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Against the Odds: Shrines (Historic)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 323 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had another all–Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Against the Odds poll, and Shrines sneaked out a win over Isshin, Two Heavens as One. Shrines are some of the most unique enchantments in all of Magic. Each Shrine triggers every turn based on the number of Shrines we control, which sort of makes them the enchantment version of Slivers since every Shrine we play not only offers its own ability but also powers up all of our other Shrines as well. So today, we're heading to Historic to play as many Shrines as possible and see what happens! How good are Shrines now that we have three full cycles of the enchantments (along with Shrine tutor and Panharmonicon, Sanctum of All)? How many can we get on the battlefield at once? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Shrines

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The Deck

The hardest part of building around Shrines was figuring out what format to play them in. Last week's poll mentioned that they wouldn't be in Standard but didn't specify a format. My first attempt at Shrines was in Modern, and while Shrines were powerful if we could get several of them on the battlefield, the speed of the format (and powerful enchantment removal like Force of Vigor) was a problem. In most games, we just got run over without doing much of anything. Pioneer was off the table since the OG Kamigawa Shrines are legal in the format. Then, I realized that my Modern Shrine list, minus fetch lands and some sideboard cards, was essentially a Historic deck, so I jumped over to Arena with basically the exact same list and found the format to be the perfect home for Shrines. Historic is a bit slower than Modern, and the enchantment removal is a lot worse (and less heavily played), which meant we actually had the opportunity to stack up some Shrines on the battlefield and do some crazy things!

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Shrines are odd. Since each Shrine we play powers up all of our other Shrines, in some sense, we don't care which Shrines we play—we just want to get as many of them on the battlefield as possible. Any five or six Shrines should generate enough value to close out the game. That said, one Shrine is unique: Sanctum of All. Sanctum of All is the best and most important card in our deck by far. Not only does it tutor a Shrine directly onto the battlefield each turn (which is great because it not only ups our Shrine count but also lets us grab the perfect Shrine for any given situation) but also, once we get six Shrines on the battlefield, Sanctum of All turns into Shrine Panharmonicon, double-triggering all of our Shrines, which usually closes out the game in just a turn or two with a huge burst of card advantage, removal, damage, or mill.

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So, why are we playing Shrines now? The main reason is we just got a whole new cycle in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, upping the number of Shrines in the game from 11 to 16. The Go-Shintai cycle is interesting. While they are enchantments like the old Shrines are, they are also creatures, which can be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes, being a creature means that they die to creature removal and wraths, which is a bummer, although them being creatures also allows them to attack and block, which can be helpful, especially if we get Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor going to grow our Shrines into bigger threats. By far the biggest upside of the Go-Shintai cycle is that they trigger at the end of our turn rather than at the beginning, which means we can play them and use their abilities in the same turn. As far as the specific Go-Shintai Shrines, the green one turns our Shrines into big threats; the black one offers repeatable removal; and the red and blue Shrines work as finishers, killing our opponent with either direct damage or mill. (Once we get Sanctum of All and six Shrines, either is a surprisingly fast clock, with Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars potentially killing our opponent the turn it comes into play.) Finally the white Shrine offers creature production, although it was missing from the deck we played in the video due to an unfortunate error.

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Next up, we have the Core Set 2021 Shrines, which are very similar to the OG Kamigawa Shrines but with one twist: rather than triggering on our upkeep, they trigger at the start of our first main phase. This might not seem like a big difference, but it actually matters a lot with Sanctum of All since we can tutor up a Core Set 2021 Shrine and get its triggered ability right away, while, with the OG Kamigawa Shrines, we have to wait until the following turn. The blue and green members of the cycle are among the most important in our deck, with blue offering a ton of card advantage and green fixing our mana and ramping us into our other Shrines. Red and white offer removal. If we can get a card-draw Shrine like Sanctum of Calm Waters or Honden of Seeing Winds going, then Sanctum of Shattered Heights can wreck creature decks all by itself as we discard the extra lands we draw to keep the board clear. The white Shrine, Sanctum of Tranquil Light, looks like one of the worst, but it actually proved to be key to beating some of the creature decks we played, tapping down massive threats turn after turn. Finally, Sanctum of Stone Fangs is our best finisher, draining our opponent for a bunch each turn while also gaining us some life to make sure we stay out of the danger zone.

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Last but not least, we have the original Shrine cycle from Champions of Kamigawa. In some sense, these are probably the worse of the bunch, mostly because they trigger on our upkeep, which means that whether we hard-cast them or tutor them up with Sanctum of All, we're going to have to wait until the following turn to get their ability. That said, the OG Kamigawa Shrines do offer a couple of unique (and powerful) abilities. Honden of Cleansing Fire can beat aggro pretty much by itself by gaining us a bunch of life each turn, while Honden of Night's Reach does the same against control by forcing our opponent to discard their hand. As for the rest of the cycle, Honden of Infinite Rage offers more removal, Honden of Seeing Winds offers more card draw (although it is generally worse than Sanctum of Calm Waters), and green offers token production, similar to Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose

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The other awkward thing about building Shrines is that now that we have 16 of them, if we want to play them all, a huge percentage of our deck is dedicated to the Shrines themselves, even if we only play them as one- and two-ofs. This means we don't have a ton of extra room for support cards, but we do have a bit. For support, we turn to some enchantment-matters cards, with Sythis, Harvest's Hand gaining us life and drawing us cards to help us find more Shrines, Sanctum Weaver fixing our janky five-color mana base and ramping us into our Shrines, and Sterling Grove protecting our Shrines with shroud and tutoring up Sanctum of All or another important Shrine in a pinch. Meanwhile, Wrath of God is to help against aggressive creature decks. Shrines generate an overwhelming amount of value if we can get a few of them on the battlefield, but this takes a few turns. Having Wrath of God to slow the game down a bit helps buy us a bit of extra time to get our Shrine value train running.

The Matchups

While Shrines felt surprisingly good in general, aggro was—by far—the hardest matchup, mostly because if our opponent is on the play and has a fast draw, they can potentially run us over before we can get many Shrines on the battlefield. The biggest drawback of Shrines is that they don't impact the battlefield immediately. Against aggro, it can be hard to find the time to take off a turn to get something like Sanctum of All or Honden of Seeing Winds on the battlefield. On the other hand, the repeatable value Shrines offer is great against midrange and even control, especially once we bring in Destiny Spinner from our sideboard to beat counterspells.

The Odds

Shockingly, we finished 4-1 with Shrines, and the deck felt oddly competitive. While we never managed to get every Shrine on the battlefield at the same time (which might not actually be possible because we just win the game once we get seven or eight Shrines going), we did manage to get eight at once, which is pretty impressive. Perhaps the most surprising parts of the deck were the new Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Shrines. I was a bit skeptical of them, worrying that, as creatures, they would just die, but they were actually quite powerful. Having some Shrines that can attack or block is a big deal, and if we run into a removal-heavy matchup, we can always avoid tutoring them up with Sanctum of All. As weird as it sounds, Shrines in Historic might actually be too good to be an Against the Odds deck!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

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Next week we're playing some more Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, but with a twist, rather than Standard or Historic we're heading to Pioneer! Which card should we build around? Click here to vote!


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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