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Standard Izzet Pirates Deck and Sideboard Guide

Learn how to play the Izzet Pirates deck for Standard in this strategy guide, with card options, best of one version, including all the popular matchups and sideboard guide!

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan had multiple specific creature types that it supported. Pirates seem to be among the winners of these types, entering the meta as a fast tempo-oriented strategy that’s capable of quick wins and disruptive gameplay.

While currently there are numerous viable creature strategies, Pirates have some unique elements to it that make it stand out.

First, Breeches, Eager Pillager is a great reason to stand by this tribe. Providing ramp, unblockability, and/or card advantage is huge.

On top of that, it has a lot of evasion, compared to Mono Red, Mono White, or Boros Aggro. Half the threats fly which comes in handy against other creature decks.

Last but not least, the Izzet colour combination opens up opportunities when it comes to sideboarded games. You can load up on removal but also side in countermagic to help against Sunfall or hardcast Atraxa, Grand Unifier among others.

Without further ado, let’s delve into arrrrrrggghhh PIRATES!

Deck Tech

Izzet Pirates
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $93.58
Standard
best of 3
4 mythic
27 rare
13 uncommon
16 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (6)
2
Play with Fire
$7.98
4
Voltage Surge
$1.40
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (21)
4
Island
$1.40
4
Mountain
$1.40
4
Shivan Reef
$7.16
4
Cavern of Souls
$191.96
2
Restless Spire
$0.98
60 Cards
$284.48
Sideboard
4
Spell Pierce
$1.96
2
Abrade
$0.70
3
Make Disappear
$2.97
15 Cards
$15.77

Creatures

A new take on Goblin Guide. Whenever there is a one-drop aggressive creature, it needs to be explored to double-check if it can be taken advantage of.

In this case, the condition is to control an artifact which might seem tricky, especially in the early game. However, the twist is that you don’t really have to play it immediately on turn one!

You’ll frequently see curves such as turn one Spyglass Siren, make a Map token, deploy double Goblin, and smash in.

You can also deploy it on turn one as a non-haster but add an artifact on turn two so that you still benefit from the damage buff.

Overall, it’s still okay base rate but there are multiple ways of abusing it in both deck construction and sequencing.

As mentioned above, Spyglass Siren is a way to enable Goblin Tomb Raider but that’s not all!

It’s a flying Pirate which means that it can very often get into the red zone, benefiting from Captain Storm counters Kumano Faces Kakkazan second chapter. Furthermore, it triggers Breeches, Eager Pillager easily.

The Map Token it creatures is relevant as well. You can immediately activate it on Siren to potentially grow it into a 2/2, at which point you get double the damage through in the air.

If top-decked later, you can utilise the Map token or use it to crew Subterranean Schooner.

It is indeed a lot of utility and versatility for a one-drop.

Inti, Seneschal of the Sun has already solidified its position in Boros Aggro but its potential is still being discovered.

Similarly to Boros, its main goal is to provide a stat buff, trample, and card advantage. Admittedly, trample is less relevant here than it otherwise would, as there are a lot of flying creatures here that can’t be blocked anyways.

The low curve of the deck works super well with the last ability, allowing you to almost always deploy what you exile. Be mindful though that there are eight three-drops in the deck so you might brick.

When it comes to discard, the most usual choice are going to be the legendary creatures that the deck has multiples of. You can also ditch one-drops that are irrelevant in the later stages of the game.

Aye, aye Captain! Cosmium Raider is one of the flex-ish slots in the deck, as it’s not too powerful on its own. However, with the right draws it can completely flip games, re-distributing a ton of counters between creatures.

Crucially, it triggers on all the Treasures and Maps created and can trigger multiple times in a single turn.

It’s a card I side out pretty often but it’s a decent game one threat.

My personal favourite coming out of the Early Access Streamer event. Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel made a huge impression on me for a variety of reasons and they’re still applicable. Let’s break it down.

First, it’s a flash threat which adds more depth to the card. The opponent can’t gauge whether you’re out of gas and you have to pass the turn, or you have Malcolm to get deployed on the end step. It can also ambush opposing threats in combat!

Moreover, it flies so you don’t have to worry about blockers, ensuring that you get to connect. And connecting is very important with this card particularly.

Whenever it deals damage you get to put a counter on it and draw discard. It’s a nice filtration mechanic that prevents you from flooding or drawing the wrong half.

On top of that, if you do it for the fourth time, you can play the discarded card for free! Regardless of the cost of the card! You can discard Kitesail Larcenist and just put it onto the battlefield, no questions asked.

The combination of early poke damage with the potential to cheat on mana later on makes it a super powerful two-drop.

Kitesail Larcenist is yet another evasive threat that does not care about opposing blockers.

It also acts as a removal spell of sorts, turning an opposing creature or artifact into a Treasure token. This is particularly beneficial, since you get to add a threat to the battlefield and thwart the opponent’s plan.

Thanks to ward 1, it is much harder to kill and forces the opponent to be less efficient.

Always bear in mind though that the Treasure can be undone and the original creature can come back!

The curves when you get to Larcenist on the opposing Sheoldred, the Apocalypse are going to feel great.

The best Pirate payoff. Breeches, Eager Pillager is everything one would want from tribal support.

It’s a 3/3 First striker that can easily dominate combat. There are currently very few creatures in the format that can take it head-on. It allows you to dictate the pace of the game and, crucially, combat.

Furthermore, whenever a Pirate attacks you get to choose from among three abilities – and you can choose all of them if you attack with enough Pirates!

Every ability is relevant in most cases, but sometimes surgical precision in the choice you make can tip the scales of the game. Maybe you need to make a Treasure now to have a proper explosive turn the following turn rather than try to make an immediate impact.

A juicy cherry on top is that Breeches does not have to attack to turn it on! It’s similar to Adeline, Resplendent Catharin that regard. You can slam turn three Breeches and trigger it off your one- and two-drops that have already been deployed.

This Goblin Pillager will snowball games hard when left unchecked.

At times compared to Smuggler's Copter, sometimes to Reckoner Bankbuster.

This 3/4 Vehicle has everything it takes to be the go-to threat in aggro decks.

As with most vehicles, the most important part is the crew cost and it being 1 here should already be a big green light.

When it attacks, you get to explore which borders on drawing a card and buffing the threat.

You’ll have curves where it comes down on turn two and then any creature you play subsequently has pseudo haste as it can immediately jump on the ship and attack.

Last but not least, it’s an artifact so it triggers Tomb Raider and Captain Storm.

It might or might not be as good as Copter, but the fact that we’re having this discussion speaks volumes on this card’s potential.

Kumano Faces Kakkazan is a red deck staple. Every chapter adds to the aggro game plan.

The ping does not affect the game to a huge extent but it certainly adds up, especially with multiple Kumano played in the same game.

The second chapter counter allows you to play turn two Spyglass Siren as a 2/2 flyer or Goblin Tomb Raider as a hasty 3/3 threat. It can also make Kitesail Larcenist into a 3/4, allowing it to dodge Lightning Strike or Cut Down.

The 2/2 creature on the other side is a nice bonus threat with a relevant passive ability. It does feel good to randomly hose decks that wanted to turn on their graveyard/sacrifice/dying synergies.

Interaction

Voltage Surge is tailor made for this deck with the plethora of artifacts floating around. Converting Breeches Treasures into a one-mana 4-damage burn spell is huge.

When you get to kill Raffine, Scheming Seer for one mana, you’ll feel how powerful the card is.

As we sadly can’t play more than four copies of Voltage Surge, we’re playing two more copies of early removal. This is a flex slot that could be devoted to Spell Pierce if you’re expecting decks like Ramp or Control.

Best of One

Izzet Pirates Best of One
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $75.33
Standard
best of 3
4 mythic
27 rare
13 uncommon
16 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (6)
2
Play with Fire
$7.98
4
Voltage Surge
$1.40
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (21)
4
Island
$1.40
4
Mountain
$1.40
4
Shivan Reef
$7.16
4
Cavern of Souls
$191.96
2
Restless Spire
$0.98
60 Cards
$284.48

The Best of One version is aligned with the Best of Three version.

