A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: Justice Combat Denial
December 2, 1999
As exciting as the phrase two-fisted justice sounds in the movies, one does
not naturally think of a Combat focus when looking at House Justice.
With splashing in some Will, Justice could make a Combat-Protection deck without
too much trouble (it has access to both Raven Shroud and Beobogh's Helm) but
the idea of an aggressive, early-game attack just doesn't seem to sit well with
Still, I had the nerve to try it anyway, using Intercession as an alternate
form of protection for my groups. I was pleased with the results.
Basic Strategies Used
This is a Combat deck. Technically it is Combat Protection and not Combat Speed,
although it must be played as if it were Speed in some cases, as we'll see below.
Most important in this deck is cheap, Order-based combat pumping.
Justice has more access to spells that will help Archers (True Aim, Bow of
Quickening) than Swordsmen (Vicious Strength and Venom'd Blade, but using secondary
Justice can also add some moderate-cost spells to give it the edge in the combat
at center town, such as Obeisance and Dracha's Sphere. Other spells which are
normally filler, such as Ogi's Armor, Deflection and Minion of Order, are excellent
choices as well.
However, the card that this deck is built around is Intercession. You want
that Intercession to make sure the combat at center town happens the way you
want. You absolutely need four of this spell in the deck.
You'll also need to draw your Intercessions, early and often. That means a
small deck, probably right at the 30-card minimum, so deck space will be tight.
However, since you're going for the early win anyway, this isn't as much of
a drawback as it would be to a typical Justice deck.
Here's where this deck is tricky to play; the temptation is to treat it as
a Combat Protection deck such as a Beobogh's Helm deck, holding back a bit and
only attacking in mid-game after you've gotten enough time to protect your group
and pump up your numbers.
However, such a strategy will fail miserably with this deck; you can expect
Helm to last you for the rest of the game if you're careful, but a string of
4 Intercession will only last for eight turns. Pulling your punches early will
only give your opponent time to pump his group to be more powerful than yours,
or (worse) to get off some cheap Powerhouse spells that could devastate your
No, this deck will be played more like Combat Speed but without the extra-movement
spells. You'll probably want to add an extra recruit to your starting group.
March forward, pump your Horde with spells in the first few turns (discarding
furiously if need be to draw the first Intercession). Use one or two mid-cost
spells like Obeisance with intent to Intercession on the following turn and
dominate at the center town battle; follow through by keeping up a string of
Intercessions until they run out.
The goal here is to gain a fast early combat advantage using cheap spells (and
the natural Gargoyle advantage of 9 HP) and then lock in that advantage until
you've completely dominated the board.
By the time you run out of Intercessions, you should have a partly injured
but majorly pumped Horde at the nearest town to the enemy Sanctum. This group
should have eliminated the enemy Horde in combat. And you'll have three or four
towns to the opponent's one or zero.
From there, just march to the enemy Sanctum, and if he eliminates your group
with a Powerhouse spell you can just create another small group from your town
near his Sanctum and use your remaining Combat spells to pump it, and repeat
until the opponent's Sanctum defense fails him.
There is one condition on all of the above, of course: you must have Initiative.
This is doubly important, as it gives you both a combat advantage and the ability
to squander all enemy spells with Intercession.
Take Initiative at any cost; since you'll really only need a small amount of
mana (5+1 maximum, maybe a little more if you add Fleetness; see below) you
can afford to use up to three of your starting Sanctum novices as recruits for
the purpose of taking towns. One possibility is to split the first two towns
between your Horde and extra groups, in the hopes of foiling Lockdown by grabbing
an early town; another is to have the smaller groups head to the nearest town
while having your Horde go directly to the center town without stopping at another
town on the way. Either way, be prepared to wait out your opponent in order
to be the last to take a town before the battle at center; this will guarantee
Initiative when it counts, right before you start your barrage of Intercessions.
You'll note the lack of some staple Justice cards here, such as Pyrrhic Victory
and Sentinel. These cards go against the main theme of this deck and thus, surprisingly,
do not work well here. I might be tempted to include Sentinel in the case where
I could Burst it out on turn 4 to slow the enemy's Horde, but the chance of
bloating the deck probably outweighs the potential gain.
Since you'll be building up mostly Order mana anyway, one interesting possibility
is to add World Dance and use it to power Fleetness; with a World Dance in play
and 5 Order + 2 Mystery mana from your Sanctum and towns (very possible by turn
6 of the game) you could Fleetness and Intercession in the same turn from then
on, and perhaps continue with Fleetness/Intercession spell pairs in an attempt
to reach the enemy Sanctum before your eight turns of invulnerability run out.
The danger here is that you may not draw the three spells in your combo (World
Dance, Fleetness and Intercession) at the right time and in the right order
and right proportions.
As another (perhaps more standard) alternative, you can add 1 Will (probably
through your first town so you don't use up valuable card slots on Astronomic
Clock or Oculus of Will) to gain a few more combat spells: Shieldbearers, Ogi's
Arrows, and perhaps some extra Denial in the form of Blinding Orb.
Restoration presents an interesting problem; normally you want this spell (badly)
to fend off movement-denial spells when facing a strong Lockdown strategy. But
using this on your Horde will remove your combat boosts as well! One option
is to ignore it and just create a lot of small groups early on, as described
above, and rely on that as your anti-Lockdown strategy. Another option is to
include a few Restoration and choose not to cast any early-game Combat spells
until you've established that your opponent won't try Lockdown. This second
method has the advantage of extra protection from Lockdown (of course) and does
not announce its main focus right away as a more aggressive Combat strategy
might, but your main group will be slightly weaker by the time it reaches center
town so it will make you more vulnerable to another Combat-based deck.
Any Combat deck stands the chance of beating you to a pulp at center town;
your cheap combat spells are numerous but not extremely powerful. A deck that
matches your Combat spells with its own will be a major threat, and Intercession
alone won't save you.
Likewise, a Lockdown deck could give you trouble if it slows down the advance
of your main group sufficiently. With a shortage of spells to free your main
group from a spell that denies movement, you may have to start your Intercessions
early just to reach the center town. On the bright side, most Lockdown strategies
have about as much late-game power as you do (none at all, that is) so an early
advantage may turn into a late-game win even if your Intercessions end a bit
earlier than you'd like.