Levelling Up – U/B Control versus Poison Slivers

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After last week’s barnstorming matchup article pitching Blue/Black

Teachings versus Green/White Goyf, Tiago returns to the testing table and

throws the best deck in the format against the newest, and most poisonous

offering out there — Poison Slivers! This quick, brutal tribal deck was

created in response to the power of U/B Teachings… does it have the stones

to take down the big guns? Read on to find out!

There are now Slivers in the Block Constructed metagame. The deck is faster

than the Wafo-Tapa version, cheaper to build, and deadly like poison. Every

time a new deck shows up, a huge amount of hype is created about it, and

many people switch to it just because it’s new tech. I wanted to write a new

article about Blue/Black matchups, but wasn’t really sure which one should I

pick. I already know the ins and outs of the matchups against Mono-Red and

White Weenie, and other decks that have been around awhile. When I’ve heard

about Poison Slivers, it seemed it was the right matchup to test.

I’ve taken some of the suggestions off the forums in how to improve these

matchup articles. First, I’ve used some screenshots to show some complicated

or interesting game states. Second, I looked for people with their own

Poison Sliver decklists who were willing to spend some of their time

playtesting with me, which made me play around hypothetical cards on

assumption. Therefore, I have no exact Poison Slivers decklist to provide

you… but I do have the deck I played. It’s the same decklist I used

in my last article, when testing against Green/White Goyf… just a few cards

different from the versions I played at the last two Grand Prix tournaments.

Match 1

Game 1 (on the draw)

I mulliganed a one-land hand, and kept a not-so brilliant six card hand

composed of: Dreadship Reef, Plains, Careful Consideration, Mystical

Teachings, and 2 Slaughter Pact. As long as I drew lands, I could still be

in the game, depending on the board and the cards drawn. My opponent started

with turn 1 Island, Screeching Sliver, and turn 2 Mountain, Two-Headed

Sliver, but on turn 3 just played Terramorphic Expanse and passed. Perhaps

having no Green mana so far explained it. Meanwhile, my first three draws

were lands, including an Island, so I’m good to cast my spells. After the

Careful Consideration, my hand and the board were like this:

{Click here for Board Position 1}

The next attack took me to 12 life and 5 Poison counters. No other Sliver

was added to the table, I was worried about Frenetic Sliver. I played the

Urborg and Damnation, which was countered by Delay. Another possible play

could’ve been to play Infiltrator and then Slaughter Pact the Two-Headed

Sliver to block Virulent Sliver.

During the next attack, I played Slaughter Pact on the Virulent Sliver,

which was met with Delay #2. I used my second Pact to kill it, and took only

two damage and no poison counters. On my upkeep I paid for the Pact that

resolved last turn, and put the Damnation and the Slaughter Pact countered

with Delay down to two counters each. With three mana available on my main

phase, and holding Careful, Chronicler, Infiltrator, and land, I can only

play an Infiltrator or do nothing. If I play it, it will only cycle for a

card in the next attack, as it will die on the next upkeep when Damnation

resolves. I decide to go for it, even though it can’t use it block. I have

plenty of use for my mana (including Teachings in my graveyard) for the next

turns, and I want to dig the extra card to find a Cancel for the turn

Damnation resolves. I need the backup for another Delay, and if he doesn’t

have the Delay I can counter his next play.

One more attack, and I was down to eight. A second Two-Headed Sliver was

added, but so far they were three 1/1 Slivers who had to be blocked by two

or more creatures. On my turn I drew and attacked for an extra card, and

played the Careful after combat. The aftermath is easy. I drew five lands

and a Cancel, so I passed holding the Chronicler I already had, plus a

Cancel and three lands. I went down to five, and my opponent passed holding

two cards. The Damnation resolved and reset the board. I drew another land,

so with eight mana available and holding only Chronicler and Cancel, that

simplified my options for me. I suspended it for one, and passed with three

lands open. I countered a Firewake Sliver, and my opponent played Two-Headed

Sliver, holding just one card.

On my turn I attacked for five with the Chronicler, The cards I drew were

Damnation and Triskelavus. Facing only a Two-Headed Sliver and one card in

his hand, I figured I could finish this game very quickly, and so played the

Triskelavus. My opponent was at 14 life, and cycled a Homing Sliver, playing

a land and Dormant Sliver in the same turn. He was holding no cards, but of

course he drew one from the Dormant. Let’s go to my next turn and analyze

the scenario.

