stsung's picture
By: stsung, Ren Stefanek
Oct 11 2017 11:00am
Login to post comments

Ixalan came and became an instant hit among the players. On Magic Online we experienced serious lag issues due to too many people being connected and playing in Ixalan events. Partly this may also be because of MTG Arena, because everyone wants a beta key for it. I was surprised that the paper Ixalan prerelease attendance was bigger in our country. I asked the newcomers about this and they told me that they are Magic Duels players and would love to get the beta key in the first wave. This doesn't change the fact that Ixalan is indeed popular. Many people are simply in love with the tribes in Ixalan and while I do not understand why, it is something I observe. There are 4 tribes in Ixalan - Pirates, Dinosaurs, Vampires and Merfolk. The first two are so popular that I see Pirate and Dinosaur related posts even today (one of the reasons might be the fact that these are fresh to Magic unlike Merfolk and Vampires)! Pirates made it into Legacy for a while! Even I started getting orders that were featuring cards from these tribes.

Not so long ago Wizards of the Coast released new Commander decks that also featured 4 tribes - Vampires, Cats, Dragons and Wizards. It seems like this is a tribal year for EDH and that is why I decided to build 4 tribal decks based on the tribes from Ixalan.

Both Ixalan and the new Commander decks (cards will be available in November and that is why I will talk about the Vampires the last) brings us new legendary creatures that can be used as generals. Here are the Ixalan legendary creatures!

In this and the following articles I'd like to introduce you four tribal decks. I'll start with Grixis Pirates led by Admiral Beckett Brass and I will follow that up with Gishath, Sun's Avatar, showing that a good fun deck can be built out of cards from mostly one set. Merfolk and Vampires will follow later. This is a longer project and will feature 4 articles where I'd like to introduce something new (Pirates and Dinosaurs), established with a bit of something new (Merfolk) and something that was deemed too dangerous in a competitive 1v1 format we used to play here which resulted in a ban of it (Vampires).


Admiral Beckett Brass

This is not the first time that Wizards of the Coast gave us creatures with the type Pirate. We even have a legendary one from the past - Ramirez DePietro. If this one wasn't good enough there was also Skeleton Ship which is unfortunately a Skeleton but a Legendary creature fitting the pirate theme (certain creatures of the Ship creature type became Human Pirates). Both cards are blue-back. In Ixalan, Pirates got a new color - red!


Pirates in Ixalan are in three colors blue, black and red and each color combination is a bit different. Black-red is the most aggressive one while the other combinations can be anywhere between tempo to control. They take advantage of two mechanics - raid and treasure tokens. The first one means that you need to attack with a creature to be able to profit from Raid ability on a different card. Pirates have many small and evasive creatures like Siren Stormtamer that can trigger that. Since in limited it's not particularly easy to go 3 color, Pirates produce Treasure tokens. This way they can get enough mana fixing or accelerate into 5-drops that are very powerful. My idea with Pirate tribal deck was to try the more aggressive approach. This meant that my deck would feature as many creatures as possible. Those I would need to make bigger or elusive so they could manage to get past my opponent's defenses. Then there would be cards that would support the Pirate theme (sea, gold, stealing stuff, ships etc.)

One could ask the question, is there enough Pirates for a Pirate EDH Tribal deck? Yes, definitely! Another could follow: "What do Pirates do?". They like to attack, steal things and they like treasure! Pirate themes were a thing in the past but Pirate EDH decks were very fringe and usually very weak. Now pirates became way more powerful and are in the spotlight thanks to Ixalan.

Now I'll stop talking about Ixalan (Pirates are my favorite archetype) and we'll look at the constructed EDH deck I prepared for you.


For whom is the deck?

If you like Pirates, you'll like this deck (obviously people like pirates). Players that like tribal and synergistic strategies and those that like to win in a sneaky way will like this deck too. The deck is not suited for those that like powerful cards and are looking for easy wins. This deck will have to earn its wins and will often lead an uphill battle. That makes the deck fun though since you will always be looking for unconventional ways how to win.



