An Introduction to Malcolm and Tana (Temur Pirates) in cEDH

Callahan Jones • January 13, 2024

Looking for one of the fastest creature combo decks in the format? Then I have the solution for you. We're checking out all things Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator, partnered with Tana, the Bloodsower, AKA Temur Pirates (or Tropical Pirates or Temur Glint-Horn Combo or...). It's one of my favorite decks, and it definitely has legs, but why should you play it?

Why Should You Play Temur Pirates in cEDH?

First: the best part about this deck is one of its two Commanders, Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator. He only costs three mana, meaning that getting him out on turn 1 is trivial, and his consistent flow of Treasures solves a lot of problems.

Second: the main advantage that Temur Pirates has over many similar decks is its ability to put a creature-combo-based win into play incredibly quickly. Given the noncreature-spell-heavy meta, many players come to the table with relatively few creature removal spells and counters that can hit them on the stack. Oftentimes, they'll maybe have Force of Will or Mindbreak Trap at most for the latter and something like a bounce spell (Snap, etc.) for the former.

Additionally, thanks to green spells like Eldritch Evolution and Survival of the Fittest, Temur is the best Malcolm deck at getting Glint-Horn Buccaneer (your other combo piece) out the quickest of all available color options, making it a "turbo" deck of sorts.  Also, since we, ourselves, are a blue deck, you also get to play all of the powerful interactive options needed to keep our combo protected as well. If you want to be able to win quickly through creatures - but also be able to grind back through setbacks too, look at playing this deck.

Turbo-Midrange-Creature-Combo with Temur Pirates

In the past, I've alluded to my belief that mana, not cards, is most often your limiting factor in the average Competitive Commander game. Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator helps alleviate this problem massively, giving you a constant supply of Treasures every turn, with even more coming if you can get some of your other Pirates onto the field. Additionally, since we're in green, the full contingent of general use mana dorks is at our disposal. This mana advantage will snowball you into the lead at the table, a lead from which you can then execute your main gameplan. Glint-Horn Buccaneer, an unassuming rare from M20, is also an A + B combo with our commander, Malcolm. I'll explain that more later. However, this is the thing the deck is built to do, and many of the nonstandard card choices in the list play to that aim. For good reason, too, since if you're the first person to put a creature-based win on the stack you can usually win the game.

Mulligans with Temur Pirates should always keep two things in mind; specifically, the two things mentioned above:

  1. Cast Malcolm on turn one (or turn two if the rest of the hand is good enough [e.g., casting Rhystic Study on turn 1 instead])
  2. Be able to find Glint-Horn Buccaneer quickly and put it into play to force a win OR develop one of several value engines to set you up for the future (aka, trying to win second instead of first).

The thing you must absolutely never do is get trapped by hands that cast Malcolm and do nothing else. Card choices in this list are made to serve a specific, gameplan, making our average card quality lower than some cEDH pilots may be used to. Your opening hand therefore has to set the tenor of your game, whether that be having mana dork, Eldritch Evolution, and the mana needed to turn that into a winning gameplan, or an early Mystic Remora that can carry you into hopefully a strong turn four. If you don't keep hands with plans, instead opting for Nice Piles of Cards That Also Cast Malcolm, you'll lose a lot of games before you start winning. Keeping a lot of interaction isn't much use either, as the lack of card advantage in the command zone keeps the deck from being effective as table police. Luckily, you can usually go to four cards with little fear and find something that will work very well for you.

Temur Pirates Staples

Temur Pirates Win Conditions

Obviously, the best cards in our deck are the ones that are going to win the game... usually. The easiest and most common way we're going to win the game is through our Glint-Horn Buccaneer combo. The secret lies in his strange range of abilities, most importantly his activated ability "{1}{R}, Discard a card: Draw a card. Activate only if Glint-Horn Buccaneer is attacking." This ability combines with a triggered one: "Whenever you discard a card, Glint-Horn Buccaneer deals 1 damage to each opponent." Throw on Malcolm's ability that gives us a Treasure token each time an opponent is dealt damage (that's right, not combat damage, any damage!) by a Pirate, and you have a combo capable of dealing damage to all of our opponents at once equal to our cards in the library. Thanks to his haste (and four toughness), attacking with our angry Minotaur is pretty easy; you just have to keep him alive until you can activate it!