{Click here for Board Position 2}

I think the correct play would be to make a Trisk token to shoot the

Two-Headed Sliver and attack for seven damage. He’ll then have the choice to

block the 4/4 Chronicler or not. He’ll probably take seven to keep the

Dormant. Then I would make two more Trisk tokens to shoot the Dormant. At

seven life, and with a Triskelavus 1/1 plus a 4/4 Chronicler, he would still

need to chump-block the Chronicler next turn, because it will be a 5/5

attacker, plus the Teachings in graveyard, plus the Triskelavus, for his

seven remaining life points. You still have the safety of playing Teachings

for Cancel, for another Teachings, or even making a Factory token. I believe

that if I’d made this play, the game would’ve ended in the next few


I made a much worse play. I just attacked. He chumped with the Two-Headed

Sliver, going down to ten. I did not kill the Dormant Sliver, as I had no

idea things could get so out of control. He played Firewake, Gemhide, and

Screeching, and passed the turn holding two cards. End of turn I make three

Trisk tokens, use one to shoot the Triskelavus, and put it back on top. My

plan was to attack with both tokens down to eight, sacrifice them both to

put him down at six, Play Damnation and Triskelavus, and win next turn. It

didn’t work.

I attacked with everything. He blocked the Chronicler with Screeching Sliver

and use him for mana to cycle Homing Sliver, getting a second Dormant. At

this point he still had two untapped slivers for mana, so I should’ve shot

one right away, to put him at one mana in order to prevent Delay. Leaving

him at seven life or knocking him to six was the same, as I could still deal

seven points next turn in the air. When I played Damnation, he had the third

Delay. Now he was tapped out, so I made two Triskelavus tokens to shoot the

Firewake and Gemhide.

Over the next few turns, things got really out of hand, I was facing three

Dormant Slivers, Frenetic, Gemhide, and Virulent. I did some contortions in

order to stay alive, and managed to deal exact damage for the win. I believe

my opponent misplayed somewhere, or at least that’s what he told me. I was

only worried about Frenetic and Firewake Sliver, but now I know Dormant

Sliver is also a threat. I thought I could contain him for two turns, but

it’s too risky.

Game 2 (on the draw)

My opponent mulliganed. I decided to keep a risky hand of 2 Urborg, Island,

Cancel, Teachings, Infiltrator, and Tendrils. It’s debatable whether to keep

this hand or ship it back. It’s the same as a six-card hand, but it’s a good

six-card hand. If I draw a land, and play turn 3 Infiltrator, I can probably

play all the other cards, and the Tendrils is already powered by Urborg.

He played turn 1 Virulent, so I could be in for some quick Poison beats.

My first three draws were a Tendrils #2, land. and Urborg #3, so I played

Infiltrator, which was Delayed. I did not have a land for the fourth turn,

but I was still only facing a Virulent Sliver. At the end of my turn 4, he

slivercycled to fetch Virulent #2, and tried to play it on turn 5. I was

stuck on three mana, but two of them provided Blue, so I Cancelled. The

Infiltrator was Delayed for a second time, but eventually I drew lands and

exploded, while my opponent could only take me up to five poison counters. I

took advantage of his mana flood, and since I had all the time in the world

I played Teachings for Spell Burst while already holding a Cancel.

Meanwhile, the Infiltrator resolved and started drawing cards right away.

Since he knew about Spell Burst he had to play around it, so I played

draw-go from this point, using Careful at the end of his turn. After the

Careful and some attacks from Infiltrator, I had eight lands in play and my

hand was 2 Cancel, 1 Tendrils, 1 Spell Burst, Land, and Infiltrator, so he

was pretty much locked.

2-0 Win

Match 2

Game 1 (on the draw)

I kept 2 Terramorphic Expanse, Island, Dreadship Reef, Academy Ruins,

Slaughter Pact, and Take Possession. Not great, but it has mana, which is

the most important thing… and it can power out a turn 5 Take Possession. I

drew an Infiltrator by turn 3, which I played. So far the only creature on

the table was a Screeching Sliver, because my opponent was manascrewed. He

had managed to play Frenetic Sliver on turn 4. I attacked with Infiltrator,

and played a Prismatic Lens. He attacked me back, knocking me to 16, and

played Summoner’s Pact for Dormant Sliver, which he made. I attacked with

Infiltrator on my turn, and after that the board looked like this, with

plenty of options:

{Click here for Board Position 3}

I still don’t know the correct play. He will have to tap four mana next turn

to pay the Pact, so my options are:

Take Possession on the Frenetic Sliver.
Careful Consideration.
Slaughter Pact.

