Pirates! Who would have thought that eye-patched, mischievous, rotten ingrates will be a tribe in Magic. I didn’t see that coming in a million years! But now that they have sailed to our shores it’s time to explore what these cutlass wielding buccaneers are made of!
Going through the list of pirates we can see where each colors positioned most of their threats in the curve. Multicolored pirates are counted as one of each color they represent. Looking at the graph below we can see that Black has the most density per curve, followed by Red and then Blue. With this simple data, it tells me Black will be my first color.
Evaluating the quality of cards in Red and Blue we find distinct advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at Red pirates first.
Red gives us creatures that are more difficult to manage during combat. Red gives us Menace, pump incentives, Threaten abilities, and even a non-pirate Whiplash in the form of Fiery Cannonade which is good against other creature based decks like Vampires, Merfolks, Humans and Tokens. The problem with Red through is that it doesn’t give us great top-line threats.
Let’s now take a look at blue pirates – they give us card draw, evasion, and the same ‘threaten’ like abilities. Compared to their red counterparts that offer brute power and menace, blue gives us card advantage, evasion through flying, and some tricks. However, they are not as sturdy in combat and are easier to remove. What’s also great about blue is that apart from the creatures, it provides us some control elements that Red doesn’t have. Cards like Lookout’s Dispersal and Siren’s Ruse offer control elements that opponents won’t expect from an aggressive shells. However if we look at the principle of basic deckbuilding, we usually do not mix opposite archetypes. Aggressive decks can sometimes have a midrange plan like Ramunap Red – able to hit hard quickly and use Hazoret and Deserts to close the game if it drags. Control decks can also have some midrange elements like Hexproof creatures backed up by counter magic and present a decent clock without waiting for their bombs. Mixing aggressive and control archetypes is too counter-intuitive to be effective. for this article, I chose Red over Blue.
Now let’s look at how Black will benefit from either of these colors. Black pirates try to push players to play high-reward/high-risk cards that give you massive card value in exchange for moderate-to-high risk if played incorrectly. With lots of conditional cards, we really have to make sure we cover our bases and reap the most rewards out of these risky investments.
Focusing on Ruin Raider, what I like about this version of Dark Confidant is that we’re given a choice if we want him to trigger or not. If we chose not to attack, which is very unlikely, we can avoid taking damage from his Raid ability. This option to choose when and when not to attack gives us versatility if we’re down on life. We can either hold off the attack and put Ruin Raider in front of an attacker and let it die, or send it on the offensive and if the opponent chooses not to block to make you take damage, he would have taken 3 damage in the process. Now if we design the deck to have an extremely low curve, we can minimize the damage we take from it.
Choosing black as our main color also allows us to take advantage of Bontu’s Monument. We will almost always attack and won’t leave any defenses for blocking so the ability to drain 1 life every time we cast a creature spell helps keep our life totals high. It’s also a great card to offset the damage we take from Ruin Raider, and allows Desperate Castaways to attack. Similar to UW Monument’s curve of putting more creatures on the 3-drop slot which allows them to cast two 3-drops for 2 mana with monument in play is replicable here. But instead of playing two 3-drops, we can play three 2-drops and drain 3 life.
Talk’s over. Let me show you how I would build a RB Pirates deck.
4 Bomat Courier
4 Desperate Castaways
3 Dire Fleet Captain
4 Fathom Fleet Captain
3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
2 Kitesail Freebooter
3 Scrapheap Scrounger
2 Ruin Raider
3 Fatal Push
2 Unlicensed Disintegration
3 Bontu’s Monument
2 Fell Flagship
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Canyon Slough
3 Ramunap Ruins
2 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Fatal Push
3 Lost Legacy
1 Kitesail Freebooter
We are running an artifact suite for 2 important reasons: To activate our Desperate Castaways on attacks, and get Unlicensed Disintegration online. But apart from those, Bomat gives us some card advantage which is super effective for Ramunap Red. Scrapheap gives us the resilience after a boardwipe and can easily crew a Fell Flagship. Bontu’s Monument is there to get those last few damage in. Cut to Ribbons is also a great card we have access to which can surprise the opponent late in the game.
As for the sideboards, we feature 9 split-cards and Abrade is among them. A split between a harnessed lightning and shatter, this is good against blockers, gearhulks and GPGs. I also love how Claim can get 24 out of our 27 creatures back and the Fame is also relevant later in the game.
Insult is our manual double-strike card we can use if we’re having a hard time getting through damage and Injury is relevant later in the game if we need to get rid of a chump blocker and deal those last 2 points of damage.
Lost Legacy and Kitesail Freebooter is there to help us against control match-ups, Approach Decks, Dinosaurs and whatever threats that we can’t deal with directly.
Overall, I think Pirates are too weak to stand on its own like Dinosaurs or Merfolks but adding Kaladesh cards into the mix raises the power levels enough to be competitive and creative at the same time.
That’s it for now and I hope you like my take on Pirates. Send in your comments below!
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