Talking In My Sleep, Dreaming Of Slivers

Slivers are one of the favorite”tribes” in Magic for a reason: They bridge the gap between casual and competitive players. A casual player can rave about Slivers, and Grumpy McTournamentman won’t walk over and smack him in the head. So let’s look at the Slivers and see which ones may be tournament-worthy and which ones are not, and then create some preliminary Standard decks to look at.

So they brought Slivers back.

As a player who played during Tempest era, I maintain a collection of Slivers. I have tons of the common ones, and my collection gold ones, while a few short, sits beside my Spiritmongers and Pernicious Deeds. To me they’re just as valuable. Sure, I can get more Spiritmongers and they’ll cost me more – but my Slivers I opened in packs and traded for years ago, back when I enjoyed Magic in pure, childlike way.

That’s a creative way of saying”Back when I completely sucked as opposed to sorta sucked.” But I did seem to have more fun back when I didn’t realize I should playtest or make a decent sideboard.

Anyways, they brought Slivers back. The new Slivers I’ll collect a full playset of and probably finish my old-school Slivers off, since I probably buried some of the uncommon ones out in the yard or whatever. I mean, Barbed Sliver was pretty dang bad. Seriously. 2 mana for +1/+0? I think, in Tempest era, we could find better things to do with excess mana – like tapping a Cursed Scroll or casting other spells, or maybe just plopping out more tokens with Sliver Queen.

I missed CounterSliver, so I can’t really say a lot about that archetype. I mean, to be honest, Countersliver involved the dreaded”Old Extended.” I’m sure lots of people enjoyed that format, can’t blame them, but a number of us have run out of organs to sell for dual lands. I’m not one of those people, but I can do better things with my money than buy dual lands.

Like not starve to death. C’est la vie.

But Slivers are one of the favorite”tribes” in Magic for a reason. They bridge the gap between casual and competitive players, which is why a lot of tribes are really-loved. Witness Merfolk (Fish decks) or Goblins (Sligh, sorta). These are wacky little creatures that, while having the charm of being a tribe that gets casual players humming and tapping their chins (witness Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar), also manage to be competitive. No matter who you are, you always have a little bit of casual player in you. Granted you may not notice it, but from my standpoint there’s a certain charm in beating down with your favorite tribe. I really like kicking ass with Soldiers. I wish White Knight had been reprinted as a Knight Soldier.

This is what makes Slivers so acceptable. A casual player can rave about Slivers, and Grumpy McTournamentman (probably me – well, I’m not that grumpy) won’t walk over and smack him in the head. Granted, he may roll his eyes, but he may also have fond memories of winning with that tribe. If someone said”Goblins suck!” you’d look at him funny, since the little funny dolts have been kicking ass since back in the days of Lightning Bolt. Slivers have a good past, too.

And now they’re in the present. Without further ado, let’s take a look through the Slivers. I’ll start from White and move clockwise about the color wheel. I will also talk about the artwork and flavor text, since this is more casually inclined, and in that frame of mind I care about the artwork.

Afterwards I’ll make some decks for the Sliver-inclined.

Plated Sliver

Sliver decks have long only had a single one drop – and that one drop is Metallic Sliver, which isn’t exactly the best dork on the planet. Plated Sliver offers the same 1/1 body, with the fairly decent aspect of being a butt increase for the rest of your Sliver team. Since that includes him, that makes him fairly efficient.

If you see Slivers in Extended, Plated Sliver will likely show up since he’s decent enough at making your dudes a bit tougher against burn – AND Also since the white Silvers are classically decent.

In Limited he’s a bit less of a deal, since U/W isn’t a very solid archetype. Bearing in mind that Silvers work with Mistforms, Plated would be pretty decent at making your Misties a bit tougher in combat.

Artwise, I really don’t get this piece. The style does not really come off as a white card, and it isn’t exactly what I would call”armored.” It’s a rather snakelike Sliver, and it’s wrapped around a Rock. On the other hand, I really am fond of the flavor text. It’s got that defiant style that White cards should have.

Ward Sliver

The ability to grant all Slivers protection from a single color simply isn’t as relevant as it would have been years ago. Protection from Red, for example, doesn’t work too well since to be honest very few decks are just red – pardoning Sligh. Other color combinations get enough worse. What do you take against U/W Punisher? Or Opposition? Or U/G madness? Or R/G? Protection really isn’t the powerhouse ability it was years ago.

