A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Right, but that's not a Rose, so it doesn't smell as sweet. You just called it a Rose. A Ranunculus is a fine flower too, but calling a Ranunculus a Rose is confusing because a lot of people in the Garden Club really love Roses.
Sure, but all we have are Ranunculi. They look kind of like Roses, people that never saw Roses won't know the difference, and we can't grow any Roses in the Garden this year.
Look, I've got nothing against Ranunculi. I'm just saying call a Spade a Spade and there'll be less confusion. Believe me, it's not the name "Rose" that I like about Roses. It is the look, the feel, the smell.
I love lots of kinds of flowers. If you hand me a bouquet of Ranunculi, my natural reaction is to like them. Call them Roses, though, and now I can't help but think about real Roses and wondering why you would call these flowers Roses.
I love the flowers you guys grow, and this isn't a big deal. Maybe I'm just saying it's worth understanding what people love about Roses because it's not the name. Maybe people will like Ranunculi better, and maybe Ranunculi can grow in this climate while Roses cannot.
A Ranunculus by any other name is still just another flower and definitely not a Rose, the Cadillac of flowers.
Slivers are an obvious build around in M14, and while only 60% of M14 has been revealed, there are already enough Slivers to work with. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if all of the Slivers (or all but one) have been revealed, as they are the type of preview that you want to show a lot of at the same time in order to get the maximum excitement.
The M14 Slivers are a bit different than every previous Sliver in that their lords only affect your team (not the entire hive) and they no longer look like they are from a hive (instead being Phyrexian-looking humanoids). Additionally, so far they appear to only be in white, red, and green, making Naya the natural color combination for Slivers this time around.
There are many Sliver lords, though like previous Slivers there are some non-lord Slivers such as Sliver Construct and those made by Hive Stirring. These follow in the footsteps of previous non-lord Slivers like Metallic Sliver, Venser Sliver, and the Sliver tokens produced by Sliver Queen. Of course, when considering playing a dedicated Sliver deck, the question we really need to ask ourselves is "what is the payoff?"
The original Slivers had a number of Slivers with powerful abilities, such as Crystalline Sliver's Shroud, Hibernation Sliver's bouncing, Victual Sliver's life gain, and Acidic Sliver's direct damage abilities. They achieved a lot of tournament success, perhaps the most famous being CounterSliver in Extended, including the Crystalline Sliver + Worship lock.
Legions' Slivers were somewhat uninspired, offering few new dimensions and a very modest power level. Essence Sliver and Synapse Sliver were two of the most interesting. These Slivers never really achieved tournament success.
The Time Spiral Slivers were actually quite good and offered quite a few new novel abilities, led by Gemhide Sliver, Dormant Sliver, Harmonic Sliver, Firewake Sliver, Necrotic Sliver, Virulent Sliver, and Telekinetic Sliver. These Slivers appear in many Constructed decks, not to mention winning the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour.
The M14 Slivers are a pretty mindless bunch, being basically just stats and a few combat keywords. Also, with only three colors appearing to contain Slivers, there is not really any room for personalization or choice. They are just these guys that share a type that beat down. Given that we don't actually have to figure out what to do with any of these Slivers or figure out what colors to play, our job is pretty easy: to figure out if these guys that share a type and pump themselves are the best we can buy. Given that Humans is a tournament successful Naya tribal deck, I'd say that is probably the bar.
An important distinction between these new Slivers and Humans is that the Slivers are slower and more expensive but bigger and heavier hitting. Is this an advantage? In general, the cheaper option is the better one more often than not, but this strategy is going to match up against the field in a very different way.
Here is a first take on the Sliver archetype:
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Blur Sliver
- 4 Bonescythe Sliver
- 3 Megantic Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Sentinel Sliver
- 4 Striking Sliver
The most appealing rewards for being Slivers are Predatory Sliver, Bonescythe Sliver, and Blur Sliver. Predatory Sliver's stats are a good rate, helping us do more damage. Bonescythe Sliver's rate is a little more questionable but helps us do a lot more damage. I'm a big fan of his "pseudo-haste" since he effectively doubles your attack damage immediately (making instant speed removal more important). Finally, Blur Sliver is even more damage and has a passable rate. More importantly, it gives us a powerful way to combat sweepers, and besides, haste is one of the best abilities in Magic.
Striking Sliver and Sentinel Sliver are first and foremost about their tribal bodies and then the minor ability they add. Striking Sliver's ability is a little more appealing, but it is sometimes rendered moot by Bonescythe Sliver. Of course, once all your creatures have first strike, vigilance becomes a much stronger ability.
