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Budget Magic: $53 (26 tix) RB Pirates (Standard)

大家好, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Rivals of Ixalan is here, and we're kicking off our exploration of the fresh Standard format with a list that isn't just budget but ultra-budget: RB Pirates! Rivals of Ixalan released a bunch of powerful, aggressive Pirates into the Standard format, and with both Ramunap Red and Temur Energy on the downswing thanks to the recent bannings, it might finally be time for Pirates to swashbuckle their way to the forefront of the Standard format! Do new additions like Daring Buccaneer and Dire Fleet Poisoner have what it takes to make RB Pirate Aggro a real deck in Standard, for just $53? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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RB Pirates (Deck Tech)

RB Pirates vs. Temur Energy (Match 1)

RB Pirates vs. GB Constrictor (Match 2)

RB Pirates vs. UW Gifts (Match 3)

RB Pirates vs. GB Explore (Match 4)

RB Pirates vs. UW Cycling (Match 5)

The Deck

While there are several different ways to go about building Pirates in Rivals of Ixalan Standard, including midrange and even control, the red-black version of Pirates is a straightforward aggro deck. Thanks to some of the new additions from Rivals of Ixalan, RB Pirates has a strong curve from one mana up to four mana. The primary plan of the deck is to get in a bunch of damage early in the game with cheap creatures and then finish things off with some sneaky reach after the board gets clogged up and attacking becomes more difficult. Since RB Pirates is all about the curve, probably the easiest way to understand the deck is simply to work our way up the curve from one mana to four mana.


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While an unassuming little uncommon, Daring Buccaneer might the best Pirate from Rivals of Ixalan, and it's certainly one of the biggest new additions to Pirate aggro. Having a two-powered one-drop is good, and coming along with two toughness means Daring Buccaneer is pretty far above the curve as far as one-drops are concerned, especially in our deck with 28 Pirates, which means we should always have something to reveal. Not only does Daring Buccaneer give us fast starts all by itself, but it's also important for powering up our other one-drops, like Rigging Runner

Rigging Runner is pretty bad as our first one drop, coming down as just a 1/1 with first strike if we don't raid, but it's very, very good as a second one-drop. With the addition of Daring Buccaneer to Pirates, it's now pretty easy to play Daring Buccaneer on Turn 1 and, after attacking, follow up on Turn 2 with a 2/2 first-striking Rigging Runner and maybe another one-drop as well. These triple one-drop starts are some of the most explosive draws we can have in RB Pirates, and when it happens, it almost feels like we are playing Modern Burn, with Goblin Guide into Monastery Swiftspear and another Goblin Guide, pushing our opponent onto their back foot and hopefully closing out the game before they have a chance to recover. 

Finally, we have a single copy of Grasping Buccaneer, which is by far the worst of our one-drops. While it does have two power when it's attacking, it's still a big step back from Rigging Runner and Daring Buccaneer. However, having one additional one-drop is nice because it helps maximize our chances of getting the devastating triple one-drop starts we were talking about a moment ago.


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We have three different two-drops, and they all perform different roles in the deck. Kari Zev, Skyship Raider is our aggressive two-drop, hitting for three damage with the help of Ragavan and being difficult to block thanks to menace and first strike. While it doesn't do anything tricky, having three power and evasion helps make sure we get off to fast starts, getting in as much damage as possible to close our the game before our opponent finds a sweeper to ruin our plans.

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Kitesail Freebooter is our most disruptive two-drop, and while it doesn't hit for much damage on its own, it does two really important things for our deck. First, having flying means that Kitesail Freebooter is one of our best creatures for attacking and triggering raid on things like Rigging Runner and Ruin Raider. Second, Kitesail Freebooter gives us a main-deck Duress, which is essential, especially against control decks. While our Pirate clock is fast, it's not always fast enough to kill the opponent before they get enough mana for something like Settle the Wreckage or Fumigate. Having Kitesail Freebooter steal away a sweeper for just a turn or two is often enough time for us to push through enough damage to close out the game. All things considered, even though Kitesail Freebooter is one of our weakest attackers, it's one of the most important Pirates in our deck. 

