle for less, with the Energized Hilt (if we swap out one of our dice for a Yellow). We also know there are some limitations to both solutions. Swapping in a Yellow die generally does a number on our weapon damage, and both hilts are exhaust-to-use which means that if we perform 2 (or more) attacks per round, at least 1 of them will be using our base weapon stats.
Then there's the question of whether it's worth it to go for the Pierce 3 at all. Against a Black die, it's basically an insurance policy. No matter what the defender rolls, none of his blocks will matter (although that Black die only has a 1-in-6 chance of rolling those 3 blocks). And against elite defenders (multiple defense dice and/or "free" blocks or evades), that Pierce 3 might mean the difference between some damage or no damage. On the flip side, we know that if we Pierce 3 against a white die, we're wasting at least 2 blocks every single time we attack (since the White never rolls more than 1 block). Would we be fired up to spend 2 surges on +1D and Pierce 1? Eh...
To tackle these problems (and find the most efficient use for the Ancient Lightsaber), we'll test each three-dice pool for the following:
  • First, we'll figure out just how much we can reasonably expect to boost its chance at pushing 2+ surges past defense dice, primarily looking at the Balanced Hilt mod. Ideally we're looking for odds in the 70-80% range. If we can't push the odds much beyond 50% even with a mod, that Pierce 3 just isn't going to be reliable.
  • Then we'll look at our weapon damage when we prioritize the double-surge ability (followed by the surge for +2D and then any other surge abilities we gain from mods). How often does the Pierce 3 proc, what type of damage results are we getting when it does, and how variable are the results between Black and White defense dice?
  • Finally, we'll look at how that damage compares to the damage we get when we prioritize the single surge +2D (and any other damage-dealing surge abilities we manage to add from other mods) over the +1D and Pierce 3, again looking at how often they proc, what damage we get, and whether the results vary depending on the defense die we're facing.

Sound good? Let's get to it, then.

The Force in Balance (YGB)
The most common three-dice combo for insight is the standard Yellow-Green-Blue. Six heroes currently have this pool, ranging from your typical force-fielders...
Diala_card.png     Davith_card.png
... to some support / snipe characters:
Gideon_card.png     Murne_card.png     Loku_card.png     Kotun_card.png
Loku is probably the strangest choice for the Lightsaber as he has multiple abilities that buff his accuracy. These, of course, would be rendered mostly moot if he wields a melee weapon (although my six-year-old decided to run him with the Lightsaber and was... surprisingly effective...). Gideon and Murne aren't usually characters associated with high-end weapons (the jury is out on Ko-Tun as of this writing), although Gideon has some interesting tools available to him if he goes that route (Called Shot [1xp], Hammer & Anvil [4xp])... if we can convince ourselves to abandon the very powerful Masterstroke (4xp) support build.
We also know this dice pool offers our best odds of rolling at least 1 surge past a black or white die (~89% and ~80%, respectively) and also our best chance at rolling 2 surges past defense dice, albeit at a far less predictable clip (~60% and ~45%, respectively). It's that second figure that we're most concerned about now, although if we could also improve our odds at 3+ surges (from ~23% and ~15%), that'd be awesome, too.


Phase 1: Surge Proc Rates

So let's start by digging into how our surge results past defense dice are distributed. Since so much of this weapon's potential hinges on surge proc rates, I've increased the number of Monte Carlo simulations performed from one 2000 trial set to five 2000 trial sets for Black dice, and another five 2000 trial sets for White dice, and then aggregated the five trials together for a mega sample size of 10,000 trials for Black and another 20,000 for White. Here's how those distributions fell:

