Kamigawa reveals are in full swing, and everyone’s talking about electric jellyfish and post-human cyberwave raves and compleated Planeswalkers. In all the commotion, one of the most exciting cards shown off so far has gone under the radar. It simply wouldn’t be Kamigawa without quirky lands.

The original block gave us the landfall-enabling Oboro, Palace in the Clouds, the cycle of Legend-boosting mechanic lands like Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, and the world’s worst Ancient Tomb in Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper. They weren’t all hits, but Forbidden Orchard, Miren, the Moaning Well, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, and Tendo Ice Bridge all saw play in Standard and continue to see play in Commander (and some fringe tournament play).

From what we’ve seen, I’m most excited for Boseiju, Who Endures. A maindeckable, green-mana-producing, all-but-uncounterable Field of Ruin/Naturalize split card is absurd, particularly once you start buying it back with Life from the Loam; but the unassuming Secluded Courtyard is a close second. Secluded Courtyard may not be Cavern of Souls, but it is a more flexible Unclaimed Territory or a more linear Ancient Ziggurat. With a Standard format rife with tribal synergy—from Kaldheim’s Giants to Crimson Vow’s Vampires to the cross-set Izzet Dragons—we have a host of decks that’ll benefit from the mana fixing the Courtyard offers.

The baseline for a deck that wants Secluded Courtyard is as many creatures of the selected type as can be crowbarred into the deck. We can’t use the Courtyard’s mana fixing to cast removal spells or Classes or Planeswalkers, so we’ll want to start with a solid core of creatures before branching out. Do note that the text of the Courtyard means we can activate abilities on “creature cards of the chosen type” from hand, like Channel or Cycling or Ninjutsu. That’s an upgrade from Unclaimed Territory.

What can you do with Secluded Courtyard in Standard? Let’s start with a tribe that’s been freshly boosted in the last few months: Vampires.

Standard Vampires

Creatures (27)
Valentin, Dean of the Vein
Voldaren Epicure
Falkenrath Pit Fighter
Voldaren Bloodcaster
Cemetery Gatekeeper
Nullpriest of Oblivion
Bloodtithe Harvester
Welcoming Vampire
Anje, Maid of Dishonor

Spells (10)
Bloodchief's Thirst
Play with Fire
Chandra, Dressed to Kill
Agadeem's Awakening
Lands (23)
Secluded Courtyard
Voldaren Estate
Haunted Ridge
Hive of the Eye Tyrant

With Secluded Courtyard supplementing Voldaren Estate, we can now splash for Welcoming Vampire without losing any of our velocity. Courtyard and Voldaren Estate allow us to cast either Valentin or Falkenrath Pit Fighter on turn one or without stumbling over a tapped land, and your curve is extra low (e.g., we’re eschewing Florian) to keep the Vampires flowing and give you space to activate Blood tokens and Anje. Chandra isn’t synergistic at all, but the reach she offers is beneficial, particularly in a deck that runs twelve cards castable off a single Red mana.

Vampires is level one, seeing as they’re at the forefront of our minds after Crimson Vow. What if we future-proofed for Kamigawa and built around a creature type that’s all-but-certain to be powered up?

Standard Spirits

Creatures (24)
Ascendant Spirit
Dorothea, Vengeful Victim
Spectral Adversary
Patrician Geist
Skyclave Apparition
Cemetery Illuminator
Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr

Spells (11)
Fateful Absence
Geistlight Snare
Saw it Coming
Hallowed Haunting
Lands (25)
Secluded Courtyard
Mistgate Pathway
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Plains
Glacial Floodplain

I’ve been incredibly impressed by Cemetery Illuminator in Limited, so let’s see if we can’t get it to Standard. A splash of graveyard hate combined with a pretty powerful Future Sight effect is potent on a three-drop, particularly when Secluded Courtyard helps us cast it on tempo. Being able to more consistently cast Skyclave Apparition or Cemetery Illuminator (or your Baneslayer analogue, Katilda) on turn three is huge for the deck. You run into issues with Ascendant Spirit, as your mana base isn’t 100% Snow, but over the last year, I’ve found even the fear of activation shifts the way your opponent plays.

It’s also possible to run a Bant version of the deck, as Willow Geist and Cemetery Illuminator have decent synergy, even if you’d rather Illuminate your opponent’s graveyard. That would open you up to any of the upcoming Green Kamigawa Spirits.

Finally, I wanted to give a deck with more limited time in Standard one last hurrah: Giants. Early on in Kaldheim, I had success with a Giants build—mostly, admittedly, on the still-in-Standard Bonecrusher Giant. But with another way to incorporate early drops with a Changeling or two, I think we can bring the deck back.

Standard Giants

Creatures (21)
Masked Vandal
Aegar, the Freezing Flame
Shatterskull Charger
Calamity Bearer

Spells (13)
Fire Giant's Fury
Expressive Iteration
Giant's Grasp
Battle of Frost and Fire
March of Reckless Joy
Lands (25)
Secluded Courtyard
Hall of Storm Giants
Riverglide Pathway
Cragcrown Pathway
Stormcarved Coast
Dreamroot Cascade

Unlike our other, creature-dense decks, we’re trying to get a Giant or two out and then pump them up and control the board. We’re able to get Giants down early thanks to our pair of Changelings, and thus charge up our Giant-themed cards. Our curve is higher than the other two decks, and we’re compensating for that by running Standard staple Expressive Iteration.

Kamigawa brings with it some pseudo-Shoals—the Marches—that will allow us to exile our Giants from hand for good effect. We’ve not seen the Blue one, or technically had the Red one officially revealed, but if it follows the Shoal cycle, we’re in good hands. March of Reckless Joy supplements our Expressive Iteration and gives us a bit more action in a somewhat-clunky deck. Whatever the Blue March ends up being will be worth considering, as otherwise we lack interaction and our large guys tend to get stranded in our hand.

Kamigawa was my introduction to the fringe of competitive Magic, which explains why I’ve stuck with the game for over twenty years—once you’ve weathered the end of Affinity Standard and then thrown into Ravnica, you tend to be pretty invested. That’s the way to experience Champions block: throw together a ludicrous Dragons deck that tries to run Keiga, Kokusho, and Ryusei and then go 0-4 against Heartbeat of Spring combo, mono-Red, and Gifts Ungiven control.

There’s a nostalgic warmth to Neon Dynasty for me, even as the story gets harrowing and the setting gets distorted. Maybe it’s just that we’re returning to old haunting grounds, with that massive tree looming over the city skyline, but it feels like a homecoming. Or maybe a reunion, where we’re returning to a place where we weren’t quite fully baked, but with lessons and hardships and regrets in our hearts. At nineteen, I tapped Boseiju to make sure my key spells resolved; now, at almost thirty-six, I’m looking forward to scrapping a spare copy to destroy Blood Moon. After almost twenty years, we’re coming back to Kamigawa, and it has changed even more than we have.

A lifelong resident of the Carolinas and a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Rob has played Magic since he picked a Darkling Stalker up off the soccer field at summer camp. He works for nonprofits as an educational strategies developer and, in his off-hours, enjoys writing fiction, playing games, and exploring new beers.

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