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Deep Tracks: Arcades

Welcome to the tenth edition of Deep Tracks! I’d like to start off this week by extending a huge thanks to all of you! It’s your continued support that makes this all worthwhile for me, and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to share my passion for Magic with such a great community of people. Thank you!

Magic Core Set 2019 is upon us. Spoilers have been rolling out and well, well, well, what do we have here? The five Elder Dragons from Legends have returned! Sweet! Dragons are always a blast to discuss and attempt to brew around. Let’s break out the shovels and begin our archeological dig by examining the bant colored Arcades:

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Oh my… Ok, a 7/7 flying Dragon sounds awesome, right?! But John, look at that casting cost and upkeep tax. Yikes! Arcades Sabboth dates back to 1994 and is a great example of how far Magic has come in terms of card design and visual aesthetics. The card is very primitive and I could tell from the start that building a deck around Arcades Sabboth would be a monumental task. On the contrary, the newly revitalized Arcades from Core Set 2019 appears to be ripe for some brewing:

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Alright, now we’re cooking! This new rendition of Arcades looks pretty tantalizing. I feel like Wizards nailed it in terms of throwback flavor. And I love the artwork too. Arcades, the Strategist is a fine representation of the original from Legends, but way more reasonable in terms of playability; no more ridiculous casting cost or cringe-worthy upkeep tax.

In terms of functionality, both versions of Arcades have abilities that are clearly focused on the toughness stat of creatures you control. And Arcades, the Strategist (specifically) wants to see the defender keyword to enable its card-drawing engine. From a deckbuilding / strategic point of view, brewing a deck focused on the toughness stat is a little offbeat, but I like the premise. I developed some ideas for Modern and Standard, but first we're taking a stroll down the streets of Legacy. Let’s get busy!


Despite its obvious deckbuilding restrictions, I wanted to try and do something with Arcades Sabboth. Thankfully, cards like Show and Tell, Reanimate, Sneak Attack, and Natural Order (to name a few) exist in the Legacy format! I decided to go with a creature-cheat strategy while also keeping in mind that we need to somehow stay on top of Arcades’ upkeep cost. Here’s my ode to OG Arcades:

As you can see, I decided to ignore Arcades Sabboth’s “pump” ability; we really don't have a use for it here. Rather, we’re simply looking to "cheat" the Elder Dragon onto the battlefield on turn two or three and present a fast clock with an evasive threat. As a bonus, our mana dorks will receive a little fringe protection from Arcades Sabboth via his state-based effect granting a +0/+2 boost to all of our creatures (if they're untapped). This little perk meshes well because we're typically not looking to attack with Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise. Their primary role is to provide mana acceleration and help pay for Arcades Sabboth's upkeep trigger.

Our "cheat" spells are Show and Tell and Natural Order. Natural Order adds a toolbox element to the gameplan, allowing us to tutor up a variety of high CMC creatures:

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Natural Order is somewhat anti-synergistic because we like keeping our mana dorks alive in the event that we've landed an Arcades Sabboth. It's just something to consider because we need sacrifice targets for N.O., and the dorks are always the first to go! The rest of the deck consists of card filtering spells like Brainstorm, and counter magic such as Force of Will to help protect our combo pieces. The sideboard includes a mix of hate cards and interactive spells, and some additional overpriced monsters:

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Arcades, the Strategist led me down a different path when I started crafting a deck for Modern. Instead of cheating big scary things into play, I ended up with a defender themed strategy that wants to develop a stable board-state and then eventually steamroll through the opponents defenses:

Wow, that's alot of Walls! Starting in the one-drop slot we have Jaddi Offshoot... ah, memories of Battle for Zendikar. Wait, remember Gideon, Ally of Zendikar!?!?! Alright, let's not go there. I packed the deck full of some of my favorite 2 CMC Walls:

