A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: Heart Transplant
August 3, 2000
(Well, what do YOU call it when someone literally has a change of heart, hmm?
Oh, never mind.)
The other day, I was talking to Merakon about this card, Change of Heart, and
whether or not it could be used competitively. Whenever I see the card, I like
to think of it as a way to guarantee taking your second town. If you know you'll
capture the second town with this spell, you don't need to make a second group,
which means you can keep more Novices in reserve at your Sanctum to make extra
mana. And since Hope is typically so mana-heavy to begin with, the existence
of this spell offers you the chance to go with an abnormally mana-heavy strategy
without worry of being left short in towns. I won't be looking at that use of
Change of Heart today, though; something one learns when playing enough Sanctum,
is that different players can use the same deck, and in this case the same card,
in entirely different ways …
Much as I'd like to take credit for this idea, then, it was Merakon who introduced
me to the deck concept. (Now all I have to do is convince him to write articles
for me and my job will get a whole lot easier … just kidding!)
Basic Strategies Used
This deck, alarmingly, is primarily Lockdown. There are a few Combat Protection,
Denial and Powerhouse elements as well, but the deck is built around Lockdown.
Try aiming for a 5+4 + 2 Will mana structure, with a mana path of 2 or 3 Order
first, Will from your towns, and then finally Clarity. You'll see why shortly.
The idea is to deny the opponent's second town, eventually use Change of Heart
to capture it yourself, then use it to build large groups and march quickly
on the enemy Sanctum.
Change of Heart, of course, will be needed desperately. Ways to defend your
faraway town and build a force to be reckoned with will also be required: Citizen's
Militia and Sanctuary for defense; Army of Light, Leadership, and Beobogh's
Helm for offense.
Ways to keep the opponent out of the second town will also be required. Homunculi
offer an excellent early-game stall, and once you take a town you can follow
up with Ascension and perhaps Combustioneers or Mirage (using Astronomic Clock
or Oculus of Will to get a second point of Will after you capture your first
The inventive player will, no doubt, find several other cards that fit this
mana structure and deck theme.
Hope doesn't normally have a lot of variation in its strategy; your opponent
will be expecting a highly defensive Attrition deck with some expensive Powerhouse
spells like Sword of Zana and Settlement. Play to your opponent's expectations,
then; march an occasional small group at the opponent's Horde to make them think
a Sword of Zana is coming, don't train your Novices in towns for awhile if you
can help it so that your towns won't be attacked, and so on. The more you can
disrupt your opponent's early-game strategy, the better a position you'll be
in for a surprise mid-game win.
If you do manage to capture a town near your opponent's Sanctum, do your best
to turn it into a win as quickly as you can. If you're unable to prevent your
opponent from capturing the second town you should at least be able to capture
the center town for yourself in the process, which will at least give you a
reasonable platform from which to launch offensive attacks. If you let your
opponent get both nearby towns and the center, then your Lockdown spells weren't
doing their job and you should change your mix of spells to accommodate more
The idea of capturing a town near the enemy Sanctum with Change of Heart has
been around for a long time, but it has usually been difficult enough to pull
off that it was not a major threat. Using it in this way, only one variation
on this theme comes to mind: Found City. If you can somehow design a Hope deck
that gets a full 4 Will (or a Mind deck with 5 Order, or a Making deck with
5 Clarity, but it somehow seems easier with Hope), you could conceivably drop
a Found City in the enemy backfield, cast Change of Heart on it, then build
up an army as little as two steps away from the enemy Sanctum!
The most glaring weakness in this deck is that it's a bit of a one-trick pony,
and if the opponent guesses what you're doing from the start you may have a
hard time keeping a successful Lockdown.
The Found City variant is exceedingly risky; putting a neutral Colony adjacent
to the enemy Sanctum may simply end up giving the opponent a new Colony if you're
This entire deck concept is also highly vulnerable to a bad draw. You need
to draw sufficient Lockdown spells (and some way to gain extra Will) very early
to be effective. The answer to this may simply be a tight, small deck … but
then your late game suffers even worse if your initial attack fails, and you
may be unable to press home an extended attack before running out of spells.
On the other hand, if your deck is too large you won't be able to draw what
you need when you need it. It's a tough thing to balance, and generally means
that the deck is its own weakness.