Vanilla Ice makes his first appearance in Magic: the Gathering.
At the rate Secret Lairs are coming out, I doubt it'll be his last.
It's fitting that pop-culture nostalgia kicks off our article, as players have been clamoring for this commander for almost twenty years. Go-Shintai of Life's Origin finally gives Shrines (Honden of Infinite Rage, Honden of Night's Reach, etc.) from the original Champions of Kamigawa, and their sequels (Sanctum of Tranquil Light, Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest, etc.), a proper general. No more leaving poor old Atogatog in charge and ever-hungry. Though the 'Shrine' component of Go-Shintai refers to the Enchantment type rather than Creature type, is fair to say this is well and truly a tribal commander.
Today's Commander is one of six legendary creatures out of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty who share the moniker, along with Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom, Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose, etc. While all the Shrine-creatures appear in today's deck, for the sake of brevity, we'll be referring to our commander as simply 'Go-Shintai'. That's not to dismiss the mono-color Go-Shintai, as Wizards went the extra mile and gave each its own backstory. While the Legendary status of Shrines makes copy-shenanigans more challenging (Sorry, Estrid's Invocation), it does imbue each with a stronger thematic impact.
For example, the token-making Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose saved a small village from flooding by teaching the townsfolk how to cooperate and act as a united force. From many small hands, great work can be done, and the greater the number of hands (or spirits), the greater the impact. Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom reveals great wisdom to followers, but also terrible truths, like the exact date of their death. Thus, it routinely wipes the memory of those traumatized by its revelations, befitting a card that mills players. The creature-killing Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelties persuades the downtrodden to take bloody vengeance on those who wronged them. Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars, ever-happy to burn players to death, exists to stoke violence via blessings of burning swords. An ever-growing Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor grew in response to urban expansion overtaking natural growth, fighting back on behalf of the forest.
All wonderfully-flavorful tales that fit their characters like a glove. But what of our own Commander?
While the above kami reflect aspects of life, Go-Shintai of Life's Origin paradoxically stems from death. Upon the bulldozing of Jukia forests during urban expansion, the dusty remains of fallen kami began coalescing around an old Shrine. From the literal ashes, a new spectral life emerged. The Go-Shintai of Life's Origin wanders the forest, collecting and fusing with the remains of other kami, giving each a new life as part of this mysterious entity. Few know how the cycle of life and death works in the spirit world, but Go-Shintai of Life's Origin provides a glimpse.
How does this translate in a mechanical sense? Let's find out by breaking down our commander.
Sanctum of All by Johannes Voss
1. With each of the sixteen total Shrines being enchantments, and Go-Shintai of Life's Origin rewarding us for playing said enchantments, first impressions lean towards an Enchantress strategy. Shrines work best en masse, so we want to get as many into play as quickly as possible. Popular Enchantress all-stars provide card draw (Setessan Champion), ramp/fixing (Sanctum Weaver), and tutoring (Sterling Grove), which naturally fit into this plan. Enchantment-synergies also have defensive tools like Sphere of Safety to keep us alive long enough to enact our plan. The repeatable triggers of the Shrines are powerful, but slow, so we'll want to keep shields up as we assemble a collection. We could also speed things up via...
2. Enchantress strategies have access to plenty of mass-recursion tools (Dance of the Manse, Replenish, etc.), allowing explosive returns from a fully-stocked graveyard. Heck, Go-Shintai of Life's Origin, himself, gets in on the recursion. This allows looting and rummage-style cards like Cathartic Reunion and Thirst for Meaning to stock up our graveyard while refilling our hand. Many of our non-Shrine creatures are also Enchantments (Weaver of Harmony, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, etc.), allowing them to benefit from mass recursion and even be 'tutored' for via Buried Alive.
