Sanctum of All
– Core Set 2021
June 23, 2020
Commander [EDH]: 3.13
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
If yesterday’s Garruk was a very core set-ish planeswalker, this is a highly 2020-ish card: when the rumors of it came out, nobody was sure it was actually real, or if the source was reliable, or what Wizards was thinking with it. It turns out this is the “lord” for a cycle of new Shrines, all of which allude to Kamigawa and operate in the same way as the Hondens. They even have haiku flavor text, which raises the question of why the original Kamigawa block had no haiku.
It’s conceivable that Shrines were one source of inspiration for how planeswalkers would later work: advantages adding up turn upon turn until you’re so far ahead your opponent can’t catch up. Now that we do have planeswalkers, Shrines are quite slow by comparison and lack some of the other upsides, like drawing attacks away from yourself or changing other game rules (thanks, Teferi). Tutoring is certainly a strong ability, even when limited, and the effects can snowball pretty fast. Yet with desirable Shrines in all five colors, it’s hard to take full advantage of them in tournament decks while fitting in reasonable support cards against the inevitable counterspells and burn decks. But they might have a chance at FNM-level events, and if somehow this doesn’t get us to revisit Kamigawa theme decks for casual tables, then I won’t understand the world any more.
Back for the first time since Kamigawa, the Shrine subtype of enchantment is a fun sort of “voltron” effect: you get more effects for controlling more shrines. While the Honden cycle from Kamigawa had a theme based around their respective Myojin, we don’t have as clear a basis for Core Set 2021‘s Sanctums.
Sanctum of All is sort of the “boss” of the Shrines, letting you dig down to find more (or recur ones that have gone away prematurely) and triggering them again if you have enough. It only looks at the Shrine subtype, so any of the 11 Shrines will do in terms of getting there, and it turns out that they are effects that stack nicely with one another. So if you have enough time, you’ll get there (wherever “there” so happens to be).
The downside is clear: a restrictive mana cost, as well as a need to wait a turn to come online. If you can get there, Sanctum of All is the powerful linchpin to a fun deck, but I feel like Shrines are just way too slow to get there outside of casual settings.
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