Now this distribution chart may not look like much at first, but it's actually very good news for us if we're hoping that Pierce 3 is viable.
The leftmost column is our "worst" possible result ("-1 surge," meaning that the attack dice rolled no surges AND the defense die rolled 1 Evade). Fortunately, this scenario is extremely rare: just 98 of our 10,000 Black trials (or just a hair less than 1%) and a slightly higher 307 of our 10,000 White trials (although still a very small ~3%). There's a pretty sizeable minority in the second column, where surges rolled equaled Evades rolled, resulting in a net of "0 surges."
The two largest clusters are in the next two columns: 1 surge and 2 surges. For the White die, the total number of 1 surge results (3374) is slightly higher than the raw number of 2 surge results (3141), but the difference is only about 230 results--large enough to probably not be a result of margin for error (approximately +/-1% for 10,000 trials), but small enough to give us confidence that the 1 surge result is only slightly more likely than the 2 surge result. Things are less hot for our ideal dream of 3 surges, as that group is smaller than the group of 0 surge results. And 4 surges past a White die will be a rare feat--rarer even than us rolling no surges and the defender rolling an Evade.
The Black die also has its largest groupings in the 1 surge and 2 surge categories, but the probabilities are clearly reversed. There are nearly 3000 results for 1 surge (2947), which is very solid. And there are more than 700 more 2 surge results (3703). We also have a very healthy 1933 results of 3 surges, which outnumber our 0 surge results by nearly 1000 (968). In other words, our dice roll is about 2x as likely to score 3 surges as it is to score 0 surges, and more than half our results should net us either 1 or 2 surges.
Now let's see what happens when we add the Balanced Hilt to our Ancient Lightsaber. We're starting with the Hilt because we know it's always provided the greatest boost to our surge proc rate, and thus by looking at it first we can get a sense right off the bat on what our best case scenario is for proccing 2 (and even 3) surges. And as it turns out, those odds are...
... not bad, right? Now of course, this is against a Black die, and we already have a pretty surge-friendly dice pool (YGB), so this is probably the best case scenario we're going to see. But it's a scenario we could live with. First off, our distribution chart has basically shifted one spot to the right (98 "-1 surges" for our naked lightsaber vs. 103 "0 surges" with the Hilt, 968 "0 surges" for the naked vs. 924 "1 surges" with the hilt, and so on). Second, the vast majority of our surge results fall into the +2 surges (2966), +3 surges (3725), and +4 surges (1932) categories, which is exceptional news. This means we had enough surges to reliably trigger the Pierce surge ability in close to 90% of our 10,000 trials, and had a third surge for triggering that extra +2D in about 60% of our 10,000 trials. It's not quite a 70% proc rate, but it's solidly in the more-likely-than-not category.
The results were a little less exciting against the White die...
... but overall still pretty encouraging. There's once again a clear shift to the right in our distribution chart, and while we don't have quite the same number of results in the 4+ surges category, the clear majority of our trials fall into either the 2+ surges (3336) or 3+ surges (3215) categories, which again gives us a pretty good chance of triggering that Pierce ability (in better than 80% of our trials) and that +2D ability in around 4700 of our 10,000 trials (or just under 50%).
So to summarize, the majority of YGB rolls against a Black die will produce either 1+ surges or 2+ surges, slightly favoring the 2+ surges result. Adding the Balanced Hilt greatly reduces our chance of getting only 1 surge result, improves our chance of 2 surges (sufficient to trigger Pierce 3) to almost 90%, and gives us a better-than-not chance of getting a third surge result for another +2D. So the Pierce 3 surge ability is definitely feasible in that set-up. Against a White die dice pool the YGB will roll 2 surges less than half the time, but adding the Hilt can improve those odds to about 80%. The +2D is harder to trigger than it is gainst the Black die, but can be done (though probably not reliably).
Phase 2: Assessing the benefit of "Pierce" Damage
Now that we know the Pierce 3 is a viable option on the YGB Ancient Lightsaber, let's see if it's the superior damage option. Intuitively, we expect it to work very well against Black dice. After all, the Tier I Vibroknife scored very well in our early Tier I tests thanks to its ability to Pierce 2, which just gutted Black defense dice. And this time, we also get a nifty +1D when we Pierce. We also like Pierce against White dice (which essentially converts five of its sides to blanks against natural damage), but Pierce 3 seems like it might be overkill (since the white die has no more than a single block on any of its sides). that said, that extra +1D we get when we Pierce 3 will help us here, as well.
If we run the numbers using adjusted defense dice, we get the following results:
So some interesting things here.
  • First, no weapon-mod variant scores less than 80% odds on 2D+, which is a promising start. Four of our variants then suffer a pretty dramatic drop-off once they hit 3D+. Two of them--the naked / Extended Haft and Weighted Head aren't actually buffing our damage, so they're not surprising. And we've learned better than to expect top-tier damage from a YYG-anything. The fourth is somewhat surprising, because the High-Impact Guard is supposed to be a high-damage mod (more on that in a minute).
  • Two more weapons experience a gradual decline at 3D+ which then turns into a free-fall once we get past 4D+: the RYG Energized Hilt and the Vibrogenerator. The Shock Emitter stays pretty strong through 5D+, and the Balanced Hilt takes our top spot with a 50% chance at pushing 5D+ past defense dice.
  • The Balanced Hilt (unsurprisingly) has the best odds at Pierce 3 (a surprisingly robust 85.1%) and at +2D (a hair over 50%). From there, most of the mods settle in the 50% range for Pierce 3 and about 20% for +2D, with the exception of the YYG Energized Hilt (70%, 35%), RYG Energized Hilt (44%, 12%), and of course the Vibrogenerator (3%, 0%). The Balanced Hilt also gives us a roughly 20% chance at Recover, while the High-Impact Guardhas about a 3% chance for either Recover or an extra +2D.
Of course, these stats only give us a very general impression of how these combos function when we prioritize the Pierce 3. And we know that there are important differences between a Black die and a White die which are likely to impact (1) how often we get that Pierce 3, and (2) what it's doing when it triggers. So here's how the damage comes out if we fit our Ancient Lightsaber with our available melee mods and prioritize the double-surge ability for +1D and Pierce 3 , then our surge ability for +2D (and then surge for+2D or Recover, if we're lucky to have a fourth surge to play with):
A few brief notes on the chart before we proceed. First, remember that damage v. a Black die can top out at 100% (if our weapon has a damage floor of either 3D + Pierce 1 or 4D, since the Black die tops out at just 3 blocks), whereas damage v. a White die will top out at around 83% (the odds that the defender doesn't roll a Dodge to cancel all damage), so that's why the white die stats are lower across the board. Second, since we're looking only at damage, we aren't spending any surge abilities on excess keywords like Stun on the Shock Emitter variant (although it could spend its Recover surge on that keyword if it wanted). Third, because surge proc rate is such a big deal for this lightsaber, I've charted how often each of our preferred surge abilities procced. Our Pierce 3 proc is in yellow, our +2D proc (or procs, if we have the High-Impact Guard equipped) are in red, and our standard Recover proc is in blue. If our weapon manages to proc a keyword we'll continue to mark those in purple (as is our usual practice), unless it's a "free" or "exhaust-to-trigger" keyword, in which case we'll go with our standard orange. Sound good? :-)
  • As far as surge mods go, notice how we actually get a slight (4-7%) bump against the Black die when we use the Energized Hilt to alter our dice pool from YGB to YYG. But the difference is smaller against the White die (2-5% points), and nothing we'd write home about.
  • Once again, we'd actually be better off doing the counter-intuitive thing and going for a Red-Yellow-Green pool instead of a Yellow-Yellow-Green pool. Again, these aren't huge gains (at least not in the lower damage bands), but by the time we get to 5D+ and beyond, they're into double-digits (5D+ vs. Black improves from 24.2% to 37.6%, 6D+ from 9.4% to 19.7%; vs. the White, 5D+ nearly doubles from 14.3% to 28.1%, and 6D+ goes from 4.2% to 13.3%).
  • Of course, all that pales in comparison with the gains we get from the Balanced Hilt. We already knew this drastically improved our odds of 3+ surges against the Black die and gave us a fighting chance of 3+ surges against the White die. When we translate those procs into actual damage-dealing abilities, it doubles and even triples the high-end damage odds that we'd get from the naked Lightsaber (vs. the Black die, 5D+ improves from 24.2% to 64.4% and 6D+ from 9.4% to 29.6%; vs. the White die, 4D+ improves from 35.1% to 61.4%, 5D+ from 14.3% to 39.3%, 6D+ from 4.2% to 18.5%). And given that we have an 80-90% proc rate for our Pierce 3 ability (potentially a 4-damage swing against Black dice) and a 45-60% proc rate for our +2D (potentially another 2 damage swing in our hero's favor), this should hardly be surprising.
  • Interestingly enough, adding the High-Impact Guard does not really improve our damage (at least not until we get to the odds of dealing 7 or more damage, which frankly aren't that good even with the Guard equipped). In theory, it seems that it should (and it does improve our damage ceiling from 7D to 8D). But it turns out that YGB just can't roll 4+ surges consistently: just 4% of the time vs. the Black die, and less than 2% of the time against the White, which means that if we prioritize that Pierce 3 surge ability the Guard's extra surge for +2D will be wasted 96-98% of the time. That's why the Guard offers just a small uptick in high-end damage that's barely noticeable. Not exactly the most efficient use of 500 credits...
  • The Shock Emitter actually offers damage that's almost on par with the Balanced Hilt through 2D+ against the Black die. Then it suddenly drops off quite a bit in the 3-5D+ bands (falling behind by nearly 20 percentage points in the 5D+ band). Then, almost as inexplicably, it suddenly narrows the gap at 6D+, and then jumps slightly ahead for 7D+ and 8D+. So what's happening here? Well, two things are at work. First, that Pierce 3 is really doing a number on that Black die throughout, but its impact shows up most clearly in that 3-5D range (our average expected damage in this set-up comes out to about 4-5D with Pierce 3, so when we roll 4D and that Pierce 3 neuters the Black die, we're transforming what would normally be 1D (vs. 3 blocks), 2D (vs. 2 blocks), and 3D (vs. 1 block) results into 3D, 4D, and 5D results). The Shock Emitter is helping to push up our damage as well, but since it only ever adds +1D it's keeping pace only with the times we're Piercing away only one block. Whenever we Pierce 2 or 3 blocks away, it's losing ground. That's why when we jump over to the Shock Emitter's damage against a White die it's much closer to how the Balanced Hilt performs (we're seeing 3-5% gaps, not 20% gaps). The Pierce 3 is just less effective there (as we expected it would be).
  • Lastly, we have the good old Vibrogenerator (which is apparently still reeling from being put through the ringer so many times with our Ryyk Blades :-P). In one of the weirder results of the night, its damage against Black dice is actually worse than the damage we'd get out of the Yellow-Yellow-Green Ancient Lightsaber, which is... terrible. The reason, of course, is that in order to use our Pierce 3 surge ability, we now need to roll a whopping 4 surges just to get started. As you can imagine, this is really rare (4% of the time). And a Yellow-Green-Blue pool with no surge damage just isn't very high (even with a +2D boost). But hold onto your hats... because against White dice this same pathetic Vibrogenerator deals basically the same amount of damage as the Balanced Hilt does (right on its heels for top-damage against White dice), even with just a 2.4% chance of proccing a surge ability.
So what does that tell us? Honestly, I'm not entirely sure. On the one hand, this probably shouldn't surprise us. The Vibrogenerator has always performed well against White dice because it doesn't care about surges (and thus doesn't care about the Evades that are all over the White die). Its static +2D will overwhelm every side of the White die except the Dodge, and of course adding three dice worth of damage on top of that will only increase the amount of damage we're pushing through. But this is by far the starkest difference between black vs. white dice that we've seen on this chart, so that has to mean something, right?
Why don't we shelve that thought for a bit and see what happens when we switch our surge priorities (favoring +2D over Pierce 3), and see if we learn anything else from that exercise? Which brings us to...
Phase 3"Pierce" Damage vs. "+2D" Damage
Remember, the point is to test whether we're getting more damage through with the +1D and Pierce 3 triggering more often than the +2D, or if we get more damage the other way around. So here's what happens vs. adjusted defense dice when we do that:
