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Pirates Burn Deck Guide – Patch 3.6

Pirate Burn is one of the best archetype for a fast climb on the ladder. Today, Den is here to help you find the right mindset and perfect your plays with the deck thanks to this in-depth deck guide!

Hi everyone, welcome to a new meta guide, this one about the current best LP maker on the ladder : Pirates Burn.

The deck isn’t new or particularly innovative compared to all the Pirates decks which appeared ever since Bildgewater entered the game as a region. We are still looking at an early swarm deck, looking to punish an opponent who couldn’t handle early pressure, which then transfers into a heavy burn deck looking to close the game through direct damages.

The main transformation we can see in the deck is the slow switch operating in the champion slot, as Twisted Fate is becoming the more preferred option to Gangplank. This change started operating when Gangplank was stripped of a Health point a few months back, and started to be easier to remove, and would only be great when being played leveled up already.

In a deck like Pirates, one would think that leveling Gangplank is a piece of cake, which is true to some extent. But leveling Gangplank on turn 5 AND playing the champion so he can attack isn’t such an easy task as it means we have to deal damage on turns 1 and 5, with very limited resources in both turns.

Considering the deck has so much damage at its disposal, not playing Gangplank doesn’t feel like such a loss in terms how of fast the deck is able to close the game. Also, a good early game is worth a lot more than a GangPlank later on.

Twisted Fate can feel weird at first, a 4 mana 2/2 body can be a bit of an oddball in a deck like Pirates Burn, but you will very quickly learn to love the champion’s flexibility.
First, Twisted Fate is a guaranteed damage with the Red Card, it might not be much, but those add up pretty quickly in the deck, and removing 1 health chum blockers as well is very valuable.
Second, Twisted Fate is a draw once in the Burn part of our gameplan, where only Decimate and Noxian Fervor really matter to us. It costs a lot, but at least it keeps us digging for the damage.
The gold card probably is the one we will use the least with Twisted Fate, but it can buy us some precious time against a deck like Pantheon, for example, while not requiring us to play cards like Arachnoid Sentry instead.

Outside this change, the deck has kept all its core mechanics, and currently punishes a lot of the deck at the top of the TierLists, as most of them do not run solid healing possibilities.

Mono Shurima, Pantheon or Ezreal Caitlyn all are early performers in patch 3.6 as they seem to have kept most of the power they were featuring in the previous metagame. The presence of these decks combining for a solid 15% of the ladder is enough to make Pirates a solid choice to grind a lot of games in a short amount of time.

Techs and Options :

Double up : Bilgewater’s Decimate used to be a staple in the deck not so long ago, and you could run into some players trying to bring it back into the archetype.

The card fits perfectly into what the deck tries to accomplish but unfortunately doesn’t resolve often enough for me to justify running it over the other options available for the deck. Pirates seems to have access to enough damage output to not rely on conditional cards and instead be able to reliably track the damage the deck is able to deal.

Sigil of Malice : Dealing 2 damage for 3 mana isn’t the best of deals, but it is damage in a deck that routinely gets its opponent’s nexus really low.

Just like Double Up can feel unreliable, Sigil of Malice can feel like overkill late in the game or stuck in our hand early on. But when it comes at the right time, and as you can draw it with Zap, it often does, Sigil can feel very satisfying.

Jagged Butcher : The deck plays a ton of 1 drops and choices have to be made. In the same vein as Double up, Jagged Butcher is a good high roll but at the wrong time.

The early game for the deck should be as stable as possible, and although a 3/3 for 1 mana is a great source of pressure, a 2/2 for 1 mana is worse than any other 1 mana unit we could play. While the card can be great against other aggressive matchups, the stability of our early game is usually more important.

Make it Rain : Miss Fortune’s spell is a difficult one to play in the deck unless you are looking to get some help against other aggressive decks. But even if that is a good card in those matchups, the switch to Twisted Fate already made those matchups much better because of the red card.

General Tips :

  • Start with developing the board first :

We are playing a burn deck, one that will eventually win thanks to the direct damage available from hand. But in order to get there, we need to establish a strong presence on the board that can help with dealing a good chunk of the 20 total health our opponent has.

As such, never keep a card like Decimate in your starting hand even if you know it is the card that will close the game eventually. Instead, look for a flurry of 1 drops and a solid curve up until turn 4, this will open the way for your Decimates to deal the remaining damage instead of giving up some tempo to your opponent.

  • Look for all the passive damage on the way :

The reason why the Pirates deck is so difficult to contain is that it constantly finds small increments of damage along the way. Miss Fortune, Twisted Fate, Crackshot Corsair, Legion Grenadier, or Legion Saboteur, we have a ton of ways to get guaranteed damage without using our dedicated damage spells or even counting what our units will be pushing when we attack.

Making this incremental damage matter all through the course of the game will help the deck value its resources and not rely on topdecking the right card too often

  • Understand what you are racing against :

Most burn decks can be also called Race decks, as in the fact they are trying to rush their opponent to the finish line. But while our end goal is to get the opponent’s nexus to 0, other decks will probably look for a way to exhaust our hand or reach a specific situation they know we can’t do much about.

