The Pirate Warrior


This is the deck I have the most experience with so far. I started playing it in the January ('16) ladder after playing some mediocre jade druid runs. This was the second month in "the new meta" and pirate warrior was quite abundant at this point.

This is a post about a particluar deck in Hearthstone. If that did not tickle your fancy I suggest you skip this post :)

I've played somewhere between 500 and 600 matches with this deck. Even though I only really played it hard for about a week, I managed to climb to rank 5 with it. Not steadily, though. It was rather with spurts. Some days I would stay on the same rank no matter how hard I tried. Other days I would just gain two or three ranks in a single streak. It's a little crazy. And it clearly showed how important the matchups are. And how random.

I liked playing the deck because it's an easy deck to play casually and matches are very short (~5 min, turn 7 win or die).

First for decklist. I went through a few iterations but ultimately ended up in the same list as I started. This is probably pirate warrior in it's most core form; two mortal strikes and an ooze.

Actually, to be honest, my very first trial decks didn't have Patches, Leeroy, and some other key cards because I simply didn't have them yet. After some one-off-lethal losses I bought some packs and ultimately crafted Patches and Leeroy seeing how important the little guys were. Mind you, I had little experience at this point (January 2016). Just one or two weeks of playing Hearthstone.

The deck

1 N'Zoth's First Mate 2x
1 Patches the Pirate *
1 Sir finley Mrrgglton *
1 Small-Time Buccaneer 2x
1 Southsea Deckhand 2x
1 Upgrade! 2x
2 Acidic Swamp Ooze 1x
2 Bloodsail Raider 2x
2 Fiery War Axe 2x
2 Heroic Strike 2x
3 Bloodsail Cultist 2x
3 Frothing Beserker 2x
4 Dread Corsair 2x
4 Kor-kron Elite 2x
4 Mortal Strike 2x
5 Arcanite Reaper 2x
5 Leeroy Jenkins *

I consider this core because the two mortal strikes are kind of a must burst finisher to get past taunts. The only card that's still doubtful for me at this point is the Ooze. But I still don't really know what the best replacement would be for him.

While I was pretty green when I started playing this deck, I've got quite some hours into the game by now and can confidently explain you how I think this deck should be played.

Note that I've played this pre-bucc-nerf and I'll try to go through in post-nerf context. Because who cares about the pre-nerf anymore. I've played a slightly different variation post-nerf rank 15 to rank 5, again. See bottom of the post for details.

The mulligans

Your mulligans are virtually always for a one-drop minion and a 2- or 3-drop minion.

N'Zoth is your grand prize here. Small-time Buccaneer (STB) or Southsea Deckhand (SD) are second, just anything to bring out Patches. But you don't need too many, try to curve. Obviously, if you get Patches you throw him back and pray to Rngesus that you don't draw him anyways.

On coin I like to keep a 2-drop or 3-drop even if I don't have a 1-drop. If I have two or three 1-drops I'll mull two of them away to try and get something better on curve.

At some point a pattern I noticed is that when I feel like my opening hand sucks, I often end up with a surprising win anyways. This is when I changed my mull strats to be more on curve instead of going hard for 1-drops. This seems to have improved my win rate. But luck, eh.

The cards

I'll go into detail for each card.

N'Zoth's First Mate

1 mana, 1/1, battlecry: give you 1/3 weapon

A great card that'll pull out Patches, it'll put a weapon in your hand which in turn activates other cards like Southsea Deckhand and anything that buffs weapons. It's a 1-drop so super cheap for the things it can do. And of course it's another minion on the board and activates the pirate synergy.

Later in the game this card can actually hinder you a little or just be a dead card for the same reason. You may have a better weapon in hand and the first mate would destroy the weapon, so you don't play it even if you have nothing else to do with that one mana crystal. Still, I think this is the best turn 1 card in your deck, even more so now post-nerf of STB.

The 1/3 weapon is perhaps the one exception for face damage; you may want to use it to take out weak enemy minions to protect your own. Taking damage is not important in this phase so giving your minions an extra turn of survival will help in keeping board control and having more pirates to combo on. The one damage lost this way can help you deal more minion damage, or at least break even.


1 mana, 1/3, battlecry: discover a new hero power

Think hard before playing Finley. Odds are you have better plays. He's a good 1-drop for turn 1 since there aren't that many turn 1 responses that destroy him. In aggro matchups he tends to stick against turn 1 aggro plays which makes him at least a good play in that regard. He is slow for your deck, though, and doesn't activate pirates.

This card is more about changing your hero power. However, most of the time you never use your hero power. Let me put it differently; it's a bad sign if you must use your hero power because that means you have nothing else to play to deal damage. Off curve, or worse, actually no playable cards. The exception is against an aggro opponent. They, like yourself, tend to drop fast 1/1 or 2/1 minions and Finley can survive those, even take them out. And if you happen to roll the hunter power, that's only a bonus. That's very unreliable though. If you can't go for hunter power (2dmg to hero) then go for warlock (draw card and take 2dmg) or rogue (spawn 1/2 weapon). The rest is pretty crap for you regardless. I only keep Finley in mirror.

It's possible that other hero power choices make more sense later in the game, though. And while Finley can swing a late game for you, it's rarely the case. I'm still not certain about how important Finley is to this deck. But it's hard to replace him.

Note that Finley is NOT a pirate and so he will not draw out Patches. This is a small problem because it makes your deck less reliable and playing Finley on turn 1 makes you liable to draw Patches on turn 2. Just more reasons not to play Finley on turn 1.

I've swapped Finley for an extra Ooze and am not disappointed. The Ooze may sometimes feel like a slow play, but at least it pushes for 3 damage and doesn't lure me into using my hero power. The extra Ooze is extra great against pirates, rogues, and shamans too.

