Pirates and Merfolk and Dinos and Vampires, Oh My!

By: Drew Kobus

Hey there again everyone! Drew here! I’m back and super excited to bring you my second article on the Battlegrounds site. This article is very exciting for me because I get to do one of my favorite things ever and that’s brew, baby! I love building decks, and when I saw that all the fun little tribes from the Ixalan block were getting their mana all fixed up with Ravnica Allegiance, well I knew exactly what I had to do. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in to my take on the 4 tribes that just got their toys “unlocked” with the printing of their respective shocklands.

So first, I have to bring you my favorite of the tribes from Ixalan, and perhaps my new favorite tribe in all of magic, pirates! Now, I know what you’re thinking, they already got their shockland with GRN, and yes, Watery Grave did allow for my favorite archetype in the current standard format in Dimir Pirates, but pirates aren’t just Dimir. Today, the pirates are much meaner and ready to break some necks, so let’s dive right in to my list for Rakdos Pirates:

4 Daring Buccaneer

4 Dire Fleet Captain

3 Dire Fleet Neckbreaker

2 Dire Fleet Poisoner

4 Fanatical Firebrand

4 Fathom Fleet Captain

4 Kitesail Freebooter

4 Rigging Runner

4 Ruin Raider

4 Lightning Strike

4 Blood Crypt

7 Mountain

4 Dragonskull Summit

8 Swamp



2 Duress

3 Fiery Cannonade

4 Lava Coil

2 Banefire

3 Bedevil

1 Angrath, the Flame-Chained

These pirates have been itching to get in and crack some skulls, and now that this aggro deck gets to play Blood Crypt, boy is it scary. I’m not going to go into detail on every card because if I did this article would never end, so I’m just going to hit a couple key cards. The first of these cards being my pick for the best card in this deck:155680_200w

As I said above, these guys are ready to break some necks, and Dire Fleet Neckbreaker lets them do exactly that. Having a lord is always good in a tribal deck, but this guy is even better than your everyday lord. Pairing this +2/+0 with cheap aggressive creatures as well as creatures with evasion like Kitesail Freebooter and Fathom Fleet Captain can really break a game wide open. This brings me to the other big card I want to talk about, the Neckbreaker’s best friend:


I love this card, like a lot, I’ll admit maybe a little too much, and I somehow love it even more now. Fathom Fleet Captain is a card that allows you to generate card advantage and play around sweepers by essentially drawing a 2/2 with menace every turn until your opponent has to deal with the board, pair this with Neckbreaker to make them 4/2s with menace? Your opponent won’t be able to keep up very long without a sweeper, and even then, you get to keep a little gas in the tank by letting him go to town and not overextending. The two other big boons to this deck I want to mention before moving on to our fishy friends are these:


Dark Confidant in Standard with a relevant tribe? Sign me up! Ruin Raider is a card that slots perfectly into an aggressive archetype, letting you keep the gas flowing so no matter what you have something to kill your opponent with. As for Fiery Cannonade, well all that really needs to be said there is that when this card gets to be a three mana plague wind, things turn out pretty well for the ol’ plunderers.


Alright, maybe pirates aren’t your thing, you make me sad, but I understand. Maybe you like something a little more aquatic in nature? If so, then I have just the thing for you. I present, Simic Merfolk!


3 Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca

4 Jadelight Ranger

4 Merfolk Branchwalker

4 Silvergill Adept

4 Merfolk Mistbinder

4 Deeproot Elite

2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker

4 Benthic Biomancer

4 Mist-Cloaked Herald

3 Kumena’s Speaker

2 Dive Down

2 Spell Pierce

4 Breeding Pool

4 Hinterland Harbor

4 Unclaimed Territory

5 Island

3 Forest



4 Wildgrowth Walker

2 Forest

2 Vivien Reid

2 Hadana’s Climb

2 Sleep

1 Spell Pierce

2 Kopala, Warden of Waves


Alright, sheesh, where to begin? I won’t deny, this was the deck I was most excited to toy around with with the release of RNA, and is quite possibly the strongest of the four tribes. The thing that makes this deck scary is how many of its creatures get to replace themselves and/or help you churn through your deck. If you need a visual, here’s all of them:


Get the picture? Each of these creatures either draws a card or has the potential to do so. Having this many creatures that replace themself or generate card selection is insane for an aggressive deck. The creatures you get to play in this deck allow for a very aggressive game plan, but the amount of card selection and card advantage gained by these creatures also allows for a lot of late game grind potential. Kumena is the best card for late game staying power against midrange and control decks, while also being able to help pump your creatures up through a board stall. Zegana allows for all of the +1/+1 counter synergies generated from your Kumena, explore creatures, and Deeproot Elite to gain an extra boost in power as well which can really help punch through some larger board states. The last thing I want to touch on for our fishy friends is the interaction of these two cards:


Biomancer is a card that would be playable on its own as a solid one drop, but when you get to pair it with Deeproot Elite, you can essentially loot every time you play a creature, which gives you an insane amount of selection to either draw mor lands if you’re screwed, or draw past lands if you’re flooded. These cards all coming together produces one heck of an aggro deck with a lot of staying power that seems quite scary going into the new format, and has put this deck on my short list of archetypes to play for SCG Baltimore at the beginning of February.


