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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

Deck Concept: Life Dispel
September 23, 1999

Normally, it's hard to get a deck to work in Sanctum if it's based entirely around a single combo. Today we'll look at one exception that deals with Life. It can work because it has several cards which can perform similar functions to each other, so it only needs to draw a few of its key cards instead of all of them.

The trick deals with dispelling. Life has two cards (Sylph and Faerie Knight) which are immune to damage from unaltered recruits. Combine this with Cleansing Light and Leechwood (you can get the mana for Leechwood using Call to Arms) to wipe the alterations off of enemy recruit groups. Then all you have to worry about are monsters (taken care of by Immersion, or just old-fashioned combat). Making your recruits literally unstoppable in combat with only twenty cards or so leaves you with plenty of room in your deck for a support strategy, which can be nearly anything.

Basic Strategies Used

It's hard to classify this strategy. On the one hand, your combos are there to kill entire enemy groups, which suggests Powerhouse; on the other hand, you kill those groups in Combat. Let's call the basic combos Powerhouse with some Combat mixed in, with room for almost any other type of strategy to use as backup or support.

Key Cards

Sylph, Faerie Knight, Cleansing Light and Leechwood (and Call to Arms) are the basis for this deck. Immersion is a strong possibility. From there, what you include depends entirely on what your secondary focus is.

For Combat, you have many options involving Swordsmen or Archers (or both). With Archers, you have a ton of Life spells, as well as access to Rain of Arrows (War). A group of two or three Archers with both Rain of Arrows and Faerie Fire is a truly frightening thought, especially with Initiative (courtesy of Lienna). With Swordsmen, you've got Spirit Sword, Redeemer's Sword, Bard, Flaming Sword, and Bloodlust (among others).

For Lockdown, you can involve Faerie Circle and Terrain Bind (with or without Oasis) to slow enemy groups, as well as Undine to pull them off their original path and Questing Beast to make them wander off in the (hopefully) wrong direction.

Powerhouse may be overkill since you're already killing off entire enemy groups at once with your Sylphs and Faerie Knights, but you've got plenty of options anyway. Adding a third Strife mana (from a town) gives you Plains, which can kill a group when combined with Faerie Circle (casting Plains on the square removes Faerie Circle from the game, along with the group that was in the Circle at the time). With only two Strife you can cast Scorched Earth to get rid of the Faerie Circle instead, although it does make your Leechwoods less powerful when some choice Forest squares suddenly vanish. And of course there's always Settlement, excellent for taking out an enemy group that your Faerie Knight couldn't kill in one turn.

Life certainly has the tools for Attrition as well: Settlement (for its own recruits), Atonement, Allies. A deck like this would actually use Attrition for its primary strategy, attempting to run the opponent out of cards and then create a completely unstoppable combat force of Sylphs and Faerie Knights for late-game support.

Life doesn't have quite enough Denial to build it as THE secondary strategy, although a few Adriel's Glamour can go a long way (especially when Lienna gives you the Initiative, so that you can squander enemy spells with it).

Playing Hints

Depends greatly on what type of secondary strategy you use. Combat is relatively straightforward: you want to eliminate the largest and most threatening enemy groups with a surprise dispel and immune-to-unaltered-recruits spell. Then, create a lot of mid-sized groups (Allies) that your opponent won't be able to stop in combat and that are too numerous to stop with Powerhouse spells alone. Using Powerhouse as your secondary strategy works similarly, except that you just want to remove all enemy recruits from the board and try to overrun them early.

Lockdown works similar to the above as well; play somewhere between Combat and Powerhouse, using your Lockdown spells to slow down your opponent's progress (and hopefully allow you to take the center town without having to fight normally; either you should be able to remove or slow down the enemy's Horde, or else kill it off with a Faerie Knight).

For Attrition, build the deck large and play defense, defense, defense. Work toward building up a friendly metropolis using Settlement, throwing some token Elves in the way of advancing enemy groups (and slapping an Atonement on them every now and then), and using Allies on a town that's about to run out of recruits. In short, play as if you were a Hope deck. When you think the opponent is out of cards, start dispelling and casting your Faerie Knights and Sylphs, and see if you can't just walk across the entire board unopposed!


Variations are too many to name. There are a huge number of options even within the individual categories above. An Attrition deck might add a few Thresholds of Order to gain access to Hope's awesome defense (Citizen's Militia, Chalice of Hope) and forget about the Strife (and Leechwood) entirely. A Powerhouse deck might include Sanctuary (as a precursor to Settlement) or not. There are a lot of possibilities here.


Conventional defenses (Invisibility, immunity to group-target spells) can be taken care of by Life using Leechwood and Cleansing Light; spells like Raven Shroud would be a weakness for a straight Clarity/World Life deck but not here. And the Houses that can dispel your towns (to get rid of Call to Arms) can't protect their groups, which is nice.

However, you do have a severe lack of spells to protect your own minions from spells. If your opponent manages to kill off all four of your Sylphs and Faerie Knights then you're out of luck, and you don't have an easy, permanent way to protect them from spells like Venom'd Arrow or even group spells like Fireball. Your groups are thus vulnerable to Powerhouse spells, and if you don't make enough groups to keep up with your opponent's spells you'll be in trouble.

Enemy Lockdown spells are even more devastating; while you can use a Cleansing Light to rid yourself of that nasty Forsaken or Binding Cube, that's one less dispel you can use on the enemy. Because of this, Lockdown is probably your greatest fear, second only to Denial (if the opponent dispels your Faerie Knight spells and squanders your casting of Sylphs or Cleansing Lights, you'll be in deep trouble as she advances).

Good luck!

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