At last week’s Austin LotR group I had a chance to test out a multiplayer version of a Fastred deck. The deck was based on this design by Seastan, and I wanted to see if it was possible to adapt it for three and four player games. Unfortunately, Fastred’s ability does not lend itself to multiplayer. While I was able to consistently use ally Arwen to give Fastred sentinel, there are more problems with returning enemies to the staging area.
Until Dúnhere is loaded up with weapons, he is unable to defeat most enemies in the game, so while Fastred’s threat reduction benefits me, it does so at the cost of the board state and can put other players in danger of being overrun by a horde of enemies. I suspected that Fastred was mostly intended as a solo hero and today afforded me the opportunity to test this out.
First, I subbed the solo-specific cards like Steward of Orthanc back into the deck (Doomed is frowned upon in most 4 player games). At that point I was ready to test the deck solo against The Black Serpent. While I expected Fastred to be more effective in solo, I was pleasantly surprised at just how powerful the deck can be. The game went even more smoothly than it did recently with my Aggro Caldara deck.
We can add this anecdote to the mountain of evidence that solo is a fundamentally different game from multiplayer. With a low starting threat and the slower pace afforded by solo, you are given precious rounds to draw and play the attachments which are so essential for each of your heroes to maximize their abilities. Even though I never saw a single copy of Gondorian Shield for Fastred, I was able to make do with Captain of Gondor, Arwen’s defense boost and some timely help from Honour Guards.
The fact that Fastred’s ability is a response lead to some interesting interactions with enemies in this particular quest. A treachery named Nowhere to Hide can be particularly troublesome to low threat decks that want to turtle and avoid engagement and methodically build an army. By forcing a random enemy to engage during the quest phase, regardless of that enemy’s engagement cost, this treachery can lead to some very dangerous situations.
This is particularly true when you consider that many of the enemies in this quest have forced effects which trigger when they engage a player. Take Southron Soldier, for instance. Unless you remove 2 progress from main quest when he engages, he will make an immediate attack – not something that most decks want to see during the quest phase. Even if you are able to survive the surprise attack from the Soldier, he will stay engaged with you to attack you again during the combat phase.
This is where Fastred really showed his quality. Because Nowhere to Hide was revealed on a turn when I had just advanced to stage 2, I did not have any progress to remove to avoid the forced attack from Southron Soldier. Instead, I had Fastred defend the attack and then triggered his response. Thanks to Arwen’s (thematically ambiguous) winsome whiles, Fastred was able to avoid any damage from the attack, then I returned the Soldier to the staging area and lowered my threat by 2.
Instead of facing multiple attacks from an enemy I would not have engaged (my threat was in the mid twenties at the time), Fastred tricked the hapless soldier to wander the desert. Later that round, Dúnhere lifted the veil of confusion from the soldier’s eyes, when he ran it through with a spear and a dagger at the same time. Being able to utilize a card which rarely sees play is a nice bonus of this new archetype. Because of the repeatable threat reduction offered by Fastred, your threat in solo can stay low enough to make cards like Unseen Strike much more consistent. Being able to “spend” some of that low threat to draw extra cards via the Steward of Orthanc is a nice bonus.
Without strong coordination between multiple decks, I can’t advocate Fasted in a multiplayer environment. If multiple players have decks designed around staging area control, he may be viable – but it will take a strong opening hand and support from other players. On the other hand, Fastred delivers his promise in solo play. Repeatable threat reduction and the synergy with Dúnhere and weapons like Spear of the Mark means that Rohan finally has another viable archetype. Let’s hope that the newly spoiled Éomer hero gives a corresponding boost to the ally-discard strategy.