Fiery War Axe (FWA)

2 mana, 3/2 weapon

Your best early game weapon. Coining into it is not advisable for the same reason as Finley is a bad turn 1 play; it's obviously not a pirate and will not lure Patches out of hiding. On top of that a weapon is strong but doesn't last forever and hardly contests the board for control. Worse yet, if you do contest the board that means you're doing less damage to face and you're already losing. The FWA is a strong play on curve as it helps maintain early board control if you must, like punching taunt dragons, or just going to face as you should. But if that’s not the case a minion might be better.

When buffing FWA keep in mind that you should try not to buff it beyond 4 plays because you probably want a reaper in turn 5. Although by turn 5 the buffs will have turned the FWA into a reaper, but still. If you're going to "waste" your energy on buffing the FWA you're not using that same energy to play the board and that may ultimately give your opponent enough breathing room to cause problems for you, seeing how it doesn't need to counter your plays.


1 mana, 1/1, comes into play if you play a pirate minion

This is without doubt the hero of your deck. He's more important then he appears and it's not without reason so many decks used to run the pirate package in some form or another;

- He is a free play when you play any pirate
- There are many 1-drop pirates, even neutral, to proc him
- Bucc, even post-nerf, is still a decent combo card
- When pulled, for free, he decreases your deck by one and as such gives you a more consistent draw for other cards. The odds here are small but in a game that's built around odds, these difference end up significant (drawing from 29 cards vs 30 cards).
- He has charge so he deals one damage as well, this is important for your deck. One damage can make all the difference between win or loss.
- He doubles your board presence. While he's no match for AoE 1 damage spells, anything else will require multiple cards and/or minions to clear the board because with your one card you've summoned two minions. Don't underestimate this.
- He activates Bloodsail Cultist (BC) because he's a pirate as well. So even if you draw him into your hand, if you don't have a turn 4 kor you can still Patches + BC to buff your weapon. Or other cards if you run them.

Good luck learning not to end your turn prematurely. I give it about 10 missed attacks before you slow your roll ;) And it will still happen when my Dread pulls him out on turn 5. Try not to BM when your opponent misses this and remember that you've probably done this yourself.

At this point my turn 1 plays with other decks always leave me waiting until the board settles before realizing "oh right, no patches in this deck".

If you happen to draw him anyways then I prefer to play the first mate first, to get that weapon in hand. Especially on coin since you can always pull out Patches at any time. Otherwise he may just be a dead card in your hand or useful to combo as a pirate later.

Small-Time Buccanneer (STB)

1 mana, 1/1, is 3/1 while you arm a weapon

This used to be a very strong opening play because he could resist hero powers at 3/2; there is no regular hero power that deals more than one damage to minions. Post-nerf he's not that dangerous anymore for the same reason; at least half the classes can take him out with a trivial hero power. The interesting part is that bucc is still a very strong magnet for receiving damage. I still play him in a shaman deck and can safely play him knowing the opponent will always put in the effort to take him out fast. I don't even care about having a weapon or not, I just play this guy and know he'll be a sitting duck. Most of the time this is true.

Personally I think the 1/2 bucc was okay but 1/1 bucc is meh. Sure he still pulls out Patches and synergizes with other pirate combo cards but if you don't have or even run them then he's just a 1/1 drop that may be a 3/1 drop if you have a weapon. *shrug* I would be inclined to replace him if he wasn't such a sure fire for provoking a turn 2 removal.

Another thing to keep in mind is to first attack with STB before your weapon. It helps prevent cases where you use your last weapon charge prematurely. Missing out on that 2 damage just for being hasty is just a stupid mistake. I've made those a lot.

I've swapped out both STB's for two Southsea Captains in my March climb. It shifts the weight a little to the turn 3/4 plays, but overall it did not disappoint me.

Southsea Deckhand (SD)

1 mana, 2/1, has charge while you arm a weapon

I can't tell you how many times I've messed this card up. The problem with SD is that you need to have a weapon. But for some reason my attack order seems to be first weapon then minions. So often I was left with trying to attack with SD only to realize I completely messed it up. Or maybe I would try to clear the board first with my weapon and then send SD to face. It's just super bad play that originates from not thinking your actions through properly. Think about your order before you attack. And keep in mind that it's almost always better to attack with minions before your weapon. Notable exceptions are clearing taunts or something like punching Frothing first. Another downside is that this card is too slow if you somehow don't have a weapon. Being a 1-drop, it's still likely not to survive a turn.

Here's an example of an epic miss play of deckhand. This was only yesterday. I missed lethal and lost the game.

From all the 1-drops this is the least favorite to drop on turn 1 simply because he won't have charge. And with the captains he's a juicy 1 mana 3/2 charge to play later in the game... I won't mull him without having another 1-drop, though.


1 mana, give your weapon +1/+1

This card is deceptively dangerous. Always mull this away as it leads to an early empty hand with not much to show for. Try use it on your FWA, or in slow matches save it for your turn 6 to use it on the reaper. But don't hesitate to use it to activate other cards (like STB or SD) when you have no other options. Even playing it before a Bloodsail Cultist (assuming it's activated) may make sense depending on your game. But don't buff nzoths 1/3 twice in turn two because it will only lead to top-decking later with very little to show for it.

Try to keep combo order in mind for this card. If you want to play it, it always goes first. This is because it'll buff the Bloodsail Raider, reduce the cost of the Dread Corsair, and obviously buff your attack. I don't think there's any case where this card doesn't go first in a turn. Especially in turn 3 when you wanted to play Dread anyways, this would be a "free" play. It's unfortunate your hand is probably empty afterwards, but so be it.

Acidic Ooze

2 mana, 3/2, battlecry: destroy your opponents weapon

This is a 2-drop 3/2 minion that situationally can win you the game. Very situationally, though. Most of the time it's just a slow minion for the opponent to clear. And other times it's just a dead card in your hand while you wait for your opponent to play that big weapon to take out, which may never happen, but usually immediately after you play the Ooze anyways. At this point this is the one card that's not a core piece to me but I seem to play more consistently with it. It's still a 3/2 that needs to be dealt with if nothing else.

