Slivers!

Bonescythe-Sliver-M14-Visual-SpoilerNow that the spoilers of M14 are complete, and Slivers have been reintroduced to the world of Magic in a big way, it’s the perfect time to talk about my favorite tribe.

First discovered on the plane of Rath, slivers are a species in constant evolution. Part of a hive mind, they are able to share their abilities with other slivers. One sliver on its own is a threat – but even just a couple slivers together quickly becomes a force of nature.No other tribe in Magic comes close to the contentiousness of Slivers – players tend to either love them or hate them, with very few opinions in the middle. This is with good reason – slivers are easily one of the most powerful tribes in Magic, matching the synergy of elves and the power of dragons.

ku-mediumHowever, 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:

“Huh, there’s a LOT of P/T guys here… I uh… don’t feel so special any more…”

Power/Toughness IncreaseArmor SliverBarbed SliverBattle SliverBlade SliverBonesplitter SliverFirewake SliverFrenzy SliverFungus SliverMagma SliverMegantic SliverMight SliverMuscle SliverPlated SliverPredatory SliverSedge SliverSinew SliverSliver LegionSpectral SliverSpined SliverSteelform SliverVampiric Sliver, and Watcher Sliver.

Double StrikeBonescythe Sliver and Fury Sliver.

First StrikeSpitting SliverStriking Sliver and Talon Sliver.

TrampleBattering SliverGroundshaker Sliver, and Horned Sliver.

RegenerationClot SliverCrypt SliverPoultice Sliver, and Sedge Sliver.

HasteBlur SliverFirewake SliverHeart Sliver, and Reflex Sliver.

Pulmonic (adj.) – “Of or relating to the lungs.” Pulmonic Sliver apparently turns all slivers into gigantic lungs.

VigilanceSentinel Sliver, and Synchronous Sliver.

EvasionGalerider 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).

ManaBasal SliverGemhide Sliver, and Manaweft Sliver.

DamageAcidic SliverCautery SliverPsionic SliverQuilled Sliver, and Thorncaster Sliver.

Life GainDarkheart SliverEssence SliverSyphon Sliver, and Victual Sliver.

DefensesCautery 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).

Card DrawDormant Sliver (at a heavy price, probably should not use this one), Mnemonic SliverOpaline Sliver, and Synapse Sliver.

TutorsHoming Sliver and Sliver Overlord.

TokensBrood Sliver and Sliver Queen.

DiscardDementia SliverMindlash Sliver, and Mindwhip Sliver.

DestructionHarmonic Sliver (Artifacts and Enchantments) and Necrotic Sliver (Permanents).

OtherFrenetic 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).

Venser had some weird hobbies.


Nothing
Metallic SliverSliver ConstructVenser’s Sliver, and Plague Sliver (makes slivers deal one damage to you during upkeep).


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 SeasonParallel Lives,Training GroundsPhyrexian AltarMana 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.

Pictured above: $180.

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.

 

 

“Some day, I’m gonna be a REAL fetchland!”

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:

Bad River
Flood Plain
Grasslands
Mountain Valley
Rocky Tar Pit
Krosan Verge
Jund Panorama
Naya Panorama
Bant Panorama
Grixis Panorama
Esper Panorama
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse

Thawing Glaciers and Terminal Moraine are possibilities as well. Note that the first six lands listed will also fetch shocklands, just not as fast as the Zendikar and Onslaught fetchlands.

Fast, but unreliable. Like commercial airlines.

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):

If you squint, you can see the slivers hiding in the water.

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-Bounce Lands  
Counter Lands: 7
Vivid Meadow
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Gemstone Mine
Tendo Ice Bridge


Ravnica Karoos: 10

Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber

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 SanctumCrumbling NecropolisJungle ShrineSeaside Citadel, and Savage Lands.

Artifact FixingChromatic 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 RelicDarksteel IngotColdsteel HeartFellwar StoneManalith, 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!

A Sliver-Eat-Sliver World  
Commander
Sliver Queen
Lands: 39

Swamp
Forest
Plains
Island
Mountain
Command Tower
Cavern of Souls
Grand Coliseum
City of Brass
Rupture Spire
Transguild Promenade
Exotic Orchard
Reflecting Pool
Ancient Ziggurat
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Meadow
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Arcane Sanctum
Crumbling Necropolis
Jungle Shrine
Seaside Citadel
Savage Lands
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Slivers: 27

Acidic Sliver
Basal Sliver
Blur Sliver
Brood Sliver
Cautery Sliver
Clot Sliver
Crypt Sliver
Crystalline Sliver
Darkheart Sliver
Firewake Sliver
Galerider Sliver
Gemhide Sliver
Heart Sliver
Homing Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Mindlash Sliver
Mindwhip Sliver
Mnemonic Sliver
Necrotic Sliver
Opaline Sliver
Sedge Sliver
Sliver Legion
Sliver Overlord
Synapse Sliver
Telekinetic Sliver
Toxin Sliver
Victual Sliver
Tutors: 5
Demonic Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Enlightened Tutor
Diabolic Revelation
Beseech the Queen
Combo Pieces: 9

Ashnod’s Altar
Phyrexian Altar
Mana Echoes
Heartstone
Training Grounds
Earthcraft
Doubling Season
Parallel Lives
Ghave, Guru of Spores
Suicide Control: 10

Grave Pact
Attrition
Martyr’s Bond
Grave Betrayal
Glare of Subdual
Aura Shards
Steely Resolve
Sterling Grove
Privileged Position
Hex

Other: 9
Coat of Arms
Chromatic Lantern
Prismatic Omen
Patriarch’s Bidding
Aphotto Dredging
Mimic Vat
Nim Deathmantle
Teneb, the Harvester
Black Market

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!

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!

3 thoughts on “Slivers!

  1. As a heads up, the links for the M14 slivers are not working yet, because they have not yet been updated at magiccards.info – they should work once they’re up on the site.

  2. Pingback: Bands With Awesome: A Commander Blog | Examining Commander Archetypes #3 – Tribal

  3. Pingback: Bands With Awesome: A Commander Blog | 25 Underplayed Generals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s