The reddit user /u/CowtipperHS created this guide to Pirate Warrior earlier this month. We recently got the opportunity to host some of his content on the platform and wanted to add more value to the readers who are checking in. This edition of the guide sees the vital edition of the legendary card replacements for the deck. Ancharrr is unfortunately difficult to replace in this build of the deck since so many cards rely on it for their synergies. Below is the full guide from Cowtipper, with some formatting & additions.
Introduction to Cowtipper’s strategy content
It’s a new month, and with that comes a new climb to legend. Last month, I posted about my climb to Legend with Discard Warlock if you’re interested in checking out that post, Cowtipper’s guide to budget Discard Warlock.
I appreciated all of the positive feedback I received on the post and from additional users through direct message. This month, I did the climb with Pirate Warrior, and I’m excited to share my strategy for this list with you all.
For those of you who saw my post last month, the following is a repetition of what I discussed in regards to the advantages and disadvantages of playing Wild as opposed to standard. The new content for this month begins after the deck title Pirate Warrior in bold if you’d like to skip past the immediately following section.
Why Play Wild?
• Card Value
My first foray into the competitive Hearthstone scene was grinding the free Warlock deck (Galakrond’s Malice) up to diamond 5. When the ladder reset at the end of April, I transitioned to the standard Tempo Demon Hunter List (pre-nerf). Unfortunately, I struggled to push past diamond 5 with this Demon Hunter list as I lacked three crucial cards – a second copy of Warglaives of Azzinoth, Metamorphosis, and Kayn Sunfury.
At this point, I had a choice to make. I could dust the remainder of my paltry collection and craft the three remaining cards, or I could choose a different deck entirely. For many F2P players, this is a critical juncture in collection management as the choice of what deck to craft ultimately affects one’s ability to climb the ladder next season. I chose to craft a Wild deck because I was confident that I could avoid card nerfs and that the deck would remain competitive long enough for me to build my collection to the point that I could craft another deck if need be.
• Metagame Diversity
Once I decided to craft a Wild deck, the next decision was to hone in on a decklist that would allow me to climb to legend reliably. Unlike Standard, which is primarily dominated by Highland Hunter, Egg/Grom Warrior, and Demon Hunter (at the time of writing this post), the Wild metagame supports a much larger diversity of decks, albeit with Mage and Warlock standing above the rest.
A glance through the most recent Vicious Syndicate Report demonstrates that virtually all classes boast a ladder-competitive decklist. I ultimately opted to craft Discard Warlock for this month’s ladder climb. Still, I am of the firm belief that any of the decks in the aforementioned Vicious Syndicate report would provide a competent player with the means to hit Legend.
• Easier Climb (?)
I’m going to preface that I base this off of anecdotal evidence only. The reason for this is that I do not have access to larger data sets that would allow me to say this conclusively. Simply put, fewer players are playing Wild than Standard, and fewer players, in this case, means less competition. Many of the popular streamers, grandmasters, and top-level players are incentivized to play Standard as there is better prize support from tournaments, larger audiences, and the general excitement that surrounds new cards entering Hearthstone. As a F2P player, though, I am interested in getting the most rewards out of Hearthstone with no financial input. In this case, I can play a wider diversity of decks and for longer if I can reliably receive the legend rewards each month.
What you need to know about Pirate Warrior
This deck is the deck for you if you enjoy playing a fast-paced, aggressive deck with a surprising amount of complexity in comparison to a more high-roll aggressive like Discard Warlock. With an 11x bonus, I was able to go 33-21 (61% winrate) and enter legend at rank 37! Coincidentally, this was also the same rank I entered legend last month, so I guess this is my new lucky number. 😊 Below we’ll discuss the game plan, mulligan strategy, matchups, and future considerations.
Pirate Warrior’s general gameplan
Pirate Warrior is an explosive, aggressive deck that relies on a critical mass of Pirate tribe synergies to dominate the early game. To keep the pressure into the mid- and late-game, Ancharrr not only tutors Pirates from your deck, but also can serve as a snowballing damage threat in combination with Upgrade and Bloodsail Cultist.
