By the time you read this, my preorders for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty should be on the way to my hot little hands and ready to start slotting into new and existing decks! I got the party started Prerelease weekend by cracking some set boosters, always a fun way to scratch that pack-cracking itch and one way you can randomly pull a copy of the long-awaited commander to lead a five-color Shrine deck with: Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin!
Shrines have always been an enticing build-around archetype, but there just haven’t been all that many of them: the original five in Champions of Kamigawa (and later printed in Eternal Masters) and then six new ones in Core Set 2021. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brings six more, bringing the grand total to seventeen, including one we can start in our command zone, which is a pretty low number when it comes to tribal style decks.
Luckily for us, the designers at Wizards of the Coast (WotC) made the activated ability of Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin work on any enchantments, not just Shrines. While we await another return to Kamigawa and hopefully more Shrines, we can use Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin to build a five-color enchantment deck with a heavy Shrine theme. Let’s dive in by taking a look at each of the cycle of Shrines, since we’ll want to include all of them.
Champions of Kamigawa / Eternal Masters
The original Honden cycle is pretty simple. Each Shrine has a color-pie-appropriate upkeep trigger that counts the number of Shrines you control to scale the effect. It’s a pretty big downside to wait until your upkeep, giving your opponents plenty of time to destroy one or more Shrines before you get the benefit from them, so it’s nice that our commander has the ability to bring them back from the graveyard.
The two best effects are Honden of Life’s Web, which builds a creature presence on the battlefield that’s mostly good for chump blocking, and Honden of Seeing Winds, which draws you extra cards that should help snowball you into finding and playing more Hondens. I’m personally not a big fan of discard strategies in Commander, but due to the lack of Shrines we have available, I’m okay with playing the black Honden to fish out pinpoint enchantment removal from our opponents, and so increase the odds that our more useful Shrines will stick around.
Core Set 2021
Core Set 2021‘s Sanctum cycle brought new-style Shrines with different timing on the effects. The green, black and blue Shrines pushed back the trigger to the beginning of your precombat main phase. Blue continues to draw you cards, while the green one provides you mana and the black one gives a life drain. The red and white Sanctums have activated abilities you can use at any time that you have mana, and in the case of Sanctum of Shattered Heights, a land or Shrine card to discard.
Then there’s the five color Sanctum of All, with its old-school-style upkeep trigger that lets you search whichever Shrine you most want from your library or graveyard and, if you control six or more Shrines, gives you double the Shrine triggers.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
Which brings us to the brand-new cycle of Shrines, the Go-Shintai, with the twist that these are actually creatures in addition to being legendary enchantment Shrines! Keep in mind that Shrine is an enchantment type, not a creature type, so you can’t use something like Mask wood Nexus to make all your regular creatures into Shrines.
It’s fun that these are creatures that can potentially attack or block, but it does make them more vulnerable to removal spells, since most Commander decks have several battlefield sweepers that destroy all creatures. Thankfully, these Shrines trigger at the beginning of your end step, which means you’ll usually get at least one use out of them the turn that you cast them if you happen to have the one mana you need to pay for the effect.
There is no end to the variety of “enchantments matter” cards you can surround your Shrines with throughout the five colors of Magic. I thought I’d point out the better ones here. Weaver of Harmony is a nice new card that seems tailor-made for Shrine decks. Enchantress’s Presence, Eidolon of Blossoms, and Sythis, Harvest’s Hand provides some much-needed card draw to help you find more and more Shrines.
Sanctum Weaver and Jukai Naturalist help you cast more enchantments in one turn, while Archon of Sun’s Grace and Sigil of the Empty Throne churn out creatures to help you hold down the fort or go on the offense. Nettlecyst and Helm of the Gods aren’t enchantments, but they’re Equipment that love being in an enchantment-heavy deck and can help you suit up your creature Shrines to make them more formidable.
Search for Enchantments
Since we only have sixteen Shrines in our deck, it would be understandable to include ways to tutor up the Shrines we want to start assembling together, so we’d definitely want cards like Idyllic Tutor in the deck. I also really like Zur the Enchanter for the deck, since it can search up half of the Shrines and put one directly onto the battlefield each time it attacks.
Bring Back Enchantments
Our commander brings enchantments back from the graveyard, but we’re going to want to include some other options too. Open the Vaults and the ultimate on Estrid, the Masked bring everything back; Silent Sentinel and Starfield of Nyx bring back one at a time; and Dance of the Manse splits the difference by bringing back a small handful, depending on the mana you spend.
Shrines are legendary, so under normal conditions you can’t copy them, but there are a few cards that let you work around them. Mirror Gallery from Betrayers of Kamigawa is the original legendary loophole, but Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty brings the new and improved Mirror Box. Even without something like this, you’ll usually have plenty of other enchantments that are worth copying.
Even with ways to get back any enchantments that get destroyed, you’ll still want to include ways that can prevent your carefully assembled Shrine collection from getting nuked to begin with. Sterling Grove is the gold standard here and doubles as a way to go search up an enchantment if you need to, but there are all sorts of other instant-speed spells that protect your investment, like Heroic Intervention and Teferi’s Protection. Cheap counterspells like Swan Song and Negate are usually good enough to stop most enchantment sweepers.
Since Shrines are legendary, we might want to consider cards that play well with legendary permanents. Blackblade Reforged is one of my all-time favorite Commander cards, and I’d love to suit up one of the new Go-Shintai creatures with an enormous sword and go on the attack. Honor-Worn Shaku can let you tap your legendary enchantment Shrines to squeeze out extra mana each turn. Urza’s Ruinous Blast and Primevals’ Glorious Rebirth are awesome tools if you really lean into legendary permanents in addition to the Shrines.
Dominaria brought us the historic mechanic, which cares about legendary cards in addition to artifacts and Sagas. If you want to surround your Shrine deck with Sagas, which also happen to be enchantments, you can certainly tap into some of the stronger cards that care about historic.
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain gives you another source of drawing spells attached to a body that can attack or block. Teshar, Ancestors’ Apostle gives you more graveyard recursion, as several of the Go-Shintai Shrines are creatures that cost three mana or less! Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage letting you cast your Shrines with flash means you can zip them out during an opponent’s end step and let you get those upkeep or pre-combat main phase triggers right away!
So, what do you think of Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin? Is there anything you would play with it that I didn’t mention above?
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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.
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