Four deluxe cycles later, Fire Axe remains one of the best level 0 weapons in the game, though its role is incredibly different from something like a .45 Thompson or a Shrivelling. The point about this card's accuracy has only gotten more true over time: with the exception of a three+ action'd Chicago Typewriter, there is no other weapon in the game that inherently lets you boost your by 6, not even upgraded weapons. Reading the card, your instinct might be that the two abilities are at odds with one another. Do I keep lots of resources to hit with accuracy for 1 damage, or do I keep resources low so that I only fight at a modest boost but for 2 damage? Moreover, is it worth it to continually spend resources into a weapon instead of spending them elsewhere? How easily can I manage having 0 resources?
Let's first talk about the economy in place for this card. Ideally you want to run this in a deck that isn't very resource hungry. Your other cards should be mostly 0, 1, or 2 resources in cost. This way you can dedicate more of your pool to fighting. There are now a few cards that can be used to recoup resources quickly but consistently:
- Madame Labranche can refund you 1 resource any time you use your Axe to deplete your pool
- Lone Wolf gets you an extra resource a turn
- Forbidden Knowledge puts 4 resources in reserve that you can take as needed without them counting towards your pool
- David Renfield can work similarly to Labranche, though with added risk from the doom you put on him.
Using these cards, it is perfectly viable to have 2 or 3 spare resources each turn to throw into a Fire Axe test, or instead to recoup the resources from last turn's Fire Axe test to spend on something else. The idea here is that you can maintain the use of this card without sacrificing tempo on anything else you need to be doing.
Someone wielding the Fire Axe probably isn't a dedicated fighter, as sinking and recouping resources to sink into it again is not a very consistently possible thing to do in one turn. Rather, the Fire Axe's biggest strength is it lets people who otherwise cannot fight at all help clear the board or defend themselves. If your Mark Harrigan has to dart all the away across the map to save you just so you can Intel Report safely, you're wasting actions. If your Zoey Samaras has to clear a Wizard of the Order you drew to keep the agenda from advancing next turn for you, you might lose rounds. And if you're playing solo, you're gonna need to fight on your own. How do you manage that as Wendy Adams? Fire Axe is the answer to all of those problems.
This is a card that works best in investigators who A: Would not have a good time taking any other weapon and B. Have the economic infrastructure to use it consistently. This means you want it with investigators with either low or limited weapon access. Here are some investigators who love to hack Eldritch horrors to pieces:
Preston Fairmont. The 4 resources he gets every turn on Family Inheritance are not in his resource pool. That means you can take more than one test a turn at +2 damage and at least +4 without any resource support; alternatively it gives Preston the ability to both play a card and Fire Axe at +6 and 2 damage in the same turn, in either order. Again, this is before you add in any infrastructure like Madame Labranche or Lone Wolf.
Patrice Hathaway. Patrice gets a Violin that will often act as an extra Madame Labranche, yielding her 3 resources a turn instead of 2. In fact, with Cornered and Recall the Future, or enough icons like from Last Chance, Patrice can follow up her resource committed Fire Axe tests with card committed Fire Axe tests, meaning even at 0 resources pumped into it she can still hit for 2 damage. As if that's not enough, it's the perfect card to deal with Watcher from Another Dimension. In fact, it even works if you fail the first test, as if you can hit it on the follow up, you'll hit for 2 damage and kill it exactly.
Wendy Adams. Wendy can rely on events like Waylay and Backstab to do most of her fighting, but her subclass access means she can pile on resources and use the Axe as a way to close out gaps of 1 damage, or go for 2 damage in a pinch.
Minh Thi Phan. investigators are usually constrained on weapon choice. Mind over Matter and "I've got a plan!" only work as one shot effects, not as consistent defense. Minh however is an investigator who runs cheap, draws lots of cards, and whose is low. Fire Axe is a solid weapon choice for her so long as you're not needing both hand slots for something else.
Silas Marsh. Silas, like Minh, likes to run cheap, with lots of skill cards and draw. Fire Axe can let him boost his already high to almost guarantee a hit for 1. He probably wants other 2 damage weapons alongside it, like Meat Cleaver, but Fire Axe is a good backup.
Some slightly more left field picks:
Finn Edwards. His base is 3, but he often dislikes fighting with other weapons, electing instead to do damage in the same way Wendy usually does damage. He can make great use of Pickpocketing 2 and Hatchet Man (which is already thematically fitting) just to follow that up with a Fire Axe test for 2 or 3 damage.
Jenny Barnes. This depends heavily on what you want your version of Jenny to be doing, but the cost of boosting the Axe is lower for her than most investigators, so it can be a great closer of 1 damage in the right Jenny deck.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Dark Horse. This is a card whose most consistent application is to turn your +6 tests on Fire Axe into +7 . Whether that's worth the tempo loss of 3 resources, a card, and an action depends heavily on the chaos bag (and therefore the difficulty as well as the campaign), the investigator you chose, and whether or not you can follow up a Fire Axe attack with a test in some other stat. For example, a Preston Fairmont deck might use skill pumps like Dig Deep to get most of its work done, in which case Dark Horse can be used to great effect on or tests (admittedly tends to be more narrow in its application mid round, but there are treacheries where this is relevant). Alternatively, Preston might choose instead to buy most of his evades and clues, via Lola Santiago, Intel Report, and Decoy. In this sort of deck, Dark Horse loses value. So think critically about how much you need that +1 boost, how often you can get it, and whether or not the other boosts are worthwhile. We often call resource low decks "Dark Horse" decks, but in reality Dark Horse has become less and less valuable of a card among them. Fire Axe, meanwhile, has only gotten better.
Fire Axe is the weapon of choice for non-fighters. It keeps your weakest investigators alive and saves them time to do the things they're naturally good at doing. It's for that reason that it's managed to become my personal favorite weapon in the game. It's not always easy to use, but it's well worth it.