Hello and welcome back to Intellectual Offering. Sorry for the short hiatus, but the end of the school year was a bit more busy than I expected, and I needed the time to focus on crushing my exams. Now, though, it is time to focus on crushing my opponents. Last set we achieved this literally with Gishath, Sun’s Avatar, a commander who has received tons of love in this expansion. I don’t plan to go through all the updates there, make intellectual decisions and I think you’ll do fine. No, this time I want to look at a different commander who also received some love in Rivals of Ixalan, Admiral Beckett Brass, though if she received enough love is a matter of some debate.
First let’s break her down: Admiral Brass has some slightly conflicting qualities; she pumps up your pirates, which encourages attacking, and even encourages you to attack a single player, but then the payoff is that you get one of their permanents…permanently. This is a bit of a conflict of interests, mostly we would prefer to have this effect do something that helps us once we eliminate a player, not disappear when they do, not to mention if you’re hitting people with three creatures you’re probably doing well enough that you don’t need to be stealing things from people. I think this is slightly misguided. Stealing things like Mana Reflection or opposing Sol Rings helps you rebuild when you inevitably face a board wipe, stealing an opponent’s Phyrexian Altar can help break up combos that are about to get out of control, and simply being able to steal more creatures helps our deck kill people.
The one issue I have is that our creatures all need to be pirates. Ixalan gave us a couple playable pirates, and Rivals gave us a couple more, but the issue is that a lot of the cards are just plain bad in multiplayer formats like EDH. While all tribal sets tend to focus on aggro strategies, the issue with pirates as compared to dinosaurs (the other “new” tribe in the set) is that dinos have big enough effects (and bodies) to impact multiplayer Magic. Pirates tend to be small, and not make a lot of tokens (like merfolk or vampires) and instead focus on having the right trick for a given situation. Having very specific effects like “each token that would be created under an opponent’s control this turn is created under your control instead” instead of generic effects like “when ~ enters the battlefield, create a 3/3 green Dinosaur creature token with trample” means that we have to fill our deck with pretty mediocre creatures to hit a critical density of creatures with like types. So what do we do? Well, I suggest an upgrade. Instead of filling our deck with overcosted, mediocre pirates, we instead play only the best ones and fill the rest of the deck with sweet creatures that we “persuade” to become pirates through the inclusion of Conspiracy, Arcane Adaptation, and Xenograft. Yes these are some of the most dead cards when we draw them with one in play, but that’s ok. Why? Because we don’t need good things, we’re out to take our opponent’s things!
Since the goal of this deck is to be taking our opponents’ things, while using the above-mentioned cards to turn our creatures into pirates, to help us out, we are going to want to fill the deck with somewhat aggressive, low-cost creatures, that can help us achieve our 3 pirate goal. As such this is what I will dedicate my recommendations to; and what better place to start than with a new card from RIX that is a direct plant for this deck: Dire Fleet Daredevil. I’ll be completely honest in saying that this card is 90% of the reason I got interested in brewing Admira Brass. This card is super sweet, a pseudo-Snapcaster Mage in red is something this color needs so badly. Being able to cast things like reanimation spells, card draw spells, or even just enchantment removal is such a boon for red. The fact that it can act as soft graveyard hate in a pinch is just a nice bonus. While this deck is not the best place to showcase Daredevil’s usefulness given the limited access to specific categories of spells, this is the most fitting place to showcase the card as a whole. It fits with the deck’s primary goal of stealing our opponents’ cards, while also being a cheap, aggressive creature to help us satisfy the Admiral’s thirst for blood. Obviously being a pirate already means that there should be no rate of exclusion of this card from future Admiral decks, but I wanted to bring it up here to highlight just how important it is in to the deck.
My second recommendation is not a card that commonly sees play under the Admiral: Sower of Temptation. First, now would be a good time to acknowledge that there are really only a handful (read: 188) decks collected by EDHREC at the time of this article. As sample sizes go this is pretty low; because of this the bulk of the cards the site will recommend for the deck are going to be on the full-pirate tribal end of the spectrum. Sower is only listed in two decks, but I feel like, in the greater community, it’s going to be slightly more. There are likely people out there using the Admiral as a figurehead for a generic Grixis theft deck, which is good. Where this article comes in is helping everyone have the best of both worlds. Why have a commander with what is unarguably a cool, powerful ability, and not use it? Likewise, why trap yourself in a tribal archetype when it ultimately we can make the deck feel more pirate-y by stepping away from this? Sower is the card that best exemplifies this middle ground. It has evasion built-in which helps us turn on the Admiral; it also steals the best creature in play, coercing it to become a member of our pirate crew. The obvious parallel to this card is Hostage Taker, which plays into the pirate theme even better, but is also already included in 86% of decks, I take the time to mention it here to the 14% of people who aren’t playing it. What exactly are you doing if this isn’t in your deck? Inquiring minds would like to know.
