The 2nd October I was trying to figure out what could substitute Face Shaman now that the deck is gone. The first answer I came up with was Pirate Face Warrior, how could any deck beat that kind of damage? I proceeded to climb from rank ten to rank five in less than two hours, I was pretty impressed at how good the deck was performing. The amount of games you can cue with this deck means that, even if you don’t have an amazingly high win-rate, you will be able to climb pretty fast just thanks to the sheer number of wins you can accumulate. Additionally, the deck isn’t too hard to play (even if like every aggro deck it is pretty damn hard to master) and thus should offer a decent option to people who want their golden epic but don’t have enough time to grind to rank 5 with control decks. If you want to hit legend there are probably better decks to do this with as the global win-rate of this deck is slightly underwhelming, especially considering the amount of Midrange Shamans on ladder, but it is certainly a fun deck to play if you are the sort of player that likes to win fast and dirty.
There are three main version of Pirate Warrior which make sense to play, the one which I talk about in this section is the one which I think is best given the current metagame. At the end of the section I expand on the substitutions you can make if you are missing some card or you want a deck which is better against specific match-ups. If you are more interested in the game play aspect and are not particularly fond of reading, I suggest you skip this section and look at the match-ups and mulligan sections. I will say that understanding the role of every card in the deck is an essential part of mastering a deck (aka I do gives some tips in this section so try skimming through it).
2 x blood-to-ichor: This is one of the flex-spots in the deck, you can take it out but I would not suggest doing so. The card is pretty good, it can clear minions when coupled with weapons as well as contesting early threats. mana-wyrm, tunnel-trogg, sir-finley-mrrgglton and argent-squire all trade at least one for one with Blood To Ichor and they are all present in the metagame. The card can also serve as a tempo tool enabling you to keep pushing damage face with your board whilst clearing a one health minion. Overall, against decks which don’t play on board (Control Warrior, Priest etc…) it sometimes clogs your hand, but I feel the upside to the card is enough to justify including it in the list.
2 x nzoths-first-mate: This is the card you really want to play on turn one, the 1/3 weapon is very useful. Against midrange and aggressive match-ups very often it will grant you the board, this will lead you to be able to repeatedly push damage face with your minions. Against control match-ups it will usually mean three or four damage for one mana, this is not bad at all considering arcane-shot deals only two. My suggestion when playing this card is to think about how to maximise the damage with the Rusty Hook, sometimes delaying your fiery-war-axe in order to deal one more damage is actually the right call!
1 x sir-finley-mrrgglton: When playing Face Warrior you probably would be better off having any other hero-power compared to what you start with, gaining two armour is useless for you most of the times. The two obvious awesome choices are: Hunter and Warlock, but any Hero Power which offers Damage is good for you. Not much else to say about why this card is core to the deck.
2 x southsea-deckhand: It is a Pirate and it has Charge, perfect for this deck. When played on turn one, unless you have N’Zoth’s First Mate and coin, the card is usually lacklustre, it is a worst fiery-bat. On the other hand, late game, this card enables you an easy activation for your bloodsail-cultist as well as providing you with a charge minion if you have a weapon equipped (most times you will do). Overall, you keep this card in the mulligan as you would rather have a play than no play on turn one, but you would nearly always rather play N’Zoth’s First Mate.
2 x upgrade: Upgrading a Rusty Hook is ok, especially against Shaman. A two damage weapon enables you to clear Totems whilst still pushing damage face with your minions. If you upgrade a Fiery War Axe the card is awesome, you gain five or six damage for one mana depending on the durability of your weapon. Additionally, it enables you to kill totem-golem which is a pretty prevalent two-drop in the current metagame. The real powerhouse though is when you upgrade arcanite-reaper. Upgrade basically becomes a pyroblast for one mana over a couple of turns, without taunt your opponent will rarely, if ever, survive all that damage face.
2 x bloodsail-raider: The card is lacklustre compared to the game-plan, but you have to play Pirates in order for your Bloodsail Cultist to be effective. Most of the times when you play this card it will either be a 2/3 or a 3/3, basically vanilla stats for the cost. The good thing about having the card in your deck is that if you are going second you can curve out Fiery War Axe into Bloodsail Raider, this will often win you games if the opponent lacks the removal for the Bloodsail Raider. Overall, the best use for this card is to force your opponent to clear it whilst you push face damage with the Charge minions and your Weapons.
2 x flame-juggler: This is the second flex-spot of the deck, in place of this card I tried various different other options. I feel Flame Juggler is better than frothing-berserker because it can be played a turn earlier and it has an immediate impact on board. On the other side of the spectrum, Flame Juggler is better than wolfrider because the body is harder to deal with and it provides some board presence, this is needed if you want to repeatedly hit face. Overall, with all the nerfs in the past six months to aggressive options Flame Juggler has slowly crept in to being one of the best early game aggressive tools available in the game.