So obvious things first: unsurprisingly, our +2D proc rate has jumped waaaaaaay up, while our Pierce 3 proc rate has fallen waaaaaay down. We're also proccing that first surge ability (+2D) way more often than we procced our first surge ability last time (1D + Pierce 3), largely because we only need a single surge to make it go (instead of rolling doubles). 
If we "peek under the hood" so to speak, and break these results down vs. a Black or White defense die, we get some additional information:
Last time, we started with a proc rate of about 60%, but now it's jumped up to nearly 90% against the Black die, and 80% against the White. And we're still proccing the Pierce 3 about 20% of the time on the naked Ancient Lightsaber, which isn't terrible considering it's unmodded (although it probably would frustrate us if we had just trotted it out in a game without any idea of where to set our expectations).
  •  For surge-mods, rolling Yellow-Yellow-Green comes close to doubling our Pierce 3 proc rate, but it still tops out at just under 40% against the Black and 30% against the White. Not exactly reliable stats, those.
  • On the other hand, they're way better than the proc we get out of the Red-Yellow-Green, which plummets into single-digits against the White die. On the flip-side, the damage we're getting out of Red-Yellow-Green is quite a bit higher than what we get out of Yellow-Yellow-Green once we hit the 4D+ mark vs. the Black (and the 3D+ mark vs. the White), even though we're rolling fewer surges. Again, the Red die is unmatched when it comes to bumping up our damage potential.
  • Once again, our best Pierce 3 proc rate comes from the Balanced Hilt, which basically triples our proc odds (21.3% to 58.8% vs. black, 15.9% to 45.7% vs. White), and results in much higher damage over the naked variant. That's good enough for top damage honors vs. Black defense dice in our 1-5D+ damage bands... although not our top damage odds vs. the White die or for high-end Black die damage.
  • Those honors would belong to the Shock Emitter, even though its Pierce 3 proc rate is only what we'd expect from the naked Ancient Lighsaber, and the High-Impact Guard has a much higher chance at scoring +4D on two surges (about a 61% chance vs. Black, 48% vs. White). It turns out that, against the White die at least, an 80% chance of +2D and a 100% chance of +1D (Shock Emitter) results in more damage dealt than an 80% chance of +2D and a 48% chance of +1D and Pierce 3 (Balanced Hilt). Partly because most of that Pierce 3 is being wasted against a White die, and partly because that extra +1D (even with the Balanced Hilt) is as likely not to fire as to fire. The Pierce 3 is terrifying, to be sure, but not remarkably efficient (vs. the White). And apparently the same logic applies to the High-Impact Guard as well, regardless of Black or White defense die: an 80% chance of +2D and a 100% chance of +1D (Shock Emitter) results in more damage dealt than an 80% chance of +2D and a 48% chance of +2D (High-Impact Guard), even though the Guard technically has the higher damage ceiling (9D vs. 8D vs. the White die, although its odds of landing 9D past defense dice are only about one-tenth of one percent).
  • The Vibrogenerator's damage against Black dice is once again terrible (this time, it's worse than the naked Ancient Lightsaber through 4D+), while its damage vs. the White die is... just about the middle of the pack. It's better than the naked and Yellow-Yellow-Green variants, is comparable to what the High-Impact Guard and Red-Yellow-Green variants produce, and falls a fair bit behind the Balanced Hilt (vs. Black) and Shock Emitter (vs. White). Its +2D proc rate tops out at under 25% (vs. the Black), and of course it can't trigger that Pierce ability (because it needs to roll at least 2 surges to overcome the Vibrogenerator's -2 surge penalty, then a third surge for +2D, and then a fourth and fifth surge to Pierce 3... and Yellow-Green-Blue produce only 4 surges max :-P).
So where does this leave us on that Pierce 3?
Well, we have a couple of ways we can break down the data to compare our surge options. First, we could do a straight comparison between the two charts based on adjusted defense dice. Doing that gives us 2D+ odds on a naked Lightsaber of 81.75% (with Pierce 3) vs. 88.68% (with +2D), 4D+ odds of 42.5% vs. 58%, and 6D+ odds of 7% vs. 12%. And that remains consistent when we start adding mods. The High-Impact Guard deals 2D+ at an 83.7% clip with Pierce 3 first vs. 90.98% with the +2D, 4D+ at 43% vs. 72%, and 6D+ at 9.4% vs. 26.7%, and the Balanced Hilt deals 2D+ 91.08% (Pierce 3) vs. 91.33% (+2D), 4D+ at 75.1% vs. 80.88%, and 6D+ at 24.03% vs. 31.48%. That's enough consistency to infer that there's a power hierarchy, and that it favors +2D over Pierce 3.
Intuitively, of course, this makes sense. +1D and Pierce 3 is a larger damage swing in a vacuum, but in order for it to reach its full potential (or even to reach a higher damage potential than that ability for +2D), the target needs to have at least 2 blocks for us to pierce. If the target has only 1 block, it's a wash (we add +2 damage to our attack results either way) and if the target has no blocks the +2D actually contributes more damage than our Pierce ability. When you add the potential for sub-optimal returns with the opportunity cost of Pierce 3 (we have to roll 1 additional surge past defense dice), it's no wonder that +2D comes out ahead. It's the same amount of reliable damage most of the time, with a more reliable trigger.
There are, of course, limitations with this approach. For one, it's pretty primitive. We're basically comparing one box in one chart with another box in another chart, and comparing two numbers. It's also perhaps not as precise as we ought to be, because the numbers we're comparing are based on adjusted defense dice. And we know that whether our target rolls a Black or White die does affect our ability to Pierce. So while comparing both data sets gives us a fairly good general impression, if we want more precision we should probably try something else.
Second, we could lay our Piece 3 and +2D results out, side by side for each mod, and see (1) is there any change in damage when we switch from Pierce 3 to +2D, (2) which way the damage difference goes (does our damage go up or down when we make that switch), (3) what are the magnitude of those changes (are they significant or de minimis), and (4) is there any rhyme or reason to where we see the largest changes (does the switch help our ability to punch through 1-3D? Is it more impactful on high-end damage (5-8)? Both? Neither?).
So here's an attempt to chart that. Our Pierce 3 variant is on the left, our +2D variant is on the right, we have data callouts above the +2D results showing the difference between the two (a positive number in the box demonstrates an increase by that amount when we switch from Pierce 3 to +2D, a negative number would show a decrease from the switch), and closest towards us are their respective proc rates (Pierce 3, +2D, a second +2D if they have the Guard equipped, and then a surge for Recover if they had a third or fourth to spend):
So the big-picture finding is this: with the exception of three results in our 1D+ results (all three of which (1) involved White dice, which means they're keyed on how often we roll a Dodge, and (2) all fall within our +/- 3% margin of error), every damage result is either the same or higher when we make the switch from Pierce 3 to +2D. This certainly doesn't contradict our original inference that the +2D results were getting more damage overall than the Pierce 3 results.
The data also seems to confirm our hypothesis about why this might be so. We suggested the opportunity cost of Pierce 3 (spending 2 surges instead of one) would be more valuable if we could get a 3- or 4-damage swing out of the Pierce 3 ability, instead of just a 2-damage swing (or, God forbid, just a 1-damage swing). And we also suggested that the only way we're going to get that preferred 3-4 damage swing is against a Black die; against the White, we expect to waste a whole lot of Pierce value (if not all of it).
The data seems to confirm this. With the exception of our High-Impact Guard vs. Black results, the increases from Pierce 3 to +2D in our "vs. Black dice" data-sets are relatively modest: a maximum gain of +10.2% (4D+) for the naked/Extended Haft, +7.3% (4D+) for YYG Energized Hilt, +13.7% (4D+) for RYG Energized Hilt, +7.6% (3D+) for Vibrogenerator, +6.5% (6D+) for the Balanced Hilt, and +13.1% (5D+) for the Shock Emitter
In contrast, our "vs. White" results generally see larger gains. Of the seven weapon-mod variants we tested for, three of them have at least two gains of 15 percentage points or more (naked/Extended Haft, RYG Energized Hilt, Shock Emitter), and a fourth has at least 3 gains of 20 percentage points or more (that High-Impact Guard again, which we'll return to in a moment). Our YYG Energized Hilt has only one +15% gain, although its damage potential is consistently...bad... so maybe we shouldn't be that surprised. The Vibrogenerator also sees very small bumps... although given that rolling 3 or more surges past a white die is extremely difficulty, the fact that our preferred choice of surge ability doesn't really impact our damage that much probably shouldn't surprise us either. The last is the Balanced Hilt, which definitely sees gains but they're more in line with what we saw vs. the Black die (mostly single-digit gains, a couple of double-digit gains in the low teens).
Digging a little deeper into the Balanced Hilt's surge proc rates may hold the answer. Against a White die, a naked Ancient LIghtsaber has about a 47% chance of proccing the Pierce 3 and about a 16% chance of tacking on the +2D. If it switches the order, the naked Ancient Lightsaber has an 81% chance of getting +2D, and the same 16% chance of getting a Pierce 3. So if we combine these three stats, we get the following (rough) probabilities for the naked Ancient Lightsaber:
  • Just +2D: ~81%
  • Just +1D and Pierce 3: ~47%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D: ~16%
Since both the +2D and the Pierce 3 options are only going to top out in a 2-damage swing anyway against a White die, improving our odds of that swing occurring from ~47% to ~81% is huge. Which is why we're seeing a much larger difference in our naked Ancient Lightsaber when we switch from Pierce 3 to +2D.
But when we add the Balanced Hilt, our odds improve across the board: instead of just a 47% proc chance for Pierce 3 against the White die, it jumps from about 47% to 81%, and our odds of also getting the +2D jump from about 16% to about 47%. If we go for +2D first, our odds of +2D rise from about 81% to just under 95%, and our odds of tacking on the Pierce 3 jump from about 16% to... you guessed it, about 47%. Which means with the Balanced Hilt equipped (and unexhausted, of course), our probabilities are:
  • Just +2D: ~95%
  • Just +1D and Pierce 3: ~81%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D: ~47%
Once again, either the +2D or the Pierce 3 is only going to top out in a 2-damage swing. And of course a jump from 81% to 95% is a definite improvement (agains a White die, a 95% chance roll at least 1 surge past the die is absolutely phenomenal... although, of course, the number of times we can actually trigger that +2D will go down by the number of times the defender rolls that pesky Dodge). But it's not as big of a leap as the leap from 47% (which is best-case-scenario "just as likely as not," and only if we're feeling especially generous) to 81% (a result we can "generally depend on"). Which is why the gains are far more moderate than the gains we saw on the naked Ancient Lightsaber.
This same phenomenon also accounts for the enormous differences we see in the High-Impact Guard variants. Against a White die, our Guard has approximately the following proc odds:
  • Just +2D: ~80%
  • +2D and +2D: ~47%
  • Just +1D and Pierce 3: ~47%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D: ~16%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D and +2D: ~2%
The most obvious takeaway is that if you're looking at the High-Impact Guard because you're envisioning that doomsday scenario where you roll +1D, Pierce 3, +2D, and +2D... enjoy it while it lasts, because it's not going to happen frequently (unless you have some other way to generate extra surges for your attacks, in which case go to town because that's awesome). The reason the Guard performs so much better when we prioritize the +2D is that we have basically the same damage odds of a 4-damage swing as we do of a 2-damage swing when we go with the Pierce 3: ~47%. And of course this makes sense: the double-+2Ds and the Pierce 3 both consume 2 surges... so if +1D and Pierce 3 is never more effective than adding +2D, and I can get two for the price of one...
The concept is exactly the same against the Black die, although the odds have changed. On the one hand, our +1D and Pierce 3 ability no longer tops out in a 2-damage swing. It can conceivably swing the damage by 4 points in our favor if the target rolls three blocks... although the odds of that happening are just 1-in-6 (against basic villains). By contrast, triggering a +2D surge ability two times also swings the damage by 4 points in our favor, but it does so regardless of how many blocks the target rolls (for the same cost of 2 surges). And, of course, our odds of triggering both +2D surge abilities are quite a bit higher than they were with the White die:
  • Just +2D: ~90%
  • +2D and +2D: ~62%
  • Just +1D and Pierce 3: ~62%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D: ~23%
  • +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D: ~4%