It's obviously great against pirate matchups. Also okay against rogue and weapon bearing shamans. Otherwise it's still a 2 mana 3/2, albeit slow. At least it's not as weak to early game AoE as your 1-drops. And dropping two on turn 4 can still be a small problem for your opponent.

Bloodsail Raider

2 mana, 2/3, battlecry: gain atk to your weapon atk

This card is a little deceptive as well. While it's a slow card, it can pose a real danger to your opponent. As a 2/3 it's just a little puppy, but with a FWA or Reaper this will be a 6/3 or 8/3. With captain that'll be 7/4 or 9/4. Those are definitely threats your opponent will want to clear, however easy that is. And many times it's actually not that trivial. It costs a trade or a card or even just face damage.

The 3 health makes this stick better. It usually needs a trade or a good removal spell to get rid of. A turn 2 play after first mate or coined fwa is very strong. But even without weapon, its health makes this a fine minion to play on curve.

On top of that it's a pirate, it pulls out Patches and it buffs the Cultists for turn 3. So on curve it's very good to have and maintain some pirates on the board. Off curve it depends on your weapon or hand.

You won't likely want to keep this for Reaper combo's. That would mean it could attack by turn 8 and most of the time your game is over by then. If you're considering coining the Raider then you probably have a very bad hand.

I don't necessarily mull this card but it's definitely second tier for mulling.

Frothing Beserker

3 mana, 2/4, gain 1/0 when ANY minion takes damage

Ah, the wildcard of the deck. It's actually the most difficult card of the whole deck. Pretty much all other cards are immediately damage or delayed in some way. The cognitive overhead on most cards is trivial once you're used to the deck. The frothing is different because it's very prone to making mistakes. You have to make certain predictions and assumptions. And sometimes it's just a guaranteed dead card.

Let me start with the bad. The card is a 3-drop which makes it susceptible to any of the 4-drop removals from other classes. Druids will almost always swipe it. Shamans will jade lighting or hex. Priests drop a power word. Mages drop a fireball or poly. There are just too many ways to get rid of this card effectively for the turn in which you play it. Yes, that's balancing for you :)

However, sometimes the frothing is a golden goose. I love to play this turn 2 on coin. While it's fairly easy to get rid of in turn 4, it's not that easy in turn 3. Against priest you should try to buff it to exactly a 4/4 to get it out of range of 2 or 3 mana power words. Just smashing any minion against any other minion usually does this for you. And in your turn 3 you can develop something else while your opponent is frantically busy with the frothing.

The trickiness about frothing is determining how strong it can be. This depends on how often you can damage a minion. Any minion. Your deck is not equipped with AoE spells, but you have plenty of small stuff to smash against enemy minions. However, try to keep in mind that smashing your 1/1 against a strong minion may not be worth it if you know the frothing won't survive another turn. Your 1/1 is a separate minion and could deal one damage now and maybe one damage next turn. While if you smash it your frothing gets +2 atk but if you're certain it'll die before next turn, that can only be used once. So sometimes it actually makes sense not to "melt" your 1/1 into a frothing. And sometimes it just won't matter anyways (a swipe would take them both out regardless).

Frothing can confuse an opponent as well. Like smashing minions on them and then finishing them off with a weapon. They may forget that if the frothing takes damage it will also buff itself. They may play a weak AoE spell that damages 6 minions for 1 and forget that it gives the frothing +6 and then have no mana left for actual removal. These are great moments for the PW. Try not to BM over it.

And don't get me started on lethal plays. The 1/1 melting talk from before? You could be 1-off lethal if you didn't melt. In that case bumping your minion against another one acts as a 1 damage burst. And sometimes it just makes sense to tear down an enemy minion with high health with as many of your minions as possible. Each bump is a +2 for the frothing, that adds up quickly. But it's not worth it smashing something with 2 attack when it could go to face. With a busy board these plays may not be that obvious and missed lethal is not a rare case in these situations.

I underestimated the frothing at first. Even cut him out of my trial decks for being so slow. I rescinded that decision quickly when a few opponents showed me the true power of this card :)

When mulling this is a tier 2 for me. Against opponents like warriors I'll keep this. Against removal carrying opponents it depends on what other tier 2's I may have.

Dread Corsair

4 mana, 3/3, costs 1 less for each attack of your weapon

This card is pretty situational for me. It's obviously great against aggro and it'll usually be a free card late game with your reaper or buffed FWA. He's a 3/3 as well, which isn't bad, but since he has no charge and taunt he rarely deals any face damage.

He _is_ a pirate so he does pull out Patches if, by some miracle, you haven't so far. He also activates your BC which could mean a "free" upgrade in turn 6. Free as in it's very unlikely you have any pirate left on the board by turn 6 and with a reaper he is 0 mana.

In mirrors the value of this card depends highly on the state of the board. If your opponent is already running 3/3 Raiders your taunt is not long for this world. But if there are only 1-drops or it's empty it'll be great value. Consider your own deck and remember that taunts are a bigger problem late game compared to early game. Blocking a Kor or Reaper punch is can also just win you enough time to win the game.

Kor-kron Elite

4 mana, 4/3, charge

Most of the time this will be your turn 4 play. It's going to be an awkward game when this is not the case. It's an immediate 4 damage and possibly repeat if your opponent doesn't remove it, maybe behind a Dread. There's little else to say about Kors. They are turn 4 or turn 6 plays because turn 5 is reaper. You can almost, but not entirely, rely on having this card by turn 4. It happens so often it's scary.

Always mull it.

Mortal Strike (MS)

4 mana, 4 damage, if you have 12hp or less deal 2 more (6)

While some guides tell you to keep this card to clear the board I can only say that most of the time, this is your finisher for taunt matchups. Especially against druids. I've won so many games finishing on a single or double MS at low health. It's important to keep in mind that they get an extra two damage if your health is 12 or lower. That means a potential 12 damage burst finish, though that takes 8 mana. On the other hand if you reach 12 health you're probably in turn 8, anyways.