I don’t want to play Damnation, since it will lose me my Infiltrator, and no

one knows what will happen over on his side. I decided to play Take

Possession on the Frenetic Sliver, but then I made a mistake. I decided to

use the ability right away, in order to kill it (a 50/50 shot, which I

“won,” but I clearly wanted it to be dead). So it returned at the end of

turn. I should’ve used the ability on my next turn before playing Damnation,

so that his Slivers couldn’t phase out. On his turn he paid for the Pact,

and played another Forest to add a Virulent Sliver, drawing a card from it,

before passing the turn.

I attacked with the Infiltrator, and played Slaughter Pact on the Frenetic

Sliver. He used the Frenetic ability on all the slivers, and lost the

important ones – Frenetic and Dormant — while keeping Screeching and

Virulent (which return at the end of turn, so I don’t play Damnation). I had

six lands and still hadn’t played a land this turn. I was holding Careful

Consideration and Cancel. This is a decision that can win or lose a game. I

decided to play Careful Consideration anyway, but I only drew Tolaria and

colorless lands, so I have to pass with three mana open but without two

Blue. He replayed more Slivers and I lost. I felt if I had played this game

differently I could’ve won, as I still don’t have a real idea of how

“dangerous” and fast the slivers are.

Game 2 (on the play)

I kept 2 Terramorphic Expanse, Urborg, Infiltrator, Snapback, and 2 Careful

Consideration. My opponent had a great curve with turn 1 Virulent Sliver,

turn 2 Delay on my Infiltrator, and turn 3 Frenetic Sliver. On my next turn,

I did not have the fourth land. My draws have been two Infiltrator and one

Slaughter Pact, so I just played another Finkel. My opponent played nothing,

so on my turn I attacked with the Shadowmage, drawing my fourth land, and

then I played the third Infiltrator (which was also Delayed).

His next attack put me at 15 life and 4 Poison counters, but he didn’t play

anything else. On my upkeep, Delayed Infiltrator #1 came back, and I

attacked with one, leaving one mage behind to block the Poison Slivers. I

didn’t draw a land, so my hand after the attack was: 3 Careful, Infiltrator

#4, Pact, Tendrils, and Snapback. I don’t want to put another mage on the

table because maybe I’ll need to play Damnation at some point, and I already

had two on the table and one suspended. I also didn’t want more cards from

Careful; although more lands would be nice, it wasn’t that crucial. I passed

with mana open, with the option to play Careful at the end of his turn to

filter my hand. And of course, if he plays a trick to sidestep my defensive

Infiltrator, I can wreck him with Tendrils or Snapback (Two-Headed Sliver,

for example). In this situation, he needs to make a move, not me.

End of turn he cycled a Homing to get a Gemhide.

He played a Forest, now up to four lands. He tapped two to play Gemhide.

With the mana-guy on the stack, I ditched one Careful to play Snapback on

the Frenetic. It resolved. Then I played Tendrils on the Virulent, which

also resolved. The Gemhide came into play, and he added a Two-Headed Sliver

and passed. I attacked with my two Infiltrators and drew tons of cards.

Initially, I wanted to play Slaughter Pact on his Gemhide, to deny him mana

and set him back, but then I realized my only Black source was Urborg. If he

had Boom/Bust to destroy it, I would lose, so I played Careful instead for

even more cards. I passed, holding land, Careful, Cancel, Infiltrator, Pact,

Strangling Soot, and Pull from Eternity. I was all tapped, which allowed him

to resolve Telekinetic Sliver.

On my turn, the third Infiltrator that was suspended came back. He used one

Sliver to tap one Infiltrator, as the other Sliver had been tapped for mana.

I attacked for two cards, and played Strangling Soot on the Gemhide, to keep

him low on mana, as this set him back to three lands (the Gemstone Mine had

been exhausted). I passed with three mana untapped, and holding Cancel,

Pact, Infiltrator, Teachings, Careful, land, and Pull.

And this is where I lost the game.

By now, he was out of Red mana. No Gemhide and no Gemstone Mine, so I

should’ve used Slaughter Pact on my turn to kill Telekinetic. Even if he

plays Mountain, Boom/Bust the Urborg, I still have Cancel and mana for it,

so I will only lose if he has a Mountain, Boom/Bust, and Delay. I still

decided to play safe and not lose to Pact because of Boom/Bust, so I passed,

confident that I would eventually kill Telekinetic.

