A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
In Praise of Seelie Court …
October 19, 2000
About the only thing anyone ever uses this card for is some sort of cute town-destruction
combo. At present, there are exactly two cards that can be combined with Seelie
Court to effectively kill an enemy town: Unmagicking, and Justicars. Both of
these require extreme amounts of out-of-House mana (you can get Unmagicking
with a town and two Call to Arms, but you can only do it once; Justicars will
probably require several towns, Golden Groves, and other mana-generation spells).
While it's possible to build a deck around using Seelie Court as town-kill,
it seems that there should be another way to make use of it, without requiring
some obscure combo …
Does Seelie Court gain anything just on its own, either if you cast it on a
friendly or enemy town?
On a friendly town, you could conceivably use it as unreliable protection.
If you're battering down the doors of the enemy Sanctum but you're about to
lose a friendly town, go ahead and Court it, and hope it disappears. Unlike
Gogar's Wrath, it's not a permanent loss, and you won't give up Initiative in
this manner. The opponent could conceivably move a recruit group to where the
town used to be to prevent it from coming back, but that's at least preferable
to having the town be captured. And if they decide to move away to try and capture
the town, at least you've bought yourself some time, and you might be able to
hold them off with the recruits the town generates while it's gone.
Still, that's an exceptional case. Most of the time, you want to cast this
on an enemy town, and preferably not one you're trying to capture (capturing
a Seelie Court is difficult, at best). Instead, target a town in the enemy backfield;
you'll restrict the supply of reinforcements from the back ranks that way.
So … what do you do next?
Option 1: Recruit Advantage
Okay, so you've cast Seelie Court on an enemy town or two. What did that do
for you? You'd be tempted to say you got nothing for your troubles … the towns
still produce Novices when they're gone, so you don't get any long-term recruit
Ah, but you do have one very important advantage: recruits cannot be trained
while the town is away. You therefore put your opponent in the uncomfortable
position of either creating one single-recruit group at a time (and having leftover
Novices that don't get trained, just sitting there, which does translate into
recruit advantage for you) or creating a small number of big groups (which are
then vulnerable to group-target spells, which Life has plenty of). Consider
the implications of using this strategy with Chalice of Hope (splashing in 1
Order), practically forcing your opponent to build big groups or none at all.
All this suggests a potential deck concept: lots of group-target spells (Terrain
Bind, Questing Beast, Faerie Circle+Savannah, etc.), some recruit generation
to support Seelie Court's recruit advantage (Allies, Bard), and a secondary
theme of your choice. Interestingly, once you cast Seelie Court on all enemy
towns, you can effectively forget trying to capture them, and just head straight
for the enemy Sanctum. It's not often that you find a strategy that calls for
making a direct line from the center town to the Sanctum …
Option 2: Town Destruction Without Difficult Mana Structures
Once it leaves, the town won't reappear if there's something in the same square.
Consider dropping some monsters in the general area (Sylph, Man of Iron, etc.)
and trying to coerce them to walk into the Seelie Court square when the town
is gone (perhaps splash in 1 Order for Belvario's Horn, of all things). Once
there, make them stay with Bella's Sigil; protect them from attack by enemy
recruit groups by casting Lienna's Sigil on any nearby enemies, or simply stall
them out with Questing Beast, Terrain Bind and the like.
Or, leave out the monster-protection altogether; losing a town is a major disruption,
and if your opponent dedicates time and resources to getting the town back,
you can use that time to press an attack elsewhere on the board. If your opponent
responds to your attack threat instead of trying to free up the Courted town,
then you've opened up a path (by way of the missing town) to directly attack
the enemy Sanctum in the future.
Option 3: Turbo Town Denial
An entirely different variation for this card could involve a trim deck designed
to come on strong in the early game consistently. Imagine Bursts of both Clarity
and World to cast Seelie Court as early as turn 4 or 5 (possibly denying the
opponent his second town in the process, at least temporarily). Build the rest
of your deck around the Lockdown theme in general … Terrain Bind, Questing Beast,
Undine (with or without Inundate), monsters, and so on.
Now, Life is certainly not as much of a Lockdown threat as, say, Despair or
Mind. But with early Bursts, such a theme is possible to pull off against an
unsuspecting opponent; what you lack in strength, you can sometimes make up
for with the element of surprise (honestly, who expects Life to open up with
an aggressive, early-game town-denial strategy?).
Seelie Court is, in my opinion, among the ranks of overlooked
and underused cards. It requires a bit of skill and finesse, and the results
of the spell are not always immediate or obvious. On the other hand, it has
many interesting applications in a game; this means that a deck build around
the card could involve multiple strategies to be able to use it effectively
in several contexts, and it also means that there are several deck possibilities
based around one specific application.
Besides, nothing gives you such a feeling of accomplishment, as when you take
a so-called weak House, with a so-called unusable spell, and proceed to
smite your opponent with it.