Knowing the win condition your opponent is likely to go for against you will give you a much clearer idea of how much time you have to end the game and the critical steps your opponent is looking to clear on the way.
For example, against another aggressive deck, we are racing against their potential damage, and it is up to who can deal 20 damage first. But against a defensive deck, we have to keep in mind that they are looking to extend the race with their healing and are trying to exhaust our cards in hand, meaning we probably are racing against 30 points of health or more.

  • Know your most reliable source of damage :

Ultimately, we are about dealing the necessary damage to end the game. But the important question to ask is how do we deal those important damages as reliably as possible.

Depending on our opponent, we will either push the direct damage aspect of our deck or focus on the board to push more regular damage. No matter what the matchup is, we always start with the board, at least up until turn 3 when we usually look to play Miss Fortune.

Once past this phase, we can either look to keep building onto the board, with Island Navigator or with several low-cost units, or already be looking for our burn if the early game went very well for us, or if we expect our opponent to start being able to answer the board effectively.

General Mulligan Tips :

Adapt to the attack token :

Attacking on odd or even turns changes quite a bit how we want to build our early curve of units in order to bring pressure.

If we attack on odds, we obviously look for the best 1 drop we can, usually Legion Rearguard or Precious Pet usually the 2 most difficult ones to defend for our opponent. Our second attack will be on turn 3, which is the first turn several decks can have access to AoE (Avalanche, The Box…) meaning we would rather play a big unit like Miss Fortune than several 1 drops.

If we attack on even turns, then we are looking to get 3 one drops and curve them out on turns 1 and 2 to create a huge pressure right off the gate before the 4 mana AoEs become available to our opponent. Then, depending on the number of damages we could get to the opposing nexus, we can figure out the best course of action from there.

Going for Big or for Swarm :

Just like the moment we can attack changes the way we want to build the board, the way our opponent defends is a big factor too. And we need to consider their defense in terms of board and healing.

Demacia-based decks usually are great at single target removal, while Frejlord is more of an AoE kind of region. Against the former, we are looking to swarm the board with lots of cheap units, while we would look for more solid units and space out our threat if we expect an avalanche against the latter.

If we anticipate healing capacities from our opponent, like a Shadow Isles deck, the logic is quite similar. As we will have to deal more than 20 damage, we will look to build a more solid board, which should be able to get in multiple attacks and compensate for the extra health we expect our opponent to have. Against a deck without any healing, Ezreal Caitlyn for example, then we can look for a super explosive early swarm as you know every damage dealt will never be recovered.

Matchups :

Shurima – Mono Shurima – Very Favored

Mulligan: Look to swarm the board early: 1 drops – Marai Warden – Brother’s bond with units

Match up Tips :

  • Mono Shurima plays an extremely defensive game against us and will take every pass you send their way. Without being completely careless, you need to be the one dictating the tempo and looking to pressure your opponent
  • With no healing in the deck, every damage we deal to the opponent’s Nexus is one less for the rest of the game. They can use Rite of Negation against a Fervor or a Decimate though, and also forces Pirates to play their damage spells one at a time.
  • Quicksand is a card that can be a problem when attacking, but the opponent needs to keep some mana open to play it. If you see Mono Shurima not playing more units when they could to block you, go wide to reduce Quicksand’s value.
  • Unless we already switched to our burn phase, Xerath can be quite a problem for us as he can remove our cheap units with its passive ability. Make sure to bring enough pressure so the opponent can’t play the champion safely or have a plan to deal with Xerath
Demacia Targon – Yuumi Pantheon – Very Favored

Mulligan: Look to swarm the board early: 1 drops – Marai Warden – Brother’s bond with units

Match up Tips :

  • Pantheon is the king of 1 on 1 battles, so we are obligated to wide early and often. This strategy is easily rewarded though, as Pantheon cannot defend well against a lot of units and runs very limited healing
  • With simply Guiding Touch in the deck, Pantheon isn’t really able to deny our burn damage once we get going. Their best course of action will be to try and race back with an Overwhelm unit and Cataclysm or Golden Aegis.
  • Yuumi Pantheon is one of the few matchups where we don’t want to play around things too much. The opponent is well aware we are looking to end things quickly and will use their resources accordingly. If they aren’t punishing you when they could have, you can assume they don’t have the card in hand.
  • Twisted Fate’s Gold Card can be huge and buy you a full turn if used at the right time. Consider holding TF when you have other good options in hand for that purpose.