Once again, a jump from 62% to 90% is a huge one, which is why our choice to prioritize the +2D over the Pierce 3 results in such a large difference in damage. Again, these results seem to consistently favor the +2D over the Pierce 3... and in most cases, to majorly favor it.
A third way we could arrange our data is to take our Black vs. White results, compute which result in the highest damage odds total, and then arrange them in descending order (highest overall damage first, least overall damage on the end). The merit of laying the data out this way is that it not only gives us a pretty good sense of whether taking the +2D is always better than taking the Pierce 3, but also of whether Pierce 3 weapons ever outperform +2D weapons (and if so, which Pierce 3 weapon-mod combos are keepers, and which ones to stay away from). Something like this:
So here we have our various weapon-mod combos, split by how they perform against a Black or White defense die, and arranged in descending order of total damage dealt (highest overall damage odds on the far left, lowest overall damage odds on the far right). If a weapon's "[P3]" (Pierce 3) totals are to the left of their "[+2D]" totals, then the Pierce 3 variant deals higher damage (and vice versa if the ordering is reversed). And if a "[P3]" weapon is to the left of a [+2D] weapon, it means that that particular Pierce 3 weapon-mod variant has higher damage odds than that particular +2D weapon-mod variant. So if you go to the extreme-left of the chart, that Pierce 3 Ancient Lightsaber with the Balanced Hilt against a Black die does slightly less damage than the same weapon that favors the +2D, but slightly more damage than a Ancient Lightsaber with the Shock Emitter that favors the +2D. Is that convoluted enough? :-P
One word of caution about this chart before we proceed: because it's measuring total damage output by percentiles, it naturally favors results vs. Black dice because we can have a 100% chance of dealing damage against Blacks, whereas our odds top out at just 83% or so vs. the White. On the one hand, there's nothing wrong with ordering the data this way, as it's just harder to deal damage against a White-die target because they have that chance to Dodge no matter what weapon we choose, or how well we roll, or what mods we've added (for now, at least). But if it bothers us, we can temper this bias a bit by comparing when a given weapon hits "the cliff": that portion of its damage chart where its odds take a noticeable downturn. Every weapon has a cliff (for that Ancient Lightsaber + Balanced Hilt vs. Black die, it's between 4D (the damage is pretty flat from 1-4D) and 5D (where it drops very steeply from about 90% to about 68%). Our top-tier "vs. White" weapons hit the cliff in basically the same spot (between 4-5D for the Shock Emitter and Balanced Hilt weapons, regardless of whether we prioritize the Pierce 3 or +2D). Our +2D High-Impact Guard vs. Black, Pierce 3 Shock Emitter v. Black, and +2D RYG Energized Hilt vs. Black technically score higher than those "vs. White" weapons, but they hit the cliff sooner (between 3-4D), and the sooner a weapon hits the cliff is generally a good indicator of how soon a weapon's damage stats start to become unreliable.
The Force in Niche (GGB)
The only hero with an alternate healthy Insight pool is Vinto (Green-Green-Blue), from the Jabba's Realm expansion.
Now there are any number of reasons why you wouldn't want to build Vinto as a melee character. His obvious aesthetic is as a ranged rogue character. And he does have some specific class abilities that key off of ranged attacks, including his signature "Boltslinger" which keys off of attacks performed with a ranged weapon:
Having said that, if you wanted to run Vinto as a melee character with the Ancient Lightsaber (maybe you've always wanted to be a Rodian Jedi?), there actually aren't that many class abilities you give up to make it work. The only class-card that has no usefulness at all is the 1xp "Pinpoint Shot." There are also portions of "Sharpshooter" (2xp) [limited usefulness for +1 Accuracy, no extra space for "Boltslinger"], "Dead On" (3xp) [no exhaust for extra damage after "Boltslinger" or "Pinpoint Shot"], and "Rapid Fire" (4xp)  that you give up as well.
Pinpoint_card.png     Sharps_card.png     Deadon_card.png     Rapidf_card.png
But Vinto can still get quite a bit of utility out of most of his class cards. That "deal 1 damage to every hostile figure within 3 spaces and in line of sight"? Doesn't have a ranged damage trigger. That "exhaust for +1D" from "Dead On" or, better yet, that "exhaust for +3D" from "Merciless" (3xp)? Works on a sword. Bonus damage from "Shot on the Run" (1xp)? Ironically enough, you can shoot someone on the run without a gun. Exhaust to reroll a single attack die with "Battlefield Experience" (2xp)? Go ahead. And of course, if you wanted to have access to the full panoply of class cards there's nothing stopping Vinto from using the Ancient Lightsaber as his primary weapon and picking up a cheap Tier I ranged weapon along the way (or even his Off-Hand Blaster for 3xp if credits are tight, you can afford to give up the xp, and you want to trigger "Pinpoint Shot" or "Boltslinger" without spending an action). So again, if that's your fluff preference, no judgment here. :-D
Having said that, the theoretical idea of a "melee Vinto" would be a whole lot more palatable if his Green-Green-Blue Ancient Lightsaber was actually any good. Some (truncated) numbers please...
Phase 1Surge Proc Rates
A new dice pool means we're back at square one, trying to figure out if Pierce 3 is a good idea. Of course, everything we've discovered so far suggests it's not (definitely not against a White die), and that was with better surge odds (YGB) than what Vinto has (GGB) so we probably don't expect that to change:
Not exactly a great start for us. First off, without the Balanced Hilt equipped, we only have a max of 3 surges to work with (good enough for Pierce 3 and +2D... but not even an outside chance at an extra +2D on top of that with the High-Impact Guard). Against a Black die, we have most of our results generating just 1 surge, and about an equal number of results generating 0 surges as 2 surges, which isn't great news for our Pierce 3 proc chances anyway. And of course against the White die, we have almost the same number of "0 surge" results as we do "1 surge" results... and a whole lot less "2 surge" results.
Adding the Balanced Hilt helps, of course...
... but not having a Yellow die in our pool is still hurting us. At least against the Black die, we now have about the same number of "3 surge" results as "2 surge" results, so maybe that's enough to make the Pierce 3 viable (or at least semi-triggerable). But against the White die?
Actually, it's also not that bad. If we want Pierce 3, we'd better be prepared to settle for it, but we do have at least an outside chance of getting that +2D to fall (on top of the increase in natural damage we can expect to see from swapping out a Yellow die for a Green one). On that bright note... 
Phase 2Assessing the benefit of "Pierce" Damage
So nevermind. :-P Against adjusted defense dice, we're looking at a Pierce 3 proc rate of around 40% without the Balanced Hilt. That's down from about 60% compared to our Yellow-Green-Blue pool, and just isn't dependable. 
The Balanced Hilt boosts those odds from about 40% to almost 80%, which unsurprisingly results in a major damage boost compared to the naked Ancient Lightsaber, and a good cut above even the Shock Emitter. Unsurprisingly, opting for the Pierce 3 doesn't do the Vibrogenerator any favors, since it needs to roll at least 4 surges to apply Pierce 3, and a Green-Green-Blue only rolls a maximum of 3. :-P
If you're curious about the difference between Black and White defense dice (since the chart above is adjusted), I won't bore you with another chart, but the Pierce 3 proc rate with no Balanced Hilt is only about 46% against the Black die and about 33% against the White, which aren't good. Adding the Balanced Hilt improves them quite a bit to about 83% against the Black and about 73% vs. the White, so if we want to Pierce 3, the Balanced Hilt is really the only mod that make sense for us.
Phase 3"Pierce" Damage vs. "+2D" Damage
Given the difficulty GGB has in rolling 2 surges past defense dice, we have even more reason than we did with Yellow-Green-Blue to expect a bump in damage if we switch from Pierce 3 to +2D. As it turns out, our odds of proccing that +2D ability are actually pretty good, even without the Balanced Hilt:
We are, after all, rolling 3 dice, two of which are pretty surge-friendly Greens. As a result, our basic odds against adjusted defense dice are around 78%, and adding the Balanced Hilt boosts them to 97%. The Vibrogenerator even has an outside chance at adding +2D (around 9%).
Unsurprisingly, then, when we lay out our damage results from top to bottom, Vinto's Ancient Lightsaber does the best when we prioritize the +2D over the Pierce 3. The only Pierce 3 result that deals real high-end damage is when we add the Balanced Hilt against the Black die (it procs +1D and Pierce 3 and +2D about 47% of the time), and adding the Shock Emitter with Pierce 3 vs. a Black die (where Pierce + 1D plus 1 free damage ends up in a damage swing that's slightly more consistent than +2D). Other than that, it's a whole lot of "[+2D]" in the top-half, and a whole lot of "[P3]" in the bottom-half.
In sum, a healthy Vinto seems to like the Balanced Hilt and Shock Emitter, and actually gets some pretty good damage out of the High-Impact Guard (if he goes for +2D and +2D) and to a lesser extent the Vibrogenerator. To fully evaluate the efficiency of this build option, though, we'd need some way to compare whether Vinto gets more out of this Lightsaber than he would out of a similarly-costed ranged weapon. And we don't have data for that... at least not yet. ;) 
The Walking Wounded (RGB)
Both a Yellow-Green-Blue insight pool and Green-Green-Blue insight pool revert to a Red-Green-Blue insight pool once our hero becomes wounded, so this data will apply to all seven of our insight heroes. This means good things for our damage, and bad things for our surge procs. And given that the Ancient Lightsaber is a surge-focused weapon...
Phase 1Surge Proc Rates
If we were concerned about that Pierce 3 with GGB, we should be really concerned about it now...
We can probably kiss that dream scenario of Pierce 3 and +2D goodbye, even against a Black die. Against the White die, even the Pierce 3 may be an unreasonable expectation. 
Adding the Balanced Hilt helps against the Black, and probably gives us an outside chance at getting the +2D to fire on top of Pierce 3 (or at least getting the +2D to fire). But things are pretty grim against the White die, even with the Hilt equipped:
Nevertheless, we'll follow our typical trajectory and see how this Lightsaber pool performs when we go all-in and shoot for that Pierce 3.
Phase 2Assessing the benefit of "Pierce" Damage
And the result is...
... well, if we took the Ancient Lightsaber expecting to get that Pierce 3 all the time... probably weeping and gnashing of teeth. :-P There's just a 23-25% proc rate against adjusted defense dice, and just a 3% proc rate for that +2D on top of it. We're never proccing that extra +2D from the High-Impact Guard (so that's a wasted mod if we go for Pierce 3). And the Balanced Hilt definitely helps, but only to the order of increasing our terribly unpredictable 23% proc rate to a definitely-less-but-still-unpredictable 63% proc rate. Not exactly the stuff of legends here...
And if we thought that our ~23% proc rate would improve significantly if we just focus on targets with Black dice...
... it's not exactly a huge difference. We improve from about 23% to about 28%, which is still waaaaay more unlikely than unlikely. Against the White die, there's about a 1-in-6 chance we get that Pierce 3 to fire. Although given what we learned so far, that's probably not a bad thing...
Phase 3"Pierce" Damage vs. "+2D" Damage
Needless to say, anything we can do to get damage with a proc rate of higher than 23% is going to be a huge boon to this weapon. And while our +2D proc rates aren't superb, compared to 23% they look like downright locks:
Unsurprisingly, the Pierce 3 results just don't stack up against the +2D results with these dice. The only result that's competitive is the Pierce 3 with the Balanced Hilt. After that, the next highest Pierce 3 result is the Vibrogenerator's result... which is not exactly a ringing endorsement since a RGB Vibrogenerator can't trigger Pierce 3 to begin with...
Concluding observations
When it comes to the Ancient Lightsaber, we seem to have a clear winner (at least for our current insight pools). As flashy as the ability to double-surge for +1D and Pierce 3 looks on the surface, it's almost never the most efficient first choice for our precious surges. If we manage to roll 3 surges past defense dice, and don't have other surge abilities we want to trigger, it's a perfectly good (though not exactly surge-efficient) choice against a White die, can become very powerful against a Black die, and of course it has unmeasured potential against combo-defenders who pair a defense die with either "free" blocks or another defense dice. It's entirely possible that the Pierce 3 would redeem itself against more resilient targets. But against our rank-and-file imperial foes, it's never giving us as much damage as we'd get if we went for the +2D first. Even with a Yellow die (or two). Even with the Balanced Hilt equipped.
So where exactly does our Ancient Lightsaber end up on the melee weapon damage curve? We'll tackle that question (like our Ryyk Blades, it's kinda nuanced...), and also identify some "keepers" when we wrap up our itemized melee weapons next time.
Inevitable post-posting edits:

