Commander Showdown - Beckett Brass vs Malcolm & Breeches
(Admiral Beckett Brass by Jason Rainville | Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator by Svetlin Velinov | Breeches, Brazen Plunderer by Eric Deschamps)
Welcome to Commander Showdown, where we compare and contrast two commanders with similar abilities to discover the overlaps, differences, and nuances of their strategies!
It has only been a little over six months since Commander Legends was released, and yet in that time, we've seen the release of Kaldheim, its associated Commander precons, Time Spiral Remastered, Strixhaven, the associated Commander 2021 precons, and now the whirlwind of previews from Modern Horizons 2, plus a smattering of early glimpses from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. By this point, the Commander Legends set is almost starting to worry that it too will soon be a forgotten realm.
There's one thing I'll always remember about Commander Legends though: it was clearly designed in part by Matthew Patel from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
This set single-handedly put Pirates on the map (pun intended) as not just a viable tribe in EDH, but a powerful one! Admiral Beckett Brass intrigued us all when she debuted in Ixalan, but the support for her was too thin. Since so many of the Pirate cards from that block were designed for Limited, they fell flat in Commander. The new injection of Pirate recruits from last November brought the numbers up on Brass's rowdy ranks. However, they also brought with them some rival captains.
They could partner up with anyone, but Malcolm & Breeches have been a new go-to Pirate pairing for folks who don't need a third color in their Pirate flag, or who want to emphasize the tribe's tricks and treasures. This showdown has been pending for months, the voyage constantly delayed as we got swept up in the riptide of new sets and new preview seasons, but I'm glad we finally get to set sail.
Which Pirate's life is for you? Let's find out.
Let's get some initial business out of the way: not too long ago, I created an Upping the Average video on Admiral Beckett Brass to analyze her average deck data and make some fun improvements. You know, give the 99 a polish. You might say I swabbed the deck's deck. (Ba dum tss.) In any case, if you'd like to see me dressed up in full pirate regalia while going in-depth on the Admiral's strategy and deck construction, this is a fun watch.
The Upping the Average series is, however, bound by a slight budget cap, so for our purposes here, I'd like to idealize Beckett Brass's deck just a little further by removing those restrictions. Since Brass is a commander that lends itself very naturally to theme decks, I'll also add that I opted out of theme here, since my goal is to push Brass's potential.
X marks the spot, so I'll cut to the chase: Brass wants evasive Pirates. Flying, unblockable, menace, anything that helps a creature sneak aboard an enemy ship. Her play pattern often asks for us to assemble a small group before casting her, then immediately moving to combat and nabbing something valuable. There are plenty of cool Pirates out there that buff themselves up, or create lots of Treasure tokens, but Brass's crew prioritizes stealth, to help enable her pillaging abilities.
Well, that's not the only reason. The other reason is because we can actually deal a lot of damage this way, too.
Plenty of tribal decks are already familiar with the likes of Door of Destinies, Icon of Ancestry, and Vanquisher's Banner. Classics of the genre, one and all. Pirates also have a lot of camaraderie for their fellow teammates, though: Dire Fleet Neckbreaker, Corsair Captain, Captain Vargus Wrath, and even Fell Flagship turn a harmless-looking Changeling Outcast into a genuine terror. Plus, while we're busy pecking and poking, we get the wonderful benefits of Coastal Piracy and other such effects.
Bearing this in mind, here's a new decklist for our favorite cap'n.
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There are some unique elements to linger on here before we examine our next Pirate pair. Specifically, black offers us an aggressive utility. Kindred Dominance is a pricey card that we can only hope sees a reprint soon, but it's quite impressive. Even a simple March of the Drowned can do a lot to set our ship back on course.
With one extra color, Brass has a greater number of good Pirates to choose from. More colors does not inherently make a deck better, but it does have a fascinating effect on her strategy in particular. Normally, we'd expect that since a deck with more colors has more cards to choose from, it can cause the deck to spread out a bit. More colors, more flexibility, more plates to spin.
However, I don't think that's the case here. Brass's expanded color identity gives her more choices, but paradoxically, it also streamlines her mission. The pool of candidates gets so wide that picking just the best of the best will still fill up the ship in no time. Brass is all business. Evasive Pirates, buffing each other, with amazing tribal support effects, and if we fire the cannons at the right time, we'll corner our enemy, plunder their ship, and at that point, it's very difficult for them to get out from underneath such a powerful undertow, because no matter what they try to play, we'll just keep swimming, and just keep stealing.
In other words: we're some rascally scalawags.
So now, let's talk about our rival Pirate Partner pair.
Breeches of Contract
Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator and Breeches, Brazen Plunderer don't have Partner With, but of the 726 decks where Breeches is in the command zone, 670 of them have Malcolm at his side. They both love Pirates, they both have on-hit effects, and combined, they can pull of some neat-looking tricks.
Right off the bat, the primary difference we'll experience with these two Pirates is that they aren't necessarily as 'devoted' to the Pirate's code as Beckett Brass. I should probably clarify that I don't mean the Devotion ability, and I also don't mean that they're not a devoted Pirate tribal deck. They're definitely Pirate tribal. They've got some nuance here though, so when I say they're not as 'devoted' to the Pirate's code, I mean this in two important ways.
