The Motley Pirate Deck Flavors of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan

ChrisCee December 28, 2023 4 min
The Motley Pirate Deck Flavors of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan

Dinosaur tribal may have been all the rage of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan in MTG, but we also had a good number of players aiming for the high deep subterranean seas with Pirate decks. With a complete set of cards to build and support together with, the basic theme of Treasure generation, indirect resource control, and good ol' aggro became the highest prioritized objectives.


Simple and straightforward.

That being said, given the potential synergies for other cards, during the last months, we have also witnessed several other variations. These alternative deck brews are not only significantly different from the typical Pirate deck template of this set, it spawned many more different color variations outside the expected Izzet setting. I mean, Izzet Pirates are still dominant, but we have witnessed other interesting specimens that could provide a more varied take on this classic tribe in Standard.


MTGA Assistant

'Generic' Izzet Pirates

We say 'generic' simply due to the template nature of using the most typical Pirate cards from LCI. Even then, ignoring pirates from other colors, it is still possible to create many different Izzet pirate alternatives, usually tilting the main focus of the cards depending on who are the more dominant pieces.

Regardless, when all viable red and blue Pirates are combined in a single deck, the strategy usually starts with Goblin Tomb Raiderimage and Spyglass Sirenimage, compounded with either Breeches, Eager Pillagerimage, Staunch Crewmateimage, or Subterranean Schoonerimage. The objective is just straightforward resource-frenzy aggro. You bring down the booty-hungry mates at the earliest turns, creating a widening divide between your opponent's resources until everything hopefully ends early enough. If not, the Pirate deck can hopefully still sail through the stalemate while permanents continue generating advantages until a victor is determined.

This is the reason why many testers of the deck have surmised that Izzet Pirate deck builds had a fair chance of being a competitive meta deck in standard. Indeed, while it fell out of the top 8 during the first month of the set's release, it came really close somewhere around 10th to 12th place. Which is unsurprising, since despite the higher consistency of meta builds, it still has the speed and power to fairly keep up, while still punching somewhat hard even at later turns, and even with heavy board wipes. 

Don't get cocky with it though, decks like mono-black midrange can still slice through its resource-pumping shenanigans. It does feel very fun to play most of the time, though.

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Janky Mono-Red Pirates

Current Pirate decks in Standard don't often go the mono-red route since like... you just go with a Mono Red Wins build if that's the case. But aside from that, Izzet builds simply has a more direct method of deck fixing since it has the blue side to complement. So, if you are to attempt a mono-red pirate build, you need something a lot more to compensate. Though, on the bright side, you do have enough pieces if you simply want to make the tribal identity possible. Just latch onto another theme, it things may just work out fine.

Perhaps you want do go with a dual tribal flavor involving goblins as well? How about combining the deck with another considerably fitting combo that would be its switching win condition? Making it keep up with Izzet builds is very challenging. But as a standalone deck, it may just work.

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Control Mono-Blue "Pirates"

Unlike mono-red, there just aren't enough pieces for mono-blue to create any coherent deck that you can truly call a "pirate deck" in Standard. I suppose a control version comes quite close, in terms of usable pieces. Yeah, I understand, it's basically just mono blue control Haughty Djinn deck. But, at least there are a few more technical reasons for Spyglass Sirenimage and Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrelimage to be there than just tribal decorative pieces.

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blue tempo is op


Azorius 'Meta' Pirates

Earlier versions of Azorius Pirates usually tackled the novelty of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan mechanics, with a bit of flair for artifact use. Not a bad thing, and it actually branched out into many other ideas for later deck brews, albeit at the cost of removing the pirate identity altogether. However, if you really want the grand prize, one particular Azorious deck took home the meta challenge and was able to climb up the ranks to effectively secure last month's 5th spot in the Top 8 BO3 Standard MTG meta.

Yes, indeed, it is the variant of Azorious tempo that uses a calculated combination of Spyglass Siren, Kitesail Larcenist, Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel, and the honorary "pirate", Subterranean Schooner. I mean, Warden of the Inner Skyimage even makes an appearance here, which was also one of the common cards used along with the earlier Azorius Pirate builds during LCI's initial release.

Well... it eventually lost favor to more stabilized choices during the next few weeks afterward. But at least it proved its viability, even for just a moment in time.

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Main 60 cards (22 distinct)
Planeswalker (3)
Creature (14)
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (17)
Land (26)
Side 15 cards (9 distinct)


Other Pirate Deck Flavors?

Descending Dimir Pirates

A promising initial idea featuring Uchbenbak, the Great Mistakeimage. Still has significantly higher refinement potential, but would probably not go far past its basic structure.