A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: Fire and Ice
June 1, 2000
Some say the world will end in Fire, some say in Ice. I say it'll end in both,
and I built a deck to prove it.
For a tournament, I was challenged to build a deck to play in The Great Frost,
and I decided to go with War Combat Speed. I could have just played my standard
Veldt deck without alteration, but something made me decide to revisit the deck,
and tune it for this special realm. Along the way, I found two of War's best-kept
secrets, which I will share with you now.
Thank goodness for the mana filters in the deckbuilder. Sometimes, a card that
you normally scroll by passively just leaps into your deck of its own accord,
and that's what happened with Wyrmling. In Veldt, this would normally be something
you'd have to build a deck around; there are no naturally-occurring Volcanoes
there, so you'd need to cast Volcano and then Wyrmling (a combined total of
12 mana) for a +2 Armor bonus on a single recruit group. It's a hefty bonus,
granted, but it's also a hefty cost; not all War decks are ready for that sort
But in Frost, there are Volcanoes on the board from turn 1! With decent terrain,
there was a very good possibility of Wyrmling essentially becoming a double
Shieldbearers effect for the low cost of 5 mana, too nice a bargain to pass
up. In the original deck, I only put in one of these since it was still experimental;
later, I added another two with the intent to pitch them if the terrain wasn't
favorable for them.
The Ultimate in Versatility
The other dirty trick was the addition of Skirmish. Before this deck I had
only grudgingly included it in the occasional War or Unmaking deck, usually
as a combo with Brimstone Dragon to get another Fireball-effect out of it, but
it had backfired at a key battle as often as it helped (for example, by stopping
a battle at center town after one round, handing the town to the opponent, when
I could have won in a full nine rounds). Now, I'm tempted to splash Strife into
every deck I own, even Making and Justice, just to get access to this spell.
See, this card is an ideal way to protect your second group from being killed
by enemy early-game Monsters. It only costs 1 mana, cheaper than any other Monster
protection in the game, allowing you to make a second group with only one recruit
in it against most opponents (obviously, not if their House is capable of casting
a single-recruit kill spell such as Disintegrate, but only three Houses have
that ability). In a pinch it can provide incidental coverage to spells that
foil unaltered recruits (Rain of Blood, Sylph, etc.). It can be used to stall
a combat outside of town, particularly if you don't have Initiative, leading
up to an Amok on the group in the town on the following turn to allow you to
capture the town. Incidentally, this is why I say it's suddenly tempting to
include it in a lot of other Houses; Mind can use it together with Mirage to
capture a town, Unmaking can use it with Bolt of Somersaults, Despair can use
it with Disorient, and so on. Unmaking, Despair and Abomination can also use
it early on as a Monster deterrent for their second group; you'd be surprised
how a turn 2 Skirmish on the second group will deter an opponent from even bothering
with early-game Monsters!
Am I saying that War is the ultimate force in Frost? No.
Am I trying to give away the secret of success for Frost War decks? No.
What's the point of this article, then? Well, there are several lessons that
can be learned:
If you're tuning an existing deck for a slightly different format, give
a serious look to all available spells in the deck builder. Something that's
normally useless to you may be a key spell in some environments, like Wyrmling
in Frost. You may end up giving yourself an advantage over someone who just
uses their standard deck.
I've covered this in a past article on dominant
decks, but make an effort to look at spells that you never seem to use
and see if you can find a use for them somehow. Be especially watchful of
spells that are cheap and can thus fit in a lot of decks, those that have
a lot of combined effects, or those that can be used in many different situations.
At any rate, there are a lot of spells out there that don't see much
use, so there are probably a lot of undiscovered opportunities waiting
for anyone willing to experiment a bit, like using Skirmish in a Mind deck.
Even if you're just playing unrestricted ranked games, make an effort to
tune your decks, and consider adding a copy of an experimental card in there
every now and then just to see what uses you can find for it in play. If
you draw what turns out to be a key card at just the right time, it could
win the game for you… especially if it's a card that your opponent never
(Thanks to John Hampton, who brought this topic to the forefront of my mind
by asking for more columns about War.)