Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Pirate Cards in Magic?
In Magic, pirates are an offense-oriented creature subtype you'll encounter among the blue, red, and black factions. Heavily developed in the Ixalan expansion, pirates generally have mid-range mana costs, meaning you can field them without much hassle, and they reward aggressive strategies, leading to dynamic matches.
Thanks to their strength, theme, and energetic gameplay, pirates remain one of my favorite clans, but with dozens of members to choose from, which swashbucklers reign supreme? These are the ten best pirate cards in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Hostage Taker
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Hostage Taker's 2/3 stats (two power and three toughness) are poor for her cost, but when she enters the field, you get to exile an opposing artifact or creature, making her a surprisingly potent removal. Even better, you can cast that card for as long as it's exiled, and you can spend mana as if it were any color to do so.
In the vein of other exile-on-entrance spells like "Oblivion Ring," your opponent regains their lost unit if Taker exits the field. To prevent this, cast their unit as soon as possible; once it's under your command, even defeating Taker won't reclaim it, meaning you'll no longer have to worry about defending your bandit.
9. Deadeye Tracker
Like most pirates, Tracker also bears the human subtype, and this inexpensive scoundrel only costs one swamp's mana. He's fittingly weak at 1/1, but by tapping and paying two mana, he lets you exile two cards in an opponent's graveyard, then explore. This reveals the top card of your deck; if it's a land, you add it to your hand, and if not, Tracker gains a +1/+1 counter and you choose whether to place the card back on top of your deck or into your graveyard.
Either way, you're gaining a nice benefit, and remember that exiling cards prevents your opponent from reclaiming them. Thus, Tracker proves a surprisingly annoying card banisher/draw engine that may goad an opponent into wasting a removal on a low-cost troop.
8. Captain Lannery Storm
As a legendary creature, Captain Lannery can serve as your commander in EDH format, although her 2/2 stats don't impress. However, she wields haste, letting her attack even on the turn she arrives, and when she swings, you get to create a treasure artifact token that you can tap and sacrifice to add a mana of any color.
This makes Lannery a handy ramp tool, and whenever you sacrifice a treasure, she gets +1/+0 until the end of the turn, letting her attack with more vigor and better punish blockers.
7. Warkite Marauder
Warkite Marauder is similarly underwhelming stat-wise, bearing just 2/1, so watch out for counterattacks or -1/-1 counters. However, she doesn't cost many resources and enjoys flying, rendering her unblockable to land-based enemies unless they have the reach trait.
Plus, when she attacks, you get to force an opposing creature to lose all abilities and become 0/1 for the turn. Thus dulls potential defenders, letting Marauder slip by unchecked, and it makes a great combo with your own -1/-1 effects, scoring easy kills when enemy toughness hits zero.
6. Admiral Beckett Brass
If you're running a pirate commander strategy, you'll likely want Admiral Beckett as your leader. She flag runs all three pirate colors, letting you include any type of outlaw in your deck list, and while her own stats are mediocre at 3/3, Beckett boosts your other pirates by +1/+1.
As if that weren't enough, she also lets you permanently gain control of an opposing nonland permanent during the end phase if you dealt that player combat damage with three or more pirates that round. Use flying and unblockable tricks to help your troops land direct damage and trigger the effect, stealing anything from creatures to enchantments to even planeswalkers!
5. Dire Fleet Poisoner
Finally, a pirate whose stats match her cost, Poisoner joins with a fitting 2/2. She also carries the rare flash trait, letting you cast her at instant speed and catch opponents by surprise. Play her when you attack with a pirate, as this lets Poisoner grant that unit +1/+1 and deathtouch until the end of the turn!
Poisoner herself carries deathtouch, meaning any foe she damages dies regardless of their toughness. With her quick-play speed, ally boost, and insta-kill prowess, Dire remains a formidable champion even outside of pirate decks (you can use her as a surprise blocker against to kill an attacker) who has won me several games; fortunately, she costs well under two dollars!
4. Siren Stormtamer
While Stormtamer is a weak 1/1, she only drains a single mana and harnesses the flying trait. Additionally, by spending a blue resource and sacrificing herself, she can counter a spell or ability that targets you or a creature you control (including Stormtamer herself).
This makes her a surprisingly potent negation tactic, letting you thwart any blast directed your way. Throw in synergies with both the siren and wizard factions on top of pirate, and you've got one heck of a versatile warrior.
3. Protean Raider
A shapeshifter as well as pirate, Raider's raid effect lets him enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature (yours or your opponent's) if you attacked that turn. This is an excellent bargain for three mana, and he'll adjust his types, stats, and abilities to match your selection.
You can mimic an opponent's legendary unit, but be careful not to duplicate your own, or you'll have to sacrifice one thanks to the legend rule.
2. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
For just two mana, Kari's 1/3 stats, first strike (hitting first in combat and avoiding a counterattack if you kill your foe), and menace (making her unblockable except by two or more creatures) already impress. Then, whenever she attacks, you also create a legendary 2/1 monkey token called "Ragavan" tapped and attacking.
If it survives, you have to exile Ragavan at end of combat, but this is yet another fantastic trait that lets you swing with an extra two power each turn.
1. Dire Fleet Daredevil
Daredevil makes an excellent substitute for blue's famous "Snapcaster Mage," now able to access your opponent's graveyard instead of your own. When this pirate enters the field, you exile an opposing instant/sorcery from your opponent's graveyard, and you can cast it that turn. Fortunately, you can also spend mana as if it were mana of any type for that spell, so don't worry about mismatched colors.
Whether you can or can't afford to cast it, note that it ends up in exile, a handy way to prevent graveyard recoveries or flashback effects. Beyond that, Daredevil is a solid 2/1 with first strike, meaning (for her price), she's no slouch in battle. Unpredictable yet powerful, Daredevil is an easy pick for my own EDH pirate decks, and she costs less than three dollars despite her rarity!
How to Support Pirate Decks in Magic
In addition to their own support members we've already seen, remember that most pirates also carry the human subtype, stacking well with cards like "Mayor of Avabruck." Additionally, many noncreature cards in the Ixalan expansion have raid effects that trigger bonus effects if you attacked that turn—something your pirates excel at—and note that green/black planeswalker "Vraska, Relic Seeker" can create both pirate and treasure tokens with her loyalty abilities.
Pirates remain an engaging archetype that I recommend testing yourself, but for now, as we eagerly Wizards of the Coast's next set of sea-scourging rogues, vote for your favorite pirate, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill