“What’s your favorite card?” is a question often asked amongst fellow Redemption players. For some, it’s the card they use most often in their decks. For others, it’s a card from their favorite Bible story or a card that has their favorite verse as the reference. Still yet others might have a favorite card based on the card’s ability or artwork.
For me, I can’t really say I have a favorite card, but rather a collection of favorite cards. My favorite Hero is Captain of the Host because he’s generally pretty awesome and he was the rare I got in my first pack of Warriors. My favorite card based on artwork is Authority of Christ, and early in my Redemption career I acquired as many copies of Authority of Christ promo as I could—I still remember the day when I was able to trade Doug Gray enough cards from his “Want” list on the original Three Lions website to acquire my first ever Authority of Christ promo. Another of my favorite cards is Guardian of Your Souls, the card that inspired my name on the Redemption forum, “The Guardian.” I’m thrilled we are reprinting an updated version of Guardian of Your Souls that should definitely see more play than its predecessor has in recent years (an unfortunate byproduct of the dominant cap rule). My favorite card based on the card verse is the winner card I created last year, Word of Their Testimony that comes from Revelation chapter 12.
But there’s another favorite card “category” that I have, and that is favorite card title. That card happens to be Not Alone. Many years ago, I wrote a short devotional and posted it on the forum. You can still find in the Prayer Forum section, but I’ll post it here as well:
Card Devotion #1
Card: Not Alone
Verse: Matthew 13:41
“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”
I started with this card because “Not Alone” is my favorite card title in Redemption. It is simple yet when one thinks about it, there is so much power in that phrase. If we are in Christ, we are never alone no matter how much we mess up, or how lonely we feel. Last year was a very difficult year for me. I went through some tough times and made some poor decisions. Even as I despaired during the bad times, I knew that God still loved me despite my mistakes. A major part of all that was a loneliness that I often felt, which I knew was a lie of the enemy but allowed myself to believe much of the time. The verse says that the Son of man (Jesus) will send forth his angels to gather everything in God’s kingdom that does not belong there and cast it out. How great it is that as God’s children, we do belong in God’s kingdom, but all of our mistakes and imperfections do not! Those things will be weeded out as God gathers His chosen people. Even before this happens though, He is still watching over us in every part of our lives. No matter what trial we face, what mistakes we make or what lies the enemy uses, there is hope. There is hope because no matter what, we are…Not Alone!
Before I talk more about that, let’s look at the original version of Not Alone. Unfortunately, in terms of gameplay, the original card was not all that spectacular so it rarely saw use outside of Booster Draft. Although the ability is not bad, in the very next set (Priests) we printed Protection of Angels, which not only protects Heroes from all evil cards (including Dominants) but also has an interrupt aspect. Suffice to say, Not Alone would probably never be an optimal choice. When I was fortunate enough to win T2 2P at Nationals for the second year in a row, I wasn’t quite sure where to look for inspiration for a second card. I had already created a card based on my favorite verse. For a bit I thought about making a reprint of Blood of the Lamb that worked in conjunction with Word of Their Testimony, but with the new set being Revelation, I knew there was a pretty good chance we would be doing a reprint of Blood of the Lamb already (which we did). At some point, I remembered Not Alone, and how much I wished that card was playable. I looked back at my devotion and reflected on some of things I was going through when I wrote that. Many of those things were the reason I became drawn to Revelation 12:11 and how much power there is in our personal testimonies.
I decided I wanted to make a new version of Not Alone, but what kind of card to make it? While the original ability is certainly thematic (a silver Enhancement that offers Heroes protection), I felt like a banding ability would be another way to represent that concept. Because I wanted to go a different direction with this new version of Not Alone, I felt a new verse would also be fitting. When thinking of verses that felt like a “banding” verse, Ecclesiastes 4:12 immediately jumped out at me, and I was actually surprised to realize that that verse had never been used on a Redemption card. I now had a title, a verse and a preliminary ability so it was time to start designing.
I started by thinking about what had been strong in the recent meta. Cards that extended battles by adding additional characters came to mind. In 2015, Josiah B’s second place Nationals deck had a great orange defense that used cards like The Gates of Hell, Madness and the Site Guard Lost Soul to force the opponent to defeat multiple Evil Characters in the same battle without using traditional banding, but instead added characters after the original ones had been defeated. After the release of Cloud of Witnesses, cards like You Will Remain (and Faith of David to a lesser extent) gave offenses a very similar effect where they could extend a battle in which the original attackers had been defeated. With the addition of Coliseum to the meta, I had started to add Lurking to several of my defenses and I quickly found it was a great card for situations where offensive battle winners were far less likely to be “cannot be negated.” I decided that was the direction I wanted to go—to give offenses a Lurking-type ability that was even stronger (because after all *spoiler alert* the good side wins).
So like Lurking, I began with a multi-brigade good Enhancement that started with “Interrupt.” However, I wanted Not Alone to also work around cards like Household Idols or the Forsaken Lost Soul so instead of the standard “interrupt the battle” phrasing, I used “Interrupt a neutral or evil card.” This would allow a Hero to use it during special initiative or during regular initiative if Household Idol or Forsaken were in effect (note that if it is a special initiative situation AND one of those cards is active, Not Alone would not be able to work). Next I felt like it should only work with a lone Hero because if the Hero is part of a band then that Hero is already “not alone.” I also decided to make “human Hero” part of the condition for a couple reasons. Thematically, the verse speaks more to people (not angels) coming alongside someone and in terms of gameplay, silver was getting such a big boost already that I felt it would give the set some balance to create a card for human Heroes only. Next I wanted it to band in two Heroes for obvious thematic reasons—the cord of three strands and the idea of two people coming alongside a third person who is struggling in their battle against the enemy. Lastly, I wanted it to be able to negate the card it originally interrupted to represent how the coming together of the Heroes would overcome the obstacle that was defeating the original Hero. Originally, I also included a “non-warrior class” clause as well because the card was meant to represent someone fighting a personal battle more than a physical battle.