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While we only have three copies of Dire Fleet Poisoner in our deck, it's not because the card is bad—it's actually very powerful and fights with Daring Buccaneer for title of best Pirate from Rivals of Ixalan—but because I really wanted to keep the price of the deck as low as possible so ultra-budget players would have a deck to play in Rivals of Ixalan Standard right away. 

Why is Dire Fleet Poisoner so good? Mostly because it's almost never bad. If we are trying to force through damage and close out the game, it offers a hard-to-block (because of deathtouch) attacker and also the ability to pump one of our other Pirates. The pump ability is especially devastating, since it also gives the Pirate deathtouch until end of turn, which allows us to attack into big blockers and use Dire Fleet Poisoner like a weird removal spell by giving our blocked Pirate deathtouch until end of turn. Oddly, this is especially relevant in our Pirate deck because we occasionally chump attack to trigger raid, so our opponent is likely to block, thinking we are just trying to trigger Ruin Raider and opening the door for the blowout. Finally, if we ever get stuck in a defensive position, Dire Fleet Poisoner works like a removal spell, Ambush Vipering into play after our opponent attacks to block and kill huge Dinosaurs like Carnage Tyrant or other annoying threats like Bristling Hydra


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Ruin Raider is great in our deck, coming pretty close to being an upgraded version of Dark Confidant. Our game plan is to be attacking every turn anyway, so Ruin Raider gives us free cards every turn for very little effort. Since RB Pirates is built so low to the ground, the loss of life is rarely a problem—in fact, the average converted mana cost of our main deck is only 1.23. Having a steady stream of card advantage not only helps us find more Pirates and burn spells to close out the game but makes sure that we have some action left over if our opponent manages to find a Fumigate or Sweltering Suns to disrupt our plans.

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While I was building RB Pirates, I wasn't completely sold on Forerunner of the Coalition, which is why we only have three copies, but after playing a bunch of matches with the deck, I'm very impressed with the Pirate tutor's power. Forerunner of the Coalition basically does two things for our deck. First, it gives us a surprising amount of reach by making our opponent lose one whenever a Pirate enters the battlefield under our control. Since we are pretty good at getting in early damage, this is sometimes very helpful in closing out the game after our opponent stabilizes and it becomes harder to attack. In theory, once we get to the late game, we can simply keep tutoring up more copies of Forerunner of the Coalition. After we have two or three on the battlefield, every one of the Pirates we cast is dealing a lot of damage without ever attacking. For example, if we cast Forerunner of the Coalition (drain one) to tutor up another Forerunner, cast Forerunner of the Coalition the next turn (drain 2) to tutor up a Forerunner, cast Forerunner of the Coalition the next turn (drain 3) and tutor up any random Pirate, and cast the Pirate the next turn (drain 3), we end up making our opponent lose 9 life, which is usually enough to close out the game in combination with our other reach and early damage. The second thing Forerunner of the Coalition does is let us tutor up a couple of powerful but conditional four-drops.


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Dire Fleet Neckbreaker is weird. A lot of times, it's too expensive and lacking in power for us to really want to draw it, especially since flipping it off of Ruin Raider is painful. However, there are also times where it is extremely powerful and allows us to win out of nowhere, especially against removal-light decks that can't kill it. Forerunner of the Coalition means we can run Dire Fleet Neckbreaker as a one-of and hopefully not draw it when it's bad but still consistently find it when it is good.

