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

Terraforming Part III: Arboria
November 11, 1999

The last in this series on strategy for the special maps, we will now take a look at Arboria, a land rich in both soil and possibilities.

The Terrain

As one would expect, the defining characteristic of Arboria is Forests. There are Forests everywhere, taking up most of the map. There are small patches of Plains scattered about, and a few Swamps here and there that force you to consider ways around them.

Forests mean several things. One is that it will be very difficult for your opponent to target your individual recruits, since Forests offer protection from individual-target spells. Also, there are a lot of spells which can only be cast in Forests, such as Tree Man or Faerie Circle; such spells can be cast almost anywhere on this map.

Deck Building

Arboria gives a huge number of possibilities. You can take advantage of Forest-target spells (an advantage that has several different possibilities, depending on which spells you choose).

Or, you can take advantage of the concealment that Forests offer, drop a group-protection spell on your best group and make it nearly impossible to kill.

Or, use lots of recruit-target spells and bypass the Forest's protection on enemy groups with spells like Scorched Earth or Scrying Pool.

Or, simply use any deck that won't be penalized by enemy groups in Forests (such as an Attrition or Powerhouse deck) and be thankful that your own groups are marginally protected.

Let's look at how different Houses handle Arboria. Hope can do its standard Attrition; Making can do Attrition as well, or it can use the combination of Forests and Beobagh's Helm to make a nasty Combat deck. Life can use the Forests to its advantage by including Faerie Circle; if it splashes in a third color to get some way to remove the Faerie Circle after an enemy group enters it (such as Abatement or Tornado) then it can turn almost any Forest into a Void-like square and go for a group-killing strategy (if you dispel Faerie Circle while a group is inside it, the group is lost permanently).

Body, War, Abomination and Mind can behave pretty much the same way they always do, since none of these has very many enemy-recruit-target spells in typical decks. Unmaking can use either Scrying Pool or Scorched Earth to remove the protection of Forests so that it can Jinx or Disintegrate enemy recruits, or it can concentrate entirely on group-removal like Bolt of Somersaults and Void, or it can use Leechwood and Unmagicking and go for a “non-magical” theme. Death can cover its groups with Raven Shroud and go for a Combat win, like Making does. Nature can do the same with Bellwether, or it can base its deck on Primeval Forest and go for a flood of Monsters (or it can use a “Waterworld” deck and try to drown the opposition, as it sometimes does on other maps).

Despair can try for an early-game Lockdown, relying mainly on Fear and Disorient and perhaps leaning a little more heavily on cheap Monsters like Gorgon and Revenants. Justice finds it harder to cast its Sentinel (normally a staple spell for this House) but both Intercession and Pyrrhic Victory work just fine; Justice may have the best success with a fast Combat Denial deck, pumping its recruits quickly and then starting a string of Intercession ... although another good option is to splash in some Will mana and use either Raven Shroud or Beobagh's Helm (or both) and jump on the Combat bandwagon.

During the Game

The terrain here presents little burden or assistance in movement (unlike Badlands and Great Frost) so for the most part, just play your deck as you would play it normally.

Keep in mind what House your opponent is playing, and what options she has available to her; loading up a group with Combat alterations when your opponent is playing Unmaking is just begging her to wipe your group clean with Leechwood, so keep that group out of the Forests if you can (not easy to do on this map!).

Likewise, if your opponent just cast Scrying Pool, be prepared for some offensive spells in the next few turns (and if you can, let loose a Monster or spell to take care of whatever enemy group is standing in the Pool).

What to Avoid in Deck Design

Clearly, any deck that includes a lot of single-recruit-target spells for the enemy and doesn't include some way to deal with Forests is doomed to fail. Beyond that, most decks can perform favorably here, although of course those decks that are specially built to take advantage of Arboria will likely do better than those that don't (as we'll see in a moment).


Group-protection Combat decks are the most obvious to build here, since they have built-in recruit protection which complements them nicely. However, most of these are at a disadvanage against Powerhouse decks that remove entire groups without targeting them, so one would expect that Abomination (Accursed Minion), Unmaking (Void), Justice (Pyrrhic Victory) and Life (Faerie Circle) would be popular and powerful choices in the Arboria environment. This in turn suggests decks that remove the benefit of Forests entirely, using Leechwood, Scorched Earth, Scrying Pool and the like in order to destroy the advantage that Combat decks and Forest-spell-based decks rely on.

Two Houses deserve special mention here. One is Nature; aside from having a lot of Forest-based spells and Monsters, it also has the spell Geomancy. This allows it to do a Monster-flood theme while giving it a chance to reset the board if the opponent destroys too many Forests. The other is Unmaking, since it can do either group-removal (Powerhouse), Forest removal or Monster-based attacks and is thus the hardest to predict at the beginning of play. Because of the difficulty of fighting against an enemy who could have any of several attack methods in this game, I would expect that Unmaking would be one of the top Houses in Arboria, although a lot of other Houses can put in a strong showing if they are built with the terrain in mind.

Good luck!

Read more


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