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Budget Magic: $43 (25 tix) Favorable Pirates (Standard)


բարև, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! Ixalan is finally here, which means we're due to start exploring the new format! First up, we have a fun, aggressive list that isn't just budget but ultra-budget, coming in at just $43 in paper (and 25 tix online): Favorable Pirates! You probably remember that we played a Favorable Winds deck in Modern a few weeks ago. Well, Favorable Pirates is basically an attempt to port that deck into Standard. While the actual cards are different, the plan is the same: play a bunch of cheap, disruptive fliers and use Favorable Winds to make them into real threats, allowing us to close out the game. Can Favorable Winds work in Standard, backed by some tricky Pirate synergies? Let's get to the video and find out, and then we'll talk more about the deck!

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Favorable Pirates (Deck Tech)

Budget Magic: Favorable Pirates vs. Temur Energy (Match 1)

Budget Magic: Favorable Pirates vs. GB Ramp (Match 2)

Budget Magic: Favorable Pirates vs. UW Approach (Match 3)

Budget Magic: Favorable Pirates vs. Mono-U Favorable Winds (Match 4)

Budget Magic: Favorable Pirates vs. RB Aggro (Match 5)

The Deck

The basic idea of Favorable Pirates is pretty simple: we play cheap fliers, use Favorable Winds to pump them up, and beat our opponent down. This being said, there is one major decision point when it comes to building around Favorable Winds: we have to decide if we are a Pirate deck that happens to use Favorable Winds or a Favorable Winds deck that plays enough Pirates to take advantage of some of their tribal synergies. For right now, being a Favorable Winds decks with some Pirate synergies seems to be the way to go, because the curve of flying Pirates just isn't strong enough yet (although this might change with the release of Rivals of Ixalan this winter). As such, we aren't a true Pirate tribal deck; instead, we are essentially a flying tribal deck that manages to also take advantage of some strong Pirate synergies. 

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The namesake Favorable Winds is the most important card in our deck. While all of our creatures are evasive, most of them are also pretty small on their own, but with a Favorable Winds or two on the battlefield, our underpowered attackers turn into meaningful threats. As such, we always want a copy of Favorable Winds in our opening hand, and we don't mind getting multiple copies on the battlefield as the game goes along. In fact, Favorable Pirates actually tends to struggle sometimes when we don't have the namesake enchantment—that's how important Favorable Winds is to our deck.

One-Drops

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Siren Stormtamer is the best of our one-drops, both because it's a Pirate, which helps to unlock the power of some of our other cards, and because its ability is surprisingly strong. Not only can it counter a removal spell pointed at one of our other creatures, but it can also stop Settle the Wreckage, which is gaining in popularity, or even a burn spell to our face. While leaving up a mana is problematic in the early game, our deck has a pretty aggressive curve, so by the mid- and late game, we usually have an extra mana around to counter something if we need to. Plus, Siren Stormtamer is good in our deck even without the ability, coming down on Turn 1 and then attacking for two on Turn 2 if we have Favorable Winds.

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Hope of Ghirapur and Blight Keeper are where it becomes apparent that our deck is more about Favorable Winds than it is about tribal synergies. For our deck to function optimally, we really, really need a one-mana flying creature on Turn 1, not just for curve purposes but to support some of our other cards, which means just a playset of Siren Stormtamer isn't enough. While none of the other one-mana fliers are all that exciting, Hope of Ghirapur and Blight Keeper are the best of the somewhat lacking options. While both are in the deck primarily because they are one-mana fliers, they both technically have upside.

Hope of Ghirapur's ability doesn't look all that impressive, and most of the time it isn't, but every once in a while, it randomly wins the game. For example, we are a turn short of lethal, and we know our opponent has a Fumigate or Approach of the Second Sun in hand. We can simply sacrifice the Hope of Ghirapur to keep our opponent from casting their sorcery and then kill them after untapping. The upside of Blight Keeper is pretty much nonexistent, since it costs so much mana, but in theory, we can close out the game if the game goes long enough by draining away our opponent's last four points of life. 

Two-Drops

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Kitesail Freebooter is one of our most disruptive creatures, allowing us to pull any non-creature spell from our opponent's hand when it enters the battlefield. This is especially helpful against sweepers like Sweltering Suns or Fumigate, which are very strong against our deck. While its body isn't exciting, it turns into a reasonable threat if we can get a Favorable Winds or two on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Storm Fleet Aerialist is one of the reasons we're overloaded with one-mana fliers. When we can raid it on Turn 2, it's actually a pretty good aggressive creature, and once we have a Favorable Winds, the fourth point of toughness means it dodges quite a bit of popular removal like Abrade and Lightning Strike. Most importantly, Kitesail Freebooter and Storm Fleet Aerialist together keep our aggressive, flying curve going to help ensure we are pressuring our opponent as much as possible in the early game.

