A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Opposing House Strategy: Justice and War
July 15, 1999
This week, we look at the opposing strategies of denial and brute force.
Strategies for Justice
Justice has more Denial spells than any other House, and it has a little bit
of every other strategy to allow for a lot of strategic combinations. However,
it does not have enough spells in any single strategy to allow it to focus entirely
on that strategy, so it will probably need to mix some Denial with two or three
others. The result is something that can either be the ultimate in versatility,
or something totally lacking in focus and organization...depending on how you
Basic Deck Concepts for Justice
One deck concept that has some promise is a Combat/Denial combo with some combat-based
Powerhouse spells thrown in for support. Your Denial in this case is Intercession,
with perhaps a little bit of dispel (Restoration, Shell of Gold, Second Chance)
mixed in to let you survive the early game against Lockdown. The rest of your
deck can be geared toward winning combat, either with minor combat alterations
(Ogi's Armor, True Aim, Venom'd Blade) or, more likely, by softening up the
enemy groups with powerful monsters (Tindelhunden, Ebon Guardian, Obsidian Dragon).
The occasional Powerhouse spell (notably, Pyrrhic Victory) can help you keep
your ground, too. Once you have a definite combat advantage (and Initiative,
hopefully) let loose with a string of Intercessions to prevent the opponent
from doing anything at all, and march to an unopposed victory in mid-game.
Attrition/Denial is a natural combination as well; if you continue to squander
or dispel everything your opponent casts and your deck is larger, then eventually
you can let your opponent run out of spells while you still have plenty left!
However, Justice doesn't have access to a huge number of Attrition-style spells...but
Making does. So, this deck will typically splash in several Will mana (using
towns, Oculus of Will, and Astronomic Clock) to gain access to some of Making's
key spells. Of particular interest are Blinding Orb (more Denial for you), Shieldbearers
(excellent Combat protection), Mountain (can slow down enemy progress, while
it can be crossed using your Dracha's Sphere spell), Belvario's Trap (a good
general-purpose Powerhouse spell), Beobagh's Helm (allows you to build up a
large combat group and use it defensively), Found City (gives you more mana,
gives you Initiative to make your Denial spells count, and gives you extra recruits
to win the Attrition war). Before you have a huge amount of will, you can still
slow your opponent's progress using Intercession, Sentinel, or the Monsters
One odd meta-strategy is that of mana superiority. Justice has a lot of ways
to increase its mana output, and once it does it can win through an expensive-Powerhouse
style. Codex of Order can effectively give Justice up to 5 extra Order mana
per turn (one for each spell it casts), while The Star Chamber gives it one
of each of its main types of mana. Dracha's Trade can be used to get nine extra
mana on the following turn. You can also use Dracha's Trade as a form of mana
denial, by casting it on an enemy town and following the next turn with Intercession
(which will hopefully squander a few spells in addition to killing their mana
supply from that town...provided you have Initiative!).
Of course, having a lot of mana doesn't help you unless you do something with
it. So, include a good number of big, powerful spells to take advantage of it.
When you're casting a Pyrrhic Victory, Spawn of Toganni, and following with
Intercession in a single turn, your opponent shouldn't be able to stand up to
that kind of assault for long. Of course, this requires that you have a lot
of spells since you'll be casting a lot every turn, so your deck will be fairly
large. Since a lot of your spells will be expensive, you'll also require something
to keep you alive in the early game...the occasional Ogi's Armor (to protect
against monsters) or Restoration (to stop Lockdown) will go a long way towards
making sure you live long enough to get to a mana level sufficient to turn things
Fighting Against Justice
Rule number one is to never let Justice get the Initiative, unless you're prepared
to go for up to 8 turns without being able to cast a single spell (while your
opponent can still get in the occasional minor spell, at least, every other
turn). Be aware that taking Initiative at the right time may not be permanent,
however, as Justice usually included some way to reclaim it later on. An early
attack is what most Justice decks fear most; Justice is slow to set up, so hitting
early (or, if you get Initiative and keep it for the first part of the game,
hitting them hard in mid-game) is your best chance. The longer you let the game
go, the harder Justice will be to stop.