3. Our general does more than simply synergize with Shrines. He's also a token commander, producing 1/1 Shrines each time he or another Shrine enters play. The trigger-scaling effect off an army of tokens adds a lot more teeth to cards like Sanctum of Stone Fangs and Honden of Infinite Rage. Go-Shintai immediately provides a token, so the Populate mechanic (Rootborn Defenses, Growing Ranks) can start doing work with no added effort, further powering up our Shrines with each token made. We ran out of space in today's deck, but Blink effects like Ephemerate also do the trick, saving Go-Shintai from spot removal while letting him make more 1/1's. Shrine tokens also make excellent targets for Ghen, Arcanum Weaver to recycle into more powerful Enchantments.
4. As mentioned by Jason Alt in "Farewell to Reliance on Enchantments", the newly-printed Farewell is an absolute nightmare for our strategy. We've enough tools to recover from the occasional Hour of Revelation or All is Dust, but Farewell hits us on two devastating fronts. Exiling Enchantments renders our recursion useless. Not that a full graveyard would matter, as Farewell handily exiles all graveyards, too. It's a backbreaking piece of Kryptonite to keep in mind, so extra protective cards like Teferi's Protection, Swan Song, and Fierce Guardianship are a must.
5. Though the vast majority of our Enchantress-pieces are , we'll still want consistent access to all five colors. With only 16 shrines to work with, one requiring full , and our commander being at his best with the full spectrum of colors, it's time to spare no expenses on mana base. We're all-in on Fetchlands, Shocklands, Triomes, and 5-color mana sources like City of Brass and Mana Confluence.
In review, while Go-Shintai of Life's Origins's Shrine-centric nature makes him appear straightforward, his design allows us to take him in a few different directions. Today's deck will illustrate the combo platter, bringing in all the above ideas. Honing in on one theme is likely to provide more consistency and a competitive edge, but this kitchen-sink style approach provides a solid overview into all the directions we can go. It's an everything-pizza that means each game is likely to play out differently than the last.
See what I did there? Pizza? Ninja Turtles reference above?...
Go-Shintai of Life's Origin by Alexander Mokhov
Go-Shintai! Go-Shintai! Go! | Commander | Matthew Lotti
- Commander (1)
- 1 Go-Shintai of Life's Origin
- Creatures (14)
- 1 Captain Sisay
- 1 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
- 1 Ghen, Arcanum Weaver
- 1 Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars
- 1 Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor
- 1 Go-Shintai of Hidden Cruelty
- 1 Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom
- 1 Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose
- 1 Sanctum Weaver
- 1 Setessan Champion
- 1 Spark Double
- 1 Sythis, Harvest's Hand
- 1 Weaver of Harmony
- 1 Zur the Enchanter
- Instants (8)
- 1 Enlightened Tutor
- 1 Fierce Guardianship
- 1 Rootborn Defenses
- 1 Sundering Growth
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Teferi's Protection
- 1 Thirst for Meaning
- 1 Thrill of Possibility
- Sorceries (21)
- 1 Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Buried Alive
- 1 Cathartic Reunion
- 1 Dance of the Manse
- 1 Farseek
- 1 Idyllic Tutor
- 1 Into the North
- 1 Mystic Retrieval
- 1 Nature's Lore
- 1 Open the Vaults
- 1 Plea for Guidance
- 1 Primevals' Glorious Rebirth
- 1 Replenish
- 1 Resurgent Belief
- 1 Search for Glory
- 1 Skyshroud Claim
- 1 Three Visits
- 1 Thrilling Discovery
- 1 Urza's Ruinous Blast
- 1 Vanquish the Horde
- Enchantments (17)
- 1 Enchantress's Presence
- 1 Growing Ranks
- 1 Honden of Cleansing Fire
- 1 Honden of Infinite Rage
- 1 Honden of Life's Web
- 1 Honden of Night's Reach
- 1 Honden of Seeing Winds
- 1 Sanctum of All
- 1 Sanctum of Calm Waters
- 1 Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest
- 1 Sanctum of Shattered Heights
- 1 Sanctum of Stone Fangs
- 1 Sanctum of Tranquil Light
- 1 Smothering Tithe
- 1 Solitary Confinement
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Sterling Grove
- Lands (36)
- 6 Snow-Covered Forest
- 1 Snow-Covered Island
- 1 Snow-Covered Mountain
- 3 Snow-Covered Plains
- 1 Snow-Covered Swamp
- 1 Arid Mesa
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 City of Brass
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Fabled Passage
- 1 Flooded Strand
- 1 Godless Shrine
- 1 Hall of Heliod's Generosity
