Arena Standard - Rise of the Shield Hero (Bant Defenders)

15 27 11
20 15 3 22
Aggro Jank


-          [[Arcades, the Strategist]] and [[High Alert]] are our win conditions.

-          Play Defender creatures on curve.

-          Use [[Incubation]] and [[Opt]] to search for win conditions.

-          Use [[Dive Down]] to either protect Arcades or to get in the last bit of damage to win.

-          Use [[Resolute Watchdog]] ability to protect Arcades.



Hello there! Welcome to my first deck list, Bant Defenders. Since Arcades, the Strategist was released in M19 I wanted to try my hand at a build around deck for him. Ravnica Allegiance gave us High Alert which made the deck more consistent, and with Teyo, the Shieldmage arriving from War of the Spark, I felt that it was time to make this deck a thing. This is a jank deck that probably isn’t viable in Ranked Play on Arena, but it’s a lot of fun to play in Play mode.


First, let's talk about the build around cards.


{{Arcades, the Strategis}} {{High Alert}}

The Build Arounds

Both Arcades and High Alert allow our creatures with Defender to attack as if they didn't have Defender, but there is a slight difference with the other effect they share. Arcades only allows creatures with Defender to assign combat damage equal to their toughness, while High Alert allows all creatures to do that. Arcades will not work with himself, which may be an important thing to factor when going into the combat phase.

Arcades also allows us to draw a card every time a creature with Defender enters the battlefield, but that ability has never been a major factor in games. Assuming you play creatures on turns 1-3 that is a minimum of nine damage (three [[Wall of Vines]] or [[Resolute Watchdog]]) or at most eighteen damage (two [[Wall of Mist]], and two [[Wall of Runes]]) to the face on turn four when Arcades comes down. This put the opponent on an incredibly fast clock, as they must either deal with Arcades, deal with your walls, or setup a defense with creatures or spells. If Arcades sticks around the game usually ends shortly after that.

We can't bank on god draws every game to give us the win, so we need some other cards to help us get to either Arcades or High Alert.


{{Wall of Runes}} {{Opt}} {{Incubation}}

Searching For Victory

[[Wall of Runes]] is perfect as it has Defender and also allows us to Scry. [[Opt]] also helps us filter through our deck and toss cards that won't help in the current situation. [[Incubation]] is a great card as it can either search five deep into our deck for creatures, or it can be used as pseudo-removal. Yes the opponent gets a base 3/3 token but that will usually be worse than the original creature you targeted.


{{Teyo, the Shieldmage}} {{Wall of Mist}} {{Wall of Vines}}

Supporting Cards

[[Teyo, the Shieldmage]] fits nicely into the deck. He gives us a creature with Defender and he protects our face from spells. If he eats a bolt or a creature attack we're fine with that because that's damage we're not taking.

Finally we round the deck out with [[Wall of Mist]] (because of its high defense) and [[Wall of Vines]] (because it has Reach).


{{Dive Down}} {{Resolute Watchdog}}

Protecting Our Win Condition

Because we're playing Incubation/Incongruity odds are high that you will combo off with Arcades more often than you will combo off with High Alert, however Arcades is more fragile than High Alert. There isn't a lot of enchantment removal running around so if High Alert resolves it's probably sticking around for a while. If Arcades resolves there is a good chance he's taking a removal spell during your opponents turn.

[[Dive Down]] helps us protect the dragon and gives us additional burst potential. Hexproof protects Arcades from single target removal, and the +0/+3 the spell gives can give us the last bit of reach to close out a game. There were many times while playing the deck that a single or double Dive Down on an attacking creature pushed me across the finish line.

Another card that protects Arcades is [[Resolute Watchdog]]. It has Defender and can sacrifice itself for one mana to grant Indestructible to another target creature.

With the decklist out of the way, let's jump into how to play the deck.


The Mulligan and the First Few Turns

In your opening hand you want to attempt to play a creature on curve from turn one to three. You may have to take damage from shock lands in order to achieve that. That's fine; your creatures have more than enough defenses to fend off any creature in that mana range. In addition to blocking creatures you are setting up for the Arcades/High Alert swing. You want to be ready for your opponent’s shields to be down; you don't want to be a turn behind when that happens.


Searching for the Win

If your creatures stick around for the first three turns you can spend the next few turns looking for your win conditions, f the creatures are countered or removed you may have to use Opt and Inoculation to replenish them and depend on luck of the draw for High Alert or Arcades.


Protecting Your Win Condition

You will probably win most of your games with Arcades. The best card we have to search our library only pulls creatures (Inoculation) and all of our protection only protects creatures (Dive Down, Resolute Watchdog).  Keep in mind that casting Arcades with protection requires five mana; four for the dragon and either one colorless for Resolute Watchdog or one blue for Dive Down. Understanding what your opponents deck is capable of is key in understand if it is safe to cast Arcades on curve or if it’s worth it to wait a turn or longer to protect him.


Other Information

There is very little interaction with the opponent in this deck. The one piece of interaction comes from the Incongruity side of Incubation/Incongruity. Your only way of stalling is via chunky creatures, the opponent is allowed to cast and do anything they want while we durdle and search for our win conditions. This is the big downside to the deck. We don't deny our opponent tempo and we cannot out-tempo our opponent. Our gameplan is to grab our win condition and burst the opponent down before they can defend themselves or before they out-tempo us and win.


