To my knowledge, pirates have existed in various forms for much of Magic’s history. Until more recently though, they were built on the back of flavor instead of game mechanics. In my early days of Commander, Ramirez DePietro was commonly used to fulfill the pirate theme using mostly the whims of the deck builder. The tribe began to see support in Ixalan, meaning that the cult status tribe would finally start to see more love in all corners of the game. Even then, I never considered pirates to be a tribe worth building around—perhaps because they still felt incomplete after two sets of new cards. But I love the idea of an aquatic tribe in red and black; and from a flavor perspective, I can get behind hunting for treasure and causing shenanigans.

Recently, Commander Legends came in and injected the tribe with enough new opportunities to really cause me to sit up and take notice, even if it came at the loss of some color identity. This week, we’re building around the partnership of Breeches, Brazen Plunderer and Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator: attacking, finding treasure, and causing shenanigans.

Commanders: Breeches, Brazen Plunderer, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator

Creatures: Azure Fleet Admiral, Boarding Party, Brazen Buccaneers, Brazen Freebooter, Captain Lannery Storm, Captain Vargus Wrath, Corsair Captain, Dack’s Duplicate, Deadeye Rig-Hauler, Emberwilde Captain, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, Kitesail Corsair, Kitesail Skirmisher, Merchant Raiders, [Redacted], [Redacted], Nadir Kraken, [Redacted], Prosperous Pirates, Protean Raider, Rapacious Dragon, Sailor of Means, Shipwreck Looter, Signal Pest, Siren Lookout, Siren Stormtamer, Storm Fleet Aerialist, [Redacted], Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Artifacts: Dowsing Dagger, Fell Flagship, Mask of Memory, Pirate’s Cutlass, Thaumatic Compass

Enchantments: Curious Obsession, Fervor, Makeshift Munitions, Molten Echoes, Reconnaissance Mission, Warstorm Surge

Instants: Depths of Desire, Fiery Cannonade, Lookout’s Dispersal, Opt, Shatter, Spell Swindle, Unfriendly Fire

Sorceries: Brass’s Bounty, Chart a Course, Cleansing Wildfire, Hijack, Mass Mutiny, Mutiny, Pirate’s Prize, See Beyond, Seize the Spoils, Set Adrift, Stolen Goods, Teleportal, Treasure Cruise, Treasure Hunt

Lands: 14 Island, 10 Mountain, Command Tower, Forgotten Cave, Highland Lake, Izzet Boilerworks, Lonely Sandbar, Riverglide Pathway, Shivan Reef, Spirebluff Canal, Steam Vents, Sulfur Falls, Swiftwater Cliffs, Temple of Epiphany, Volatile Fjord

Embark on a Cruise

Admittedly it is a change of pace to build a creature deck in the Izzet color identity. But Commander Legends did so much to invigorate the pirate tribe that I wanted to explore the possibilities of what the deck was capable of, even if it meant sacrificing the black color identity and not playing Admiral Beckett Brass. In truth, I felt the lack of Fire Fleet Neckbreaker and Forerunner of the Coalition the most, but removing a color allowed for more flavor to take focus in the deck.

As usual, the generals are the build-around element of the deck. Working in tandem, Breeches and Malcolm are going to highly prioritize combat, allowing the deck to have some wild swings using other players’ cards and contributing to progression of the game. While these triggers will be the focus later on and pirates were my top concern, these triggers are a great form of piracy in their own right. I wanted to build a deck that leaned more into the flavor of pirates and wasn’t just trying to be the most powerful pirate tribal deck that it could be.

For a tribe that hasn’t had a lot of attention, they sure have a lot of tribal support in Captain Vargus Wrath, Corsair Captain, and Fell Flagship as different variants of lord effects. This of course plays into our desire to attack as much as possible, but simply being bigger than other threats. When size isn’t enough, Merchant Raiders is key to taking out problematic blockers in a subtle way, whereas Mass Mutiny and Zara, Renegade Recruiter can also remove blockers in a different way. Overall, with more than twenty pirates in the deck, this theme will not go unnoticed.

Hoarding Gold

The largest theme in this deck is treasure. This can help several different parts of the deck, whether it be through Captain Lannery Storm or as a way to have mana rocks without needing to dedicate space to them. Most importantly, it helps us cast the spells that Breeches, Brazen Plunderer puts into exile. Outside of the pirate motif, I think treasure is a great mana acceleration effect for red, keeping it on the table to be used when the moment strikes.

While this deck is packing far fewer non-creature spells than is normal, Brass’s Bounty, Depths of Desire, Pirate’s Prize, and Spell Swindle all replace notable staple effects for a little extra mana while providing extra treasure. Alongside all of these spells creating treasure, we also have Brazen Freebooter, Prosperous Pirates, Rapacious Dragon, and Sailor of Means to carry on the theme, also a slightly higher than eifficent rate to off-set the treasure production. In theory, I would hope that this dedication to the theme would signal to the rest of the table that I’m coming to the present game to have a good time and not be the top priority threat.

Missing entirely due to budget constraints: Dockside Extortionist and Goldspan Dragon, which at time of writing would together double the price of the deck. Both of these cards are on my radar, because they do play into the treasure theme in ways I feel comfortable bring to a game of Commander, but did not seem worth the price tag. And then there is Hullbreacher, a card for whom I don’t personally have an appetite.

Jumping Ship

This deck cares a lot about attacking. And in an effort to inject a little more character, I decided that I wanted to leverage the amount of attacking we were doing by including a suite of ninja. Ninja interact well with raid spells in particular, as you will have met the requirement. What’s that? You didn’t see any ninja in the decklist above? They’re hiding.

The inclusions of Mist-Syndicate Naga, Mistblade Shinobi, Ninja of the Deep Hours, and Walker of Secret Ways will not change the tide of battle very often, but they offer extra versatility and value. For example, you can reset Protean Raider, replay Deadeye Rig-Hauler to bounce something, or reclaim the monarch with Emberwilde Captain. Most importantly, it provides a bit of levity to the game and may catch people off guard, because ninjas are the last thing someone expects from the Kitesail Corsair coming at them.

Other Flavor Gems

Of course not every spell is going to neatly fit into the very blunt themes of being a pirate or caring about treasure. There are still many cards within the game that simply play well in any deck that wants to show off the lifestyle of living on the sea.

Makeshift Munitions is a last resort spell that can make use of all the extra treasure we accumulate over the course of the game. Fiery Cannonade is a great Pyroclasm replacement that I forgot existed since Ixalan, continuing the theme of getting small edges that allow for seamless attacking. Stolen Goods in akin to a one time use of our generals combined, stealing away a spell when they least expect it. And finally, I had to include Treasure Hunt, an often overlooked card for Commander, but on theme here and worth reconsidering because it always gets you a spell.

If there is one regret I had in finally completing this deck, I wish I could have found a little more room for attacking-matters effects. You can give creature haste and consider more raid spells all you want, but I the deck is limited some if it doesn’t have both of its generals out, because they super charge the attack step so much. I could go for something like Legion Loyalist or a color-shifted Valiant Knight as pirates. I wish there a few more creatures in the mold of Captain Lannery Storm who could be pirates that synergize with treasure instead of just making it. But overall, those are the smaller tweaks I would make if the right flavorful cards existed to continue to push them themes prioritized with this build.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: the Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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