On his turn he drew a Mountain, and used one of his two Slivers to tap one

of my Islands so that I can’t Cancel, and played Frenetic Sliver. Since I

don’t have Cancel mana anymore, I misclicked, but I wanted to use Slaughter

Pact in response on the Telekinetic. Let’s just pretend this happened in a

PTQ or Grand Prix, and your opponent played Frenetic Sliver and you said

“sure” when you wanted to play something in response. “Sure” meant you

didn’t want to counter, but also meant that you had no more effects.

On my next turn I still had two more Infiltrator hits, but from here, he

just kept adding Slivers and Slivers, tapping all my Infiltrators. We’re

playing draw go for a while, he has more Slivers than I have creatures,

until one turn he lets me attack with Mages, and taps my lands instead. On

his turn he taps the remaining lands, and afterwards plays Boom/Bust. He

already had Gemhide Sliver on the table so the game was pretty much over


Loss 0-2

Match 3

Game 1 (On the draw)

I kept 2 Island, Dreadship Reef, Prismatic Lens, Cancel and Tendrils. He

played turn 2 Gemhide Sliver and turn 3 Dormant Sliver. I Cancelled his turn

4 Telekinetic Sliver, and played Pact on the Dormant Sliver when I saw he

didn’t have enough mana to Boom/Bust (because he tapped for Telekinetic).

Paying the pact on my upkeep left me all tapped (the three lands and the

Lens, to filter for Black). He then played a second Dormant Sliver. Things

got quickly out of control, especially with a third Dormant Sliver and later

a second Telekinetic Sliver. This ensured I wasn’t playing many more spells.

Game 2 (on the play)

I kept Tolaria, Island, Calciderm Pools, Factory, Chronicler, Venser, and

Tendrils. My plan was to charge the land on turn 2 and transmute Tolaria

into Urborg turn 3, to have access to Black mana and power Tendrils from

there. He once again made a turn 2 Gemhide, turn 3 Dormant. I played

Damnation on turn 4. He played Dormant #2. I killed it with Tendrils. On his

fifth turn, he played Frenetic, Virulent, and Screeching Slivers. The board

was now like this:

{Click here for Board Position 4}

I can…

… Play Venser when he attacks. Return his Frenetic to hand, and block the

Virulent. This is pretty bad if he has Delay, as I lose a turn and the


… Play Careful for more cards and to dig for lands, and perhaps get rid of

one of the extra Chroniclers.

… Suspend the Chronicler for one. This was the action I took, as I wanted an

extra card, and this way I would have a body for the next turn.

He attacked me, and I received three Poison counters. He then played a

Telekinetic after combat. The two cards I drew (from Chronicler and my draw

step) were a land and Teachings. I decided to pass, and force him to use a

sliver to tap the Chronicler. When he attacks with everyone, I’ll play

Venser, returning Frenetic, and taking down either Virulent or Telekinetic…

assuming he doesn’t have Delay. This play enables me to charge the storage

land, so I can play Triskelavus next turn.

That was what happened, but he played one more Virulent before attacking. He

used Screeching to tap the Chronicler and attacked with Telekinetic and

Virulent, both with double Poison. I decided to block the Telekinetic and go

up to five Poison counters. His board was then two Virulent Sliver and one

Screeching Sliver. I had a Chronicler, and eight mana (if I used all the

counters from my storage lands). I decided I had no need to slam down a

Triskelavus right away, as I could only make one token, so I played an

fresh-drawn Infiltrator, with mana left to charge one more counter or to

play Teachings. My opponent played Gemhide and Telekinetic.

Next turn, he used his Slivers to deny me mana, so I couldn’t play

Triskelavus. He used them again on his turn to tap all my lands, so he can

play Boom/Bust. He had Gemhide Sliver so he has tons of mana, while I’m left

with no hands full of expensive cards.

Loss 0-2

Match 4

Game 1 (on the play)

I kept a not-so brilliant hand of 2 Island, Urborg, Calciderm Pools, River

of Tears, Damnation, and Take Possession. Damnation is always the card you

want to see against creatures, and the storage can speed the Take

Possession. I used the simple rule that if my opening hand had mana to cast

the spells, it was probably a keeper. This deck is so mana hungry.

