The Secrets Of Sea Of Thieves: Tips For New Pirates And Veterans Alike

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Just as the ocean conceals its depths, Sea of Thieves is far more complex than it may appear on the surface. Though it makes improvements in player communication all the time, the game still leaves a lot for players to figure out for themselves. Even SoT veterans can spend hundreds of hours on the seas and not know some of its deepest secrets. Here, I’ve compiled tips for brand new pirates and veteran Pirate Legends alike.

For New Pirates

I started playing Sea of Thieves in the technical alpha so I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years. Here are a few pointers I wish someone had given me back then.

1. Never hold more loot than you’re prepared to lose

Of all the Sea of Thieves tips on this list, this is perhaps the most important lesson any new pirate must learn. Sea of Thieves is a game about being a pirate. There will always be other pirates looking to jump you if they think you have something valuable on board. The temptation to loot haul, of loading your boat with a large number of chests, skulls and curios, is attractive, I know. It looks cool when you have loads of loot and it’s all arranged nicely on the deck. I know. But don’t do it. A friend of mine has a saying about SoT: the loot isn’t yours until the money’s in the bank. Just because it’s on your boat right now doesn’t mean it’s yours to turn in. The more the loot you have on board, the more evasive you’re likely to be — that’s the exact behaviour that tells veteran pirates you have something they want.

2. Never hard anchor your boat

Anchoring your boat close to an island or an outpost is a rookie mistake. Rather, pull your sails up a short distance from your destination and allow the ship’s momentum to carry it to rest. Practice makes perfect. On the galleon, you’ll want to pull your sails up the moment the island’s name banner appears. On the brigantine, pull them up just after this banner appears. On the sloop, you can be quite close to an island before having to pull up your sails. Ensure that your wheel is positioned straight ahead so that the ship doesn’t turn. This will allow you to make a speedy getaway in an emergency. Only drop the anchor if you need to come to a sudden stop or make a particularly sharp turn in combat. In both cases, you should be ready to pull it right back up again. There is no surer sign of a new player than an anchored boat with its sails down.

3. Check the emissary tables when you log in

At every outpost, there are five emissary tables. The Athena’s Fortune table is located in the back of the tavern. The Reaper’s Bones emissary is usually located away from the docks, identified by a snapping skeleton in a cage. The Gold Hoarder and Order of Souls emissaries are usually placed centrally or close to the docks. The Merchant’s Alliance emissary is always located on the docks near your ship.

Always check these tables at the start of every session. If you see a small wooden ship on any of the tables, it means there is someone on your server flying that emissary’s flag. Checking the tables can be a good way of gauging how many people are on your server at the moment of arrival. If you choose to become an emissary, your little wooden ship will be added to the table for anyone to see.

4. Fill up your ship with supplies when you first log in

Every Sea of Thieves session begins with your pirate on an outpost. This outpost is almost always stocked with supplies. Run around the island, gobble up all these supplies, and store them on your boat before disembarking. Boats only come stocked with bare minimum supplies, so make sure you’re putting plenty of extras on board before leaving.

If you’re short on time and flush with cash, you can also buy cannonball, wood, food, and storage crates from the Merchant Alliance trader on the docks. We don’t recommend the food crates, as they only have bananas inside. Bananas grant barely any health, and it makes the crate a bit of a rip off in our humble opinion.

The storage crates are expensive at around 17,500 gold, but they also make gathering supplies from islands you visit incredibly efficient. Run up to any barrels you see while holding your storage crate and press the Take button to transfer everything to the crate. Once on your ship, press the Store button to transfer everything from the crate to your storage barrels. Easy.

5. Understand how the wind works

This is another one of those critical Sea of Thieves tips that will help you get ahead sooner. The most basic understanding of how the wind in Sea of Thieves works is “move your sails to catch the breeze.” However, if you are sailing against the wind, you will move faster if you place your sails straight ahead. These are called Dummy Sails because you look like a bit of a dummy for doing it. Trust me, it works. If you’ve ever been chased by someone using the same boat, and they’re inexplicably faster than you, dummy sails are the answer.