With this in mind, I’m very confused as to why Ward Sliver is five mana for a 2/2. It’s simply not that amazing an ability – especially given that the best part of protection is, seriously, evasion. And there are better Slivers for evasion.

The art is, much like Plated Sliver, not exactly fitting. It’s not hard to artistically show protection abilities. Take a look at the acolytes from Invasion or the Absolute Law/Absolute Grace cards from Urza’s Saga. In this case, it looks more like the Sliver is being given birth to by an off-screen brood mother – not exactly the kind of imagery I want to see on a card.

Essence Sliver

While Plated is ho-hum and Ward is meh, Essence Sliver presents a jawdroppingly good ability to your Slivers, single-handedly making me consider Slivers in not only Block Constructed but Standard as well. 3/3 for four is nothing special, but the casting cost favors multi-color decks and is low enough that it doesn’t hurt my brain to consider the card. As we’ve all noticed with Exalted Angel, evasive Spirit Linkers is a very solid win condition. And Slivers do have action to some grand evasion, although it is blue.

The artwork I like. It’s very blobby and alien, but that suits me just fine when it comes to Slivers. And the flavor text, like Plated Sliver, gives me the right feeling. These aren’t your bumbling goofy slivers – oh no, they’ve come back. And this time, it’s personal.

Er, well, I don’t think Slivers actually have personalities, but you get the idea.

Mistform Sliver

It’s interesting that they made a Mistform Sliver that, uh, well…

Come on, guys. Slivers are already in the tribe they want to be in. You’re not going to build a deck around modifying your slivers through their Mistforminess to being some other tribe. That wouldn’t make much sense. Why would you bother making a Sliver into a goblin to pump up your Goblin Piledriver? I suppose that dips too far into the casual side of players, but most tribes have good stuff to play with that doesn’t rely on a single sliver to make them, uh, tribal.

The art has none of the charm of the other Mistforms, and the flavor text gives revelation to a bit of the story the book did not go into at all. I find this card annoying.

Shifting Sliver

Blue is the king of Evasion, and this Sliver is the king all by itself. Many of the Slivers require you to hit your opponent, or simply do damage in ways you’d prefer you don’t lose them. Shifting Sliver solves this problem. An opponent facing just this and Essence Sliver is looking at a difficult situation. Given some better Slivers, on the board you may not feel quite so underpowered running Slivers.

Shifting is more or less probably a sideboard card in Extended…. But if Slivers show up in Standard, it’s going to be there. In Limited, it’s a damn solid card. 2/2 evasion creatures are usually worth their cost, but the Shifting Sliver has a good effect on your Mistforms as well. Mistform Shrieker not getting past their Spitting Gourna? That’s okay! He switches sides, and now he can’t be blocked.

On a side note – this is one of the few cases where I could really see Mistform Wakecaster being quite useful. Just turn all your dorks into Slivers and there you have a Falter-tron. Fun!

I like the art – although it looks like it’s swimming, which is kinda weird. I suppose they may have meant to make a landwalking sliver. The flavor text again discusses the riptide project – but this time, it gives vague hints as to how the Slivers finally completely broke free. Which interestingly enough, the book didn’t mention at all. You think that would be a somewhat major event?

Synapse Sliver

Witness the glory of R&D! Here, we will move a blue to green ability back into blue because, well, we can’t think of anything for blue to do. Come on! Blue can do all kinds of neat stuff!

I’m not going to get into it, but Synapse Sliver suits me fine anyways. Ophidianism just doesn’t work in my mind as a green ability. I like green’s card advantage to be land-fetching, or mass creature production.

It is a bit expensive; this much is true. However, in a sense you can look at it like a Coastal Piracy with a body attached. Since you will get the Synapse down and then be able to swing with other slivers, it may not be as horrible as it looks at first glance.

Again, like Shifting Sliver, this one has a place in Limited. The ability to make your Mistforms get you a card on a swing is a fairly solid ability, as most of the Mistforms have evasion to begin with.

The artwork is definitely interesting. A lot of people have commented this looks like a black card – but remember, blue is supposed to have a cruel side to it as well. It doesn’t have to be all fairies and swimming all the time. The flavor text reminds me too much of Star Trek: Voyager, and that’s not something I want to be thinking of. Bad times.

