A Pirate’s Life for Me

Admiral Beckett Brass
I want to build a pirate deck. For real, I mean. I brew around 50 decks a year and most of them are to showcase new cards or a 75% deck-building concept and they don’t get built. That’s fine — we don’t have to build every deck we think of. It would be a nice test of my mtg Finance skills, though, wouldn’t it? Forget pack to power, how about “A deck a week, forever?” Since I’m not that much of a lunatic, I reserve the decks I actually build for great ideas I get or concepts I can’t resist fleshing out in cardboard , and Ixalan has tempted me to build what may be the most 75% deck of all time. This deck has multiple ways to steal opponents’ cards and multiple ways to instantly win the game by having a ton of treasure. We’re literally going to pillage, plunder, and win the game by accumulating a vast horde of ill-gotten gains (I should play Ill-Gotten Gains in this deck. No, I’m not going to do that.)

In the past, I have said building a deck along tribal lines feels like a bit of a crutch — it’s the easiest way to pursue a 75% build by advising us to dial in the power level of the deck by reducing the potential cardpool. It forces us to build in a synergistic manner rather than focusing on raw power. In tribal decks, developing our board is more important than the individual cards we draw, limiting our need for tutors. As this series has matured, we have come to the realization that “power level” really isn’t the enemy, nor is it really all that easy to define. Building across tribal lines constantly stopped appealing to me because it felt lazy. I found one way to build 75% consistently and continuing to hammer on it wasn’t teaching me anything. Remember, this deck-building approach is something I am figuring out as I go along, so it makes sense for my view on certain concepts to evolve over time. So, while building synergistic tribal decks is lazy if you do it every week, some decks force you to build that way. You’d be nuts not to build tribal decks with Commander 2017 and Ixalan both being out right now, anyway.

I’m going to have to build a tribal deck, but I’m OK with that. Our commander will be Admiral Beckett Brass, and she is going to reward us for hitting our opponents with pirate creatures. Is it annoying to have to hit them with so many pirates? Yep! But it’s worth it considering, when we do, we’ll get to plunder some of their booty (I didn’t invent the pirate lingo, I’m just rolling with it) and potentially get a fun new beatstick to . . .  shiver their timbers with? Does that reference scan? Strap on a peg leg, affix an eye patch and talk like Robert Newton thought people from Wales talked because it’s time to sail the high seas in search of buried treasure and pretend that there are no dinosaurs in this set for a few blissful hours!

Since we’re on a pirate theme, let’s remember the ABCs of Piracy — Acquire, Bribery, Confiscate, Desertion, Expropriate . . .  Fontrol Magic? Look, maybe I can’t make it all the way through the alphabet; but, I can make it all the way through our opponents’ boards, taking using all of their good spells against them. We even have some new pirates like Captivating Crew to trigger Admiral Beckett Brass’ ability (should be easy to hit them if they don’t have blockers) as well as do pirate-themed stuff like stealing creatures. Of course, we can’t give their creatures back alive, so we’ll be sure to include plenty of sac outlets.

“How is this build going to be different from every other pirate tribal deck I see built with Admiral Beckett Brass?” I hear you asking. Put simply. Since this is a 75% deck, we are going to build with the principle of stealing their stuff in mind and therefore we won’t be playing as many durdly “I’m just here to make sure I get in with 3 creatures” pirates like Reef Pirates or Shipwreck Looter. Instead, we are going to build around amassing all of the treasure we can, hoping to win the game with Revel in Riches or Hellkite Tyrant. If you’re sick of me building decks where I can win with Hellkite Tyrant, I don’t know what to tell you. The explosivity of being able to instantly win coupled with the ability to swipe all of their loot is impossible for me to resist. When they printed Revel in Riches, I knew I had to pair the cards together. When I realized that treasure tokens were all named “Treasure Token” and I could win the game with Mechanized Production, I knew I had to build this deck. We’re going to stockpile wealth in the form of treasure but also loot — their equipment and mana rocks will fund our schemes. Push comes to shove, we may even pay off our Captivating Crew with some of the treasure we have stored below deck so long as they keep the creatures coming. Instead of being a typical A.B.B. deck, we are going to have a prototypical 75% deck, focusing on stealing, stealing and more stealing.

There are a lot of flavorful pirate cards like Walk the Plank and Treasure Trove that we’ll be avoiding. 75% doesn’t mean terrible, after all, so there is no need to make a tribal deck into a theme deck. Those are fun and have their place, but a 75% deck needs to be able to beat people who are taking the game more seriously than that. Otherwise, just go build a durdle pirate deck. A lot of people have those durdle decks built already, and are faced with the difficult decision to keep their goofy Ramirez DiPietro deck as-is or upgrade to a deck with Red in the commander’s identity and access to new pirates. Of course the answer is “Do both” but not everyone has one built already and we need to help those people. This deck is going to be a good deck with good cards and we’re going to win games instantly sometimes which is hilarious. Revel in Riches is better than anyone thinks and we’re all about to find out why. Let’s see what Admiral Beckett Brass and her motley crew of buccaneers looks like scrawled on parchment before I build it for real.

I like how this looks. We’re very much deep on the “Win with lots of treasure” plan, but we have other stuff we can be doing. Stealing our opponents’ stuff is very much the plan, and since we want to prioritize artifacts as much as creatures, we can run fringe cards like Aladdin and Kukemssa Pirates, one of which we’d run anyway. Our creatures focus on stealing from them which removes blockers and makes it harder to stop our pirates from hitting them, gives us more creatures to attack with, and also helps us scale to the power level of their deck. Taking their stuff and using it against them really is the best way to go 75% and this deck does that in spades.

I am not sold on some of the ETB effects because there isn’t always enough to enable it. I don’t have Panharmonicon effects, nor do I have Cloudstone Curio effects. The deck wants more stuff like that but there wasn’t really room. If that’s something you want, you may have to cut some creatures, but there are cuts to be made for sure. However, with this build, there weren’t a ton of ETB effects I was desperate to run, so I freed up space by only including Deadeye Navigator. Paying two mana to get a treasure token with a few of our pirates is cool, but not the best thing we could be doing. However, if you did want to add more stuff like that, Zealous Conscripts is a real winner. Blinking Conscripts with Deadeye Navigator and sacrificing the creature to an altar effect is a great way to get mana, life, mill them, etc. We have a few sac outlets like Goblin Bombardment, High Market, and Ruthless Knave. If you want to add Illusionists’ Bracers because you have more activated abilities than just Captivating Crew, don’t forget effects like that are powerful. One regret is that this deck has so few doublers, it never feels like you’re cheating. However, I feel that taking one of their creatures is a two-creature swing in your favor if you look at the board state like a zero-sum game, in which case, everything from Aladdin to Memnarch are doublers. I once had three Sol Rings in a game with Aladdin with another deck of mine.

What do we think? Is plundering their creatures enough to make sure you’re not overwhelmed? Is Revel in Riches terrible? Is it way too easy to get 10 treasure tokens when there are 4-6 players all with creatures dying? Do you hate that I built a tribal deck? Do you hate that I built a tribal deck with non-pirates in it? All opinions are equally valid, so make sure to express them in the comments section. As always, it’s been a pleasure plumbing the depths of this weird deck-building ethos I stumbled into and I’m glad you’re along for the ride. Until next time!

Ixalan is now available for Preorder! Pick up sealed product and singles as they're posted!