Table of Contents
The Definitive Guide To Pirates – Shaman/Rogue/Warrior
Yarrr, ye scurvy dogs ‘n welcome to this here guide!
After a more casual last week I’m back with a more competitive oriented definitive guide. To kick the year off we’ll be taking a look at all things pirate. Why are we taking a look at pirates? Unsurprisingly, pirate decks are currently doing extremely well and have been one of the best performing decks on the ladder. Everyone who has played the game since December knows how well represented and how powerful pirate decks are, especially the dreaded pirate warrior deck. Sure, the metagame is still slowly shaping, so in order to get this guide out before pirates are, by some divine miracle, kicked out the meta, I’ll be publishing it today I know that there is a good portion of you out there who are highly competitive players and are reading these articles to check out the latest top tier decks so I think that you will enjoy this guide quite a bit. We’ll be taking a look at three pirate decks: warrior, rogue and shaman!
Like always, all decks that will be featured here are taken from hearthstoneplayers.com and links to the decks themselves will also be provided.
With all of that out of the way, sit back, relax and lets keelhaul this thing!
We’re continuing the tradition of starting with the basic 101 section. In this section of the article we’ll be going over the very basics such as the history of pirates, the pros and cons of playing a pirate deck and the role of pirates in different classes. Yes, believe it or not, there is one more class out there still hasn’t pulled a pirate deck but it has the potential to do so. We will be briefly mentioning it before exploring it further in the following sections. If you’re here just for the deck guides and you’re confident that you already know these very basics than feel free to skip to the following section of the article where you’ll find what you’re looking for.
History Of Pirates
Pirates, the scourge of the seven seas, were a bunch of renegades who had sailed beneath the black flag and plundered the unaware and unprepared merchant ships. They have died out centuries ago but they and their stories still live on in various works of fiction, including World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. In Hearthstone, the first pirate minions have appeared in the basic set and the classic set. Those minions were the southsea and the bloodsail pirates and both groups were equally focused on weapon synergy with the exception of Southsea Captain and Captain's Parrot which was a special card that one would obtain only after collecting all pirate cards from the two sets. After the standard format was introduced, Captain's Parrot was no longer a reward card and, just like Old Murk-Eye, had become available for crafting.
There weren’t any new pirate minions until Goblins vs Gnomes when we were , Salty Dog and my personal favorite . The problem was that those cards were not enough to push the pirate decks into the competitive scene so the developers had tried to make pirates viable once more by giving us Buccaneer, Shady Dealer and Skycap'n Kragg in The Grand Tournament expansion. Unfortunately, even with all those tools, it was still simply not enough to make a viable pirate deck. Most of the time the only pirate minion that saw any play was in fact the Southsea Deckhand which was play in aggro paladin decks and a couple of miracle rogue decks.
Another set goes by without any pirate cards and pirate enthusiasts like me start losing hope in ever seeing a viable pirate deck. However, all of that had changed in the April of last year when a new expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods, came out and gave us two new extremely powerful pirate minions in the form of N'Zoth's First Mate and Bloodsail Cultist. These two cards alone brought the pirate tribe back from the brink of the abyss into the competitive scene, at least semi competitive scene, and while many of the players had rejoiced to see a competitive pirate deck, many others were furious because it was an extremely powerful and extremely cheap to make aggro deck, something that a lot of players hate and call cancer. When pirates began to truly shine was with the latest expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, when two pirate superstars came out, Patches the Pirate and Small-time Buccaneer. With these two new minions, pirate decks have skyrocketed in viability and are now seeing high level competitive play. This leaves us at the present day.
The Pros And Cons Of A Pirate Deck
Just like every other deck out there, there are multiple pros and cons for playing it. Neither of the three major pirate decks are an exception to this rule but all three of them share the same pros and the same weakness so instead of just going over one by one I’ll simply give you the pros and cons that they all share.
Cheap: This is a huge thing for the new players. Pirate decks are insanely cheap to make when compared to some other top tier decks like Reno decks which are crazy expensive and locked behind too much stuff to be instantly affordable to new players. However, with the exception of Patches the Pirate and Leeroy Jenkins most other cards are rares at best with Preparation and sometimes Southsea Captain being an exception. How cheap are those decks? For example we are going to use this top 25 legend deck. At first glance it does seem like an expensive deck but what you need to take into consideration is that the dust cost to craft Sir Finley Mrrgglton was added to the total dust count. If you’ve bought the League of Explorers than crafting this extremely competitive high tier deck will cost you the grand total of 3680 dust, which is barely anything and where the biggest cost is in fact Patches the Pirate. Compare that dust cost to, for example, this legend renolock deck, count out the cards that you get in the adventures and you’ll find this deck costing you 8740 dust. New players will much rather climb the ladder to legend with a 3680 dust deck than struggle to complete a 8740 dust deck which requires 2 adventures.
