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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: Nature and Abomination
July 29, 1999

Neither of these Houses is played with great frequency nowadays, but both have their charms that draw a few players in.

Strategies for Nature

Nature has two major themes: terrain-control and monster-flooding. Terrain control lends itself to a combination Powerhouse/Lockdown strategy, keeping some enemy groups out of towns while killing those that make it later on. Its abundance and strength of monsters lends itself to the same kind of strategy, using cheap monsters to kill weak groups or stall strong ones, while the expensive monsters can be used to kill the strong groups. If you can kill the enemy groups before they reach their nearest towns, then you call it Lockdown; otherwise, you call it Powerhouse.

Basic Deck Concepts for Nature

As suggested above, a terrain-control strategy is one of the most obvious and straightforward to build. The key cards here are Inundate, Deluge, and Will o' the Wisp; any two of these can potentially drown an enemy group. Include Revelers in case your opponent is Mind or Hope, in order to remove her group's intrinsic waterwalking and kill a group while it's on top of a Water square. You can also include several other terrain spells, such as Forestation, to clear away terrain that would otherwise stop you from reaching your destination, or you can include terrain-crossing spells like Mountain Climb and Water Breathing.

Using mass terrain-changing spells like Seed on the Wind and Savannah can be useful if you have to bypass several nearby squares of adverse terrain; you might consider this in a realm like Badlands, where there's a lot of Lava and Volcanoes to cross. Since you can kill enemy groups by drowning them and you can cross any terrain yourself, you can practically get a victory without adding anything else.

The rest of your deck, then, can contain special-purpose cards in case of odd situations that would really hurt you, or you can add some monsters or some protection from enemy monsters.

This leads to the second obvious deck type for Nature, which concentrates on having lots of monsters. Since two of your best monsters, Tree Man and Wolf Pack, are only summoned in Forests, definitely include Forestation and maybe Seed on the Wind, or play in Arboria, to make sure you'll be able to cast them where you need them. Primeval Forest is a must; learn to cast it on Forests where you'll be summoning monsters but your opponent won't be (this usually means near the enemy Sanctum).

In case your opponent starts summoning monsters in your Primeval Forests or otherwise turning your own monsters against you, some protection from monsters (Ogi's Armor, Immersion) is encouraged. Also pack a way to deal with your opponent's minions should she cast these spells on her own minions (Dryad's Favour is the obvious choice, perhaps with Scrying Pool added so that you can target enemy minions that are hiding in Forests).

The Oppositions spell, Bellwether, suggests an entirely different approach to Nature: Combat. By summoning a Bellwether, you protect a group from spells; if that group is seriously pumped up for combat before you bring in the cow, your opponent will have a very hard time getting rid of it. This would be played a lot like Death's Combat strategy with Raven Shroud, except that Nature is more suited to Archer-based combat (Karillian Arrows, True Aim, Diomesia, and all of the standard Life Archer fare if you can splash in some Clarity, either from your towns or with Ring of Light). Be sure to add some terrain control here too, so that your large combat group doesn't accidentally get delayed or killed by hostile terrain.

Finally, the nice thing about Nature is that it's easy to blend basic strategies together to come up with a hybrid deck. You can make a Terrain/Monster deck, for example, built around a spell that counts as both: Jade Dragon. Or you could make a Monster/Combat deck and go for total battle power with both summoned monsters and recruit groups.

Fighting Against Nature

Against terrain decks, your best weapon is the ability to cross Water or otherwise deal with it. Nature has no easy way to deal with your group that has Flight or Water Breathing, and if you can get and keep Initiative you can cast Plains on Nature's water squares before the Deluge hits, which can save your groups from drowning.

Against monster decks, there are a lot of spells that can help you deal with monsters: increase your recruits' combat power so they can defeat the monsters and gain experience levels, or add some protective spells so that the monsters will be unable to do damage, or add some spells that will kill, hurt, delay or take control of enemy monsters.

Against combat decks, you can use Powerhouse spells that trigger in combat, or sometimes terrain-based spells like Void that can send the group heading to its death. Or, if Nature doesn't protect the Bellwether group with spells like Xia's Walk, you might be able to kill the cow with your own spells like Disintegrate or Venom'd Arrow, and then you'll be free to cast Powerhouse spells directly on the rest of the group.

Strategies for Abomination

Abomination is the epitome of a “Cheap Powerhouse” strategy: its spells are generally quick to cast, but have really nasty side effects that need to be planned for. However, the speed at which this House becomes a threat makes it highly aggressive and dangerous in the early game, in skilled hands.

Basic Deck Concepts for Abomination

Your basic Abomination deck will typically be based around a fairly small number of Powerhouse spells, and the rest of your deck will deal with correcting the drawbacks of those spells. Since so many of Abom's spells work against each other, randomly mixing and matching different Powerhouse spells is not recommended (for example, Bog Horror is a good monster, and Rain of Blood is a powerful spell...but a group given Plague by Bog Horror will be immune to Rain of Blood).

