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Sanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, SubterfugeSanctum | Strategy, Sorcery, Subterfuge



Ngozi's Way

A periodic column on Sanctum strategy, theory, and fun, by Ian Schreiber, Sanctum player name Gannon. You can reach Ian at

Deck Concept: War Shift to Hope
March 20, 2002

In the list of early-game Houses, aside from Despair (which we already covered), War and its stereotypical Combat Speed strategy should easily be near the top. Likewise, of Houses known for their late game, Hope's is one of the strongest (and in fact, the late-game victory is what Hope is known for). War's secondary mana type is Clarity, which is Hope's primary mana type; therefore, a Shift deck that starts off strong and then digs in its heels to take advantage of its early lead is potentially quite nasty; that's the deck concept we'll be looking at in this article.

Basic Strategies Used

This starts out as a typical War Combat Speed; after the shift, it focuses on a combination of Powerhouse and Attrition. The mana path will be two Strife, then plenty of Clarity, with up to two Order splashed in through towns and Threshold of Order. Getting some additional Strife in the late game from Call to Arms is always a possibility, as well.

Key Cards

Forced March and your choice of cheap Combat spells are your early game; the objective is to take the center town with your Horde before your opponent can stop you. Skirmish is almost mandatory; it makes it a bit harder for your opponent to stop your second group from capturing a town, and also makes a nice stalling mechanism at the center town (as we'll soon see).

Aside from Forced March, though, the single most important card in this deck is Chalice of Hope. Consider this: if you manage to take both nearby towns and the center while your opponent only has two towns, then over the course of the next few turns, Chalice of Hope gives you an advantage of four novices more than your opponent for a cost of five mana, making it the most cost-efficient producer of recruits in the game! This is where War's early advantage really pays off.

From there, you have several options in your deck builder. You can go the pure Attrition route, adding in Citizens' Militia, Valiant Stand, Settlement and so on, holding onto your early town advantage and letting your extra recruit lead do your work for you; that is, play like a standard Hope Attrition deck once you reach the center town.

Or, you could even make another shift back to War in mid-game (by generating extra Strife), and using Warlord and Dragon's Teeth to massively outproduce your opponent in recruits, and drive home your initial advantage from Chalice (Ascension isn't such a horrible card for recruit advantage, either). You can also throw in some interesting combos using a late-game Armistice, combined with Amok and/or Settlement for major results.

Playing Hints

On a good day, this deck might cast one or two Forced March to reach the center town early, and it could either pump its Horde's combat ability to let it keep the center town, or just hold onto it “temporarily” using stall cards like Sanctuary or Skirmish. As soon as it reaches the center town, Chalice of Hope drops. Then it can dig its heels in at center, not giving any ground away, and probably discarding like mad until it draws into another Chalice and by then the game is pretty much over.


There's a number of ways you can go here, but generally you're dealing with two sets of tradeoffs.

The first is War's early game versus Hope's ability to defend itself (and even steamroll its way to victory once it has an advantage). You could go heavy on War, play as a mostly-conventional War deck with a little bit of Hope tossed in to give you that extra push in mid-game. Or you could go heavy on Hope, and possibly be able to recover and come from behind to win even if you don't reach the center town. Either one works; it's a matter of personal preference and deckbuilding/playing style.

The other is deck size, which is related in many ways to the above tradeoff. A small deck will make it easier to draw what you need when you need it; you'll get that Forced March / Chalice of Hope combo much more reliably with a 30-card deck. But, that 30-card deck won't be able to do much else, so you'll be forced to try and win early, which makes you little better than a more conventional Strife-and-Clarity-only War deck. You can build a larger deck to take advantage of Hope's late game, but then you make it far less likely that you'll get that all-too-important early-game lead.


The above tradeoffs force this deck to have a weakness either in the early game or late game, or to be only mediocre at both. So, if you can figure out what this deck is up to early enough, you can play to its weakness: if it's going for a late game, attack early and try to overwhelm it at the center town before it's prepared; if it's looking to win early, play conservatively and let it run out of cards, then counterattack once you've outlasted the initial rush.

Good luck!

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