I'm not saying never use them on the board, but at 4 mana it better be an important or mandatory removal not to play a Kor instead. I've experimented with one or zero MS but ultimately just run behind with taunt matchups. They put up a 3/6 taunt in turn 6 and my Reaper is dead.

Note that the 12hp activator only counts health, not armor!

Also note that some opponents may not be aware of this condition and still end their turn with you below 13hp, even if it could have been 13. And sometimes you need to face punch a taunt minion to drop you on 12hp or less just so you can get that extra 2 or 4 direct damage for lethal. I've done that a few times, feels like a great play. Especially because your opponent at first thinks you're conceding or at least making a desperate move.

Always mull this card.

Heroic Strike (HS)

2 mana, give your hero 4 atk this turn

This card is a little fragile in the deck, I think. It's often a good and cheap 4 mana 8 damage burst but obviously useless when there's a taunt in the way as they don't count as separate attacks.

Early game you would prefer to play minions over this card. But barring any minions, at least this can be four face damage, which is more than most of your 1 or 2 drops would do in their life time. Even a turn 4 Kor does less than a double HS. But like a turn 1 FWA, they don't put anything on the board which may give your opponent a "free" (as in careless) turn.

If you can get two they are the best turn 4 or 6 plays if there are no taunts on the board. And sometimes they can help you by giving you just that extra juice to clear a heavy taunt. I prefer to use them as finishers because your opponent doesn't expect 4 mana 8 burst from the hand so they'll get more reckless (particularly priests and shamans).

Always mull this card.

Arcanite Reaper

5 mana, 5/2 weapon

This is your finisher. Most of the time you'll have a reaper by turn 5 so barring taunts this will chip off a third of the health over two turns. The worst that happens for you with a reaper is a taunt or ooze counter play. Nothing you can really do against that. You don't really need to think about this card. By turn 5 it'll be one of two or three cards left and it's just the only play you should make.

Always mull this card. You're bound to end up with it on turn 5.

Leeroy Jenkins

5 mana, 6/2, battlecry: summon two 1/1 minions for your opponent

Heh, I played the entire season without knowing the lore of this card. I think it actually was funnier to me to discover it afterwards. Apparently Leeroy was modeled after this WoW gem where a party prepares to take on a big mob and some guy just breaks off and starts smashing them to bits. I guess that enemy multiplies or something on hit, like chopping of a hydra's head. When playing the card I always thought the two 1/1s for the opponent were a balancing thing (they may still be). Now all I hear in my head when that card is played is "LEEEEE-ROOOOOOYY JEEEENKINS!!!!". I don't play Hearthstone with sound ;)

Anyways, Leeroy is a burst finisher. Pretty much always your turn 6 play, after the reaper. Sometimes turn 5 if you can get lethal out of it (6 damage opposed to 5 from the reaper). And sometimes, especially against druids or dragons, you could play this for 1 damage extra when you put your opponent on a next-turn taunt AND you have an MS in your hand to finish.

The 1/1 tokens are rarely a problem for you. If you do play Leeroy without lethal (to pre-empt a taunt perhaps) then it's a good idea to at least kill one of the 1/1‘s with a cheap weapon so that your opponent has to waste resources to properly dispose of Leeroy. Well, maybe... :)

You always mull Leeroy and you may never see him in a match.

The mulligan

Just to repeat; the mulligan guide for PW is fairly straightforward. Your tier 1 is a 1-drop minion (except Patches), one of them suffices. The 2 and 3-drop minions and FWA are tier 2. You mull anything else. I tend to keep one tier 2 even if I don't have a tier 1 yet. If I do I mull anything that's not tier 2.

My tier 1 is in order of First Mate, STB, Deckhand and if I can I'll only keep one of them.

Tier 2 depends on your opponent. Frothing is good against warrior or priest but rogue can easily bounce him which loses his bonus. Ooze is great against anything that carries weapons but meh otherwise. FWA is good to clear dragon taunts but it doesn't develop anything on the board.

On coin I usually try to coin in a Frothing in turn 2. Against priest always try to get this to a 4/4 before your end of turn or it will almost certainly be power worded. Consider that the Frothing most likely won't live through their turn 4, but at least that it takes most of their turn 4 mana to do get rid of it.

The strats

As is often criticized; the pirate warrior is a fairly simple deck with a set number of plays to make. Anything past turn 7 can be considered most likely a loss and so your play focuses on your first 6, sometimes 7, turns.

Your main motto is "GO TO FACE". Deal damage to the hero, as much as possible. Obviously you must consider the board and any serious threats must be taken out. But most of the time taking damage is not your problem because there are very few decks that deal 30 faster than your deck. Of course that's considering those decks are contested so when you don't oppose them things may be slightly different.

For example, against dragon priest you don't care so much about the health buffs of its minions. But the 3/6 taunt must be cleared. The 1/3 Cleric or 0/3 Mana Tide is a coin toss for me, but with a FWA I'll usually punch it out because it gives too many outs for your opponent. I tend to ignore most basic enemy minions. Let your opponent do the trading. Even in mirror, I may put my 1/3 dagger into a 1/1 enemy minion but most of the rest will just go to face. The warrior that bothers with board tends to lose anyways.

Think of it this way; 18 cards in this deck deal immediate damage in one way or another. Your turn 4-5 will most of the time be a Kor and Reaper, doing 9 to 14 damage on their own. A Leeroy is another 6 damage on top of that. And a MS (or even HS) adds another 4 each. This means it's very likely that you'll do a fast 15-20 damage in those three turns. Your first two turns are usually 3 to 9 damage from your minions. That means you're already very close to lethal without major effort, provided there is no opposition. (This is why Patches is so important; he really tips the balance in your favor.)

