It’s always bothered me how pirate decks have never been viable in Hearthstone. I mean, the design team took the time to create a goofy tribe focusing on unique, powerful weapon synergy and then… nothing. Yeah people bust out Pirate Rogue every once in a while (usually when there’s been a bit too long between expansions) but it’s never coalesced into anything competitive.
However, that’s changing in the post-Whispers of the Old Gods meta. Tempo Storm, the world’s arbiter for Hearthstone metrics, currently has Pirate Warrior ranked at number nine in their weekly meta snapshot. I could be wrong, but I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a pirate deck placed that high, especially considering it’s outranking more traditional choices like Freeze Mage, Control Warrior, and N’Zoth Paladin. We’re seeing that reflected in pro play too—Nathan “Admirable” Zamora, Robert “Nostam” Matson, and Keaton “Chakki” Gill all brought Pirate Warrior to the North American Spring Preliminaries two weeks ago.
Pirate Warrior is basically an aggro deck that looks to build big weapons in the same way Aggro Shaman likes to finish with a double Rockbiter’d Doomhammer. It also doesn’t run a ton of Old Gods cards. You’re basically looking at N’Zoth’s First Mate, the 1/1 that gives yourself a useful 1/3 weapon, and Bloodsail Cultist, which stacks rock-solid 3/4 stats on an effect that adds two damage points to whatever equipped weapon you might have. Everything else pretty much comes from the core set. There’s the usual stuff that makes it into every Warrior deck (Fiery War Axe particularly), some more Patron-oriented pieces (Frothing Berserker, Dread Corsair, Kor’kron Elite), and a lot of stuff you’ve never seen outside of rank 25. Double Mortal Strike! Arcanite Reapers! Faerie Dragons! Upgrade!!!! Obviously that has a lot to do with the Standard rotation (nobody on earth would ever choose Arcanite Reaper over Death’s Bite), but it’s still pretty cool to see these long passed-over cards do some work.
According to the matchups Pirate Warrior is particularly good at beating up Miracle Rogue, which makes sense considering Miracle doesn’t run the taunts to stop beefed-up weapons and is also punished by Aggro Shaman. It also has super favorable matchups against Renolock (which always suffers against any deck with burst) and Midrange Hunter. The most prominent unfavorable matchup is Zoo, because the lack of board-clear and robust minions can leave you out-tempoed and out-controlled. It’s super early too. I’ve seen a couple Pirate Warrior decks running more late-game oriented stuff like Stranglethorn Tiger—so the optimized version of this list might still be out of our hands right now.
I’m really enjoying Standard Hearthstone. The meta has been so thoroughly choked by all those necrotic Goblins vs. Gnomes and Naxxramas cards that, for the first time in forever, pros are legitimately trying bold new ideas without getting punished. When Blizzard announced the rotation I was really hoping we’d live in a meta where cards like Heroic Strike could be reconsidered. Guess what? We’re totally there. Let’s hope it never settles and we keep seeing interesting ideas pop up until the next expansion.