Hiving Stirrings is one of the most dubious cards in this list. It might be great and in a few weeks that is just the norm, but I could also imagine Steelform Sliver being a viable option. The one extra point of toughness isn't super exciting, but Hive Stirrings doesn't actually help you more than a Steelform Sliver until you have a Predatory Sliver, a Megantic Sliver, a Battle Sliver, or a Thorncaster Sliver. I wasn't even using Battle Sliver or Thorncaster Sliver since how many big drops do you really want? They aren't even at a very strong power level. Bonesplitter Sliver was never a Constructed card, and Battle Sliver is worse.
At least Thorncaster Sliver offers a new dimension that might actually prove valuable since it can take over a board. It might just be a "the rich get richer" type of experience, but it is worth trying in some lists. There is certainly a reasonable chance that a month from now the idea of not playing Thorncasters seems comical.
Megantic Sliver is certainly dubious, if only because of its high casting cost. That said, it is a 6/6 for six that also gives you an easier to cast Collective Blessing. Frankly, it's one of the most exciting Slivers in the set and kind of makes me want to contort the deck to be able to support a higher mana curve. I don't think there's anything wrong with playing the full four. The card looks so strong if you can cast it reliably.
Avacyn's Pilgrim is the one non-Sliver I included in this first draft since it would be really nice to have another turn one play besides Striking Sliver. That it helps cast our expensive Slivers is excellent; the big question is whether the mana supports it since we don't want to name Human with our Caverns most of the time. That we have such good colorless options, like Mutavault and Kessig Wolf Run, further pressures us.
Mutavault is a godsend in this deck, though. We really want to play a ton of lands in order to be able to play the expensive Slivers, but we also want a way to fight flooding. Mutavault is here to save the day, and Cavern of Souls makes the colorless element of it less punishing than it would normally be for a three-color deck. That it gives us some Supreme Verdict protection is just the icing on the cake.
Kessig Wolf Run is less obviously good and in fact might need to be replaced with a colored land to help with Avacyn's Pilgrim, Hive Stirrings, or Bonfire of the Damned (not to mention sideboard cards). Alternatively, we might determine Gavony Township is the better option since we have so many dudes total. I just figured that where we really need the help is against removal, not people that let us amass a full army. Kessig Wolf Run is what you want when they are killing lots of your guys (since any of them could be a lethal threat). Township is for when you get lots of guys in play and need to make them better. How many Slivers could we really have in play and not have them already be awesome?
It feels like Slivers might be able to really punish people without removal, particularly those without instant speed removal. There are plenty of good options in Naya for support spells if we want to dilute the deck's primary theme at all. We already have the classic "this is my only spell" spell, Bonfire of the Damned. Of course, Mizzium Mortars is also an option.
If you suspect a lot of Supreme Verdicts, Boros Charm is the perfect counter (and in fact I would want to sideboard up to three or four Boros Charms anyway). If you are more concerned with large creatures (including Olivia), Selesnya Charm is probably the ticket, but that might be more of a sideboard option.
Ghor-Clan Rampager is actually a pretty respectable option since it works so great with first strike and especially double strike. Additionally, Slivers don't want to trade at all. When you attack with your dudes, being able to save the Predatory Sliver they blocked can translate into a lot of extra damage next turn.
There is a deck from a few years ago that comes to mind the more I think about these Slivers.
Kithkin didn't have nearly as many lords as Slivers, no question, but they were a mostly brute force tribal beatdown deck with a higher curve than your typical White Weenie. Both decks are able to support these higher curves with Mutavaults among their 26 lands, though Kithkin did have access to Windbrisk Heights as well. Is this a clue that Slivers is supposed to have even more action lands like Kessig Wolf Run?
Cloudgoat Ranger is definitely a pretty awesome high end. What does it mean to have the top of your curve go all the way up to six?
Kithkin did have a few tricks, but they never had tools as potent as Boros Charm for combating sweepers. Getting your Cloudgoat Ranger countered by Cryptic Command was always a real bummer, but Cavern of Souls ensures Megantic Sliver will not suffer the same fate.
Do Slivers have what it takes to actually break into the serious tournament scene? Naya is already a pretty heavily represented color combination, but Slivers does push you in a little different of a direction than Humans. I have to imagine that Slivers would have the advantage in the Slivers versus Humans matchup, as both sides are likely to amass big armies and Slivers benefits from scaling more. That said, there might be Burning-Tree Emissary draws that are just too fast. Striking Sliver seems clutch in this matchup.