Each of the ships in the game has a different relationship to the wind. The Sloop is the fastest ship heading into the wind. The Brigantine is fastest by far when using a cross-wind — catching the wind with the sails positioned to the far left or right. The Galleon is the fastest ship when moving with the wind — that is, when it has the wind behind it, propelling it forwards.

Manage your sails properly, keep an eye on the wind, and you’ll never fall behind in a chase again.

6. If the wind bugs out, check your flag

Sea of Thieves is known for its many bugs. One such bug involves the way the game displays the direction of the wind. If the swooping lines indicating the direction of the wind disappear, you can simply look at the flag atop your mast to know which direction the wind is currently blowing. If you are sailing as a trading company emissary, you can also look to the flag at the back of your ship for clues.

7. Turn your lanterns off

The lanterns on your ship may help you see the deck a bit better at night, but they’re also a beacon for others on the seas. You’ll be more visible at range with your lanterns on, day or night, than you are with them off. Though player ships on the horizon are shaded to stand out, ships without bright lights are much easier to miss.

8. Try to avoid glowing ship cosmetics if you want to keep a low profile

Same principle as the lanterns. Glowing ship cosmetics give you an extremely obvious profile and draw the eye from a mile off. Running something more understated, or simply sticking with the default ship, is a safer bet if you don’t want to attract attention.

9. Live by the sword

While it’s tempting to double-gun, the sword remains one of Sea of Thieves‘ most versatile weapons. For a start, its area of effect is far longer than most people think, allowing you to deal damage at short and medium ranges. It also packs a short stun on a hit so people who are double-gunning are likely to get tripped up. You can also use it to sword lunge, a movement that began life as a physics bug but is now considered a standard traversal methodology. With sword in hand, hold the block button and then charge up your sword lunge by holding down the attack button. At the moment the sword makes its “sharp” noise to signal the start of the lunge, tap the jump button. Your pirate will fling themselves a great distance. If your pirate lands in the water, they will cover an extremely long distance, making it perfect for getting in front of an oncoming enemy ship.

10. Dress for the occasion

Don’t dress your pirate in the Pirate Legend, Ocean Crawler, Parrot, or Nightshine Parrot cosmetics. If you dress your pirate in these cosmetics, you will be mercilessly bullied by every player you meet. These cosmetics are for trolls, and trolls alone.

11. The joy of being sneaky

This is one of those Sea of Thieves tips that will be divisive. There are people who love being sneaky on the seas, and there are those who despise people who love being sneaky on the seas.

The act of hiding on another crew’s ship to jump them for their loot is a time-honoured tradition in Sea of Thieves. In the early days, before the game had the sprawling set of emotes it does today, pirates would use the sleep emote to hide. This would cause your pirate to yawn, stretch, and quickly curl into a ball. You had to be careful, and tuck yourself away somewhere the enemy crew couldn’t see you. This is how the practice of Tucking in Sea of Thieves came to be. Depending on the kind of player you are, you either accept tucking as a fact of life on the seas, or you rebuke it entirely.

All I’m saying is: give it a try. Dress in dark colours and see how you go. Lurking on another crew’s ship when they have no idea you’re there is a genuine thrill. Even better if they’re on an open mic.

12. Understand what the different flags mean

Players have access to several different flags for their ship. Some of these flags send specific messages. For instance, a white flag is a peace offering. Fly it to tell other ships you don’t want to fight. The Pride Flag added to the game as a nice gesture from Rare of SoT‘s queer community, is regularly co-opted by trolls as a lure. The Reaper’s Mark, which glows a sinister red, is a PvP flag. It renders your ship visible on the map to every crew on the server, signalling you are looking for a fight. Because this flag looks quite cool, it is frequently chosen by new pirates unaware of its true purpose.

