However, even with the release of new slivers in M14, don’t expect to see too much more sliver action at the Commander table. Slivers tend to be an all-or-nothing proposition – you either go full tribal to take advantage of their wicked synergy, or you don’t use them at all. A single sliver on its own isn’t really powerful enough to be a threat at the table. You might see Harmonic Sliver in a deck that wants creature-based enchantment/artifact destruction, or Sliver Queen in a 5-color token deck. Maybe some crazy person is doing something weird with Hivestone. Or perhaps a less-crazy person is splashing a couple slivers into their Changeling deck. On the whole, however, slivers are going to stick to their own hive.
SLIVER, DO YOU SPEAK IT?
Slivers are a tribe that grows exponentially. With each sliver you play, every creature on your board gains a new ability until every creature on your board is an unstoppable murder machine. Currently, there are 90 slivers (not counting shapeshifters). Each one delivers a different benefit:
Power/Toughness Increase: Armor Sliver, Barbed Sliver, Battle Sliver, Blade Sliver, Bonesplitter Sliver, Firewake Sliver, Frenzy Sliver, Fungus Sliver, Magma Sliver, Megantic Sliver, Might Sliver, Muscle Sliver, Plated Sliver, Predatory Sliver, Sedge Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Sliver Legion, Spectral Sliver, Spined Sliver, Steelform Sliver, Vampiric Sliver, and Watcher Sliver.
Evasion: Galerider Sliver (flying), Pulmonic Sliver (flying), Shadow Sliver (shadow), Shifting Sliver (can only be blocked by slivers), Two-Headed Sliver (can only be blocked by 2 or more creatures), and Winged Sliver (flying).
Defenses: Cautery Sliver (damage prevention), Crystalline Sliver (shroud), Hibernation Sliver (return to hand), Lymph Sliver (damage prevention), Pulmonic Sliver (return to top of library), Root Sliver (cannot be countered), and Ward Sliver (protection from one chosen color).
Other: Frenetic Sliver (bounce/sacrifice), Ghostflame Sliver (makes colorless), Hunter Sliver (provoke), Mesmeric Sliver (fateseal), Mistform Sliver (become other creature types), Quick Sliver (flash), Screeching Sliver (mill), Sidewinder Sliver (flanking), Sliver Overlord (gain control of slivers), Spinneret Sliver (reach), Telekinetic Sliver (taps permanents), Toxin Sliver (pseudo-deathtouch), and Virulent Sliver (poisonous 1).
Changelings: There are a few changelings worth giving honorary sliver status to. Amoebid Changeling turns other creatures into slivers (which lets Sliver Overlord steal them.) Changeling Titan and Taurean Mauler may find a place in sliver aggro decks. Mirror Entity makes your slivers huge in the late game. Shapesharer gives you a “clone sliver.”
CHOOSING A SLIVER GENERAL
There are exactly three legendary sliver creatures, and they’re all five-colors. Though it is entirely possible to play a sliver deck without a sliver general, your deck will be worse off for it. It’s not like you can even “hide” your deck type behind a non-tribal general – the jig is up the moment you drop your first sliver. Each sliver general lends itself to a different style of play…
Sliver Overlord is commonly regarded as the “best” sliver general, because of its tutor effect. For a mere three mana, you can search for the one sliver you need. Ready to deliver the death blow? Grab a Shifting Sliver. Blue mage got you down? Tutor up a Root Sliver. Getting rocked in the air by angels? Snag yourself a Galerider Sliver. The overlord is the most flexible of the generals, lending itself to different styles of play. He is probably the strongest toolbox general in the game, and you can use him to build a sliver army capable of multiple win conditions.
Sliver Queen was the first legendary sliver printed, way back in Stronghold, and remains today a very solid choice for general. During the Rath cycle, there was a Type II (today known as Standard) deck that produced infinite slivers using the queen, Ashnod’s Altar, and Heartstone. Today, with the existence of Doubling Season, Parallel Lives,Training Grounds, Phyrexian Altar, Mana Echoes, and many more such cards, making infinite slivers has never been easier! While the queen lacks the versatility of the overlord, she is a very strong combo and token deck general.
Sliver Legion is the most recent legendary sliver to be printed, and his ability is a Coat of Arms unique to slivers. He plays differently as a general than the other two, and wants to play an aggro game. Imagine the following – turn one, Blur Sliver. Turn two, Muscle Sliver. Turn three, Sinew Sliver. Turn four, Bonescythe Sliver. Turn five, you cast the general, and since everyone has haste, you swing for a total of 84 damage. Your general alone is doing 26 damage, which is Game Over for some unlucky soul. Of course, this isn’t going to happen consistently, but this is the kind of insane damage this general is seeking to do. Sliver Legion is the Timmy of the sliver family – he’s looking to load up his deck with creatures that increase power/toughness, evasion and trample, and smash your face with them.
Of course, never forget that you don’t have to pick just one – you can play all three! While your deck design may favor one of them over the other three, it’s a rare sliver deck that can’t utilize all three of these legendary creatures within their 99 cards.
COPING WITH A FIVE-COLOR MANABASE
So, how the heck do you build a mana base for a five-color EDH deck? The good news is that, unless you’re building Legion aggro, you don’t have to be particularly fast. Also, because slivers have low mana costs, you don’t have to hit CMCs above five very often – but you do have to consistently get all five colors down on the board. It does seem a bit daunting, and although you have multiple options, none of them are without drawbacks.
