Shapers’ Sanctuary is Busted

Shapers' Sanctuary
I’ve written enough articles at this point to have garnered a reputation as someone who is prone to hyperbole, but I couldn’t possibly be more literal when I say the following; Shapers’ Sanctuary is completely busted, and more people need to be playing it.

Shapers’ Sanctuary is a card that I’ve had my eye on since it was first spoiled. It’s a cheap, unique, and powerful effect stapled to a card type that has a precedent for being difficult to interact with. While I know discussions during spoiler season are generally Standard-centric, and that Shapers’ Sanctuary would likely have a higher impact in older formats, I was still surprised that the card wasn’t receiving much attention. I was under the impression that it was great, but the general consensus seemed to be that the card was nothing more than fine. Determined to find out if I was wrong or if the masses were wrong, I began throwing copies of Shapers’ Sanctuary into basically every sideboard where it seemed reasonable, and the card almost always overperformed for me. At this point, I can confidently state that Shapers’ Sanctuary is absolutely the real deal. Shapers’ Sanctuary is game changing for decks that previously struggled to slog through heaps of removal, and it’s poised to become a multi-format all-star.

Legacy

It’s pretty rare for new cards to make an impact in Legacy. The format is home to some of the most powerful cards ever printed, and they don’t really make them like they used to. There is a deck in the format that was in desperate need of a card like Shapers’ Sanctuary though, and that deck just happens to be a personal favorite of mine.


Izzet Staticaster
One of the biggest reasons why Elves has been on the decline in the format is the deck hasn’t been on the receiving end of any notable upgrades in years.

PSA for all Elves players: Nissa, Vital Force is awful, please stop playing it.

What Elves lacked in speed compared to the other combo decks of the format, it made up for in resiliency. The deck preyed on the fair Blue decks of the format, and consistently outcarded them in the late game. But with the premier Blue decks of the format being Grixis Delver and Four-Color Leovold, this is no longer the case.

The adoption of Young Pyromancer by Delver strategies has been particularly problematic for Elves. Young Pyromancer is a much better threat against Elves than cards like Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose ever were, but the real problems Young Pyromancer causes for Elves are deeper than that. By playing Young Pyromancer, Delver gains the ability to play Cabal Therapy. Between Gitaxian Probe and Young Pyromancer, getting three-for-oned by a Cabal Therapy isn’t a rare occurrence. The other issue Young Pyromancer has created for Elves is an uptick in hate for x/1s. Even though Elves isn’t exactly a top-tier deck at the moment, cards like Izzet Staticaster, Liliana, the Last Hope, and Forked Bolt aren’t going anywhere. Fighting through all these cards together felt hopeless at times, and Delver was supposed to be one of your better matchups. I was starting to completely lose faith in my go to Legacy deck, but Shapers’ Sanctuary has made me a believer again. I currently have a 100% win rate against Grixis Delver in games where I cast a Shapers’ Sanctuary ~(10-0). The biggest down side to Shapers’ Sanctuary is that it can be a poor top deck later on in the game, but I’ve found that even drawing it a few turns into the game is generally good enough to get the job done.

In one of my feature matches from this past weekend, my Grixis Delver opponent lead on a Grim Lavamancer, connected with a Jitte three times, and had a Liliana, the Last Hope in their hand that they didn’t even bother casting, and I won the game pretty easily because I had two copies of Sanctuary online by turn three. I can’t think of another card in the game that would’ve bailed me out of that situation.

Modern

Elves is most likely the only Legacy deck that can really utilize Shapers’ Sanctuary, but it has the potential to be a fixture in the sideboard of multiple different strategies in Modern. Modern is the ideal format for Shapers’ Sanctuary because there’s no shortage of creature combo decks and creature dense decks aiming to leverage synergy, and these decks have always struggled against the spot removal saturated decks of the format. With the addition of Shapers’ Sanctuary, the creature decks have access to an efficient tool to combat decks overloading on removal.


This is the closest analogue to Legacy Elves in Modern. When unimpeded, the deck has one of the fastest goldfishes in the format. The biggest issue with the deck has always been its weakness to removal. While cards like Collected Company, Eternal Witness, and Duskwatch Recruiter give the deck some staying power, a pile of removal is generally effective in both preventing the deck from comboing and from assembling a formidable board presence. But in these matchups, an early Shapers’ Sanctuary can completely invalidate a large portion of the opposing deck, swinging the matchup heavily in the favor of Company.

With the ability to race any deck in the format, and the ability to keep up with most decks in the late game, I expect Counters Company to cement itself as one of the best decks in Modern.


While Shapers’ Sanctuary has gone underappreciated since its release, it has caught on in Infect, and it’s one of the biggest reasons why the deck has started to see a resurgence. Shapers’ Sanctuary functions a bit differently in this deck than it does in the ones we've looked at so far. Rather than just running it alongside a high number of creatures and just hoping to keep replacing each threat, Infect takes advantage of the fact that Shapers’ Sanctuary triggers on each instance of targeting. So with a Shapers’ Sanctuary in play, you can expend copies of cards like Vines of Vastwood and Blossoming Defense, and still be left with a hand full of gas. Shapers’ Sanctuary still does incentivize you run a slightly more threat dense version of the deck though, and it’s validating to see Jacob also come to the conclusion to run two copies of Ichorclaw Myr like I suggested the last time I wrote about this deck.

With Death’s Shadow on the decline, combo on the rise, and the addition of Shapers’ Sanctuary, Infect is one best decks to be playing in Modern at the moment. As a fan of Infect and good decks, I’m really looking forward to sleeving up some Blighted Agents again; it’s been too long.


Affinity has been one of the best decks in Modern since the format’s inception, and it remains one to this day. The longevity of Affinity can be attributed to the raw power level of the deck. Very few decks in the format can actually compete with Affinity without access to haymakers out of the sideboard.

Unfortunately for fans of Affinity, one of the deck’s only inherently bad matchups, Jeskai Control, has seen a significant uptick in play over the past few months.

When I began playing Magic, Affinity was the first deck I put a lot of effort into thoroughly learning the ins-and-outs of. When I started playing in PTQs with the deck, I noticed every event I played followed a pattern; I beat every deck that wasn’t Jeskai, and I lost to every deck that was Jeskai. After astutely observing this, I began looking for ways to remedy the matchup, but I was never successful. There just wasn’t a single card in the entire format that could provide the effect Affinity needed to contend in the matchup.

While Shapers’ Sanctuary doesn’t fit quite as well into this deck as it does into the others, it has been quite good for me in the Jeskai matchup, and I think it's deserving of a sideboard slot. I don’t think you can play more than one copy, as the card is very weak outside of your opening hand in this deck.

Standard

Shapers’ Sanctuary is certainly powerful enough for Standard, and it could easily fit into almost any energy shell, but I don’t think the card is right for Standard. Board presence is far too important, and the decks never run out of cards anyway, so it’s difficult to justify playing the card. Even if you were to cast the card against a deck like {U}{B} Control, your opponent could still just go over the top of you with something like The Scarab God.

Identifying when and why Shapers’ Sanctuary is good is an imperative step in understanding the card. Shapers’ Sanctuary is at its best in games revolving around attrition and incremental card advantage. Games like this occur far less often in Standard than they do in formats like Legacy and Modern.

My results with Shapers’ Sanctuary have been incredibly promising up until this point, and I can’t wait to keep trying to push the card even further. It just has an incredibly high ceiling for such a low cost, and it can completely turn a matchup on its head if the opponent isn’t prepared for it. I really can’t emphasize this any more than I already have, but everyone needs to start playing this card.


Unstable is available for Preorder!

Comments

comments