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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: Heavy Justice
December 16, 1999

What's the one thing Justice can do better than any other House in the game?

(Hey you in the back, “cast spells that annoy you” is NOT the answer I was looking for.)

No, it can gain mana; once it gets around 6 or 7 mana it can get an extra ten or so with little difficulty. Between Codex of Order, The Star Chamber, Rite of Mystery and Pact of Mystery, and of course the ever-useful Burst spells, Justice will eventually get to the point where it can drop its hand every turn.

So, the objective of this deck, which I call “Big Mana, Big Deck” is threefold: slow the game down, use the extra time to cast a ton of mana-gaining spells, and then start dishing out a large number of powerful spells every turn and overwhelm the opponent.

Basic Strategies Used

This is mainly a combination of Powerhouse and (of course) Denial, but it takes awhile to kick in. It's not an Attrition deck by any means, but it does win fairly late in the game compared to most Powerhouse decks.

Key Cards

As above, the mana-gaining spells are most important here. Also, of course, a good selection of spells which are expensive and powerful: Spawn of Toganni, Pyrrhic Victory, Sentinel, Obsidian Dragon, Tindelhunden, Dracha and so on.

Since you'll eventually be casting a lot of powerful spells you won't want to run out of cards. You'll be burning through your deck at a fast pace later on, so you can afford to make your deck fairly large. The combination of expensive spells and mana-gaining spells won't take you large enough on their own; you'll want to be adding a good assortment of lower-cost utility spells as well. These will serve the dual purpose of providing cheap casting or discard fodder early on, cheap stuff to add to your steamrolling attacks later on, and protection from early-game troubles (Restoration protects against Lockdown; Deflection protects the second group against cheap monsters; Second Chance protects against some nasty enemy spells and also provides limited healing; and so on).

Of all mana-gaining spells, Codex of Order deserves special mention. Many players think this is weak at first glance; after all, why would you pay so much mana for only one extra Order? Ah, but it's one extra Order per spell you cast. Since there's five spells in your hand, Codex can give you up to five Order mana per turn! Comparing that to a spell that “only” gives one mana for a cost of three or four, this is an outstanding bargain ... if you have enough mana to cast five spells per turn. Since the rest of this deck is specifically built to gain that kind of mana and provide you with spells that are useful once you reach that point, you could say that this entire deck concept is built around Codex of Order itself.

Playing Hints

Your deck will be large, so early on you must play for the short term. You should be discarding heavily, until the point where you start casting several spells every turn. Just because you have a hand of powerful-looking spells early on does not give you an excuse to keep them all!

You will probably regret spending the first five turns of the game doing nothing; you will probably not regret discarding two Pyrrhic Victory cards in the first two turns, since you will probably win before you run out of cards. To an extent, discarding can even make things harder for your opponent; if you've discarded one Intercession and cast the other three already, your opponent will be more cautious for the rest of the game, waiting for a fourth Intercession that will never happen!

As I said before, your first priority is to protect yourself from an early, fast loss; then, start using mana-gaining spells to boost your mana output, perhaps throwing in the occasional Powerhouse spell to keep your opponent at bay.

Once you have a lot of mana and a few good spells you can start acting more aggressive, trying to overwhelm your opponent with mass quantities of big spells. Often, you'll gain such a huge advantage in such a short time that your opponent will just concede! After all, wouldn't you be tempted to concede if you just got hit with a Pyrrhic Victory, Sentinel, Spawn of Toganni and Intercession all in the same turn?


There are too many variations here to mention. While the base of mana-gaining spells and a few of Justice's staple cards will remain constant, what you fill it up with otherwise is up to you, and you have a lot of card slots to work with.

You could concentrate on a lot of cheap Combat spells using Order and Mystery. You could splash in some Will to gain access to some of Making's Combat or Denial spells, or even some Powerhouse spells like Belvario's Trap. You could also splash in Will with the intent of using some of Death's recruit-killing spells to gain a huge combat advantage through targeted kills (you'd definitely want to include Pact of Mystery with this sort of secondary focus, especially if you can time it right before a large group or two dies ... Pyrrhic Victory, anyone?).


Your opening game is really weak and vulnerable, particularly since your deck is large enough that your opening hand will be unpredictable. Much of the time, your opening hand will look horrible and you'll have to go through a lot of work and discarding to draw the cards you need. It is possible to get such a horrible deal that you won't be able to recover before you lose to a fast attack, but usually it's a matter of simply not casting or discarding as much as you should.

You're also vulnerable to several spells in House Unmaking. The Unmagicking can remove all of your mana-gaining spells, causing your total mana to plummet. Entropia can remove any Astronomic Clocks or Star Chambers you may have (not to mention removing Dracha's Town). Disintegrate can get rid of your recruits carrying Codex of Order. Your deck is big enough that you could recover from such setbacks over time, but if Unmaking decides to follow up with a strong attack right after dropping your mana it may be able to drive it home for a victory before you can recover your losses.

Good luck!

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