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On 9/30/2017 at 9:59 PM, Master Wang said:

Looking forward to how they all line up.  Though they are very niche, will you do an analysis of the other two sabers?

Oh yes, definitely. :D

Davith and Diala are my two favorite heroes  to play. But it’s difficult to assess their lightsabers without going in-depth into their xp trees, and that’s proving to be a longer write-up ;)

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The Galaxy's Fate in My Hand

Part the Eighteenth: "Here at the end of all things..." in which we return to our roots, because our final top-15 raises more questions than it answers...
Well here we are. Having run detailed tests on more than two-hundred-twelve different melee/mod combinations (each with vs. 1 Black and vs. 1 White variants), we finally have enough data to answer the ultimate question of this series: which melee weapon is the baddest of the bad, the deadliest of the deadly, the most-fear-inspiring of all the fear-inspiring?
And, somewhat inadvertently, what's the worst possible melee weapon we can possibly construct? If you're interested in "Mr. Irrelevant." ;-)
Thanks to the power of data crunching, we have some answers. The results are in, our final top-15 is set, and the answers are... interesting. And limiting. And not entirely satisfying.
One more bullet-point spoiler list, for old time's sake.
  • The Ancient Lightsaber is a boss... sometimes. It's also a problem... sometimes. And there's a lot of both "sometimes-es."
  • The Ryyk Blades are a little less boss... but still boss...
  • The Electrostaff is a very expensive boss...
  • The BD-1 is a boss...
  • And just to add insult to injury: top-to-bottom, the very best melee weapon in the game is actually wielded by... a quintessentially ranged character :-P
Shall we? One last time?
(At least until we (hopefully) get some new melee items from Heart of the Empire in the next two weeks?)
An elegant weapon... for when you're excessively bloody...
First, the residual Ryyk Blades caveat. If we keep our full-Convert Ryyk Blade stats (we treat Convert and the Vibrogenerator as Attack Step 4 combat modifiers, and resolve them in the order chosen by the attacker), all six Ryyk Blades outperform every other damage-dealing weapon by a significant margin. This isn't surprising, as it (a) allows us to "cheat" out the Vibrogenerator's damage without ever paying its surge cost, and (b) "converts" the Yellow die from a damage-flower to a damage-powerhouse. 
But if we adjust our Ryyk Blades to not convert 2 surges before the Vibrogenerator removes them, the results change somewhat drastically. We end up with the following results:
The +2D Red-Green-Blue Shock Emitter and Balanced Hilt variants end up a the top of the heap. Their overall damage potential caps out just slightly ahead of our Shock Emitter-equipped Electrostaff, although the Electrostaff is right on their heels with an impressive chance to Cleave 2 and an outside chance at also applying a Stun
The big loser from our partial-convert is Onar's Ryyk Blade, which went from having a pretty consistent "damage" die in the Yellow to virtually always giving up 2 surges to the Vibrogenerator. The result is a weapon that's not even top-30 (not even as a Red-Yellow-Blue), much less top-2 (as it was with a full-on Convert). The other two wounded Vibrogenerator Ryyk Blades (RGB and RBB) are still top-6 weapons, but they've been leaped by our Red-Green-Blue Ancient Lightsabers with the Shock Emitter and Balanced Hilt, and also by the Electrostaff with the Shock Emitter. The difference between the top-3 is now much closer, and the Electrostaff's Cleave 2 starts looking really good. At the same time, the two Ryyk Blades with Vibrogenerators are the only source of consistent top-6 damage (as the other top-6 weapons all have exhaust-to-use mods). 
In a surprising twist, it turns out that the best Ancient Lightsaber, from start to finish, is actually... Vinto's. :-P His healthy insight pool (Green-Green-Blue) placed two weapons in our top-15 (Balanced Hilt, Shock Emitter... surprise, surprise). To be fair, the other heroes aren't that far off the pace -- the Yellow-Green-Blue Balanced Hilt lightsaber just missed the cut with an 18th place finish -- but there's a definite damage nerf to that weapon when our hero is "healthy," and a definite damage surge once our hero becomes "wounded." And of course, all three healthy lightsabers are prioritizing the +2D, instead of the Pierce 3.
Speaking of Electrostaffs and Ryyk Blades, you'll notice that these two weapons--together with our Ancient Lightsaber, are everywhere. In short, our Top-15 is dominated by Tier III weapons. Of our four contestants, only the Force Pike doesn't make an appearance (its High-Impact Guard variant caps out around 25, but as we've seen time and time again, if a weapon's top damage set-up relies on the High-Impact Guard, its damage probably isn't very consistent). Only one non-Tier III variant has managed to stick like peanut butter to the top of the standings: our Vibrogenerator + Shock Emitter BD-1, which finishes with an extremely respectable and applause-worthy 10th.
Finally, only one Pierce 3 Lightsaber makes the list. And it doesn't really count, because the Red-Green-Blue Vibrogenerator variant actually can't trigger Pierce 3 (because it can't roll the 4 surges needed for Pierce 3 to proc). So that may definitively settle the "+2D vs. Pierce 3" debate right there. :-P
Questions Remain
Having said all this, there are still major question marks at the top. For one thing, ten of our top fifteen weapons are niche melee weapons (six Ancient Lightsabers, which are only top-tier options for insight heroes, and four Ryyk Blades which are only top-tier weapons for Gaarkhan, Biv, and Shyla). And with the exception of Vinto's Ancient Lightsaber, none of these insight or strength weapons are top-15 if our hero isn't wounded.
This introduces a fair amount of unpredictability and inconsistency into how these weapons perform. Unless we have a hero like Onar (who can deal damage to himself) we have very little control over how much damage our hero takes, how quickly it accumulates, or in what order our hero is targeted. In a four (or even five) hero campaign, we may be able to "get" our melee hero wounded consistently enough for this not to be a major issue. Melee heroes tend to be more "in the fray" anyway, and depending on how squishy the hero's defenses are, how reckless the player controlling that hero feels, how limited the hero becomes when wounded, and perhaps even a hero's upgrade tree, the hero player and/or IP may want to push that hero to wounded as quickly as possible. 
Having said that, there's still no guarantee that our hero will be wounded. With the exception of Onar who has class cards that inflict damage on himself, our melee heroes are at the mercy of the IP for damage. Generally, this is a problem: being wounded generally sucks: our hero loses power (speed and endurance go down, attribute checks become more difficult, we lose at least one special skill). Receiving a damage bump can help to mitigate some of that loss. But on the flip side, the wounding of a hero almost always advances one of the IP's victory conditions, so voluntarily seeking an injury is a dicey proposition, especially if the rest of our rebel squad consists of squishy ranged or support characters.
And even if we decide it's in our hero's best interests to be wounded, the IP has to play along. We may want the IP to wound an Unstoppable Gaarkhan, but the IP may not (at least not until all the other rebel heroes are wounded first). If we're running a three-hero "heroic" campaign, it may prove to be very difficult for the IP to wound a hero by the time that hero obtains Tier III gear. And if it's a two-hero "legendary" campaign, wounding a Tier III hero (with double the credits to spend on gear and upgrades) becomes absurdly difficult, even if the rebel player decides to forgo double-rests. 
And that's just considering the uncertainties of our basic attack pool. Most of these weapons also sport either the Balanced Hilt or Shock Emitter, and because they're only available once per activation they bring their own sustainability issues. The only fully-sustainable top-15 weapon is the Electrostaff + Vibrogenerator, which is insanely expensive at 1600 credits and likely to waste between 1-2 surges per attack (because the odds of rolling 1-2 surges with three dice, even if they're Red-Green-Blue, are still pretty good).
And speaking of credits... eyah. :mellow:
It's possible to land a top-15 melee weapon for 1250 credits (RGB Ryyk Blades + Balanced Hilt), but that's only an attractive option if we're Gaarkhan, Biv, or Shyla (remember, Onar's drops out of the top-30 even when he's wounded). A Yellow-Green-Blue Ryyk Blade with Balanced Hilt is far less terrifying. And that's with the Hilt available (not exhausted). The Electrostaff with the Shock Emitter gets us out of the niche, at least, and offers a far more stable Red-Green-Blue pool, but we're still at full-power just once per activation (and for a whopping 1750 credits). The BD-1 + Vibrogenerator + Shock Emitter runs into the same issue (for 1450 credits). And as we've already mentioned, the only sustainable weapon among these is that 1600 credit Electrostaff Vibrogenerator.
Now, depending on the type of player you are (and/or the type of campaign your running), some or none of this may bother you. Some rebel players are lucky enough to land enough loot for a power-weapon like this. Maybe you pull "Generous Donations" somewhere around side-mission #4 (and execute it to perfection), making off with over 3000 credits in one fell swoop. Maybe you make a point of collecting every crate, every mission, and pinch your pennies for the first six campaign missions so you can purchase that perfect Tier III monster. Or maybe you're depriving yourself of the "full" campaign experience by only running three (or, God forbid, two) heroes, and thus have far less demand on your credit pool. (Okay, sorry about that... I forgot we're not supposed to be judgmental here ;) )
If that's you, then more power to you. (I had one of those "Generous Donations" campaigns once, and it was totally awesome.) But our final "top-15" did bother me for all the reasons I've mentioned. We don't really have a "top-15" for everyone, just a "top-15" that forces us into choosing certain heroes over others (for example, this lists offers basically no helpful information for "melee Fenn," which is my brother's favorite campaign hero ever). We started this series by really scrutinizing a weapon's consistency and sustainability as a way to reduce randomness, but virtually all of these weapons are extremely random even on their best day, and are only at their best once per activation. At least one primary reason for measuring what these weapons could do was to judge their efficiency: given what they can do (and they can do a lot), are they worth the cost? Or is there another weapon choice that will give me 85% of the damage for 50% of the cost? If there is, I want to know about that weapon, too. I may not actually choose it in the end, but I'd like to make an informed choice either way.
So before we move on to other topics in IA, I think it's worth pausing a moment (now that we have all the data for our melee weapons) to spotlight these basic principles. If you want to jump to skip them entirely, you won't miss much. :ph34r: If you just want to look at the topic(s) that interest(s) you, I'll nest them under their headings. And if you want to tackle the whole thing over your holiday weekend, prepare for a deep-dive send-off worthy of these majestic implements of destruction.
Building the best "accessible" melee weapon
We'll start by building a new top-15 composed entirely of weapons that any hero could obtain. This means no more Starter weapons (not that there were any of those in our top-15 to begin with), and also no "niche" weapons--the Ryyk Blades and Ancient Lightsaber are both out. All told, we eliminate over 100 melee weapon and mod combos, for a final pool of 101 weapons that any melee hero can take and work the same for any melee hero. Here are the top performers:
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So first off, while we're missing some of our heavy hitters, these weapons are no slouches. Five of our top-15 weapons are top-15 melee weapons by any metric, and all of our top-15 rank in our overall top-50. The naked Electrostaff comes in at 44th overall, which means an Electrostaff with nothing on it is good enough to best 167 of the other weapon-mod combos we tested. Pairing the Electrostaff with the Shock Emitter gives us by far the highest damage odds of the group (with a nearly 70% proc of 5D+, compared to the next-highest odds of just over 60%). It's very expensive (1750 credits) and isn't sustainable (exhaust-to-use mod, and all that), but being able to punch 6 or more damage through nearly 50% of the time covers a multitude of other sins...
The Tier III Force Pike is also well-represented, although it gets less mileage out of its mods than the Electrostaff does. As we've noted before, it's the only weapon that actually reaches its peak damage potential with the High-Impact Guard. This is expensive, to be sure, but at our 28th highest damage total overall it's not bad; just barely outside of our top-10% of all melee weapons, and also one of just four readily-available weapon choices to deal 5 or more damage 50% of the time, every time we attack (the others being the Electrostaff + Vibrogenerator, at #10 overall, the Electrostaff + High-Impact Guard at #20, and the BD-1 + Extended Haft [P1] + Vibrogenerator at #24). And for what it's worth, all four of these top-15 weapons either have Reach or can gain Reach if they need it. That's a clear advantage over the more niche Ryyk Blades or Ancient Lightsabers, even if those weapons might net slightly higher total damage on certain heroes.
Speaking of the BD-1, its Shock Emitter + Vibrogenerator variant comes out on top against adjusted defense dice, but at nearly 1500 credits it certainly costs enough to be top-tier. It's also more potent against White dice than its more sustainable Extended Haft + Vibrogenerator counterpart, which is basically a Gaffi Stick on steroids with Reach. But against a Black dice, the difference is far smaller, which I found somewhat surprising:
As best I can tell, the dynamic here is that against a Black die, the free Pierce 1 from the Extended Haft variant is almost always as good as having an extra damage from the Shock Emitter. At some point, the difference does start to matter: at higher damage levels, having that extra +1D instead of the Pierce 1 makes it easier to go from 5D+ to 6D+, and from 6D+ to 7D+, but through 5D+ their respective proc rates are within our margin for error. And against most Black die units, pushing 5 damage past the target's defenses will be good enough most of the time, especially if we can do it every time (because we have no exhaustible parts). And the total cost for either BD-1, while not inexpensive, is less than we could spend upgrading a Force Pike (while getting lower damage output out of it). Hoorray for mod-synergy.
All-in-all, if we have a generic hero who wants to have a melee weapon, it's hard to go wrong with the Electrostaff. With nothing else on it, it's a top-25% weapon, we have both one-off and sustainable mod options for really strong damage, and of course we also get either a "free" Reach or Cleave 2 on top of all that. If money is tight, or if we want Reach all the time, the BD-1 with a Vibrogenerator and either the Shock Emitter (for higher blow-out damage) or Extended Haft (for more consistent damage) are solid buys for the price of a naked-to-lightly-upgraded Electrostaff. And if we're willing to settle for pretty good damage as long as we get Reach and tons of surges for other things, the Force Pike is a very solid high-damage weapon with the flexibility to contribute lots of other things besides damage (although we pay a premium for that flexibility).


