Updated: Feb 7, 2019
This deck is a community submission from Nicko.
I love creatures with fat bottoms. Giggity.
More than that though, I have been on this "creatures deal damage equal to their toughness not power" train for awhile. Long since the days of Doran, the Siege Tower, and most recently in Standard with Assault Formation in Khans Block, has this strategy been an effective one.
When M19 was first getting spoiled, Arcades, the Strategist, arrived fairly early. The community was set abuzz by the possibilities of a "walls deck." Ravnica Allegiance has brought along with it some spells and additional solutions, that make a loose deck more concrete - more lethal. On of our LandSayGo'ers, I, seems to have solved the puzzle. This deck is replete with several of the cards I would include in a Bant Walls list, but I think there are a couple "gotcha's" and "gimme's" I would include to create additional resiliency and tempo.
I have put in the testing; let's dive into the deck and see what our analysis brings!
"We build too many walls and not enough bridges." - Sir Isaac Newton
Arcades is a very direct card. His utility is not hidden behind combos, nor does it require multiple cards or clever interactions to produce game-winning conditions. Arcades does not "lord our walls" in the toughness department, and he is not a Defender. No, what we get with Arcades is an Assault Formation effect, with a clear cut draw mechanic when we are playing additional creatures with Defender. Arcades is healthy enough with a 3/5 body, but he is also fragile, he dies to most targeted removal. In testing with this deck, I have been leaning on the sideboard against removal heavy matchups - our author, Nicko, has done a great job of building cards into our extra 15 that provide the "NO factor" we need.
Copies 5, 6, 7 & 8 of Arcades comes in the form of a new enchantment in Ravnica Allegiance. High Alert is interesting - clearly built for Arcades - in that we also get some additional functionality to untap our creatures for 4 mana (a bit much). I get how this might be beneficial as the game progresses into the longer turns - swinging in with our defenders - untapping an Amaranthine Wall for a buffer on the crack-back. In testing, it feels really bad to draw additional copies of HA at any point beyond the first copy. My first recommendation toward modification might be to trim two copies of this card and replace them with a really solid utility card like: Unbreakable Formation, as Unbreakable Formation is strictly better sitting in our hand with mana up.
"Walls don't fall without effort." - Neal Schusterman
There are a number of walls that I would love to put in a deck like this, but those walls are not available to us in Standard right now, and likely never will be. When you start fantasizing about the possibilities you quickly realize that Arcades is a dynamite Commander card, and that Standard decks are forced out a desire to accentuate the possibilities. We are the subjects of R&D at Wizards of the Coast - we are all under the kings boot - let's use what we have to maximum efficiency in an Arcades deck, shall we?
Amaranthine Wall may be the best defender we have in Standard. Who doesn't love indestructible creatures? Even if it costs us an arm and a leg? Nicko elects to deploy four copies in his list, and I understand why, an attacking indestructible creature dealing 6 damage kills a Carnage Tyrant, also the defensive capabilities of this creature are fantastic as well. I know that we can rely on Amaranthine Wall to shine in our four drop slot (if Arcades doesn't). High Alert gets me thinking though. What about Erratic Cyclops? What about a four color option to this deck? Then our 4-drop slot becomes (essentially) an 8/8 trampler? Just food for thought, I know that is not the deck we are reviewing, but I think we have cause to make additional considerations surrounding High Alert. Remember, we are building a simplistic strategy here. Our creatures that deal damage in accordance to their toughness, and card advantage generation based solely off of having an active Arcades on the battlefield. The remainder of our defenders are likely the best choices available to us in Standard, but I think the considerations the author placed into the card counts for each of the following creatures needs to be addressed. Further diversification may benefit us nicely.
The One Drops. Portcullis Vine helps us in a pinch on an extra draw, and once we have our defender trickery online is essentially a 3/3. Wall of Vines (in the sideboard) helps ease a number of my worries regarding flying aggro and our resiliency. It's helpful to be able to mitigate even small flying threats until we can get Arcades online. Healer's Hawk has not been as dominant, but Thief of Sanity is a sleeper and I hate it. Gleaming Barrier is an excellent choice for the two drop slot, when our strategy is online we are getting a 4/4 for two mana, and a Lotus Petal (Treasure) when it dies. Wall of Mist in a two drop slot provides us with additional vanilla support, and sees that our consistency in curving to High Alert is beneficial. Turn one Portcullis Vine, turn two Wall of Mist, and turn three High Alert provides us with a turn three combat step of 8 damage. NASTY. I like that Nicko has gone - ahem - balls to the wall on making our turn three or turn four combat scenarios extremely dangerous. In fact, as we get deeper into the deck, you will see that our author is leveraging new instants from Ravnica Allegiance to provide us with massive crushing swings.
