What’s the first thing you think of when I say Slivers? The kitchen table staple that has plagued Commander since Tempest block? The 2014 revamp that had purists up in arms over the new Predator-esque design? But how many of you thought “Competitive Legacy deck”? For those of you out of the loop, brace yourselves, because this week we’re exploring the Hive with Legacy Slivers!
Slivers, also known as Meathooks after the design of the original lot, is a tribal archetype that plays very much like more popular tribes, such as Merfolk and Goblins. The goal is to play creature after creature, pump each other up with their abilities, and overwhelm the opponent with a massive, evasive army. Slivers is exceptionally good at this type of strategy due to their power-sharing nature, but until only recently the archetype was a bit of a novelty. With M14 and M15, Slivers gained a third lord with 2CMC in Predatory Sliver, as well as a cheaper way to give their team evasion in Galerider Sliver. M15’s Sliver Hive even gave the deck an additional way to fix their mana, which is a boon for what is often a four or five colour deck. Hive is an excellent support to the traditional Cavern of Souls, which also does wonders for forcing an army through countermagic.
So why should you play Slivers over another tribal deck like Merfolk? First and foremost, while both decks employ Aether Vial to cheat creatures into play and accelerate their boards, Slivers curves out at two mana, whereas Merfolk and Goblins often need to get to three counters on their Vials to really build themselves up. Also, the methods of evasion and protecting itself in Slivers far outclasses that of Merfolk. Merfolk has eight lords that grant islandwalk, but what happens if your opponent isn’t playing Blue? Galerider and Winged Sliver give your entire team flying, which not only makes it better against non-Blue decks, it also means you’re able to play defensively against notable fliers like Delver of Secrets and Griselbrand.
Moreover, the shroud granted by Crystalline Sliver far outclasses that of Kira, Great Glass-Spinner at a far cheaper mana cost. Kira can be bypassed by vAbrupt Decay, while Crystalline Sliver blanks any and all targeted removal. As well, even Hibernation Sliver works to protect your Slivers, and is especially effective with an Aether Vial out. For the low cost of 2 life, any of your Slivers can bounce itself to your hand. This allows you to counter removal spells as well as give your creatures a pseudo-vigilance by attacking, bouncing, and replaying them post-combat to help fight in racing situations.
Rounding out the Sliver deck is a traditional tempo countermagic package in Daze and Force of Will, as well as a pair of Relic of Progenitus. Relic is a recent addition to help combat the prevalence of Treasure Cruise decks. One of the easiest ways for an aggro deck in Legacy to fall behind is for your opponent to dig their way into their ways of stopping you, be it a Terminus, an Engineered Explosives, or even just a piece of a combo. Tapping Relic every turn can keep the opponent from getting enough cards to Delve away for their Treasure Cruise, effectively blanking the card until it’s too late.
SO WHAT SHOULD MY SIDEBOARD LOOK LIKE?
First and foremost, as an aggro deck you’ll want cards to help shore up your matches against combo decks that largely ignore what you’re doing. Additional copies of Relic of Progenitus can help keep graveyard-oriented decks like Dredge and Reanimator under control, while also neutering the various Deathrite Shaman/Tarmogoyf decks in the format. Flusterstorm and Thalia do wonders against Storm, which for the most part could not care less about your board state. While they run Massacre to fight typical Thalia decks, this is less effective against Slivers because you only run the one Tundra that would otherwise let them cast it for free. Meanwhile, Sower of Temptation helps fight against any deck trying to Show and Tell a colossal monster into play. Stealing an Emrakul or Griselbrand for free should spell game over against any opponent foolish enough to play Show and Tell against you.
For the fairer matchups, Slivers also packs a pair of Time Spiral block goodies in Harmonic Sliver and Darkheart Sliver. Harmonic Sliver turns all of your creatures into Disenchants, stopping problem permanents like Batterskull, Ensnaring Bridge, and even the odd Elephant Grass. This allows you to continue your pressure without worrying about any artifacts or enchantments they may try to use as defense. Darkheart Sliver is a nod to the recent rise of Red decks in Legacy, as you can turn any of your creatures into a Healing Salve when needed. This is especially helpful given how soft to Price to Progress Slivers is with its single-basic manabase.
WHAT ARE MY MATCHUPS LIKE?
Ultimately, your matchups are fairly good if you’re playing against a fair deck like Shardless BUG or Delver. Having maindeck Cavern of Souls and Aether Vials make opposing countermagic a joke, while Crystalline Sliver and Hibernation Sliver keep removal at bay. With most of their spells blanked, you really only have to worry about having a greater board presence than your opponent. With Galerider and Winged Sliver granting your team evasion and Darkheart Sliverkeeping your life total above parity, you should be more than prepared to win any race against fair strategies.
Combo, on the other hand, can be an utter nightmare if you don’t keep the right hand. Most combo decks in Legacy are capable of killing you on turn 2, if not turn 1, and you need to be able to keep an appropriate hand for fighting that. Force of Will and Daze can help mitigate this long enough to play something like a Thalia or Relic, but more often than not combo decks like Dredge and Reanimator can ignore your defenses and shut you down before you can really do anything about it. At that point you really just have to hope your countermagic is sufficient to slow them down so you can get a clock on them.
FINAL VERDICT: WHY BUILD SLIVERS?
Slivers is the pinnacle of tribal zaniness in a format that’s all about doing awesome things. The variety of creatures and effects you can utilize is nearly limitless, as almost any Sliver is fair game for inclusion. There’s a reason why Slivers has been such a casual staple for so many years, and that’s because they’re just so much fun to play! Every creature you play gets pumped by the others, building and building until you have a veritable tsunami of clicking, hissing xenomorphs crashing through your opponents. The archetype just screams fun, and the fact that it’s actually competitive in one of the most discerning formats in Magic is simply awesome. If you’re in the mood to crush your opponents with the horde from the Hive, get out there and sleeve up some Slivers!
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