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In the Court of Arcades Sabboth


In the first years of Magic: the Gathering's existence, Legends introduced players to legendary creatures. There were a lot of cool and unique creatures here - as well as some terrible ones - but few caught players' attention as much as the five Elder Dragon Legends.

Arcades Sabboth

Vaevictis Asmadi
Nicol Bolas

These cards may not look like much today, but at the time creatures were actually terrible. Think creatures like Serra Angel, Shivan Dragon, and Mahamoti Djinn being the best the game had to offer at the time. As such, the release of these cards was somewhat of a revelation and showed us just how big and powerful creatures could really be. They were later reprinted in Chronicles and allowed many a player to get their hands on copies for themselves. It was these cards that served as the basis for the Elder Dragon Highlander format that would eventually come to be known as Commander.

I personally will never forget the first time I saw these cards. I went over to the house of my friend Zach to play Pokemon (the card game), some Pokemon Stadium, and to get introduced to the classic that is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. While there, we started talking about Magic a bit and he pulled out his older brother's collection and showed me all kinds of cool cards, including these monstrous dragons. It wasn't long before I sought out my own copies of some Chronicles versions and stuffed them into my 150 card, five-color deck of nonsense that defines casual Magic.

Arcades Sabboth

My first two were Palladia-Mors and Arcades Sabboth, and while they're far from being great cards by today's standards, they were everything to 9-year-old Kendra. While Palladia-Mors is just rough in terms of playability, though, Arcades Sabboth is actually kind of interesting, featuring the ability of the card Castle on it. It's interesting enough that I was actually inspired to build a whole deck several years ago around the theme of him lording over and commanding the armies of a castle somewhere on Dominaria.

Recently I started digging around old Commander decklists I had and stumbled onto my Arcades Sabboth Castle themed deck and am bringing it here for you all today. Check it out!

Arcades Sabboth's Castle | Commander | Kendra Smith

As you might have guessed, this deck is actually just not that great. I built it around 5 years ago while recovering from some surgery as online Commander via Magic Online became one of my chief ways to kill time. The themes are all here and on full display though. There's plenty of knights, walls, archers, catapults, and so on. Darien acts as the castle's king with Arcades acting as the general, which is fitting in the spirit of a commander - or general - heading your deck. You even had champions in the planeswalkers Gideon and Elspeth who led by your side. Each of the lands was also meant to represent something you would be likely to find in a castle or something you might see on a castle grounds just outside it.

Building the deck, however, sacrificed functionality for flavor. It's the kind of deck that might be fine if you're looking for something simple and flavorful to play with friends who just picked up the format for the first time using pre-cons, but not much else. It's way too weak for a more experienced table. What's more, it was also built on some severe budget limitations I was under at the time, which is why you don't see cards like Temple Garden here for example, even though it would make perfect sense with the theme. This got me thinking about revisiting such an interesting concept and seeing what I could come up with.

Here's how the revamp came out:

Arcades' Castle Revamped | Commander | Kendra Smith

When building this list, I realized I had to sacrifice a lot of cards. Sure, cards like Ivory Tower, Archery Training, White Knight, and Allied Reinforcements are incredibly flavorful, but they're absolutely abysmal Commander cards. Again, fine for a newer playgroup, but odds are if you're reading this then you're likely looking for something that can be played by a more experienced bunch. So, I leaned in a lot on the creatures, and I focused more on two areas: walls and knights.

Walls seemed great and thematic in the way you build a fortress, not to mention they work nicely with Arcades, the Strategist - the modern version of Arcades Sabboth. Given how the original Arcades is kind of dated in power level, I actually tried to build around Arcades, the Strategist first and featured more walls. The problem that arose, however, was it felt like I was lacking in enough walls to actually justify the change in commander. What's more, it also cut heavily into the knight tribal aspect, which was something I tried to push more so that the deck could actually stand a shot at winning through combat.

Castle Ardenvale
Court of Bounty
The Circle of Loyalty

As it happens, the last few years since the initial rendition of the deck have been chock full of great cards that can fit with the knight theme so I switched back over to classic Arcades and ran with it. We got lots of knights and related cards with both Throne of Eldraine and Dominaria, giving us plenty of great toys. Cards like Worthy Knight, The Circle of Loyalty, and Benalish Marshal work wonderfully for what we've got going on. Throne even had two castles that we could now use as lands, ignoring Castle Garenbrig because we're not using that much Green mana. We can even make Oko, Thief of Crowns work here by way of him being a sort of court jester.

The Court cycle from Commander Legends also works fittingly well and gives us cool new ways to play with the monarch mechanic that was used a little in the original build. Every good castle needs a War Room as well, making it quite fitting for this deck. In fact, the first thing I think of whenever I see the card is the council room from Game of Thrones, which obviously is right at home inside a castle. Icon of Ancestry works as a beautiful stained glass window, Duelist's Heritage is the thing you'd expect to see on a mantle, Flawless Maneuver is a fortress defending itself, and so on.

There's just lots of cool new ways that this deck came together and I'm very happy with the results. I think it's always really fun to find inventive new ways to build onto some of the game's most classic cards and it was no exception here. I'll always have a warm place in my heart for ol' Arcades Sabboth, as I'll never forget going to my first LGS and buying him out of the shop's case at 10 years old. Building a deck like this is something out of passion and love and is, in my opinion, the truest spirit of Commander as a format.

Give it a try at your next Commander night and defend your castle!

Kendra Smith

Twitter: @TheMaverickGal

Twitch: twitch.tv/themaverickgirl

YouTube: Kendra Smith

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