13. Don’t go rushing to hit Pirate Legend in your first week

Getting to Pirate Legend takes time, and there’s honestly not that much waiting for you on the other side of that milestone. Sea of Thieves is about the journey, not the destination. Take the time to enjoy the ride. If you grind it out, hitting PL won’t have the same meaning. It’ll happen when it happens.

14. You can buy reputation levels from Larinna

If you do want to grind your way to PL, however, there is a way to speed that process up a little. If you’re trying to grind reputation levels with the various trading companies, you can buy levels from Larinna at the outposts. Larinna is located at the door to every outpost tavern in the game. Talk to her to open her Black Market store and you can purchase a level for each trading company with doubloons. You can only do this once per month, but it will likely help you on your grind to Pirate Legend.

15. Use the storm to your advantage

Run into the storm if you’re being chased. The heaving waves and loss of compass directions make it easy for people to lose track of you in tumult. This is especially useful for smaller ships being chased by a galleon. Being in the storm puts a lot of pressure on your ship, causing it to spring leaks. Sloops hold together well and blow very few holes. Brigantines are larger and spring holes at a rate of one every minute or so. Galleons are huge and (apparently) poorly constructed. A galleon in the storm will pop holes every 20 seconds or so. This will keep them busy while you slip away into the waves and mist.

16. Snakes will go to sleep if you play music at them, and other animal facts

Music soothes the savage beast. Avoid a spray of venom by playing local snakes a bop. They’ll go to sleep and you can chop them up for meat. Additionally, any animals your trap and bring aboard your vessel must be fed from your stocks from time to time. Keeping a chicken or a pig as a pet is fun until you realise you’ve burned through all your food looking after it.

Be aware of this when grinding Merchant voyages to get your reputation up. You may need to fill your boat with animals, and they all need feeding. Prepare your food stocks accordingly.

17. There is an autorun/auto swim button on the PC

If you’re playing on PC, you can press the NumLock key to engage autorun, or auto swim if you’re in the water. This is a particularly handy feature for players that love a sneaky swim play on an active fort, though that has gotten much harder since the angry merfolk were added.

18. Never take the Stronghold Gunpowder Barrels out of a fort vault

This is one of those tips Sea of Thieves players consider an unwritten rule. When completing a fort of any kind, you should always dispose of the Stronghold Gunpowder Barrels in the vault before removing anything from it. The first thing you should do after opening the door is a light one, drop it, and run like hell. We do this for a couple of reasons. First, anyone hiding in the fort will be caught in the giant blast and killed — dead pirates cannot interfere with your looting.  Second, destroying the kegs removes an easy option for other pirates looking to take you down. We cannot stress this enough: if the mega kegs remain in play, they will be used against you.

If one of these kegs is used on your ship, no matter where it detonates, the blast will be powerful enough to sink a galleon in seconds. You may think you want to sell them! They’re worth about 5000 gold a pop! You do not want to sell them. This is folly.  Veteran pirates know that to leave a mega keg in play (or worse, to put one on your boat) is to risk it all.

Frequently asked piracy questions

19. Is there a way to summon the Shrouded Ghost?

Not that we know of. The Hunter of the Shrouded Ghost commendation is one of the rarest and hardest to claim in the entire game. This is because you can only claim it from killing the Shrouded Ghost Megalodon, a giant shark with an arrival rate so low that some have played for years and never seen it. Players have spent years cracking the code on how to summon the rarest Megalodon in the game to no avail. Being in the mist doesn’t help. Being in the storm doesn’t help. Getting all the other Megalodon commendations doesn’t help. Many thought it was tied to a percentage, a roll of the dice to determine how likely it would be to show up. Not so. According to SoT creative director Mike Chapman, it’s not tied to a percentage chance either.