Of course, Standard isn't the only place one might want to try the new Slivers. Predatory Sliver gives us a second Sinew Sliver for Modern. Here's a starting point:
- 4 Blur Sliver
- 4 Bonescythe Sliver
- 2 Cautery Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Sidewinder Sliver
- 4 Sinew Sliver
- 4 Striking Sliver
- 4 Virulent Sliver
Virulent Sliver is obviously primarily just to give us another one-drop, but it does open up some pretty wild possibilities for games where you draw two (its effect is cumulative). Remember, if you have two Virulent Slivers and another one-drop, that is a turn 3 kill!
Harmonic Sliver is a great sideboard option, of course, but there are some other reasonable options to consider. Essence Sliver can gain so much life quickly that you might just maul red aggro and burn decks. Gemhide Sliver doesn't really work with this list, but if we wanted to go some kind of Megantic Sliver route or perhaps even towards something using Telekinetic Sliver + Dormant Sliver, it is an option. Firewake Sliver is probably a worse Blur Sliver, but we might want more than four of that effect. Necrotic Sliver requires a stretch to the mana base but can just lock out opponents without removal.
One of the Kithkin "tech" cards that might have another day in the sun is Mirrorweave. Mirrorweave your Sinew or Predatory Sliver and it takes just four Slivers to deal twenty in a turn. Target your Virulent Sliver and it takes just two other Slivers to kill an opponent that was hit at least once before by a Virulent Sliver.
The two biggest questions to answer for Modern Slivers are:
1) What is the plan against removal-heavy decks like Jund?
2) What is the plan against combo?
Obviously, you can just rely on the same anti-combo measures that Zoo decks generally fall back on, but can we do better? Is Blood Moon Slivers a thing? That seems kind of bad because of Mutavault and Cavern of Souls, but the idea is questioning what sorts of tools we can rely on that don't impair us. For instance, Rest in Peace hurts us not at all.
What about Legacy? Here, Predatory Sliver makes Muscle Sliver #3. Just how vicious of a Sliver deck is possible?
- 4 Crystalline Sliver
- 4 Muscle Sliver
- 3 Plated Sliver
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 4 Screeching Sliver
- 4 Sinew Sliver
- 4 Virulent Sliver
- 2 Winged Sliver
There are so many good options here that it's hard to know where to start. To begin with, it might just be insane to not run Aether Vial. In fact, the mana is a real tough question period. Wasteland, Mutavault, and Cavern of Souls are all excellent cards. You could play the full twelve, but that kind of takes Brainstorm out of the equation (which might just be bad anyway). Of course, getting enough blue cards for Force of Will is not trivial.
Swords to Plowshares and Dismember are fine options, but again, you can only play so many nonblue cards if you want Force of Will to work. You aren't supposed to cut Muscle Sliver, are you? Virulent Sliver and Plated Sliver are certainly cuttable, but then you lose the explosiveness of so many one-drops.
Screeching Sliver is obviously primarily about being a one-cost Sliver that can be pitched to Force of Will, but it is also cute with Brainstorm and provides a possible defense against Counterbalance-Top.
Crystalline Sliver is a crucial element of the Legacy Slivers deck since just using a bunch of Muscle Slivers is like a Merfolk deck with less blue cards. Crystalline Sliver is the greatest of all Slivers, singlehandedly negating Sliver's inherent weakness to removal. It is totally reasonable to consider cards like Worship to further capitalize on its awesome power. You think Geist of Saint Traft is an annoying untargetable creature? Crystalline Sliver is just not a real Magic card.
Here we cheat the Force of Will requirement with Gitaxian Probe. Cavern of Souls, Wasteland, and Mutavault make casting Aether Vial no problem, and we obviously don't intend to pay for Force of Will. We are just trying to flood the board with huge, untargetable monsters and then eventually win in the air with Winged Sliver.
Regardless of anything else, the M14 Slivers being Slivers is certainly a very relevant attribute when it comes to Eternal formats. Slivers used to be the powerhouse tribe but have since fallen behind many of their rivals. Could Predatory Sliver and company spark a new breed of Sliver deck? Is Counter-Sliver finally going to make a comeback?
M14 spoiler season is just getting started, but already it's clear there are a lot of interesting questions that need answers. Standard has been a very midrange-centric format for a while now. Is M14 the beginning of a new era?
Oh, by the way. It's just three days until the biggest Magic tournament of all time, the Magic Event of the Summer, #GPVegas...
See you there!