My opponent started with turn 2 Gemhide Sliver and turn 3 Virulent,

attacking for one Poison counter and leaving two mana open. I had Damnation

and Careful Consideration, and played Damnation anyway for two reasons: one,

he didn’t have Frenetic Sliver out so it would be a two-for-one; and two, if

he played Delay, then there was a chance that Damnation would resolve in

three turns from now, which may still be in time to clear the board. If I

play Damnation later and it gets Delayed, I may not have the luxury of three

more turns.

The Damnation resolved, and he played another Gemhide and a Two-Headed

Sliver. I played a Lens and Careful Consideration, tapping out, and passed.

He cycled Homing into a Frenetic and played it, doing everything in the same

turn thanks to Gemhide Sliver. On my turn, the board was like this:

{Click here for Board Position 5}

My play was to suspend Chronicler for three. Then on the next turn, draw two

cards, and with the Chronicler at two counters, play Prismatic Lens and Take

Possession on the Frenetic Sliver. The following turn I could draw two

cards, and with the Chronicler at one, hopefully draw a Damnation in these

four cards. I’d then use the Frenetic ability and reset the board, with a

50% chance of the Frenetic returning to him.

The flaw in this plan was that I didn’t live that many turns.

On the turn after I suspended Chronicler for three, he cycled Homing into

Virulent, played it, and attacked, leaving me with 4 Poison counters. He

also played a Screeching Sliver. There were now five slivers on the table,

and I needed two creatures to block one. I played Take Possession on

Frenetic Sliver, but he cycled another Homing into Virulent #3 and attacked,

putting me at 12 Poison counters.

Game 2 (on the play)

I mulliganed six lands and a spell into a no-lander, and had to keep the

following five: Dreadship Reef, Urza’s Factory, Damnation, and 2 Tendrils of

Corruption. My opponent mulliganed just once.

Nobody played anything on the first three turns, which I used to charge my

storage land with two counters. I had drawn a second Dreadship Reef for turn

3, but no fourth land for turn 4. Holding 2 Tendrils, Damnation, Teachings

and Infiltrator, I decided to remove two counters to play it, most likely

into a Delay. The reasons were that I had nothing to do, and even though

Delay would hurt me now because I had to remove two counters, it would also

wreck me later when I needed to kill creatures. Also, with the board clear,

Infiltrator would come back in three turns with haste still in time to hit.

Indeed it was Delayed, and he played Telekinetic Sliver. It could be a

problem, since I had very few lands. I drew Terramorphic Expanse and passed.

He played Firewake Sliver. I cracked Expanse to get a Swamp. On my upkeep he

tapped my two lands, and I used the mana to play Tendrils for one on the

Firewake. My draw was River of Tears, so now I had five lands, to his one

Telekinetic. He added a Screeching, but with summoning sickness.

The Infiltrator came into play, and was tapped by Telekinetic. I drew a

Prismatic, played it, and shot Tendrils for one on the Screeching. He did

nothing on his turn, so now he had only a Telekinetic for my Infiltrator. I

had many choices for Teachings. I could go for Cancel, since now the board

is even; for Careful Consideration to draw more cards; for another Teachings

to start a small chain; but I went for Strangling Soot, to kill his lone

Telekinetic, having two flashbacks in the graveyard as insurance: Soot and


Once I killed the Telekinetic, the Shadowmage started attacking. He never

drew Dormant Sliver, so now it was a very unbalanced battle. I drew many

more cards and won with Factory tokens, which allowed me to mount a defense

against Frenetic, Virulent, and Two-Headed Sliver, and later to alpha strike

for the win. I only won this “mulligan to five” game because my opponent

never put pressure on me, and gave me lots of time to recover.

Game 3 (on the draw)

I kept Island, Urborg, Infiltrator, 2 Tendrils and 2 Damnation. I never drew

the third land before losing, but didn’t matter. I could’ve had lands coming

out of my ass, and I’d’ve still lost. It’s kind of cool, because I have this

theory that you’ll lose one in every X games due to mana problems, and if

that game is the same game in which your opponent has an unbeatable draw, or

it’s game 1 against a matchup you can’t win before sideboarding, then it’s

almost like two losses in one game — you’ve used your manascrew in a game

you would’ve lost anyway. This probably doesn’t make any sense, but I like

to think positive and see the good side of things.

About the game: he played Virulent #1 on turn 1. Virulent #2 on turn 2. On

turn 3 he played a land, and tapped two for Gemhide Sliver. He used the

other land and the mana from the two Virulents to play a Firewake, and

attacked me with Gemhide and Firewake, putting me at 6 Poison counters. It’s

my turn 3, and I’m facing four slivers each with Poison 2, and I already

have six counters. All the Slivers have haste, and there are no good blocks

for me because of Firewake. If I could choose a game to be manascrewed, it

would definitely be this one!