Our working theory is that you just have to murder every Meg you see. This is based on our theory that the Fort of Fortune, another rare sight, is tied to world event completion rather than rotation. The more world events completed on a given server, the more likely the Fort of the Damned is to appear. If that’s true, the same could potentially apply to the Shrouded Ghost. The more dead Megs you leave in your wake, the greater the chance that the Shrouded may appear.

20. Is It Wise To Do Forts of Fortune/The Fort of the Damned?

The thing to know about both the Fort of Fortune and the Fort of the Damned is that few veteran players want to complete these world events. What veteran players want is to let other players do that work and then swoop in at the end to steal the loot. Indeed, most of the players you’ll find running these events are often quite new to the game, drawn in by the promise of a big payday.

If you find yourself interacting with younger players, they almost invariably ask to form an alliance and do the Fort of the Damned.

Crafty pirates will sneak onto the active fort while you are distracted and lie in wait for you to complete it. Most often, they’ll accomplish this by sailing to an island or rock formation close to the fort that hides their ship and dropping a rowboat off the back. From there, they’ll row to the island and tuck in one of the cannon towers. The moment you open the vault to claim your booty, they will strike. Keep your wits about you. Check the horizon after clearing each wave. Keep an eye out for mermaids in the water, a telltale sign that a pirate from another crew has snuck onto the island.

21. How do I get that barrel hide emote?

You currently can’t. The barrel hide emote, a favourite among sneaky pirates, was a reward in the Season Two Battle Pass. If you weren’t around to claim it, there is, unfortunately, no way to get it. We expect it might appear again as a Twitch drop in the future, but who knows when that might be.

22. How do I get the Pirate Legend curse?

This was another seasonal reward from the Season One Battle Pass. Again, at this point, if you didn’t claim it back then, there is no way to get it now.

Naval combat

23. Don’t fear the Reapers (and PvP)

Don’t turn into one of those people that scream on Reddit about wanting PvE Only private servers. PvP is a part of the game. It will always be part of the game. It’s Sea of Thieves, not Sea of Friends. If you want a chill experience where people agree to put their guns down, use the Looking For Group function on the Xbox dashboard. People are always looking for players to join their peaceful Alliance Servers. But even these are not safe from the arrival of feisty pirates. Always play Sea of Thieves with the understanding that you could have to fight for your loot at any moment, and that you could potentially lose it. That’s a fact of life on the seas, friends, and it is the risk you take.

24. Audio cues are critical

Always have your ear out for audio cues in the heat of combat. A music note will tell you when your cannonballs are striking the enemy ship. Your ship’s mast will make a cracking sound before it falls. Boarders latching onto your ladder will make a loud splashing sound. You’ll hear wood explode whenever you get struck with cannonballs. Your ship will make different noises depending on how full of water it is — keep an ear out for the death rattle, a very loud groan as the ship reaches peak water. Don’t get tunnel vision. Stay loose, pay attention to the sounds you can hear during the battle and react accordingly.

25. Pull away if you’re taking huge damage

If you’ve found yourself in a tight spot and cannons are raining down on your ship, just get out of there. Veer off your current heading and get out of the line of fire. Turning away will buy you time to bail water and patch up any holes. If there’s no honour among thieves, then there’s nothing wrong with running for it either.

26. Never go nose-first

A common mistake new sailors make in combat is called “nosing”. This is exactly what it sounds like — turning the ship’s bowsprit, or “nose”, directly toward the enemy vessel and beelining in for a ram. This play is easy to counter and leaves your ship exposed to boarding or attack every single time. Nosing an enemy ship gives your foes perfect shot chainshot angles at your masts. Stay mobile, keep out of your enemy’s broadside, and stay in cannon range.

27. Cursed cannonballs are situational

Hard to stress this enough: learn how to properly use your curseballs and it will make you a naval god. Hitting an enemy ship with the right curse ball at the right moment can completely alter the course of a naval battle. This is one of those Sea of Thieves tips that takes a while to feel out. You have to learn what each ball does and how best to use it. But once you do, you become a serious threat to any ship foolish enough to turn in on you.

Ballastballs drop a huge gout of water into enemy hulls, making them galleon busters. Lay into the lower and middle decks of any galleon with your cannons to create plenty of holes and follow through with a ballastball. If you’ve done it right, the ballastball will instantly fill the galleon’s lower deck. The holes in the mid-deck will fill it rapidly, and down she goes.

Riggingballs instantly raise an enemy ship’s sails, rendering them useless for a short period. This makes them a perfect follow-through for chainshots. Use a chainy to on an enemy ship’s mast. As the sails begin to retract, hit the ship with a riggingball. This will instantly retract the sails, putting the mast into its fall state. The riggingball will also lock the sail controls, preventing your foes from catching it as it falls, and guaranteeing a downed mast.

Status balls like drunk, weary, limp, and venomballs are all valuable for slowing enemy crews down. Be careful with these if you’re sending a boarder over as your teammate can get caught in the crossfire. These are best used when you need to create a distraction. If your boarder is on the way, hit the enemy ship with a weary ball and put them to sleep so your boarder can arrive unimpeded.

28. Boarding techniques

One of the most critical points on any list of Sea of Thieves tips. Boarding enemy ships is an essential component in naval combat. Get used to doing it because it’s often the best way to get the sink on an enemy vessel. Many crews will drop what they are doing to deal with an enemy boarder, leaving them vulnerable to sinking. For most boarding attempts, there is a little bit of a process to follow. You’ll want to make sure you’re at full health and have pockets full of food. Either jump off your boat or fire yourself off with a cannon to put yourself in the path of the enemy ship.

Once you’re on the ladder, pause a moment in case anyone onboard heard you — the game does play an audio queue when boarders arrive. If the crew has seen your mermaid, they may be on alert. Climb up the ladder and begin your dark work. On galleons and brigantines, your first goal will be to reach the anchor in the middle of the ship and drop it. Dropping the enemy anchor turns them into a stationary target, creating an opportunity for your ship to beat the hell out of it with cannons.

If you’ve got the anchor down, it’s time to begin the deathmatch. Chances are, the enemy crew will be all over you. Movement and weapon counters are the order of the day. Sword beats sniper rifle. Sniper rifle beats blunderbuss. Blunderbuss beats sword. Break off to eat and heal up when you have to. Keep enemy pirates from patching any holes in their hull. You want it to sink. At all other times, when not directly under fire, try to steal as many supplies as your pockets can hold. Every second you are alive on the enemy ship buys time for your crew to blow them to hell with cannon fire. When you get the sink, stay close to their mermaid in case they get back spawns. Backspawns are when the game releases freshly-sunk pirates at the spot where their ship went down. You don’t want a surprise back spawn getting the jump on you.

An extra pro-strat for free: eat a bait worm before getting on board. Your pirate will start vomiting uncontrollably, blinding everyone on board with puke and tilting the fight in your favour. You’re welcome.

29. Harpooning for fun and profit

The harpoons on the front of your ship can be used for all sorts of things. You can use it to pull floating treasure out of the ocean, as well as grab supply barrels while travelling. You can use it to maneuver your ship around hazardous rocks for a sharper turning circle. The harpoon also works on pirates, zipping your allies back to the ship in an instant. Pirates often use this to pull their own teammates from the water, but did you know it works on enemy pirates too? Use the harpoon on unsuspecting enemy pirates who might be standing on the back of their ship as you chase them down. Use it on would-be boarders are they pass the front of your ship. Yoink them onto the deck of your ship and slice them up. Of all the Sea of Thieves tips on this list, this is the one they never see coming.