2 x fiery-war-axe: Pirates have synergy with weapons, thus you play all the good weapons that you can. Fiery War Axe is one of the strongest cards in the game, not only it provides insane value if you clear two creatures with it, it is literally a fireball for two mana in a face deck. Not bad! Overall probably no reason to not play this card.
2 x heroic-strike: Yes, sometimes it is correct to play this card turn two and go face, this deck is really aggressive. The four damage for two mana is nice because you get good value on the mana you pay and late game it helps close out the damage gap from hand. Sometimes, you will get stuck with the card in your hand but I feel not running it would be a mistake considering your game-plan is to deal as much damage as possible as quickly as you can.
2 x argent-horserider: This card has been surprisingly good in the deck, the Divine Shield means it will more often than not deal at least four damage face. Additionally, Shaman, the most popular class in the metagame, has good ways to deal with one health minions but not so good ways to deal with Divine Shield minions as they currently do not run earth-shock. Overall, excellent card which fits perfectly with the deck’s game-plan.
2 x bloodsail-cultist: This card is probably the reason you play a Pirate Deck in the first place. Giving your weapon an additional charge whilst developing vanilla stats is insane, you gain both a huge tempo swing and board presence all in one card. The fact that there are cheap Pirates means that most of the times the activation can come down early on in the game, it is not a late game combo card. Remember that sometimes it is better to hold onto your dread-corsair or Southsea Deckhand in order to combo the cards with Bloodsail Cultist.
2 x dread-corsair: This card has two main uses in the deck. Firstly, it is a huge Tempo Swing tool when played for zero mana, it is not quite as good as thing-from-below but it is generally easier to push out early. The second, and most important use, is an activator for Bloodsail Cultist. Sometimes it is correct to withhold from playing Dread Corsair in order to upgrade your weapon with Bloodsail Cultist later on, this is especially true when you lost board control and your only win condition is hitting face with your weapons. Learning to play the deck perfectly requires mastering the ability of understanding when to play this card.
2 x korkron-elite: Another charge minion which is hard to remove without wasting at least two mana. Your opponent will fall behind on board if he has to use resources on this card, meaning that you can continue developing your board. I don’t think I have to say why this is awesome for the deck.
2 x mortal-strike: It is the only direct damage in the deck and you will find it is a very precious tool to close out games. Great card which makes it harder for players to set up lethals if they want to play around the possible burst. Keep in mind, sometimes you can use your N’Zoth’s First Mate weapon to lower your health enough to proc the additional two damage on Mortal Strike (going +1 in damage dealt).
2 x arcanite-reaper: This card is a win condition by itself if you manage to Upgrade it, dealing 17 damage for 6 mana over three turns is insane. If the weapon sticks you will most probably win most of the times, it is hard to come back from a five mana Pyroblast.
1 x leeroy-jenkins: The Charge legendary, it is used in this deck as a neutral Fireball, usually it doesn’t do much more than deal six damage face. Once again, given the game-plan of the deck it makes sense to have it, even if I will say it can be substituted for nearly any other charge minion in the game.
-2 flame-juggler +2 frothing-berserker
Frothing Berserker is better than Flame Juggler in match-ups where it forces your opponent to play removal without being able to develop a threat. The main class which has difficulties dealing with Frothing Berserker is Druid, in order to deal four damage very often they will have to spend at least three mana. What this enables you to do is develop a Kor’kron Elite uncontested, forcing your opponent to play reactive. On the other hand, Flame Juggler gives you an additional turn two play, this is important because you don’t want to completely lose the board early on, you don’t really have any good come back mechanisms. Overall this spot is flexible and both cards make sense in the deck.
-2 flame-juggler +2 wolfrider
This is the other card I experimented with in the deck, Wolfrider makes the deck that much more aggressive. The main problem I have with playing Wolfrider is that with all the one damage pings which currently exist in the metagame (maelstrom-portal, ravaging-ghoul) very often it won’t force your opponent to play reactive, it will just let them develop a threat and put you behind on board. If the metagame shifts towards more Hunters this substitution would be worth it because in aggressive match-ups the most aggressive deck usually wins.
-2 blood-to-ichor +2 argent-squire
Blood To Ichor is very good against aggressive decks, it provides an answer for their early threats, on the other hand it is quite bad against control decks. You will find most of the times control decks play spells from hands rather than proactive on board, what this means is that you will rarely be able to drop the 2/2 slime whilst pushing damage face. Argent Squire also has the advantage of being a decent turn one play making your turn one more consistent by a wide margin. Since Shaman is very popular on ladder I feel making this switch would be wrong, you need and answer to Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem and Blood To Ichor does that whilst Argent Squire doesn’t.