Building the best "sustainable" melee weapon
We can further refine our top-15 to determine the top "sustainable" weapons: which weapons offer the highest damage with no exhaust-to-use components. To test for this, we'll start with our 106 "accessible" weapons, and then remove all the combos that include the Balanced Hilt, Energized Hilt, or Shock Emitter, since those aren't sustainable boosts to melee damage.
As you might imagine, this leaves us with a relatively paltry list of weapons and mods: just 33 of our original 212 weapons remain. We also end up with a cluster of weapons that are a bit more spread out. Instead of top-50 overall finishers, we end up with top-100 overall weapons (the naked Force Pike comes in at 98th out of 212 overall weapons). And instead of a lot of weapons that push out consistent 7D+s and 8D+s, we have a lot more 6D+s and 7D+s. That said, there are definitely some dynamos:
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First off, seven of our "accessibility" top-15 still made the cut (Electrostaff + Vibrogenerator, + High-Impact Guard, + Weighted Head, and naked; BD-1 + Extended Haft [P1] + Vibrogenerator, and the Force Pike with the High-Impact Guard or the Vibrogenerator). We also get three more Force Pikes (+Extended Haft, +Weighted Head, and naked), two more BD-1s (+Vibrogenerator and +High-Impact Guard + Extended Haft). And the Double Vibrosword, Stun Baton, and Gaffi Stick also make the cut with the Vibrogenerator equipped to round out the list. 
While our overall damage has taken a step back, these weapons are still no slouches. That naked Tier III Force Pike that ranks just 98th out of 212 total weapons? It still does 4D+ 50% of the time. Four of our top-15 weapons (Electrostaff + VibrogeneratorElectrostaff + High-Impact GuardBD-1 + Extended Haft [P1] + Vibrogenerator, and Force Pike + High-Impact Guard deal 5 or more damage past defense dice 50% of the time. While all of these high-end stats predictably fall against a Black die, our lowest "vs. Black" performer (the Gaffi Stick + High-Impact Guard) still deals 2D+ past a Black die better than 90% of the time and 3D+ better than 75% of the time. And they still cut through White dice like a hot knife through butter:
In addition, we not only have damage sustainability here, but we also have pretty consistent damage as well. All but two of the top-15 weapons in this group deal 3 or more damage 80% of the time or better (a key probability milestone for us), and most of them don't hit their damage "cliff" (that sudden drop-off in proc rate where high-end damage output becomes more swingy) until after they deal 4D (two-thirds of the time or better in most cases). If we want to milk every bit of damage out of a weapon, every single time we attack, it's hard to be dissatisfied with weapons that deal three or more damage, every time you attack, especially for heroes who may potentially have an opening to attack three or more times per round. 



Building the most "efficient" melee weapon
Spoiler alert: this is the bargain-bin of melee weapons. Because we're skimping pennies, we aren't going to see any top-20 weapons here (although there is one 1000 credit bargain that comes up top-40... mostly). There be no "5 or more damage 60% of the time" weapons here, mateys. But what we do find are weapons that punch way above their weight class, and put many credit-sink weapons to shame. 
Unsurprisingly, they tend to share some common elements. There are plenty of "free" +2D surge abilities and very few High-Impact Guards. There are tons of Red dice, and when they use Energized Hilt, it's always for Reds. There are plenty of Green dice, too. And there are Vibrogenerators everywhere. 

Bare-bones Efficiency: The "400 and Unders"

