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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: Body and Mind
August 5, 1999

In many ways, these two Houses have more similarities than differences. Both have little trouble crossing terrain and both have some very powerful monsters; both have combat spells that focus on individual recruits rather than groups, and both have spells that directly counter each other's best efforts. But the beauty is in the subtle differences.

Strategies for Body

At first, Body appears to be a Combat strategy, although on further examination we also see some Powerhouse spells which can be the basis of a powerful deck as well.

Basic Deck Concepts for Body

The most straightforward deck here is Combat. This is similar to War's Combat, in that the goal is to move quickly (Fleetness) and overwhelm the opponent before she can set up a good defense.

However, the similarity ends there, for War has many group-enhancing combat spells while Body has almost none; Body makes up for the relative lack of combat power with numbers. Nomadic Tribe and Fertility can be used to give Body a numerical advantage, even though each individual recruit isn't so dangerous on its own. Because of this, Body can afford to lose a group or two and still keep pounding away.

The one decent group Combat spell in Body is Fortitude, and it is standard issue for most decks. Olotus can also turn a numerical superiority into an overwhelming advantage. And extra cheap combat spells like Barkskin and Strength of Body can sometimes make the difference in the early game.

Body also has three spells which, for a long time, were considered the essence of this House: Lycanthropy, Complacency, and Minotaur. The thing these spells share in common is that they can immobilize or kill entire enemy groups. While not cheap enough to totally prevent the opponent from taking any towns, you can effectively stop her from reaching the center alive, and then keep marching your main group forward to a largely unopposed victory.

Slay Monster is often combined with Lycanthropy to kill a group entirely, and sometimes a little Strife is splashed in to take advantage of Despair's Lockdown spells to give even more ability to keep enemy groups from doing anything productive.

Either way, a helping of terrain-crossing spells is in order; Body has more ways to allow its groups to cross terrain than any other House. Consider this some extra insurance that many decks would otherwise not have available; it will make your play more consistent if you can ignore otherwise hazardous terrain, so you should take advantage of this benefit.

Fighting Against Body

Against Combat decks, realize that Body has a bit of an internal problem: it wants to win quickly, but the spells that give it extra recruits work slowly and over time. This allows two opportunities for you to stop Body's advance: put up a powerful, combat-pumped opposition early on, or set up an unbeatable defense in the late game.

Stopping Body's Powerhouse can be a bit more frustrating; getting Lycanthropy cast on your best group can really hurt you if you're not careful. You can hide from Lycanthropy (and Complacency) by keeping your groups inside towns, but then they can be hit with Nereid's Curse and die a slow death.

Including a way to dispel your own group can counteract some of Body's worst, and keeping lots of separate groups can make it impossible for Body to stop all of them. Probably the worst thing you can do is to put all of your power in a single group and then not protect that group from enemy spells.

Strategies for Mind

Mind offers an excellent combination of Lockdown and Powerhouse, using its cheaper spells to immobilize or misdirect groups while keeping the more expensive spells (which are monsters) to eliminate them in combat.

Basic Deck Concepts for Mind

The first Mind deck that really became competitive was based around monsters, monster control and movement control. The monsters that Mind can cast are all very powerful and range from medium cost to expensive (Stalking Blyk, Maloch Horror, Celestial Sphere, Yfreet, Itrokos Gate, Rakshasa).

For monster control, there's Betrayal, Civilize and Domesticate.

For movement control, you have Flying Carpet, Binding Cube, and Mirage. Add some filler like Burst of Will, Focus of Clarity and the occasional combat spell and you're ready to go: just use your movement control to slow enemy groups down, then flood them with monsters until they die in combat, and use your monster control if the opponent dares cast his own monsters near you!

With Bloodlines we saw the first Kumatru decks, which were Mind's version of Combat with Archers. The entire deck focuses around a property of Kumatru Academy, mainly that it produces recruits even on towns that normally don't do so. Combine this with Civilize to get a town that doesn't produce recruits, and you can get a town that produces an H:2 A:1 L:2 archer every other turn! Do that a few times, and numerical superiority will kick in, much like a more conventional Making or Hope Attrition deck.

You also have a nice selection of Combat spells to enhance your Archers further: Master Bowyer, Kumatru Archer, Faerie Fire to name a few. Add your choice of additional monsters or movement control and you can pack enough battle power to beat all but perhaps a dedicated War or Death deck. As this has the potential for an Attrition-style win, adding spells to hasten your opponent running out of cards (Tan'u'zhadhi Ploy, Atonement) are welcome additions to this deck theme.

Fighting Against Mind

As with all decks that deny you movement, some way to dispel friendly groups is helpful. Because of the large number of Monsters that Mind can throw at you, some way to survive combat with them (either by enhancing your group's combat power or giving them immunities) is practically required. Adding a fifth recruit to your main group will make it harder for Mind to wear that group down with monsters.

Against a monster-control deck, it is counterproductive for you to cast monsters near enemy groups, as they will just turn those monsters against you next turn. If you can eliminate their recruit group with a monster in one turn then it might be worthwhile (especially if you stop Mind from getting a town in the process) but if your opponent already has a town, he might just Civilize your monster next turn and walk in. Keep in mind, however, that Mind's recruit groups will tend to be weak themselves, so if you can reach them with your groups you will probably be able to beat them in straight combat.

Against a Kumatru deck, the obvious choice is to pack some spells that give immunity to Missile damage, or else take along something to dispel a town or colony. Again, don't just hand your monsters to Mind, as Mind will just Civilize them and take more towns, more mana, and the Initiative. Also, Kumatru Academies on Civilized towns take a while to set up, so again if you can reach their groups with yours early on, you can probably win a straight combat.

Body Versus Mind

Mind can lock down Body's groups, stop them from getting anywhere, then summon enough monsters to kill them all off.

Body can do the same to Mind, particularly with the strong Minotaur and the Djinn-shredding Great Bear.

In straight combat, a large Body group with but a single Mask of Woad can devastate the ranks of the Djinni, unless a Sar'uli Overseer is present to protect them and turn the tables on the Cyclopes.

Because each side is concentrating on halting the other's progress, battles between Body and Mind often end with both sides losing several groups before either one even reaches the center town. Often, they will keep each other at bay for the entire game, and it only comes down to who runs out of steam (and out of spells) first. In this, Mind has the advantage for the ability to force Body to discard its hand; however, Body's combat spells are so dangerous that Mind must walk a thin line, and even the slightest skirmish between Djinn and Cyclops can end with Mind's defeat.

So in the end, it comes down to whether Body can force a recruit-group combat, versus Mind being able to fight its battles exclusively with Monsters and avoiding combat completely.

Good luck!

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