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Rowdy Crew is basically the same as Dire Fleet Neckbreaker, a little too slow and expensive to be a card we want to draw all the time but really good in specific matchups, except rather than being good in removal-light aggro battles, Rowdy Crew shines against removal-heavy control and midrange decks because it draws us a card when it enters the battlefield (and maybe even filters away some extra lands, if we are lucky). Just like Dire Fleet Neckbreaker, we can play it as a one-of and use Forerunner of the Coalition to tutor it up when it's good, while leaving it hiding away in our library in matchups where it isn't as powerful. It's also worth mentioning that both Dire Fleet Neckbreaker and Rowdy Crew are right on curve with Forerunner of the Coalition, which makes the interaction even more powerful.

Removal / Reach

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Rounding out the deck, we have a handful of removal spells. Shock and Lightning Strike give us the ability to kill opposing creatures in the early game so we can keep attacking with our Pirates, and then in the late game, we can shift our focus to throwing our burn at our opponent's face to close out the game. Meanwhile, Abrade gives us a main-deck way to deal with artifacts like God-Pharaoh's Gift and Heart of Kiran, which is important because both Gift decks and Mardu Vehicles seem to be on the rise in our post-banning Rivals of Ixalan Standard.


All in all we finished our video matches 4-1, only losing in a really long, grindy match against UW Cycling, although it's worth mentioning that we actually played against the same GB Constrictor deck twice and lost the other match, bringing our total record to 4-2. Overall, I was very impressed with the power of the deck, especially considering its $54 price tag. It's fast enough to get in a lot of early damage and then usually has enough reach to close out the game after the opponent stabilizes the board. Having Kitesail Freebooter in the main deck was key to keeping up with decks like God-Pharaoh's Gift and control, while against other aggressive lists, we have a ton of really strong one-drops to race. While playing Ramunap Ruins-less mono-red might be the right way to go if you have the budget to play a playset of Hazoret the Fervent, RB Pirates might just be the best budget-friendly aggro deck in Rivals of Ixalan Standard.

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As for changes to make to the budget list, I'm pretty happy with where we are at, as far as the main deck is concerned. While another Dire Fleet Poisoner (probably over Grasping Scoundrel) would be ideal, it does increase the price tag a bit, and the deck can function with just three Poisoners. On the other hand, the sideboard could use some work. While March of the Drowned made sense on paper, it's probably not worth a slot, mostly because one of the wraths we are worried about is Settle the Wreckage, which exiles. Plus, rather than trying to win after a wrath, we might just be better off trying to prevent the wrath in the first place with something like Doomfall. Now that we are seeing how the Rivals of Ixalan metagame is developing, we probably need the full four copies of Abrade as well to battle God-Pharaoh's Gift and Vehicles. 

In sum, RB Pirates felt really solid. While from a high-level tournament perspective the question will be whether Pirate aggro is better than Hazoret the Fervent aggro, from the perspective of someone looking to compete on a budget, RB Pirates is a great option. The $54 price tag puts it in the ultra-budget range, and the deck is good enough to to win a reasonable number of games on Magic Online or at your local FNM. So, if you are looking for a super-cheap starting point for Rivals of Ixalan Standard, and if you like Pirates and getting aggressive, this might just be the budget deck for you!

Ultra-Budget RB Pirates

No ultra-budget list this week, since the list we played on video already falls into the ultra-budget price range at $54!

The non-budget build of RB Pirates doesn't get a ton of changes but does get a handful of upgrades. Unclaimed Territory improves the mana, giving us another untapped dual land. We drop Grasping Scoundrel for the fourth copy of Dire Fleet Poisoner because Poisoner is great in just about every matchup. We also tweak the removal a bit, adding in a couple of Fatal Pushes over two Shocks. Otherwise, a bulk of the changes come to the sideboard, where we get Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Angrath, the Flame-Chained to help fight through removal-heavy control and midrange decks. I considered adding Hazoret the Fervent to the main deck, just because the God is so powerful, but decided against it. This being said, playing some number of Hazorets is at the very least worth testing, even though she isn't a Pirate. All around, this build has some advantages over the build we played on video, especially after sideboarding in grindy matchups, but considering the changes to the main deck are minimal, in most matchups, it won't play very differently from the version we ran for the videos.


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

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