TOWER OF THEBEZ AND THE CORRUPTING CANAANITES
by Bryon Hake
Canaan was the Promised Land. God promised Abraham that his descendants would inhabit that land, from the Jordan River to the Great (Mediterranean) Sea. Abraham settled in part of that land, as did his son Isaac and grandson Jacob.
During Jacob's life, there was a famine. Grain was scarce in Canaan, but plentiful in Egypt. Jacob's son, Joseph, who was living in Egypt, had interpreted the Pharaoh's dreams, prophesying that there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The Egyptians wisely saved grain during the plentiful years, so that they would have grain in the lean years. So, Jacob (also known as Israel) and his descendents, the Israelites, moved down to Egypt where Joseph had become second in command to the dreaming Pharaoh.
Generations passed, and the Israelites multiplied into a nation, but they were enslaved by the Egyptians. They cried out to God for deliverance, and he sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt, so they could finally return to the Promised Land. Moses lead the Israelites near to the border of Canaan, but it was Joshua who led them across the Jordan River into the land of promise.
The land of Canaan, like all of the earth, belongs to God. Since God owned Canaan, He had the right to decide who would live there. He told the Israelites that he was giving them the land of Canaan, just as he'd given it to their ancestors before them. They had returned to their home. But other people were living in that land: the Canaanites.
The Canaanites were evil. They were idolaters and practiced child sacrifice and all manner of sexual sins. God foreknew the corrupting influence that the Canaanites would have on His people, should the Canaanites and Israelites cohabitate Canaan. To preserve the holiness of His people, he commanded the Israelites to drive out or destroy every Canaanite from the land.
God miraculously aided Joshua in conquering Canaan, but, due to some disobedience on Israel's part, not every Canaanite was removed. Long after Joshua had died, several Canaanite cities and tribes remained in the land, and their presence acted as a cancer in Israel, varying in effect from corruption of behavior to conquest of neighboring Israelite towns.
During this time, God raised up judges to defeat various threats against Israel. When the Moabites oppressed Israel, God raised up Ehud. When the Canaanites under commander Sisera attempted to conquer part of Israel, God raised up Deborah and Barak to meet and defeat that threat. When the Midianites threatened Israel, the angel under the oak stirred Gideon to submit to God's commands, odd as they seemed. Because of Gideon's obedience, the Midianites were thwarted.
After Gideon died, his wicked son Abimelech killed all his own half-brothers so that he could became the next judge of Israel. Then, he was crowned king of the Canaanite city of Shechem. A few years later, he learned that the Canaanites in Shechem had rebelled against his leadership, and had fortified the site against him. So, Abimelech attacked the city of Shechem. When its people fled into a stronghold, Abimelech lit the stronghold on fire and destroyed them all.
After destroying the city of Shechem, he turned to another Canaanite city: Thebez. He thought he could employ the same strategy he'd used in Schechem. It didn't work out quite like he expected...
"Then went Abimelech to Thebez, and encamped against Thebez, and took it. But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all the men and women, and all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it, and went hard unto the door of the tower to burn it with fire. And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to brake his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died." - Judges 9:50-54
When we began designing the Canaanites as a theme, we first had to define Canaanite. What people qualify as Canaanites? There were several different groups who lived in the land of Canaan, and only certain ones called themselves Canaanites. We decided to use the passage from Genesis chapter 10 that mentioned the man named Canaan, who was the ancestor of the Canaanites.
"Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha." - Genesis 10:15-19
Any tribes and clans on this list are deemed Canaanites in Redemption, as are subgroups of these tribes and clans. For example, the Gibeonites were a subgroup of the Amorites and Hivites, so they are Canaanites.
Then we looked at all the existing cards in the game that represented Canaanites or were based on Canaanites. Most of the existing Canaanite characters were black brigade (Lot's Wife, Lot's Daughters, Sisera, Bera King of Sodom, Prince of Tyrus), so we decided to keep the theme there, and not reprint the Canaanites which were already in the black brigade. The special abilities on the various Canaan-themed cards didn't have a lot in common, so we were able to develop the Canaanite thematic functions from scratch. We wanted to make their effect in Redemption similar to their effect in the Bible: a corrupting influence on heroes. So, that's what we did. What does the corruption look like? Here are a couple examples:
Capture heroes: Capturing a hero sometimes represents physical captivity. Other times it represents a hero who loses his way and is spiritually lost, as was illustrated in the life of King Saul. Bera King of Sodom captures red heroes. This represents the spiritually corrupting effect that Sodom had on Lot's family.
In this set, Shechem captures female heroes, representing the physical captivity involved in his story, which you can read in Genesis 34. The purple Canaan site (Canaan probably means "purple") allows you to give your opponent a black Canaanite to capture a hero in that player's territory, another example of the corrupting kind of capturing.
Negate special abilities on heroes: Negating the special ability on a hero represents a hero losing its effectiveness as a result of the corruption of either the hero itself, or of the hero's community. Other examples of this representation are the cards Golden Calf, Confusion of Mind, Mask of Fear, and Spirit of Doubt.
King of Tyrus (a Canaanite demon) already negates special abilities on heroes. The original Tower enhancement from Warriors negates heroes, too, as does the Kings version. Now, this latest version of Tower, Tower of Thebez, continues the classic Tower "negate heroes" effect. Neither King of Tyrus nor the Tower of Thebez really corrupted heroes in their stories. Rather, their negate abilities function as reminders of the general corrupting effects of the Canaanites as a whole.
