Pirate Aggro Deck Guide & Matchups

Hello, Agigas here! I am a Master player since beta with several #4 peaks and tournament wins. I love sharing my knowledge about the game and I have been a regular writer at RuneterraCCG. I write in-depth deck guides, articles for tournament players, and curate our constantly updated Meta Tier List.

This particular guide you’re reading is part of our on-going series of guides on meta decks. You can find the other guides and a matchup table on this page.

This guide is dedicated to Pirate Aggro – a deck looking to put monumental pressure on the opponent’s Nexus and finish quickly with lots of burn damage.


Playstyle: Aggro/Burn.

Pirate Aggro is a very aggressive archetype, aiming to put pressure on the opponent right from the start with its numerous 1-drop units. It has a strong early curve to keep the aggression up for as long as possible. A lot of those early units also have some form of burn damage attached to them, further threatening the opponent’s Nexus.

As the game progresses, the deck plays powerful finishers (Gangplank, Captain Farron) and lots of burn damage to finish the opponent before they get a chance to come back into the game.

Gangplank is particularly powerful in this deck. He comes with a powerful Overwhelm body to help you push Nexus damage, a Powder Keg to boost your burn damage, and he can also level up to become an incredible bomb that will quickly close out any game if not urgently dealt with.

Miss Fortune, however, isn’t going to level up in this deck. With no way to Rally or Scout-attack, she is exclusively here as a strong 3-drop that helps you deal burn damage and make the opponent’s blocks harder – which is already quite impressive in the deck.


General Tips

  • Sequence your plays to deal a maximum amount of Nexus damage. When thinking about which play to make, look for the one that helps you push the most amount of Nexus damage. Finding the right sequencing is your priority with Pirate Aggro.
  • Recognize when you need to develop, and when you need to open-attack. Open-attacking/developing dilemma is not a decision you should take lightly. Think about what your development would look like and what the opponent will play this turn. Open-attacking on a turn where the opponent can’t put up strong defenses and developing only to meet a stronger resistance can both make you miss out on a lot of damage.
  • Spread out your damage over the turns. Gangplank can level up rapidly as long as you make an effort to spread out your damage over the turns. For example, Imperial Demolitionist is far more powerful on a defensive turn to help you progress your Gangplank level-up.
  • Don’t ignore your opponent’s plan. One common mistake with Pirate Aggro, especially in the closing turns, is not paying enough attention to the opponent’s plan. For example, if you attack to push damage sacrificing your units into their blockers, but not actually finishing the opponent, you might die from the open-attack next turn. You might have to keep your units as blockers to survive, which could give you time to finish with burn spells instead. Games against decks with a proactive plan often end up as this kind of a race, so be ready to make the play that gives you that one more turn.

General mulligan tips:

  • Keep your 1-cost units. Chaining multiple aggressive 1-cost units can boost your early tempo by a lot, and push a lot of damage before the opponent can even react. Here is a fun video that illustrates how much pressure 1-drops can create.
  • Keep Legion Grenadier. He is a nice early drop that curves very well after your 1-drop or can be played later alongside other units.
  • Keep Miss Fortune and Iron Ballista. Your 3-drops are also very good to keep, as they are both very powerful early – they both make it very inconvenient for the opponent to block with their early small units.
  • If you have a good hand, Gangplank can be a good card to keep against a deck that can deal with a bunch of small units but struggles against a big one with Overwhelm.

Be aware that these are just the general guidelines to help you understand the deck’s gameplan. Mulligans are very matchup-dependant – please refer to the matchup section below for more specific advice on mulligans against different meta decks.


Matchups

Click on the box to read detailed info about a matchup of choice:

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • Because of your powerful aggressive units and high amount of burn damage versus their lack of healing, their usual gameplan of stalling the game with freezes while making you draw a lot ain’t gonna work.
  • Their fallback plan, and the best way to upset the matchup, is to play an early Teemo to accelerate the speed of their gameplan.
    • Noxian Fervor can be used to remove Teemo. Their protection spells (Troll Chant, Elixir of Iron) only give him +2 health so it’s hard for them to protect him when he is level 1. Be aware they can make Noxian Fervor fizzle with Mystic Shot. If you’re getting closer to burning them, consider keeping your Noxian Fervor for burn damage.

