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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

Opposing House Strategy: Making and Unmaking
July 1, 1999

If you've been following this column for a while, you should now know about the five basic strategies for Sanctum. For the next few weeks, we'll start applying these strategies to each House, to come up with several strategies per House. We'll also look at the opposing Houses and how they play against each other, in light of the new opposing-House spells from Oppositions.

Strategies for Making

Making has a shortage of Powerhouse and Lockdown spells available to it; while it might be able to splash in such a spell from a different House occasionally, building an entire deck around either theme would be nearly impossible. Making's spells are geared toward Attrition and Denial, with a fair amount of Combat spells which can allow for either a straight Combat deck or additional support to Attrition.

Basic Deck Concepts for Making

Thanks to Beobagh's Helm, it is possible to make a straight Combat deck with Making. Simply build up a large group, adding Ancient King and Ogi; put Beobagh's Helm on the recruit most likely to survive, and protect it from individual spells with Ogi's Gauntlet or Blinding Orb.

Enhance the group with spells like True Aim, Ogi's Arrows, Shieldbearers, and Ogi's Armor. Your opponent will most likely be unable to kill individuals in the group, OR destroy the entire group, with directly targeted spells.

Then, you simply start marching forward; thanks to your excessively high Armor your recruits will never take damage, and they'll be able to dish out plenty. This has the additional bonus of not requiring any out-of-House mana.

Making is also home of the original Attrition deck, based around Found City.

The idea, as with most Attrition strategies, is to slow the opponent down (Mountain, Mechanical Man, Homunculi) until you have the mana to start casting Found Cities and building a metropolis. From there, enhance your cities with Master Smith and Fortify to make them defensible (and also to give you an additional edge in combat once you both run out of spells). Eventually you can simply win through superior numbers, and you might even speed things up a little by putting Shieldbearers on a large group.

Finally, Making can make a decent Denial-based deck by splashing in some Mystery mana and making liberal use of Blinding Orb and Intercession.

Up the mana to 2 Mystery and you've also got Sentinel, which can buy you a bit of time as the opponent's largest group sits in place (and, if you create lots of Archers, its drawback of granting immunity to hand damage won't harm you at all). You could also use Sentinel on your own recruits to help them protect your towns.

Adding Found City to such a deck will practically guarantee that you'll get and keep Initiative in the mid and late game, allowing your Intercessions and Blinding Orbs to squander enemy spells by surprise (and allowing your large groups to move toward and take over enemy towns without having them get hit with harmful enemy spells).

Fighting Against Making

Against a Combat deck, your best shot is to pack a few Powerhouse spells that are activated during combat and are cast on your own groups (such as Accursed Minion). These will get around the protection that Beobagh's Helm grants. If playing a combat-based deck yourself, you can try to fight combat with combat, and pump up your recruits' battle power to the point where they can break through the Dwarves' tough armor. If you see a large enemy group of Dwarves from the beginning which seem to be collecting combat alterations early on, expect a big fight and take that group down at all costs.

Against an Attrition deck, particularly one laced with Denial spells, attacking quickly before your opponent has the mana to cast her most powerful spells is your best bet. If that isn't possible, hitting their towns and colonies with dispels (to get rid of the colonies, and remove the alterations on the towns) will slow Making's progress and make it more difficult to defend her towns. However, keep in mind that your opponent probably has more town alterations and Found Cities than you have dispels, so use them wisely. If you can find some way to get Initiative and keep it, this will also help you greatly.

Strategies for Unmaking

Unmaking excels at cheap Powerhouse spells, but also has a small amount of Denial and Combat. However, Unmaking does have at least one or two spells that fit each basic strategy, allowing for a versatile mix of spells (and a lot of choices available on which to focus).

Basic Deck Concepts for Unmaking

One idea is to focus entirely on Unmaking's greatest strength: Powerhouse. Bolt of Somersaults, Fingle's Folly, and Void can kill, seriously injure or otherwise remove an enemy group. Changing Lands can either stall or, on occasion, kill an enemy group. Bedlam will tend to harm a large group because of the possibility of a random Cannibalism or Obeisance showing up and hurting the entire group. Small groups can be disposed of with large monsters like Cockatrice, Fingle's Folly and Werewolf, or spells like Disintegrate. Play this as a speed deck: get rid of your opponent's early groups and march in for a fast victory before she can recover.

However, the above idea is vulnerable to a few combat-based decks, especially those that protect their groups from enemy spells and from harmful terrain. So, you can cut back a little on the Powerhouse and combine it with some dispel effects. Wrack can get rid of everything on a single pumped-up enemy recruit, and if your Bedlam gives an enemy group some powerful alterations you can undo the best of them. Leechwood allows you to dispel entire groups as they pass through forests. Entropia can either get rid of a colony entirely, or all alterations on a town. And of course, there's The Unmagicking, which dispels nearly all spells (while still leaving your Voids intact, even). This strategy, too, can be played as a speed deck, although the dispels allow you to take a little longer to get where you're going without penalty (since you can undo most of what your opponent casts in the meatime).

You can also combine either of the above with some Clarity mana, dipping into some of War's combat-based spells, allowing you to win most combats in addition to your group removal. Or, you can combine them with Mystery mana and gain access to Body spells like Fleetness, which can speed your groups up even more.

Fighting Against Unmaking

Against the Powerhouse spells, you can protect yourself with group protection, or you can create a lot of mid-size groups so that Unmaking can't possibly get rid of them all. Since Unmaking has a lot of nice monsters, some anti-monster spells will go a long way in protecting your groups. Don't rely too much on any single group, recruit or spell or else you might find Unmaking gets rid of it just when you need it most. Also, since Unmaking has a lot of terrain alterations, giving your groups spells that allow them to pass through unhurt will make it difficult for your opponent to kill your groups with a single spell. If all else fails, be unpredictable in your movement, so that Unmaking is forced to guess where to cast that Void and to hope that you'll walk into it, instead of knowing for sure.

Making Versus Unmaking

This can often degenerate into a battle of speed against attrition. Most Unmaking decks are fast, and they go for a quick win; most Making decks are slow, and wait for the opponent to run out of cards.

Making must try to slow Unmaking down for long enough that it can start building its metropolis and some large groups, while Unmaking will try to break through Making's early defenses while they're still weak. Making's greatest weapon in this fight is Beobagh's Helm, protecting its entire group from most of Unmaking's worst spells, while Unmaking can use Forbidden Ichor or Gnax to trap Making's group on a mountain by changing one or more of its members to a nation that can't cross mountains. Ultimately it will come down to which player follows her House's theme better.

Good luck!

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