If you’re familiar with other CCGs then you’re aware that most use some kind of cost system as a way to build up resources as the game progresses and to balance the power level of cards. Some use energy, mana, or coins as a means of paying a cost to play your cards. One of the things I liked about Redemption when I was first introduced is that you could just play your cards. The game doesn’t have a cost system. Or does it?

For quite some time I believed that Redemption did not have a cost system. And it doesn’t in the traditional sense that I mentioned above. Subconsciously I was aware of the cost systems and utilized them, but it wasn’t until years later that I saw them for what they are. So what kind of cost systems does Redemption use? There are two main cost systems and at least few additional minor systems.


The ability to play your Enhancements is the first major cost system we’ll take a look at. You can have an amazing battle winning Enhancement, something that virtually guarantees you a victory in battle. But if you do not get initiative to play your card, it’s of no use to you. You can load a deck full of large characters like King David, Philip and Bartholomew, but you may never get a chance to play your Authority of Christ.

Characters with a small strength and toughness are needed if you want to play your powerful Enhancements. As long as you’re losing the battle you get to continue to play. That means you can take advantage of initiative and play multiple Enhancements in a row, having devastating effect on your opponent’s hand, deck or territory and there’s little they can do about it until you’re beating their character in battle.

There are a couple of ways we circumvent this cost system. The first is called “special initiative”. If you’re losing because of your opponent’s special ability, you’re allowed to play an interrupt or negate card to stop the ability that’s causing you to lose. With a card like Reach of Desperation, this could allow you to play Authority of Christ on a character that otherwise would not normally get initiative.

Some of the most powerful cards in the game are those that allow you to play cards into battle without the need for initiative. Cards like the various “horses”, Nebuchadnezzar, Proud Pharisee, The Throne of David and Hidden Treasures are often seen in top decks because of how they bypass this particular cost system.

A Splash of Color

Redemptions brigades are the second major cost system in the game. You cannot play the previously mentioned Authority of Christ on Susanna, even though she will likely have initiative. The cards for each brigade are chosen and crafted so they are balanced within that brigade.

A recent example of this is a brigade switch that happened between Helmet of Salvation and Sword of the Spirit. Originally the Helmet was slated to have gold instead of teal. When it was realized the benefit that gave to an already powerful “one card offense” in Watchful Servant, a change was made. Considering a Watchful Servant deck won the T1-2P event at Nationals that seems like a good decision.

Multi-brigade cards are a form of bypassing this cost system, which also makes them some of the most powerful in the game. They help bridge the gap between brigades when more than one is used in your deck. That’s one of the reasons that Scattered is one of the best evil Enhancements in the game.

Going Tribal

While almost a subset of the brigade cost system, tying a card to a specific theme is another way of associating a cost. Some cards might only work if used with a card that meets a certain criteria, such as Joseph Before Pharaoh.

Creating cards that only work within a theme allows the cards to be more powerful because they have a more limited use. You’ll find several cards in the game that despite the brigade might only work with certain characters within that brigade, such as Head of Gold for Babylonians or Samuel’s Edict for Judges without a special ability.

The Minors

I’ve recognized a few minor cost systems that are used to balance the game. There are probably others I haven’t consciously recognized or don’t mention here as well.

The “rock, paper scissors” trio of negate, protect and cannot be negated are a balancing system of some of the more powerful special abilities within the game. If you’re unfamiliar with this, a negate ability beats protection, abilities with the cannot be negated modifier beat negate abilities and protection beats abilities with the cannot be negated modifier.

Artifacts are some of the most powerful cards in the game. The limit of one active Artifact on the Artifact pile helps balance the power of this card type. Similar to other costs systems, this one can sometimes be bypassed allowing certain Artifacts to be activated apart from the Artifact pile.

A few years ago a change was made so that you can only rescue opponent’s Lost Souls with your Dominants. This added a rather large cost to drawing cards, because you risk drawing Lost Souls that your opponent will rescue, while they may deny you their Lost Souls to rescue by not drawing them.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Now that we’re consciously aware of the cost systems in Redemption, what do we do with this information? We apply it to our deck building of course.

A wise player won’t just go toss the biggest character from each of the nine good brigades into a deck and call it an offense. Statistically speaking they might be the “best” cards available, but if they don’t work well together within the systems of the game your deck won’t perform.

The most finely tuned, effective decks will find ways to take advantage of the systems outlined above, in some cases bypassing them all together.

In what ways can you abuse the system? How can you get around it?

I’ve got a pile of Persecuted Church cards here. It’s time for me to go build a deck and see what I can come up with.

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2 thoughts on “Learning From Our Peers – Counting the Cost

  1. Sir Nobody

    I find it ironic that cost-benefit abilities did not make it into your article.

    1. Gabe Post author

      That definitely falls under the category of “others I haven’t consciously recognized or don’t mention”. It’s an important one to consider.

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