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Our wizard goes to spend his quest reward to buy an expensive looking wand (because he was from a rich family).

At the shop, the rogue is caught shoplifting and the shopkeeper calls guards, so we have an unexpected encounter.

The wizard has already acquired the new wand. Can he use the newly acquired wand right away, or does he need to attune to the wand first?

The answer ideally should cover not only arcane focus, but also holy symbol, druidic focus, and such.

Related question, but not a duplicate since the focus in question is already complete/perfect: Crafting an Improvised Spellcasting Focus? and Using an Improvised Spellcasting Focus

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there any reason you think a spellcasting focus does require attunement? \$\endgroup\$ – Purple Monkey Jun 7 '18 at 10:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Spellcasting focus is indeed look like a magic item, and some magic item requires attunement. Because spellcasting focus usually part of starting equipment, I suspect there is some sort of attunement that is not explicitly stated in the description. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Jun 7 '18 at 10:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you also asking of the focus in the PHB is a magic items? That should probably be another question (or clarify if the focus bought by your player was a magic item.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 7 '18 at 12:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch no, Im thinking of common focus, not magic item that explicitly requires attunement. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Jun 7 '18 at 12:35
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No attunement is needed for a common focus

It is difficult to prove a negative but nothing in the rules suggests this. The description for an arcane focus simply states (SRD p.67, emphasis mine):

An arcane focus is a special item— an orb, a crystal, a rod, a specially constructed staff, a wand-­like length of wood, or some similar item— designed to channel the power of arcane spells. A sorcerer, warlock, or wizard can use such an item as a spellcasting focus.

Other kinds of focus use similar wording. Attunement is a completely different mechanic related to magic items (SRD p.206, emphasis mine):

Some magic items require a creature to form a bond with them before their magical properties can be used. This bond is called attunement, and certain items have a prerequisite for it.

Also note that Magic Items that require attunement explicitly indicate this requirment

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer; I do feel it can be made more explicit that even a magical focus does not require attunement to merely be used as a focus (as you quote, you only need to attune to use their magical properties - you can use, say, a magical wand as a spellcasting focus right away). \$\endgroup\$ – Danny Cuppen Jun 7 '18 at 10:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DannyCuppen That is a very good point. I am not entirely sure though, as the magic items state "Without becoming attuned to an item that requires attunement, a creature gains only its nonmagical benefits". Whether using it as a focus is a "nonmagical benefit" might be debatable. \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Jun 7 '18 at 10:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DannyCuppen That's a good question to ask! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 7 '18 at 12:40
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No, it doesn't.

Sdjz's answer already makes a good argument, but I would like to add another conjecture:

If a spellcasting focus needed attunement, spellcasters using it would be in a large disadvantage, as you can only attune to 3 magic items at the same time. Obviously this implication is not enough to answer, but it should help to see that requiring attunement would lead to an awkward path.

An item can be attuned to only one creature at a time and a creature can be attuned to no more than three magic items at a time.

Other than that, Attunement is a specific property and any item that has that property explicitly states it. The spellcasting focus does not. As an example, read the Druidic Focus

Druidic Focus. A druidic focus might be a sprig of mistletoe or holly, a wand or scepter made of yew or another special wood, a staff drawn whole out of a living tree, or a totem object incorporating feathers, fur, bones, and teeth from sacred animals. A druid can use such an object as a spellcasting focus, as described in chapter 10.

Nowhere in the item it mentions anything about attunement, thus it does not require attunement. The same is true for every other (common/from PHB) spellcasting focus I'm aware of. In particular, the same is true for Holy Symbol and Arcane Focus.

As a final conjecture, an Arcane Focus (or any other spellcasting focus) is, mechanically, practically the same as a Component Pouch. I believe it's easy to see that requiring attunement to a Component Pouch makes little sense. From the first argument, if you require attunement to a Focus, you are just telling your players to use Component Pouches instead.

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