First, let's look back at Admiral Beckett Brass. She requires a very dedicated combat step. Three Pirates have to hit someone for her triggered ability to work. That's a commitment. The number of good, evasive Pirates that now exist does allow her to hit this trigger more reliably, but it is still a calculation in combat that we aren't spreading out the damage to multiple enemies; we pick one port to raze.
That's not at all the case for Malcolm and Breeches. They spread the love and will hit multiple opponents whenever possible, and get still benefits for poking and prodding, without needing to plan a full-scale raid. That's a fundamentally different atmosphere for combat.
Second, remember the paradox I mentioned earlier? Brass has more cards to choose from, but her deck gets more focused as a result. I think the opposite is true for Malcolm and Breeches. By removing a color, our options don't shrink. Instead, with each of them sporting their own quirky ability, and with two commanders in the command zone, our horizons expand in scope.
With two commanders, both of whom like to rush out of the command zone much more quickly than Brass, we have twice as much chance to make use of cards that care about whether we have a commander in play. Jeska's Will, for instance, is appealing to many decks out there, but has extra potential here. Captain Vargus Wrath is a great Pirate for any deck, but he pumps up extremely fast with two commanders.
Evasion is still an important part of the game here; we can't pilfer cards from the top of our opponents' libraries without attacking them properly, after all. Breeches is a great source of card advantage that can propel us forward leaps and bounds, but we'll want to take stock of how it affects our cargo. This type of card advantage inevitably diversifies our lands, our spells, and even our creatures, allowing us greater access to abilities that red-blue decks can't usually access. That means we have to be ready to adapt on the fly.
Of particular importance, though, is this deck's use of Treasure tokens. Malcolm makes Treasure at a pretty impressive clip, and I think we've got some ways to take advantage of all those little artifacts.
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There's a lot happening in this deck, but our lily-livered enemies may not immediately realize what's lurking beneath the depths. We've got some usual Pirate tricks, including some awesome tribal payoffs like the new Reflections of Littjara. That's not all, though. We also have a few cards that guarantee we're not beholden to the rules of parley.
Mechanized Production is a dream with Treasure tokens. Alternate win con that we can just attach to a resource that tons of our cards are creating every turn? Sign me up. And Fathom Fleet Swordjack? Let me tell you right now how much it hurts when this thing swings at you after its controller cast a Spell Swindle on you just one turn prior.
I have a few other cards I want to highlight for this pair, specifically some cards that take advantage of the fact that they are a pair, and I'll get to those in a moment, but for now, the biggest lesson I've learned from this voyage is the sheer flexibility of these commanders. Admiral Beckett Brass has evolved into a strong deck with an even stronger focus. It's not a single-minded deck, but it does know its destination, and strives confidently toward that goal.
Malcolm and Breeches, by contrast, are far more free-spirited, and don't always know what's next on the horizon. They have to improvise more often, and may even occasionally find themselves lost at sea as a result, but that also means they can respond more easily to a shift in the winds. Both of these decks will give you a joyous adventure with a rowdy crew, but the difference between them comes down to how much you value the buried treasure marked on your map, or the treasure you might find along the journey.
Cards to Consider
Let's quickly wrap up with some fun cards to check out for each of these decks.
Admiral Beckett Brass
- Mercadia's Downfall: I've been talking about this card for years and it's still only in a scant 400 decks. It's really heckin' good.
- Shared Animosity: A pretty straightforward tribal payoff, and yet it's only in 8% of Brass's decks. This commander likes to attack.
- Adaptive Automaton: This one's kinda silly, but I really want to reiterate how quickly the Pirate pumps add up.
- Skullclamp: This card doesn't appear on Brass's EDHREC page at all. Brass is much more likely to fall prey to board wipes, so a quick refill on card advantage just in case of setbacks is definitely in our best interest.
- Patriarch's Bidding: Freshly reprinted in Modern Horizons 2, get a copy in here ASAP. Get out of Davey Jones's locker, ya sea dogs!
Malcolm & Breeches
- Tome of Legends: Heads up, all the cards I'm suggesting in this section revolve around the fact that we have two commanders. I play a lot of Partner decks, and options like this fun little book help grease a lot of wheels.
- Commander's Insight: This looks like a really fun outlet for our Treasure, don't you think? It's not hard to imagine drawing three cards off of this without even paying anything into the X.
- Sakashima's Will: We have two commanders. This is a cinch to get both modes, and multiple copies of a Port Razer or Corsair Captain sound pretty dang fun.
- Fury Storm: This card is good enough with just one commander, but with two, it's insane. That's a nice Exsanguinate you got there, friend. Would be a shame if something were to happen to it.
- Echo Storm: It's not just for artifact decks! Make tons of Sol Rings or Door of Destinies. Make three copies of someone else's Aetherflux Reservoir, or their Caged Sun! Is that a Sword of Feast and Famine I see? Thanks, I now have four of my own. I keep trying to tell people how good this card is with Partner commanders, but it's not until they actually cast it themselves that they see all the possibilities unfold in front of them.
Pirates Are In This Year
So, what do you think? Which crew would you set sail with? Let me know in the comments, and of course, don't forget to vote for the next Commander Showdown!
Til next time!