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Pirates Matter in Oathbreaker with Angrath and Vraska


From the moment I decided to take a look at Oathbreaker, I knew one of the ways I wanted to approach it was from Creature-Type-Matters. There's something about a deck built around a specific Creature Type. Recently, I put together a Rogues deck for Commander which I didn't feature in my column. It was kind of a pet thing I just wanted to do. It does what it does really well, and it's fun to pilot. It is active and a major influence early in the game, but rarely carries through to win. I figure similar fun could be available in Oathbreaker.

Also, when we care about a Creature type, it makes deck construction easier by focusing our build. How much is up to us - we can have it as a basic theme and still run good cards which don't match our theme (do you run Naturalize in your Elf deck? Or do you commit to nothing but Reclamation Sage?) or we can push hard and only run cards which are on-theme or have artwork featuring our Creature type or whatever. Or we can mix it up however we want! That's the beauty of this game, right?

That said... there aren't a ton of Planeswalkers which care all that much about specific Creature types. There are those which clearly are a Creature type - Kaito is a Ninja, for example - but very few of them actually have a Creature type they support in some meaningful way. The original Nissa, Nissa Revane, is an obvious Elf choice (though the fact she can only +1 and actually get something once is kind of a bummer), but the others I considered were as follows:

Of these, Garruk is probably the least on theme, though he makes Beasts and is certainly helpful. Tyvar gives all other Elves an ability, which is nice, and his Emblem is bonkers. Huatli is super cool, but lacking g hurts a fair amount. Sivitri is like Huatli, missing the big color for Dragons, but Sivitri reads more like a challenge to me, where Huatli is a bummer. I almost did Sivitri, and may still try it, just for fun, because something like that which is so far out of the norm calls to me. All of these decks would be worth building and likely fun to build and play.

But I couldn't help it. This seemed like the perfect place for Pirates.

Angrath, Minotaur Pirate

We're in rb, which is perfect for Pirates, and we get a Pirate-centered ability on the card (a Gravedigger effect), and an ultimate we're unlikely to ever achieve but if we do will probably kill a player.

Angrath is not cheap at six mana, so we definitely want to try to speed him up a bit. What could be more Pirate-y than Treasure? Rather than ramping traditionally, with mana rocks, we're going to make Treasure. We've got a few ways to do it. There are some Pirates which bring their own Treasure when they enter the Battlefield. Some Equipment makes Treasure when we connect. Plus we get some fun stuff like Treasure Chest, which will do something good for us no matter what (unless we botch, of course). This goes along with our 24 Lands, so we should hit our drops consistently and should be able to power Angrath out at least a turn early.

We have a few spells which either loot or sacrifice to draw cards, which should help keep gas flowing. Stuff like Pirate's Pillage and Deadly Dispute should do some good work, and we can safely pitch our Pirates because we can buy them back with Angrath.

And we have a bunch of Pirates. From the first-turn Daring Buccaneer to the big ol' Angrath's Marauders, we've got a whole batch of Pirates ready to fight for the Jolly Roger or whatever. Play 'em out, swing like crazy, and watch the fun. We can clear small blockers out of the way with Angrath's +1 (it also helps make blocking harder for our opponents), and we have a few kill spells kicking around in order to deal with bigger things we otherwise might struggle with. Most of our kill spells make Treasure, too, and our one wrath effect, Blood Money, leaves us with a pile from which we can rebuild.

We have a combat trick; I normally avoid those in deck-building without some really specific goal, but in this case the one time you blow someone out with Sudden Breakthrough will mean they'll always assume you have it. We also have as our Signature Spell Fake Your Own Death, which will just sit there bothering people as they try to figure out how to block. Do they block your 3/3 with their 4/4, knowing you can just make yours a 5/3 and get it back at end of turn (with an extra mana)? Or do they block the 1/1 and take the extra damage? You'll have fun with that one.

A couple more small things. Dire Fleet Ravager is almost always worth it to play, because everyone losing a big chunk of life like that will only help you. Watch your triggers with Thieves' Tools, because often your pumps will happen before blockers are declared. Impulsive Pilferer is worth it to Encore because you'll probably get three Treasures out of it. And Port Razer will win you games.

The bummer is because we're trying to keep the budget reasonable, we miss out on a few of the best cards for our deck. Pitiless Plunderer would be excellent, but he regularly tops $10, so it didn't seem worth it. And of course, the wooden legs clomping around are Dockside Extortionist and everyone's favorite new Monkey, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer. Both cards run about $60. Both would also be awesome. Without any of those three cards, this whole deck will cost you around $40. If you want to run a single card worth more than the rest of the pile, go to it. I'm not sure they're that worth it.

But wait! There's more.

The whole time I was building Angrath, another Oathbreaker was staring at me intently, trying to get me to look her in the eyes.

Vraska, Relic Seeker

Vraska, apparently, spent some time sailing the high seas in search of, well, Treasure. She has a useful +2 ability, making a Pirate token which even comes with its own evasion. Her -3 is a very flexible removal spell which makes a Treasure when it goes off, and her ultimate is likely to kill a player - it also happens to be more reachable than Angrath's.

On the other hand, we lose Red, of course, which is where most of our cool Pirates are. Subsequently, we have to take a somewhat different tactic to build this one.

Still, there is a lot of crossover. We still have a bunch of great Black cards, and all the Equipment sticks around. We even have more space because we're running fewer Creatures; we get Pirate's Cutlass and Fell Flagship, both of which can be powered by tokens as well as nontoken Creatures. We also pick up more removal, with things like Crack Open, Vraska's Contempt, and Deadly Derision. These spells which kill Planeswalkers are extra valuable in Oathbreaker, of course.

We still ramp the same way, with Treasures. Because Vraska makes them, and it's so on theme, it seemed worth it. We gain zero Pirates from Green, only losing from Red, but we get to keep a bunch of good ones, and we're still making those tokens.

The big thing we get is a suite of Vraskas. In addition to Relic Seeker, we get Vraska, Regal Gorgon, Vraska, Scheming Gorgon, and Vraska, Swarm's Eminence. Two of these came from the old Planeswalker decks, so we also get the cards which search for them, Vraska's Scorn and Vraska's Stoneglare, which sometimes will just be overpriced effects but others will be great, grabbing us a 'walker to throw on to the 'field.

Vraska, Swarm's Eminence is mostly useful for her -2, because we've only got a couple of Creatures with Deathtouch. But if we have one, or we pop out an Assassin and can sneak it through with Rogue's Passage or Thieves' Tools, we can kill opposing Oathbreakers with them. Vraska, Regal Gorgon helps our nontoken Pirates without Menace sneak through and serves as additional removal, plus if she hits her ultimate it'll likely make our dudes somewhat bigger. Finally, Vraska, Scheming Gorgon pumps our whole team, also is removal, and has an ultimate that can actually straight up win us the game if we use it carefully.

One note about Fell Flagship: because it gives our Pirates a power boost, it allows a single token from our Oathbreaker to Crew it!

Finally, we get a different Signature Spell here, because we can't be nearly as aggressive with this build. But we can leverage the tokens Vraska spits out to draw cards and make mana, keeping our hand full and making plenty of resources to play the spells we draw.

So, there we go, two Pirate decks in Oathbreaker, each with a different flavor. Want to attack full tilt, pushing your advantage the whole game? Build Angrath. Prefer a slower, more calculated game? Build Vraska. Or heck, for about $75, build them both - Vraska rings in at under $30.

Next up - Combo!

Thanks for reading.

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