Achievement Unlocked: Building a Theft Deck

(Act of Treason | Art by Scott Murphy)

A Pirate's Act of Treason

Have you ever made a Commander bucket list? Welcome to Achievement Unlocked, where we take a look at the cool and unique things you can do in this format other than just winning.

Building a Pirate deck has long been on my bucket list. Many of the Pirates in the game lean heavily into the flavor of the stereotypical “thieving pirate”. This means that decks built around them can play in a completely different space to your average typal deck. I love leaning into these unique strategies within the scope of a typal deck so today I set out to build a Pirate themed Theft deck.

Previously, we had Admiral Beckett Brass, who was an interesting build around that's very difficult to actually make work with any consistency. My go-to Pirate deck in the past was instead Zara, Renegade Recruiter. The deck made use of many of the Act of Treason variants, but it struggled to fully leverage those cards without access to the best sacrifice outlets in black. 

Luckily, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander gave us a new option for the “Act of Treason” Pirate deck that lets us harness the full power of the Grixis color identity. Don Andres, the Renegade doesn't do the stealing itself, but it gives us access to an awesome payoff for stealing our opponents' cards. Let's take a look at how we can leverage this.

Your Creatures? You Mean OUR Creatures

As I mentioned, we don't have to look far to find ways to steal creatures. Pirates love to plunder, and that starts with the aforementioned Zara, Renegade Recruiter. Players can effectively “play around” our steal effects by not playing out their high value creatures until they have to. Zara doesn't care. This card gives us an additional axis to steal from our opponents' besides just on the battlefield.

That doesn't mean the theft stops once a creature hits the battlefield though. Hostage Taker lets us steal creatures and play them out ourselves, but why even go through the work of casting the creatures. Coercive Recruiter lets you just outright steal creatures at no additional cost. Captivating Crew may have a cost, but it lets us repeatedly steal our opponents' threats and when combined with a sacrifice outlet this becomes repeatable removal.

Breeches, Brazen Plunderer and Ramirez DePietro, Pillager are similar to Zara in that they allow us to steal from our opponents along a different axis. These cards let us play cards off the top of our opponents' libraries and work very well with the fact that our commander turns the creatures we steal into Pirates.

Act of Treason variants are released with just about every set. A few stand out head and shoulders above the others. Instant speed is a huge plus. Even though it only lets creatures block, Domineering Will can still be a blowout since the creatures you steal will all gain deathtouch. Similarly Act of Aggression and Grab the Reins can help you set up trades between two creatures your opponents' control. Seize the Spotlight will often become an incredible draw spell because your opponents won't be willing to part with their biggest threats. Furnace Reins similarly has upside in that creating treasure tokens synergizes with the strategy that our other Pirates are already trying to do.

How Can We Take Advantage of the Mutiny?

What a card like Act of Treason has to overcome is that it's a temporary swing that doesn't scale well in multiplayer. We can leverage this by turning the cards we steal into additional value.

Village Rites, Deadly Dispute and Corrupted Conviction all let us trade creatures for cards. Once we get a swing in with our opponents' threats we can ditch them to turn them into additional resources. This is huge in that it lets us mitigate the downside of the temporary effect. The biggest weakness in the Zara deck I had previously built was that it frequently ran out of cards or could not sacrifice the creatures it stole. That is not a risk with adequate access to black mana.

We also have access to one of my favorite effects of all time that never quite fits into any of my decks. Fling lets us turn the creatures we steal into a removal spell or even in the late game as a way to close the game. The best of these effects is Kazuul's Fury. This can often just be played as a land when the effect is not good. These effects are a great compliment to the more traditional sacrifice effects that can give us extra value.

Completing our Pirate's Journey

Mass Manipulation, Insurrection, and Blatant Thievery don't take a lot to be good cards, but if there's any deck that can leverage them more than others it's this one. If your opponents only have small creatures, sometimes these effects aren't quite enough to end the game, but our commander will make them bigger and ensure we can close out.

Additionally, since we're already running so many Pirates we can lean into this with some additional Pirate synergy cards. Corsair Captain, Skeleton Crew and Dire Fleet Neckbreaker help, not only our creatures, but also the creatures we steal hit much harder. 

Admiral Beckett Brass may not be the best stand alone commander, but she's still an all star in any Pirate deck and gives us an additional way to steal creatures. Port Razer and Amphin Mutineer are strong enough on their own to justify their spot in this deck and get an additional boost thanks to the fact that they're Pirates themselves.

With all these Pirates, we can add in a Reanimator-esque backup plan for if we're struggling to keep creatures on the battlefield. Kindred Dominance and Haunting Voyage let us recur all our Pirates and gives us another axis to win the game on if our main theft game plan fails to work out.

In Conclusion

I love Pirates as a type and the different types of theft decks they can enable. I think my dreams of finally building a theft deck can become a reality with this new and unique commander. Have you built a theft deck? Who was the commander? Let me know in the comments below!

A Pirate's life for me

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Lands (36)
Creatures (22)
Instants (17)
Sorceries (12)
Enchantments (3)
Artifacts (9)

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Ben is a Michigan native who fell in love with Magic just a few years ago in 2019. He loves making big splashy plays in Commander as well as crunching the number to optimize his decks. Outside of Magic, he works in marketing and loves a great cup of coffee to start each morning… maybe with a splash of hot chocolate for his sweet tooth.

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