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Monday means more Magic: The Gathering cards have been spoiled, including a brand new cycle of shrines. The Honden shrines were first introduced in the Champions of Kamigawa set back in 2004. Since then, these shrines have been reprinted for ancillary sets or digital formats, but we’ve not seen a new cycle of these legendary enchantments until now.
Let’s take a look at what Core Set 2021 is doing with the new Sanctum cycle of enchantments.
Magic’s new shrines
Shrines are a unique enchantment in Magic. They are legendary uncommon enchantments, so players can only have one of each card in play at a time. They also benefit from having multiple cards with the shrine subtype in play, encouraging players to play multiple colors. This new cycle is unique in that it comes with a sixth shrine, called Sanctum of All, that encompasses all five colors of Magic.
Sanctum of All rewards those who can pull off building a reliable five-colored deck in Magic. As long as it is in play, players have extra insurance against their opponents from destroying specific cards by constantly digging through your deck and graveyard for more shrines. Once you have six shrines under your control, Sanctum of All triggers all shrine effects a second time. In Commander, having something that grabs enchantments for free and allows for multiple triggers during your turn is pretty good.
New shrines, new tricks
Two of the shrines, Sanctum of Calm Waters and Sanctum of Shattered Heights, seem fairly similar to their Champions counterparts. In the blog post that revealed the shrines, Mark Rosewater discussed wanting to do new things with the Sanctum cycle. For red and blue, however, there are only so many good things Magic design can do. “The initial intent was to not repeat any of the effects from the original five Shrines, but card draw and direct damage were so much better than the other options that the team decided to use them.”
Also new to this cycle are activated abilities. Traditionally, shrines have had abilities that trigger at the beginning of their controller’s upkeep. Both Sanctum of Shattered Heights and Sanctum of Tranquil Light have activated abilities and are pretty good! Still, Sanctum of Shattered Heights might be a little worse than its previous incarnation. Honden of Infinite Rage can deal damage directly to players, while the Sanctum can only target creatures and planeswalkers.
While shrines typically haven’t made a huge impact on competitive play, it’s neat to see Magic revisiting some older mechanics. Could Wizards of the Coast be hinting towards a possible return to Kamigawa? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean players will stop speculating. For more Magic: The Gathering news and spoilers, make sure to follow Daily Esports.
Ryan Hay is a writer and content creator currently living in New York. Video games, anime, and Magic: The Gathering have all been strong passions in his life and being able to share those passions with others is his motivation for writing. You can find him on Twitter where he complains about losing on MTG Arena a lot.