Piltover & Zaun Noxus – Draven Sion – Even

Mulligan: Early swarm of the board | Trading evenly into TF red card: 1 and 2 Drops, Miss Fortune | Twisted Fate + Dreadway Deckhand

Match up Tips :

  • Both decks function very similarly, as they both look to dominate the early game to ease their transition into their burn plan. With no healing in either deck but more burn in the Discard deck, you should put the emphasis on the board phase for the first few turns.
  • Getting onto the board first is crucial in this matchup as it puts you in a position to decide when to start the race and have the initiative in the burn phase later on
  • While our attack turns should be focused on creating the biggest possible problem for the opponent, our defensive turns can be a bit trickier :
    • If you feel ahead, you can develop to set up a big open attack and have mana available to refill after your opponent trades in your units.
    • If you are tied or behind on board, look for a way to use the initiative you’ll gain next turn to turn the board around. For example, playing Dreadway Deckhand at the end of your turn into a Twisted Fate red card to start your attack turn
  • Twisted Fate stunning Sion is about your only way to slow down the champion, but it would be best to already be in the burn phase at this point in the game

Piltover & Zaun Noxus – Ezreal Caitlyn – Even

Mulligan: Look to quickly focus on the burn: 1 drops, Miss Fortune, Zap with a great hand

Match up Tips :

  • Ezreal Caitlyn is a great deck when it comes to handling the opposing board, but is very weak to burn damage. As such, we should be very aggressive early on, while they don’t have much mana available, and then focus on their nexus once they start removing our board every turn
  • Outside of Caitlyn, no units are must-remove in the opponent’s deck, meaning we can focus on being the aggressor even if the opponent starts developing on their side of the table.
  • Because of the many removal spells our opponent plays, making sure not to miss any damage from passive abilities is key to getting to the promised land.
  • Noxian Fervor should be used as reactively as possible unless the opponent doesn’t have the mana to react to it. It should be played on an undamaged unit as well to play around Ravenous Flock.
Shadow Isles Freljord – Feel The Rush – Very Unfavored

Mulligan: Early Swarm into units at 3+ health: 1 Drops – Miss Fortune – Island Navigator

Match up Tips :

  • Let’s not sugar coat it, you will need some luck in order to beat FTR considering the amount of healing and AoE they play. Play to your outs and try your luck if you see an opening.
  • Miss Fortune and Island Navigator are a good way to get some damage from the board and play around Avalanche, but ultimately, you will have to take a risk and hope they don’t have a specific card to win.
  • Consider every open attack you get and assess the risk of playing into an Avalanche compared to taking the damage you are presented. If your board mostly has 1 health unit, you might as well play more, Withering Wail is not something we can dodge.
  • We should get quite a bit of incremental damage along the way, so a window for burning our opponent down could open eventually. If you decide to take it, go all in for it and accept your defeat if the opponent can sustain your damage output.

Demacia Bligewater – Scouts – Very Unfavored

Mulligan: Early swarm of the board | Trading evenly into TF red card: 1 and 2 Drops, Miss Fortune | Twisted Fate + Dreadway Deckhand

Match up Tips :

  • Scouts is a bit of a final boss when it comes to dominating the board in the early and mid-game, meaning we have to be super aggressive and force them out of their comfort zone to win it in the end.
  • Twisted Fate can be clutch with the red card if we manage to set it up properly. Be mindful of Ranger’s Resolve as a counter to it, but don’t refrain from taking a few kills if you have a chance to do so.
  • Our saving grace in this match-up is the complete lack of healing in the Scouts deck. If you see that you are starting a bit of a snowball in terms of damage, put your foot on the gas pedal and go all in for it.
  • Miss Fortune is the key card for both players, with the distinction that the opponent has Challenger units to try and kill ours while we have to commit a Noxian Fervor to remove theirs. If you can’t afford to not block their units, the sacrifice to remove MF is often necessary

Closing Words :

Most of the time, when a burn or aggressive deck emerges on the ladder and punishes several popular decks, the metagame quickly adapts in order to counter said deck. For now, it looks like even with the recent patch, decks like Mono Shurima and Pantheon aren’t going anywhere, which gives Miss Fortune and Twisted Fate a good reason to roam the ladder for a few more weeks.

In high masters rank though, we can see an increase in control archetypes, mostly Feel the Rush which is the most played deck over the last couple of days at the moment I’m writing.

If you enjoy the aggressive gameplay of the Pirates deck though, I don’t think you should be alarmed by a potential return of the control decks. And while monitoring your good and bad matchups is important, the current metagame looks far from solved and the diversity we are seeing should be beneficial to a deck like Pirates, which can rely on a simple game plan against every opponent crossing its path.

If you want to invest time into the deck, I would recommend checking the various builds of the archetype, mostly looking at why would one play Gangplank or Twisted Fate or the number of cheap units and burn spells we want to be playing. With those fundamentals of the deck in mind, I’m sure that you should be well-equipped on your way to reaching the Master’s rank.

Want to share your experience with other players, or want to ask a particular question about the deck? Join me and the rest of the RuneterraCCG community on Discord for anything Legends of Runeterra-related.
As for me personally, you can find me on Twitter for various card game stuff or coaching aspiring pro players somewhere in the vast lands of Runeterra.

Good game everyone.


Den has been in love with strategy games for as long as he can remember, starting with the Heroes of Might and Magic series as a kid. Card games came around the middle school - Yugioh and then Magic. Hearthstone has been his real breakthrough and he has been a coach, writer, and caster on the French scene for many years now. Although it took him a bit to get into Legends or Runeterra, his EU Seasonal Tournament win was the perfect start to get involved in the community. He now coaches aspiring pro players and writes various articles on the game. Find him on Twitter at @den_CCG!

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