In 1995, the Christian music group dcTalk put out a song title “Jesus Freaks” that described those who had been persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Several years later, a book was published by the same name and it told the stories of Christians worldwide who had been persecuted, and many times killed, for their faith. It is not an easy read, but it certainly helps put things in perspective. Too often, as Christians living in a country with freedom of religion, we can get caught up in things like denominational differences when around the world our brothers and sisters in Christ are risking their very lives to share the good news. If you have the chance, I highly recommend the book.
Today I’m going to preview some new cards that represent the “Jesus Freaks” of Redemption—martyrs. Last year when we were creating the Cloud of Witnesses set, we knew that this year’s set would be Revelation and would include a ton of silver cards. Therefore we made the decision to only print one new silver Hero (The Angel of the Winds) who didn’t even really fit in an angel deck. However, when it came time to create this year’s set, we knew that we didn’t just want to have a completely silver set. We looked at other people mentioned in Revelation and realized that several of them were described as martyrs. This led to the creation of a mini-theme within the set and it is those cards we’ll be seeing today.
The first martyr we will look at is Polycarp.
Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John. Polycarp is not mentioned by name in the Bible, but it is generally accepted that he was mentored by John and was ultimately martyred. Because of his connection to John, he has the ability to search for John from your deck or the Reserve. You’ll notice that he is territory class so as soon as he is put in play, you can activate the ability to search for your John. In addition, Polycarp has a unique instead ability that allows you to discard him if your opponent interrupts or negates your good N.T. Enhancement. As we continue to other martyrs, you’ll start to see a theme—martyrs will give their life to help the rest of your offense.
The next martyr we will look at is Antipas.
Like Polycarp, Antipas is territory class and has the ability to instead an action taken by an opponent (in this case banishing one of your good cards) by discarding himself. However, he also has a very strong ability when he attacks, which gets better when you have more martyrs in your discard pile. You might be asking “Why are we creating another pre-block ignore Hero?” Good question, but there is a good answer. Antipas’ ignore is not going to be that great early in the game. Even with martyrs abilities to discard themselves, it will still take several rounds before his ignore really starts to make an impact. There is also an inherent disadvantage to losing your Heroes so we wanted to give martyrs something to offset this. If Antipas’ ignore is really effective (i.e. you have a lot of martyrs in discard), that probably means that the game has been going fairly long and we wanted to give martyrs a “closer” or “finisher” Hero—a Hero that is going to be really good when there’s likely only a few rounds left in the game. As a general rule, we want games to finish and we want the offenses to win. Furthermore, unlike other pre-block ignore Heroes that have been used in defensive heavy decks as an endgame strategy, Antipas will require you to have a decent number of other Heroes for him to be effective.
The next martyr Hero comes from Revelation 11—The Two Witnesses.
So I know your first thought is probably “Whoa wait…a Hero that activates a Curse!?!? What is going on???” However, if we read the story we see that The Two Witnesses were given power over the earth to bring down curses upon it. Now there is a specific reason we decided to only allow O.T. Curses to be activated, but that will be made known in a future article or spoiler preview. In addition to be able to activate or deactivate a Curse, The Two Witnesses will discard the Evil Characters that blocked them and they also have a self-recursion ability in that they can set themselves aside after the first time they are discarded in battle, and then can return in 3 turns. I encourage you to read the story of The Two Witnesses from Revelation 11 as their abilities really tie in quite closely to the events John describes. Unlike other martyrs, The Two Witnesses do not have Clay brigade—since they are described as Prophets we decided to make them Green/White, which also gives them some playability in a Green/White Cloud of Witnesses deck.
Next up is Justin Martyr, and no this is not my player created card (though in the interest of full disclosure, it was my idea to print this Hero).
Similar to Polycarp, Justin Martyr is not named in the Bible, but he lived shortly after the time of John, and he wrote about the things that John described in Revelation. Justin was a former philosopher who converted to Christianity and became a Christian apologist until he was martyred sometime between 162 and 168 AD. Because of his conversion and dedication to sharing the gospel of Christ, we decided to give him the ability to search out Word of Their Testimony or Blood of the Lamb from the deck or Reserve. As a bonus, if you have a martyr in your discard pile, you can also recur one of those Enhancements from your discard pile. Keep in mind however that Justin Martyr is not a prophet so he does not get that nice little CBP bonus on Word of Their Testimony, but we still expect him to be a very strong Hero for the martyr theme.
In order for a dedicated martyr deck to be viable, (particularly in Type 2) we decided there needed to be at least one generic martyr Hero.
