Caverns of Ixalan has some of my favorite pre-built commander decks I’ve seen in a while. Vampires, Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and Pirates are all fun decks built around interesting creature types. At first I was more excited for vampires and dinosaurs, but after we got the whole deck spoiled for Pirates it’s now my favorite of the set.
In this Ahoy Matey Upgrade Guide, you’ll find out which cards to use to make this deck better. First, you’ll find some main cards you should focus on getting first. I’ll then go over budget cards and higher cost cards with sections focusing on creatures, mana sources, graveyard value, and generally good cards. Finally, I’ll talk about which cards to remove, and provide a sample decklist.
There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s get to it.
Ahoy Mateys Overview
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable is built around bringing Pirates back from your graveyard each combat. Of the possible commanders, she’s strong and requires the least number of changes to the deck.
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable is such a fun new commander for Pirates. She mills and then every combat brings a creature back. And not only brings it back, makes it 4/4 when most Pirates are weaker and gives it haste for immediately attacking.
A lot of Pirates are week stat wise but make up for it with abilities like menace or flying to make them more difficult to block, so making them stronger is extremely powerful. Considering how many Pirates also have abilities built around attacking and dealing combat damage this is great for offensive players.
Brass is also the perfect colors for graveyard decks. Blue and red have cards for drawing and discarding cards and black has cards to use your graveyard.
Ahoy Mateys Decklist
The original decklist has a good number of some of the most powerful Pirates in Magic, a great starting point for this deck. Now with each commander precon, they usually have 2-3 potential commanders so the deck will have cards meant to work with one of them but won’t work as well for the others. So once you pick your commander you can potentially remove cards that work with the other commanders, but doesn’t work with the one you’re using.
So for this deck, we have Don Andres, the Renegade that focuses on stealing opponent’s spells. If we’re using Admiral Brass, Unsinkable we can remove Don Andres and cards that are meant to work with him. Though I’d say keep some cards that steal spells since that’s pretty fun.
Personally I would love to build a deck around Don Andres, the Renegade, but I feel the deck would need a lot more changes to work well with him. Replacing many Pirates and graveyard abilities with cards that cast your opponents’ spells.
Top 3 Cards to Upgrade Ahoy Mateys With
These are some of the best cards to enhance this deck quickly and while not budget per say, they’re not going to break the bank. Great for fueling your commander’s abilities and helping the deck in general.
A surprisingly cheap card given what it does. It’ll allow your commander to resurrect 2 Pirates per combat, but also let you copy other spells and creatures. Considering how many Pirates are low CMC, it’ll be easy to copy those cards.
I’m not a fan of exiling my creatures, so Power Conduit lets you remove the finality counters your commander puts on creatures. This way they can die and be brought back repeatedly. It also puts +1/+1 counters on your Pirates, making them stronger for this aggressive deck.
A great card since it lets you draw cards, then discard to put Pirates in your graveyard, and then untap your lands to play more cards. Great value in multiple areas this deck needs.
Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel
A new pirate for Caverns of Ixalan, he is a low cost flyer that allows you to draw and discard to fill your graveyard and eventually lets you cast cards for free.
Ahoy Mateys Upgrade – Budget
These are cards that you should hopefully find for cheap. (I tried to mostly aim for $3 or less.) They’ll be good starting points to upgrade fast and cheap and buy you time to save up for some of the pricier upgrade options.
Enterprising Scallywag is a low cost pirate that lets you get treasure tokens as long as permanents are hitting your graveyard, perfect for fetch lands and cards that let you draw and discard. Your commander already wants you to fill your graveyard so might as well get extra value with that.
Pirates that can be a removal are rare, but useful. One such example is Kitesail Larcenist, which can turn your opponent’s creatures or artifacts into Treasure tokens. Turning an opposing commander into a Treasure will feel pretty nice.
Another great pirate for this deck is Glint-Horn Buccaneer. He can damage your opponents and allows you to discard and draw cards to fill your graveyard with Pirates for your commander.
While Cutthroat Negotiator lets your opponents draw more cards, the ability to get you treasure tokens and also draw is worth it.
More Graveyard Synergies
There are many cards that let you search your deck for creatures to put in your graveyard, but Unmarked Grave is the cheapest one dollar wise.
While Thrill of Possibility isn’t exactly a graveyard card, it allows you to discard Pirates to draw other cards you’ll need. You’re just going to resurrect the pirate later anyway.
Strionic Resonator is similar to Lithoform Engine, but cheaper both dollar and mana cost. Less abilities but you can get it out easier and save mana to cast Pirates. It just recently got a reprint as one of the Lost Caverns of Ixalan Box Toppers.
Fain, the Broker is another great card to remove finality counters from your creatures and give you treasure tokens. Sadly not a pirate though.
Finally, Crippling Fear is a boardwipe that can target non-Pirates, so you can kill your opponent’s creatures and yours are safe.