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Ketria Triome
- 1 Mana Confluence
- 1 Misty Rainforest
- 1 Prismatic Vista
- 1 Raugrin Triome
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Savai Triome
- 1 Scalding Tarn
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Verdant Catacombs
- 1 Windswept Heath
- 1 Wooded Foothills
- 1 Zagoth Triome
Early on, our plan is simple. We want to ramp and generate card advantage, and in the process consistently find and start casting Shrines. This initial action sounds generalized, but that's only because our follow-up varies depending on what Shrine we draw. For example, an early Honden of Night's Reach would incentivize me to produce as many 1/1 Shrine tokens as possible to dismantle opposing hands while they're still relatively full. Alternatively, I'd have little issue pitching an early Honden of Cleansing Fire to a rummage effect like Thrilling Discovery to generate card advantage and fill my graveyard with the expectation of mass-recursion later on, when I'll likely need the life gain more. Our plethora of enchantment tutors excel in versatility, grabbing the best card to tackle a given situation (removal, ramp, etc.), but to start things off, we'll need a solid mana foundation. Once that's established, we can start chaining Shrines into 1/1 tokens, recur Enchantments as needed, and develop an ever-growing engine of triggers to lock up and close out the game.
Kami and their Attendants: Enchantress-centric roleplayers form the foundation of our creature base. Draw engines like Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Setessan Champion reward us for doing what we already want to be doing. Dryad of Ilysian Grove and Sanctum Weaver both accelerate our mana base while simultaneously fixing our colors. The fact that Enchantment creatures can be fetched via Enlightened Tutor and company goes a long way towards ensuring our mana is where it needs to be. Narrowing things to a Shrine-specific synergies, Weaver of Harmony provides a powerful trigger-doubling effect, helping us to draw more cards (Honden of Seeing Winds, Sanctum of Calm Waters), ramp (Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest), gain absurd amounts of life (Honden of Cleansing Fire), or simply build an army (Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose, Honden of Life's Web). It all comes down to what trigger best fits a given board state.
Our next set of creatures work to tutor for, recycle, or mimic our Shrine count. With all Shrines being Legendary, abilities that let you copy permanents become undoable without Mirror Box-like effects, but Captain Sisay turns that drawback into an advantage by being able to tutor up any of them. Zur the Enchanter likewise has ample targets to fetch, able to grab half of our total Shrines, or if we're interested in a more expensive one, a Sterling Grove. The token-making nature of Go-Shintai of Life's Origin, combined with our tendency to loot cards into our graveyard, makes Ghen, Arcanum Weaver especially potent in this deck. Any 1/1 Shrine token sacrificed to return a Shrine from our graveyard to the battlefield will result in Go-Shintai simply making us another 1/1 Shrine token, providing repeatable recursion. Things get even better if we use Spark Double to copy Go-Shintai of Life's Origin.
As for the mono-color Go-Shintai, their status as creatures and enchantments makes them more fragile than their non-creature counterparts, but each still has the capacity to become threatening in the late game. Assessing each in a vacuum underestimates the scaling effect of Shrines. With our general and a few tokens, Go-Shintai of Lost Wisdom will start milling one opponent for seven cards while Go-Shintai of Ancient Wars hits another for seven damage and seven 1/1's from Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose attack another. The pressure is easily made widespread.
Shrine-based Spellcraft: We include all sixteen Shrines, but just as important are ample ways to dig for them. The most straightforward route is via tutors like Search for Glory, Plea for Guidance, Enlightened Tutor, Idyllic Tutor, and Sterling Grove. I'd prioritize card advantage (Honden of Seeing Winds, Sanctum of Calm Waters) and ramp (Sanctum of Fruitful Harvest) first. Each increases the odds of finding and being able to cast even more Shrines. Fetching punishment like Honden of Night's Reach, Sanctum of Stone Fangs, or Honden of Infinite Rage early on will draw retaliation, and your deck needs time to build up its engines.