30. You’re on the Ferry of the Damned for about 30 seconds

Pro Sea of Thieves tips: If you’re killed and sent to the Ferry of the Damned, you’ll be put in a 30 second time out. Bad pirates spend this time running around, tilted and salty. Smart pirates use this time to form a plan. Depending on the situation around your boat at the moment you were killed, you’ll know right away whether your boat will have sunk by the time you get back. If you’re working as a team, build your respawn strategy around this window. If you’re boarded and your whole crew killed by enemy pirates, have everyone wait to respawn together. If you trickle back in one by one, you’ll just get spawn camped and picked off. Instead, go back together and make life that much harder for them.

31. Ignore the haters

There are three kinds of pirates: Those who can deal with trash-talking, those who can’t, and those who do trash-talking. PvP happy pirates will sometimes use voice comms as an excuse to get incredibly toxic. If they start hassling you and you’re not comfortable with it, just mute them. Mute them in the settings and shut them the hell up forever. On the other hand, though they talk a big game, few of these salty lords have the skills to back all their taunting up. They want you angry because a mad pirate is prone to making mistakes. This is so important among any list of Sea of Thieves tips: stay cool, and always take the fight to them. There are few things more satisfying than crapping on a boat full of trash-talking pirates.

32. You can defuse lit powder kegs

A common PvP tactic is to board another player’s boat with a powder keg in hand. Players do this because the crew on the ship being boarded are less likely to fire for fear of losing their ship. If you are boarded by someone holding a keg, you can still control the situation. Step one is to stay calm. Your impulse will be to scatter and brace for impact. Don’t. This is because pirates want to drop the keg and make a quick exit to round up stragglers. What you want to do is directly follow the pirate holding the keg. Chances are, they’ll take down into your hold, light it, drop it, and run. All you need to do is pick the keg up and defuse it. You do this by pulling the left trigger on your Xbox controller, or pressing the right mouse button if you’re on PC. Keg defused! You can now deal with your unruly boarder and dispose of the keg safely. One of those Sea of Thieves tips you can use to surprise your friends and infuriate your enemies.

33. Organise your storage barrels

One thing you can do to make accessing your supplies easier is a small amount of organisation. For instance, I like to put all my munitions (cannonballs, curseballs, chains, etc) exclusively in the top barrel because it’s the one I naturally gravitate to during ship-to-ship combat. For food, I generally keep all of my good food in the top barrel and all my bananas and worms in the bottom barrel since I barely ever use them. Organisation is that little extra step that will save you in a crisis. You know where everything is when the heat gets turned up.

34. So your mast got smashed in combat

A common way naval battles commence in Sea of Thieves is with the traditional exchange of chainshots. Chainshots can instantly drop a mast, leaving a ship dead in the water. If your mast is hit with a chainshot, it will raise your sails and topple over. You’ll have to grab the sail controls on the left or right side of the ship to pull them up again. You will also need to make sure you hammer on at least one plank of wood to keep it upright, or it will just fall over again. This may be difficult to do in the heat of combat. If your attacker loses cannon angles on you, that is the moment to get your mast up, drop sails, and get moving.

35. Bare feet make no sound

If you’re the kind of pirate that enjoys sneaking onto other players boats, consider taking your shoes off first. Boots make a lot of sound on the wooden deck of a ship. Taking them off and letting your pirate run around in bare feet makes little sound at all. A little extra way to get the drop on an unwary pirate. This is one of those really subtle Sea of Thieves tips that pays off for me every time.

36. Recycle your ammo crates

Ammo crates are great for battles away from your ship. They contain 50 bullets and can be placed close to anywhere you’ll be fighting while away from your boat. Many pirates simply throw them away when they’re empty. This is wasteful. Simply take your ammo crate to the ammunition box on your ship, located beneath the weapon cabinet, and refill it.

These are just a few of the hardwon lessons I’ve learned over many years of playing Sea of Thieves. What are yours? Any tips and tricks you’d like to add? Shout ’em out in the comments below and help your fellow pirates out. Good hunting, sea dogs, we’ll see you on the seas. Sea of Thieves is out now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows PC. You can also find it on Game Pass.


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