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.
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.
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
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.