When Nicol Bolas, the Ravager was spoiled I was impressed, to say the least. But at that time, I didn’t know that he was the first of a throwback cycle to the original Elder Dragons of Legends. Then Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner and Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire were spoiled, both powerful cards for Standard, and I didn’t realize it was the full cycle until Chromium, the Mutable was released, one of the most memorable of the bunch. Then some time went by and I thought to myself, “Isn’t there another one?” Arcades, the Strategist was finally spoiled, and there hasn’t been a lot of talk about it, but I believe that it’s potentially the most powerful of the five.
Yep. That’s right. This glorified Rolling Stones means business. While it has a powerful upside, the key to unlocking Arcades’ potential is to avoid playing too many cards that are not powerful enough on their own—which is why I don’t see a home for it in Standard, where the best defender is… Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs? Having too many bad cards that rely on Arcades lays too much responsibility on one card, and if disrupted, nothing works. If the cards are fine on their own, it’s a different story, which is why I’m more interested in its potential in Modern, where there are options like Wall of Omens, Wall of Blossoms, etc.
When Arcades hits the battlefield, all of a sudden, Wall of Omens is now a Tarmogoyf that draws you a card. What about Orator of Ojutai? With some help, it’s a flying Tarmogoyf that draws you a card! How about Wall of Denial? Boom, take 8 flying shroud damage! Mantis Rider don’t have anything on this monster! Whenever you have a dedicated Arcades deck, it will get instant value when you play it, attacking for tons of damage. But we haven’t talked about the best thing yet.
Whenever Arcades stays on the battlefield, you can basically go off, drawing cards off all of your Walls, and drawing two cards off of Wall of Omens or Orator of Ojutai. All of a sudden, Wall of Roots becomes insane—it’s basically a 4/4 for 1 mana that replaces itself, given that it produces a mana the turn you play it and it replaces itself by drawing a card. Add an Overgrown Battlements without summoning sickness to the equation and it’s free of charge! If Arcades stays on the battlefield a full turn cycle, the extra cards you draw with it help you find another copy to keep the ball rolling. Well, the ball won’t be rolling too long, because Arcades will most likely only need 1 or 2 turns before it clocks your opponent.
Bant Arcades harnesses the power of Arcades to its fullest potential. By playing acceleration like Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, and Overgrown Battlement alongside walls that cantrip such as Wall of Omens and Orator of Ojutai, you can churn out tons of walls early to then finish off our opponent in one big swing, cast Arcades as early as possible to start your clock or against some grindier decks, and make sure you get a few cards off Arcades the turn you play him. Filling your deck with creatures and acceleration also lets you play Chord of Calling to get more copies of Arcades. Why is that important?
Since your deck is filled with defenders, it doesn’t do anything proactive without Arcades. That’s why you must make sure that you play more virtual copies of him in Chord of Calling and cantrips to find him. And when you do find him, you’ll want to keep him, so protecting him with Blossoming Defense can be huge—which is easier to keep up with acceleration and especially Wall of Roots since you can activate it on your opponent’s turn as well as your own. To add a safeguard on top of that, I’ve included Assault Formation to make sure there are ways to win through removal and other reactive cards. What I especially like about Assault Formation is that it isn’t a dead card once you have Arcades, since not only does it work like a Gerrard’s Battle Cry, but it also makes Arcades deal more damage.
Where the Bant Arcades deck tries the proactive approach, I believe there’s a good chance there are a couple more ways to build around the card because I think it’s that powerful. One way is to take a more reactive approach by playing fewer defenders and ways to trade against your opponent’s resources so that Arcades can take over the game later.
The 4-color Arcades deck takes a detour into black to imitate Abzan or Jund and uses discard spells to slow down the game and trade 1-for-1 easier. This way, you get more time to win with an expensive card like Arcades, the Strategist when you’re not trying to ramp, similar to how Jund tries to make Bloodbraid Elf and Raging Ravine relevant. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek also help you clear a way for Arcades to take over.
What’s sweet about this version is that removal spells aren’t naturally good against the deck with cards like Wall of Omens and Lingering Souls, but you clearly need them versus Arcades. With the help of discard spells you can take advantage of that, making it tougher on your opponent in games 2 and 3.
Even against unfair decks, Arcades is powerful since it helps your reactive cards clock your opponent quickly. When a card offers a value engine and a fast proactive threat at the same time, you’ve got something sweet on your hands. And then I haven’t even talked about the fact that Arcades is a 3/5, flying vigilance creature for 4 mana. Last I checked, Restoration Angel was fine a Modern card and Arcades comes with a hell of a lot more (while more narrow) powerful abilities!