Nearly Identical - Admiral Beckett Brass or Don Andres?

(Admiral Beckett Brass | Art by Jason Rainville)

Ahoy, Matey!

Hello! Welcome back to Nearly Identical, a series where I take a look at two commanders with similar designs and archetypes, find out what separates them, and help you find your next commander! Today, we're looking at two Grixis Theft commanders who want to steal from our opponents: Admiral Beckett Brass and Don Andres, the Renegade.

Grixis is the color of thievery. With effects like Act of Treason, Dauthi Voidwalker, and Bribery, nothing is safe from being stolen. And what creature type is best known for stealing treasures? Pirates!

Pirates have become the creature type that can steal cards from opponents. Admiral Beckett Brass rewards her Pirates that are capable of dealing combat damage to another player by stealing a nonland permanent from that player. She allows us to hit our opponents hard and accrue value throughout the game. Don Andres, the Renegade, on the other hand, asks us to find ways to steal things on our own and he'll reward us for the effort. For every creature we steal, we recruit them and turn them into Pirates with +2/+2, menace and deathtouch. Pretty decent stats for a recruit. And if we cast noncreature spells, he'll give us two tapped Treasure tokens. Which is helpful, considering he doesn't do much of the work himself. And based on his flavor text, that's on theme.

Today, I want to look at these two and find out how we can make them unique from one another and the types of cards we want to add. For Admiral Beckett Brass, I want to build a true Pirate typal deck that can ensure we trigger her ability every turn, and for Don Andres, I want to forgo the Pirate strategy and instead run Etali-type spells that allow us to cast our opponents' stuff. But first, what do we want to run in both Grixis Theft decks?

As I said, Pirates are the best when it comes to stealing, and Zara, Renegade Recruiter is no different. On attack, we look through an opponent's hand for a creature we can have come in tapped and attacking. A 4/3 flier is reliable enough to stick around for a few turns. And if we don't hit a creature, we still learn what our opponent is hiding from us.

Coercive Recruiter triggers every time a Pirate comes into play. This allows us to steal multiple creatures a turn to go for a big swing. Or, it allows us to remove blockers to make way for our creatures. They're good with Don Andres, especially, since creatures we cast from someone else will come in as Pirates and trigger the Recruiter. Malcolm and Breeches will give us loot and Treasures for each opponent we hit. So, the more Pirates we have, the easier it will be to get the full benefit of their damage triggers. With that out of the way, what are we including in Admiral Beckett Brass?

Prepare To Be Boarded!

Admiral Beckett Brass doesn't offer any evasion to ensure that our Pirates can deal combat damage, so we'll need Pirates that have built in evasion like Spectral Sailor. He can come down early and easily get in for combat damage. The only creature better than that is Changeling Outcast. Kitesail Larcenist is a flier that can trigger our commander and be a way to remove pesky artifacts or creatures. Their ETB is perfect for synergies we'll talk about in the next section.

The Indomitable is a recurrable Reconnaissance Mission that can be crewed to be a 6/6 trampler. I love the flavor of this card. We crew it with Pirates and slam our ship into our opponents. With all the evasive creatures we want in this deck, The Indomitable will consistently refill our hand. Now let's move on to some synergies in the deck!

Molten Echoes can provide this deck with a ton of value. For one, the token copy will come in with haste, adding to the three Pirates we need to trigger Admiral Brass. But also, there are eleven Pirates in the deck with ETB abilities (not including Emberwilde Captain).

Getting two Merchant Raiders out with Molten Echoes or Flameshadow Conjuring means getting three Merchant triggers. While any creature we tap with the token copy won't stay tapped when we lose the copy, it'll still remove potential blockers and make way for our Pirates to strike. Or get two Corsair Captains and give your Pirates a +2/+2 buff. But, how do we plan on ending the game?

We can get extra combats with Port Razer. Additional combats won't mean we can steal more permanents, but if we make it unblockable with Rogue's Passage or Cover of Darkness, then we can ensure we get up to four combat steps if we manage to hit all three players.

Angrath's Marauders doubles the damage we deal. With evasive creatures and anthem effects, Angrath's Marauders can be a game ender the turn it comes down. And if we want to ensure that we get through for lethal, Raise the Palisade will bounce every non-Pirate creature that could get in our way of winning.

Let's check out the deck!

Admiral Brass Rootin'-Tootin' & Lootin'

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Commander (1)
Creatures (32)
Artifacts (12)
Sorceries (9)
Instants (5)
Enchantments (5)
Lands (36)

Ripe For The Taking

Since our commander doesn't steal for us, how do we play on taking our opponents' stuff?

Instead of trying to gain control of their permanents, why not cast them instead? Plargg and Nassari let us exile the top card of our opponents' libraries and cast at least two of them for free. Not getting the best of the three cards is a fair trade for getting to cast spells for free and getting Don Andres triggers. This deck is stacked with Etali-type effects will give us access to the top of our opponents' libraries. Nassari and Stolen Strategy are redundant effects that have us spend mana to cast the spells we exile, instead.