Fast: All pirate decks are super efficient aggro decks which means that they seek to end the game as quick as possible and their extremely powerful small minions are perfect for the job. Despite the popular belief, there are obviously a lot of players that love playing the game in such a manner, while those of us who love playing control decks are in the minority. Blizzard has never shied away from their desire to make Hearthstone fast and fun, which is why we’ve always had super powerful and super cheap decks, so this shouldn’t come out as a surprise. Why I dislike playing fast decks and would rather play a half an hour game with my wild wallet control warrior, there are those who love playing super fast decks and climbing the ranks super easy, and if you’re one of those players than pirate decks are perfect for you.
Easy to play: It is not news to anyone that aggro decks are the easiest decks to play. You hit face and you hope that your opponent will die before you run out of resources. Sure, aggro players will try to convince you that aggro decks that just go face 90% of the time are not easy to play because of that 10% time when you absolutely must trade, but in reality they real are the easiest decks in the game. Because pirate decks are so easy and efficient they work wonders for both new players and for old players who just want to play on autopilot and climb ranks really fast. If you’re the kind of a player who seeks to play more challenging decks that these are unfortunately not the decks for you.
Lose in the long game: Pirate decks, like all aggro decks, will eventually run out of steam by the late game and will lose if their opponent manages to keep the game going while minimizing the damage that they can deal or simply healing himself. Once a pirate deck runs out of steam it will have to heavily rely on topdecking lethal (with the exception of pirate rogue who can draw multiple cards thanks to ). They are extremely weak to any form of recovery which is why the usually lose to Reno decks.
Difficulty maintaining the board: Not only do the pirate decks focus on rushing face but their minions are quite fragile and easy to remove without much sacrifice which can place most pirate decks in a position where they have just lost their entire board, surrendered the board control to their opponent and now that opponent can put on the aggression and start swinging for face while the pirate deck is desperate to get any immediate source of damage to try and get a lethal. This problem becomes much bigger when you realize than these decks don’t usually run much, or any, ways to clear the board, making it impossible to regain the board once they have lost it and then minions that don’t have charge, like Small-time Buccaneer, become absolutely useless.
Heavily rely on topdecks: As mentioned above, pirate decks tend to run out of steam really quickly which means that they will be topdecking sooner than later. Unless they can produce a weapon, a minion with charge or a spell that will provide them with direct damage, their topdecks will suddenly become useless and with no way to draw more cards the deck will lose 9/10 times. This is your greatest weakness and your opponent’s biggest opening.
Class limited: Much like Reno decks, not every class can pull off a pirate deck. Because pirates heavily rely on weapon synergy the only classes that can actually pull them off are warrior, rogue, shaman and paladin because no other class has any reliable way of getting weapons. If you’re planing on playing a pirate deck than you need to be ready to play one out of those 4 classes while others remain unavailable for you.
The pirate classes
Last but not the least we will quickly go over the pirate classes which are: warrior, rogue and shaman. Out of those three, the main pirate classes are usually considered to be warrior and rogue because only they have access to class pirate cards and only the two of them have a large arsenal of weapons and a reliable way to get those weapons when needed. Shaman, on the other hand, has adopted the pirates with the latest expansion, Means Streets of Gadgetzan, because it had started to run some very cheap put powerful weapons in the form of Spirit Claws and Jade Claws.
The problem that shaman experiences with pirates is the lack of a way to fully capitalize on their weapon synergy because the deck usually runs only 4 weapons with, in some variations, a single copy of Doomhammer as an exception. However, what shaman lacks in weapons it more than makes up for in the sheer amount of burst spells which make pirate shaman one of the more powerful and more deadly decks in the current metagame. Sure, you won’t have weapons all the time, but what you will have are cards like Lava Burst and Flamewreathed Faceless.
