Weekly Legends: Ahoy Matey! (Pirates)

Ayoh Matey! This week I get to cover a legend Pirate list, which Hotform (one of my favorite streamers) took all the way to legend. Not only that, but it is by and far one of the most exciting decks I have ever been able to explore on Weekly Legends. There are a couple different parts […]

Introduction

Ayoh Matey! This week I get to cover a legend Pirate list, which Hotform (one of my favorite streamers) took all the way to legend. Not only that, but it is by and far one of the most exciting decks I have ever been able to explore on Weekly Legends. There are a couple different parts of this deck, and understanding how each piece fits together is extremely important to getting to know the deck as a whole. First and foremost, let’s talk about how the deck is structured. It is built similar to Midrange Paly, in that is starts with a bunch of small minions and then builds to much larger finishing plays. However, do not be fooled. This deck is not a midrange deck, it is an aggro deck through and though. In fact, it is best to think about this deck much like Zoo. It has the capability to go long and end the game with larger minions, but typically wins by getting an early push and slamming down damage. With 10 two drops, you are always going to start strong, and as such, you want to constantly be aware of lethal. In fact, Truesilver Champion often goes face for eight damage much more than clearing out the board, which is a good indication of the way you want to play this build.

Despite the lack of card draw, this deck plays masterfully due to its wonderful curve. You have access to an incredible amount of early game, which lets you come out of the gates hot. This then allows you to play two modes. You can try to push towards lethal as fast as you can, or you can switch over to a more board-control deck. Whatever mode you choose is going to be dependent on the matchup and board state, but understanding what mode you are in is very important to winning games. In addition, you also need to understand all of the small interactions this deck is capable of as well. Whether you are comboing Knife Juggler with Muster for Battle, Ship’s Cannon with a slew of Pirates, Dread Corsair with Truesilver Champion or Equality with Consecration, you want to always to get value where you can. Tempo is very important with all Paladin decks, and things like Southsea Captain, Equality/Consecration and Aldor Peacekeeper can let you take the board. And, as Zoo shows, once an aggro deck has the board, it almost never loses.

Key Cards

Bloodsail Raider

From an aggro perspective, Bloodsail Raider is one of the strongest pirates in the deck. You are not above playing a 2/3 for two mana (more on that below), but the potential is what really takes this card to the next level. Getting this card down with any weapon in play (including a Light’s Justice) gives you an undercosted minion for two mana. No, not just an undercosted minion, an uncdercosted pirate. While a 3/3 for two is strong, and a 4/3 for two is better, this really shines when you can pair the buff with Truesilver Champion. This is for two reasons. One, a 6/3 for two is incredible, giving you a giant threat that challenges things like Sludge Belcher, and allows you to kill your opponent very quickly. Second, most people will burn their early game removal on your turn two or three minions, which means they may burn more premium options (or a silence) on this card, allowing them less answers to Dr. Boom, Tirion Fordring or Sylvanas Windrunner.

Understanding the above paragraph, an important note is to know you don’t have to force Bloodsail Raider for it to be good. Often times I find that people try to hold onto this card to get the “optimal” value. That is not only unnecessary, but can often hurt you by taking away your synergy or breaking up your curve. Yes, a 6/3 is very powerful and can often lead you to wins, but it is just as fine to get a 2/3 or 3/3 as long as you have something you can play on board. Often time people will give up solid plays to try and get the most value out of their cards. This is often wrong, and a very important lesson to learn when it comes to improving at the game. Bloodsail Raider is a great practice.

Ship’s Cannon

Pound for pound, this card is much better than Knife Juggler. Yes, it does not trigger off of things like Muster for Battle or even Reinforce, but doing two damage is miles better than doing one. Much like Flamewaker, two damage gives this card the ability to completely take over a board in the right situation. Yes, it does need pirates, but there are more than enough to get value out of this two drop. While sometimes you will just have to run out the cannon on turn two to keep your curve going (always the most important part of playing this deck), more often than not you want to hold this until you can fully utilize its potential.

