Pirates! They were one of the first obvious deck themes when Hearthstone launched, and you even got a fun bonus from crafting all of the Classic set’s pirate cards. But let’s face it, the archetype was never that viable for competitive play.
Sometimes, though, all that is needed to take an archetype from not viable to pretty good is an expansion and a couple of new cards. Such was the case with the Pirate theme, which got a good boost from new Whispers of the Old Gods Warrior cards.
Warrior is far from my usual playground, but I’m a sucker for fun themed decks and this one has the particularity of being quite cheap – especially with some key substitutions that we’ll talk about in due time – so I decided to give it a go and was surprised by how effective it was on the ladder.
As usual, I’ll give you a deck overview where the basic strategy is discussed, and then I’ll go into detail on each of most of the cards. Finally, I’ll advise on some swaps you can make to cheapen the deck or adapt to a particular meta, just before finishing with some tips on how to mulligan.
Feel free to grab a bottle of rum while playing this one!
Deck Overview and Strategy
This is a very synergy / combo-based deck. Your task is knowing when to play your pirates and in what order, and when to hold on them, hoping for a strong sequence later on. Most of the plays aren’t set in stone and depend on the state of your board and your opponent’s health pool.
Perhaps the biggest challenge when playing this deck comes from resource management. The deck has no card draw, so you need to avoid trading your minions whenever possible and instead use the large number of weapons and weapon boosts at your disposal to clear the opponent’s board with your face. This is your only chance to create that all-important card advantage.
There will also come a time when you will eventually run out of steam, so it’s extra important to know when to make the shift from manipulating the board to going full-out aggro on your opponent’s face. If you find you’re a turn or two away from lethal, start applying pressure and let your opponent worry about the trades.
Card Choices and Synergy
blood-to-ichor is a very versatile card that was recently added to the Warrior’s arsenal. It’s fantastic when it comes to stealing away the card advantage from those sneaky Divine Shield minions, popping their little Paladin bubble while putting a body on the board to trade with them.
But don’t underestimate the flexibility of using it to weaken a minion so you can then go in for the kill with your weapon, or even using it on one of your own minions to build your board. bloodsail-cultist can usually take the hit, and frothing-berserker will welcome it!
nzoths-first-mate is one of the cards that makes this deck viable in the competitive space. While its body is unimpressive, the weapon it gives is nothing to sneer at in Turn 1, a potential target for upgrade! or bloodsail-cultist .
In fact, if you have both nzoths-first-mate, upgrade! and the-coin at start, you’re in an extremely solid position, able to answer almost anything the most popular decks can throw at you in their early game.
sir-finley-mrrgglton is here to give the deck some flexibility, especially against non-aggro decks where you don’t need to use your face to trade as often and so your Hero Power’s utility decreases dramatically. In the early game, the Warlock’s card draw power is a good compliment to this deck as it mitigates its greatest weakness, while later on, the Hunter’s double-barreled shotgun shot can help you edge out those last few points of damage needed for lethal.
southsea-deckhand will almost always get his bonus, as this deck is full of weapons and weapon-granting cards. His body is quite weak so it isn’t really the greatest board presence. While he can always help you chip your way to lethal in the late game, you’ll often find that he is most useful when played as early-game removal.
upgrade! should be used liberally, as so many of your cards benefit from having a weapon equipped, and often from how powerful the weapon is. Be on the lookout for chances to use it before playing a bloodsail-raider or dread-corsair !
bloodsail-raider is a decent early game body by herself, but can very easily become a serious threat. The gold standard is playing it on turn 2 following a coined fiery-war-axe, but don’t underestimate her value simply following nzoths-first-mate or upgrade! .
fiery-war-axe is nicknamed “Fiery Win Axe” for a reason. This is hands-down one of the best cards in the whole game, and a top pick for your turn 2 play, as it can boost or be boosted by the majority of your cards.
flame-juggler is another solid body that comes with a nice RNG-based ping. With a bit of luck, it will help you deal with annoying Divine Shield minions, or ones with 3 health.
heroic-strike is a versatile card that can work equally well as removal or finisher. Remember that you can use it to boost a weapon’s damage output, but using it doesn’t actually increase a weapon’s’ attack, so no synergy with bloodsail-raider or dread-corsair.
bloodsail-cultist is the other card that makes the archetype viable. It has a decent body for the cost but you should really try to create the setup to trigger its battlecry, something that shouldn’t be too hard given the abundance of weapons and cheap pirates in the deck.
Don’t forget that with the right setup and played in the right order, it can provide you with an extra cheap dread-corsair or a slightly fatter bloodsail-raider. If you find yourself able to make multiple plays in a single turn, take extra care to plan the order around the pirate / weapon synergies!
frothing-berserker isn’t as powerful here as it is in most other Warrior decks, but it’s still a solid card for it’s cost, one that can very easily snowball into a real threat even without any combo shenanigans. Remember to make any trades before attacking with him.
arathi-weaponsmith gives you a decent body and a weapon to further increase pirate synergy and help remove annoying minions.
dread-corsair is not very impressive for its cost, but let’s face it, in this deck, you’ll almost never play it for that cost. Its purpose in the deck is to give you a cheap way to stem the tide of aggressive aggro decks where your weapon’s one-swing-per-turn might not be enough.
korkron-elite is one of your finishers often in combination with heroic-strike and mortal-strike. In a pinch, it can also act as removal, but tread carefully – this deck runs out of resources fast and you need your minions to stick on the board as much as possible.
mortal-strike and arcanite-reaper are better suited for the double removal / finisher role, especially if you’ve been making the most out of your weapons and using your face to eliminate enemy minions.
Alternate / Tech Cards
If sir-finley-mrrgglton is a bit too rich for you, you can consider fitting in a second arathi-weaponsmith in his place. Or if dust is no object but you find yourself running a bit short on damage toward the end of a match, leeroy-jenkins fits the pace of the deck quite well.
Finally, acolyte-of-pain is a staple in many warrior decks and can help here if you feel the sting of lack of card draw – but beware, this deck has much fewer activators that the usual Warrior decks, so it will be harder to maximise its benefit.
As hinted at before, if you have the-coin , it’s a very good idea to look for both nzoths-first-mate and upgrade! , for a very strong first turn, or nzoths-first-mate and bloodsail-cultist for a stellar turn 3.
In fact, nzoths-first-mate is a solid keep even without the-coin, and in that case also be on the lookout for fiery-war-axe (some people will quit in rage if you play it on turn 2! honest!) and sir-finley-mrrgglton.
Pirate Warrior is now a solid archetype that can enable you to climb the ladder. It’s fun and it’s fast enough that you won’t see the endgame in many matches – a good sign, as it loses a lot of it’s punch as the game drags on.
The learning curve has two spikes: first, getting used to juggling the pirate synergies and playing them in the best order for each situation. Second, learning how to pace yourself when trading so you don’t run out of steam too early. Once you cross these barriers, you’ll find yourself on your way to a good ladder position, and probably even legend.
Do let me know what are your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below – I will update the main article with any particular juicy insights that you, the readers, may offer.