Buffing Beckett Brass
"… I hope that a deck FULL of pirates will enjoy the Admiral and same could be said about the Dino deck. I love tribal and all of these just look fun a heck to play."
— Tera Rubi Summers
In my article from last week, I panned Admiral Beckett Brass. The pirate loving Commander players came to the aid of the Admiral in the comments. While I still stand by my statements (Admiral Brass needs three pirates to do anything and that is a tall order for a Commander deck), I do love tribal! I think a great place for the Admiral to really shine is 60 card casual! As a commander, the Admiral would need at least 30 pirates to really take advantage of her ability to steal a nonland permanent. Most of those would require some evasion, since three pirates need to do combat damage to a player for it to work. That is a tall order for established tribes, forget about a tribe that is really only seeing love for the first time in Ixalan.
But 60 card? You can run four copies of the best pirates available! And you really only need 20 pirates to make the deck run! I decided to put the Admiral through her paces and see what I could come up with to satisfy those who are determined to make the pirate shine in a deck that revolves around her!
This deck is straightforward. A handful of one and two cost pirates that have some kind of evasion that will let you steal several nonland permanents using Admiral Becket Brass' ability.
I started with Cloud Pirates and Siren Stormtamers as one mana cost flying pirates. The turn Admiral Brass enters the battlefield, I want to be able to swing with three pirates right away, so I want to be casting pirates in the early turns and these pirates let me do that. As the game continues, the Stormtamers can also be used as pseudo-protection, being sacrificed to counter a spell or ability that targets your or one of your pirates.
The Daring Saboteur can guarantee that it won't be blocked, no matter how many creatures your opponents have. It also lets you loot when it does damage, which will be more and more valuable as the game progresses since you'll be looking for answers and eager to move past the extra land you'll be finding.
Fathom Fleet Captain is there as a way to make more pirates. The tokens even have menace, so they will be just a little more difficult to block.
I included Lightning Strike as a way to remove creatures that will be able to block the pirates swinging in, or as a way to finish off an opponent who has just become a little too powerful for this group of smaller pirates. Burn offers flexibility to support the deck in whatever way necessary.
Dreamcaller Siren is there to tap two creatures that can block your pirates. Ideally, you can cast it at the end of your opponents' turn, letting you tap two of their creatures, then attacking with the Siren on your turn as your third pirate. The card is definitely at the top of the curve for this deck, but by the fourth or fifth turn, your opponents are going to be able to start blocking your creatures (and likely killing them), so having something a little bigger there to make things difficult seems like a good plan.
The deck is three colors and you almost never want to wait for any mana. I included Chromatic Lantern to make that happen, along with four Crumbling Necropolis. I don't like that the Necropolis enters the battlefield tapped, and if you have better lands to make the mana base run better, use them.
An alternate option is to choose some of the best pirates and give them a way to avoid blocking. Rather than trying to choose pirates that fly, choose pirates and have Wonder in your graveyard!
The key is to getting Wonder into the graveyard as quickly as possible. I have found that it is usually easy to find someone who will block Wonder. I know that this doesn't make sense. Letting Wonder go to a graveyard is usually a mistake. Anyone running Wonder usually wants it in the graveyard, which means they have a deck with plenty of creatures, so it is a bad idea to block it, yet it still happens. I assume people continue to block because they are either making a mistake or because they have a way to deal with Wonder in the graveyard, or because they believe you'll attack elsewhere, thankful that they “did you a favor.” Whatever the reason, attacking with Wonder is usually enough. If your group is particularly reluctant to attack, I've also included Ashnod's Altar in the deck.
Since the purpose of the deck is to allow your creatures to hit for combat damage, I included Coastal Piracy in the deck. Being able to draw extra cards is a good thing for this deck, since it has no real ramp beyond the Chromatic Lanterns and the occasional mana from Captain Lannery Storm.
This deck skews a little higher on the mana curve than the previous deck, so I expect the mana base to manage a little better since the deck isn't quite so demanding.
While I used Wonder here, I considered Levitation, Eldrazi Monument, and Thassa as ways to get your pirates through for damage. Levitation is a valid option, but I thought Wonder, with only one blue mana was a better option. I also liked another creature in the deck, even if Wonder isn't a pirate. Eldrazi Monument would make for an evasive, practically unkillable army, but being forced to sacrifice one every turn seemed like too high a price to pay for a deck that doesn't churn out tokens easily. I considered Thassa as well, but I pictured turns where I would be paying six or even nine mana to get the pirates through, and I didn't want to be putting that level of pressure on my mana base.
Finally, I thought, “what if I could get Admiral Beckett Brass' ability without having to use pirates?” What if I could just use any three creatures? Arcane Adaptation lets me make all my creatures into pirates. Now I could just use the creatures that best avoid blockers to gain control of nonland permanents! Admittedly, this isn't really the spirit of the card, but having to have Admiral Brass, Arcane Adaptation and three creatures on the battlefield really feels like we are already jumping through some serious hoops.
I opted for an old school favorite type of evasion, shadow. For those who don't know, shadow creatures can only be blocked by creatures with shadow, and can only block creatures with shadow. It is old enough that it is very unlikely that you'll find anyone else playing shadow, so your shadow creatures are essentially unblockable. If you'd prefer, simply find a handful of unblockable creatures and use them to get the same effect. I've included 12 of them to ensure I'll have at least three of them once the Admiral hits the battlefield. You may find this to be far too many and want to cut back. I recommend switching them out for cards that further move your pillow fort from feather and down to brick and mortar.
Another option is to ignore the “unblockable” aspect and go for overwhelming. If you swing with enough goblin or Zombie Tokens that have been adapted with arcane spells, you won't need to worry about a few getting blocked. I considered it but I've already moved off the pirate theme. It would seem pretty disingenuous to suggest that a good way to build for Admiral Brass is to build a zombie deck, then slap her and Arcane Adaptation into the deck. If you don't have such ethical questions, enjoy!
I've added Propaganda and Deceiver Exarch as ways to deter opponents who decide that i'm a problem. The Exarch isn't doing infinite shenanigans this time, but as a creature that can tap attackers before they charge in and has flash, it still does good work. Murder, or your choice of removal makes good sense.
Finally I added two copies of Vanquisher's Banner as a way to hurry things along. Making the creatures bigger, along with drawing cards are both good things and will be more valuable as pressure mounts and players find themselves with mana bases big enough that Propaganda is no longer a deterrent.
Admiral Beckett Brass is a demanding card to try and build around. She is looking for at least three pirates to attack, which means you are often leaving yourself vulnerable to a counter swing. She costs three different colors of mana and you want her on the battlefield quickly to get the benefit. However, once you have jumped the hurdles, you can look at claiming booty that can help protect you from the swingback. Besides, if every commander make everything easy, where would the fun be in that?