Burning through your cards asap is not your problem and taking damage isn't neither ("any hp above 1 hp is just a tool"). Your opponent is likely to care less about the first 15 damage then it does about the second 15.

There are some obvious matchups that are bad for you. Anything that taunts or heals is a problem for you. It's not a lost cause, but you certainly start behind and can only hope for bad hands or miss plays. You shouldn't care much about the board, but sometimes it's not a bad idea to deflect some damage to the board. For example, card mills are a gamble (Northshire Cleric, Acolyte of Pain, Mana Tide Totem) because they aren't directly dangerous to you but they do contest your 1 health drops at the cost of 3 hp and, potentially worse, allow your opponents to draw the removals, taunts, or heals needed to run away from you.

The turn 2 frothing play (see above) can be nice. This seems especially good against priest. But also against any deck that has weak opening minions. It can backfire against removals, but that still requires effort, cards, and precious early game mana.

As I was playing this deck I started playing worse as time went on. This may be partly due to the meta adopting to the popularity of pirate warrior but it was also because I slowly started to play more defensively. Playing for board control rather than face damage. I think this was a mistake. You're putting your money on a turn 5 or 6 lethal. You need to outpace the reno's, dodge the taunts, and be faster than other aggros. And sometimes you just didn’t have a chance to win at all.

If you want to discover just how bad defensive play is for this deck try playing some mirror. While going first seems to be considered a problem for mirror, going second means you are continuously under the gun for board control. However, you may succeed in clearing the board on every turn and still find yourself at 5 hp as your opponent arms his reaper. You may own the board but you still lose. I'm not kidding; find a friend and play some mirror PW matches. It's good practice.

Your endgame often depends on your top-deck. This is where the draw consistency of the deck becomes important. The only extra mill you get is pulling Patches out. By turn 6 or 7 you'll have about a 5% chance to pull a single and a 11% chance to pull one of two copies from your deck. However, you usually have about a 33% chance to pull out something that gives immediate damage. You have 3 high damage cards (2x Reaper and Leeroy), four medium-high damage (2x HS and 2x MS), and a slew of charge minions and weapons. So to top-deck something that can finish is not per se "lucky", it's part of your deck strategy. Of course this sucks against priests because they heal away from you while you wait on that finisher, but such is life.

The matchups

In the January and February ('16) ladder the worst matchups were generally dragon warriors, dragon priests, and any shaman. I was slightly favorite against reno decks, though it's still kind of a coin toss. This deck was favorite against most others in that meta.

I started using a deck tracker from when I hit rank 11 in January. So these stats don't cover everything. It recorded 520 matches, 251:269. Most of that negativism was in February when I started experimenting a bit. In January I was slightly below 50% (92:97). I also played a bunch of mobile games so maybe they tipped the balance to get me to rank 5 in a week.

In total, for as far as recorded, I've played 45 hours of pirate warrior (excluding mobile play). The average game lasted 5.1 minute and 7.2 turns. After a few dozen games I started conceding when I was fairly certain the game was lost. This was most commonly caused by my opponent hitting reno, a thousand shaman taunts, or a priest healing away from me. Nowadays I hardly concede at all because you never really know. Anyways, those concedes also help push the average duration down. I actually like short games, that's probably also why I liked PW. My druid runs tend to average 9 turns and shaman about 11 turns.

In my March climb I did 64:41 from rank 14 to rank 5. In this climb I got one hunter, zero paladins, many mirror warriors, and the rest was spread even. I did was slightly less than even against mage or shaman and better against the other classes. The stats below exclude this climb.

I'll try to discuss some specific matchups with a pirate warrior;


The mirror. Although it takes a few turns to discover whether you're actually playing mirror. Mirror is actually your best outcome because otherwise it'll be control or dragon warrior, and you start behind against them.

The control warrior is recognized by a turn 2 hero power. The dragon warrior is recognized by an early dragon. The problem is that either may carry the pirate package so their early plays may still look like mirror pirate warrior. That's annoying because when by the time play a taunt or dragon in turn 3 it'll be too late for you to hit the brakes. Although honestly, there's little you can do against these matchups. The 2/7 armor taunt is quite an early game problem for you. The 3/6 dragon taunt isn't that much better. And while these threats are surmountable, the game won't get easier as time goes on.

In general warrior is a coin flip for mirror and bad otherwise.

Overall I did 36:48 with any of my old PW deck versions. And keep in mind I got a lot of non-aggro warriors. in that meta


This was the worst matchup for me. Going first there is a chance but on coin the game is already lost.

There are a few types of shaman out there, all of them bad. The main problem is that they all have too many removals, taunts, and heals. A 1 mana lighting for 3 dmg, a 3 mana lava burst for 5 damage, a 4 mana jade lightning for 4 dmg (and a minion). On top of that there's the feral spirits spawning two 2/3 taunts for you to punch through. And then there's a 4 mana jinyu that heals for 6 so the shaman runs away even harder. A healing salve that heals for 7 or 14, also a problem. All these cards frequented by aggro, mid, and jade shamans. They're all bad and so are your odds to win.

In general shaman is a loss. My old pw decks combined I got 58:89 against any shamans.


Priest can go either way but tends to be bad.

Most commonly I got dragon priests. Those are a problem because they come with a cheap early game taunt (Wyrmrest Agent, 2 mana, 1/4 that becomes 2/4 taunt if you hold a dragon) and a cheap late game taunt (Twilight Guardian, 4 mana, 2/6 or 3/6 taunt if you hold dragon). Those two cards _will_ appear sooner than later. Combined with their plethora of discovery cards it's going to be difficult to outpace them. Dragon priests tend to use their hero power a lot to maintain their board.

The reno priest is fairly easy because its taunts are not as reliable and as it goes with reno decks in general, their draw is unreliable. If they can proc reno before you lethal then you still, probably, lose. But I put myself favorable against them.

