Fifteen years ago, when I was first learning Magic the Gathering, Slivers were being introduced to the game. Within days, everyone either loved them or hated them. These nasty little creatures took the power of tribal lords and stapled them onto every creature in the theme! I still remember crying like a baby as a tidal wave of flying, first strike, shrouded 5/5 slivers trampled over my meager defenses.
Now slivers have returned to Magic. The only question is: are you enough of an asshole to play with them?
Strength in numbers
To the untrained eye, Sliver Hive is an auto-pilot deck. You draw slivers, your play slivers. Your slivers get scarier. You attack with your slivers. Easy, right?
Ummm… basically, yes. Aside from its multicolor considerations, Sliver Hive is one of the easiest-to-steer decks in Magic 2014: Duels of the Planewalkers. As long as you’re drawing into creatures, getting them on the battlefield, and swinging with pretty much everything, you can overwhelm an unprepared opponent. The exponential value of each new sliver played makes it fairly hard to mess up most choices.
That said, it also means Sliver Hive is incredibly susceptible to targeted removal. If you attack with four 5/5 slivers, you could easily find yourself in possession of just three 4/4 creatures the millisecond your Predatory Sliver is Unsummoned. So while powering up your army is fairly straightforward, it’s important to treat your more valuable slivers with kid gloves, knowing when to hold them back and when to press the attack.
Momentum matters most
Another important factor to Sliver Hive is momentum. Yes, the more slivers you play, the more force you accumulate… but if the board state stalls or (Serra forbid) everything gets wiped out, you could be in serious trouble. Single, top-decked slivers aren’t scary at all, and even the most brutal bombs you could draw are overcosted as solo plays.
As such, it’s completely essential that you do everything in your power to establish and maintain momentum throughout the match. In some cases, that will mean using Path to Exile on a fairly harmless blocking goblin, just to sneak damage through. In other cases, it means casting Armageddon because you have the only 2/2 on the battlefield and there’s nothing in your hand that will be of use any time soon.
For these reasons, cards like Wild Pair and Bifurcate have some value. They allow you to accelerate positive momentum and recover from decimation. You also have tricks like Savage Beating to make the most of even moderately sized armies. Finally, you could always end the game with a Shock to finish off your foe… though that’s far from likely.
No matter what happens, Sliver Hive lives and dies by the power of its swarm. When in doubt, avoid combat trades that would endanger your most powerful slivers. If you can keep a steady flow of increasingly scary tokens coming at your enemy, you’ll eventually break through any defense.
Sliver Hive sample deck build
- 2 Striking Sliver
- 3 Path to Exile
- 3 Shock
- 4 Predatory Sliver
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 3 Steelform Sliver
- 2 Blur Sliver
- 1 Unflinching Courage
- 2 Fiery Justice
- 3 Hive Stirrings
- 2 Bonescythe Sliver
- 3 Faith’s Fetters
- 2 Armageddon
- 2 Thorncaster Sliver
- 1 Savage Beating
- 2 Megantic Sliver
- 4 Terramorphic Expanse
- 8 Plains
- 7 Mountain
- 5 Forest
Sliver Hive card-by-card analysis (alphabetical)
Battle Sliver, 2.0
I’m of the mindset that every sliver should be judged not only by what it does for your brood, but also for its power as a single card. And by that metric, Battle Sliver simply doesn’t stack up against the rest of its cousins. A 5/3 for five mana isn’t great, and a +2/+0 bonus at the top of your mana curve is arguably worse than the +1/+1 bonus granted by Predatory Sliver, which costs three mana less! Thorncaster Sliver is also a better bet overall, granting your creatures direct damage capabilities. Battle Sliver’s not totally useless: combined with first strike or double strike, +2/+0 can be a big bonus… but you still have to survive long enough to drop this sucker into play.
Blur Sliver, 3.5
Haste is easily one of the most underrated creature abilities, drastically throwing off your opponent’s mental math and combat calculations. Combined with all their other buffs, Blur Sliver can bring gigantic (or even Megantic) threats out of seemingly nowhere. Thanks to Predatory Sliver, Blur will usually hit the board as a hasty 3/3, but even a 2/2 isn’t terrible for the cost. Keep in mind there’s no such thing as double haste, so you won’t get that much of a benefit from having more than one in play or more than, say, two in your deck.
Bonescythe Sliver, 5.0
Double strike is easily the most evil and powerful basic keyword ability, and even a double striking 2/2 creature that cost four mana would be fair as-is. Dropping this thing is almost always terrible news for your enemies, and the inability to immediately remove it can spell instant death. Bonescythe Sliver will almost always have the largest target on its head for good reason.
While Cultivate shines in mana-heavy decks that ramp to gigantic fatties and X-damage spells, it’s not so great in Magic 2014′s Sliver Hive deck. First, you’ll almost always have more important cards to cast on turn three (like… I don’t know… slivers?). Second, your deck isn’t mana or color intensive to greatly benefit from Cultivate to start with! What are you going to ramp into, exactly? Armageddon?!
Groundshaker Sliver, 1.5
For seven mana, you get… trample. Sure, it could net you tons of extra damage from a beefed- up sliver horde, but odds are if you have such a critical mass, you’ve already won the game. Both Bonescythe and Thorncaster Sliver give your army a huge combat advantage for far less mana.
Hive Stirrings, 4.0
I’m not a huge fan of slivers that don’t pull their weight, but in most circumstances, birthing two new broodmates is worth three mana. If they pick up even one extra ability they’ve paid their dues, and it’s hilarious how reluctant players typically are to interact with these “worthless” tokens. Hive Stirrings is particularly evil when paired with Blur Sliver and/or Mirror Entity.
