“We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs. Drink up me hearties, yo ho. Yo, ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me” - Captain Jack Sparrow & Elizabeth Swann
Avast, ye landlubeers! I apartley have a preference for the tribes that appeared in the Ixalan block. I didn’t start out building these decks for that sake, but it has been enjoyable nonetheless. I believe that this comes from my love for Dinosaurs, which I covered in my last Deep Dive, and my infatuation with the glamourized version of pirates that we received in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
The story surrounding how the Brazen Coalition came to be on the plane of Ixalan is really intriguing. It is somewhat of a reverse of the typical story found in pirate tales. The ancestors of the people of the Brazen Coaltion (the pirates) were displaced from the continent of Torrezon by the Legion of the Dusk (the vampires) and made their new home a floating city called High and Dry. High and Dry also serves as neutral ground for the different fleets and ships of pirates.
“You are, without doubt, the worst pirate I've ever heard of.” - Commodore James Norrington
“But you have heard of me.” - Captain Jack Sparrow
Blackbeard; real name Edward Teach, Henry Morgan and Calico Jack (John Rackam) are just a few of the famous or infamous pirates figures from our own history. As one would expect, there are quite a few named characters in the pirate tribe. If you have kept up with the story side of Magic the Gathering some of these will be familiar faces.
Breeches, Brazen Plunderer and Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator are two members of Vraska’s crew during her time captaining The Beligerent while on Ixalan. These two are also the Partners for the blue-red color pair and the pirate tribe that appear in Commander Legends. Breeches grants us some card advantage by dealing damage to our opponents and Malcolm gives us Treasure tokens for each damage that is dealt to an opponent by one or more pirates that I control; in turn allowing us to have extra mana to cast those cards from Breeches’s trigger.
Captain Lannery Storm and Kari Zev, Skyship Raider are powerful pirate legends from years gone by. Both of these legends lean more towards the aggressive end of the creature spectrum.
Speaking of pirates from Magic’s past, we received Ghost of Ramirez DePietro in Commander Legends; giving us our second card for Ramirez DePietro, a creature that originally appeared in the set Legends.
Lastly, we have another member of the revolution that took place against the Consulate of Kaladesh and a brazen new pirate “lord” from Ixalan.
Zara, Renegade Recruiter gives any deck that has access to blue and red mana something that we haven’t seen from the color pair before. Zara has an attack trigger that allows it’s controller to “recruit” a creature from the defending player’s hand. It does return said creature back to its original owner's hand, unless you somehow end the turn before the natural progression of the phases within a turn. That’s a story for another time though.
That brings us to Captain Vargus Wrath, yet another interesting take on a “lord” creature specifically for Commander. Captain Vargus Wrath has a very powerful attack trigger, giving pirates you control +1/+1 for each time that you have cast your Commander this game. Captain Wrath may be better served in a deck that is led by a pair of Partners to increase the amount of the +1/+1 buff that the good Captain will grant when we send him into the fray.
“Well then, I confess. It is my intention to commandeer one of these ships; pick up a crew in Tortuga; raid, pillage, plunder, and otherwise pilfer my weaselly black guts out.” - Captain Jack Sparrow
When you hear the word “pirate”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? That’s right! They raid, pillage and plunder to their heart's content. That is also exactly what this deck does. Dockside Extortionist and Hullbreacher creates treasure tokens, profiting from what our opponents do. Dockside, from the amount of enchantments and artifacts our opponents have, and Hullbreacher, whenever they draw a card beyond the first one they draw each turn. Hullbreacher is also a new card from Commander Legends, giving Blue it’s very own version of Smothering Tithe.
Hostage Taker...takes a creature or artifact...hostage. At this point, we should all know what this card does.
Merchant Raiders is a card in a similar vein as Hostage Taker; whenever it or another pirate enters the battlefield under our control, we tap target creature an opponent controls until Merchant Raiders leaves the battlefield. This does allow us to get more damage through regardless of the amount of blockers that our opponents control. That ability is very nice when you want to keep an activated ability from being used.
Angrath’s Marauders and Port Razer both affect the combat step in fantastic ways for our game plan. Pioneer all-star Angrath’s Marauders doubles the damage that sources you control, perfect for the alpha strikes that can come along later in the game. Commander Legends’ Port Razer gives us additional combat phases if it is able to deal damage to an opponent, but not in a broken way. The card has a built-in safety valve that will only allow you to have as many combat phases as you have opponents.
“You're mad.” - Lord Cutler Beckett
“Thank goodness for that, 'cause if I wasn't this would probably never work.” - Captain Jack Sparrow
Every respectable tribal deck has numerous ways to buff up the creatures of your chosen type, we in the Magic community call them “lords” in reference to Alpha’s Lord of Atlantis. Pirate’s may be a newish addition to the game of Magic, but they still have some great options for lords.
