Tribal Bible #11 – TSPS

Welcome to Tribal Bible #11, my “Golden Issue”, so to speak, given that my birthday also falls on the 11th (of August, for what it’s worth), and I wanted to do something special, something that would be noticed, and something people would talk about. As such, while there may be only one deck this week, I promise it’s a doozy – it’s legal in every format except Vanguard, Block Constructed (any), and Singleton. What could it possibly be? Well, have a look, why don’t you?

[Tribal Bible is a series maintained by Rivien Swanson. Tribal Bible covers a format known either as Tribal Standard, or Standard Tribal, depending on whom you ask. The rules are as they are for Standard, except at least one-third of your deck must consist of creatures that share a type and there are no sideboards.]

Quietly he crept down the alleyway, cord in hand. His victim was just in his sights, but within the confines of a crowd, the victim was totally safe. He had to wait, patiently. That was the worst part of being an assassin. It wasn’t an issue with morality, or the danger of failure, or even worse, being caught. It was the waiting. Kravak had never been a patient man to begin with, so he wouldn’t seem like the sort to make an apt assassin, but even Kravak could be patient given the wages involved with this particular line of work. Silently, sweat began to drip down his brow. The target began to move, and as luck would have it, he took his usual way back to his manor, right down the alleyway. Grinning, Kravak made his move…

No, that wasn’t especially relevant, nor is that part of a larger body of writing, but I did want a dramatic entrance and my last stab at a fiction introduction went over well, so I figured I’d try it again. I might even do a fiction story or two for articles if there’s any demand for it [No you won’t — Craig]. I like to think I’ve got a fair bit of talent in fantasy genre fiction, but hey, I also like to think rain is wet, so there’s no telling what sort of silly ideas I might have.

Welcome to Tribal Bible #11, my “Golden Issue”, so to speak, given that my birthday also falls on the 11th (of August, for what it’s worth), and I wanted to do something special, something that would be noticed, and something people would talk about. As such, while there may be only one deck this week, I promise it’s a doozy – it’s legal in every format except Vanguard, Block Constructed (any), and Singleton. What could it possibly be? Well, have a look, why don’t you?

You might be wondering at this point what TSPS stands for, and it would be cruel of me to keep you in the dark much longer than is really necessary, wouldn’t it? After all, if you’re here, psychology dictates that there’s a pretty good chance you clicked the link just to find out what TSPS stands for. Well, allow me to shed some light on the subject:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a deck! Shamelessly it combines my two favorite formats, Prismatic and Tribal Standard, a feat only possible with a few select tribes (currently in Standard; Beasts, Goblins, Clerics, Knights, Zombies, Elementals, Elves, Soldiers, Warriors, Spirits, Wizards, Humans, and ShamEn – I don’t care what Wikipedia says; some random entry made by Hell only knows who conflicts with many books of occult lore as to the proper plural of “Shaman” – some written by actual Shamen themselves, soooo…) and, of course, Slivers. While doing a Sliver deck was virtually a necessity for this series (I would be negligent and biased at best if I didn’t include them at some point), I wanted to make it interesting, and thus I submit for your perusal the above.

I am quite thoroughly aware that, as submitted, few people could construct the above list, due the inclusion of a full set of forty shocklands. Before proceeding to dissect the deck before you, allow me to say that there’s no particular reason you couldn’t run this with a more budget friendly manabase, if you were willing to cut a few non-Sliver cards (I use the minimum for combined Prismatic and Tribal – 84 – as is) for basic land fetchers such as Rampant Growth or Search for Tomorrow. Beyond the manabase, the most expensive card is Mystic Snake, clocking in at a mere 3.75 tickets each, according to the fantastic Supernova bots at the time of this writing. And lucky you for that, as I paid thirteen each for my Snakes pre-Time Spiral, so there’s a pretty good chance this deck will be a good bit cheaper for you than it was for me, ultimately.

So far as the Slivers themselves, there’s not much to discuss as to their functionally insomuch as why I used X amount of one and Y amount of the others. Only four Standard legal Slivers entirely failed to make the cut – Mindlash (you have no way of breaking the synergy), Basal (you don’t especially need a lot of mana, since I didn’t include Demonfire), Plague (…), and Venser’s (why bother?). The rest of the numbers are mostly self-explanatory – anything that has no or little effect in multiples, or is expensive mana-wise is less than four copies, while stacking effects got four copies. Telekinetic Sliver and Screeching Sliver are the major exceptions, but the options they give are so good, you generally always want them if you can get them. Shadow Sliver is often as much a blessing as a curse, and so it only gets one copy, to be fetched when needed. Fetched how?

Hibernation’s End. I can’t say enough about how good this is for Slivers. Being able to climb the mana curve, fetching whichever Sliver will do you the most good at each cost, is fantastic. Being the only artifact or enchantment in the deck aside from Chromatic Star, you can even afford to run Harmonic Sliver alongside it, practically worry free (keep in mind Harmonic’s effect is mandatory, which is a bit odd given that what I believe to be its parent card, Aura Shards, is in fact optional).