Budget

The deck contains almost 30 rares and Pirate payoffs are sadly irreplaceable.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Five-Color Ramp

InOut
+4 Spell Pierce-2 Play with Fire
+3 Make Disappear-4 Voltage Surge
-1 Kitesail Larcenist

This is a really decent matchup. Between the plethora of counterspells at our disposal, flash threats, and a steady stream of cards I am not afraid to queue into Ramp.

Every time you play you need to be mindful of Depopulate and Sunfall. This might affect the hands you keep or how many threats you deploy at the same time.

The best rule of thumb strategy is to deploy 2-3 creatures to force a mass removal spell and when they do play it, you can end step flash in Malcolm. Subterranean Schooner is also a good way to play around mass removal since it won’t get destroyed.

Azorius Soldiers

InOut
+4 Lithomantic Barrage-2 Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider
+2 Abrade-4 Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel

Aggro on aggro matchup. What adds texture is that both decks have blue, can have access to counterspells, and have threats that can be deployed instant speed.

It is going to be tricky to play and I have to admit – it’s going to be pretty difficult to navigate. I’d say that most of the time, the better player will win.

I cut Malcolm as it never blocks well but you can consider it on the play when you want to be the one putting pressure.

Mono White Aggro

InOut
+2 Abrade-2 Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider
+4 Lithomantic Barrage-4 Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel

Here the sideboarding is the same like against Azorius Soldiers but the games will play out differently. They always use their main phase to deploy threats which makes their timing much more predictable.

On top of that, your threats fly and theirs don’t. There will be spots where you attack in for a couple of damage in the air and keep all the ground threats back.

Breeches highly incentivises attacking though so you can trim it post board when you see that it’s tough to turn it on or approach games very aggressively from the get-go.

Esper Midrange

InOut
+2 Spell Pierce-2 Play with Fire
+2 Urabrask's Forge-4 Voltage Surge
+2 Spell Pierce /// +2 Lithomantic Barrage

In this matchup, Esper Midrange will assume a control role. You will be the one who has to close the game as soon as possible.

Since a lot of Esper lists vary in how people approach the game, you have to be flexible between Spell Pierce and Lithomantic Barrage. If you see a more spell-oriented build, go for Pierce. If creatures – Barrage. Some lists will be a blend so either choose one avenue of interaction or split the difference.

Esper Legends

InOut
+4 Lithomantic Barrage-2 Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider
+2 Abrade-4 Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel

Legends is yet another aggro deck but it goes bigger than the other ones mentioned. You’re faster than they are but they have the longevity with Raffine, Scheming Seer and the dreaded Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.

I want to open super aggro out of the gates so they are on the backfoot and are forced to block our creatures.

Sheoldred might be annoying but don’t overreact. You’ll frequently see that they can gain 2 or 4 life with it and still die in the next combat if you’ve amassed a big enough army. This is also where Kitesail Larcenist shines.

Tips and Tricks

  • The opponent can destroy your artifact before attacks, making Goblin Tomb Raider lose the buff and haste.
  • You can play Spyglass Siren precombat as a buff thanks to immediate usage of the Map token. However, you might have a land on top so it might not work.
  • If you suspect that you’ll be able to hit the fourth counter with Malcolm, you might want to sandbag a spell in the anticipation that you would play it for free.
  • You might want to turn your own creature into a Treasure with Kitesail Larcenist, especially if it’s legendary and you have more in hand.
  • Breeches, Eager Pillager‘s last ability says ‘you may play’ which allows you to deploy lands. If it said ‘cast’ you wouldn’t be able to.
  • You cannot sacrifice a Treasure to Voltage Surge’s ability and use it to pay the cost. You have to do one or the other.
  • You sacrifice the artifact as a part of the cost so if it gets countered, you lose Surge and the artifact you’d sacrificed.
  • With the second chapter of Kumano Faces Kakkazan active, if the first creature played is countered, the second played won’t get a counter.

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Skura
Skura

Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

Articles: 135