Going first there are not too many secrets to the mulligan for this deck, you try to find a one drop into a two drop and start attacking face. The ideal Curve is obviously a N’Zoth first Mate into a two drop, but don’t shy away from playing a Southsea Deckhand if you expect him to be able to deal at least two damage. Forcing the other player to play reactive is essential when playing an aggressive deck. When going first do not keep Blood To Ichor in hand, this most of the times will be a dead card you cannot use. Playing Argent Squire instead of Ichor obviously makes the first few turns slightly smoother. Other than that, there are not too many tips I can give as the mulligan when going first is pretty straight forward, you cannot curve out in too many different ways.
Keep: sir-finley-mrrgglton, southsea-deckhand, nzoths-first-mate, bloodsail-raider, fiery-war-axe and flame-juggler.
Situational Keep: upgrade.
Going second is usually where you can up your win-percentages when playing aggressive decks, there are so many different ways you can play the early game. First of all, in some match-ups keeping Blood To Ichor is correct in order to answer your opponent plays. This is especially true against Shamans where the turn one Tunnel Trogg can be answered by a coin Fiery War Axe and the turn two Totem Golem by a Fiery War Axe hit into Blood To Ichor. The same applies when playing against Tempo Mage and Zoolock, Mana Wyrm, voidwalker and company all get contested pretty well by Blood To Ichor.
The two other one drops (N’Zoth’s First Mate and Southsea Deckhand) are ok keeps, with Southsea Deckhand being on the weaker side if not comboed with a weapon. Usually I mulligan away the latter card if I don’t have a Fiery War Axe or N’Zoth’s First Mate to couple with it (sometimes I will keep Upgrade with Southsea Deckhand if I think there is a particular threat I can contest with it, for example a Tunnel Trogg).
Another possible curve is the two drop into two drop, Fiery War Axe into Bloodsail Raider being especially strong. Be wary if you coin the Fiery War Axe without hitting the enemy, Acidic Swamp Ooze might ruin your day. Against control decks if I am going for this play I usually cash in on the three damage face on turn one.
One of the best curves you can have is a one drop into Coin Argent Horserider into another Argent Horserider, this curve applies lot of pressure and is very hard to deal with. Most of the times you will notice that the Horseriders will connect with the enemies face multiple times as there is not clean way to answer the card that early on.
The last curve I want to talk about is a turn two Fiery War Axe into Coin, Upgrade, Dread Corsair and Bloodsail Cultist (and similar curves). This is very strong and very often it is worth delaying your Dread Corsair in order to guarantee the Upgrade on the Fiery War Axe with Bloodsail Cultist. In general, Dread Corsair is one of the best activators for Blood Cultist, it enables you to create huge tempo swings whilst also putting decent threats on board. Lastly, when playing against control decks you can keep Arcanite Reaper in your mulligan given you have a playable curve, this is especially true against Control Warrior where Arcanite reaper is one of your main win-conditions.
As you will gain more experience with the deck you will understand what risks you can take with the mulligan going second, you will find that there are loads of combinations you can go for.
Keep: nzoths-first-mate, sir-finley-mrrgglton, fiery-war-axe and flame-juggler. (I think out of these the only one you never really mulligan away is Fiery War Axe).
Situational: upgrade, southsea-deckhand, blood-to-ichor, bloodsail-raider, heroic-strike, argent-horserider, bloodsail-cultist, dread-corsair and arcanite-reaper.
Against Control Warrior I have an awesome score (6-2), but I think this is mainly due to the fact I managed to chain Upgrade on Arcanite Reaper during the games. Without changing your Hero Power this match-up is very rough, the amount of life gain the deck packs nowadays is nearly insurmountable. Between shield-block, ironforge-portal, bash and justicar-trueheart you will very rarely have a clean game. That being said, even Control Warrior doesn’t have enough life gain for a double upgraded Arcanite Reaper. My general suggestion is to go face hard and don’t bother trading unless it helps you deal more damage in the long run (this is true in most match-ups).
Old Aggro Shaman used to destroy Rogue, this is because the deck packs little to no life gain and requires combo turns later on in order to win. If you never let the Rogue get to those turns he will never win. When playing against Rogue you just go face hard and never bother trading, usually in a race situation they cannot beat you. You lose this match-up if the Rogue manages to pull off a giant edwin-vancleef early on, it happens but it is rare. Overall a very favourable match-up.