Since Justice uses a lot of World-target spells, something which can prevent
that (Adriel's Glamour, The Unmagicking) can really be a major pain to Justice.
Strategies for War
War has two major strengths: Combat and Powerhouse. Its Combat spells range
from cheap to medium cost and can give either a single recruit or an entire
group a decent bonus, while its Powerhouse spells all tend to be expensive.
Basic Deck Concepts for War
Your standard War Combat deck is a speed deck; since you have no real way to
protect your groups, you must hit fast and hard early on. This means Forced
March, and your choice of the plethora of combat spells in War. Definitely don't
overlook Dragon's Teeth and Warlord; one of your bonuses against Powerhouse-style
decks is that you can afford to lose a group without being devastated; even
if you lose your Horde, you can still get another comparable group with one
or two spells that create recruits. You can also use these spells to defend
your towns if they come under enemy attack and you don't have any novices to
defend the town with. Encampment is useful, as it allows you to take Initiative
which gives you yet one more edge in combat; use it on groups that won't reach
the front lines for awhile anyway, so that you won't be in danger of losing
By contrast, War Powerhouse generally focuses on damaging entire groups. Salamander
is a good start; cast it in the enemy's walking path (if you have Initiative)
and it will move out of the way, allowing the enemy group to enter the Lava
square it leaves behind, which does 3 damage to each member of the group. Fireball
does 5 damage to a group. Volcano can block a group's walking path, or (even
better) if they have mountainwalking, it does 5 damage to them. Brimstone Dragon
also does 5 damage at the start of its combats, in addition to being a seriously
powerful monster. Renegades turns a small enemy group against its owners, removing
it from the opponent's control. Again, Encampment is useful to gain Initiative,
as well as gaining mana (since many of your spells are on the expensive side).
Point of Clarity is an obvious choice too, so that you can build up to your
target mana range as fast as possible.
Finally, there's the Combat/Powerhouse hybrid deck, which uses elements of
both strategies. Some direct damage can soften up an enemy group to allow your
minions to defeat it easily and quickly in combat, for example; also, Volcanoes
can either be used to summon the Brimstone Dragon which damages or kills enemy
groups, or it can summon Wyrmling which your own group can kill for a huge combat
Fighting Against War
Since War is so fast to attack, being able to defend effectively is difficult.
Against Combat, using group-dispel or cheap Powerhouse spells can allow you
to kill the group, while Lockdown spells may slow War down enough for it to
be more manageable. Against War's Powerhouse spells, the obvious thing to do
is to protect your groups with Bellwether, Raven Shroud or Beobagh's Helm, or
heal them with Healing Spring or Pyx, or giving them extra HP with Fortitude.
Failing any of that, make sure that you aren't relying too much on a single
group, and count on losing at least one to direct damage...just spread out your
troops, and find some way to deal with War's combat ability (by bringing your
individuals together right before a battle, or by using Powerhouse or Denial
spells to deal with their most deadly groups).
Justice Versus War
This can be highly challenging for both sides. War must attack early, before
Justice gets its guard up, or Justice will be nearly unstoppable; Justice, meanwhile,
must find some way to deal with a powerful, fast assault. Hellion is a powerful
monster that can really devastate the ranks of Gargoyles if they're unprepared,
while Tindelhunden can do the same to Humans. War can increase its experience
levels with Ngozi's Way, while Justice can nullify the effect with Obeisance.
War can make its groups nearly unbeatable in combat, but a single Chamberlain
can even the odds. Forced March can move a group ahead, while Sentinel can keep
it locked down. Because of all of this, each side can feel as if the other side
has too many advantages; in the end, it can be fairly even, and will come down
to whether Justice can survive against War's early onslaught for long enough
to become a threat.