A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
How Oppositions Affects Sanctum
May 13, 1999
I'm breaking the regular schedule of the column to report on how Oppositions
will change the Houses, and to give some predictions on what the playing environment
will look like now that Oppositions is here.
The Big Picture
Oppositions has several major themes. The most obvious is the opposing Houses,
as indicated by the expansion set's name. Each House gets some cards that are
usable in general, but really mess with their opposing House. While this won't
make much difference in many games, it does mean that when you do end up fighting
your opposing House in a game, the game will play very differently, as many
of the spells that both of you have will be quite powerful! So, one in every
twelve games will be something of a power game, which should make
for an interesting time.
The next Oppositions theme is House balance. The weak Houses have gotten
some nice boosts, allowing them to compete on the same level as the stronger
Houses. So don't be surprised if you start to feel some serious fear when you
realize that your opponent is playing Death, or Nature!
Finally, each House gets more developed themes, and deck-building options.
In fact, each House has either gotten the beginnings of a completely new deck
type, or else they've taken a previous deck type that wasn't quite playable
on a competitive level, and taken it to the point where it will be. I'll be
going through each House individually now, so check out your favorites and check
out what they can do!
Abomination. Imps have always been a bit on the self-destructive
side, and they take it to whole new levels in Oppositions. They learn to sacrifice
their own Monsters in order to summon the most powerful Monster of all, Volgaris.
They learn to sacrifice their own towns to prevent the opponent from taking
hold of them. And they learn the only spell in the game that can create Monsters
in the same way that a town makes recruits. Overall, they develop the theme
of harming themselves to harm the opponent more, and add some nice powerhouse
spells to the mix.
Body. Body already has two themes: lockdown and
combat. Both themes are well-developed already, so Body has started off in several
other directions. Remember that spell, Void, which you've lost so many groups
to? Ever wonder where those groups go? Well, the Body Mages can now bring those
groups onto the board. Body can now protect its recruits from Monster damage,
and it can protect towns from town-targeting spells (and cause the towns to
walk around the board!).
Death. Death's themes were incredibly refined and
honed here, giving a Mage of Death more playable options than ever before. Most
importantly, it got the ultimate spell to support it in combat: protection from
group-targeting spells. This allows it to build up a huge group, and with help
from Necromancer and Reanimate its minions will just refuse to die, without
fear of losing it all to a nasty group spell. The second theme of Death, creating
Desert squares, also got some help with a little spell that can kill off half
of a group entering a target Desert square. This makes a Lawrence of Arabia
style deck really potent, if played well. Finally, the third theme of Death
is killing minions, and it got two spells here: one alternative to Venom'd Arrow
which brings an enemy to near death (allowing you to kill it and get experience
levels in combat), and one spell that kills both a friendly and enemy recruit
(which lets you turn a minor advantage of numbers into a major advantage).
Despair. Right now, when you think Despair, you
think Lockdown (Fear, Forsaken, Disorient). But take a look at some of the lesser-used
spells: Harrowing Cry, Pantogar's Curse, Stupefy, Changelings. Those aren't
Lockdown spells, they're combat spells! And that's what Despair got in Oppositions--
enough to make a serious combat deck, by destroying the enemy's battle power
instead of enhancing itself. Despair got several spells to further weaken enemy
troops and make them take more damage, and it also got some new high-level Monsters
which can easily dispose of a weakened group.
Hope. Before Bloodlines was released, Hope was known
as the come-from-behind House. That's because Hope was normally
played with a weak opening but strong late game, using Settlements to build
a metropolis and win by superior numbers after the opponent runs out of spells.
It was never designed to support a Lockdown strategy, as it's being used for
now; so, it got spells that instead give it more late-game options. It has a
spell that can cause the opponent to discard their hand under some conditions,
and another spell that lets it discard its own hand (can you say mulligan?).
It also got some help in the archery department, allowing it to get some seriously
pumped Archers, so it has the possibility to go with a heavy combat strategy
as well. You might even see a Hope deck splashing in some World mana to get
access to Life's archer spells!
Justice. Justice has always been strong in denial,
with a ton of dispels. It now has the ultimate terrain-dispel, which can allow
it to actually make its groups immune to Voids (among other things). Justice
also got a pair of strong new Monsters; one is a bodyguard which follows its
groups around, and the other is a hunter that heads after a single enemy group
and goes away when the group dies. Justice also got a way to add insane amounts
of HP to a single recruit, and a way to make the opponent take the damage that
they deal out, giving some options for combat.
Life. Life gets a spell that can generate mana of
any type, cheaply, but it has to wait a few turns for it to mature; this allows
for a strong late game for the Elves. Life gets even more dangerous Archers,
including a spell that can conceivably give one of its own infinite Missile
damage. Finally, to add to Terrain Bind's lockdown potential, it gets a spell
that can keep an enemy group busy for a few turns while they hunt down a mythical
creature that tends to disappear right when you don't want it to ...
Making. The Dwarves get the fourth and final classical
elemental (to match Sylph, Undine and Salamander); this curious Monster can
move a Mountain around the board with him, among other things. Making also gets
some new weapons to further develop its combat options that it started to build
on in Bloodlines; like Death, it now has a spell that protects a group from
group-targeting spells, which lets it build up a huge group and send it into
combat. It also gets a new late-game option for winning besides the metropolis
style of building cities all over the place: if it can hold out for long enough,
it can start to drop huge recruit groups right outside the enemy Sanctum! Making
also learns to play games with the opponent's town mana supply. So when you
see Dwarves, you may or may not be seeing Found Cities. Oh, and two more words
… exploding Homunculi.
Mind. The Djinni have already perfected their methods
for board control, movement control and monster control in Classic and Bloodlines.
In Bloodlines we started to see a new theme beginning to emerge though: deck
control (Al Hakim, and Revelation). Deck control gets a huge boost, with a card
that forces the opponent to discard their hand. Mind also starts up a third
theme, mana control; it can now temporarily change (or shut off completely)
the mana that any town produces, and it can increase the total mana supply for
both players in all mana types, allowing a real possibility for decks that use
all 6 kinds of mana!
Nature. Nature further refined its two previous
themes: terrain control, and flooding the board with Monsters. For terrain control,
it can now turn entire sections of the board into Plains or Forest, and it now
has a way to kill waterwalking Houses (Hope and Mind) by drowning them (yes,
really!). The water world deck can now be feared by one and all.
As for the Monster flood, Nature gets a Monster that can either be used to give
experience to your main group or as a roadblock to the enemy. It also manages
to combine the two themes with a Monster that changes the terrain beneath it
to Water when it's summoned.
Unmaking. For those of you who delight in flux and
chaos, Unmaking is becoming richer and more verdant. If you like combat, there
are some useful spells for making stronger recruits and hurting your opponent's
recruits. There are a couple of useful monsters in the mid-strength range, and
a long-awaited town dispel. The addition of the feature that 3 chaos features
turns any recruit into a misfit makes for some entertaining flavor, if it doesn't
add anything to the game itself.
War. Previously, there was pretty much only one
War deck, and it combined combat with powerhouse spells. Each of those now becomes
a separate theme, and war can now make a pure combat deck or a pure
powerhouse deck, in addition to the previous blend of the two. In addition,
War gets a new spell which gives it a totally new deck type, based around peace
of all things. There's already some really powerful War decks in beta that can
win without even fighting a single combat.
And that's it for today. Next time, we'll resume the basic winning Sanctum
strategies! Check back every two weeks. Our next strategies are