Crypt Sliver

This one is amusing. By itself, it’s a regenerating blocker. When combined with other Slivers, it either plays the defense, or keeps the bigger and more important Slivers alive during combat. It’s true that the tapping means you have to hold Slivers back, but that’s perfectly all right at times. Sometimes it’s easier to hold open a 1/1 Sliver than the mana you would have to regenerate, especially in instances where you have a lot of Slivers in play.

Remember that you can stack multiple regeneration shields on a creature, and this is one of the few times where it will be relevant. If the Crypt Sliver is on it’s way out and you worry your opponent might be gunning to burn one of your slivers off once it’s gone, feel free to stack the shields nice and high.

In Limited, I briefly discussed using the Crypt Sliver with the Mistforms. A friend assured me, right off the bat, that”U/B is horrible.” I don’t know what to think about that, but it’s a combo worth remembering when you crack a sealed deck.

The art is dark and decaying, perfect for a black Sliver. The flavor text, again, perfect. A generally nice card.

Spectral Sliver

It’s somewhat surprising that the Spectral Sliver offers a pseudo-Shade ability, but that takes nothing away from this Sliver. It’s ability clearly over-shadows the long-forgotten Barbed and Armor slivers, but the question of whether or not it’s Extended-playable is a pretty simple one: It’s not.

However, in Limited, a Gray Ogre that can be pumped isn’t bad at all, and in standard/block this is likely a decent enough Sliver that it will fill out your ranks if you choose to play Slivers. Remember that all pump abilities are a matter of playing chicken. If you have to potential to kill a blocker, your opponent likely won’t block. Cute in that sense.

Again, I’m not getting why it’s”Spectral.” Spectral, or Specter, appears on cards like Hollow Specter, Silent Specter, and of course the grand-daddy of them all, Hypnotic Specter. This one seems like they simply couldn’t figure out a name that worked nicely.”Shade Sliver” doesn’t sound so great. The art is weird and doesn’t give the impression of something that buffs up when mana is pumped into it.

Toxin Sliver

An interesting card, the Toxin Sliver carries with it an ability not so good without the older Slivers. The ability to kill everything that’s been in combat with your Slivers isn’t so great unless your Slivers survive the encounter. In that sense, you would probably be more interested in pairing Toxin Sliver with Talon Sliver than Crypt Sliver. Still, it’s definitely a playable Hill Giant in Limited, and in Constructed formats the ability isn’t useless. You can leave blockers behind and watch them trip up and slaughter everything that comes their way. The problem is just the set up time…

The art is strange. Black has a lot in common with green in its style, and this sort of makes me think of a black/green gold card like Spiritmonger or Ebony Treefolk. Nothing wrong there, as this ability is one that black shares with green. The flavor text is filler.

Hunter Sliver

Provoke is an interesting ability that is unfortunately burdened down by a number of very bad creatures wearing the provoke tag. It’s not the ability’s fault that Provoke happens to sit on stupidly large beasts or silly goblin one-drops.

Hunter Sliver, however, lets you slap Provoke onto creatures who make good use of the ability – Toxin Sliver and Crypt Sliver together turn the ability into a nightmare for those trying to use fatties, and Provoke is always good for killing a few little dorks anyways.

Remember, Provoke doesn’t work too well unless the creatures have summoning sickness. Effects that make a creature sick – like Astral Sliding it out of the game or being bounced to hand – work well at making Provoke more useful. Whether or not Provoke will ever see any tournament play, well…. Deftblade Elite is a good one drop, and a Plated followed by Hunter Sliver will kill off a green deck’s mana dorks if you happened to go first.

The art is interesting. I like the dusty, desert-like style. The flavor text makes about as much sense as calling a hunting ability provoke that doesn’t work if you tap the mana bird is going to make.

Blade Sliver

In Red, three mana will usually get you a 3/2. Blade Sliver has the advantage that a second Blade puts them both at 4/2, but beyond that it’s not really all that much better than Kavu Aggressor or Balduvian Barbarians were in Sligh – which is to say”Not very good at all,” I suppose.

On the other hand, in a Sliver deck, the +1/+0 bounce is certainly a lot more interesting. Obviously there’s not a lot to be said for the fact that this is the larger of the bonuses especially when considering Essence Sliver. Hurray. We all get that.