Even if you only get one trigger off of the cannon, it usually is more than worth the two mana investment. Unlike Knife Juggler, which is still very strong in its own right, Ship’s Cannon can kill off Mad Scientist, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Haunted Creeper and the back half of a Sludge Belcher. As such, it can lead to giant tempo swings, and has the ability to clear the board on its own. The more pirates you play, the more damage this does. That is an obvious phrase, but that means the more this card does damage, the more you are adding to your own board as well, which just piles on the tempo plays. One last note is, if you do manage to clear your opponent’s board, this card can turn into a massive amount of face damage. The cannon will usually only live one turn, so get use out of it while you can.

Southsea Captain

It is a true and simple fact that you cannot make a pirate deck without the captain. A 1/1 buff to all of your pirates may not seem too exciting, but that damage adds up very, very quickly. Not only that, but the health buff gives most of your pirates a way to survive both creature combat and AOE. This then adds to the your overall board presence. A well timed captain is good for pushing through damage, and a captain on curve can actually screw up your opponent’s play by letting your minions survive trades they were supposed to die from. However, just like with Bloodsail Raider, you always want to get something down onto the board. A 1/1 recruit is alright for turn two, but that simply won’t cut it later on. That means, while a 3/3 for three is not ideal, you don’t want to try and keep the captain for the “great turn”. Just play it out if it’s your best option, hope it lives, and let the rest of the deck carry you through.

Dread Corsair

One of the reasons this deck works as well as it does is due to massive tempo swings that come from cards such as Equality or Aldor Peacekeeper. Dread Corsair is another large swing that gives you an insane amount of push. With Southsea Captain this card is a 4/4, and, due to the high volume of weapons, will almost always be very cheap to cast. A turn four (or three with coin) Truesilver Champion into the corsair can win games on its own by giving you removal and a minion on the same turn. That may sound like an exaggeration, but that kind of swing can cement your board and allow you to dictate trades for the rest of the game.

Dread Corsair is great for a variety of different reasons, but it is mostly because of the discount. This card is free a lot of the time, but playing it for three or two mana is just as fine. In all, this averages out to costing around 1 or 2 mana, which can really help your curve. Also, because you are almost going to either clear or hit with your weapons, it comes with damage behind it as well. Being a pirate, corsair also combos very nicely with Ship’s Cannon and, as discussed, is very good when buffed by the captain. One more important note is that it also gives you a great tool against aggro, which can break open aggressive matchups if played correctly.

Sylvanas Windrunner

One of the few late game cards in the deck, Sylvanas Windrunner is your Loatheb. What exactly does that mean? It means, just like the five mana fungus-lover, Sylvanas locks down the board. Aggro decks that go for bigger cards need those cards to serve a certain purpose. You can’t just shove Ragnaros the Firelord or Ysera into Face Hunter, because those legends don’t aid the aggro mindset. However, Dr. Boom is a great choice for something like Zoo because it represents damage through the 7/7 body as well as the Boom Bots. Following that line of thinking, Sylvanas makes it so your opponent cannot catch up on board unless they waste a turn or burn some time casting spells.

When you have a couple of minions out and are beating your opponent down, Sylvanas will make it so they have to do something proactive. This is vitality important because, even if she is answered, you can sneak in huge stretches of extra damage. For instance, if you have seven damage on board, and you play Sylvanas on turn six, your opponent is basically dead. Why? While they may want to drop a large threat down, Sylvanas makes it so they usually cannot afford the chance (as Sylvanas will just steal whatever they play). As such, they will most likely just spend the turn killing her off. If that happens, you still have seven more damage coming their way next turn, which totals to fourteen. Situations such as that show Sylvanas’s power, and exactly why she made it into this list. While you can just drop her sometimes due to her power level, you typically want to try and get her down when you have the board.

