The Hive

The latest Invitational winner isn’t done yet. The Boss is finding new and interesting ways to spread his poison. This time, he’s utilizing new M15 cards and Magic’s most notorious tribe…

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M15 brought a new swarm of slivers to play with, which has brought some exciting possibilities of them finally being playable in Standard or Modern.  Slivers are the perfect example of a deck’s synergy far outweighing the sum of its parts.  Fragile and a bit weird looking, slivers are either loved or hated, and this is for all the sliver lovers out there.

Let’s look at seven new sliver cards from M15 and the honorary sliver card Obelisk of Urd

The best card for slivers printed since Cavern of Souls.  This card is extremely pushed and likely what caused StarCityGames to sell out of some key slivers so quickly after M15 was fully spoiled.  The mana fixing is excellent and the ability to create creatures in the late game makes for an extremely strong land at all stages of the game.  I expect this card to hold value forever.

New Orleans 2001 was my first Pro Tour.  I had a sleek Counter Sliver deck with Gush and Winter Orb that played a game not unlike RUG Delver does in Legacy.  Then Sliver Queen tempted me into screwing up the manabase to do “more powerful” things.  I went 1-4 while fumbling around with bad mana and a clunky 7/7.  Since then, Sliver Overlord and Sliver Legion have come along with equal temptation of a big payoff.

My natural inclination is that Sliver Hivelord is in the same category.  There is a lot play to having cheaper creatures that you can count on and a more fluid manabase.  The presence of Sliver Hive and Cavern of Souls in Modern may go a long way to alleviate those concerns, but I’m skeptical. We’ll see.

Six mana is a ton, especially when five offers Sliver Hivelord.  Constricting Sliver looks like it could be a key component in limited if there were a cycle of common slivers to pair with it.  As it stands, it doesn’t seem like Constricting Sliver has a place anywhere.

My vote for the most playable sliver from M15.  It doesn’t do anything proactive on its own but is a great card against removal heavy decks.  After sideboarding, nearly every deck will bring in targeted removal and slowing them down a turn may be enough. Similar to Frenetic Sliver in the fact that it makes their removal awkward, Diffusion Sliver has the added benefits of being a mana (and an entire color) cheaper and having an ability that stacks well with itself.  Making removal cost two more is manageable, but four more is a tall order for any format.  The downside of Diffusion Sliver is that it doesn’t dodge sweepers like Anger of the Gods, Drown in Sorrow, and Supreme Verdict.

I like Spiteful Returned a lot in limited and Mono-Black Aggro so I can respect the power of this guy to attack for the final points on clogged battlefields.  Pulse Tracker did a great impression of being a 2-power creature for 1-mana in Vampires, and I can see Leeching Sliver being closer to Predatory Sliver than what would seem at first glance.  There are downsides to not receiving a real power boost, namely alongside Striking Sliver, to make blocking difficult or to threaten a multi-creature blockade of slivers to team up to first strike huge attackers down.

I’ve been a fan of Two-Headed Sliver in the past, but that was when there weren’t other good evasive options.  Now with Galerider Sliver, this guy’s is much less necessary.  Depending on how big Mono-Blue Devotion or similar decks with flying blockers are will determine if you want the extra evasion on top of Galerider Slivers

This guy combined with Thorncaster Sliver is quite the combo, reminiscent of my Cunning Sparkmage + Basilisk Collar days.  Along with Striking Sliver, combat becomes a nightmare for your opponent.  As with many slivers, the body isn’t impressive on its own but functions well with the rest of the hive.

A tribal artifact that is situationally better than Coat of Arms, this will typically cost four mana and will be convoked for the remaining two.  It’s better than Coat of Arms by coming down faster and you needing less of a board presence for it to be impactful.  I’m sure there are other tribes that are happy to see Obelisk of Urd printed, but as for Standard, it looks like slivers benefit the most given their small natural power and toughness.

It’s a shame that M14 and M15 will only co-exist for a few months, but for that time period we have a window to have some fun; we have a necessary mass of slivers to complete a Standard deck.  I believe the key to a successful sliver strategy is to assemble a combo that gives the opponent fits rather than to present a generally weak beatdown strategy.  They’ll be trying to pick your synergies apart with Thoughtseize and removal, so you need to jam as many combo components as you can along with some disruption, in this case Diffusion Sliver.

Brian Braun-Duin and Chris VanMeter posted a Versus video involving a 5-color slivers list and it looked like a blast.  The manabase of playing all 5-colors looked to be a bit of a problem, so I’d like to explore a version with less colors to see if it runs more smoothly. This is what I like for Standard:

Return to the Ranks and Beck // Call are powerful reasons to run white, but here I choose to stick to three colors to be able to run four copies of Mutavault.  Here, we forgo running true removal spells in favor of the Venom Sliver + Thorncaster Sliver combo.  Striking Sliver pairs well with Venom Sliver to ensure you win all combats as well.  Having 8 one-drop slivers makes Chord of Calling easier to convoke.

Obelisk of Urd seems good against Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods.  That said, those cards are going to be tough to fight through regardless.  Such are the consequences of a creature combo deck.

While slivers may be just strong enough to be a realistic thing in Standard, I really like the way they look in Modern:

I talked about Combo Slivers in an article earlier this year which was basically an updated list of a Time Spiral Block Constructed deck.  The deck is capable of some radical things, including poisoning the opponent out as early as turn 3 with this sequence:

Turn 1: Galerider Sliver.
Turn 2: Virulent Sliver and Striking Sliver, attack for one poison.
Turn 3: Virulent Sliver, cast Summoner’s Pact for the third Virulent Sliver, attack for nine poison.

You can also draw your entire deck as early as turn 4 with Dormant Slivers, Firewake Sliver, a mana sliver, and a bunch of one-drops.  Slivers look fragile on paper but with the card drawing of Dormant Sliver, the resiliency of Frenetic Sliver, and now with Diffusion Sliver out of the sideboard, the deck is fine existing in a Lightning Bolt world.  Also with Sliver Hive, it’s even more possible to hold your ground against an attrition deck full of Electrolyze and Snapcaster Mage.

A mere 24 poison damage.

The mana is even better than before now with Sliver Hive.  So good that I’m comfortable running a Mutavault now when I wasn’t before.  Mutavault isn’t exactly a freeroll, and I probably only activate it 20% of the time I draw it, but the value of it seems worthwhile now.

To Arms! has been pretty awesome.  Sometimes it generates 2-3 extra mana when the majority of Firewake, Dormant, Mana sliver combo is assembled, and sometimes, it untaps your entire team so you can win the turn you’re going off.  I originally started with four copies of To Arms!, but they do get a bit clunky in multiples before you get the engine going.  You get to poison your opponents faster and for more, so what more can you ask for?

After some research I came across a sideboard that I liked.

A comprehensive Modern sideboarding guide.

With a couple basic lands and the fetchlands to get them alongside eight mana producing slivers, we have a deck that can support Blood Moon out of the sideboard.  The remaining three Harmonic Slivers come in as your best threat against Affinity.  Diffusion Sliver is great against Electrolyze and various Snapcaster Mage + Lightning Bolt decks.  After sideboarding you’re less likely to be able to pull off a combo as easily so Predatory Slivers come in when you need to play a more fair game.

Overall, slivers are awesome, and the archetype improves gradually as the years go by with every new sliver printed.  It may not be a tier 1 deck yet, but will get you some sweet and hilarious wins.

Join the hive and leave your opponents looking like this:

Another victim of 4x Virulent Slivers