There isn’t too much nuance to these cards though, they do what they do. Corsair Captain and Vanquisher’s Banner grant pirates, assuming you choose pirates with the Banner, +1/+1 as a static ability. Both do provide some sort of card advantage though as well, an ETB treasure from Corsair Captain and Vanquisher’s Banner draws you a card when you cast a creature of the chosen type.
Dire Fleet Neckbreaker does exactly what it’s name says it does. When our pirates attack Dire Fleet Neckbreaker gives them +2/+0, which is much more significant than you would think. This card is another one the game ending pieces for this deck.
“Me? I'm dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you never know when they're going to do something incredibly... stupid.” - Captain Jack Sparrow
Trickery is always afoot when piracy is involved. What could be more of a game swinging effect than Insurrection? It will definitely trick opponents into believing that they are safe and sound until it is too late. Insurrection is hands down the most powerful spell that you have access to in this deck. Spell Swindle is a counterspell that is tailor made for this type of deck. Pirates love treasure and this counterspell gives you just that.
Emberwilde Captain is one of the latest additions to my crew. Let’s be frank, there isn’t anything tricky with this creature. This Djinn makes us the Monarch when it enters the battlefield and has a doozy of a trigger when you get attacked and retain the Monarch. “Whenever an opponent attacks you while you're the monarch, Emberwilde Captain deals damage to that player equal to the number of cards in their hand.” In order to take the Monarch from someone, you must deal damage to someone who is the Monarch. Emberwilde Captain does make that tricky in and of itself.
“Not all treasure’s silver and gold, mate.” – Jack Sparrow
We’ve reached the section of the article where we discuss any and all alternate win conditions. Some are obvious in how they may achieve victory, Revel in Riches and Mechanized Production, and others are more deceptive in their ways.
Revel in Riches says ‘you win the game’ when we reach a threshold of artifacts, see Treasure tokens. Mechanized Production will inherently do the same thing when enchanting a Treasure token, again with a ‘you win the game’ trigger.
The pair of Bident of Thassa and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling effectively remove blockers. The Bident can cause them to attack and the Sea God herself can tap down said blockers.
Molten Echoes and Storm the Vault are more of a means to an end. Molten Echoes copies the creatures when they enter the battlefield, thus doubling any ETB effects and doubling the attacking force. Storm the Vault transforms into a functional version of Tolarian Academy and the power of that card is well known. With a large amount of mana, most of the time winning is elementary.
“I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” – Hector Barbossa & Elizabeth Swann
There’s nothing that comes more naturally to a swashbuckler than trickery. This deck list is composed mostly with creatures, so we have to utilize creatures with desired effects in place of many of the more powerful spells in the Grixis color combination. Warkite Marauder can remove various problematic creatures from the equation when it comes to combat. Siren Stormtamer is a fantastic utility creature at the disposal of the captain of this deck. A key point with Siren Stormtamer’s ability is that it can counter a spell or ability that targets you or a permanent you control. That means the berth of spells and abilities that this little siren can deal with is vast. To ensure that these creatures are not just a tool that appears from time to time, as well as many other desirable creatures, we implement Forerunner of the Coalition to the fullest. Forerunner gives us a light touch of the toolbox aspect to this deck, using the enter the battlefield trigger to search for whatever pirate is needed in a pinch.
"This Is The Day You Will Always Remember As The Day You Almost Caught…” - Captain Jack Sparrow
The same as when we ventured into Jurassic Park with Gishath, the Brazen Coalition has it’s very own Planeswalker to wade into the fray. Angrath is one fiery, grumpy boy and this minotaur pirate is the captain of his own ship on Ixalan; the Devil’s Chains.
Angrath has appeared as a card a few times since his introduction. Originally he was seen on Angrath, the Flame-Chained in the main Rivals of Ixalan set and as Angrath, Minotaur Pirate in the accompanying Planeswalker deck. War of the Spark gave us the third iteration of Angrath in Angrath, Captain of Chaos. I wouldn’t recommend the latter for this type of deck though.
I am currently running Angrath, the Flame-Chained in the main deck. Through testing, the Planeswalker deck Angrath proved subpar in my opinion. The Flame-Chained version gives us some sort of reach and can affect the battlefield immediately. It also gives you the option to potentially end the game in certain situations. I will reiterate, this is a personal preference that is more suited to my play group. Either of the other versions of Angrath may suit your variations on this deck or playgroup better.
"Why is the rum always gone?" - Captain Jack Sparrow
Keep an eye out for a Commander deck update article for the decks that have either had a deep dive and decks that I am currently playing. Until then; good luck, I hope you lose!