This Hero went through a few name changes, but we eventually settled on Faithful Witness. This Hero is based on the passage from Revelation 20 that talks about those who were martyred for their testimony of Jesus and the Word of God. You’ll notice that this Hero has a special deck limit in that you can have 4 copies per deck. This will give you an opportunity to get a greater number of martyrs in your discard pile to help the aforementioned Antipas with his ignore ability. Faithful Witness allows you to discard it in order to negate an ability that targets your hand or deck (I’m sure you can think of a certain player-created card from Cloud of Witnesses that you might want to negate…), and as a bonus you get to recur a good Enhancement from your discard pile. That should make your opponent think twice about targeting your hand or deck. Now, obviously Faithful Martyr cannot negate arguably the most disruptive card in the game, Mayhem, but he does offer a new twist on hand and deck protection.
The last Hero is not a martyr, but is one you’ll definitely want to include in your martyr deck.
Angel from the Sun allows you to exchange it with a martyr in your hand, deck, territory or Reserve, and if it’s a martyr from Revelation you get the bonus of drawing two cards (if you want). Unlike other “set up” Heroes, Angel from the Sun does not exchange to discard as typically you want to keep your martyrs in the discard pile. This Hero will give martyrs a very strong opening first turn play if you use him to exchange to Justin Martyr to get a draw 2 and searching out Word of Their Testimony or Blood of the Lamb. While it’s not quite on the level of the AutO/Samuel/David/Throne opening, it will certainly give martyrs a better chance to keep up with a fast Judges or Throne of David offense.
Next let’s look at a few Enhancements that will boost the martyr theme. I mentioned earlier how Justin Martyr can get Blood of the Lamb. Now the starter deck version is certainly going to be more playable now, but we decided to also give players another option…
As you can see, while this Blood of the Lamb does not discard a demon, it does give you a three brigade negate, the ability to draw if used by a martyr and the ability to follow it up with a battle winner Enhancement like say, oh I don’t know, Word of Their Testimony? To go along with Blood of the Lamb, we also have Resurrection of the Martyrs. Now I’ve been talking a lot about how it’s usually better to have the martyrs in your discard pile. However, Revelation also talks about how those who were martyred will be resurrected to rule with Christ. Sometimes you just need to get some Heroes back and this gives you a way to do just that and gives you the bonus of being able to negate an evil Enhancement.
Last but not least, we have one final card. For years, this has been one of my favorite cards, but it has often not made the cut in my Type 1 decks unless it was a deck specifically built for multi-player.
Guardian of Your Souls gets an updated ability that will prove very effective in the current meta. Last year we saw a ton of defenses employ the powerful Death of Unrighteous and Suicidal Swine Stampede cards that very often not only stalled the current rescue attempt, but also gave players a chance to soul drought their opponent for a couple more turns if they were lucky enough to not redraw their Lost Souls right away. Combined with the dreaded Lost Souls, Falling Away (Women) and Confusion (CoW)—often used to banish Son of God—these cards caused much frustration as players were often left without recourse once they were played. Guardian now gives players another option. In addition to protecting cards in your Land of Redemption from evil cards, Guardian also gives you a way to instead the removing of a Lost Soul from play either through discarding a good Enhancement from hand or a martyr from your territory. This is perhaps my favorite use of the martyr “sacrifice” strategy because it illustrates so well how martyrs were willing to give their lives to help save the lost in our world. With the powerful Three Woes also making its debut in this set, it might still be a challenge for Guardian of Your Souls to find a slot in Type 1 two-player decks, but I think it will certainly show up in more decks that in recent years, and especially in a martyr-based deck.
Well that’s all the cards I have for today, but before I close I should mention that several other existing Redemption Heroes will be getting the martyr identifier added to them. In addition to the martyrs mentioned in this article, the following Heroes are martyrs: Stephen, James (son of Zebedee), James (brother of Jesus/Leader in Jerusalem), Peter, Paul, Mark, Philip, Andrew, Thomas, Thaddeus and Bartholomew. There’s also one more martyr who will be previewed in a future article.
As the playtest/Elder team, we understand that there are several other Heroes who are considered martyrs according to some sources. However, we have decided to keep a very strict definition and are only giving this identifier to Heroes that are considered martyrs without any conflicting evidence or ambiguity. While our research is not necessarily exhaustive, we did consult numerous sources to obtain our list. That is not to say the list is set in stone forever, but we would like to avoid many of the long discussions that resulted over the years from looser definitions of the prophet and musician identifiers for example. While we certainly welcome feedback on this list and will investigate evidence that is presented, we are not inclined to make adjustments unless the evidence is truly compelling.
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