I saw a lot of dragon priests and it shows in the stats: 27:31. Expect that to be much worse now since I think I see more dragons than renos at the moment.


In my matchups, warlock was almost exclusively reno lock. There may have been some zoolocks but I didn't really know what that was back then. I've played some zoolock by now so I know exactly what to look for. But for as far as I remember, most warlocks were reno lock in my laddering.

Reno lock, that means a deck with uniques that center around reno to do a full heal. In this matchup you are on the clock. And it runs out on (their) turn 6 (and in rare cases turn 5 with coin). That's the earliest turn the opponent can play a reno that does a full heal because it costs 6 mana. I don't think there's currently any other way for warlock to play that card early. None that I remember, anyways.

A reno can be recognized by certain openings like mistress of mixtures (deathrattle: heal both players 4), Doomsayer (2 mana 0/7, destroy everything at the start of your next turn), and lots of tapping (that's their hero power). In my experience most reno locks stop tapping once they put you on being a pirate warrior. Reno lock is usually confirmed in turn 4 or turn 5 by a kazakus (4 mana 3/3, if your deck doesn't contain duplicates create a potion). They also tend to sit back and take the damage, confident that they can turn the tables on turn 6. If you see a warlock frantically milling cards there's a good chance it's still searching for reno, so that's a good sign. Either way, there are too many outs for reno lock past turn 5 so you should have lethal or consider yourself lucky to win.

Zoolock is a different story. I couldn't recognize zoolocks back then so I have no particular play around them. However, you can recognize them by warlocks that play cards on each turn. They don't tap too often and their hand depletes quickly. They tend to play cards that discard random cards from their hand. Their biggest piece is Doomguard, a 5/7 charge that discards 2 cards, though it's a turn 5 play and you shouldn't see it that often. While you should be favorable against zoolock, you should take care as that deck is about as potent as yours. It just has some more drawbacks, I think. While I haven't seen many zoolocks in January, I've seen a couple of them in March and they seem to be back in the meta.

I'm not sure about other warlock types. Since you play for lethal by 6, most of their high-end cards are fairly meaningless to you so most of them just play like a reno lock. And if you see dupes being played, just consider yourself lucky as reno and kazakus are watching this match from an inventory :)

I got a 23:28 rate against any kind of warlock with any of my versions of pw.


Oh the druid. Not the worst matchup but kind of a coin flip. I'm aware of two main types of druid; aggro and some kind of jade.

I don't remember seeing any aggro druid in January, and only remember two or three so far at all. They may just be from “before my time”, or players testing random strats.

Aggro play tends to open with two Living Roots, spawning four 1/1 tokens, followed by one or two Mark of the Lotus (all minions +1/+1) and a Savage Boar (all minions +2 atk). I haven't played this deck but I'm pretty sure it's super random and as such not very viable to ladder. It may be a package, I think the play is much older and I'm not aware of the meta around it. Either way, if you see a druid spawn four 1/1 tokens you may want to divert power to take one or two out. Just in case.

Most druids you see are around summoning jades, whether ramping or milling or mid-range. It's all the same because the problem ends up being the same: taunts. You should have a fairly careless game for the first two or three turns. The druid has plenty of cheap removals, but won't throw road blocks in your face. By turn 3 or 4 (or soon after) they are usually ramped up to 6 mana which brings out their first jade taunt; Jade Behemoth (6 mana, 3/6, taunt and spawn a jade). That's 6 damage to clear. With 7 mana they'll play that again or an Ancient of War (7 mana, let's just consider it a 5/10 taunt). That's quite a big opponent to chip down with a 4/3 kor. Recently I'm also seeing the 5 mana Druid of the Claw (choose 4/4 charge or 4/6 taunt) being used as well. Considering the druid will have two of each, that's a high chance of being taunted out of the game quickly.

I got one druid while playing a mid-range Jade Shaman deck that pulled a crazy stunt in turn 10 where he pulled out Malygos with a Barnes and destroyed me at 25 hp with two Moonfires (0 mana, deal 1 damage) and 2 Living Roots (1 mana, 2 damage or 2 1/1 minions). Because Malygos gives you +5 spell damage regardless of its hp. That was pretty mind blowing for me so you never really know what you get with druids. But usually they Jade and taunt up.

If you want to have any chance against druids as pirates you either have a perfect draw, very bad luck on their hand, or the two MS finish. It's not impossible and I see I played 33/23 against them. Fwiw :) It feels to me like druids have less taunts in the March meta and are slightly easier to deal with.


Heh, the hunter. "Before my time", as I understand it now. As long as I recorded it (rank 11 onwards) I got zero hunter matchups in January. "That's incredible!", yeah. Anyways, I did play a few afterwards (6:3) but I haven't played a hunter and I haven't really played against a hunter enough to tell much about strats.

They tend to either be aggro or have a lot of secrets to play around. This can frustrate play a lot. I can't really offer you much advice about them otherwise.

I'm not sure if hunter is any kind of relevant for laddering right now. I got 6:3 against them with any of my pw versions, but that doesn't say much.


There were basically two kinds of mages on the ladder; reno mage and control mage. While the type of control mage is probably more subtle than that, for pw they mostly come down to the same build as more expensive cards hardly ever see play.

I saw more reno mages than other types in January. In March they tend to be control/freeze... They tend to have similar openings as reno locks, sit back and relax. They also have Kazakus AND they have secrets. They tend to run just two secrets, one is bad and the other very bad. I think the secrets make a reno mage harder for the PW compared to a reno lock.

Ice Barrier gives the player 8 armor when it is attacked (from any source). That's bad but fixable.

It's the Ice Block that is worse because that spell gives the player total immunity to all damage for the remainder of your turn as soon as the opponent received lethal damage. Important to note here is that the damage that was lethal is also prevented in full. So if you have an ice block, always make sure to deal as much damage as possible without popping the secret. That way you can easily deal the last one next turn if reno doesn't come into play after all.