Most of the new Canaanites cards are found in Tin 23 and Tin 25. When this set releases, there will be five new black brigade Canaanites: Gibeonite Delegates, Abimelech (who is half brown), Shechem, Woman of Thebez, and Jezebel (also half brown, and found in Tin 24 with the brown brigade cards).
Eleven evil characters in a theme is enough to make it playable, provided enough of the characters have powerful abilities, and as long as there are plenty of playable support cards. I think players will find Canaanites decently strong right out of the gate, though more cards are definitely planned for them in the future. For example, we couldn't fit reprints of Gibeonite Treaty, Amorite Invasion or the Chariot of Iron weapon into this set, so look for them to come in future years. We'll probably see some Canaanite giants someday, too.
Dissecting the Card
"Identifier: Holds any # of Black Canaanites."
There are ten different black brigade Canaanites that can be held in this site. Among those ten are several characters that are great for getting initiative, including The Woman of Thebez, who retains her classic 4/4 stats, and gains the ability to play a black Judges enhancement if Tower of Thebez is in play. I expect we'll see her dropping the Stone of Thebez quite often this year, and we may see her in a site deck playing Danites Attack or Fortify Site.
"While occupied and all your evil characters are Canaanites, negate heroes."
Note: "negate heroes" is just a shorter way to say "negate special abilities on heroes."
Sometimes heroes are considered useful because they get initiative often, or because they have huge strength and toughness, and gain protection from a fortress or artifact. Sometimes a hero is useful because it has a both of the brigades you use in your deck. But most of the time, when a player thinks a hero is really useful, it is because of the hero's special ability. Consider how effective these heroes become without their special abilities: Thaddeus, Jacob, Moses, The Strong Angel, Captain of the Host, Asahel... you get the idea. Negating the special abilities on all heroes is very, very powerful.
This very powerful ability has a pretty specific condition: all your evil characters have to be Canaanites, and at least one of them has to be in this fortress when the heroes enter battle. This keeps the card balanced by keeping it from being splashed into Philistine decks, for example. But in a dedicated Canaanite deck, it is not very difficult to meet the conditions for this special ability.
The ability has a downside: it negates your heroes, too. While you can certainly build a deck using several heroes without special abilities (such as a Judges deck), or with special abilities that can't be negated (some green prophets are good for this), at some point you are likely going to want to use the special ability on your hero. This brings us to the best part of the ability:
You have the choice to leave the fortress unoccupied in your preparation phase if you need to use one of your hero's special abilities on a given turn. In playtesting, this occasionally presented players with a dilemma. "Do I negate heroes to stop my opponent's offense, but have a harder time rescuing this turn? Or do I make an easier rescue attempt this turn, and leave my opponents' heroes working and my Canaanites unprotected?" Dilemmas like these make card games fun.
"Protect contents from opponents."
Note: If your opponent bands to your Jephthah and uses Jephthah's ability, your opponent cannot target the protected cards. It doesn't matter who owns Jephthah. It matters who is using Jephthah's ability. If an opponent is using it, the protected cards cannot be targeted.
Protecting all the cards in this fortress is very helpful. It keeps the characters in play, so that your opponent's Garden Tomb doesn't let him walk in for free rescues. It protects them from pre-battle cards like Holy Grail and Meeting the Messiah, from pre-block combos like Ethiopian Treasurer plus Authority of Christ. It even protects them from other-battle cards like Women as Snares (though the Canaanite character pool does have four female characters that avoid capture from Women as Snares intrinsically). It even protects weapons they may be holding. I'll share more on that in a later article.
"If attacked, you may return a card from here to territory."
This flexibility is very useful, since you can leave the evil character in the fortress as your opponent's hero enters battle, thus negating the hero's special ability. Then, you can add the evil character from the fortress to the battle. If this leaves the Tower unoccupied, it no longer negates hero abilities. But by that point, it is too late for the hero's special ability to activate, since it is already in battle, so the hero continues battle without his special ability.
This is a very important point: emptying the Tower during battle does not negate the Tower. It only "turns it off" from that point forward.
Heroes that enter battle while the Tower is occupied are negated.
Heroes that enter battle while the Tower is unoccupied are not negated.
Time will tell how big an impact Canaanites have in Redemption. In playtesting, Canaanites were quite powerful, but they relied heavily on the power of the Tower of Thebez. As soon as the Tower is occupied, Canaanites are difficult to defeat with current top decks. Disciples, for example, can't deal with Tower in the preparation phase. Disciples have to enter battle without their special abilities, usually giving up initiative to the Canaanites, who can work their trickery, deception, and corrupting schemes to block some rescue attempts. Sometimes, Canaanites skip the trickery and use a more straightforward method:
drop a stone on your head.
In some ways, Christians are like the Israelites of old. We live among people who would corrupt us. But Jesus does not command us to drive them out. Rather, we are commanded to live pure lives even while surrounded by people whose influence would corrupt us. Paul said,
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2
Rather than being corrupted, we are to be light in the darkness. We are the influencers, not the influenced. The same Holy Spirit that empowered the righteous judges, kings, and prophets of old empowers us to be witnesses to the lost. For us, it isn't about elimination, it's all about Redemption.