After we had first gone over the first set list for Cloud of Witnesses, my brother and I were in the car headed somewhere I can’t remember, discussing the set and trying to think if there were any major thematic cards that weren’t currently in the list. We realized that one Hero, Jacob, did not have any opposing evil characters in the set, and the most obvious antagonist for him would be Esau. And so, we decided to try to take a crack at thinking of a good ability to propose an Esau for the set list.
So as we brainstormed, we had to think, who was Esau, what could we draw from for his ability? Well, Esau was Jacob’s twin brother and the firstborn. Yet, before they were even born, God told Rebekah that the younger brother was chosen and would be served by the older. Nonetheless, because he was a hunter, Isaac favored Esau, while Rebekah favored Jacob. Esau foolishly sold his birthright as the eldest to Jacob for a meal, an act for which the writer of Hebrews condemns Esau as “godless.” Additionally, Esau married two Canaanite women, of which his parents did not approve.
Rebekah and Jacob would later conspire and get Isaac to bless Jacob thinking he was blessing Esau, an act for which Esau would harbor murderous intent for Jacob. And so Jacob went into hiding from his brother, and would not see him again until after he was tricked into working for Laban for 14 years. When Jacob saw Esau again, he first sent gifts for his brother, fearing Esau would still want him dead. And yet, Esau was happy to see his brother again, and tried to decline the gifts. Esau would go on to be the father of the Edomites.
And so, there were many aspects of his life that we could use to draw from for an ability for Esau. Would we try to make an Evil Character that mirrored Jacob, since he was his twin? Would we focus on his rashness in selling his birthright, or perhaps an ability signifying how he sent Jacob to flee? Would we try to set him up as a major character for a new Edomite theme since he was their ancestor? Or maybe we would even suggest an ability based on his eventual reconciliation with Jacob.
We tossed around several ideas in that card ride, but ultimately what we decided upon pitching to the other playtesters was an idea based around his status as a hunter, especially with the addition of a couple of new animal characters in the past couple of years. And that’s when it hit us, there were a bunch of animals that were thematic for the set that could be proposed to make it a hunter and animals “mini-theme.” We came up with a couple of quick ideas for some thematic animal Evil Characters (Bear, Lions), and one Enhancement designed to work with animals (Thrown to the Beasts) and pitched them with this ability for Esau to the group.
If blocking, search a deck for an animal and discard it. If you do, you may draw 2 and play an Enhancement. Otherwise, your opponent may draw 2 and play an Enhancement. Cannot be interrupted.
The idea behind this Esau was that he “hunted’ for an animal (in this version, potentially even from your opponent’s deck), but a failed hunt would have a drawback. We didn’t know what brigade we had wanted to put Esau in, but we were told that Edomites when they would eventually be printed would be in crimson, as Edom means “red.” And so, that is how Esau was added to the list…
…or not. Actually, Esau had opposition to being put into the setlist to leave design space open for Edomites in the future. However, those animal cards we had suggested were met with more willingness, and they were all added to the list. In fact, not only were those 3 animal cards added to the list, but more animal themed cards were added to the list, including another famous biblical hunter (Nimrod, the Mighty) and a card that we’ve never seen the likes of before (Fire Foxes). And as an amazing coincidence, one of the National winner cards not only was in theme for the set being from Hebrews, but also just happened to work with animals! The animal suggestion was a great success.
And yet this article isn’t about the animals, it’s about Esau, the card that for the time being was put on the additional options list. Well, my brother and I had pushed for Esau harder than the other cards (after all, the other cards were just ones we suggested as a theme around Esau), but it seemed he would not make this set. That was, until during a group call over the cards, we discussed what additional options to add to the set as we had a couple of slots open, and Esau was suggested, and not even by me or my brother. However, before Esau was added to the list, his ability would be changed a bit, to make sure that, while he wouldn’t pigeonhole Edomite development in the future in a particular direction, he would be able to play nice with them. And so Esau was added to the list with the ability
Search deck for an animal or an Edomite. Discard an animal to draw 2 and play an Enhancement. Cannot be interrupted.
Now, Esau’s spot on the list was still not totally secure, and when time came around that we were informed that we would be able to make promos for the year, Esau was already competing for his spot in the list with a different proposed Evil Character. With only a short time being able to test the promos before sending them off, it was proposed that Esau, a card we had already tested significantly, be pushed onto the promo list, and the other character would take his spot. But before everyone was comfortable printing Esau, one more change would happen to limit his power a little bit, and so he could no longer play N.T. Enhancements off his play ability. And now we have the Esau promo that exists today.
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