A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: How to Use a Useless Spell
March 30, 2000
I was determined one day to take a spell and put it to good use. It was a spell
that had mocked me since I first encountered this game, a spell that seemed
self-defeating, and above all a spell that would be obscenely powerful if you
could just cast it in an entirely different House. It was Ill Winds.
Perhaps the most obvious use of this spell would be to use it in a Body deck
to guard against enemy Kumatru, Ogi and other Archer-based combat decks. But
I wanted to use it in a Nature deck, darn it, and it was a Nature deck I would
What I ended up with was hardly my best work, but considering that it made
use of a spell that hasn't seen play since Classic was released, I'd say it's
Basic Strategies Used
This is mostly a Combat deck, of
the Protection variety (you might be able to splash in Mystery to make it Combat
Speed, but as you'll see, the key combo doesn't lend itself to forcing an early
The major combo here is Ill Winds and Pixie Dust. Together, they can easily
reduce an enemy group's damage to zero, while your Swordsmen just beat on them.
Particularly effective around the center town, since Ill Winds is cast on a
In order to use Pixie Dust whenever, Scrying Pool is absolutely mandatory.
To fit the no damage theme, I went ahead and added Diomesia and
Protective Cover (and Immersion and Xia's Walk, to protect a single-recruit
second group from monsters and recruit-kill spells).
Bellwether and Seed on the Wind were added to give some group protection. Stone
Circle was added to give yet more protection and a tactical combat bonus, and
basically tied the whole theme together.
Finally, some cheap monsters like Tree Man and Simian Warriors were added;
if the enemy groups do no damage at all, it doesn't really matter whether they
fall to your Satyrs' swords or your monsters. This lets you force a combat that
you can't lose whenever you want (and is also useful in the early game, sometimes
being able to kill the enemy's second group and deny them a town).
The element of surprise is your friend. Your opponent may be expecting a Water-based
or Monster-based deck, so Pixie Dust may seem like a diversion more than a core
strategy! If your opponent isn't sure what you're up to until their Horde is
dead, that's a good thing for you.
A lot of care must be taken with the spells in this deck. While many of them
combine together quite well, others conflict with each other and you must be
careful not to burn yourself with your own strategy. For example, Diomesia is
a great card, and she can keep an enemy group at bay indefinitely if you combine
her with Ill Winds … but if you are trying to capture an enemy town, this combo
will only make it difficult for you to progress (unless you follow up with Will
o' the Wisp later!).
As another example, if you already have an enemy group reduced to dealing no
damage at all, dropping Protective Cover on a friendly recruit before engaging
its group in battle will not help you at all. Be on the lookout for creative
combinations and uses of your spells!
Certain aspects of the core deck can be removed; Protective Cover is hardly
required, for example, nor is Diomesia. Other cards, ranging from filler to
major powerhouse spells, can be added: consider Will o' the Wisp, Inundate,
Wolf Pack, in addition to cheap spells like Fortitude and Barkskin.
Otherwise, this deck strategy is so narrow (and the core of the deck so large)
that one would be unlikely to see huge variations in this style. No huge loss ... it's
more of a novelty anyway.
If you don't draw any Pixie Dust before turn 6 you'll be in trouble, since
Ill Winds will affect your Horde and your opponent's equally (you might counteract
this if Ill Winds is in your opening hand, by putting a third Swordsman in your
Horde on turn 1).
If the opponent dispels Pixie Dust you will also be in danger, for the same
reason. If the opponent has early-game spells that hinder or kill your Horde,
then your key combo is moot; you can't kill a helpless enemy group without forcing
More generally, this deck really does rely on drawing the right spells at the
right time. That forces you to keep the deck size small, and makes you frighteningly
vulnerable to forced discard spells like Atonement and Tan'u'zhadhi Ploy. You
have no way to really lock in a victory, so if you run out of cards early your
opponent could very well come from behind to win in the late game.
Send me ideas of other cards you'd like to see featured ...