A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun,
by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at
Deck Concept: War Powerhouse Powerhouse
February 5th, 2001
Direct Damage to the Fifth Power
Earlier this week, I noticed a combo that I'd never seen in play before. From
there, I decided to explore a theme of the House of War, group damage, and take
it to its logical extreme. The result is amusing, if nothing else, and has shown
enough promise in unranked games that a tuned version of it could conceivably
Basic Strategies Used
This is a Powerhouse deck. No, let me rephrase that. This is the Powerhouse
deck. There are very, very few cards in this deck that are anything other than
If you're wondering what combo I was thinking of, it was casting Volcano
in an enemy group's walking path and then casting Mountain
Climb on the enemy group itself in the same turn. 4 Strife, 3 Clarity, 1
World is hardly a stretch for War, and it enables you to essentially have eight
Fireballs in your deck.
To that, I added Salamanders
(sort of a miniature Volcano combo of its own). I went ahead and increased the
mana structure a bit to fit in four Fingle's
Folly just to have even more Fireballs. A pair of Brimstone
Dragons went in (on general principle), with a pair of Skirmishes
to go on the Brimstones. And that's the core of the deck … a full twenty cards
that deal damage to an entire enemy group. If that's not something to build
a deck around, I don't know what is.
There were several other important cards in the deck, which I only included
one or two of, as a way to deal with various situations that might come up.
Werewolf is a decent
early-game monster to kill an enemy's second group; Dragon's
Teeth would allow me to stall in a town (preferably with a large enemy group
right outside, sitting on a Volcano); Armistice,
Amok and Forced
March to use together as a way of breaking through to capture an enemy town
or Sanctum even if the opposition throws up recruits to stall me from entering;
and some Source of
World to get that second point of World mana (the first one will probably
come from an early town). That's pretty much the deck.
Two of your Powerhouse spells, of any variety, are able to kill off most enemy
groups. You definitely want to kill the enemy Horde before it reaches center
town, but between your early towns and Sanctum mana it's very possible to get
off, say, a Salamander then Fireball. On Isolation or Unbalanced town layouts
(where none of the towns on the board are on a direct walking path to center
for your opponent), it may even be possible to cast a Volcano/Mountain Climb
in the enemy Horde's walking path and then Fireball before center town!
Between Salamanders and Volcanoes, you can do a very good job in the mid-game
of blocking off your opponent's first town or two, essentially preventing reinforcements
from there to the enemy Sanctum. Work with the board terrain, and see if you
can isolate a town completely, once the center town has been captured (if it
was captured by the opponent, your Powerhouse spells should eliminate the group
defending it, and then your hostile terrain should stop groups from other towns
from reaching the center at all).
Once you secure the center town for yourself and eliminate all enemy groups
on the board, push forward to victory. You can attack an enemy town, but often
I've found it better to just isolate enemy towns with terrain and then attack
the Sanctum directly (depending on the situation - in some cases it's better
to capture a town, of course).
In any case, even though the deck is rather small, I've found myself discarding
fairly heavily in the early game (there are a lot of expensive spells that I
can't afford to clog my hand with … any Folly or Brimstone in my opening hand
goes straight to the whirlpool). Later on if one of my towns is under attack,
discarding heavily may be necessary to draw something to help you as well.
Oh, one more thing … having Initiative is extremely helpful. Being able to
do direct damage on one turn and then Fireball the group on the next turn before
the opponent has a chance to do anything about it will make your life much easier.
Being able to cast monsters or Volcanoes in the enemy groups' walking paths
without fear of squandering them to enemy spells is equally nice. The good news
is, if things go your way you'll own the center town, and as soon as you do
you'll have Init for most of the rest of the game (usually).
For the purposes of tuning for competitiveness, I might take out the Fingle's
Folly cards, or else add in some more spells requiring 2 World (Disintegrate,
Leechwood) to get more mileage out
of that second World mana once I generate it.
Other things to do would be fiddling around with the number of copies of each
non-Powerhouse spell, and perhaps adding more Monsters into the deck (for purposes
of stalling enemy groups standing in Lava or Volcanoes.
You'll notice that I didn't mention any terrain-based spells (such as Plains)
anywhere. Since you're creating a serious amount of adverse terrain, the ability
to dispel it if needed (not to mention protection from a lousy terrain layout)
is tempting. On the other hand, Plains doesn't exactly fit your theme of direct
damage, and even if you have trouble getting to your nearest towns you're going
to make it difficult for your opponent to get anywhere too. I actually made
the rare decision to leave terrain-passing spells out of the first revision
of this deck because I'd usually rather draw a Fireball than a Plains even on
an unfriendly board, but others may very well disagree with that choice.
Finally, there's the question of adding Combat spells and focusing on an early-game
Combat strategy with this massive
Powerhouse rolling in around midgame. I decided against it in the original deck
design because I figured that killing enemy groups meant I shouldn't have to
worry about killing them in combat, but this variation of mixed strategies fits
the deck's mana path well, so it might be worth considering as an alternative
to pure War Powerhouse.
The deck is slow to start, and with a total lack of Combat spells, an enemy
that rushes to the center town directly may be able to capture it without opposition.
Worse, this deck has no way to cross its own Volcanoes and Lava (aside from
Forced March, and perhaps casting Mountain Climb on its own groups), so a careful
opponent with a number of hostile terrain spells could very well force a draw
by closing off its Sanctum and towns, leaving War with no way in!
Terrain-passing spells, particularly Flight,
Dracha's Sphere and Firewalking,
put a serious crimp in this deck's ability to deal damage; a group enhanced
by one of those forces a double-Fireball or Brimstone/Skirmish out of War's
hand to deal with it, and those Fireballs run out quickly.
Ironically, this deck's worst enemy is probably Life. Life can grab and hold
Lienna to keep Initiative, and then
Healing Spring, Healing Hands, Regenerate
and so on to undo War's damage. Flight gives it immunity to the adverse terrain,
and then all Life need do is cast Allies
on a town once or twice, build up a massive group of eight, enchant them with
Flight and start marching across the board. If an opponent went so far as to
cast Seelie Champion on an Archer,
then piling on Healing Hands, Regenerate, Jaguar's
Blood, Yeoman, Flight and several
other spells with Lienna in play, this deck would have no answer.