Just last play session, I hosted a night of Magic for our group focused on creature types. It’s a common variant to set up in groups – I’m sure most of you out there have tried it at one point or another. There are no hard and fast rules, but I would recommend the following guidelines:
* Each player picks a creature type in advance. (I recommend making the choices exclusive, maybe drafting them randomly, so the game sees lots of different creature types rather than just five different goblin decks.)
* The player must then build a deck to the creature type. (Note that Wizards is now actually using the term "subtype" at times, but I’m just going to stick with "type", since we all know what that means.)
* Type decks must have at least X (X=20? 24? 36? you decide) cards that either (a) are creature cards of the given type, (b) produce creature tokens of the given type, or (c) somehow mention the creature type in their rules text.
* The remainder of the cards (lands included) can be whatever, as long as they don’t mention ANOTHER creature type in their text. (So no Mogg Infestations or Kjeldoran Outposts in your Elf deck.)
* Do what you will with the Deranged Hermit and other cross-overs.
* Consider a restriction on type-sensitive cards like Extinction and Coat of Arms. (Good rule is, if it helps a type without hurting anyone, like the Coat, don’t stop it; if it bombs a type like Extinction, hold it down to one or two per deck.)
The group choses a "pure" creature type first, and then in a second round (we decided to build two decks) I loosened up the type rules so that subjective logic could rule – drakes were OK with dragons, shades with shadows, treefolk with saprolings (get it? trees? sap?), etc. You can interpret this sort of thing to death, but our group is mature enough to stick to the spirit of the idea… that is, picking types you never would normally because they’re impractical, and merging them with something extraordinarily close in definition to make a deck work.
In the first round, we had some obvious choices like goblins and elves and (for myself, and where this article will eventually get to) slivers; and we had more daring choices like griffins and illusions and minotaurs. Dave chose beasts, which I thought was sub-optimal until you really look at green, red, and even blue: the laccoliths, half of green’s non-elf creatures (including the indubitable Scragnoth and Rhox), Fylamarid (have I ever told you guys about my cheesy Scragnoth–Fylamarid deck?…it’s not really worth a sustained digression… perhaps some other time), and so on.
The second tier, double-up decks included my wicked-cool tree-sap deck (with all those high-casting-cost treefolk in your hand, you’re BOUND to get seven saprolings off the Spontaneous Generation…except I didn’t), drakes-dragons, clerics-angels, and birds-falcons (which I believe have been made one type anyway). Some folks also took advantage of some existing types that still made good decks on their own, like merfolk and knights.
The format played out well enough, and while I never got to cast Extinction (which I had limited, as host, to one per deck), I did get a couple of Engineered Plagues out. But more fun than the hosers was the new direction I took slivers.
As soon as I chose slivers as my deck, I heard much groaning and, let’s face it, whining from the group. "But you have too many! You’ll build a good deck! You’ll beat us up one side and down the other!"
Of course, I knew they were referring to an existing sliver deck I have which I pull out for rare duels at tourney shops. It’s a white-blue-green, counter-worship-sliver deal that approximates what you might find on a Dojo list. I already had it made, everyone knew it was coming, etc.
So to keep life interesting, and to hose what I hoped would be a slight metagame against untargetable, flying slivers (e.g. Hurricane), I rebuilt the deck to make it less controlling, and more in line with my usual, aggressive style.
The Muscles, of course, had to stay in. My two Queens also maintained their reign. But I pulled out the Crystallines and Winged, and put in Acidic and Clot in their place. Spined and Heart slivers were dusted off and slid in. (I totally forgot Horned, which actually cost me a game.) Green-black-red! Go baby. Since I did leave in a single Winged, and a couple of Hibernation Slivers, I put in three Aluren, to make casting easier. I also put in graveyard recursion – Unearth, of course, and Exhume (for the Queen) – and a few Terrors for good measure.
Here’s what the final list, well, SHOULD have looked like. (It’s only a few cards off of what I played, but I’m embarrassed that I forgot the Horned, and a few other touches. I’ve also taken out the Extinction and Engineered Plagues, so you can see what this might look like on a normal evening.)
…and a big fat load of dual lands that I just bought into and really wanted to play with. Barring dual lands, you could pull this off with about 6-7 Forests, 5-6 Swamps, 3-4 Mountains, a few Cities of Brass and Reflecting Pools, and 2-4 depletion or pain lands. In any case, you want at least 24 lands to pull off the regeneration, acid, and queen tricks.
I know what you’re thinking. Acidic? Heart? Horned? METALLIC? These are the little-used slivers, and for good reason. They’re suboptimal. They’re weak. They’re unclean.
But they’re also pretty darn fast and relentless. And they are, you might say, eeeevil. Plus, when you play the Metallica Sliver, you can hum the hard-rock ditty of your choice from that band.
The deck wins one of two ways, neither one very imaginative: you either build with the Muscle Slivers to the point of crushing your opponent with trampling fat; or you get out the Queen (notice that a redundant Trample or Spined sliver does well for the sacrifice to Natural Order, and even a Muscle Sliver is easy to bring back with Unearth) and chuck her exploding children at your opponent. (My own kids are wonderful, but when’s the last time they did something REALLY cool, like let me chuck them at someone so they could explode and do two damage on impact?)
This won’t win you a basic chaos game, but it will win in the hunt, which our group plays often, and I might be trying it out soon as a team deck. If you do this on a "Creature Type" night, it’s great to advertise that you’re doing slivers, and how you’re so psyched that you have four Crystalline, and how no one can block so many flying creatures, and then let them build in Hurricanes and Squalls and what not while you throw this thing together. It’s a short-term project if you build it, no doubt; but you’ll get to use some slivers that have been hanging around, doing nothing at the collective coffee-shop, for ages.
Please don’t ask me to come up with a use for the Armor, Mindwhip, or Mnemonic Sliver, now. There are some slivers even I won’t touch.
It’s good fun to play with these wonderful creatures again, six expansions removed from the last one we saw released. It makes me nostalgic.
Can I make a useless plea here to Wizards? I know you guys will never revisit slivers, but would it have killed you all to make a set of pain-color slivers before you stopped? It would have been real easy:
BW: Shadow Sliver. 2/2. "Each sliver gains, 4: This sliver gains shadow until end of turn."
BG: Fecund Sliver. 2/2. "Each sliver gains: When this sliver is put into any graveyard from play, you may pay 4 to put it on top of your library."
UG: Timepiece Sliver. 2/2. "Tap four slivers: tap or untap target creature, artifact, or land."
UR: Mystic Sliver. 2/2. "Each sliver gains, 4: Draw a card. Discard a card at random."
WR: Reflective Sliver. 2/2. "Each sliver gains, 4: The next four damage dealt to this sliver this turn is redirected to that damage’s source’s controller."
Okay, yeah, sure, you didn’t want the Sliver Queen to become a 7/7 recursive creature with shadow that could redirect damage, draw cards, and squeeze out Opposition-style fodder. But is that really any excuse to keep me from my fun?
And while you’re not listening, you could all get sensible and errata the Heart Sliver to rename it the Hasty Sliver. Really, people, that’s a no-brainer. Forget all the hub-hub over Dark Ritual bannings and Parallax Wave errata. The REAL Bill Markwater (or whatever his name is) scandal is how they come up with these NAMES. Fix the names, and you’ll have good cards. (Though that doesn’t explain Pale Moon.)