Lead the Raid
The Black Serpent Is Now Available for The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
"These cursed Southrons come now marching up the ancient roads to swell the hosts of the Dark Tower. . . . We come to teach them another lesson."
–Mablung, The Two Towers
Some people might find themselves stranded in the arid wastelands of a hostile nation and rail against the fates that led them there. You? You begin the long journey north, endure the many trials along your way, and look for any opportunity to strike back at the enemy.
Even while tired and hungry and hundreds of miles from the safety of Gondor, your heroes are willing and eager to temporarily set aside their thoughts of home to launch a raid against the Southron caravan that they find carrying tributes to the Dark Lord of Mordor. The element of surprise may be with them at the outset, but they'll have to strike swiftly and true. The Southrons greatly outnumber them.
Follow the King's Man
In The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, if you want to lead a successful sneak attack, you either need to play the Sneak Attack event (Core Set, 23) or keep your threat level low enough that you can engage and attack enemies only on your terms—not because you've allowed your threat to creep over their engagement costs.
You'll also need to balance the heroes and allies you commit to your defense and attack against those you commit to the quest, and you'll ideally want some means of striking at the enemy's head or heart—aiming straight for the objectives we saw in our preview, "Raid the Caravan."
It is fortunate, then, that the new hero from The Black Serpent helps with all of these things. A Spirit hero from Rohan, Fastred (The Black Serpent, 81) is a Warrior who can lower your threat by throwing enemies back into the staging area after he defends against them.
Now, it's true that with most decks and in most scenarios, you don't want your enemies to return to the staging area after you defend against them. Typically, you want them to remain engaged with you so that you can attack and destroy them. Even if you can't destroy them, you'll most frequently want these enemies to remain engaged with you so that they won't add their threat to the staging area in the next quest phase… and because if your threat has already hit their engagement cost, they're just going to come back after you in the next round.
With Fastred, however, things change. First of all, since Fastred lowers your threat by two when he returns an enemy to the staging area, you won't necessarily face the same enemy two rounds in a row. If you return an enemy to the staging area the round that you just met its engagement cost, you'll be able to buy yourself a round to ready for its return—so long as you quest successfully and don't hit any Doomed effects.
After this, you have the fact that as part of the Rohan tribe, Fastred is likely to associate himself with Dúnhere (Core Set, 9) and any number of other Rohan characters who can wield a Spear of the Mark (The Morgul Vale, 137) to trample the enemies in the staging area with either Ride Them Down (The Antlered Crown, 142) or Forth Eorlingas! (The Morgul Vale, 138).
This combination takes a lot of the sting out of the cost of Fastred's ability—as does playing him in a multiplayer game where another player might be attacking enemies with Aragorn (The Lost Realm, 1) or playing Descendants of Thorondor (The Hills of Emyn Muil, 75) to damage the enemies in the staging area.
Finally, there's a special point to make about the fact that Fastred arrives in The Black Serpent. Here, his ability is particularly valuable, and its "cost" is transformed into another hidden benefit when you find yourself facing the Serpent Guard (The Black Serpent, 95) or traveling to The Serpent's Redoubt (The Black Serpent, 96).
Cut Off the Head
Fastred's ability to lower your threat by returning enemies to the staging area can prove a major boon as you seek to engage your enemies on your own terms. He can help you coordinate your defense and attack with other players in a multiplayer game. He can buy you a second to gather your weapons and armor. And in The Black Serpent, he can help you direct your attacks where you want them most.
How will you make use of Fastred's talents? Which other heroes would you play with him?