So far as the off-tribals, there’s only two: Birds of Paradise (mana fixing) and Mystic Snake (counterspelling, flash creature, generally good man). Given the miniscule nature of counterspelling in this deck (only Mystic Snake and Perplex), I decided that since I am very unlikely to win any kind of counter war, I’d run a lot of support cards with Split Second so I could save my few Snakes for opposing spells. As such, Krosan Grip, Stonewood Invocation, Sudden Death, Sudden Shock, Sudden Spoiling, and Trickbind all make appearances for when you need to stop your opponent’s plans. You’re almost guaranteed some kind of targets for all of these, especially if you’re playing any kind of Tribal format – Stonewood Invocation, Sudden Death, Shock, and Spoiling for certain, and few decks can resist the lure of some kind of enhancing artifact or enchantment. So far as Trickbind itself, you’re more likely to wish for extra copies rather than less.

When you’re playing a 250-card deck, you’re going to want some draw and cantrips. To that end, I included Compulsive Research, Ancestral Vision, Whispers of the Muse, and the cantripping Chromatic Star (which, alongside Farseek, also fixes your mana). Typically you’d see a lot more draw in a deck of this size, but given the Tribal nature of the deck, I could only make so much room. Increasing the size of the deck by necessity increases the number of required Slivers, and as we’ve seen, most of the missing ones are undesirable as is. Basal Sliver could make an argument for inclusion alongside the support of Living End, but that could just as well bite you in the ass if you don’t have a place to dump all that mana, like Sedge Sliver. I’m not even especially excited about including four Fungus Sliver and three Spinneret Slivers, but at least Fungus plays nicely with Sedge on the odd occasion that regeneration actually matters – a pretty rare event since the typical removal in Standard (we won’t even discuss older formats) these days seems to be Condemn, Fetters, Wrath, and Temporal Isolation, none of which care the slightest for regeneration. I can only say that Devin Low apparently abuses better substances than I do if he thinks regeneration is going to save Green, much less anyone else.

Lastly, I would be remiss to not include some bounce and mass removal with so many deck slots available, and as such Repeal, Savage Twister, and Crime / Punishment all make showings. While I could have used Wrath, in a deck like this there’s so many creatures that Wrath would often hurt me as badly or worse than the other guy, so I used the more selective Twister and Punishment, which can both be tuned to kill more opposing guys than guys of my own in many situations. Crime is of course also useful, and a particularly nasty toy if you see someone dump an Akroma with the hope of reanimating her.

The good news: You’re playing Slivers. If you need me to tell you how awesome the benefits of the kind of internal synergy they have is, then you must have missed them the first two times around. Suffice it to say that, barring mass removal, Slivers are some of the best critters you could ever play, which is why I went to such great lengths to try to make them interesting rather than simply overpowering. In a deck such as this, you’re forced to wield them more as a rapier than a bludgeon, and that satisfies my desires for keeping the cheese level down. Beyond that, you’ve got a slew of mostly uncounterable spells, which fill all manner of roles, so you shouldn’t be caught with your pants down often. Of course, there’s also the frighteningly good Hibernation’s End to pull it all together.

The bad news: Slivers are hit a bit harder by mass removal than most other creatures, and you only have one hard counter for stopping any attempts at mass removal. While perhaps a careless error on my behalf, I think that I make up for it with the inclusion of Living End and the aforementioned mess of Split Second spells. Also, due to the space constraints caused by the amount of lands (93) and creatures (92), there’s probably a little less mana fixing than one might like in a deck such as this, so even with a non-budget manabase, you can run into issues with color screw. On the other hand, you’re piloting what is probably the strongest tribe in Standard over a long game, so I can’t say I feel especially guilty.

Your win conditions are…well, your Slivers. I suppose Sudden Shock could finish someone off, but by and large you expect the grand majority of effort to come from your Sliver pals, so be careful about trading off your Slivers for opposing critters. Your slivers are generally geared towards combat, but if needed you also have the Screeching option if your opponent is not playing an atypical amount of cards, such as you might see in a mirror match (I’d wonder about that) or Battle of Wits.

As a final note, I’d like to suggest that in most situations, the ideal use of Hibernation’s End includes the following progression: Sidewinder Sliver, Spined Sliver, Firewake Sliver, Bonesplitter Sliver, Pulmonic Sliver, and Fury Sliver. There are, of course, situations in which other Slivers would be more ideal (for example, Shadow Sliver in particular can be an instant “I win” in several situations) but for most situations, this is the best progression. Even better, Hibernation’s End lets you save cards in hand for a quick recovery from mass removal, if any is presented by your opponent.

So there you have it, a deck legal in most any format which not only lets you play with the much-beloved Sliver tribe, but also is a total blast to play, particularly because unlike a sixty-card Sliver pile, it will almost always play differently each time, leading to an experience which can go on a good deal longer than normal before becoming boring.

Signing off,
Rivien Swanson
flawedparadigm a(aye Carumba!)t gmaSPAMSUCKSil d(.)ot co[I like cows.]m
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GodOfAtheism just about everywhere else.