Loss 1-2

Match 5

Game 1 (on the play)

I kept with Island, Swamp, Factory, Academy Ruins, Infiltrator, Cancel, and

Triskelavus. My first play was the Infiltrator on turn 3, and by then I

already had a Poison counter and was facing this scenario:

{Click here for Board Position 6}

I chose to attack with Infiltrator at the expense of four Poison counters

next turn, because I needed cards. If he had Two-Headed Sliver then I

would’ve felt really bad, but staying on defense was also a valid option. I

went for it and drew a Tendrils, which I used on Virulent Sliver at the end

of turn, so I wouldn’t take more Poison counters. He lost the flip, and the

Virulent Sliver was gone. He did have a Two-Headed Sliver, so I’m glad I

attacked, and he also played Firewake Sliver thanks to Gemhide. The attack

brought me to 17 life, with one Poison counter, facing five different


Since there was no threat of poison, and they’re all 1/1 except for

Frenetic, I attacked for one more card. Staying on defense wasn’t also very

good, because Firewake Sliver guaranteed any sliver traded with my

Shadowmage. After the attack I had five lands and Lens in play, holding

Chronicler, Triskelavus, 2 lands, and Cancel, which I used to counter Homing

Sliver. The attack brought me to 12 life, since I had gained one from Grove

of the Burnwillows.

On my turn I attacked again, and the new cards I saw were Take Possession

and Slaughter Pact. I didn’t have two Blue for the Take Possession at that

moment – I had Cancelled the turn before thanks to Lens – but eventually I’d

be able to play Take on Frenetic and pay one to sacrifice it with the

Firewake ability. For now, I played Triskelavus, and had the Pact to play on

the Two-Headed Sliver, so my Triskelavus could block one Sliver in combat.

He played Gemhide and Virulent, so now there are six 1/1 Slivers and one

Frenetic attacking me.

I used Pact on Two-Headed so I can block. I have two very complex choices

here. Should I block Virulent or Firewake? Each will only have a 50% of

dying because of Frenetic ability. He won’t use the Firewake ability to pump

a creature for two extra damage using the blocked Sliver because he only has

one mana untapped, and he needs it to protect the Slivers when I untap my

lands with Triskelavus in play next turn.

I chose to block Virulent Sliver to put the decision on my opponent. If he

uses the Frenetic ability, then there’s a 50% chance of saving it. If he

doesn’t use it, it will die, but I’ll receive five poison counters, going up

to six. He chooses to let the poison plan go, and try to save it for a

better board position, since I was left at six life after the attack.

At six life and facing five Slivers, including Firewake Sliver I need to

block all of them… because if one goes through, he’ll sac the others for

lethal damage. I drew a Tendrils, so now I attack with Infiltrator to draw a

card and set him a trap. An unblocked creature is lethal if he sacrifices

three slivers to it. He has five slivers, I only have four blockers – one

Triskelavus and the three tokens I can make. If he goes all-in, I use

Tendrils on my creature and gain seven life. I drew a Cancel from the Mage.

On his turn he attacked with all five, and I made three Trisk tokens. I

blocked all of his attackers except for the Screeching Sliver. He sees

through it and doesn’t sacrifice three Slivers, although I could’ve been

bluffing. After stacking damage, there was a dance involving priorities,

sacrificing Trisk tokens, and flipping coins. When the dust settled. he was

left with Gemhide, Frenetic, and Screeching with me at five. I could’ve used

Ruins end of turn to return Triskelavus to the top of my deck, but at the

time I didn’t think I needed it.

Instead I played a second Infiltrator to block. He attacked me with all

three, and I blocked Gemhide. He flipped to try to save it, and won. I went

down to two life, still with Tendrils backup, and he only had one card in

hand. I could’ve used Ruins once again, but refused to do it, because I only

had eight mana so I couldn’t play Triskelavus and Cancel on the same turn. I

was keeping Cancel mana open, or making Factory tokens, until I gathered ten

mana to play both Triskelavus and Cancel. One turn I spent the Cancel on

Dormant Sliver, but I didn’t bother to recur Triskelavus back because he was

almost dead on the board, so I guess it was overconfidence.

I attacked with a big Chronicler and a Shadowmage. I had a Factory token and

a Shadowmage on defense still with Tendrils backup. On his turn, his two

remaining cards were Two-Headed Sliver, which resolved, and he attacked with

everything. I could only block one of his creatures, so I shot the Tendrils

on my Mage, but his remaining card was Delay.

