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Sanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, SubterfugeSanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, Subterfuge



Ngozi's Way

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!

House Changes

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 Powerhouse, Attrition, and Denial.

Good luck!

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