The last class that I’ve wanted to quickly mention here is the paladin. Uther, how come every time I write a definitive guide you manage to find your place in it either as a good example or as a utter disappointment. In this case you are once more an utter disappointment. Despite having access to weapons, paladin has never really made it as a pirate class, regardless of having more weapons than even shaman. The main problem with paladin was that while it had weapons, everything else sucked. While shaman has a few weapons but an enormous amount of burst damage via spells, paladin has weapons and that is pretty much it. For those of you who have joined this game last year, there actually was a powerful aggro paladin deck than ran Southsea Deckhand but that was pretty much the only pirate in it. That deck was quite powerful but mostly because a lot of cards from Goblins vs Gnomes were simply insane, such as Coghammer and Muster for Battle. Once those cards went away, the aggro paladin had died out.
We’ve made it to the second part of the guide. Here we’ll take a more in depth look at what makes pirate decks tick and what are the best variations of pirate decks in the game. If you’re looking for the best pirate decks to use on your climb to legend than look no further than here. All decks taken are from hearthstonetopdecks.com and links to the original deck guides will be posted at the end of each deck analysis.
The Problematic Crew
As I’ve mentioned before, pirate decks weren’t really a thing until the last expansion when some more powerful pirate minions came. While they did make pirate decks far more viable not all pirate minions are seeing play. Due to that we can deduce the core of the pirate problem which is the three following cards: Southsea Deckhand, Small-time Buccaneer and Patches the Pirate. These three are what makes the pirate decks work in the current metagame and if pirates are ever going to get nerfed than I would bet you that one of those three will be hit with the nerfhammer. However, instead of just telling you which one will it be, I’ll actually go over each one of them, tell you why they are so broken right now and how should they be changed (if they should be changed at all).
Southsea Deckhand: This card has been in the game forever and its role didn’t really change much over the course of 3 years. Southsea Deckhand was always played as that sudden burst of damage in aggro paladin and miracle rogue decks. The general idea for both decks was to play a cheap weapon than play Southsea Deckhand and buff it with something like Blessing of Might for paladins and Cold Blood for rogues. Possibly surprisingly to newcomers, this card saw almost next to none play in warrior for a very long time because of a lack of a cheap weapon to combo it with. Fiery War Axe, Death's Bite and Arcanite Reaper were more often than not too expensive weapons and Death's Bite would simply kill your Southsea Deckhand on the following turn. The other, probably even bigger problem, was that there were no buff spells to combo Southsea Deckhand with because all of warrior’s buff spells either deal 1 damage or buff an already damage minion. Nowadays Southsea Deckhand sees a bit more play in pirate warrior decks than to N'Zoth's First Mate which provides you with a cheap but efficient weapon to combo with the Southsea Deckhand.
Suggested nerf: None. Yep, starting this one with a shocker. I would not change a single thing about this card because changing it even in the slightest would make it completely useless. If you change its attack to 1 and keep the current charge condition that it is even worse than a Stonetusk Boar. If you increase its cost to 2 then it becomes worse than a Bluegill Warrior. There is no changing this card because any change would just ruin it. Despite its recent spike in popularity, I don’t think that this card should be nerfed at all. It is decent at best and the other two are a much bigger problem.
Small-time Buccaneer: This scurvy dog is in my opinion one of the worst offenders when it comes to the strength of pirate decks. The single best comparison to the Small-time Buccaneer is the Cogmaster from Goblins vs Gnomes. For those of you who weren’t around back then, there was this minion called Cogmaster which had a very similar effect like Small-time Buccaneer but it worked with mech minions. The problem here was that the best mech minions in the game were neutral minion and they weren’t really relying on any special sort of synergy like pirates do with weapons so basically any class could run mech and play Cogmaster though in the end the only two that had used it most often were mech mage and mech warrior which came out pretty late into the expansion. Cogmaster was powerful for the same reason why Small-time Buccaneer is powerful right now: it is a 1/2 minion which can fairly easily become a 3/2 minion. So, how do you fix that?
Suggested nerf: What I would do, if it were up to me, was let the Small-time Buccaneer keep all of its stats but change the bonus form +2 attack to +1 attack. This way it will no longer more often than not be a 3/2 minion for 1 mana but a 2/2 minion for one mana which is significantly worse but it isn’t too bad. A 1 mana more often than not 2/2 minion is still a very decent card, it just won’t be breaking the game anytime soon.
Patches the Pirate: The last offended on this list also came with the most recent expansion, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, and it has been causing problems ever since. What is so terrifying about a 1 mana 1/1 pirate minion with charge? At first glance it is not that much until you realize the damage that it can cause because it comes out of your deck anytime that you play a pirate. Here are some examples of the times when this card gets out of hand. Turn one N'Zoth's First Mate and Patches the Pirate. Turn one, if going second, N'Zoth's First Mate + The Coin + Patches the Pirate + Small-time Buccaneer. Turn 3 with rogue, hero power + Southsea Deckhand + Patches the Pirate and these are just some examples. It is a problematic card and something should change but what should it be?