Although Liveware Lance does not thin out your deck, the continuous lackey generation can provide several surprising outs through spell generation, rush, or dragon generation. At the top end, Leeroy Jenkins and Skycap’n Kragg help to close out the game before the opponent can stabilize. In most matchups, you are the aggressive deck, and you should be thinking about ways you can pressure your opponent to react while using your resources judiciously so that you don’t run out of gas following a board clear.
If you are familiar with Enrage or Egg Warrior in Standard, the mulligan strategy for Pirate Warrior is similar to some notable differences. As for similarities, Corsair Cache is an automatic keep as the buffed weapon not only grants additional charges but can also help deal with an opponent’s minions such that you can continue to push damage to the face. Below I detail several general cases that are solid keeps. In the matchup section, you will find specific hands and strategies that I have found advantageous in my experience on the ladder.
Cards you don’t want in your mulligan
There are several cards, such as Patches the Pirate, Leeroy Jenkins, and SkyCap’n Kragg. You simply don’t keep these in your starting hand.
In certain specific situations, Skycap’n Kragg might not be the worst card to start in your opening hand. However, this is very rare to occur. The main situation in which this card is helpful is when we can stick enough pirates to the board to play Kragg on turn four or five. When this situation occurs, you likely win the game regardless of which card you play on the turn.
Cards you want sometimes
There are other cards you keep more situationally. For example, Southsea Deckhand is the weakest of your one drops to start in your opening hand, so while it is not the worst, it is very fragile, and you would much rather play a Sky Raider or N’Zoth’s First Mate to develop a weapon on turn 1. Parachute Brigand can be good to establish board presence in aggressive matchups, but plays into control decks’ removal and eats up a card slot in your hand.
On the other hand, Southsea Captain can be useful in matchups where you can reasonably expect to have two to three pirates on board by turn 3, but otherwise should be saved for later in the game to value trade or boost your side of the board to end the game. Upgrade has interestingly use cases against Demon Hunter, and Odd Paladin, and so is sometimes a card to keep to control an opponent’s board while you develop your board. Skybarge is a worse Ship’s Cannon, so it is better on Coin but is a reasonable keep because of its bulky stat line.
The best cards for your opening hand
DISCLAIMER: Think critically about cards in this section. There are always exceptions to the rule, and understanding the utility of a card in a decklist will allow you to be more intelligent in your mulligans. The advice here is a general guideline and will NOT represent the correct mulligan in every game.
N’Zoth’s First mate and Sky Raider are your premier one drops and generate the most value for the cost in this decklist. Corsair Cache helps to thin out your deck AND buff your weapons. Ship’s Cannon is a must-remove for an opponent and can help direct pressure away from your pirates, and if it can stick for even a turn, it can deal a large amount of damage through Sharkfin Fan and Parachute Brigand shenanigans.
Bloodsail Cultist, in the worst case, a Pirate Spider Tank, but otherwise is a beefy body that boosts a weapon’s attack and a charge which provides more refill or value depending on the equipped weapon. Sharkfin Fan is a well-statted 2-drop that develops a wide board in conjunction with attacks, which is what we want to be doing every turn. Against control decks, this allows you to build up a wide board without that much card investment. Ancharrr tutors your pirates and has a beautiful entry animation!
Matchups for Pirate Warrior
• Demon Hunter (7-2)
With the increase in mana cost to Twin Slice, Odd DH experienced a sharp rise in playability jumping from Tier 1.5 to Tier 1. Fortunately, this is a favored matchup, and it seems that with the recent nerf to Warglaives, this matchup is only going to get better over time. The key to winning this matchup is to aggressively establish board presence while having a weapon equipped to deal with DH’s minions.
Since DH can only start going wide on turn 5 with Warglaives, they do not have a practical way to clear a large board of minions on the preceding turns. A typical strong start to this matchup involves a turn-one pirate with a Parachute Brigand in hand to put three pirates into play on turn 1. Ship’s Cannon is sometimes a good keep in this matchup, although its utility has decreased as the buffed Twin Slice allows DH to clear the cannon much more easily than before.
