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Not Your Beasts of Burden

Riddle me this? How is my Arcades, the Strategist deck like a bad dentist’s office?

0 copies of Rolling Stone . . . 

I will admit I initially rolled my eyes when Arcades was spoiled because it seemed so . . .  linear. A lot of people started buying up walls, cards like Rolling Stones and other obvious cards for the deck and that irked me a bit and that may have given some people the impression that I was down on this deck. I’m not, per se, but I have reservations. It seems like there’s basically one way to build it and since I didn’t want that, I decided to brew something else. But I was inspired by the idea of starting from a position of “I’m probably not going to attack much” and I realized that removing that infrastructure from the deck freed up a lot of spots — as many as 15 or 20 cards in some instances. I don’t have to play spells like Tower Defense because even though that’s a team Lava Axe in Magic Christmas land, in reality land, I don’t attack with creatures all that often in EDH if I can avoid it. Some builds are very adept at it and that’s cool but let’s let everyone else on the planet swing with their Shield Spheres and let’s worry about the other text on Arcades, because that’s what I care about.

If we don’t have to worry about attacking, we can focus on how that clause is a bit absurd if we start running out Wall of Blossoms, Panharmonicon, and Equilibrium. We’ll be drawing 3 or 4 cards every time we play a two-mana creature and that’s got me excited. Primordial Sage, Beck // Call, Glimpse of Nature — all of these spells can make a wall loop pretty absurd. Add Axebane Guardian and some mana rocks and Paradox Engine to the mix and we’re a pretty spicy combo deck that can attack if it needs to, but can win through other means. Which other means? Helix Pinnacle, Approach of the Second Sun, or even the dreaded Laboratory Maniac (a card I won’t include since I like to challenge myself not to turn my card-drawing decks into decks where I deck myself) but which you can jam if you think you can draw that much that fast. Eschewing Labby will teach me the lessons of the Middle Earth Dwarves and I will have to avoid digging too greedily and too deep — unless I opt to loop Nexus of Fate, that is.

If we’re not attacking (unless we feel like it, which will look more fair than normal since we’re not running the typical “I attack with my walls” cards) the deck doesn’t look as linear to me as it used to and all of a sudden my head is filled with visions of value town where I’m going to be able to buy a mansion with all the valuebucks I’m about to get every time I throw down a wall. Axebane Guardian is a pretty key member of the crew, but I don’t necessarily want to tutor for it because I’m already drawing a ton of cards. If you want to jam a Worldly Tutor in here for that, you can always take it back out if it starts to bore you. Besides, the deck will likely have around 30 creatures so you can use it as a toolbox card if you have some discipline. Other really clutch creatures like Overgrown Battlements, Primordial Sage, and Tree of Redemption are in the mix, after all. If you’re feeling sassy, your build can include Doorkeeper, which can mill the table if you establish a loop. We’ll win maybe 1/x games when people let us go off, and if they don’t, we’re hard to kill, have other ways to win and we can use our extra cards to disrupt their plans. I feel good about this deck.

What would my build look like since I’m not going to attack with my walls very much?

Gathering Moss ? Commander | Jason Alt


I think this looks like a lot of fun. Feel free to give the deck an actual mana base if you build it. I couldn’t think of any utility lands I was excited to run beyond Reliquary Tower so I sort of yadda-yadda-yaddad the mana here. This will work fine, I think, but feel free to put your own touch on it.

You’re going to draw a lot of cards once you get going and I envisioned a scenario where the combo grinds to a halt because you can’t play another wall because you risk decking yourself from the card draw triggers. I jammed Capsize into the deck to bounce some of the permanents that will keep you from continuing the combo or, if you’re feeling particularly evil and you have enough mana rocks, capsizing every permanent on the board. Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement will be a huge help here, as will your mana rocks. Once you get the Engine combo going, you should be able to either generate enough mana to win with Helix Pinnacle, cast Approach twice in a turn or dump your hand for a potentially lethal alpha strike the next turn (if push comes to shove). I added some walls that have really low stats but cheap mana costs to emphasize we’re going for a combo build here. Here’s what I’d change if I wanted to personalize the deck.

A hybrid approach is possible and it’s what I typically build. If you wanted a hybrid combo deck that wasn’t worthless at attacking, I would change up some of the walls. Add Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive to make sure you can’t be blocked when you attack and add Coat of Arms to make sure you can Craterhoof Behemoth everyone. If you’re really deep on card draw but still committed to attacking to win, you can dump your hand super fast and just play more walls than they can deal with and always have a full grip. Maybe add some more countermagic or disruption to ensure your hybrid strategy is safe. While Ghostway et al are in the deck for a massive windfall of cards, they can save your bacon from a wrath or Cyclonic Rift that would pull your pants down and refill your grip to boot. The deck isn’t set up to attack per se as built, but a lot of the cards I included, even the cuter stuff, can support than meaning a hybrid build is between 8 and 12 cards away.

If you want to make this not quite 75%, add more tutors and add some non-wall utility like Kydele and Thrasios. You can Worldly Tutor for whichever combo piece you need and Fabricate for the rest. You’ll draw a lot of cards either way but throwing Axebane or Battlement on top with Worldly Tutor then playing a wall to draw it right away is a great way to make sure you go off in one turn, which may become necessary. Playing Paradox Engine in any deck makes you a target so only run that out the turn you can win, in my experience.

This deck looks a lot more fun to me than a run-of-the-mill Arcades deck where you attack with walls and should satisfy my urge to have a less fair combo deck and could be the resting place of a lot of my former Kydele/Thrasios pieces. Feel free to customize the build for your own personal preferences but remember, just because a build is obvious doesn’t mean you need to build that obvious way. If ignoring half of the text on a card gets you to a fun, interesting place, go to that place. Live in that place.

What did I miss? What did I include because I didn’t read the card correctly and don’t know how it works (that’s happened non-zero times). How are you building Arcades? Let me know in the comments, and remember to share this on Facebook and Twitter if you think your friends would get a kick out of this build. Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!


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