In case you didn't realize, Ice Block gives the player a _guaranteed_ opportunity to play reno the next turn from where it popped. And there is almost NO way to prevent it, and none for the PW. The only play would be a minion that destroys secrets ("Eater of Secrets", 4 mana 2/4), and you won't have it.

Secrets can also be a form of bluff so if you get one don't be immediately disparaged; it could be any of the other million secrets available to mages. It just most likely won't. In that match I really thought it was ice block. It's also a good example of why you shouldn't just concede; I certainly didn't think to have lethal there and wasn't a favorite to win that match. It must not have been an ice block.

The non-reno mage is control/freeze mage. They are a bit harder to play since they'll have a lot of removal spells and also the secrets.

Make sure not to get caught in the water elemental trap (4 mana, 3/6, freeze enemies damaged by this minion). Once you lose board control with this on the board your hero will be perma frosted with very little outs since your weapons are useless. Your odds are not good against these mages.

My rate was 27:25, but doesn't split up reno vs non-reno. I think you have a fair chance against reno mage (but less than reno lock because of ice block) but a lower chance against other mage types. I'm a little surprised I broke even on that looking at the stats now.


I didn't see too many paladins in my laddering. I think most of them were pretty easy. It was probably the aggro ones that gave me a hard time. This still seems to be true in March, at least beyond rank 15.

Murloc pallys tend to have weak and slow minions, barring two, and the game never lasts until their turn 10 anyfin plays. They rely on minons buffing each other so board control seems a bit more important here.

Buffing pally is too slow and you should usually be able to outpace them fairly easily. They don't run too much charge and by the time their minions are strong enough to threaten you, you should be past lethal.

I can't give you much advice beyond that, I played 12:7 against them so that's not a lot in the grand scheme of things (~500 matches).


The PW is definitely favorable in a rogue matchup. While the bigger rogue threats are definitely a problem, there's a good chance the rogue just doesn't hit them at all. A mill rogue stands no chance since the PW would rather run out than gain cards. A miracle rogue doesn't really start before turn 6 and won't pose a real threat before then.

The main thing to watch out for is an early big Edwin play. You won't have much to remove it but you do need to deal with it (and in that match as Shaman I didn't get a hex...). Rogue has a lot of removal spells but about zero taunts. It could accidentally steal one from your class, but that's about it. That's why rogue is particularly easy for PW.

I scored 29:15 against rogue with any of the PW decks.

March rogues tend to be more aggro, run pirates and/or muloc packages. I think PW is still favorite against those rogues but you have to be careful. Just remember; they have no taunts, no heals.

The versions

After laddering in January I started experimenting a bit with alternative builds. Honestly this didn't lead to anything good for me. I played with the captain for a while but ultimately that too is just a too slow 3-drop (despite getting a 35:28 with that version, as far as they were recorded).

The core version in January ran 45:46 and 85:91 globally. In January I tried v1 and v2, the others in February.

My v1 swapped Ooze out and a Southsea Captain in. The captain is a 3 mana 3/3 that buffs other pirates +1/+1. Ultimately it was too often just a dead card in my hand. It did win me a game or two, but most of the time I couldn't effectively play it. 34:28

For my v2 I used a BlueGill Warrior (2 mana 2/1 murloc with charge) and while initial results were good, it proved to be too meaningless in the mid-game. Great as a 2-drop but bad as a 6-drop. 13:23

For v3 I tried replacing both mortal strikes with a Naga Corsair (4 mana 5/4, battlecry: weapon +1/+0) and an Ooze back, including the Southsea Captain. It was amazing how slow the deck became. The naga is not a bad card but the kor is simply better. This version didn't last long. 6:3

v4: Swapping the naga back for a MS didn't do the trick either. 85:92

v5: Swapped Naga out for a Shield Block (3 mana, gain 5 armor, draw a card) in hopes to improve the hand. It was useless because you were just wasting mana on armor you didn't want to use. 9:9

v6: Back to the core, then swapped out ooze for a Bloodsail Corsair (1 mana, 1/2, remove one durability from opponent weapon). Didn't feel good. 14:17

v7: The last version I tried had Revenge (2 mana, deal 1 dmg to all minions or 3 if you have 12 or less hp). This was an attempt to buf frothing. I gave up changing PW soon after this and went back to core. 5:6

The problem with testing with new decks is that they heavily depend on your matchups. Some of these versions only saw a handful of plays and that may not show the full potential. But sometimes a card only has to feel like dead weight a few times to realize it won’t ever work. I wish there was a sandbox to play test more consistently.

Okay, after getting stuck at rank 14-15 with Shaman I decided to go with PW again. This time I used a deck version that has two Oozes and two Captains, while cutting out the Buccaneers and Finley. I didn't run into too many Shamans, dragon priests, and nearly no control warriors. So in that regard climbing was a lot easier. After adjusting to a slightly slower start, I like this version of the deck. The captains are 3/3 and buff the other pirates. So far I've done 64:41 and I intend to push forward since we're literally only half-way through the month at the time of writing this.

The combos

While most of the deck is not that difficult to play, there are some combo's to keep in mind.

- Any pirate pulls out Patches. Don't mindlessly end your turn unless the button is actually green. The game knows that you have no actions left to play far before the animations finish. If the button isn't green, you have an action that you may want to play. Like a punch with Patches.

- While it doesn't matter for your deck which pirate survives, always trade non-pirates over pirates. Try to keep a pirate on the board to combo with Bloodsail Cultist.

- Sometimes it's better not to attack with your weapon. When there is one durability left you may be able to buff it with Upgrade! or Bloodsail Cultist later. If you just use it, that won't be possible. And was that earlier attack really necessary?

- Another reason not to use your last weapon durability is to anticipate activating a Decksail or a Buccaneer ability. Worst that could happen is your opponent throwing an ooze at you.

- Dread Corsair is free with a Reaper or an upgraded FWA (turn two FWA + coin + Dread against aggro).