Past Glint-Horn, the only other win-con in the current version of the list is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker + Corridor Monitor. This one is pretty simple, making infinite haste-y Corridor Monitors to kill our opponents. It's slow and essentially a matter of last resort, but notably, unlike other things you can flex in, like Dualcaster Mage + Twinflame, can be assembled with our range of creature tutors.

Temur Pirates Tutors

The real strength of Temur Malcolm decks over the likes of, say, Grixis, is the range of effective, fast, and affordable green-based creature tutors we get to play with (and find Glint-Horn through). The best of these are Invasion of Ikoria, Finale of Devastation, Chord of Calling (bonus for being an instant), Eldritch Evolution, and Neoform. These options put Glint-Horn Buccaneer directly onto the battlefield without opening it up to countering, something that gives you more "chances" at winning the game. The next level down from there comes our tutors that find Glint-Horn but don't put them directly into play, the best being Survival of the Fittest. These tutors are what enables the deck to play to its wincon so quickly.

Temur Pirates Interaction

While this deck gets to play all of the best blue counterspells (which goes without saying in cEDH), I want to focus on the main unique way this deck interacts with opponents: protecting Glint-Horn and also removing Drannith Magistrate (lol). Since we rely on Glint-Horn Buccaneer and Malcolm, Keen-Eyed Navigator surviving to win the game, we need ways to protect them. Many of the spell choices in this list are centered around that, going so far to even include Spellskite to take the fall for our creatures. In that same vein, Drannith Magistrate is a huge killer, given that we rely heavily on Malcolm, so there are more than a few ways to remove that here, with my favorite being Sidisi's Faithful. I often save all of my interaction (save that which is needed to stay alive) to protect my game-winning turn. As I said above, there isn't enough for both keeping control of the table and protecting yourself, so keep it for when it counts.

Temur Pirates Value Engines

Here we have most of the best advantage engines, most notably Mystic Remora and Rhystic Study. Quickly casting Rhystic Study is something that will always get me to snap keep hands, and relative newcomer The One Ring also does a great job of giving us a bunch of cards. It's important to be able to develop one of these options at the beginning or middle of the game to keep parity with our opponents. Unfortunately, this deck is so desperate for drawing cards that Sylvan Library is basically a must-play, despite the fact that its value proposition in Commander isn't great. You can read about that on the site elsewhere, though.

Temur Pirates Fast Mana

One of the major appeals of Malcolm is that he only costs three mana, making it easy to get him into play on turn one. Our fast mana package is imperative to make this goal a reality. The one thing missing here that is common in cEDH is the Talisman cycle, though there is an argument that they could maybe be included here. However, I think they run into a card quality issue. They fit well into decks that draw a lot of cards, such as Blue Farm, as they let you turn your advantage into more mana, turbo charging the casting of future draws.

The Rest of a cEDH Temur Pirates Decklist

The rest of a Temur Pirates decklist, beyond what I've specifically talked about, is pretty easy to parse together. We play almost all the best cards in Temur, which retains a relatively high card quality level. The notable exclusive of what could be played here is Underworld Breach/Brain Freeze/Thassa's Oracle combo. Plenty of players have tinkered with that but have decided to skip on it due to the deck's inability to easily tutor it up, creating a more streamlined list and plan. If you absolutely wanted to make one cut from my list to put in a different card, cut Warrior's Oath. Two Final Fortune effects has always felt a bit cleaner to me than three, and the new borderless art on Last Chance is objectively better. Portal one is dang good too.

Temur Pirates is some of the most fun I've ever had playing cEDH. It helps that it's a pretty dang decent deck too. Go forth, cast your creatures, and watch your opponents writhe in terror realizing they have nothing to stop your plan. Oh yeah, never cast Tana.

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Callahan Jones is a long time Commander player who mostly dabbles in cEDH these days. Formally a member of the Playing with Power cEDH content team, now you can find him talking about Magic and Gamecubes on Twitter.