This match-up is strange, it is usually a blow out on either side. You usually lose against Druids if they have absurd innervate starts which are impossible for you to come back from, this is especially true if they ramp up turn two. On the other hand, if they skip on their early ramp they will nearly never be able to come back from the damage you are pushing, when they will be able to answer your threats it will often be too late. I want to say this match-up should be favourable but according to my statistics it is 54% (6/5) thus it is probably closer than I imagine it to be. This makes sense as Druid does run decent life gain and, sometimes, Taunts (ancient-of-war is pretty devastating).
This match-up is really favourable, my record against the deck is (6-1). The reason you should win against Tempo Mage most of the times is that the pressure you can put with weapons and Charge minions is too much for them to handle and they cannot race against you effectively. The way you lose is if the opponent is on the Coin with flamewaker and you have no way to deal with the threat posed, this happens but it is very rare.
Priests usually don’t play many taunts and they have difficulties pinging minions down, meaning that it will be hard for them to answer most of your threats. The main rule in this match-up is never to trade, you just go face and make them deal with your board awkwardly. Managing to upgrade a weapon in this match-up is important as the priest (unless he is playing harrison-jones) will have no way of countering your repetitive hits to the dome. Consider saving a pirate for Bloodsail Cultist instead of over-extending on board. Overall just dunk them super hard and you will win most of the times.
This is a good match-up because Hunter doesn’t usually play that many taunts and the most aggressive decks usually wins in this match-up. One tip I can give against Hunter is that with Sir Finley Mrrgglton it is usually better to get a damage Hero Power rather than Life Tap, this is because if you start inflicting your face damage it starts getting difficult to race them. Overall, if you have a weapon you should be able to win as Hunter runs no life gain, again remember to dunk them hard!
Midrange Shaman is a pretty rough match-up, you cannot usually afford to leave the Totems up (thus you have to waste damage on them) and they have a lot of annoying taunts that block you from going face. The main reason this deck is good to get to rank five but bad to get to legend is exactly this, whilst it is easy to get a win-streak going it is very hard to win consistently with the deck against Midrange Shaman. At best you can hope for a 50/50 (my current record is 42%). If even at the lower ranks this class is infesting the ladder you might run into some difficulties, even though I will say that lower rank Shaman player should make more mistakes enabling you to win more against them than Legend Shamans.
Example of how to Execute a Game-plan
Unfortunately for this one I didn’t take a picture, I really thought I wouldn’t win the game. You can recreate the situation by writing down the following information: it is turn four and in hand I have a two mortal-strike, arcanite-reaper, bloodsail-cultist and dread-corsair. I am facing against a Rogue with a tomb-pillager on board and 24 health. The rogue is on the play. I have full HP, I know that if I want to win I have to put the opponent on a clock.
So what I do is turn four, given the lack of good plays, I just Mortal Strike the face for four, I predict I have to close out the game in three turns if I ever want to win and trading with the Tomb Pillager wouldn’t do any good for me. I just have to hope the opponent doesn’t have a follow up play. He doesn’t, so I equip Arcanite reaper and delay my Dread Corsair for one turn in order to guarantee the upgrade on the weapon whilst swinging face. The turn after I execute my plan and continue pushing damage face, I top deck an Argent Horserider which enables me to push even more damage whilst setting up a board. The opponent has seven life now and I have a guaranteed lethal the following turn given the fact I have the second Mortal Strike in hand, I executed my plan and managed to win the game on turn seven. Notice that if I save up my Mortal Strike on turn four I would have never managed to deal all the damage face and I would have lost this game, sometimes seeing your outs is a question of looking how to guarantee a check mate in three turns given your hand. The deck is not hard to play but it certainly has interesting decision you have to make when playing it.
What You Really Have to Get Out of this Article
The one rule when playing this deck is that if you feel you have time during the game try to maximise your damage, every damage does really help. For example suppose that you have the Rusty Hook equipped and one more charge, delaying a Fiery War Axe by one turn in order to deal that additional damage face is often correct if you don’t have a clear play the following turn. Additionally, with the Fiery War Axe you don’t want to attack face from turn two, if you are setting up for an Arcanite Reaper you just need to swing turn three and four to be ready to hit face on turn five. Lastly, please do not over trade, you should be the aggressor in every match-up you play. Try thinking about what trades your opponent has that really punish you if you trade, most of the times you will see that the opponent has none.
If you follow my tips I believe you should be able to reach rank 5 in no time, it is the end of the season thus it should be easier to rank up. Consider that a golden epic can really help you boost your collection! I would like to hear your opinions on the deck and if you managed to hit your targets with it, let me know in the comment section. If you have nothing to say consider that kind words do make me feel warm and cuddly inside!
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