Card Choices

There are supposedly 59 cards with the type Pirate. For Magic Online the list becomes shorter (40) because this list includes cards paper cards from Portal sets. Only one card from either Portal set made it to Masters Edition on Magic Online. There are few Pirates in Mercadian Masques, 1 in Mirage and that's pretty much it (few more here and there).


The creatures that people will feature in their decks will be vastly similar because there is not enough Pirates to choose from (yet) but there is enough of them to make a heavy creature deck out of them. It's more like going through the list and cutting those that you don't like. I did exactly that. Apart from the actual Pirates the deck needs few more things, anthem effects, evasion, card draw and little bit more of flavor.

Bigger is better!

Since the starting life total is higher and also because people tend to play bigger creatures than 2/2s I decided to add as many pump effects as possibly. I added two lords in the form of Metallic Mimic and Adaptive Automaton. There is also Fell Flagship, that can be found by Deadeye Quartermaster. The general itself makes other pirates bigger. Since I though that this wouldn't be enough I also put Vanquisher's Banner in. This card is rather expensive (costs 5) but on the other hand it not only makes Pirates bigger it also draws cards for every single one played. The remaining two are Door of Destinies and Obelisk of Urd which are both very powerful cards. Door of Destinies can make Pirates way too big and Obelisk of Urd can be played earlier than normal thanks to Convoke.



Since Pirates like attacking and triggering Raid I included cards that should help the Pirates to go through opposing creatures. For example there is Thassa, God of the Sea and Keeper of Keys (I learned about this card by opening it in a Treasure Chest and thought that it was quite fitting in this deck). Thassa is a good card that also allows the player to Scry and I think that this deck needs any card draw or Scry effect it can get. Keeper of the Keys is a card that I just wanted to try. Cards making a player Monarch are usually very powerful. In this deck though it also means that when this card hits the board one needs to be able to defend to stay the Monarch. Apart from these cards there is also Cover of Darkness that can give a certain creature type Fear, Open into Wonder that also makes you draw cards for each creature that went through and Teleportal that I always wanted to put in a deck but never found one that would need it.


Coastal Piracy

Since I felt that this deck would need a lot of looting or card draw I added cards that simply draw cards. Since I expected to mostly turn creatures sideways I decided to include Bident of Thassa and Coastal Piracy that both work well in a deck with many creatures. The other enchantments that 'draw' cards are Greed and Vance's Blasting Cannons. Apart from these there are Chart a Course, Costly Plunder, Pirate's Prize. Even Treasure Cruise would work in a Pirate deck! The most important though are the first two enchantments I mentioned.


We love treasure!

Ixalan is about exploring lands and finding treasures and as you probably noticed this deck features as many cards that somehow create Treasure tokens as possible. In Ixalan, Treasure tokens are very common unlike in Theros (where only a few cards produced a Gold token with the same ability). They are practically one of the mechanics of the set. They make the set tricky in terms of understanding a tempo in match. They can be used to accelerate or fix mana and some other cards use the tokens to do completely different things (draw a card, pump a creature etc.). In this deck those can be used to cast more expensive spells, help with mana fixing, draw cards or they can be used, in a rare case, to win the game via Revel in Riches or Mechanized Production. This theme cannot be supported enough in a 100 card singleton deck so it can be taken out and replaced with something else. Since pirates like to steal it could be cards that steal permanents (Legacy's Allure, Stolen Goods, Confiscate) for example. The treasure creating cards are mostly for flavor in my deck and thus do not play an integral role in the deck. If you'd want to made the deck more efficient you could replace those cards with other cards that will help support a tempo strategy. Since I really love the treasure mechanic and I also want to live the dream of winning by owning ten treasures in upkeep, I'll keep those cards in the deck!


The card that doesn't particularly fit anywhere is Conjurer's Closet. There are about 15 Pirates that have comes into play ability. Blinking a Pirate can give you something more or it can 'untap' the creature so it can block (when it comes to blocking it usually means something is wrong). So far it did fairly good in the deck.