Arcades/High Alert are very versatile cards that can either pressure an opponent’s life total or can act as pseudo-removal. A 4 /4 attacker (Wall of Runes) or a 5 /5 attacker (Wall of Mist) has very few opposing creatures that can take them down on turn three or four, causing you to one-for-two or one-for-three opposing creatures if an opponent does decide to block. If the attack goes through unblocked the resulting damage can take someone down to half their health easily, making them rethink a crackback with creatures during their turn.


You have to know when the best time is to pop-off with Arcades or High Alert. Casting either card when you have few creature or if you don't intend on attacking the same turn is bad. It telegraphs your win condition and gives your opponent a few turns to course correct their gameplan. Your opponent will probably sniff out your win condition after seeing a few Defender creatures drop, but they won't know which card you will use to achieve it. You lose the element of surprise by casting either card prematurely.

This is why you have to aggressively play creatures, and then use Incubation and Opt to grab High Alert or Arcades and swing in for massive damage.


Cards That Didn’t Make The Cut

This deck went through much iteration before arriving at this one, and there were multiple cards I tried to make work. I'll go through most of the notable cards and give some reasoning to why I cut them.


{{Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive}}

One card I tried to make work was [[Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive]]. She is only good in very specific situations. Let's say you play either Arcades or High Alert and catch your opponent with their shields down. If your opponent cannot take care of either card they will probably keep their creatures back to defend and possibly get another turn to respond. Playing Tetsuko next turn gives you a way around those pesky blockers.

The problem is you never cast Tetsuko without Arcades or High Alert already on board, which can make her a dead card through most of the game. If either card gets removed while Tetsuko is on board she doesn't do anything and is a dead card on board. Arcades/High Alert can function without her, but she cannot function without those cards.

Tetsuko may be a good sideboard option against decks heavy with Deathtouch creatures, but outside of that she doesn’t do much for this deck.


{{Tower Defense}} 

[[Tower Defense]] has the same problems that Tetsuko had. If you're able to swing with Arcades/High Alert on the field and you cast Tower Defense, you can turn a two turn clock into a zero turn clock. Without those pieces it's a dead card in hand. I traded this card for Dive Down, which can function as protection or additional damage.


{{Huatli, the Sun's Heart}} 

[[Huatli, the Sun's Heart]] is another planeswalker I played around with. Her static ability synergies well with the type of creatures we're running, and her minus ability can gain us quite a bit of life, allowing us to stabilize in certain match-ups.

The problem with her static ability is that it's a worse version of Arcades/High Alert, it doesn't allow our Defender creatures to attack. If an opponent’s creature cannot take out one of our Defender creatures they're not going to attack into it, rendering the static ability useless. Gaining life can give us an extra turn to search for our win condition, but it doesn't actually help us get to our win condition. Most of the time Huatli was a three mana do nothing card. I traded her out for cards that either searched for our win condition (Incubation/Incongruity) or protect our win condition (Resolute Watchdog).


{{Portcullis Vine}} 

[[Portcullis Vine]] was a creature card I ran for quite a bit before cutting it. The ability to draw a card upon sacrificing a Defender creature sounded promising, providing an additional way to get to our win condition. The problem was the cost to activate that ability.

 We want to play this deck very aggressively. One-drop into two-drop into three-drop is key if we want to surprise our enemy with a massive swing when Arcades/High Alert drops. Sacrificing another creature with Defender weakens our win condition if we were to find it, and tapping Portcullis Vine as well as sacrificing another creature leaves us open to attack. We would only use the ability if we were on the backfoot, and using the ability puts us even further on the backfoot. I traded this card for better cards that get us to our win condition or protect our win condition.


{{Teyo's Lightshield}} 

Teyo's Lightshield, while flavorful, doesn't have Defender and thus doesn't work for half of our win conditions (Arcades ability only works on creatures with Defender).



[[Neoform]] would be perfect in our deck but the only creature with Defender in the three mana slot in Standard is [[Dragon Egg]], which is not in the colors we're currently running. I assume this was done on purpose to prevent a guaranteed Arcades on turns four and beyond. In order to make this would I would need to splash red or include more non-defenders at the three mana slot. Both decisions would dilute the deck and make it more inconsistent.


{{Grappling Sundew}} {{Amaranthine Wall}}

Grappling Sundew has a decent toughness for its mana cost but its ability cost too much to make it worthwile. [[Amaranthine Wall]] has a great toughness and the ability to make it indestructible is cheap, but I would rather “go-wide” with this deck. Also four mana and above is when I want to start using Opt or Incubation to search for the win conditions while still building my board of Defenders for the turn I do find those conditions.


{{Finale of Devastation}} 

[[Finale of Devastation]] is a card I haven’t tried yet but may be a good addition to the deck. For six mana you can pull Arcades from your deck or graveyard and put him directly onto the battlefield. Going for X = 10 is excessive for this deck and is a win-more mode. I’m not sure what cards to cut for this Finale but in the future I will playtest it.



This is the end of the write-up! As I mentioned earlier I’ve only played this deck in Play Mode, I haven’t taken it for a spin in Ranked, your mileage may vary between those two modes. Please post any questions or concerns, and have fun!


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Last Updated: 04 May 2019
Created: 04 May 2019
899 62 0

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Mainboard - 60 cards (16 distinct)

Creature (20)
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (15)
Land (22)
Planeswalker (3)

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