Sanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, Subterfuge download rules and faq

create account edit account

buy cards trade cards

news forums maillist

top players cabals links


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: Hope and Despair
July 22, 1999

Next in our series on opposing Houses, we cover holy faith, and whether to take it or leave it.

Strategies for Hope

Hope's main strategy is Attrition mixed with some Powerhouse options, although with good terrain and a good draw it's possible to make a workable (if fragile) early-game Lockdown. Hope doesn't have much in the way of Denial, and the few Combat-based spells it has are generally only useful in the end game when its Attrition is kicking in already.

Basic Deck Concepts for Hope

First and foremost, there's the standard “come from behind” Hope Attrition deck, which takes its nearest two cities and then defends them as best it can, putting up a virtual brick wall to prevent the opponent from passing beyond them. Army of Light, Citizen's Militia, Valiant Stand, Sanctuary, and Settlement all make excellent spells to defend your towns with, and Settlement also allows you to create some colonies in strategic locations to halt enemy progress.

You can run your opponent's deck out faster using Atonement, which brings the end-game “Attrition phase” faster, and fits in well with a deck where you'll often be bringing up a single Vision to block enemy movement into your town anyway. (Once the Atonement passes to the enemy, you can clear it away with Cleansing Light, remove the host with Ascension, or simply take it back to reset your hand at your convenience).

In a large deck (as Attrition styles of play are best suited for anyway), a few Leap of Faiths can also be useful as a “mulligan” in case you draw all late-game spells in your opening hand. Once your opponent runs out of spells, a small number of combat-based spells (Leadership, Farm-Boys, Hero's Legacy, Faerie Fire, and such) can allow you to dominate the board and give you an easy walk to victory.

A slight variation on the above focuses more on the spell Change of Heart. Instead of taking both nearby towns with recruits, you only reach the first town that way, and control the second town using Change of Heart. This allows you to dedicate all of your Sanctum novices to mana production, which means more mana for you than your opponent in mid-game, particularly if you combine with Prophet. From there, the end game and overall deck structure are the same.

Another use of Change of Heart is to go for a relatively early-game win. Using a small deck with lots of powerful monsters (Man of Iron, Centaurs) and fast mana (Burst of Clarity, Prophet, Threshold of Order) you may be able to deny the opponent their second-nearest town by killing her second group. After doing this, you Change of Heart that town, cast a couple Army of Light, and storm her Sanctum directly.

Fighting Against Hope

Against a Hope Attrition deck, there are many strategies that have proven themselves. A strong early-game attack may catch him unprepared to defend sufficiently, especially since most of his spells which you really have to watch out for won't hit until later on in the game.

Also, spells that eliminate Colonies (or prevent spells from being cast on a town) can seriously hurt Hope, since your opponent will rely heavily on such spells to defend his own towns. Once they get to the point where he could cast Settlement on you, don't even go near his towns, or you could lose your group and give him a town at the same time! If you can maneuver your large group to head straight for your opponent's Sanctum while ignoring his towns, you may be able to catch him unprepared at home.

Against the early-game Lockdown, the deck itself is quite fragile. If your nearest towns are close enough, your Hope opponent might be able to stop your second group in time. Anything that prevents monster damage will allow you to reach that second town (Immersion will stop anything; even a two-recruit group with a single Barkskin or Carapace will take down a Man of Iron).

If you reach the town before your Hope opponent draws his Bursts, he's dead. Since he's forced to play with a small deck in order to gain consistency, any cards which force him to discard will likely run him out of cards before he can win. Also, if you can manage to eliminate Forests and Mountains near the second town (leaving Hope with only one monster that can be summoned near there, Man of Iron), your group can be relatively safe.

Strategies for Despair

Despair's main strategy is early-game Lockdown. It can keep you out of your nearest towns better than any other House. With Oppositions, it also gains an additional strategy: Combat (but a rather unique and unorthodox combat, as we'll see).