Matchups

Hunter

Man oh man. This deck might just be worth playing as a way to defeat Rexxar and his gang of beasts. Hotform, who took this deck to legend, went undefeated against all Hunters during his climb, and I have yet to lose this matchup as well. Against Midrange, you can easily play around Freezing Trap (which is the best tool they have), and you can race Face due to things like Coghammer and Lay on Hands. In both matches you want to keep the early board clear, but against Midrange you can pressure them starting around turn four or five. I have talked on end about how bad Hunter plays when they need to answer your threats instead of doing damage. That goes double for Midrange. If you can stick a Shielded Minibot or early Ship’s Cannon/Knife Juggler, the game will quickly fall out of their favor and into yours.

The general rule for this match, besides simply keeping their minions at a reasonable distance, is to understand the tools you have at your disposal. You have Coghammer and two Dread Corsairs for your taunts, and two Truesilver Champions and Lay on Hands for healing. That package, mixed with the early pressure that your pirates create, just constantly keeps Hunter back on their heels. Lay on Hands is the most important of all of your tools, because it truly allows you to race them; knowing you will be able to recover health where they cannot. Just make the best use of your taunts, take out any problem minions, and hit them at every opportunity. Pressure ruins Hunters.

Malylock

Zoo is (finally) taking a breather, and most Warlocks these days seem to be favoring the very strange build of Malylock. It’s not that I’m against using Malygos as a giant finisher, I’m just not sure if it’s better than traditional Handlock. Either way, you have to be ready when playing this deck. How? Kill them before they kill you. An obvious statement, but you need to understand how important it is to race them down before they can combo. You have no way to interact with the legendary dragon, which means you are permanently on a clock. As an aggro deck, the best way to beat a clock is to make your own clock faster.

Every iteration of non-Zoo Warlock does not do well against aggro decks that are backed up by Equality (which can clear a board of taunts in a heartbeat). That also holds true here. Knowing that, you simply want to play the aggressor, pushing through damage as much and as fast as possible. For instance, while against many classes you should hold cards in your hand to get interactions, this is a fine match to just run out a turn two Knife Juggler. Yes, it will get Darkbombed a lot of time, but if that happens, they have one less tap. Also, if you do call their bluff and they don’t have the bomb, they will end up taking massive amounts of damage. Malylock does have some healing, but that usually only comes in the form of an Antique Healbot, which you can easily overcome. Shadowflame can be annoying, but you care much more about Hellfire, which you should always try and bait out before playing a lot of minions. Equality, as discussed above, is also a very valuable tool, and should only be used to not die or to clear out huge taunts.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage has dipped down in numbers over the past few weeks, but it is still out there, and can still win out of nowhere. This is a matchup that falls greatly in our favor. Not only can you easily deal with Mirror Entity, but your early minions (Shielded Minibot, Ship’s Cannon, Muster for Battle) trump theirs. Consecration backed by a surplus of weapons also just gives you too many removal options for the small minions they typically depend on to win games. You will generally be able to dictate the pace of the game. This is important against Tempo Mage, as you can generally predict their plays during the middle turns of the game and then play accordingly.

As the name suggests, Tempo Mage needs to be able to play the tempo game. They need to start out with some early board presence, and then use Flamewaker, Frost Bolt, Sorcerer’s Apprentice and other removal to get them through the middle turns until they can drop huge threats. If that plan gets interrupted, they usually just crumble under a bunch of scattered, disjointed cards. While they do have access to Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas, you should only be truly nervous about Sylvanas Windrunner due to her ability to steal Tirion Fordring. She should be killed on sight for this reason. Beyond that, if you do find yourself trading blows with Tempo Mage, count their removal. Despite their name, they are an aggro deck, and end almost every game in a flurry of Frostbolts and Fireballs. When they use those spells on your minions, that is less damage you have to worry about later on.

Midrange Paladin

It is very tough to say just who has the advantage in the Paladin vs. Paladin battle. A lot of the games open in very similar ways; a huge slew of Shielded Minibots, Knife Jugglers and Muster for Battles. However, while they do have a slight advantage in the later turns, you have a huge advantage in the middle game. This is because Midrange Paladin largely falls into the “one minion a turn” trap which just gets crushed by a deck that can play the tempo game. That is to say, if you have board control on turn three or four, they will have to start using their mana on Piloted Shredders or Sludge Belchers. This will give you an opportunity to clear, do damage and keep adding to the board. It is best to largely see this match as a mirror, where life is the most importance resource. If you force them to play more defensively, wasting turns on things like Antique Healbot, you should be fine.