• Druid (2-1)
Druid is a difficult, but slightly favored matchup as a result of its not very interactivity in the earlier turns. Sticking an early Ship’s Cannon or Skybarge can deal apply significant pressure such that even by the time the deck is online, you have dealt enough damage that their armor is not sufficient. In this matchup, it is important not to develop a full board unless you are guaranteed lethal before turn six because this is the turn that Spreading Plague comes online. If you have a full board of 1/1 pirates from Sharkfin Fan, then you will have a difficult time punching through 30 health from seven 1/5 taunts.
• Hunter (0-0)
I did not play against any Hunters on my climb, but this should be a favored matchup. Make sure to play around Explosive Trap and Rat Trap, and you should be just fine.
• Mage (5-3)
In the rock-paper-scissors meta of Raza Priest, Quest Mage, and Pirate Warrior, Mage should theoretically always be a win since aggression beats combination decks. Unfortunately, with the rise of two tier-1 aggressive decks (Pirate Warrior and Odd Demon Hunter), the meta has shifted around these decks such that Luna’s Pocket Galaxy Mage and Reno Mage lists are cropping up. In these pseudo-control based matchups, you must not overextend into an opponent’s board clears and mulligan for cards that thin your deck out so that you can draw into burst damage to close out the game before an opponent’s higher cost cards allow them to stabilize. Quest Mage should be an automatic win, so if you are consistently losing to Quest Mage, you are not playing aggressively enough.
• Paladin (0-5)
Paladin is by far one of the worst matchups in my experience, in fact even worse than my Priest matchup. Whether you are playing against the Mech Paladin or Odd Paladin variant, the class’s ability to go wide is difficult to deal with even with an explosive draw. I don’t feel qualified to provide advice for this matchup other than to say that it is fairly uncommon at high legend, so I don’t have to play against much, if at all. If you have experience with this matchup, I would appreciate it if you could add your insight in the comments – thank you!
• Priest (1-3)
In the rock-paper-scissors meta of Raza Priest, Quest Mage, and Pirate Warrior, Raza Priest should theoretically always be a loss since control beats aggressive decks. Although my stats for Priest are slightly better than Paladin, this matchup is still largely unfavored. Priest stocks several excellent AoE cards that can disrupt Pirate Warrior’s board presence while simultaneously stabilizing. A Raza on turn 5 provides an additional two healing per turn. Which, combined with Reno, makes this matchup difficult, if not impossible.
• Rogue (3-0)
Any variation of Rogue you will see on the ladder is an aggressive deck, albeit a worse aggressive deck than Pirate Warrior. Whether your opponent is playing Odd Rogue, Spectral Cutlass, something in between, their pirate package just does not stand against the Pirate Warrior package. Play aggressively and establish a strong board presence as the only AoE Rogue has is Fan of Knives and potentially Vanish.
• Shaman (2-0)
Fortunately, on this climb, I only played against Even Shaman, which like Rogue, is an excellent aggressive deck but does not stand well against Pirate Warrior. Like similar aggressive matchups, the key to winning these games is to control your opponent’s board with an equipped weapon while building your army of Pirates. Be careful of going too wide in the early game as a large board can facilitate an early Sea Giant or two from an opponent, which, combined with a Taunt lackey, can result in an unsolvable board state.
While I didn’t run into this list on my climb, it is important to note that Big Shaman is not a good matchup for Pirate Warrior, but similar to Odd Paladin is not super prevalent in high legend. Big Shaman uses cheap spells to cheat out sticky minions that are usually unbeatable. Be wary of Big Shaman, but I would recommend that you mulligan as if it were Even Shaman in most matchups as Big Shaman is a largely unwinnable matchup, in my opinion.
• Warlock (3-3)
Cube Warlock and Discard Warlock (throwback!) are the two dominant Warlock archetypes you’ll see on ladder. With the recent nerf to Odd Demon Hunter, I would expect a large increase in Cube Warlock as this archetype was largely suppressed by the early game power of Odd DH. Discard Warlock is an easy matchup for Pirate Warrior as they have no real AoE and no weapons to remove minions, which means they rely on cheating out minions or effects through RANDOM discarding to generate value on board.