How to play the deck

The general strategy of the deck is to play cheap creatures and deal damage with them. As soon as possible you should land a card that will allow you to draw cards so you can find more creatures and either way how to make your creatures elusive or big. You should be focused on attacking and letting your opponent chip your life total away, do not try to block or trade with other creatures unless really necessary. Your creatures are there to attack and eventually deal lethal damage. If you won't be able to win fast your creatures will have to stay back for a while till they are big enough to be able to attack or they gain an ability that makes them at least partly unblockable. That is the reason why you need to pressure your opponent since the beginning of the game so you could deal lethal damage in one unblockable swing. You should wait for the right moment to strike and make sure you win the game when this happens.


If you are facing a deck that runs global removal don't be so aggressive because you won't be able to win before a Wrath effect hits. Play 1 or 2 creatures and start attacking with those. Keep some in your hand so when your creatures die you can immediately have other creatures that would continue attacking. Decks running global removal are often light on creatures so this approach is fine.

Your opening hand should contain at least 2 cheap creatures and 3 lands. If the hand doesn't have creatures you should take a mulligan. This deck has to start attacking as soon as possible and cannot stall without creatures. The deck also needs its lands even if majority of the creatures are inexpensive. You will want to be casting several spells per turn later on after you draw additional cards each turn.



This deck is rather inexpensive. The price tag below is primarily because of my mana base. If you cut the expensive cards, the deck will cost about 12 tix. The cards over 1 tix in the deck (apart from lands) are Hostage Taker (6 tix), Metallic Mimic (4tix), Rishadan Brigand (5tix), Vraska's Contempt (5tix), Greed (2tix), Mechanized Production (1tix) and Treasure Map (1tix). These cards can be replaced with cheap Pirates. For example I didn't include Rigging Runner, Dire Fleet Captain, Wanted Scoundrels and Storm Fleet Spy in my deck. Due to the cost of Greed I put in Arguel's Blood Fast that costs 0.22tix. Mana base can be fixed in a cheaper way too, but make sure not to have too many lands that come into play tapped because this deck relies on speed.


Now you should be set to go and try this deck out! It's fun and I hope that if you choose to try it out it will be as much fun as I have with it.

Thanks for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online, stsungjp at Twitter)


Grixis Pirates
by stsung, 184tix
1 Adaptive Automaton
1 Angrath's Marauders
1 Captain Lannery Storm
1 Captivating Crew
1 Daring Saboteur
1 Deadeye Plunderers
1 Deadeye Quartermaster
1 Deadeye Tracker
1 Desperate Castaways
1 Dire Fleet Hoarder
1 Dire Fleet Ravager
1 Dreamcaller Siren
1 Fathom Fleet Captain
1 Headstrong Brute
1 Hostage Taker
1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
1 Keeper of Keys
1 Kitesail Freebooter
1 Kukemssa Pirates
1 Lightning-Rig Crew
1 Marauding Looter
1 Metallic Mimic
1 Prosperous Pirates
1 Rishadan Brigand
1 Rishadan Cutpurse
1 Rishadan Footpad
1 Ruin Raider
1 Ruthless Knave
1 Sailor of Means
1 Shipwreck Looter
1 Siren Stormtamer
1 Skyship Plunderer
1 Storm Fleet Aerialist
1 Thassa, God of the Sea
1 Wily Goblin
35 cards
Other Spells
1 Bident of Thassa
1 Chart a Course
1 Coastal Piracy
1 Conjurer's Closet
1 Conqueror's Galleon
1 Control Magic
1 Costly Plunder
1 Cover of Darkness
1 Depths of Desire
1 Door of Destinies
1 Fell Flagship
1 Gild
1 Greed
1 Mechanized Production
1 Obelisk of Urd
1 Open into Wonder
1 Pirate's Cutlass
1 Pirate's Prize
1 Revel in Riches
1 Siren's Ruse
1 Spell Swindle
1 Teleportal
1 Treasure Map
1 Vance's Blasting Cannons
1 Vanquisher's Banner
1 Vraska's Contempt
25 cards
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Command Tower
1 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Flooded Strand
7 Island
4 Mountain
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
4 Swamp
1 Unclaimed Territory
1 Underground Sea
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Volcanic Island
1 Wandering Fumarole
1 Watery Grave
1 Wooded Foothills
38 cards