This post regarding Astromech Droids is part of a larger article regarding Wave 1 listbuilding- the rest of the posts n this series will be available in the coming weeks as I'm revealing a post or two per day on the various topics in that larger article. For more info, click the "Ship List Articles" tab at the top of the page or simply click here.
Card: R2-D2 (4)
Card Text: After executing a green maneuver, you may recover 1 shield (up to your shield value).
Usage in game: Survival through shield maintenance.
Quick Take: The key to properly using R2-D2 and getting your points out of him is to not overestimate his ability. Getting a shield back after a green maneuver is awesome, but you can't just charge in willy-nilly like a Space Marine with a new suit of blessed power armor shouting "FOR TEH EMPRAH!!!", y'know?
First, understand that R2-D2's ability is going to trigger during the movement phase in the turn after you get shot up. This is important to understand- if you get focused on by two or three TIEs, you're still going to die. R2-D2 only helps you out if you survive the current round of combat. The other portion of the equation is you need to pull a green maneuver, which usually isn't that big of a deal, but there are some Damage cards out there that will effectively nullify your ability to pull greens, sometimes permanently.
As such, putting R2-D2 on a bullet magnet like Wedge or Biggs then driving right into the middle of a TIE pile isn't the best application for him. I don't know that R2-D2 is a great droid for either of those guys in general really- they take too much fire. Does R2-D2 help? Sure. Are there other droids that can do the job of keeping those dudes alive more effectively? I think there are. There's some disagreement here to be had, I'll fully admit and in the interest of full disclosure, sticking R2-D2 on Wedge or Biggs probably won't be the dumbest thing you do that day, if you do decide to try it.
So who is R2-D2 good on? Sticking him on Luke I feel is a bit overkill, but depending on the droids your other pilots are taking, it might be a good move. Depends too if you're using Luke in a more offensive role or if he's more support because you've dished him Swarm Tactics.
I know it'll sound silly, but I like putting R2-D2 on a low priority target- a Red Squadron Pilot preferably. It seems like my opponents focus on getting the A-Listers off the table as quickly as possible, then deal with the B-listers like a Red Squadron Pilot when they feel like it with whatever ships remain. A Red Squadron Pilot with R2-D2 is unlikely to get focused on early in the game, so when it starts to get late, that dude will likely be completely unscathed and since he's facing less TIEs now, will suddenly become the MVP of your force. R2-D2 isn't going to be able to mitigate the damage from two or three focus-firing TIEs with Howlrunner letting them re-roll, but he sure as hell can mitigate a TIE or two firing on their own and that's a match-up that's going to go the X-Wing's way every time.
I tell ya who else I like sticking R2-D2 on, a Y-Wing. The downside is they have relatively few green maneuvers, but the upside is they have 3 shields standard, so they're fairly hard to burn off anyway so long as you keep them from getting ganged up on. Horton Salm with R2-D2 and 2x Proton Torpedoes? Madness you say!