Furthermore, the value generation off of Liveware Lance can create sticky boards that Discard Warlock cannot deal with. Important to this matchup is not taking too much damage in the early game from weapon hits as Doomguard burst damage combined with well-placed First of Jaraxxus and Soulfires can close out a game that would otherwise be winnable. As the aggressive deck, make your opponent make the trades for you rather than the other way around.
Against Cube Warlock, you’ll want to play as aggressively as possible without overextending too much onto the board. The exception to this rule is if you can play around Defile, which is the premier Cube Warlock board clear. Plague of Flames is equally problematic, and when this consistent removal package combined with single target AoE like Unstable Felbolt makes this a tricky matchup. I like to treat my games against Cube Warlock as a pseudo control deck, so I’m not so cautious about overextending as I would be against Priest, but I make sure not to go crazy to get completely blown out. Livewire Lance into Ethereal Lackey into Brawl is one of the best ways to deal with the large taunts Cube Warlock can put in the way, but is a difficult line to execute across a wide number of games consistently.
• Warrior (10-4)
There are two main Warrior archetypes you will run into on the ladder. The first is the mirror match. To win in the mirror match, you’ll want to mulligan aggressively for any type of weapon. I notice that newer players to the archetype (myself included) will sometimes try to hold cards in their hand for large Ship’s Cannon or Skybarge turns in the hope that this will provide a large tempo swing. I would recommend against playing this strategy because you are relying on randomly generated 2-damage effects instead of applying pressure to your opponent through superior board presence. This isn’t to say that this strategy is totally ineffective, but rather that it is at best an okay counter to a well-developed opposing board.
Against Odd Warrior, you will likely lose as this deck just farms aggressive decks. I have been able to beat this deck a few times, but it is largely at the expense of my opponents’ poor draws.
Legendary card replacements
The current popular Pirate Warrior decks play two to four Legendary cards. Recently, certain lists removed Patches the Pirate from their decks, with mixed success. There is a lot of upside to not drawing Patches the Pirate, and it sure saves a lot of frustration. However, the card is still considered worthwhile by most players. If, however, you don’t have access to the card, a good replacement is a card like Kor’kron Elite. The card is reliable on turn four and always keeps a use later in the game.
Ancharrr, on the other hand, is a card I wouldn’t recommend replacing. The strength of this card for this deck is simply unmatched. If you don’t have access to this card, it would be easier to play the older versions of Pirate Warrior, more centered around a weapon like Death’s Bite with weapon buff effects.
Leeroy and Skycap’n Kragg both fit a similar role in the deck. They both fit a role, really well. However, neither is a requirement to play this deck, even to the highest ranks of legend. Players often replace these cards with the tools mentioned before. Examples for replacements include Kor’kron elite, an additional weapon, or more early-game tools.
This list is certainly the most expensive one I have presented at this point in my F2P writeups, but I want to reiterate that this list and the previous ones I’ve written I created through diligent playing and NO financial investment. If you commit yourself to build a deck, you will be able to get there, and patience is key!
In terms of future considerations, the most accepted iteration of the Pirate Warrior list differs from the one I have presented in that you exchange one Livewire Lance for one Captain Greenskin. While I understand the weapon-boosting merit of Captain Greenskin, I opt to play the second Lance because I like the flexibility the lackeys provide me in tight spots.
I noticed that Greenskin underwhelming in my experience and an example of a win-more rather than a crucial card. As someone who needs to spend dust efficiently, I just wasn’t able to justify to myself the 1600 additional dust needed to craft Greenskin. If you have a complete account, I would recommend Greenskin, but I would test out two Lances to see if they work better for you!
I like having my Corsair Caches active throughout more of the game, even if this comes at the cost of tutoring Ancharrr 33% of the time as opposed to 50% of the time. The nerf to Corsair Cache will slightly diminish the damage output of a tutored weapon. Still, the charges are what help this deck tick, so I would not say that the nerf will affect the competitive viability of the presented list.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading! I’m looking for competitive HS players to add to my friend list as I’m still relatively new. If you have a spot open, feel free to add me to your friend list. My friend tag is Cowtipper#1360. For more of Cowtipper’s, be sure to read more of his work on Reddit.
For more Hearthstone strategy content, be sure to read all about Discard Warlock in our latest strategy guide.