The third card I’d like to suggest for this deck is the savagely underplayed Mindclaw Shaman. Yes 4R is a lot to pay for a 2/2 with no evasion, however it does everything that the deck wants to do, puts a body into play that we can blink with our couple blink effects, and is some of the most fun a person can have in EDH. Only one list on EDHREC has Mindclaw in it, while across the whole site the card is only played in 1955 decks with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death leading the pack including Mindclaw in just under ¼ of her lists. This card is criminally underplayed, and let me explain why: like Daredevil it gives red access to effects it would otherwise lack, and again, while this deck may not be a mono-red deck, it still lacks certain effects such as graveyard hate or enchantment removal, making a card like this very valuable to us in the stages of the game where we are going to be casting it. We could cram a couple off-theme options for at least one of these categories of cards, but why do that when we can just fulfill our destiny and pirate it from someone?
Next, let’s take a look at the decklist:
Again, not a whole lot of surprises given the plan I laid out of stealing out opponents’ things and casting small, evasive creatures to help the Admiral do her thing; however there are a couple notable exclusions from the deck as compared to the top cards on EDHREC. The most notable, in my opinion, is Captivating Crew, which normally sees play in 81% of decks. Hear me out on this one, ok? I’ve played with this card in a number of decks, from RG aggro decks, to UR control, and in no shell did I find this card to be satisfactory. The sorcery-speed restriction on the activation of the ability means that this card doesn’t really play all that well when you’re trying to muck up combat for your opponent. Using it purely as a Threaten effect is ok, if you have the mana to spare and are doing nothing else with your time, but if this is all you’ve got going on, it’s unlikely that a single creature from an opponent will be the difference between getting the fire started again and being dead in the water. Yes, you could activate it multiple times, but my issue there is that if you’re dumping all your mana into this card in the late game, why not just replace it with something like Molten Primordial which (assuming each opponent has at least one creature) gives you much more value per mana spent on it: seven mana total versus four plus 12 (assuming three opponents) and then your creature is 2 power and 1 toughness smaller, and lacks haste. Finally, this card is at its best when you can sacrifice the creatures you steal, and there are very few outlets for that in this particular version of the deck. While the Primordial suffers from a similar issue, at least it gives you multiple creatures and a haste-y body up-front, giving you a shot at overwhelming an opponent.
Next on the list of notable exclusions is Deadeye Quartermaster. This clocks in at 71% inclusion rate in decks, and again, it’s a pirate, so there’s the obvious reason why, but here’s a question: what equipment is this thing actually getting? The answer is that, currently the EDHREC page only shows five equipment as suggestions for inclusion in the deck, and the generated average deck only includes two. Looking even more closely we see that they’re Pirate’s Cutlass and Swiftfoot Boots, massively impactful equipment these are not. EDH players, just because an equipment is on-theme doesn’t mean you have to run Trusty Machete in your deck. Frankly Cutlass is worse than Machete. Sure you eschew the equip cost, but costing 2 mana more to cast is significantly worse when you consider that turn 3 is where we would like to begin getting creatures down to attack with. For three mana I want an equipment that is going to do something to the board, and likewise, for four mana I don’t want to be fetching up an equipment that’s appeals is that it is better in play when the creature searching it up enters the battlefield. That sentence may be confusing but I think you get my point. This is all doubly-true when the deck we’re playing is literally full of pirates to trigger cutlass. So in place of Quartermaster, I’ve chosen a similar, but much more functional card: Trophy Mage. It functionally does all the same things, except it can also help us ramp/fix our mana by fetching Chromatic Lantern and it can help steal things by grabbing Mimic Vat.
My final notable exclusion before I open the floor to comments is Revel in Riches. I choose this over some of the cards with higher inclusion rates (this is only 71%) because the majority of those cards can be explained by the logic of, “was I only playing this because it’s a pirate?” if the answer was “yes” then it basically got the axe right away unless it could be justified as being an aggressive, and evasive, threat. Revel is not on this list, I chose to cut it because it really only fits the archetypical, pirates like booty trope, and doesn’t actually help the deck function as a whole in attempting to steal all of our opponents’ nice things. In its place I like Treachery a card that is unfortunately creeping away in price, but one which, at the same time in the game, gives us the best creature our opponents’ control, instead of sitting around waiting to eat a Krosan Grip just when we thought we could kill a creature at the end of an opponent’s turn to sneak in a win on our upkeep. I’d rather play Treachery for effectively free and just shrug if our non-investment gets blown up. Joke’s on them, that five mana I just got back was for my Spell Swindle, taste it.
That’s it for this month. Tune in next time and see where the wind’s taken us. Until then, leave your blubbering in the comments below.