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
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.