The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has four new Commander decks with classic Ixalan archetypes, meaning pirates have raised their sails once again to raid a pod near you. But even before they start boarding, we’re going to look at the Ahoy Mateys precon and ways to upgrade it.
AHOY MATEYS: NEW COMMANDERS
The face commander for Ahoy Mateys is Admiral Brass, Unsinkable — a face you likely remember from our last trip to Ixalan. However, time must have taught her that the crew she has already is better than any crew she could kidnap on the open seas. That’s because instead of stealing opposing permanents, Brass now cares about bringing back the ones you have already lost.
That’s a perfectly fine ability, and blue/black/red are great colors for milling and reanimation. You can even bounce permanents with new finality counters on them back to hand to replay them for value. The thing is, it’s not particularly exciting. And these days you really hope to get something good out of a commander for five mana.
No, the real star of the deck is Don Andres, the Renegade. And oddly enough, he looks like a better first mate for the original Admiral Beckett Brass than the current one. But given we’re planning to put him in charge of the crew this time, we’ll want to make the most of those bonus stats and free treasure by casting as many of our opponents’ cards as possible.
The thing is, while pirates do a pretty good job plundering their opponents, Don Andres will need to live up to his renegade status by calling in a little outside help. But we’ll get to that a bit later. First, let’s take a look at some the new faces on this crew.
PRECON REVIEW: THE GANG IS ALL HERE
First up is a bit of extra artillery in the form of Broadside Bombardiers. The body isn’t particularly impressive for three mana, but it does come with menace and haste — plus a boast ability that… asks us to sacrifice our creatures and artifacts? Even if it does let us deal damage to any target, why would we want to do that?
Remember, we aren’t just playing with our own cards in this deck. So more often than not, instead of stuffing our loyal crew into the barrel of this cannon, we’ll be putting the new conscript we don’t care very much about. This card is particularly good with Threaten effects, giving us a way to get some extra value out of a creature before they would otherwise be sent back to their owner — all while denying opponents the chance to get them back in the first place.
It may be hard to find a safe attack for this goblin, but sometimes being a pirate is about going out in a blaze of glory.
Next we have Gemcutter Buccaneer, who gives us 50% more treasure whenever we cast an opponent’s creature while our commander is out. That, in and of itself, is already pretty handy. But what’s even better is he also gives our treasure a new utility reminiscent of Toggo, Goblin Weaponsmith.
The thing is, +2/+0 and equip 1 for pirates isn’t anything particularly special in small numbers — or really at all. But what makes this effect worthwhile is having the option to use treasures this way. After all, you can still tap and sacrifice equipped treasure whenever you need the mana. Additionally, the tapped treasures Gemcutter and Don Andres make can be put to work right away as weapons.
What’s more, you can stack as many equipment on whatever creature you need for a relatively low cost. No one is writing home about +2/+0, but how about +10 power on a creature with menace and deathtouch? Now we’re talking.
Finally, every pirate needs a ship, and The Indomitable is about as good of one as you could hope for. To start, it’s a 6/6, trampling vehicle with crew 3, which sounds like a lot until you remember that any creature you don’t control gets a free +2/+2 when Don Andres is there to oversee the crew. That means anything short of a creature with zero power can take the helm and do some serious damage.
And that’s not all! For the same cost as cards with similar effects that lack a body (except for Toski, but don’t worry about him), your creatures will each draw you a card when they connect with a player. That’s really good!
But oh, creatures can die to removal. Artifacts are always getting blown up. Won’t this ship get shot down to the briny depths more often than not? Maybe, but you can just raise it again as long as you have some tapped pirates or vehicles!
Other than that, in terms of new cards, there really isn’t much to talk about for Don Andres. There are a few other cards that go better with Admiral Brass, but you’ll see they don’t make the cut when it comes time to upgrade.
There are plenty of great reprints in this deck, though. The good news about pirates being one of the smaller creature types means Wizards of the Coast pretty much put most of the best ones in here. Pitiless Plunderer in particular is always valuable, and so are Port Razer and Amphin Mutineer.
Beyond that, cards like Coercive Recruiter, Ramirez DePietro and Zara, Renegade Recruiter will actively support their captain by giving you plenty of creatures you control but don’t own. And of course we have the original Admiral Beckett Brass (in an advisory role, of course) to steal even more permanents.
Outside of creatures, this deck also brings back Black Market Connections way sooner than most players probably ever expected — though it fits here perfectly. The extra card draw and treasure are good for anyone, but changelings are perfect fodder for a deck that cares a lot about pirates.
Meanwhile, even though it’s technically NOT a reprint since it’s coming out in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, but getting a copy of Brass’s Tunnel Grinder is awesome. This care will be as ubiquitous as Valakut Awakening soon enough, so be sure to hold onto it.
AHOY MATEYS: $50 BUDGET UPGRADE
But who wants to keep talking about cards you already get when buying this deck? We want to juice this crew so you can become king of the pirates!
Well, we’ll certainly start that work here. First we want to provide a nice, budget option for those trying to take on some bigger targets without breaking open the coffers. It seems like $50 is a reasonable amount, so let’s start there.
Most of these upgrades are going to be focused around making Don Andres’ thieving dreams come true while adding in a couple of value cards that will come in handy regardless of the situation. That’s actually a great place to start, so let’s welcome Breeches, Eager Pillager and the Ashnod’s Altar he’s hauling onto the ship.
The new Breeches cares about pirates attacking, and you’ll have plenty of those whether they’re your cards or your opponents’. You can only get three benefits a turn, but a free treasure, one less blocker and a card you can play that turn are always going to be helpful.