Suspicious Bookcase, from M19, is an excellent long game strategy. We can sink unblockable damage once our defenders can attack, and force a removal interaction from our opponents. It's useful that we are forcing our opponent to commit resources to destroying a bookcase over a Legendary Ancient Dragon - especially when Arcades and High Alert are on the battlefield.
“Where there's a WALL, there's a WAY.” - Richie Norton
I'm hoping that we have enough in supplemental spell support to be competitive here, Nicko. After testing this deck, most of my wins have come via early and overwhelming combat with our defender creatures.
I think we may have found the PERFECT use for Slaughter the Strong in this Bant walls list. Talk about t totally one-sided answer to facing down an opposing creature deck. Every one of our walls survives, and we even get to keep our Arcades if we have one. Excellent. Conclave Tribunal is a staple in white-green decks in Standard. Use it well. Now let's move on to a card we can clearly see value in, regardless of the style of creature deck we are running: Tower Defense.
Tower Defense is a powerful, disguised, game-ending combat trick. An instant speed +5 to our damage for each creature (with combos online) creates terribly lopsided interactions during combat, and in the event your opponent tries to absorb some damage, you can kill them outright. I also like Aegis of the Heavens, It only targets one creature, but gives you the ability to expand your combat tricks. I'm actually not a big fan of Vanquisher's Banner in this deck. I understand that drawing cards on cast triggers for Walls can be useful, especially when compounded by Arcades, but I feel like we should drop the two copies of Banner in favor of some more combat tricks. In a deck committed to curving low and hitting hard early we need more mainboard solutions to potential problems. Additional copies of Conclave Tribunal (filling the vacancies in the sideboard with other options), two copies of Ixalan's Binding, or two copies of Unbreakable Formation would go to great lengths in ensuring more stability and more responses to setbacks.
"Reagan Smash." - The Family Guy
This sideboard includes some obvious competitive choices - a bulk of the extra 15 cards are aimed at preservation of our strategy, but I have a few suggestions. Let's start with the additional copies of Slaughter the Strong - great, yes, more of this. In testing, I consistently found myself dropping the copies of Conclave Tribunal against various creature decks of all types in favor of Slaughter the Strong. Dive Down is a profoundly powerful card in this deck; most instant speed removal from our opponent take place during our combat step. They are trying to save themselves from damage, and not only does Dive Down remove the valid target, but we increase damage output from the creature we are giving hexproof.
Negate is a tried and true response to planeswalkers, sweepers, enchantments, artifacts, combo pieces - anything noncreature. 4 copies may be a bit much, but I'm still onboard and understand how important it is to have access to a counter when we need access to a counter. Our author should consider the strength of Dive Down in the mainboard; moving several of the larger spells to sideboard and keeping the Dive Down in the mainboard offers a critical "nope" factor to our opponent trying to remove Arcades from play. Without dive down, against tuned meta decks, we are at a disadvantage. "Balls to the Walls" runs well, but my testing has led me to believe other options are required.
A Savior When All Else Fails...
There are a few cards that I want to be playing in an Arcades deck that are excluded in this list by Nicko. Let's briefly give those cards a nod and talk about my reasons for wanting them included, and then hopefully we've covered enough for you to take the base list, and the conversations that followed to craft your own Bant walls list. I like Junktroller in this list, even at one copy, because we are adding in additional tools. We can hit problematic cards in our opponents graveyard and toss our own cards back into our our library as well.
I feel like Resolute Watchdog has been overlooked for a defender deck since it is a Hound and not a Wall. I would include the Watchdog, likely at 4 copies, based solely on the ability to keep other creatures alive when directly destroyed or facing lethal combat damage. Also, who doesn't love a 3/3 for one mana? Sometimes we want to "burst" in these low CMC creature decks. In the event we have Arcades up, Song of Freyalise turns our 1 and two drop creatures into mana dorks, and we can drop several creatures all at once. Setting up a permanent buff and a vigilance-trample-indestructible combat step isn't ever bad either!
In taking additional considerations even a step further, we have an ability to smooth out mana curve in the deck with Saruli Caretaker. It feels good to be able to expedite our casting of Arcades, even potentially "getting there" on turn three with the right opening hand and draws.
Novice Knight is a great one drop for our strategy. Even though we are not exploiting the equip/enchant functionality of the creature, we get a great answer to red or white aggro strategies. Combat exchanges generally are not favorable for our opponent until combat tricks come into play. Beast Whisperer is an excellent swap for Vanquisher's Banner minus the anthem effect - lower in CMC, and just as potent in terms of draw in triggering off of creature spells, not creature types.
Thanks for the submission. We'd love to keep the conversation going about this deck, please sub to the site and leave your comments to the review in the comments section down below.
Until next time - this is #LSG reminding you to play a Land, a Portcullis Vine (or Resolute Watchdog), and Say Go.