During the testing process, it was decided that having a rainbow band/negate was incredibly strong, and that some aspect of Not Alone needed to be toned down. After several iterations, we landed on the final ability which did not include the negate aspect, but did allow warrior-class Heroes to be banded in. We also added “Your” to the human Hero condition so that it was more similar to Lurking in that it could not band in an opponent’s Heroes. The “cannot be interrupted by an evil card” clause was added to represent the idea that a “cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Note that the two Heroes do not necessarily need to be banded in directly by Not Alone. You could use Not Alone to band in one Hero who in turn bands in a second Hero and that will grant the cannot be interrupted modifier as well.
The artwork comes from a picture of Peter and John meeting a lame man begging in the temple. Although Peter and John did not have money to give the man, they came alongside him in a moment of need and performed a miracle of healing. It’s such a beautiful example of how sometimes we can offer hope and encouragement to someone in need in a way so much more important than simply giving them money. The brownish/tan border color represents the color of rope, often made by intertwining three separate strands that on their own might not be very strong, but together form a bond that is not quickly torn apart.
So that’s the story of the card’s development, but now I would like to change gears a bit and offer some reflections on this concept of “not alone.” I think I can safely say that most, if not all, of us have at one time or another felt alone in our lives. Especially in difficult times or during trials we are facing, it is easy to feel like we are alone—even if we know there are people who care about us. While depression and loneliness are not the same thing, they can often lead to one another. A person who constantly feels lonely will be less likely to find joy in their lives. Likewise, a person struggling with depression will tend to isolate themselves which leads to increased feelings of loneliness. I can speak to such things because for many years I struggled with both. “The loneliest man is not the one who knows no one. Rather it is the man who knows everyone, but knows not a single one.” This was a realization I made during a time in my life when I had a lot of friends and acquaintances, but often felt like I did not have a true close friend. I knew my family loved me, and I loved them, and I knew there were many more people who cared about me, but all too often I let myself fall into a mindset that I was alone and would always be alone in the struggles I was facing. This led to some destructive behaviors that only worsened my situation and continued the vicious cycle of loneliness and depression.
It was in the midst of those darkest times that two people came alongside me and though they may not have realized it at the time, helped me begin a journey out of that dark place. At the time, Ben was a leader in the senior high group at my church when the church leadership asked him if he would begin a young adult group. He agreed and asked me if I would be a part of the leadership team. We had previously gone on a mission trip together so though we weren’t close friends at that point, he knew me well enough to ask if I would be a part of the core team. Even though I was struggling on the inside with a lot of things, it was a welcome distraction to be a part of a team after going through a season of life where I felt very much like a loner. Over the years, Ben became a close friend, mentor and confidant who helped me work through the struggles I was facing, and he remains one of my closest friends to this day. It was also through that young adult group where I met my friend Tyler. Although I’m not sure he ever knew how much I was struggling (as I rarely let on to anyone what I was going through), he was intentional about bringing me into a group of friends who were a true community. At first it was just a weekly game of volleyball at church, and those nights quickly became the highlight of my week. That summer though, the group began to do things together almost daily. Volleyball, Bible study, ultimate Frisbee, movie nights, rock-climbing and swing dancing were just some of the various activities we did as a group of friends on a weekly basis. Not only was I finding more joy in life with this community of friends, my relationship with my family improved as well. God used Ben and Tyler to come alongside me at a time when I desperately needed it and even though there were still struggles, I finally felt hope…for the first time in a long time, I knew for certain I was Not Alone.
That was the summer of 2007 and it was later that year I posted the devotion on the forum. There is much more to that story, but there will be other times to share that. Before I finish, I want you to take a moment and read this out loud to yourself: “I am Not Alone.” No matter what you are facing in life and no matter how dark things are or may seem, please know that you are never alone. Even when we feel far from Him, God is just waiting for us with open arms. Many times He will put someone in our lives and use them to come alongside us—He did that for me and He will do it for you too if that is what you need. If depression and loneliness are not things you struggle with, I encourage you to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. God may have a plan to use you to come alongside someone who is and to encourage them. Never underestimate the power of a word of encouragement or a simple invitation, even if it’s to someone who doesn’t look like they “need” it. Many times those who appear to be the least likely to need encouragement are the ones who need it the most.
I know this ended up being pretty long, but thank you for taking the time to read it. I know from experience that one of the most difficult things for a person struggling with loneliness or depression is to reach out for help, but I want to offer an invitation. If that’s you, and you need someone to come alongside you, please let me know. I don’t have everything figured out, and I know I can’t solve every problem, but I do know what it’s like to go through that. You can reach me via personal message on the Redemption Forum where we can exchange e-mails and such. If not me, I encourage you to reach out to someone in your life because trust me, there is no greater feeling than coming to a true realization that I…you…we…are Not Alone.
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