The Optimal Setup: The perfect 5-color mana base uses the 10 original dual lands, 10 shocklands, and 10 fetchlands, preferably with Crucible of Worlds to keep reusing the fetches – and 8-10 utility lands. Of course, this is crazy expensive. Using the TCGPlayer optimizer for conditions up to Heavily Played, the cheapest you can currently get this set of 30 lands for is $1,183.73. So, unless your discretionary spending budget is a heck of a lot bigger than mine, or you’ve been playing since 1994 and have smartly saved up all these lands, this isn’t the mana base for you.
Basic Landfetch: This is the cheapest version of a 5-color manabase you will find. It runs 5-6 of each basic land, and many if not all of the following lands that fetch basics:
Semi-Budget Speed: This is the go-to build if you need your deck to be fast, but can’t afford a mortgage payment to make it happen. It wants 10 Shocklands (which you should have been picking up over the last year), 10 Buddy Lands (the M10/Innistrad duals), and the 10 Painlands – plus several of the 5-color generating lands listed below. This is not a terribly consistent mana-base, but if you just can’t have lands coming into play tapped and don’t have access to the Optimal mana base, then this is pretty much your best option.
If none of these three mana bases work you, and you can afford the speed-loss of having lands come into play tapped, then you can pick and choose from the following options (in addition to basics and basic-fetchers):
5-Color Lands: There are many lands in the game that will produce any color of mana, with either a price or a restriction. You should always have Command Tower, because it’s the only one without any drawbacks. Also, Cavern of Souls is a must-have for any Sliver deck, as it produces any color of mana (for slivers) and makes your slivers uncounterable.
Other lands in this category to consider include Vivid Lands (more on these a bit later), Grand Coliseum and City of Brass (1 damage), Rupture Spire and Transguild Promenade(they come into play tapped and cost 1 mana to play), Exotic Orchard (only produces colors you opponents can produce), Forbidden Orchard (gives an opponent a 1/1 token), Mirrodin’s Core (has to charge), Reflecting Pool (only produces what your other lands already can), and Ancient Ziggurat (only for creatures).
Counter-Bounce: This is a manabase style I have developed for my own Sliver Overlord deck. It’s slow, but consistent. It utilizes lands that tap for any color but have diminishing counters on them, and the 10 Ravnica karoos to bounce them back to your hand once you’ve used all the counters:
|Counter Lands: 7
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
1 Gemstone Mine
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
Alara Taplands: Two-color taplands are too much of a hindrance for a five-color manabase, but the cycle of three-color taplands can definitely benefit a Sliver deck. These lands are Arcane Sanctum, Crumbling Necropolis, Jungle Shrine, Seaside Citadel, and Savage Lands.
Artifact Fixing: Chromatic Lantern is a godsend. It’s a colorless Prismatic Omen (which you should totally also have.) Any cheap artifacts that produce any color are also worth considering: Coalition Relic, Darksteel Ingot, Coldsteel Heart, Fellwar Stone, Manalith, and Mox Diamond. Just remember – artifacts are much easier to destroy than lands!
LET’S BUILD A SLIVER DECK!
So, now that we’ve got a solid knowledge foundation, let’s build ourselves a sliver deck! Before starting, we have to decide what kind of deck we want to play – what is its theme (other than Slivers), and how does it win?
Well, I see a lot of slivers that have sacrifice abilities for powerful stuff – destroying permanents, generating mana, and more. So, let’s build around the “sacrifice and recur” theme, utilizing enchantments like Grave Pact and Martyr’s Bond to control the board, by killing our own slivers.
This control strategy is more suited to Sliver Queen‘s combo win condition than the smashy style of Legion or the flexible style of Overlord, as both of these generals very much want slivers to stay alive. The queen doesn’t care if a few of her brood dies – she can just keep making more.
So we have our theme (suicide control), our general (Sliver Queen), and win condition (combo). Let’s figure out how we’re gonna handle the numerical breakdown.
My standard for lands is 39, because that gives a nice even number to figure out the rest of the deck (99-39=60). It’s served me well so far, and can always be adjusted up or down as needed. Running a sacrifice and recursion theme is going to be somewhat black-heavy, so I don’t think one of the pre-packaged mana bases is going to work for us. So, I’m going to take a little bit from each of the other options to make it work.
There are a total of 8 combo pieces that can serve as one of the three pieces for our infinite sliver combo: in addition to the seven listed above, Earthcraft can take the place of Heartstone by having the token that comes into play produce mana (by untapping a basic land). Since most of these pieces work just as well for Ghave, Guru of Spores, we’ll include him as a backup Queen. So, 9 combo pieces total in the deck.
We’ll need some tutors to dig up our combo pieces. I think five cards that do nothing other than tutor should be sufficient here. One of them is gonna be Beseech the Queen, because how the heck are you NOT gonna run that card in a Sliver Queen deck?
Next, we’re gonna need some slivers. Lots of them. In addition to the slivers that sacrifice themselves, we need card draw, protection, and mana. I think 25 slivers should be enough to cover all these bases.
Oh, and we have to have the other two legendary slivers, because of course we have to have the other two legendary slivers. Legion gives us a backup win condition (smashing face), and Overlord gives us tutoring, and a degree of protection from other sliver decks.
That leaves us with 19 card slots left to come up with suicide control options, and sliver support cards. Let’s build it!
Over the next few weeks, the Monday updates will consist of articles detailing (and giving a sample decklist for) the popular archetypes in Commander: Reanimator, Pillow Fort, Voltron, Tokens, Enchantments, Group Hug and more. Expect one of these articles every Monday until I’ve covered every archetype in the format (which will take no less than 12 weeks – there are many archetypes to cover) – any content beyond this point will be considered bonus articles and posted on a non-Monday-day. I make no promises for this extra content, but I’ve got the writing compulsion pretty bad at the moment, so don’t be surprised when it happens!