Nesting Grounds is a surprising land that won’t help your mana base but will let you move finality counters to your opponent’s creatures to get them exiled.
There are two cheap artifacts missing from the deck. Mind Stone gives you mana early and draws a card in your time of need later. The mana from Fellwar Stone can be kind of random but it’s easy to play early for instant use.
Ahoy Mateys Upgrade – Higher Cost Cards
These cards are higher dollar value but they’re worth it. While not exact replacements for the budget cards, they’re a good mix of cards to mix with the budget cards once you’ve played the deck a bit and know which cards you like and don’t like.
Dockside Extortionist is easily one of the most powerful and popular Pirates, he unfortunately also has one of the highest price tags. But if you have it in your budget, he’s a great addition not only for his ability and being a pirate, but your commander can resurrect him to get you extra treasure tokens.
Pirated Copy is a strong creature to clone your opponent’s best creatures and also draw you cards. Even your opponent’s original creature can draw you cards when it damages your opponents.
Sadly, Roaming Throne isn’t a pirate in your graveyard, but if you cast it it becomes a pirate that can allow your commander’s ability to trigger twice per turn. And can also help other pirate’s abilities to trigger twice.
More Graveyard Synergies
Entomb is a great card for any graveyard centric deck, it lets you search your deck for your favorite pirate to put in your graveyard for your commander to resurrect.
Since your deck focuses on a single creature type, Haunting Voyage might be great. Though maybe not as useful if your commander is constantly bringing creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield.
There are a ton of black tutors but Demonic Tutor is my favorite. Two mana to get any card to go straight to your hand for instant use. Great early game or when you draw it turn 8.
Angrath, Minotaur Pirate might not be the best planeswalker, but the ability to bring Pirates back and wipe out 1/1 tokens really help this deck. The high mana cost isn’t too bad if you have enough cards to create treasure tokens.
Mystic Remora is one of my favorite draw cards. Low cost and it’ll likely die after a couple turns but either you’ll draw a good number of cards or you’ll prevent your opponents from casting spells.
While I’m not a fan of damaging myself, I still see Ancient Tomb as a good add if you have the money for it. Helps you ramp fast if you can play it early in the game. Even late game can help you cast the final spell you need.
Cavern of Souls is a great card for decks focusing on one creature type to protect your spells from being countered. Plus, it was just reprinted so it’s slighly less expensive than it used to be.
Blood Crypt, Watery Grave, and Steam Vents are great adds to fix your mana. I would personally use them to replace Choked Estuary, Foreboding Ruins, and Frostboil Snarl. They each tap for 2 colors each, but you don’t need to have lands in your hand to get the lands to enter untapped. Paying life is usually easier later game when you’ve already played your basic lands.
Scalding Tarn, Polluted Delta, and Bloodstained Mire are all amazing fetchlands that fit in every commander deck. Personally I replace basic lands for them, since each one basically counts for 2 potential basic lands and they’d be untapped.
Fabled Passage is another great fetchland. Not as great as the previous 3, but it can search for any basic land and if you have enough lands the new land is untapped. Though if you have a good number of fetchlands, you might want to then add more basic lands to make up for it.
Cards to Remove
I love Bident of Thassa, but the deck has a new card with similar abilities yet works better with our commander. The Indomitable also lets you draw when your creatures damage your opponents but can also be cast from your graveyard which is good for how much we’re milling ourselves.
Dire Fleet Ravager is another card I enjoy a lot, but it takes a bunch of your life too and without any real life gain in this deck, this can hurt more than it helps. This desk is also very aggressive with so many attackers, so odds are that by the time he comes out your opponents already have low life. You can replace him with a lower cost pirate that’ll help you more than hurt you.
Ghost of Ramirez DePietro is a fun card, but given that our commander is already taking cards from our graveyard his ability is less useful. Would be more useful if you have more instants and sorceries in your deck or if you want to recycle fetchlands.
This deck already has a good amount of draw power and your commander brings back stuff from the graveyard so Distant Melody is kind of slow. It would be better to replace it with a card like Tolarian Winds. More draw power for cheaper and you refill your graveyard. Frantic Search might also be a better option since it’s more useful if you don’t have a big hand to discard.
Ahoy Mateys Upgraded Decklist
I’ve created a sample decklist with a mix of budget and higher cost cards.
This is just a sample deck, you can add your favorite cards and change it up to get the best deck for you.
If there is any cards you’d recommend for Ahoy Mateys upgrade please comment and share with everyone. One of my favorite parts of Magic the Gathering is even after playing for years there are still cards I’ve never heard of that can help with fun strategies. You can also check our other upgrade guides for the other three Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks, in case one of those might fit your play style more than Pirates.
Also feel free to comment if you have any requests for future commander articles. Would you want us to build decks around other Ixalan legendaries? Or maybe you have other content you’d want to read about? Please let us know!