You are not the aggressor in this matchup until turn four. Before that, you are just doing your best to fight for board control. Ship’s Cannon and Knife Juggler are both fantastic for this; sniping down small minions all over the board. The cannon, if you can get some pirates with it, can actually just take over the game on its own. They have Consecration, which means you should always try and hold back some minions or a Muster for Battle if you can. Dr. Boom also serves as a great way to get board back when you need it. One more note, you don’t really have any good answer to Tirion Fordring beyond Sylvanas Windrunner. However, if you put them at a low enough life total, you can simply clear the annoying legend as they won’t be able to afford to attack your minions.

Patron Warrior

Equality. Equality. Equality. That is the most important card in this matchup. While you will have some games where you can just run them over, Patron Warrior usually has enough weapons and early clear to get to the all important turn eight. If this happens, they can very often get a board full of Patrons, which can be very hard to beat without Equality. However, with Equality, you should be fine. Surviving the first wave is the most important aspect of this matchup because, unlike you who has access to the likes of Tirion Fordring and Dr. Boom, they just don’t have a lot of finishers. Most decks these days don’t even run Grommash Hellscream anymore (although you should still play like they do just in case).

Bloodsail Corsair is key in this battle, allowing you to remove the second charge of a Death’s Bite on your turn. That second charge is one of the best tools Patron Warrior has at their disposal, and not allowing them to get value out of it is very important. Beyond that, you generally want to just apply pressure, which does mean killing Armorsmiths when you can, and keeping their minions off the board to prevent dying to some crazy combo. Fiery War Axe and Death’s Bite are both very strong against you, but Executes are not. Typically, those will be burned earlier in the game, which will make it so your large finishers have nothing to worry about. While it is hard to play around Frothing Berserker/Warsong Commander, you can play around Grim Patron. Just always remember to keep your health at a reasonable total.

Mulligan Guide

Mulligan Guide

There is no card draw in this deck. I cannot stress that enough. Yes, Lay on Hands gives you a late game option, but you cannot depend on that to fill your hand. You need to rely on your curve to win games. That means, when mulliganing you are looking for your two drops. Ship’s Cannon, Knife Juggler, Shielded Minibot and Bloodsail Raider are all insta-keeps for this reason. That being said, Bloodsail Corsair and Southsea Deckhand are always good at starting with a strong curve (unless you can afford to save them). Muster for Battle is also a insta-keep if you have a two drop before it, or if you have the coin. The later game cards should never be kept, but if you have an early curve it is ok to keep Truesilver Champion with the coin. You should only keep Dread Corsair if you have other minions and you have a weapon, while Consecration and Coghammer are great against aggro decks (Mage, Hunter, Warlock) and Paladin.

Beyond the above choices, always look at the way your first turns will play out. There are very few decks where you should “override” the mulligan rules, but this is one of them. Due to the huge number of small interactions, you need to see the matchup and then play accordingly. For example, if I have an Aldor Peacekeeper or Equality against Druid, I will always keep those cards. That is simple. However, if I have a peacekeeper against Warlock, what do you do? The rule is to never keep it, but it is a great way to combat a turn four Twilight Drake if your are playing Hand or Malylock. You should always mulligan for Zoo, so then you need to look at the rest of your hand. If all the other cards are strong early game plays, I would keep peacekeeper just to hedge my bets. However, if I didn’t have anything else, I would then mulligan for the curve. It is those type of small choices that really separate an average mulligan from a skilled one, and looking for small interactions or seeing combos or plays on future turns will greatly affect what cards you keep.

Conclusion

Well, I hope you enjoyed our trip through the seven seas this week. I am tampering with some really cool builds this month, and will cover whichever one I manage to take to Legend. However, until that happens, there is plenty more to explore. Rumors are flying that a certain Lich King might be coming to this game (or at least winter) but that is for a later time. Until next week, may you always take what you can and give nothing back.