Suggested nerf: I would personally let Patches the Pirate remain a 1 mana 1/1 pirate minion with charge but what I would do is change its effect. Instead of having it come out of your deck it will always be in your opening hand and if you mulligan it away it will be the first card that you draw. This way the card keeps the soul of its original design as a pirate that is really easy to summon but it becomes less powerful. It becomes a Stonetusk Boar with a pirate tag that is always in your hand on the first turn and that guarantees you a 1 drop and 1 damage on your first turn. I think that would be a fair nerf to the card.
So, which pirate card out of those three is most likely to get nerfed?
Small-time Buccaneer and here is why: it is not Patches the Pirate that all of a sudden made pirate decks so much more powerful that even shaman is running pirates now. It is the Small-time Buccaneer. Patches the Pirate is powerful in its current iteration, yes, but it is a legendary minion, a good legendary minion and we get so few of those lately. Small-time Buccaneer is Cogmaster all over again but maybe even worse. With Cogmaster you could have at least killed the enemy mech minions and call it day but this guy won’t get smaller unless your opponent is dumb enough to waste a weapon while Small-time Buccaneer is on the board. There is no other way of dealing with this card except for direct removal or trading into it and that is what makes is so powerful and dangerous that it just made all kinds of pirate decks creep out. If we get any pirate nerf in the near future than it is going to be this bad boy.
How many pirates and which pirates should I run in my pirate deck?
If you’re new to all this pirate deck thing that you’re probably asking yourself the same question because there are so many pirates out there. Luckily for you, this is an easy question to answer and it mostly depends of the pirate deck that you wish to run.
These cards are the heart and soul of every pirate deck. Out of all neutral pirate cards these are the best ones and those that actually make most of the current pirate deck work. The unholy trinity of pirates. If you’re constructing a pirate deck than start by adding those before anything else and don’t remove a single copy of them as they are crucial in making it work.
N'Zoth's First Mate is here to be your 1 drop, to get you an early weapon, get Patches the Pirate out from the deck and provide you with a buff for your Small-time Buccaneer. Bloodsail Cultist is here to further buff your weapons which is now made even easier thanks to how Patches the Pirate made having a pirate on the board before playing Bloodsail Cultist even easier. Bloodsail Raider is here to benefit from your weapons which are going to get huge thanks to all of the weapon synergy cards that you have in your deck and finally Dread Corsair is here to provide you with some protection against other aggressive pirate decks or to simply shield some of your minions. It can be extremely cheap in this deck.
Pirates that a pirate rogue should have: two copies of Swashburglar
Yep, that is it. Besides the unholy trio of the sevens seas, the only other pirate that is absolutely necessary for pirate rogue to have is the Swashburglar. Swashburglar has a unique effect that can quite often come in handy. It is basically a 1 mana 1/1 minion that draws you a card and thus replaces itself. A 1 mana draw a card is already really good but getting a 1/1 minion on top of that is even better.
Pirates that a pirate shaman should have: *sound of crickets*
Yep, shaman needs no pirates other than the unholy trinity. It just goes to say how powerful those three minions together really are.
This still falls under the second section. The reason why I’ve made it a ”separate” section is for all of you who are just interested in the deck. Now you can just click on the section on the right, at the start of the article, and skip right to this part. With all of the out of the way, let’s dive into some legend rank pirate decks!
This pirate aggro jade shaman deck was made by SuperJJ and was played at the tournament in Zagreb this Monday and Tuesday. I happened to be lucky enough to go and watch SuperJJ play this deck live (for a in depth review check out the article that comes out tomorrow) and it was amazing! The deck was insane, it was ran by almost every pro player out there and it performed really well. If you want to go to legend with a pirate shaman than I would strongly suggest that you use this list.
The deck runs the usual suspects, two copies of Southsea Deckhand and Small-time Buccaneer and a single Patches the Pirate, for early aggression. It runs two copies of both Spirit Claws and Jade Claws to act both as a powerful removal tool (or a powerful smorc tool) and as a buff for Small-time Buccaneer. Jade Claws are especially good because of the jade golem synergy that this deck has which had its shining moments in that tournament.