In Limited, this fits perfectly into the U/R combination, providing a feisty enough three-drop to be fine by itself as a 22nd card and combining gorgeously with your Mistforms (again). I don’t exactly expect people to be drafting Slivers in Limited, but certainly this will work in W/R as well. Good stuff.

The artwork is strange. Looks more like a Mantis Sliver or something of the sort. The flavor text, though, gets a chuckle out of me.

Magma Sliver

To quote Jay Schneider,”Which Crystalline Sliver would you like to target with this ability?”

To be honest, Magma Sliver is interesting if you get the right draw off. The math works in it’s favor quickly. For example, if you have a Magma, a Shifting and a Plated Sliver on the table, you can swing with the Magma and tap the other two slivers for more damage than you would have otherwise. Not awful in that sense, and it makes the little baby Slivers even more vicious blockers. Simply tap them to pump them up when they sacrifice themselves for the cause and you’re good.

Problem is, Magma Sliver almost by nature implies overcommitting, which isn’t so cool. Might be interesting with a Sliver Queen.

An amusing ability. Playable in Limited as a Hill Giant that pumps your mistforms, or just works as a 4/3 blocker.

I love the artwork. It reminds me of Magma Imp, or whatever it’s called, from D&D. Someone in the forums tell me what I’m thinking of. It’s like an imp, only it’s got a different name. For some reason I’m thinking Ferret. Magma Ferret doesn’t sound right at all. (Yes it does – The Ferrett, who knows Iain is thinking of mephit)

Quick Sliver

Instant-speed slivers is a rather ho-hum ability for this price. Honestly I can’t see myself wanting to play Slivers at instant speed: The main advantage to instant speed is a blocking combat surprise, but Slivers seem more the aggressor with Shifting and Essence Sliver. The other advantage is playing them at the end of a blue player’s turn to force them to tap out. And we all know what Slivers are supposed to do to blue players!

I find the artwork quite gorgeous, but I don’t see what’s quick about that sliver. It appears to be praying.

Root Sliver

Urgh. I don’t understand why this one is four mana, since the ability isn’t actually that powerful. I’ll give you an example: Let’s say you’re facing a blue deck, and you play a must-be-countered Sliver. So he just, you know, Repulses the Root Sliver and then counters the important one. Even with Crystalline down, it’s still possible to use hibernation to screw up the Root Sliver’s counter protection, so it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s not something a blue player can’t wiggle his way out of off. Should have been 3 mana, then it would have been useable as an ogre in Standard sliver decks.

Artwise, I hate it. I don’t see what is”rooted” about that Sliver at all. This Sliver is a dud.

Brood Sliver

At five mana, Brood Sliver has Ward and Synapse sliver to be compared to. Synapse will reward you with cards in hand – sometimes land, but often action spells which do things. Brood, on the other hand, will simply spill Sliver after Sliver onto the table in a righteous tide of wiggling filth. In the situations where you already have the”combo” of Essence and Shifting, Brood will make it almost impossible to lose unless your opponent uses mass removal. On the other hand, Synapse will provide you with the counterspells and other slivers to make the chain even more deadly.

So I’m leaning towards Synapse as the more competitive Sliver, but Brood Sliver is probably more applying to the fun side of players. Just the idea of drowning your opponent in wave after wave of Slivery assault…

The artwork is alright. I can somehow imagine that it could have been better, but unlike Root or Quick Sliver, Brood doesn’t exactly imply it should be doing”something” right then and there. Remember how Winged Sliver adds wings to the frame, or Armor Sliver adds a reinforced ribcage? Kinda hard to display that sort of enhancement on Brood Sliver without getting a bit icky, eh?

And onto the decks!

//NAME: WUB Slivers

4 Memory Lapse

4 Smother

3 Shared Triumph

4 Mistform Wall

4 Plated Sliver

4 Spectral Sliver

1 Toxin Sliver

3 Shifting Sliver

4 Essence Sliver

4 Crypt Sliver

2 Island

3 Underground River

3 Darkwater Catacombs

2 Swamp

4 Polluted Delta

3 Adarkar Wastes

1 Skycloud Expanse

3 Plains

4 Flooded Strand

This deck is simply attempting to abuse the Shifting/Essence combo as best possible, using black to provide it with at least nine more playable Slivers in key drops – 2 and 3. Ideally, you get out any of the various low-end cards – Shared Triumph, Plated Sliver, Spectral Sliver – and then drop down Shifting followed by Essence and take it to the face.

