My Favorite Ixalan Limited Archetype

by Martin Dang on 28 September 2017, Thursday

Martin Dang


My Favorite Ixalan Limited Archetype

Whenever a new expansion is released, it means a whole new metagame! Ixalan is really great, especially when we get early access on Magic Online as well. After three Prereleases and eight Booster Drafts, let's take a look at the new Limited format together!

As you know, Ixalan is roaming with Dinosaurs, Vampires, and Merfolk. Yet in my experience so far, another creature type has stood above all others… Pirates!!


Admiral Beckett Brass



Why Pirates?

I simply love playing Pirates. Well, I call it Pirates because the majority of creatures in the deck are Pirates. However, in reality, it seems like the tribal theme in Ixalan hasn't been pushed too much. It's not necessary to have your deck overly filled with one creature type for it to still have synergy and actually be good.

The power levels of creatures in Ixalan aren't too high compared to the previous block but most of the creatures do have some sort of ability which makes the game slightly more complex.


Run Aground Depths of Desire Perilous Voyage

You have access to good common removals in all colors except blue, which instead provides you with two good common bounce spells, Run Aground and Depths of Desire. There is also Perilous Voyage in uncommon.


Siren Lookout Dire Fleet Interloper Brazen Buccaneers 

Ixalan has also brought us a great new mechanic. Explore offers players more card selection, making the game more action-packed. It's kind of like scry but better. Overall, I really enjoy playing this format, it rewards players who take the time to learn the format. 

Sealed Deck

Let's first have a look into a Sealed pool of mine and how those games played out. I played this deck at my local game store's 64-man Prerelease and finished with a 6-0 record!


Please click for larger view.

It seemed like the field mostly consisted of Dinosaur decks, so a good tempo deck like this was often able to finish them off before they could establish board position. Even though I went undefeated, I lost several games and ended more matches under 5 life. That is a good sign though, because it means we have a healthy format where every decision counts and knowing when to attack or play defensively, can reward you in the end.

Here are some of the cards which impressed me the most!


Pirate's Cutlass Siren's Ruse Sleek Schooner 

Pirate's Cutlass is great especially when you play a two-drop Pirate and equip it the next turn. That creates a really strong clock. As for Siren's Ruse, there are many spot removal spells in Ixalan and to be able to counter them and draw a card plus get whatever "enters the battlefield" ability the creature might have, is amazing! This often equals a 3-for-1 play, for the mere cost of two mana. 


Sleek Schooner Dusk Legion Dreadnought


Sleek Schooner is definitely not Renegade Freighter but that is a great thing for the format. There are just too many 3/2's running around for this card to be efficient. After a few rounds, I exchanged it with Dusk Legion Dreadnought. There were many Dinosaurs and a 4/6 is great at stopping them. 


Storm Fleet Pyromancer Skittering Heartstopper

Storm Fleet Pyromancer is good for sure and I thought it would be great with 2 Siren's Ruse in my deck. However, it is simply not efficient enough in Sealed and definitely not worth the splash. Instead, I replaced it with Skittering Heartstopper, which was literally quite good for stopping Dinosaurs, while my fliers closed the game. 

In Sealed Deck, your deck will be built depending on your card pool, but I recommend trying a fast deck like this one if you are given the chance, rather than a slow Dinosaurs deck. I would only volutarily build a Dinosaur deck if you have some way to break stalemates. I believe that the "Dino Versus Dino" board state gets clogged up very fast, which forces us to go wide or hae an alternative game plan.

Drafting Pirates in Ixalan


Watertrap Weaver

Drafting Pirates is a bit different, but not by much. I still believe that in Ixalan you want to aim for a tempo deck. Luckily, there are plenty of tempo cards like Run Aground, Watertrap Weaver and Pirate's Cutlass. In addition, the removal spells like Walk the Plank and Vanquish the Weak aren't too heavy of the mana. But best of all, there are lots of common creatures with evasion in blue and black. 
I try to get a sub-theme of Pirates in my UB drafts, but even when I don't succeed, the decks are actually still fine.


Please click for larger view.

This deck doesn't rely too much on the Pirates theme. I wanted to have more early game cards, but they simply dried out of those in the draft. However the evasion in this deck was great. If I could manage to survive the first few turns without my opponent having too much on the board fliers would surely take over the game.

My latest Blue-Black Pirates deck, where the Pirate theme was a bit more open.


Please click for larger view.

There are many 2/2s in this set and because of the nature of the format (such as raid), your opponent tend to want to attack you. This is why you have to make sure that you have to be prepared in the early game.


March of the Drowned Storm Fleet Spy Deadeye Tormentor

The Blue-Black decks don't hit for so much damage, so you need to be conservative with your life total and buy time during the early stages of the game. The deck wins on its evasion creatures and removal, while the Pirates hold the ground, generate card advantage and buy time, through cards like March of the Drowned, Siren's Ruse, Storm Fleet Spy and Deadeye Tormentor.




Yarrrr... Matey!


I currently have 4 trophies in Competitive Leagues on Magic Online while testing this strategy. I really enjoy playing these decks, since there are loads of decisions to make. At the beginning of a new format, strategies such as all-in aggro or three-color control strategies are usually overdrafted. A tempo deck leaning towards midrange (such as Blue-Black Pirates) is usually underdrafted as a result.

I recommend you to give this strategy a try if it feels open during your next Booster Draft. Regardless of how many Pirates you end up with, Blue-Black seems to have received numerous fun and efficient tools for Ixalan Limited.

Good luck!

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