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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: The Few, The Proud, The Unappreciated (Part Two)
January 6, 2000

We'll continue to explore those misunderstood spells that aren't frequently used, but should be ...

OBEISANCE Until you see this in play, it's not immediately obvious just how powerful a combat advantage it is. You want to cast this on a large enemy group, and when you do you've pretty much reduced the group to a permanent level zero, with the exception of the target of this spell. But that works for you; it's unlikely that the target will die before the rest of the group is killed off, so this spell has a way of making sure it has the maximum effect (as opposed to a spell like, say, Pixie Dust, where the target may well be killed off right away and the nasty spell effect along with it). This can almost guarantee your group will take the center town.

OSTRACIZE A lot of people are reluctant to use this spell, but I like it. It can be used to deny movement (if you know the opponent will be merging groups), directly counters spells like Dark Minion and Nomadic Tribe, and can prevent the opponent from training recruits in cities while the Ostracized group is in a city.

PARTED SEA Aside from being cheap enough that it won't be much of a burden if you draw it early or late (and the possibility of saving you from a bad terrain), enemy monsters have an amusing habit of walking onto these squares and drowning themselves. 1 Order is a whole lot cheaper than the 4 Mystery it takes to cast Slay Monster.

PLAGUE Many new players look at this and think it does 2 damage for 5 mana, which sounds like a horrible deal compared to Fireball's 5 damage for 6 mana. What these players don't realize is that Plague first reduces maximum HP of the group by 2 (reducing current HP if needed to keep it at the new maximum) and then does an additional 2 damage. So, on a fully healed group, Plague will actually do 4 damage to the group (2 from the reduction of max HP, followed by 2 damage) which is a much sweeter deal.

RAIN OF ARROWS Even without additional archer spells, most people do not realize how much of a difference an extra attack makes. This one spell can hand you the center town if your Horde and your opponent's fight at the center of the board; what other 3-mana spell can do that?

RAMPAGE A lot of people think this card gives the target +1 damage, but it actually gives +1 attack (as in, number of attacks per combat round… this effectively doubles the monster's damage). Think of some of the monsters you can cast this on in Body. Priodont dishes out as much damage as Stalking Blyk, and takes no damage at all from groups of 2 or less; Minotaur can kill a single recruit per combat round; even a simple Tree Man can take down a second group of two easily. Nature splashing in 1 Mystery can cast this on Huntsman for a dominating force in combat, and Unmaking can splash in 1 Mystery to make its Werewolves deadly.

SCRYING POOL “But Body doesn't have any spells that I could use this with”, I hear some say. Maybe not, but the casting cost is 2 World; you can use it in Unmaking or Nature easily, giving you access to all kinds of spells that you might want to cast on enemy groups that are in Forests or otherwise invisible. Even Body can find a use for it if it splashes in Strife to cast Forsaken.

SHIFTING SANDS This spell has a lot of text on it, so some people toss it aside as too confusing. Others see that you must cast it on a Desert square and ignore it as useless.

Here's the spell in plain English: you cast it on a Desert square, and any group walking onto that square has some of its recruits removed from the game (50% chance per recruit). This happens before the combat round starts (but the group suffers the effect even if they don't get into combat).

Think of it as half of a Void square for a bargain 3 mana. It needs Desert, but you have Wasteland and Sand Sphinx which can force the opponent's groups to walk through Desert anyway; hitting them with this will devastate a large group. Think of casting a Sand Sphinx in the walking path of the opponent's Horde, then following up next turn with Shifting Sands, and laughing as their remaining group of two or so engages your full Horde ...

SKIRMISH This spell has many tactical uses ...

If you're moving a group into an unowned town (but the opponent has a larger group ready to beat up your group), you can cast this on either group to make sure you get that town.

You can cast this on an enemy group ready to engage your Brimstone Dragon so that they'll get hit with that Fireball this turn and next turn.

You can simply give yourself the slight combat advantage you need in unaltered, evenly matched groups since your Swordsmen get +1 damage on the first round of combat.

After casting Hellion and having it switch sides, cast Skirmish on your own group before it engages her and she'll come back to your side without inflicting too many casualties.

STONE CIRCLE Ah, the first of the group-protection spells. This makes excellent defense for your towns since you can post a large, powerful sentry group that gets +1 level and is totally immune to spells.

Stone Circle can also provide a nasty combat surprise if you cast it in your group's walking path on the turn before they enter a big combat; +1 level for 5 mana is a great deal, after all.

Using this spell to control strategically important squares (even if they aren't near any towns) can really slow your opponent's progress, too. Consider flooding the board with Inundate and Jade Dragon to force your opponent to take a long walk to get to your Sanctum, then stopping them with some choice groups standing in a Stone Circle; such tactics will let you essentially block up to 12 squares of movement on the board, easily enough to protect your Sanctum from invasion indefinitely.

TOUCH OF DEATH This spell at first appears to be a way to let a single recruit take down an army. This is not normally the case, however; the army will easily do lethal damage before your Touched recruit can kill them all on its own. You might be able to turn a recruit into a killing machine by having Initiative and combining this spell with Assassin, but that's only a secondary use.

No, the true power of this spell is when your large group is facing an opposing large group, and the damage is getting spread around evenly; in this case, you will be killing one enemy recruit per combat round, above the damage the rest of your group is inflicting.

This fits in well with Death's combat focus that uses large groups (protected by Raven Shroud); against another large group, this will turn a loss into a win and a close combat into a crushing victory.

Drop it in a group that already has a Necromancer and you can even ignore the drawback of this spell.

WHIPPING BOY This one has been misunderstood even by some who have played with it for a long time. Here's how it works: any loss of HP (beyond Armor) that another member of its group takes, gets subtracted from the host's HP.

So beefing up your whipping boy's Armor will not help it survive, while protecting the rest of your group will.

This suggests multiple uses of the spell; on a single friendly recruit, of course, it's a cheap +4 HP.

On a powerful enemy recruit within a large group, this can be used to kill that recruit early on in combat.

On an enemy recruit in a group with a high Armor rating, this can be used to bypass the Armor and kill the recruit by damaging everyone else in the group.

If you have a large group of your own, putting this on the weakest member of the group can help protect the rest of the group from damage.

And of course, if you have a single recruit in a group that has become a liability (maybe it got hit with Cannibalism) you can get rid of it faster in combat.

I hope this series has exposed you to some little-used but powerful spells. Expand your decks by throwing in some of these spells, and watch your game change for the better.

Good luck!

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