This isn’t exactly the most complex deck design, of course. Mistform Wall provides early defense that works fairly well with the Slivers. Just switch it over to Sliver, and gain the various bonuses that turn the wall into a real problem. Smother helps to deal with various problems, like Wild Mongrel or Psychatog, that might gum the works. Toxin Sliver also makes your Walls a little bit more annoying. Block something, and it’s going to die no matter what.

The mana base is, sadly, the most expensive part of the deck. That’s the price you pay for consistency, though. Given the complete lack of double symbols and all the dual lands, this is a mana base that will both allow you to consistently cast what you like and get away from the mana pains pretty quick. At twenty-five lands in the deck, you do run the risk of drawing too many – so feel free to cut a few to add more Slivers!

Interestingly, this deck is fairly close to what I would consider for a Block sliver deck. Simply cut the four Memory Lapses, rearrange the land (you may want to add cycling lands as well) and add in four Choking Tethers (so far, Complicate has shown to be too pricey in testing). Synapse Sliver may even be worth playing, as there isn’t a ton of removal that can kill it. Chain of Plasma and Death Pulse/Feeding Frenzy, I guess…? Sparksmith as well, but Sparksmith might have better targets.

I haven’t decided on the sideboard, but I assume Engineered Plague, Duress, Demystify/Disenchant, Intrepid Hero and Coffin Purge would all be fairly useful in the modern environment.

//NAME: Lonely Slivers

4 Plated Sliver

2 Magma Sliver

4 Essence Sliver

4 Blade Sliver

4 Hunter Sliver

4 Shared Triumph

3 Reprisal

4 Volcanic Hammer

4 Firebolt

3 Harsh Mercy

3 Grand Coliseum

3 City of Brass

9 Plains

9 Mountain

This is a very casual style of deck, but the deck concept is admittedly not horrible. The idea here is to use your status as a tribe with a lot of half decent members to good effect by wiping the board with Harsh Mercy and burn. Reprisal is essentially a call against decks with larger creatures.

And lastly;

//NAME: Sliver Infestation

2 Recoup

3 Entomb

4 Patriarch’s Bidding

4 Buried Alive

3 Undead Gladiator

2 Anger

2 Steely Resolve

4 Duress

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Spectral Sliver

1 Synapse Sliver

1 Essence Sliver

1 Shifting Sliver

1 Brood Sliver

2 Forest

3 Wooded Foothills

4 Bloodstained Mire

5 Mountain

2 City of Brass

8 Swamp

This is an outright baffling deck. Ideally you get Anger in the yard, Buried Alive for your team, then Bid them out for a very rapid victory. Certainly it’s reanimation, and it’s slow, but it’s quite amusing. You essentially summon up a part-Phantom Nishoba, part Phantom Warrior, part Verdant Force team. If the attack goes through, you swing for eight that turn, getting three brood-dudes and eight life back. Sure, the mana is weird, but I blame Anger.

Still, it’s fun looking, and it does seem to have an essential core of a good idea buried in the pile of weird card choices. Who knows?

Slivers are a fun tribe – a kooky collection of multicolored troublemakers with a lot of bitey pain to distribute. Granted, we’re lacking the key cards that make them full on Standard-worthy at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get them or that they won’t be fun to play anyways. Those key cards are of course more good one- and two-drops to round out the arsenal as the game picks up. But, like Tempest before, we may simply have to wait no longer than the next set to give us what we’d need.

And unlike Tempest, we have an excellent assortment of multilands currently in Standard.

As an aside, I’d like to make a little bit of advertising. My local store, a one Comic Express in Milton, Ontario, is holding a large Sealed Deck money tournament on the 9th of February. By money tournament, I mean it’s a bit more expensive than a normal sealed deck (For this store, normals are about $23) and the prize pay out is a fair bit larger than usual. I believe the stated prize assuming attendance is $200 to the winner and $100 to second place. The phone number is 905-875-2226; call ahead, as seating is somewhat limited. This is a good location, with tons of parking and piles of nearby restaurants.

Next week, I’ll write something serious on Muses in standard.

Iain C Telfer