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...I would really like to be able to do this using standard sync cables (SC17,28, knockoffs, etc.). So stupid question. Can I set my SB700 to be a remote flash and control its power levels using my camera with a sync cord?
The SC17 isn't really a "standard sync cable." It's a fully-dedicated off-camera cable. The diference is that a sync cord, AKA a PC cord, only sends a "fire now!" signal to the flash, while an SC17 can send all the iTTL signals, etc. to the flash.
Now, to answer the main question, you don't need to set the SB700 as a remote flash when using a dedicated cable (and in fact that won't work); as far as the camera is concerned, an SC17-mounted Speedlight is still in the hot shoe, and so is just like an on-camera Speedlight.
Prior to my recent acquisition of ETTL-capable radios, I used to use both a standard-length and a long (24-foot) off-camera shoe cord (not at the same time, of course), so that I could get full control of a flash on a stand, in a softbox, etc. from the camera position. It worked great!