A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Town Layout Strategy: Direct Path
July 13, 2000
This week, we'll look at a somewhat rare town layout where both of your nearest
towns are on a direct walking path to the center (but not on the same path,
as is the case with some Center Clusters where the towns are in a line).
Since there are two distinct paths to the center town which cross another town
on the way, it practically mandates that both players will build a second group
and send both the Horde and second group directly to center town.
Direct Path Layout
This is not as bad a layout for Lockdown to face as it might appear. While
it will probably be impossible for you to stop the opponent from taking any
towns at all, if you concentrate on one group (probably the second group) you
stand a chance at holding the enemy to one town only.
Your basic game plan will probably be to prevent the enemy second group from
taking its town, either with Monsters or Lockdown spells, starting on turn 3
or 4. On turns 5 and 6 you'll concentrate on the enemy Horde, to prevent it
from reaching the center town.
After that you can start throwing heavy-duty Monsters at the enemy groups and
start building up a relatively large force of novices in your towns.
From there you'll have the option to attack the opponent's first town, or head
for the last neutral towns and push to the enemy Sanctum, depending on what
the board position is.
This is a relatively nice board for a Combat
Speed deck to face, since you can pick up a town on the way to the center without
slowing yourself down. Your opponent can do so too, of course, but you're probably
just a little bit faster.
Combat Protection, in most cases, would also do well to build up its Horde
and march straight to the center, relying on its superior combat power to win
the center town.
In both cases, it's recommended that you make a relatively large second group
and head for the second town. If you can manage to take both nearby towns and
the center it will be hard for an opponent to come back against a Combat strategy.
If nothing else, the opponent will divert resources to stalling or killing off
your second group, which means she isn't stopping your Horde from advancing
on the center town (which is your main threat anyway).
If she does take the effort to stall your Horde, you'll probably reach a town
with your second group in the meantime, and you could do worse than owning two
towns at the start of mid-game.
Cheap Powerhouse decks can play
much like Combat Speed, heading directly for center town and grabbing a town
on the way. If your mana structure is sufficiently inexpensive, make a large
second group and head to that second town; if not, a token group sent that way
to divert your opponent's attention from your Horde is still usually a good
Expensive Powerhouse is probably happy with the town layout too, especially
if it includes some spells to protect its second group on the way to a second
town. The reason for this is that, with a very real possibility of capturing
two towns early on, if you cast at least one mana-gaining spell you may well
have 9 mana by turn 6 or 7.
If you get a great opening draw you might be able to play for center town early
on; if not, you can at least expect to kill off the enemy Horde as soon as it
captures center town, and then launch an assault to take it for yourself.
As with Expensive Powerhouse, with Attrition
you may stand a decent chance at capturing both of your nearby towns; if they
are spread out a little bit, this will make it difficult or impossible for your
opponent to attack your Sanctum without first heading near your towns ... and
if your town defenses are solid, you can make life very painful for an aggressive
If you can build Colonies, you may want to build from your towns backward towards
your Sanctum, in order to make it even more difficult for the enemy to penetrate
your defense; if you can surround your Sanctum with Colonies it will be hard
for you to lose!
Early on, make a second group that's capable of capturing the second town,
if you can; unless the spells in your hand dictate it, don't even bother attacking
the center town, but concentrate on town defense and building up your existing
About the time the opponent is leaving center town you should have the mana
to start building Colonies, and from there it's simply a matter of playing defensively
until the opponent runs out of cards.
The defining feature of a Direct Path game is the intense fighting for both
nearby towns in the early game.
Not only is delaying the enemy Horde or second group (or protecting your own)
an issue, but which group you send to which nearby town can make a huge difference
at the all-important battle for center town.
If your groups reach the towns at a different time than the opponent's, after
all, this choice will define who has Initiative until the center town battle
The other interesting feature of this layout will be evident in the late mid-game
and beyond, when one player is pushing forward from the center town.
Since there are two towns on a direct walking path between the center town
and the opponent's Sanctum, the aggressor will likely encounter a powerful defense,
which may even come back to recapture the center town!
Of all town layouts, the center town probably changes hands more frequently
with Direct Path than any other.