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Let's say you settle on Verena for your campaign. You plan to use her as a primarily ranged character (and there are a ton of reasons why you'd want to do that), so you already know you're going to go heavy into spending on a pistol and a ranged weapon mod (or two). But at the same time, you really like the action-economy of "Combat Mastery" (4xp), especially in the late-campaign when it gives you yet another opportunity to trigger "Close Quarters." Your default option is Verena's starting melee weapon: the Fighting Knife
CM_card.png     FKnife_card.png
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
On its face, the Fighting Knife is not a bad melee weapon by any stretch (actually, it's dreadful... but we don't know that yet. It makes a glorious appearance later on in the "Mr. Irrelevant" section...). It has a "free" +1D, and rolls a red, which means it's rolling no less than 2D each time, and regularly 3D. And of course, it costs us nothing (and, on the flip side, nets us virtually nothing if we decide to sell it).
At the same time, it has a very definite damage cap: 4D max, or maybe a 3D and Pierce 2 if we can get the surge to fire successfully (which is both easier to get and more effective against a Black die than a White). We could push it conceivably if we're focused... but that's not exactly an attack we're excited to spend a Focus on, either. It's basically good enough for consistently finishing off a unit that's just holding on, or setting up a unit for a free follow-up from your pistol. These are perfectly serviceable functions in the early campaign. But they're not great in the late-campaign, and definitely aren't leveraging the full potential of "Combat Mastery," especially when IP units get tougher and you upgrade your pistol to the point that it is either (a) unlikely to leave your target "just barely hanging on," or (b) is going to be wasted on a target you "start on" with the Fighting Knife. So while the Knife might work early-on in a campaign, a Verena built around "Combat Mastery" is probably looking for a long-term upgrade... but not one that will break the bank.
So let's see if there are any "bargains" out there for Verena. We'll start with weapons that cost a total of 400 credits or less. By virtue of basic math, this means we won't see any Shock Emitter or High-Impact Guard weapons. And it also means we're probably going to see a whole lot of starter weapons. Which is exactly what happens:
Some clarifying notes on this chart. It's one of our normal "at least" damage charts, so that's nothing new. The ranking number above the weapon's name, mod combo, and price is that combo's final damage rank vs. the defense dice measured in this chart (here it's adjusted defense dice, so Shyla's Red-Green Duelist's Blade with the Vibrogenerator equipped ranked 67th out of 212 weapon-mod combos in total damage dealt vs. adjusted defense dice). If you want the full "400-and-under" results, I'll nest the full tables at the end of this section along with a color-coded chart (with the caveat that these are figures from mc2000 simulations, and results may vary).
The obvious winner here is Shyla's Duelist's Blade, which is actually really good when we have the free "switch out the Yellow die for a Red die" special action available to us. Snapping the Vibrogenerator on that gives us a weapon that costs a measly 350 credits, yet produces the 67th highest damage results against adjusted defense dice (out of a total pool of 212 weapon+mod combos). Gaarkhan's Vibro-Ax also performs very well, either with the Vibrogenerator or Energized Hilt (Red-Red pool, of course). And three Yellow-Green weapons manage to hit pretty good damage levels (50% chance or better of 3D+ past defense dice) with the Vibrogenerator equipped: Davith's Heirloom Dagger, Shyla's Yellow-Green Duelist's Blade, and Diala's much-maligned Plasteel Staff (plus it has Reach!).
Of course, none of this helps Verena, because starter weapons can't be traded (bummer). That leaves her with the Tier II Vibro Knucklers. On the one hand, this weapon does have a 78% chance of dealing 2D+ and a 50% chance of dealing 3D+ which are pretty decent. Because it can Pierce 2, it actually improves its damage output against a Black die (almost 98% odds of 1 or more damage, 90% of 2 or more damage):
Its damage potential isn't nearly as high against a White die, for obvious reasons: it's surge-dependent and the White die has a lot of Evades, its Pierce 2 is wasted against a White die which doesn't have any faces with 2 blocks, and it doesn't have a Red die. So that's a loss, especially against other Yellow-Green weapons that have a mod slot for either the Vibrogenerator or the Energized Hilt:
Having said that, if Verena sticks largely to Black dice figures (which is a choice she can make most, if not all, of the time), her damage output definitely goes up if she swaps the Fighting Knife for the Vibro Knucklers. That Pierce 2 ability also comes with a free Bleed, which could force the IP into the difficult choice of giving up an Action or triggering "Close Quarters" (remember, death by Bleed can trigger a "Close Quarters" interrupt if the hostile figure is adjacent to Verena). That Cleave 2 is a nice bonus surge ability to have for a hero who can interrupt for a free attack whenever something nearby dies. And worst-case scenario, even if Verena still can't finish off the figure she's attacking (she does only have a 50% chance of finishing off a regular stormie, after all), she can still salvage that "free" melee attack by spending a surge to Recover, even if the attack misses. And with a high-strain special ability like "Close Quarters," consistently getting a "free" Recover out of that "free" melee attack may mean the difference between Verena resting once every-other activation and Verena resting every third- or fourth-activation. And that's yet another form of activation advantage. Is that worth spending an extra 375 credits to upgrade your Fighting Knife? It very well might be.
Last point on these "400s and unders" before we move on. In the midst of our excitement over finding "efficient" weapon purchases, let's not lose track of just how bad most of these weapons are in the big-picture. Nine of our ten "top-10s" are in the bottom-100 (i.e., bottom 50%) of our weapon pool. In fact, the bottom-100 is littered with starter weapons (more on that under "Mister Irrelevant"). Remember, the point is to find weapons for heroes who are going to use a melee weapon anyway (and might as well have one that is decent instead of terrible), but who aren't going to build around that weapon. 
The notable exception is Shyla's Red-Green Duelist's Blade with the Vibrogenerator, which is a very good weapon in its own right. At number 67 of 212, it's just outside our top 25% of all melee weapons, and is by far the cheapest of the bunch. And against white dice, it is a top-25% weapon (58th of 212). Part of this is intrinsic design: this particular weapon is the cheapest way to combine a Red-Green dice pool with the Vibrogenerator; the pool has high damage and low surge to begin with, so we get tons of "pros" from the Vibrogenerator with a relatively low chance of a "half-con" (we lose 1 surge) and very little chance of a "full-con" (we lose 2 surges), only we could only get a maximum damage swing of 2 damage out of those two surges anyway (1 surge for +1D, 1 surge for Pierce 1), so worst-case scenario is it's either a damage wash (if we could Pierce) or we still come out ahead (if we couldn't Pierce). And as we saw when we looked at Shyla's Duelist's Blade in depth, the Vibrogenerator Yellow-Green is better than just the naked Red-Green, which in turn is loads better than the naked Yellow-Green:
Now Shyla's not a particularly good test case for a "bargain" weapon because she's clearly a melee character, and she has tons of xp abilities that encourage her to invest heavily into a melee weapon ("Swords Dance" practically screams for a top-tier melee weapon). My point is simply that Shyla's starting weapon is actually surprisingly serviceable. Slap on the Tier I Balanced Hilt for 70% odds at 3 or more damage past adjusted defense dice. And if Shyla for some reason wanted to keep it once she hits Tier III (and the Vibrogenerator becomes available), here are some of the weapons it would hit as well or harder than:
These are really expensive weapons. Some of them (the YGB Ancient Lightsaber with the Viborgenerator equipped) are stronger at higher damage levels (5D+ to 8D+), but are they 1000 credits better? Are all those double-mod BD-1s really an improvement for Shyla?
Nope. :P



Borderline build-arounds: The "650 and Unders"

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Now let's say that Verena feels she could devote just a little more cash towards her melee weapon: she really wants that melee attack to count. If she ups her spending limit to 650 credits (which is a lot, but around the going rate for a one-mod Tier I melee weapon), what are the best options available to her? Well...
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So first off, most of these are familiar faces. We still have a lot of Shyla's Duelist's Blades here, as are Gaarkhan's two Vibro-Ax variants. We also have two Gaffi Sticks (no real surprise there, right?), including our Gaffi + Vibrogenerator hybrid which is solidly in our top-25%, gives Verena a 70% chance to deal 4 or more damage past defense dice, and has a nearly 50% chance of dealing 5 or more damage past a white die. That's the sort of damage output and consistency we're talking about: it's totally sustainable, very consistent, costs Verena just 550 credits, and because we have a Yellow die there's still a (very, very, very small) chance of getting that surge for Recover every once in a while. Follow that up with a "Point Blank Shot" from a pistol with the Plasma Cell equipped, and you have a terrifying barrage against two semi-resilient imperial foot soldiers, plus another action to move, rest, attack, or do some combination of the three with "K'tara Maneuver."
Also making an appearance is our much-maligned Vibroblade, which actually ends up being a top-130 weapon if we stick the Vibrogenerator on it. It's nowhere near as potent as our Gaffi Stick, and it's a step down for Shyla, but for Verena it offers a 60% chance of dealing 3 or more damage past adjusted defense dice and Black defense dice, which is good enough to one shot a stormie more often than not. It's more expensive than the Vibro Knucklers, and we can't Recover and take advantage of the Vibrogenerator at the same time, but it does have that Cleave 2 which could be nice for Verena (again if we pass on the Vibrogenerator). Plus it cuts through White dice like a hot knife through butter.
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For any hero who's looking for a "filler" melee weapon, the Gaffi Stick + Vibrogenerator is the obvious pick-up. Just look at the weapons it compares to:
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It's less than half the price of the next cheapest weapon within 5 slots of it (Gaarkhan, Biv, or Shyla's Ryyk Blades with the Balanced Hilt equipped, all 1250 and exhaust-to-use). Speaking of Shyla, while it's not a great weapon for "Swords Dance" (although it's a whole lot cheaper than any other two-dice melee weapon that features a Red die, other than Shyla's own Duelist's Blade), it's a solid choice for Shyla if she wants to spend credits on improving her survivability by pairing a Tier I Combat Coat (a free +1 Block to every Black die defense roll when paired with "Deadly Grace" (4xp)) with the Tier III Reinforced Helmet and Tier I Bacta Pump or Emergency Injector, takes Tier I Survival Gear to improve her strength checks and remove movement penalties for difficult terrain. 
Or let's say you wanted to make Shyla the queen of "unblockable" damage. You could opt for the perfectly-rational, borderline-OP uber-Electrostaff Build with a Top-3 melee weapon...
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
... or you could take those same 13 xp and 1750 credits and get all this stuff...
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
Sure, it's not as brutally offensive... but Shyla should still hit hard enough to kill most units she faces. That Cleave 3 will proc. Shyla's threat range is now absurd. She has 2 free spaces from "Deadly grace," plus speed 5, plus 3 spaces with "Mandalorian Whip." It's also an extremely flexible threat range, as she can go up to 3 spaces in up to three different directions during the same activation, with "Smoke Bombs," "Remote Detenator," and "Concussion Grenades."
Now unfortunately we can't take all of these items (four of them are accessories, and a single hero can only have three accessories per the RRG). But we have tons of options. Two of those items offer a chance for unblockable damage, meaning that you can actually become a support hero just by dealing unblockable damage in the vicinity of allied heroes who can trigger interrupts whenever hostile figures are destroyed. Is Biv falling behind (as he's wont to do)? Stab an adjacent hostile figure your Combat Knife as you're traipsing by with deadly grace and trigger his "Advance" (1xp). Is Verena bored? Tell her to get a life, then chuck a Concussion Grenade into that squad of stormtroopers who surrounded her after she killed their buddies and let the IP worry about how many interrupts Verena gets to trigger with "Close Quarters." Plus you have options for Stun, Weaken (x2!), and Hidden as the situation dictates. Heck, make yourself disappear in a cloud of smoke because you're just that awesome.
The best part of it all is that you'll be playing (and feeling) like a true Mandalorian, with a frenetic style of adaptive, resourceful combat worthy of the Fett himself... instead of playing like a prequel bodyguard who was gifted an OP walking stick.
Just sayin'... there's a lot of awesome fluff we can buy with 1200 credits if we're willing to economize and take a top-50 melee weapon instead of a top-3. 
Speaking of economizing...



Shoe-string budget powerhouses: the "1000 and unders"

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These last weapons are build-around weapons and could be centerpieces of a melee build. They're not top-tier weapons, and for most of them there are better weapon-mod combos available. But 1000 credits for a primary weapon is usually attainable in a normal campaign, so these are weapons that virtually any hero should be able to afford. And, as it turns out, they're mostly weapons that almost any hero can actually use.
Only two of these top-15 are hard-gated: two Duelist's Blades manage to stick around (I told you, it's a solid starting weapon). We also have one soft-gated Ancient Lightsaber (the YGB variant for any insight heroes other than Vinto, and the RGB wounded version for all our insight heroes), which barely squeaks in at 1000 credits even (we'd be ignoring the "Extended Haft" variant for this list). The Gaffi Stick is still here, now joined by a one-mod BD-1 (the Vibrogenerator variant, of course). The Vibrogenerator also appears on our Double Vibrosword, which may end up having the best ratio of "single-target" and "splash" damage potential of all weapons when everything is said and done, especially if our hero has a way to generate Focus. A Stun Baton with the Vibrogenerator equipped is a top-75 weapon for a cool 850 credits. 
Even our Tier I Vibrosword makes an appearance. We have to modify it heavily (changing its Blue die to a Red and adding the Balanced Hilt), but it's just 900 credits with all those additions, and it's fully assembled by Tier II. Along with the Stun Baton + Balanced Hilt (ranked 100), Gaffi Stick + Energized Hilt (RR), and Gaffi Stick + High-Impact Guard, it's the only top-15 combo that we can have that early in a campaign, without waiting for a Tier III weapon (Ancient Lightsaber) or mod (Shock Emitter, Vibrogenerator). Virtually all of these are top-50% melee weapons (the Gaffi + High-Impact Guard misses the top 50% by just one slot, in 107th), with 90% odds of 1D+ and 50% or better odds at 4D+. And with the exception of the Ancient Lightsabers, these weapons are even more devastating against White defense dice.
Lastly, just to put this damage level in perspective, here's the power curve for that 38th ranked Ancient Lightsaber (with nothing on it):
The cost-difference between this weapon and others we've seen isn't as striking as others we've seen (it's not less than half the cost of any of these weapons), but it does go to show that simply slapping a 500 credit "Shock Emitter" on a weapon doesn't necessarily improve its damage dramatically. A Tier III Force Pike is a significant investment of credits, and slapping an Energized Hilt or Shock Emitter or even a Vibrogenerator on it isn't giving us world-class damage output. We could stick that same Energized Hilt on a Yellow-Green-Blue Ancient Lightsaber and get damage results that are as-good, if not better, while saving some cash.