Conclusion: I should’ve played more aggressively with Triskelavus earlier,

and more cautiously on the last turns, to avoid losing to Two-Headed Sliver

and Delay. Another loss that could’ve been a win…

Game 2 (on the play)

I kept with 2 Expanse, Urborg, Tendrils, Cancel, Chronicler, and Spell


Turn 1 Virulent Sliver acted like an Isamaru: it could attack ten times for

the win, which was a problem for my counter-heavy hand. He followed with

turn 2 Two-Headed Sliver, so now he had a decent clock and had no need to

play anything else. On my turn 3 I passed sitting on double Cancel, Spell

Burst, and Tendrils, but he just attacked and played nothing, putting me at

three Poison counters. I didn’t draw a fourth land, but I pulled a Pact,

which was dangerous here since I only had three mana and he might have

Boom/Bust after sideboarding. I passed once again.

He attacked me, and I rose to five Poison counters. He laid his fourth land

and played Gemhide Sliver, keeping two open, so I assumed he had Delay and

wanted to leave mana open for a Damnation. I Cancelled the Gemhide, since it

was all I could do and I had plenty of counters. I drew my fourth land and

passed. He attacked me to seven poison counters and played nothing. I shot

Tendrils at the end of his turn, targeting Virulent. He Delayed it. I

untapped and played Damnation, which he also Delayed… and he then played

Boom/Bust on his turn, sealing the game. He only needed one more attack

after that.

Loss 0-2

Match 6

Game 1 (on the play)

I mulliganed Island, Ruins, 2 Damnation, Pull, Chronicler and Careful.
I kept the following six: River of Tears, Dreadship Reef, Urborg, 2

Infiltrator, Chronicler.

He started with turn 1 Screeching Sliver, turn 2 Virulent + Screeching #2

and attacked me for one Poison counter. I played my Infiltrator, and he had

no land to follow and no play. To make things worse, one of his two lands

was a Gemstone Mine. Since I was facing three poisonous slivers, I played my

second Infiltrator before combat, as I don’t think drawing an extra card is

worth three poison counters in this scenario. It resolved, so I attacked

with Infiltrator #1. He played Two-Headed Sliver and attacked, putting me to

four Poison counters, On my turn, the board was like this:

{Click here for Board Position 7}

I could either attack with both, draw two and play Damnation; or attack with

just one, leaving the other to block, and play Tendrils on the Two-Headed. I

decided to be greedy and hold on the Damnation to draw more cards. While

this was correct in the W/G Goyf matchup, I think in this matchup it’s

better to play Damnation when you can safely kill many slivers, because they

can drop the Frenetic and ruin your plans. Luckily for me, he did not have

the third land yet so he just passed again, and then again the following

turn. I was busy drawing cards, and suspended a Chronicler for two, hoping

to Damnation the turn after and then make my big Chronicler to clean up.

When I tapped for Chronicler, he drew land three and played a Frenetic. On

my turn I played Damnation and kept Cancel mana open. He flipped some coins,

and when all is done, he saved a couple of Screeching Slivers. The turn

after I suspended another Chronicler, this time for one, since I was looking

to end the game fast, and suspend for one left me with Cancel mana open.

With two 8/8 Chroniclers, soon he was in chump blocking mode, and Cancel

backup meant he was dead.

Game 2 (on the draw)

I mulliganed Island, Plains, Cancel, Tendrils, Teachings, Chronicler,

Strangling Soot. I kept these six: Urborg, Dreadship Reef, Factory,

Tendrils, Cancel, Infiltrator.

His start was once again a poison attack – turn 1 Virulent, turn 2 Gemhide,

and turn 3 Two-Headed. I played Lens on turn 2, so on my third turn there

was no point in playing Infiltrator since it couldn’t block. The Lens

allowed me to play Tendrils on the Virulent, removing (for now) the threat

of the poison. On his turn he played Frenetic and didn’t attack, to leave

two mana open from the Slivers. I played Infiltrator, and indeed it was

Delayed. His next play was Telekinetic Sliver, losing a Gemstone Mine for

the Blue mana. On my upkeep, the situation was this:

{Click here for Board Position 8}

He used his two Slivers to tap my two lands. I took mana from them and

played Strangling Soot on the Frenetic. If the Frenetic dies, then I can

kill Telekinetic with Tendrils next turn. It was a 50-50 coin flip that

could decide the match. He lost, which made things a lot better for me. I

drew a land, played it, and passed holding Cancel and Tendrils, but with no

Island yet.

