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.
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
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'
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
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.
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
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