There are simply too many valid combinations of good Powerhouse spells in Abomination to list every deck concept here, but one example will suffice: Accursed Minion and Rain of Blood. This combination will potentially allow you to kill an entire enemy group in or out of combat. To correct the problem with Accursed Minion (mainly, that it kills your own recruits too), stick to creating groups of two Imps each, and include Larval Imp and Sawbones to replenish your lost troops. To compensate for Rain of Blood's weakness, try adding some Monsters like Maloch Horror and Stalking Blyk to kill groups which are protected, or better yet, splash in two Clarity and cast Yfreet to dispel all spells on the group, then cast Rain of Blood on it next turn. Finish out the deck with some general-purpose utility spells like Burst of Will, Forced March and Mirage, and you're ready to kill.

Another deck style deserves mention here, even though it is highly vulnerable and not used often, simply because it makes use of readily available cards that tend to have low casting costs; for both of these reasons, it is an excellent deck for a new player who doesn't have many cards. This is a Combat deck that piles a lot of Combat-based alterations on a single recruit, and turns it into a nearly invulnerable combat machine.

The key cards here are Beast's Embrace and Demon's Tongue, which allow the recruit to have obscenely high damage and armor after you pile on a few more cheap alterations (Power, Flaming Sword, Carapace to name a few). Then you just march the solitary Imp across the board, happily slaughtering anything in its path. You can often build up several recruits in this fashion, and because the spells are so cheap you could easily be casting three or four spells per turn by the time you reach the center town.

Clearly, though, this is also highly vulnerable, as you could lose a lot of spells if the opponent simply casts Venom'd Arrow, Disintegrate or Ascension to kill off your pumped recruit. You might make this concept slightly more competitive by splashing in some Clarity; this would give you access to Inscrutability (which will prevent at least some spells from killing your precious recruit). With two Clarity, you also have access to Tan'u'zhadhi Ploy and Atonement, allowing the possibility of running your opponent out of cards and then starting to pump up your recruits. You could also follow a similar strategy, building up your Strife first and then casting Pages to Dust; this has the added bonus of giving you access to Will to Power for a lot of mana, which will let you cast more cheap spells each turn, and also lets you generate House mana only.

Fighting Against Abomination

For the standard Powerhouse decks, each spell comes with its own built-in drawback, so all you need do is exploit it to its fullest. If you think an Accursed Minion is coming, try veering off to the side and then sending a single recruit to absorb the blow.

If you fear Rain of Blood, make sure all your recruits have at least one spell cast on them; cheap group spells like Caravan and Fortitude are excellent for avoiding Rain of Blood. Against Swamp Land, pack a few spells that let you get rid of or cross that terrain; something that also dispels squares is preferable, in case your opponent decides to cast Mirage on the opposite side of the Swamp in order to trap your group. Against Bog Horror, keep medium-sized groups that can beat it in combat without costing you too many HP to its initial Plague. For Possession, move your groups in large-small pairs so that any Possessed group will immediately enter combat with a group that's either a lot more or a lot less powerful, so your losses will be minimized.

Against the combat-based deck, the easiest solution is simply to keep a few spells ready that can kill a single recruit. Failing that, dispelling the recruit or its group can remove all of the spells and thus remove the major threat. Finally, a large group can still often do enough damage to kill a solitary, pumped Imp.

Nature Versus Abomination

By flooding the board with uncrossable Water and making groups and individuals disappear for a few turns at a time, Nature can really slow down a game. By contrast, Abomination is normally self-destructive and thus highly aggressive, looking to win early on.

Both Houses have several spells that can kill entire enemy groups, and both have the option to make recruits very strong in combat. Nature's control over the terrain far exceeds that of the Imps, however, and Abomination has only a few ways to cross adverse terrain (Nullify and Plains are about it). Also, Abomination can't cross its own Swamp Land, while Nature can easily cross its Water squares, which throws the odds in Nature's favor.

Nature also has some very powerful spells against Imps, mainly Jade Dragon and Protective Cover, while the Imps don't have such devastating weapons against the Satyrs. However, Abomination's more basic spells can compensate to an extent; Accursed Minion can allow it to win a combat against Protective Cover, Cannibalism can turn the Bellwether into burgers, and Rogue Monster can turn Nature's own powerful monsters against it.

Overall, a terrain-control Nature deck still probably has an edge over Abomination Powerhouse, but it could easily be a long battle in which both sides suffer heavy losses and whoever holds out for longer wins.

Good luck!

A Note on Abomination and Terrain Control

I received a note to this column, worth repeating here ...

I have just read your Abomination section in Ngozi's Way. As far as Abom's terrain spells go, you mentioned Nullify and Plains, but you left out the one that I always use: Husks.

Husks are great because they have more than one use. You can use them to alter terrain or to create monsters. When a husk comes up I either use it to flatten the land, or, if there's no grass that needs mowing, I put it by my Sanctum and start a Husk farm.

In one game against Despair, we had run out of cards. Fortunately I had three husk squares near my sanctum that produced an onslaught big enough to ensure that I won the game. It seems that Husks don't just wander aimlessly like I thought. Like the Sand Sphinx, they will eventually head for the opponent's sanctum. If you play it right, you can drive them on home like a herd of cattle.

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