Our next Shrine-finding tactic revolves around the graveyard. Buried Alive is the most obvious tool, finding a trio of monocolor Go-Shintai and planting them six feet under. Other graveyard deposits come in the form of looting and rummage effects. Thrill of Possibility, Thirst for Meaning, Thrilling Discovery, and Cathartic Reunion let us pitch more expensive Shrines, a Mystic Retrieval, or other unneeded cards earlier in the game while providing card advantage. Go-Shintai of Life's Origin can revive dead-enchantments, but for a real burst of triggers, our deck runs multiple mass-recursion spells such as Replenish, Resurgent Belief, Open the Vaults, Dance of the Manse, and Primevals' Glorious Rebirth. I considered the new Brilliant Restoration, but feared not being able to generate four White mana consistently. A mass-return of all Shrines from the graveyard, often along with other assorted enchantment creatures, will also trigger Go-Shintai of Life's Origin to pump out a bunch of additional Shrine tokens, meaning that once Shrine triggers start hitting the stack, they've the potential to be game-breaking. Add in Strionic Resonator to further double up on triggers, and it won't take long to seize complete control.
Rounding out our enchantment-heavy build, Enchatress's Presence provides consistent card draw, triggering off of more than 25% of our deck. Sphere of Safety and Solitary Confinement work well as discard fodder early, only later to be returned with other enchantments off a recursion spell. Once you've brought back a boat load of enchantments, you'll want your shields up. Solitary Confinement works incredibly well with Honden of Seeing Winds and Sanctum of Calm Waters, which make it's drawback essentially meaningless. Finally, cards like Rootborn Defenses, Sundering Growth, and Growing Ranks allow us to populate our Shrine tokens, and with them, the power of each Shrine trigger.
Supporting Spells: Keeping alive long enough to assemble an engine often involves wiping the board of problematic creatures. The Legendary status of Shrines gives Urza's Ruinous Blast the potential to act almost as a Ruinous Ultimatum. Creature-centric sweepers Vanquish the Horde and Blasphemous Act are both likely to be heavily discounted by our own tokens, allowing us to follow up the blastwave with another spell of our own. As mentioned early on, exile-based removal and graveyard hate really sting, so make sure to keep a tight grasp on cards like Teferi's Protection, Swan Song, and Fierce Guardianship to nix any attempt to ruin your plans.
Mana Support and Rocks: With ample access to Green, we eschew most mana rocks save for the universally-fixing Arcane Signet and Chromatic Lantern. Most of our ramp is designed to hit specific land types. Farseek, Into the North, Skyshroud Claim, Three Visits, and Nature's Lore will most often be looking for Triomes and Shock Lands. Smothering Tithe, the absurd source of Treasure that it is, has additional Enchantment synergies with our deck, making it an easy inclusion.
When it comes to real estate, our land base includes top tier in fixing. At least outside of the original dual lands. We won't go that over budget. Though we don't run Tundra, that doesn't mean our mana is inexpensive, as multiple fetch lands (Windswept Heath, Misty Rainforest), shock lands (Godless Shrine, Breeding Pool), Triomes (Savai Triome, Zagoth Triome), and classic 5-color lands like City of Brass and Mana Confluence really add up in price. I considered Reliquary Tower to help us retain cards drawn off of Enchantress's Presence, Honden of Seeing Winds, Sythis, Harvest's Hand, and other draw engines, but worried about its colorlessness. Hall of Heliod's Generosity, likewise, makes only colorless mana, but it's upside is one our deck stands to make better use out of.
Honden of Night's Reach by Jim Nelson
Nice place you got there. Real inviting.