He used Summoner’s Pact to get Virulent Sliver, and played it (and a

Screeching Sliver). He now had five slivers, including Telekinetic,

Virulent, Two-Headed, and I’m at two Poison counters. I used Tendrils on my

turn to kill his Gemhide, so he didn’t have mana to pay the Summoner’s Pact,

and thus he lost.

2-0 Win


Matches: 2-4

Games: 5-8

Pre-sideboard games: 2-4

Post-sideboard games: 3-4

Games on the play: 2-5

Games on the draw: 3-3


No matter how you break down the results, Blue/Black never gets a winning

percentage in this matchup. This is only a small sample, so I can’t

precisely state exact number, but I would say this is a bad matchup for

Blue/Black. The results can improve to maybe a 40% winning expectation.

There are two stages in playtesting. Stage 1 involves the first games you

play, just to get a feel of things: who’s favored, what are the threats, the

possible game plans, the duration of the games. These six matches were the

first time I saw the Poison Slivers deck in action, so it’s safe to say this

was Stage 1. Last week, when I tested the matchup against G/W Goyf, I was

already at Stage 2 of playtesting the matchup. I already had some games

under my belt, and I knew exactly what plays and when I should do, as well

as their main threats (Griffin Guide and Mystic Enforcer).

When I acquire much more experience in this matchup, I feel I’ll pick up a

couple more wins here and there. Playing this series and watching the

replays surely helped my understanding of what I was doing wrong. Despite

that, it will still be a bad matchup, no matter how prepared you are. You

probably don’t want to face this matchup, but if you do, trust me… it will

be much better to know what to expect. Comparing Match 1 to Match 6, it’s

obvious that my line of thought and planning had improved. While it still

had many flaws, my planning was much more elaborate than in the first games.

Here are some pointers to those playing the matchup from this side.

After sideboarding a little differently in the first few games, I settled on

this plan:

Out: 2 Take Possession, 1 Teferi, 1 Pull from Eternity, 1 Mystical


In: 1 Strangling Soot, 1 Tendrils, 1 Venser, 1 Snapback, 1 Spell Burst.

I tried leaving the Pull, leaving the Teachings, and bringing Haunting Hymn,

but the plan I have right now should be close to what should be done.

The problem in this matchup is they have many angles of attacking the

Blue/Black deck, and each one is so distinct from the others; you have no

idea what to expect. I identified five plans they can execute, depending on

their draws:

Early Virulent Slivers mean a couple of poison counters that won’t fade

away. You can stop an early damage rush by regaining life with Tendrils, but

even if you deal with Virulent, at any time they topdeck or cycle for

another one you can suffer an unexpected death.

Frenetic and Firewake will prevent you from gaining life with Tendrils, and

a Firewake means there will rarely be any good blocks for you, and an

unblocked attacker can be lethal.

Card Advantage
While Poison Slivers is a deck that doesn’t care about card advantage, if

they resolve a Dormant Sliver it can quickly reload their hand and refill

the board with many creatures… and all of a sudden they’ll get rid of

Dormant for a lethal attack. You can’t keep up with killing Slivers if

they’re all cantrips.

Prison Lock
Telekinetic Sliver or Boom/Bust prevent you from playing your spells, and

most of the time the Sliver deck has a better board position, or it can keep

playing his spells thanks to Gemhide Sliver.

Every time there’s a Frenetic Sliver on the table, you have no idea of the

outcome of the cards you play.

That is why, I think, it’s vital to counter Frenetic Sliver and Dormant

Sliver, or to kill Dormant before things get out of control. Hopefully, the

rest of your removal should be enough to kill Virulent or Telekinetic, but

with only a 50% chance of success when killing a sliver, or if all slivers

draw a card when they come into play, you won’t win the game.

Despite all the bad news, I don’t think you should consider abandoning the

Blue/Black deck. New decks are always popular when they appear, but

eventually they start to decrease in numbers. Blue/Black is a Tier 1 deck,

arguably the most powerful and balanced deck in the field, and less

vulnerable to metagame shifts. Even if the Poison Slivers deck remains a

serious contender and stays in the metagame, the large card pool available

in Blue/Black means it will have to adapt. Time will tell if the Poison

Slivers are here to stay, but from what I saw, I liked it.

Thank you for reading,