Meanwhile, Ashnod’s Altar is here mostly because you’ll want a freer sacrifice outlet for those occasions when you only steal a creature temporarily. Whether you use the mana or not, you don’t want your opponent to actually get their card back. But no one will balk at a bit of extra mana. Besides, there’s no reason you can’t also use it to sacrifice your own pirates if you need a bit of extra juice. You’re the captain and this is a cutthroat job.
Now onto the stealing. First, this pair of planeswalkers are taking up the vacancy on Ixalan left by Jace and Vraska. And while Tasha and Geyadrone are a little unlikely to fall in love (but honestly, who’s to say?), you’ll definitely love what they offer the crew.
At a base level, Geyadrone gives you a bit of extra life gain while chipping away at opponents and protecting herself from future harm. Plus you can always down-tick her to temporarily gain control of a creature! But the real fun begins if you can use her ultimate to steal the best stuff on the board for good.
Meanwhile, Tasha will give you free creatures whenever you cast spells you don’t own — and that’ll probably happen a fair bit given you can at least exile up to one instant or sorcery from each opponents’ graveyard to then cast for free later.
After that there are a few creatures that we’ll just say belong to Don Andres’ menagerie. That’s something a pirate would have, right? Anyway, Thief of Sanity, Thieving Amalgam and Fallen Shinobi will all help you steal more cards while contributing to the board themselves. Each has its own quirk, but they’re all very useful and occupy different places along your curve.
Next up are Stolen Strategy and Cunning Rhetoric. Both will permanently provide a steady stream of cards to cast, whether it’s a grip for a limited window or one at time forever. Granted, one requires opponents to hit you first, but take it from the guy who tried to defend Sen Triplets. As the thief player, you’re gonna get hit plenty.
Finally we have a suite of instants and sorceries that, while only good for a single cast, are sure to make a big impact when you use them.
The first is Bribery, which lets you get the best creature in the pod to your side of the board for only five mana. You don’t cast it and thus miss out on the treasure from Don Andres, but that won’t matter when you grab the most dangerous creature possible and slap a pirate hat on them.
And if you can’t go big, how about wide? Mob Rule is Insurrections more affordable cousin, but you’ll likely have a game-ending army on your hands whenever you cast it. Even if you choose creatures with power three or less, they’ll all get +2/+2 as long as the captain is around, making them even more dangerous and difficult to block.
After that are the more affordable but less splashy options: Seize the Spotlight and Siphon Insight. Spotlight may not guarantee you’ll walk away with a new crewmember, but you’ll at least get a free card and treasure for the trouble. Meanwhile, Insight only lets you look two cards deep, but you can at least cast it twice thanks to flashback. Bonus points if you can use it after your opponent scries and leaves a card on top of their library.
With all that said, you can find the whole decklist here. You can find the cut cards in the sideboard, but feel free to adjust things however you like. If you want to keep a bit of a graveyard sub-theme intact, there are other cards you can remove instead.
The good news about this deck is there really aren’t a whole lot of really expensive cards you’re missing out on. The bad news is some of those options are pretty high up there in price. But you gotta spend treasure to make treasure, so let’s see who the real A-listers are.
Surprised to see Dockside Extortionist and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer? You shouldn’t be! The former is one of the best cards in the entire Commander format and the latter is one of the best cards in Modern. And would you look at that? They both happen to be pirates!
The former is just good mana production in a deck that will appreciate its creature type, but Ragavan actively steals cards from your opponents. Kari Zev is going to have to share her best friend with Don Andres, because these two will be best buds.
After that we have the “almost a pirate” class of cards. Dauthi Voidwalker, Agent of Treachery and Opposition Agent are both rogues (who are honestly just pirates that can’t tie nautical knots), but they also serve two roles, each. Voidwalker is graveyard hate while Agent is card draw, and both let you steal something from your opponent. Opposition should also nab you at least one card while shutting down your opponents’ ability to tutor.
Then we have Roaming Throne, the new staple for kindred decks. And while it says “Artifact Creature — Golem,” if you squint hard enough at the card text you’ll see it’s actually a pirate. And what a massive member of the crew this will be! It’s the perfect palanquin for Don Andres when he goes landside because you’ll get twice the treasure for every conscript. Plus all your other pirates with triggered abilities will say thank you for the free value.
Finally you have what I’ll call “Grixis Goodstuff,” which is basically just cards in your three colors that are good in any deck. Cyclonic Rift, Fierce Guardianship, Deflecting Swat, Deadly Rollick and a heaping helping of efficient counterspells will it easier for your pirates to do their job, but they’re far from necessary.
If you’re going to add anything in this category, I’d pick Jeska’s Will. Free mana and card draw can always help you pop off out of nowhere. I’m also a big fan of Raise the Palisade and Kindred Dominance as board wipes since most of your creatures should be Pirates whether you own them or not. And as a creature deck, you don’t want to also get rid of your crew.
Finally, I could go into lands… but there’s not much need. With three colors it’ll cost quite a bit to optimize your mana base, and it’s up to you to decide how important that is. I certainly don’t want to get slowed down by having the wrong colors available, but I’m headed for the Grand Line, y’know? Trying to find the One Piec— oops, wrong IP!
Anyway, that’s all you need to know to set sail yourself! I hope you found this guide useful, and be sure to send me a messenger seagull after you take the boat out for a spin to let me know how it went. Until next time, I’ll see you on the seas.
Jason Krell is the content manager at Card Kingdom, meaning he helps make all of this possible. He is also an unabashed Esper control player, and he hopes the two things at least cancel each other out. He loves when everyone gets to do their thing in a game of Commander and spends way too much thinking about game design. Jason also comes from an esports journalism background, which probably explains a lot about his work.