Basic Deck Concepts for Despair

The stereotypical Despair deck starts with a base of Fear, Disorient and Forsaken to prevent the opponent from entering his towns. Perhaps it uses a Gorgon to kill off the second group, or maybe it just concentrates on stopping one of the two initial enemy groups and concedes that the enemy will get one town (but only one; later on, it can then use Insurrection to prevent that town from producing recruits, and can use its Lockdown spells to prevent the enemy from re-entering the town).

It also has the option of splashing in a little Will for Death spells like Venom'd Arrow, to get rid of annoying small groups without wasting its Lockdown spells on them. By the time it starts running low on spells and its opponent has started to recover, Despair is already two thirds of the way across the board, and either beats up or walks around the few enemy groups out there, and walks into the enemy Sanctum unopposed.

The combat-Despair deck involves all of the Despair spells which aren't a staple in the lockdown-Despair deck: Limbo, Harrowing Cry, Shadowmasque, Pantogar's Curse and Body Rot, Changelings, and so on. The idea here is not to enhance your own recruits' battle power, but rather to reduce the battle power of all enemy recruits to the point where their damage is insignificant and your (unaltered) recruits can walk over them.

Despair also has several high-level monsters which can be used to take care of weakened groups. A more direct variation of this makes use of Phantom and Jinx; Phantom is a very powerful monster that can kill even a moderately powerful enemy group, while Jinx can drop the damage of a recruit by 2 but won't affect the Phantom when it kills that recruit.

You can also combine the above two strategies and end up with a deck that slows down enemy groups' movement early on and then reduces their battle power later for a combat-based win.

Fighting Against Despair

The first rule of fighting against Despair is to take along some spells that can dispel your group. This means Cleansing Light, Circle of Wisdom, or Restoration if those spells are available to you. At the very least, include some way to dispel or kill one of your own recruits; Forsaken lasts an extremely long 4 turns, and you want to have some way to get rid of it.

Walking under cover of Forests is a plus, although by no means does it make you immune to everything Despair can throw at you. Remember also that you can give a group movement orders that aren't legal, and it will try to follow them; if your Feared group is right next to a town and you cast Restoration on it, remember to order it to move into that town on the same turn! You'll dispel the Fear and move into the town, taking the town by surprise without allowing Despair to do anything to stop you.

The next rule is to have some way to deal with Phantom. It can kill your Horde in short order if you don't enhance it at all, and protective spells like Ogi's Armor won't help you in the least, so you'd do well to include at least a couple of spells like Dragon Slayer or Lienna's Sigil to protect your main group.

Finally, expect the worst. Keep a recruit near your town in case your Despair opponent decides to Insurrection it. If your main group is just about ready to take another town, expect that it won't make it this turn, and plan for other options. If you ignore towns altogether and head straight for your Despair opponent's Sanctum, you might get her to waste some of her precious Lockdown spells to keep you out of a town you weren't really trying to move to anyway (and better yet, Disorient might “force” you into the town ... what a shame).

Hope Versus Despair

With the typical decks, this is the classic battle of early-game lockdown against late-game attrition. Despair must try to keep Hope out of its towns, and slow Hope down enough that Despair can move in and overpower it for an early win. Hope, on the other hand, must take control of those nearby towns at all costs, allowing it to mount a reasonable defense.

Hope's greatest tools against Despair are Cleansing Light and Change of Heart, both of which allow it to bypass Despair's lockdown spells in order to take those towns.

Despair can counter Change of Heart to an extent using Insurrection, and a combat-based Despair can use Despond to devastating effect (not to mention monsters, such as Gorgon, Trolls and Phantom; Hope can be expected to be relatively weak in combat until late in the game).

While I happen to think that Hope has a slight edge in this matchup, a skilled Despair player can compensate for Hope's advantages to make for an even game, if a potentially frustrating and difficult one for both sides.

Good luck!

Read more


Home | Usage Agreement | Privacy Policy | FAQ | Contact | Mailing Lists