A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: Armistice (aka War and Peace
or Life with Strife)
September 9, 1999
I've said before that decks in Sanctum tend to be based around a theme rather
than a single card or combo, with very few exceptions. Today, we'll look at
one card that changes the way the game works so profoundly that you can, in
fact, build an entire deck around it: Armistice.
Weighing in at a hefty 4 Strife + 4 Clarity, it prevents the combat phase entirely
for the turn of casting + 3, so with four of these strung together you can conceivably
get up to sixteen straight turns with no combat at all ... no recruit combat,
no monster combat, and no beginning of combat effects like Brimstone Dragon's
fireball ... no combat, period.
Note that there's only twelve squares between your Sanctum and your opponent's
Sanctum. If you can create a recruit group in your own Sanctum and march it
across the board, then, you might actually be able to win the game without winning
even a single battle!
Basic Strategies Used
This deck concept almost defies classification among the Basic Five Strategies.
Armistice itself is something of a Denial card, since it makes all combat-based
or combat-triggered spells useless, but most of the support for Armistice deals
with removing enemy groups from your path, i.e. Powerhouse. So this deck really
focuses around Powerhouse, but with one key spell that maximizes your spells'
Four Armistice cards are required, of course. From there, add as many spells
as you can think of that will remove enemy groups from the board. If you're
playing House War, you'll probably want to add a bit of World mana to give you
access to War's, Life's and Unmaking's group removal (of which there are a lot:
Amok, Void, Bolt of Somersaults, Disintegrate for a single-minion group, Questing
Beast, Undine if the terrain is favorable, to name a few). Most such decks concentrate
first on Clarity mana and only when they have enough do they switch to Strife;
this gives the advantages of being able to include Cleansing Light and Settlement,
as well as Call to Arms to generate lots of Strife quickly.
That's really all that is required for the deck; then it's just a matter of
getting enough mana to set up a never-ending chain of Armistice spells, marching
your groups forward and removing any enemy groups in your path.
Including Settlement, Bolt of Somersaults and Armistice in the same deck does
comes with a price, however, in that you have a huge mana cost. Consider adding
a lot of mana-gaining spells: Aura of World, Call to Arms, Golden Grove are
an excellent start.
Until you cast your first Armistice, you'll be at a huge disadvantage. Your
opponent will likely be casting early-game spells in preparation for a mid-game
battle, while you may be casting nothing (or mana-gaining spells only).
Unless you feel sure that you can take the second town, it may not even be
worth training novices in your Sanctum to make a second group at all; your deck
is mana-heavy enough that you'll need all the Sanctum mana you can generate.
This means, expect to be forced to come from behind. Don't even try to take
the center town, and don't feel discouraged when your opponent has three towns
to your one; that's how it's supposed to work. You should be spending the early
game building up mana so that you'll have just enough to defend yourself with
when you start coming under attack.
When Armistice is in play, realize that group size does not matter at all.
A group of one occupies a square just as much as a group of eight, so unless
your opponent has ways to kill a single target recruit, don't bother making
groups of more than one recruit each. Also keep in mind that your opponent may
have some group-removal spells of her own; you know what's in your deck, so
learn how to fight against it, and remember that you probably have more group
removal than your opponent does.
Once you start the Armistice spells, start marching your recruit groups forward
as fast as possible; you have sixteen turns to win the game before you lose
all your recruits in combat, so you'd best make those sixteen turns count.
It might be worth your while to take over enemy towns on the way, simply because
you'll then be able to generate more groups; do this by marching your own recruit
group up to the opponent's city gates and trying to move in. If your opponent
has Initiative this will be easy; she'll be forced to keep a recruit group in
the city, and next turn you simply cast a spell to remove the group and move
in, and there will be very little she can do about it. If you have Initiative
then things get a little more difficult as it turns into a guessing game, but
if your opponent keeps moving recruits out of the town you might be able to
take care of an enemy group that just moved out of the town...and remember that
if she leaves a group stationed in the town, you can just remove it and march
The most striking difference in Armistice-based decks is that it can either
be played as House War with World mana generation, or as House Life with Strife
mana generation. Either way works; War tends to cast Armistice earlier, but
Life has an easier time slowing the enemy down early on.
If you like having Initiative, then including some Encampment spells might
suit you; this has the bonus of giving you extra mana temporarily.
It is tempting to try to work two Order mana into this deck, mana-heavy though
it may be already, for then you could have the ultimate defense for your towns:
This would also give you access to Chalice of Hope, which would allow you to
create a lot of extra groups (although your opponent would get more groups,
so a skilled opponent would be able to make things quite difficult for you in
this case). The other nice thing about Order is that, if you have four World,
you can cast Bellwether to protect your own group from enemy group spells.
The choice of adding more standard War spells is a difficult one. Forced March
is certainly useful, although if you generate Clarity and World mana first and
Strife last you may have difficulty casting Forced March early on.
Finally, you can choose whether or not to add combat-based spells to this deck.
Doing so will expand the deck from around 40-50 cards up into the 60+ range,
which is risky for a deck that requires you to draw and cast four copies of
a single card. On the other hand, adding some combat spells will give you the
option of NOT renewing the Armistice so that you can win a few key battles the
old-fashioned way, and it will also help mask the fact that you're playing an
Armistice deck in the early game (as opposed to casting, say, a Burst of Clarity
on second turn and a Call to Arms on turn three in a War deck, which pretty
much announces to your opponent that you're playing Armistice).
Armistice affects both players, so anything you do to hurt your opponent can
be done right back to you. A Hope player can cast Citizen's Militia on her cities
to keep you completely locked out of them, while an Unmaking player can gleefully
Disintegrate and Bolt of Somersaults your groups away if they get too close
to being useful for you.
To make matters worse, you really don't have any easy way to protect your own
groups from such tactics; you can Cleansing Light your groups if your opponent
tries to lock them in place, but a group-removal spell like Settlement or Bolt
of Somersaults isn't something you can easily deal with. You will have more
group-removal spells than your opponent, however, which balances it out somewhat.
To defend against Citizen's Militia, you can fit Entropia into this deck without
too many problems. Entropia can also be cast on your own towns, if (for example)
your opponent hits one of them with Insurrection.
The other spell that can really hurt you is The Unmagicking, as it will allow
combat to take place immediately and probably will end in you losing most of
your groups. If you're particularly paranoid about this, you can fit in Adriel's
Glamour, and cast it on the same turn you cast Armistice (if you cast it the
turn after, you'll be unable to cast another Armistice when the first one ends!).
If your opponent protects her groups with spells like Raven Shroud or Beobagh's
Helm, you'll have a difficult time getting around those groups. And worse, your
Cleansing Light won't be able to target the group to clean it away. For these
cases, Leechwood can be a life saver, provided you can lure their group into
a Forest (which usually isn't too difficult).
Ultimately, Armistice really hurts decks that rely on getting into combat,
which means almost every Combat deck and some Powerhouse decks. With Cleansing
Light, it can perform somewhat well against Lockdown. However, Powerhouse decks
that target enemy groups with spells, Denial and Attrition decks that can set
up a tough-to-penetrate defense, and decks that kill enemy groups by flooding
the board with monsters (or, in the case of Armistice, blocking your path with
monsters) can really make it an uphill battle.