Budget Options: I imagine paying a visit to one of Kamigawa's many Shrines is free. Such holy places seem above idea of charging entry fees. Well, maybe save for Sanctum of Tranquil Light. Someone's definitely getting paid to maintain those sunflowers. But while a pilgrimage across Kamigawa's sacred grounds might not drain your wallet, it's cardboard equivalent certainly can. Magic: The Gathering is expensive, especially when your commander is exclusive to Set Boosters only (Really, Wizards, why does Go-Shintai of Life's Origin have to be $20?). To help you save some imperial credits, here are some substitutes for players who'd rather not break the bank. All cards over $20 will be noted and recommended for swap-outs. If anything seems interesting, regardless of price tag, give them a roll in the main! Creativity is a oft-forgotten cornerstone of Commander.
Creatures: Captain Sisay: $22.00
Our own Commander aside, we're fortunate to have only a single creature fall outside of budget. Captain Sisay is a powerful resource, but plenty of Enchantress-centric options like Eidolon of Blossoms, Satyr Enchanter, and Verduran Enchantress can fill in. Alternatively, cards like Starfield Mystic and Herald of the Pantheon make great budget creatures to act as pseudo-mana rocks.
Also, maybe it's silly, but part of me really wants close out a game with an Auratog after he's gorged on Shrine Tokens.
Yikes, now we're talking. Some of our key spells cost more than a tank of gas. And yes, that's considering current prices. We can thank the Reserved List for Replenish's price tag, but ample replacements like Starfield of Nyx and the aforementioned Brilliant Restoration are available. Soul Sister's Call is another consideration, allowing you to cash in 1/1 Shrine tokens for Shrines out of the graveyard which, similar to Ghen, Arcanum Weaver, will net you another 1/1 token with Go-Shintai on the battlefield. Calix, Destiny's Hand can also provide some solid card draw and removal through the game. With all our Legendary cards, Kahaml's Druidic Vow can ascend to far more than a simple ramp spell.
Alternatively, you could lean further into token production with tools like Druid's Deliverance, Song of the Worldsoul, Ephemerate, and Second Harvest. When it comes to insurance policies, losing Teferi's Protection and Fierce Guardianship hurts quite a bit, so inexpensive counters like Dovin's Veto or even the humble Negate can go a long way towards protecting you from Farewell.
Finally, for those who like to live dangerously, Enduring Ideal will ensure that you get a free Shrine of your choice each turn for the rest of the game. But that's it. That's all you can do. You're about as all-in on Shrines as it gets by this point. Risky as all hell? You bet. But glorious to pull off, I'm sure.
Mana Options: Flooded Strand: $41.00, Wooded Foothillls: $40.00, Scalding Tarn: $30.00, Prismatic Vista: $30.00, Windswept Heath: $29.00, Mana Confluence: $27.00, Misty Rainforest: $27.00, City of Brass: $23.00, Verdant Catacombs: $23.00, Breeding Pool: $21.00, Sacred Foundry: $20.00
Losing the majority of our fetch lands is a serious bummer, especially with the added axing of our 5-color lands on top of it. For fetch replacements, consider the likes of Krosan Verge and the cycle of Slow Fetches (Rocky Tar Pit, Mountain Valley, etc.). To replace some of our 5-color lands, options include Grand Coliseum, Crystal Quarry, Cascading Cataracts, Path of Ancestry, and the Vivid land cycle (Vivid Meadow, Vivid Grove, etc).
In addition, the upcoming Streets of New Capenna set has already revealed a completion of the Triome cycle with Allied-color lands like Jetmir's Garden, so while they're slower, they do offer solid replacements and will all likely fall well below $20 once the set is released.
Go-Shintai of Boundless Vigor by Johannes Voss
As Go-Shintai of Life's Origin continues to roam the dwindling forests of Neo-Kamigawa, who knows what powers it'll next absorb from fallen kin? What new Shrines might materialize from the aether and have their powers amplified by Go-Shintai and his smaller offspring? Though unpredictable, it's sure to be a mystical sight to behold. Well, for you, at least. Trigger upon trigger, building a lovely tower of ever-multiplying effects. A thing of beauty. Your opponents, falling victim to said beauty, likely won't appreciate it the same way you will. But don't blame them. Go-Shintai of Life's Origin has simply taught you how powerful the cycle of life, death, and rebirth can be.
Thanks for reading, and may your Shrines never stand alone.