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I know, Sylvan Caryatid is technically not a Wall creature. But, it does have defender and it's one of my pet cards. Also, its "bolt-proof". Wall of Omens helps us accrue some incremental card advantage. Wall of Roots is multi-functional, offering a nice sized body and mana ramp when we need it. And Wall of Shards is our big nasty finisher... flying 8/8 at your face anyone? If you think that's busted, let's add this to the equation:

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So yeah, how about a big flying 15/15 Wall of Shards at your face opponent? mhm. Also in the mix we have a light suite of protection and card filtering. And I've included Assault Formation to provide redundancy, and to serve as a backup to Arcades, the Strategist. And yes, I snuck in a copy of the Pauper staple Mnemonic Wall in as a way to recycle our Path to Exiles, Serum Visions, and Remands from our graveyard.

So, are you hyped up for Arcades, the Strategist yet? Good, let's move on to a potential application for Standard!


Core Set 2019 will soon be entering the Standard card pool. You know what that means... it's time to brew for the stars! I decided to stick with the Wall / defender theme for this decklist because it's simply what Arcades, the Strategist wants. And with Arcades leading the way there's no need to worry; ain't no Chainwhirlers bringing us down!

We should probably start with Llanowar Elves because it's kind of the oddball and yes, it dies to Goblin Chainwhirler. But it's ok, we have tricks up our sleeve:

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I worked in a few ways to protect not only Llanowar Elves, but our other creatures as well... Blossoming Defense is a no-brainer, but Dusk // Dawn and Deep Freeze provide flexibility and protect our Elves in a "pseudo" fashion. For instance, I could see the following line unveil itself:

We play Llanowar Elves > they play Goblin Chainwhirler > we play Dusk > they lose Chainwhirler > we play Dawn and get back our Llanowar Elves, along with any other creatures in our graveyard. Value train anyone?

Deep Freeze is another interesting piece and I couldn't help but include it. It can serve as soft removal for threats like Hazoret the Fervent (for example) or turn our Llanowar Elves into a ready-on-the-go 0/4 with defender if that's what we need. Also, the deck is light on three-drops so I chose Deep Freeze to try and fill the void.

The Wall / defender package starts at 1 CMC with the freshly reprinted Wall of Vines. Love it! Next we have a couple of suspicious looking Artifact Walls:

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Nothing super special going on here. However, these non-threatening Walls turn into 4/4 attackers once we resolve Arcades, the Strategist. Consulate Skygate and Gleaming Barrier make for fine early-game blockers, and do add a little value with their abilities. While we're on the subject of Artifact Walls... I also slotted in a few copies of Amaranthine Wall from Dominaria as a top end piece that can stonewall a lot of dangerous ground threats in the format. And maybe, just maybe, I've found a decent home for another exciting card for Core Set 2019:

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It's not a Wall, but it does synergize nicely with Arcades, the Strategist and Dusk // Dawn! And check that little dude out; Runic Armasaur is screaming "play me, play me!" :)

... I love Magic: the Gathering!

Conclusion (and a challenge!)

I'm super excited to test out all the re-imagined Elder Dragons that hearken back to Legends! But I also want to see your ideas too! So, to celebrate the upcoming release of Core Set 2019 I have a challenge for you: Build me a deck based around Chromium, the Mutable! I don't care if it's combo, control, aggro, or whatever you want! And you pick the format too. It just needs to be your original idea, and I'd like to see a cohesive strategy too. The best way to submit your decklist is to either DM me on Twitter @WallofOmens or shoot me an email (address below). You can also post your lists in the comments, but I'd prefer the aforementioned methods if possible. If I receive enough submissions and find an awe-inspiring decklist, I'll include it in the next edition of Deep Tracks in which we'll continue our Elder Dragon exploration with Chromium! I'm already in the lab brewing up my own ideas, now I wanna see what you've got!

Well, that’s it for now. Let me know what you think! Is there anything else we can do with the old school classic Arcades Sabboth? What do think of the re-imagined Arcades, the Strategist from Core Set 2019? As always, all comments are welcome, thank you so much for reading, and have a great one!

Twitter - @WallofOmens

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