Flamewreathed Faceless is an insane aggro tool which was useful in almost every situation with the exception against rogue where it was hit by a Sap every single time but in all other cases it was pretty much over when this thing punched its opponent in the face. Your boardclear option is the which can become big surprisingly easy thanks to your spell power totem and Bloodmage Thalnos. is here to fetch you the hunter hero power (or the druid one if you don’t get the hunter one).
Last but not least you have your burst damage in the form of Lava Burst and Jade Lightning. Overall the deck is quite powerful, it had performed really well and I would recommend it to all of you who wish to play an aggro pirate shaman.
This deck was piloted by Myragut to legend rank. It is your typical pirate miracle rogue deck and one of the best, if not the best, current variations of the miracle rogue deck. A similar miracle rogue decks were also played at the Zagreb tournament.
This version of the deck is running a single copy of Violet Teacher and no Southsea Deckhand which is fine because the Violet Teacher can get out of control really fast when you start casting multiple spells and you already have enough burst with Leeroy Jenkins that you don’t need a single Southsea Deckhand. If you don’t have a Leeroy Jenkins then I would suggest taking out Violet Teacher and adding two copies of Southsea Deckhand.
What is different about this miracle rogue is that ti doesn’t run a single copy of Conceal to protect its Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Edwin VanCleef from removal spells. Instead it runs a single copy of Counterfeit Coin. I’ve seen the Counterfeit Coin in action yesterday and it was surprisingly good but I would strongly suggest that you add a single copy of Conceal to your deck because getting out a huge Edwin VanCleef and protecting it wins you games.
As a whole the deck is played like every other miracle rogue deck. You aim to play the Gadgetzan Auctioneer then spam spells and draw cards until you draw lethal which will more often than not be something like a Leeroy Jenkins combined with two copies of Cold Blood. All in all it is a very good and very powerful deck.
Last but not the least is the scourge of the ladder, the ruiner of dreams, the bringer of salt, the pillager of tears, the pirate warrior. This version of the deck was played by Surrender last month and he took it all the way to legend rank 1!
What is there to say about this deck that hasn’t been said before? You have an insane synergy with weapons that allow you to buff your minions like Bloodsail Raider and Small-time Buccaneer and lower the cost of Dread Corsair. You’ve got your N'Zoth's First Mate which more often than not is played on turn 1 and then it not only gives you a 1/3 weapon but it also gives you Patches the Pirate. If that is not crazy enough than just coin out a Small-time Buccaneer and you’ve most likely just won the game. Don’t be surprised if your opponent simply concedes after that.
The goal with this deck is to hit face hard and fast because if you run out of resources and your opponent is still alive than you’ll most likely lose. If you know that your opponent is playing taunt minions that keep your Heroic Strike and Arcanite Reaper ready to bash through the taunters. Don’t use your Heroic Strike loosely if you’re expecting a minion with taunt because that can cost you the game.
If you’ve managed to run out of resources than cards like and Mortal Strike can easily win you the game if you manage to topdeck them. Other than that any additional weapon or Kor'kron Elite is a lifesaver. Use your Dread Corsair wisely as it will serve as your main source of protection against other pirate warriors. When playing Sir Finley Mrrgglton aim for either hunter hero power (your best option) or druid hero power (your second best option in my opinion). Rogue hero power is also good but you already have more than enough weapons in this deck.
The Future Of Pirate Decks
Unlike with the previous definitive guides, the future of pirate decks is actually not grim at all. The are losing NOTHING when the rotation hits because the best pirate cards came out in either classic set or Whispers of the Old Gods. Unless some nerfs hit the pirates they will continue to terrorize the ladder and their opponents even after the standard rotation hits. I’m ok with pirates being a thing, I’ve wanted them to be a thing for a very long time, but not like this. My dream was to have a pirate that can spawn other pirates (like Violet Teacher) but it would be only for rogues so that I can go into wild and play my rogue pirate deck which will take full use of and will finally be an amazing card that it deserves to be! 😛 But until then we’re stuck with the current pirate decks…yay.
That is it. The first definitive guide of the year is finally here!
What are your opinions on the current pirate decks? Which pirate cards do you think will get hit by a nerf? Are you looking forward to the death of pirate decks? Please leave your feedback and answers in the comments below. Tune in tomorrow to check out my coverage of that Zagreb tournament that I’ve mentioned a couple of times and be sure to tune in next week for another weekly definitive guide which will most likely be about jade golems! As always if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstonequestions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can.