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier.

Matchup tips:

  • Their deck needs some time to set up its synergies and it is not really fast at flooding the board with units. Use this early advantage to create a lot of pressure to damage and race them.
  • As they get more comfortable on the board, they start playing out high-health units and protecting them. It gets a lot harder to push damage, and you need to finish quickly before they can stabilize with Broadbacked Protector.
  • Force them to trade off their units in combat while they don’t have the mana to protect them. If they can’t stick enough units onto the board, their deck gets a lot clunkier.
  • Their win condition is to fully stack their landmark, Star Spring. Avoid interacting with their units when not necessary so it doesn’t give them damage to heal – for example, avoid blocking when they attack.

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier.

Matchup tips:

  • Overwhelm is an aggressive, but somewhat slow archetype. While they go taller with big Overwhelm units, you can outspeed them with your multiple 1-drops.
    • They don’t have any board-wipe, removal, or healing, so they can really struggle against a very explosive draw backed up by some burn spells.
    • Their best option is to match your curve, gain board control with tempo plays and race you. If you go too slow, you don’t have a great counter to their big Overwhelm units.
  • They have ways to challenge your units by giving them Vulnerable (ex: Exhaust), so avoid playing a key unit when they still have the attack token.

Mulligan for: a curve-out – not multiple 1 drops! Gangplank, or Captain Farron if you have a good hand.

Matchup tips:

  • They have a lot of cheap board wipes and have no difficulties at removing large swarms of units in the mid-game. You still want to have so early drops to start pushing nexus damage, but it is important to not have too many of them – you want to have some larger units to curve into, making it harder for them to control your board.
  • Avoid overextending into a board wipe (Avalanche, Blighted Ravine, Ice Shard, Withering Wail). You want to apply constant pressure, not necessarily rush them down.
  • Their strongest answers to open-attacks are Ice Shard, Withering Wail, Flash Freeze, and Vengeance. Their strongest answers to develop are Avalanche, Ruination, and units. Only Matron gets them 2 units over 1 priority. They can also use Fading Memories to copy one of your units.
  • To improve this matchup, consider adding a second Captain Farron. It will make control matchups easier at the cost of some more aggressive matchups.

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • Zoe/Lee is a combo-oriented archetype that finishes games with a leveled-up Lee Sin with Overwhelm. You don’t have a good way to deal with their combo, but you can out-pace them.
  • Putting a lot of pressure on them can quickly snowball into high amounts of Nexus damage, as they don’t have strong control over the board.
  • They do have some very powerful key units to counter your Nexus damage. Eye of the Dragon and/or a buffed Sparklefly can give them a lot of lifegain, making it way harder to kill them as the game progresses.
  • Use Noxian Fervor to prevent combat damage from a lifesteal unit or Lee Sin OTK (the Overwhelm damage will still come through but it will make the kick fizzle).

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • They have no healing, so every point of damage you deal will stick.
  • However, they have a lot of removals for your units and can quickly turn the corner to close out the game. This matchup often ends up as a race.
  • It’s a lot easier for them to remove a unit once it’s damaged (Ravenous Flock, Scorched Earth, damage-based removals). Avoid damaging your most important units, like Gangplank, for example with Imperial Demolitionist.
  • In this matchup, it can be better to open-attack because of cards like Arachnoid Sentry and Tri-beam Improbulator. House Spider can also block a lot of your damage.

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • Both players put huge pressure on the opponent’s Nexus with aggressive units and burn damage.
    • Be very conservative with your Nexus health.
  • Gangplank can level up rapidly. Try to prevent them from spreading their Nexus damage over turns. To do so, you can, for example, force their Noxian Fervor or kill off their Legion Grenadier on a turn you already took Nexus damage.
  • Noxian Fervor is their only 3-cost spell. If they play Zap Sprayfin, you know they have at least one Fervor in hand now (note: some version play a copy of Brother’s Bond).