I've had the chance to play Share the Spoils twice now with this deck and man does it put in work. Both times I've played it, Share the Spoils consistently drew me a ton of cards throughout the game. It ensured I made my land drops and it gave me the enablers I needed to keep stealing. I was essentially drawing one to two cards a turn. Even though it's a shared pool, I noticed opponents were reluctant to play from it. Either they forgot or simply didn't want to play into it, but either way, it's a powerful source of card advantage.

Gríma, Saruman's Footman can reliably cast an instant or sorcery from an opponent's library. One thing I like about Don Andres is that it doesn't matter what spell we get off Gríma because we'll still get two Treasures for it. Kristen Gregory wrote an article titled "The Age of Haymakers is Over in Commander", discussing how Commander decks built today are leaning away from using powerful effects like Avacyn, Angel of Hope that are generically good and leaning more into synergistic cards that offer more potency in a specific strategy. This then leads Theft decks to be less effective, given that the cards they steal won't offer much value on their own.

While Don Andres isn't the enabler, he does solve the problem with gaining control of creatures that don't work outside of their synergies, or spells that don't work in our decks. It doesn't matter what the creature is, it'll still be a Pirate with +2/+2, menace and deathtouch. Or you'll still get two Treasures for casting noncreature spells. But speaking of synergies, what kind of synergies can we add to this deck?

Giving the creatures we don't own menace is great for getting in for combat damage, but giving them deathtouch as well puts our opponents in a tough spot. Even if they block with two big creatures, they'll still lose them. And if they do block, we can steal them with Gisa, Glorious Resurrector. Any nontoken creatures that die on our opponents' board can be brought back on our upkeep. Sure, we'll have to sacrifice them because of Decayed, but we'll have gotten free creatures just from them dying. Better yet, the creature might be something we don't even want to attack with, like Esper Sentinel.

Extraordinary Journey is another great source of card draw. We're already casting creatures from exile, but when we have Share the Spoils out, we're encouraging our opponents to cast stuff from exile as well. We don't even have to pay any mana into X to get this effect.

I don't know how, but Synthesis Pod is the weirdo card in a deck full of weirdo cards. It's a Birthing Pod for spells on the stack. But guess what? We control the spell, even if it's an opponent's spell. So we can pay one and two life, and exile a spell that isn't useful to us. Say we exile someone's Nature's Lore off the top. It doesn't do anything for us since we don't have any forests in the deck, so we exile it with Synthesis Pod and look for something better! With all that said, how does a deck like this plan to win?

Combat is this deck's Plan A. Take creatures of any size, give them +2/+2 and menace, and start beating down opponents with their creatures. However, we'll still need some cards that ensure our victory when played. Mob Rule is our Overwhelming Stampede. Even if we choose to steal all small creatures, the anthem from Don Andres will make a board of tiny creatures into lethal threats. Shared Animosity takes advantage of the Pirate type that Don Andres gives and ensures any creature we steal will be huge.

Brainstealer Dragon is an enabler and a payoff for this deck. We get to take our opponents' things and drain them equal to that permanent's mana value. All while being a 6/6 flier itself. Passionate Archaeologist also burns down our opponents when we cast things from exile, so getting this out early is great. And if all else fails and nothing we steal works in our favor, we can sac our Treasures into a big Exsanguinate to drain our opponents for the win.

Now let's take a look at the deck!

Don Andres, Mr. Steal Your Things

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Commander (1)
Creatures (24)
Artifacts (13)
Enchantments (9)
Instants (9)
Sorceries (9)
Lands (35)

What's Yours is Mine

Admiral Beckett Brass has over 6,200 decks on EDHREC. She is the premier Pirate commander. Having been around since the original Ixalan set, she's had time to gain a following. And I don't think her popularity is going to stagger now that we've gotten so many cool Pirates. However, she's no longer the only Pirate commander. We got Malcolm and Breeches back in Commander Legends and now we have a new printing of the Admiral, Admiral Brass, Unsinkable, which is less thievery and more recurring Pirates from the Dead.

Don Andres, the Renegade has a little over a 1,000 decks right now. He's not the most popular commander from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander set, but he is the most popular outside of the face commanders, which typically see more decks. Given that and how recently the set came out, I think players are taking a liking to him.

A common thing I'll hear people say is that they won't build with a commander that doesn't enable the strategy, and while that is worth considering, Don Andres brings something to the Theft archetype that other commanders don't. He adds synergy to the cards you steal. Did you get a Ornithopter from the Yuriko player? Well, it's now a 2/4, with menace and deathtouch, and is a Pirate which synergizes with your Kindred Discovery or Shared Animosity. Don Andres makes any creature or spell you play relevant. In a meta where synergy is king, Don Andres can truly make the most out of anything.

Let me know what you think of these commanders. Do you prefer to have your Pirates steal permanents from your opponents, or do you prefer to cast your loot from exile? And if you've built a Don Andres deck, tell me how you built him. Let me know in the comments below, and I'll see you next time!

Read More:

Nearly Identical - Commander Liara Portyr or Neyali?

Achievement Unlocked: Building a Theft Deck

Josh is a creative writer that started playing Magic when Throne of Eldraine was released. He loves entering combat and pressuring life totals, and to him, commander damage is always relevant. Outside of brewing many commander decks, he can be found prepping his D&D campaigns with a cat purring in his lap.

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