- If you intend to play Upgrade! this turn, always play it as your first action. There are a few things that are affected by it; the attack damage itself, the durability, the cost of Dread Corsair, and casting Bloodsail Raider.

- Pretty much always attack with your weapon last. There are valid exceptions but most of the time an early weapon attack may cost you precious damage on the raider or the charge ability of the deckhand. It makes you look silly.

- Coin into frothing is a stronger play than playing it on curve because the opponent has fewer removal options available.

- Take your time planning frothing attacks.

- Remember that any minion that takes damage will buff the frothing, including your own, including itself. An AoE spell that damages everything for 1 will add 1 attack to the frothing for every minion on the field! Not that you have such spells, of course ;)

- Dread and Patches are also pirates and can be cast before casting a activate Bloodsail Cultist to reinforce your weapon.

- Mortal Strike deals 6 damage if your hp (excluding armor!) is 12 or less. This damage is direct and unblockable, so it bypasses taunts! Sometimes facing a taunt to get your hp down can win you the game.

- Ignore Finley unless you have no other choice or when it’s the right play versus your opponent. With half-decent hands you won't use your hero power at all! The hunter power is obviously great but the odds are not.

The counter

Having played this deck some 500 times I feel like I know this deck through and through. I see a warrior and hope it's a pirate. I see a pirate and I know pretty much exactly what the early-mid game will look like. That makes it so much easier to anticipate plays. So let me give you some tips about how to thwart a pirate warrior. You may feel like I'm muting against my pirate mateys (ARRRRRRR!), but honestly, it's just the downside of playing PW and everybody knows it.

- Taunt is your friend. It prevents most immediate damage.

- Heal allows you to run away from PW but you'll need about 10+ of it before it becomes relevant.

- Control the board and mop up because the PW won't bother unless you force it to with a taunt or a very heavy minion. While control won't prevent most of the damage, it at least contains it.

How easy it is to do these three things depends on your class. If you can heal, don't worry too much about taking small face damage. However, if you can't heal or taunt, face damage should be prevented as that's the whole point of a PW. Don't wait too long with healing or burst may get you (5 reaper damage + 10 burst is 15 hp on turn 6!). Don’t consider it a won game for surviving turn 6 either. Most things the pw top-decks will be immediate damage.

- Don't put up taunts too early, just control the board. The PW shouldn't care much about the board so while it summons minions, you can just trade them away. It's good to have a taunt up when your opponent has turn 4 because that's when the kor starts appearing. Once you block the kor or reaper the PW will be in a much tighter spot. It's hard to recover from that.

- Don't let him draw more cards than he already can. Just a few ways of doing this anyways but if your deck has them, prevent it because more cards is more death.

- Remember the turn 6 burst; Leeroy at 6 damage, reaper at 5 damage, Heroic strike at 4 damage, all three tauntable. Mortal strikes at 4 damage each, or 6 if below 13 hp. There is a lot of burst a PW could hold, even in turn 6. It's a good sign if it uses a MS earlier in the game but it might have two. On turn 6 the worst burst could be 10 damage (a mortal strike at lower than 13 hp and a heroic strike, more won't fit in 6 mana). At turn 8 it can be 14 damage (two HS + 1 MS) from hand.

- Keep the PW above 13hp unless you're safe or you got lethal. This prevents activating the MS for 6dmg.

- Freeze a PW hero if you can in turn 5 to postpone reaper plays.

- The water elemental (neutral 4 mana minion!) on turn 4 may allow to suspend the PW indefinitely if you control the board otherwise. No weapon attack will severely limit the options of the PW and you can take some time to plan accordingly.

- Try to kill the pirates, especially when a weapon is armed. An activated Cultist basically means the weapon gets another durability which might as well be an extra one-turn minion on the board.

The rotation

This is as far as I know the last month in current rotation. During this month the new set is revealed and come next month three sets rotate out. These sets contain important cards so let's take a look at what that means for the pirate warrior.

N'Zoth's First Mate: Old Gods
Patches the Pirate: Gadtgetzan
Sir finley Mrrgglton: League of Explorers
Small-Time Buccaneer: Gadtgetzan
Southsea Deckhand: Classic
Upgrade!: Classic
Acidic Swamp Ooze: Classic
Bloodsail Raider: Classic
Fiery War Axe: Classic
Heroic Strike: Classic
Bloodsail Cultist: Old Gods
Frothing Beserker: Classic
Dread Corsair: Classic
Kor-kron Elite: Classic
Mortal Strike: Classic
Arcanite Reaper: Classic
Leeroy Jenkins: Classic
Southsea Captain: Classic

That's not so bad. With Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and The League of Explorers rotating out there are three cards that will no longer be valid in Standard; For now that's only going to be Finley. It's mostly a backup so that's not going to be a problem as far as I’m concerned. We'll have to wait and see what kind of changes the new set will bring to the pirate warrior deck.

The Bucc nerf definitely hurt the pirate warrior to some degree, but didn't kill it. The rotation probably won't kill it either. In fact, it's going to be hard to get rid of pirate warrior itself since most of the cards are from the classic sets. However, it's very well possible there will be new cards that introduce a new meta that's a hard counter for pirate warrior. Something like "Scurvy outbreak! 0/10, Pirates can't be played until the outbreak is purged.". But I doubt it.

Edit: Oh look at that, a new neutral card that eats arbitrary pirates.

The end

I enjoyed pirate warrior because of its fast games and little cognitive overhead. Once you're used to it it's a fairly straightforward deck to play and since your goal is to lethal before turn 6 or 7, you don't have to worry about late game plays at all. The frothing is the most difficult minion in the deck and most of the time that too is fairly straightforward.

The downside to pirate warrior is that it's easily countered by taunts and heals. And more often than not you’re basically top decking, relying on the deck draw consistency.

I don't think the nerfs killed the deck, but it certainly got nerfed a little bit.