Finishers

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At the top of our curve are Aethersphere Harvester and Dreamcaller Siren, which are key to helping us close out the game in more ways than one. Most obviously, they are big fliers that can deal nice chunks of damage in the air. Aethersphere Harvester gives us a way to upgrade our 1/1 fliers into bigger threats and also gives us a card that is good on defense (for the most part, all of our creatures are much better when they are attacking than when they are blocking). Meanwhile, not only is Dreamcaller Siren our biggest creature, but it can also help us force through damage if our opponent happens to have fliers on defense. 

Games with Favorable Pirates often end up as races. Our opponent's creatures are typically bigger than ours, so we can't effectively block them, but our creatures have flying, so our opponent can't effectively block either. Aethersphere Harvester and Dreamcaller Siren are extremely helpful in winning the race. While we don't have a steady source of energy, Aethersphere Harvester can gain us six life over the course of a couple of turns, which helps shift the race in our favor. Meanwhile, thanks to flash, Dreamcaller Siren can also be used defensively, as we flash it into play during our opponent's turn to tap down their two biggest attackers. 

Other Stuff

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Lookout's Dispersal is the best counterspell we've had in Standard for a long time and is reason enough by itself to play enough Pirates to turn it into an upgraded Mana Leak. When we play a Siren Stormtamer on Turn 1, we can use Lookout's Dispersal to counter our opponent's two-drop, which is a big swing in our favor, and in the mid- to late game, if we have a Pirate, Lookout's Dispersal is cheap enough that we can often deploy a threat and still leave it up to counter whatever our opponent does during their turn. Meanwhile, Chart a Course is extremely powerful in our deck and is another reason to overload on one-mana fliers. Divination has been played during some Standards, and in our deck, Chart a Course is almost always a two-mana Divination, since we have so many cheap fliers to trigger raid. While it doesn't enable any specific combo or synergy, it provides too much value to pass up.

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While we'd play some number of Fatal Push if budget weren't a concern, Unsummon is a great removal spell for our deck, since we are on the tempo plan. We've talked about this before in regards to various Vapor Snag decks in Modern, but sometimes bouncing an opponent's creature and making them spend mana to recast it is actually better than killing it outright. It's also worth mentioning that we occasionally use Unsummon on our own creatures to save them from our opponent's removal spells, especially with creatures like Kitesail Freebooter, which we can recast to Duress our opponent again. Finally, the one Never // Return gives us a hard removal spell and also a way to deal with planeswalkers, which makes it a solid one-of hedge in the main deck. 

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished our video matches 3-2, although we lost a rematch against Ramp that didn't make it into the video series. The deck felt fairly competitive, although it sometimes feels a bit underpowered if we don't have a Favorable Winds, since many of our creatures are so small on their own. It's also worth pointing out that, win or lose, pretty much all of our games were super close. If you look at our two losses, we were about a turn away from winning against UW Approach, and against RB Aggro, if we top-decked a creature to crew our Aethersphere Harvester in game three, we could have stolen that match as well. On the other hand, most of our wins were close as well, so if you decide to pick up Favorable Pirates, expect a lot of close, nail-biting matches. 

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As for changes I'd make after playing the matches, there really aren't many if the goal is to keep the price near $40. I might try to squeeze in one more Aethersphere Harvester (which was amazing for our Mono-U Favorable opponent, making me think that perhaps three isn't enough), and if you want to up the budget a little bit, it would be pretty easy to replace Submerged Boneyard with Evolving Wilds and add in some copies of Fatal Push as another cheap, efficient removal spell. Otherwise, I think we already have all of the best, most efficient fliers in our deck. 

All in all, Favorable Pirates is a fun deck to play with a lot of decisions and interaction. While I'm sure not how competitive it is in general, I'm pretty sure it is one of the most competitive ultra-budget decks in the format, so if you are looking for a deck that's good enough to pick up some wins at FNM or on Magic Online but even our typical $100 budget is more than you are looking to spend, Favorable Pirates is a great option for you!

Ultra-Budget Favorable Pirates

No ultra-budget deck this week, since the build we played for the videos was already ultra-budget!

Non-Budget Favorable Pirates

Not a ton of changes to the non-budget build of Favorable Pirates. While there are certainly other possibilities involving Favorable Winds in Standard (perhaps UW Favorable Winds, Drake Haven, or even something involving Riddleform), if we stick with blue and black, there's not really much to upgrade. In the mana base, we get Fetid Pools as an additional dual land and Evolving Wilds to enable Fatal Push (which is a great removal spell for the deck). Otherwise, we upgrade the sideboard with Vraska's Contempt over Never // Return and a couple of copies of The Scarab God, which is too powerful to pass up, even if it doesn't have any specific synergy with the deck. Altogether, these changes make the deck a bit better, especially Fatal Push and the improved mana, but I'm not sure there's a meaningful difference between this build and the one from the videos in terms of level of competitiveness. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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