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • Scouts, like Pirate Aggro, play solid early game units into the game. It can be hard to push a lot of damage right from the start.
  • Their champions, Miss Fortune and Quinn, are a key part of the Scouts archetype. They can quickly level them up with the Scout units and Relentless Pursuit.
    • You can kill Miss Fortune with Noxian Fervor if they don’t back her up with a protection spell. Unfortunately, it would cost you a lot of tempo and they can use that to win the race. Think carefully whether you should remove her or try to race.
    • They want to keep Miss Fortune alive. Because of that, they probably won’t block with her to trade. Take advantage of the fact they’ve used their turn to essentially play a “backline unit”, and push some Nexus damage.
  • Because both players have very proactive plans, this matchup often is a race.
  • If neither player finds the advantage and the game lasts longer, you have very powerful finishers with level 2 Gangplank and Captain Farron, which are very hard for them to contest.

Mulligan for: one 1-cost unit, Legion Grenadier, Iron Ballista, Arachnoid Sentry, Miss Fortune, Gangplank.

Matchup tips:

  • You both have a powerful early game with aggressive units. Your best way to push damage through their board is Overwhelm or Elusive units, whereas they will use the Fearsome keyword.
    • Be careful to not take too much damage from their Fearsome units. They have a lot of burn to top their early aggression and you have no healing.
  • In most situations, you should avoid to open-attack. They don’t have a lot of great ways to punish development, and if you don’t force trade with their Spiders they can level up Elise and/or push a lot of fearsome damage.
    • You might want to open attack if they don’t have Elise and you’re afraid of House Spider.
  • Miss Fortune is valuable both as a fearsome blocker and as a way to prevent from taking good blocks against her ability.
  • Be very careful to space out your damage to level up Gangplank. Gangplank is a key unit of the matchup thanks to his large stats and Overwhelm keyword, and is your easiest way to upset the matchup if he levels up early.
  • They can heal with Doombeast so it can require some extra work to finish them with burn.

Mulligan for: one 1-cost unit, Legion Grenadier, Iron Ballista, Arachnoid Sentry, Miss Fortune, Gangplank.

Matchup tips:

  • Nightfall Aggro is a deck leveraging Nightfall effects to gain tempo advantages and build up pressure. However, they then to not easily run out of resources and are well-suited to play more grindy games, which they’ll often do against you.
  • You can try to out-speed them with numerous 1-cost units to push damage and break them early, but this strategy tends to be pretty inefficient – they have just as many 1-cost units in their deck as you, and later on they can heal with Doombeast. Unless they get a bad early draw, the best strategy often is sustained aggression.
  • Gangplank is the best card in your deck against them. At level 1 he can already push in a lot of damage thanks to the Overwhelm keyword – they don’t have high-health units. If you level him up, Gangplank can win you the game by wiping their whole board with his ability and 1-2 kegs.
    • Be careful when they have the attack token. They don’t have any removals so usually your Gangplank is safe to attack at least once, but with the attack token they can challenge him with Diana or Nocturne’s Nightfall ability to remove him.

Mulligan for: 1-cost units, Legion Grenadier, Miss Fortune, Iron Ballista.

Matchup tips:

  • Playing against Discard Aggro can be tough because they can be more explosive than us thanks to their discard synergies, and they also can accelerate the game with Jinx.
  • You don’t really have a good answer to their gameplan. Removing a leveled Jinx is very hard because a Noxian Fervor isn’t enough, and you don’t have a way to clear their board.
    • Miss Fortune’s Make it Rain has a lot of value when they flood the board with 1-health units.
  • Be very aggressive and force trades. They have a lot of board-wide synergies (Crowd Favorite, Arena Battlecaster, Vision) so if you can limit their board it will make them weaker.
  • Miss Fortune’s ability can make it a lot harder for them to block without falling behind.
  • If you can limit their synergies and get some board advantage, you can make their hand a lot clunkier and push Nexus damage. They don’t have any healing to sustain against your burn.

Closing Words

Pirate Aggro is a deck that has been around for a long time now. It has not always been at the top because it can struggle against anti-aggro decks – or sometimes against the archetypes that can go even faster than Pirates. Miss Fortune Gangplank tends to shine in an aggro-light meta as a way to punish the decks that lower their defenses.

If you have a question, want to share feedback, or discuss this guide, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below and in this dedicated Reddit post! 😉

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Thanks for reading!

Agigas

LoR player with multiple tournament wins and #4 ladder peaks. Ascended Seasonal top 4. I love writing guides to share my experience with the game with the community!

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