The "fireable offenses" ("Mr. Irrelevant")
Last one.
(I'm having a really hard time saying "goodbye" to these weapons if you couldn't tell.)
We've learned a lot about what makes a melee weapon good in this series: Red dice, "free" damage and Pierce, surge efficiency, at least one mod slot, low-cost mods, good mod synergy, three dice over two. But we haven't had an exhaustive sit-down about what makes a perfectly good weapon really, truly awful
So what I thought I'd do here, truly at the end of all things, was to scan our melee+mod combos for the worst possible damage outcome (who we'll dub "Mr. Irrelevant"). But I also wanted to find the priciest ways to nuke the damage of a perfectly-good melee weapon. All of these weapons are trying hard: they have damage mods and are pouring every surge possible into damage (no Keyword- or Surge-first stats here). Some of these actually do respectable damage (though in the most inefficient way possible). But most of them... well, I won't spoil it.
So here are ten of the most egregious melee weapons out there: inefficient beat sticks that no one should ever take in a melee campaign... unless your "fluff" is to troll your fellow players or you're a secret Cylon agent embedded in the Rebel Alliance (or a "Changeling" if you object to sci-fi cross-over heresy). 
The "Bloated Swamp-Things"
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First up, we have two high-end weapons that look alright (on the face of it):
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
The problem (as it ends up being for most of these weapons) is the choice of die that is being swapped. If the BD-1 swaps out the Green die for a Red, the damage actually stays respectable (though spending 500 credits to add the High-Impact Guard looks a little suspect). Here, however, our BD-1 is swapping out the Green die for a Yellow. On its face, that sounds like a reasonable plan, right? We keep the Red die for damage, and go with the more surge-friendly Yellow die, paired with a mod that can turn that surge into big damage.
Same principle for the Force Pike. A Red-Red-Yellow Force Pike hits decently hard, but here, our hero is going full-surge with a Green-Yellow-Yellow pool. About a dozen red flags should be flying up, but our player doesn't care. Maybe he's controlling Davith Elso and wants to ensure he gets "Fell Swoop" (4xp) to trigger. Again, on its face, this isn't totally absurd (if we conveniently set aside the fact that the best way to "ensure" it triggers is actually to take the Balanced Hilt instead of the Energized Hilt). 
The problem is the price. For 1350 credits (that's Ancient Lightsaber + Vibrogenerator territory), we'd better be getting some serious damage. What we actually get is... 
... damage that ranks around 150 out of 211 total entries. And as a reminder, those 211 entries include naked starter weapons. In other words, this damage is terrible in a vacuum, and doubly-terrible when we consider how much cash we paid for these monstrosities.
Just how terrible is this damage? Well, for the Force Pike, we could actually field a naked Force Pike, no mods at all, and our damage would actually go up. For the BD-1, it's a slight improvement over the naked BD-1, but considering we've basically doubled the cost of our base weapon, it certainly ought to. And the damage increase we get isn't all that much to write home about. Sure, we have better odds at 4D+ and an outside chance at 6D+ or 7D+ (none of which we had before). But Gaarkhan gets better damage stats if he upgrades his free Vibro-Ax with the Energized Hilt for 250 credits, and makes the correct choice to swap out his Ax's Yellow die for a Red:
When a 250 credit starter weapon performs as good or better than a 1350 credit Tier III weapon, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The "Really Trying for Surges"
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[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

These four weapons try to double down on surge abilities for +2D. They go about it in different ways. The Tier I Vibrosword swaps its bad-surge Blue die for a high-surge Yellow die; and because that Yellow die is now paired with a Green, it uses the Vibrosword's second mod slot to add the High-Impact Guard for a maximum of 4D out of just two surges.
The first Stun Baton is hard to come up with a justification for; let's just say it's a new player who (rightfully) believes surge abilities for +2D are fabulous and (wrongly) believes he'll get two surges a decent amount of the time. If this weapon is given to a hero like Diala who can self-Focus, it becomes a slightly more defensible choice. But only slightly. The second Stun Baton uses the Energized Hilt to swap the Blue die for a Yellow (mainly for the +2D, but secondarily for Stun). This is imminently more defensible: the Energized Hilt is only half the credit investment, and the odds of getting that first +2D are way higher than the other Baton's odds of getting that second +2D. And besides the credits (and the mod slot), the only other "cost" is that we've swapped a Blue die for a Yellow, and that's not really a "cost" right?
And then there's the Vibro Blade. The conservative theory would be that two Green dice get a surge roughly two-times out of three (true), so adding a +2D surge ability lets us squeeze one extra damage out of the Vibro Blade whenever that happens (and gives us a second damaging surge ability if we roll 2 surges, which happens occasionally). The more opportunistic theory would be that a Green die rolls a surge half the time, and we're rolling two Green dice, so we should get two surges about half the time (not true), which means we should get to reliably trigger +2D and Cleave 2 with our Vibro Blade.
What actually happens is that these weapons all rank in the 150-170 range, which is again really, really bad for the investment we're making (that Vibro Sword is 1100 credits; for the same price, we could get a naked Force Pike and improve our ranking by more than 50 places). Some of these weapons don't even hit the 80% threshhold for 2D+, which is not what we want out of an upgraded Tier II weapon. Taking a one-mod Vibrosword, slapping the Energized Hilt on it, and swapping out our Blue die for a Red die would net us more damage. A naked Stun Baton is almost as good as these two more expensive variants.



The "Overly Optimistic Vibrosword"
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[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

This is a paired down version of the Yellow-Green High-Impact Guard Vibrosword we just talked about, only with the High-Impact Guard and no Yellow die. Unsurprisingly, this wastes about 430 of the 500 credits we pay for the Guard:
For half the price, we could take the Tier II Vibro Knucklers, which can't be modified, and we'd be in better shape. 
If the Vibro Knucklers are better than you, you probably suck.


The "Yellows for Greens"
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[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

This group is a cautionary tale of just how easy it is to spend a ton of credits to inadvertently mess up two perfectly good melee weapons. Exhibits 1A and 1B are the Tier II Double-Vibrosword (650 credits, 1 mod slot) and BD-1 (600 credits, two mod slots). Both roll a Red-Green. And both have really great surge abilities (Cleave 2 on both weapons). So all we do here is to add the Energized Hilt so we can roll a Red-Yellow and get more surges. That makes sense, right? In fact, for one of these BD-1s, we use our second mod slot to add the Balanced Hilt to our Red-Yellow attack pool, for an even better shot at Cleave 2. Where's the flaw in this logic?
There clearly must be one, because these weapons are awful. Awful. AWWWWWWWWWWWWFUL. Between 175 and nearly 200 out of 211 weapons (just to put that in perspective, we only have five melee starter weapons). They're so bad that the Tier I Armored Gauntlets are just as good. JUST AS GOOD!!!
But wait, it gets worse...



The "Greens for Reds"
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[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

We have now sunk to the lowest depths of absurdity. We take our very-strong Red-Green pools, and somehow fallen into the trap of thinking that Green dice are better than Red dice because they have more surges (which is true, but only relevant if we have multiple surges for +3D, which no weapon has or ever will have). So we fundamentally alter the very DNA of our weapon by going with a double-Green pool.
And then unmitigated disaster strikes:
There are only seven weapons worse than that BD-1. Diala's Plasteel Staff with the Extended Haft (for Pierce 1) is better. Verena's damage-capped Fighting Knife is better. A naked Vibrosword or BD-1 is better. And we've paid to make them worse.
Never do this to yourself. Please. I beg you.



And finally . . . "Mr. Irrelevant"
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And the winner of the losers is . . .


[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]

And, of course, it's swapping a Green die for a Yellow.
Now there's an argument to be made that this weapon is waaaaaay more defensible than the Double Vibrosword and BD-1 we just looked at. It costs quite a bit less (just 550 credits). A naked Vibro Blade was never that good to begin with. And again, the high-concept of getting a higher surge die (Yellow) on a weapon with decent-to-pretty good surge abilities makes at least some degree of sense. So why not take a flier on it at just 550 credits?
I almost bought that logic. But then it struck me that what we've done is voluntarily spent 550 credits to convert the Vibro Blade into Diala's Plasteel Staff, and somehow ended up with something appreciably worse than the Plasteel Staff. In fact, it's worse than if the Plasteel Staff had a Green die and a Blue die.
Again, appreciably worse. I mean, the scale of that chart doesn't even go up to 100%...
So if your teammate is leaning this way, implore them to get the Gaffi Stick instead. Demand it. Demand it for yourself. Demand it for your squad. Demand it for the Alliance. 
(And if you take this Vibro Blade, after everything we've talked about here, I'll disown you.)
(Unless it's purely for fluff. Because we don't judge fluff. ;) )



Building the "best" melee weapon... for you
And that's about all we can say about these melee weapons (at least in a vacuum). It's also a wrap on our series on campaign melee weapons (for now). For those of you who have made it all the way through, I hope it's been educational, informative, maybe a little bit enjoyable. I salute you.
And if you for some reason want more, you're in luck, because we have a few things in the hopper. :D
Until next time...
Hair-trigger_card.jpg     Wing_G_card.jpg
"So a Wookiee walked into a guardsroom with a pistol..."
[Photo credit: FFG & cards.boardwars.eu]
Inevitable post-posting edits:

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