Fastred Outwits the Black Serpent

Fastred Outwits the Black Serpent

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.

This entry was posted in Deck Lists, Fun, Live Play, Photo, Solo, Staging Area Control, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Fastred Outwits the Black Serpent

  1. I think the Southron Solider is probably my most hated Harad enemy. The archer is a close second, but that dang Solider…

    • Beorn says:

      Agreed on both counts (archery is not fun when you find yourself without access to Lore). Any forced effect which causes attacks out of phase is a potential for disaster.

  2. kudu says:

    I’m a new player – just playing the Mirkwood cycle at the moment. So I’m a bit confused by the layout in the image – is it a shot from the middle of gameplay? Also wondering about the yellow and blue borders – are they printed as such, or are those card sleeves? Thanks!

    • Beorn says:

      Welcome, kudu. Yes, this photo was taken from the last round of the quest, just before I defeated the Black Serpent and won the game. The yellow borders on the encounter cards are because I am using yellow sleeves for all of the Sands of Harad and Haradrim quests. The white borders are because of the sleeves I have on my Fastred deck. It can be a bit intimidating for new players who try to jump into one of the latest quests, so its good that you are playing the Core Set and Shadows of Mirkwood cycle to become more familiar with the game. I hope this answers your questions, and good luck!

      • kudu says:

        Great – thanks a lot. How important would you say sleeves are? I can imagine certain favourite cards will show a fair bit of wear and tear after a year or two of playing.

        Are a couple of your heroes (Tactics Éowyn on the left, for example) custom-printed versions? It looks like the illustrations are more prominent and the text boxes smaller than in the types of cards I have from the Core Set and early Adventure Packs (nice to have more space for tokens I guess). Presumably the tokens are custom as opposed to updated as well.

        I was also trying to make sense of the set-up arrangement in the photo. I’m still sticking quite religiously to the suggested format on page 11 of the rulebook – but I now see how you’ve adapted it slightly. I’m now even noticing my own variations I hadn’t even realised I’d introduced, e.g. playing allies beside not below heroes; creating columns in the staging area for locations, enemies, and objectives – not sure where I picked that up from…

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