Alright, onto a fan favorite, who doesn’t love some big dumb dinos?! This deck was an interesting one, at first my thought was just that some of the better dinosaurs would be useful as a curve topper for a Gruul aggressive shell, but as I delved a little deeper, I realized that you can actually lean into the tribe a little more than I thought. Here, check out my list then I’ll hit the key cards I want to touch on:


4 Llanowar Elves

4 Gruul Spellbreaker

4 Carnage Tyrant

4 Regisaur Alpha

4 Ripjaw Raptor

3 Drover of the Mighty

1 Territorial Allosaurus

2 Thrashing Brontodon

2 Savage Stomp

4 Thunderherd Migration

4 Stomping Ground

4 Rootbound Crag

3 Vivien Reid

10 Forest

7 Mountain



3 Rhythm of the Wild

2 Cindervines

3 Banefire

1 Savage Stomp

4 Raptor Hatchling

2 Lava Coil


Now, the power of Carnage Tyrant has already been proven time and time again since its printing and I see no reason why that would change, unless it were to increase, as scary as that sounds. If the thought of the Implacable Death Lizard’s power increasing is scary to you, you may just want to skip on down to the vampires list because it’s happening. What’s better than a 7/6 with hexproof and trample that can’t be countered? How about we give it haste? Let’s take a look at what I think is the entire reason to play this deck:

Image (1).jpgxln-179-carnage-tyrant.png

Yea, just let that one sink in a little bit, are you scared yet? This curve is probably one of the most terrifying things you can see coming at you from across the table, and when you play Alpha on turn three and Tyrant on turn four with the help of Llanowar Elves and Thunderherd Migration, it isn’t easily bested. So, we touched on the big reason to play this deck, but to make this an actual deck, we need other good cards to pair with our disgusting curve. Luckily for us, these colors have plenty of those for us to work with so let’s check out a few:

168614_200wImage (2).jpgdownload.jpg

Vivien’s power needs no explanation, she’s the best green planeswalker we’ve had in a while and I don’t think that title is particularly close, so she’s an easy addition to this deck. Ripjaw Raptor is one of my favorite cards from Ixalan, the body is pretty beefy for the cost and it makes combat a nightmare for your opponent. He also very relevantly does not die to Lava Coil so you can rely on him sticking around in a lot of matchups, or at the very least drawing you a card for your trouble. The last one is really exciting. Gruul Spellbreaker is a card that generated a lot of buzz when it was revealed because of how good it is with its first two lines of text, then on top of that giving it some protection as well as protecting you from the oh so scary Settle the Wreckage, this card was a must include in this deck. When the best way the control decks have to disrupt your hasty Carnage Tyrant dreams is Settle The Wreckage, having an aggressive body to protect you from that seems too good to be true. This deck seems to have a great deal of potential and the power level of its cards is indisputable. If smashing your opponent with big dumb dinos sounds like a good time, I recommend trying it out for yourself.


Alright, so you stuck around till the end, and you have been rewarded, because here come the bloodsuckers themselves, let’s dive right on in to vampires.

4 Sanctum Seeker

4 Adanto Vanguard

3 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle

4 Legion’s Landing

4 Skymarcher Aspirant

4 Vicious Conquistador

4 Queen’s Commission

4 Legion Lieutenant

4 Godless Shrine

4 Isolated Chapel

4 Dusk Legion Zealot

2 Pride of Conquerors

6 Plains

8 Swamp

1 Memorial to Folly


2 Final Payment

2 Mortify

2 Vona, Butcher of Magan

3 Tocatli Honor Guard

2 Revival // Revenge

2 Inspiring Cleric

2 Vona’s Hunger

Alright, so as far as the Orzhov aggressive deck in this format is concerned, there’s a little bit of competition. Knights seems to be the consensus best way to go for this color combination, but I implore you, don’t count the vampires out, there are three major cards this deck gets to play that Knights doesn’t, and they’re nothing to scoff at. Let’s just go ahead and take a look at the big reasons to play this deck over other choices:


Adanto Vanguard, much like Vivien above, is a card whose power level has been proven time and again since its printing. The resilience this card has against control decks can sometimes win games completely on its own, let alone being backed up by tribal synergies. Speaking of tribal synergies, Sanctum Seeker and Mavren Fein are quite the tribal payoffs. Sanctum Seeker is the curve topper every tribal deck wishes it had, it allows you to go wide and break through large board stalls, and helps race with life gain, it really is the total package. Of course we can’t talk about Sanctum Seeker without bringing up her best friend Mavren Fein.  Mavren Fein helps this deck go wide with little vampire tokens that can get their buffs from Legion Lieutenant and then you can slam Sanctum Seeker on the table and potentially kill your opponent even if they can block all your creatures. This core backed up by aggressive one drops can lead to some pretty crazy turns, and the inclusion of Legion Landing and Adanto Vanguard gives this deck some really nice staying power against some of the more interactive decks. If you love you some vampires, I think this deck is very viable in the new standard format, and it looks like an absolute blast to play, so go ahead and give it a whirl!

Alright, whew, there was a lot to cover there, but I hope you enjoyed this trip through tribal lane, and maybe even found your next standard obsession. All four of these decks are doing things that are objectively powerful and I think they all have great potential for standard play. With how successful standard has been with the most recent set release, I’m very excited to see what this next set brings us once things settle down. In the meantime, which of these decks is your favorite? What cards do you think might fit in one of these lists that I may have missed? What are you excited for in the new set? I’d love to discuss all of these things and more, so find me on social media, Twitter @TheMagikalDrew, and Facebook @ Drew J Kobus, or in person sometime at Battlegrounds! Keep on battling and casting spells that make you happy, and I’ll see ya next time!

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