Megantic Sliver, 4.0
This is how you do “big sliver.” Unlike Groundshaker, Megantic Sliver is much more fairly costed at 6/6 for six mana. Not only that, it’ll boost even your smallest fighters into 4/4 terrors instantly – something Groundshaker simply can’t do. If you absolutely need some heavy-costed late-game drops, I highly suggest you put one or two Megantics on your shopping list.
Path to Exile, 4.25
Readers complained when I gave Path to Exile a less-than-perfect score in my Avacyn’s Glory deck guide, and they’re crying harder now that I’m giving it a 4.0 in Sliver Hive. While there’s no doubt Path to Exile is one of the best removal cards ever printed, it’s a greater liability in Duels of the Planeswalkers than it is in paper Magic, where competitive decks tend to have built-in land/color fixing. Casting Path to Exile on an enemy in Magic 2014 could easily ramp them into the huge angels/demons/eldrazi they need to kick your ass, and I’ve been on both ends of such interactions while playing Sliver Hive.
Note: This card has an interesting interaction with Armageddon. It can be cast downside-free on any turn before Armageddon (since you’re gonna nuke the land anyway), but playing it post-wrath will drastically accelerate your enemy’s land recovery. If needed, it could be used on your own slivers (preferably a token) to get back in the game after Armageddon, but only if you have a very solid recovery plan!
Predatory Sliver, 5.0
It’s a grizzly bear (2/2 creature) that makes your tokens into grizzly bears, then makes them into centaurs, then makes them into behemoths. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be playing every copy of this incredibly powerful, cheep, and splashable card.
Rampant Growth, 2.5
Like Cultivate, Rampant Growth doesn’t really have a place in such a low-costed deck. Sure, you could drop a Bonescythe on turn three, but without any other creatures on the board, it’s not a particularly grandiose achievement. You could also boost yourself to a turn three Armageddon, but only if you really want your opponent to ragequit.
Instant removal that costs one mana is amazing (see Path to Exile), and the fact that it can be aimed at your enemy’s face for lethal damage is a really big bonus. What Shock lacks in raw power it makes up for in versatility. You don’t need to run every copy, but you’d be remiss to skip it altogether.
Sliver Construct, 2.5
The only upside to Sliver Construct is that it’s easy to cast. You’ll never have to worry about mana balance when playing this card. That said, I’m not a fan… Sliver Hive has no real problems establishing one of each color (or fewer if you’re running a two-color variant), and in that case almost any other creature would be better.
Steelform Sliver, 3.0
When a sliver tends to be low priority on your adversaries’ “must kill” list, that usually means it’s not incredibly powerful. It’s not that Steelform Sliver is bad – it’s one of the most fairly costed creatures available – it’s just that there are so many unfairly costed slivers to choose from instead. Still, your mileage may vary, and this is still a scary follow-up to a turn two Predatory Sliver.
Striking Sliver, 3.0
On the one hand, it’s cheap. On the other hand, it’s tiny. On the one hand, it gives everything a powerful ability. On the other hand, that ability is redundant with both Bonescythe Sliver and extra copies of Striking Sliver. If you happen to pick Striking Sliver for your deck, I wouldn’t include more than one.
Terramorphic Expanse, 4.0
Establishing your deck’s colors on the board early in the game is incredibly important to Sliver Hive, and Terramorphic does the job without taking up nonland card slots. Include 1-2 for a two-color deck, and 3-4 for the typical three-color sliver construction.
Thorncaster Sliver, 4.5
Evil. This thing is completely evil. By allowing your slivers to do damage before combat even really starts, you can wipe out troublesome blockers, create uneven blocking scenarios, or simply fling damage directly at your opponent’s skull. Combine this with Bonescythe Sliver and your creatures have pseudo triple strike. The only reason Thorncaster doesn’t get five stars is that it’s mediocre by itself. That said, it’s a game-winning bomb.
Sliver Hive unlocks card-by-card analysis (order of unlocks)
The entire point of slivers is that they add incremental value to each other. As such, making one of them indestructible isn’t particularly valuable. Sure, you could safeguard your Megantic or Bonescythe for a while, but even then it’s only really protected from certain types of removal effects. Bounce, exile, Pacifism, and enchantment removal can still ruin your day.
Fiery Justice, 4.5
Fiery Justice can kill five creatures for three mana. If that doesn’t justify its difficult cost and tiny downside, you need to think about that first sentence a little more. In a metagame dominated by weenie creatures and easily-shattered illusions, the ability to target and/or murder up to five things is absolutely insane. Burn to the face won’t do much, but it will at least reduce the total amount healed. In multiplayer games, you also have the option of hurting one foe while buying favors from another.
Note: Due to the way state-based effects and spell resolution work, you cannot use Fiery Justice to kill an opponent at five or less life. Your opponent will be damaged and healed during spell resolution (for all intents simultaneously), with a net result of zero lifegain. I’m only mentioning this because I don’t want you wasting a card trying for this flashy finish!
Faith’s Fetters, 4.0
The ability to lock down any permanent from both combat and ability activation is very powerful. And while a four-life burst may not seem like much, it can often single-handedly undo the scratches you’ve taken on turns one through three. Faith’s Fetters is especially good at pissing off players who have finally landed an Eldrazi onto the battlefield. Thanks for the life boost, Kozilek!
Bifurcate, 2.5 – 3.5
Is it better to have a random sliver in your hand, or the ability to find a copy of something you’ve already got and put it straight into play? This is a tough question, and ultimately the value of this card depends wholly on how many duplicate slivers you’re playing, how much they cost, and when you draw this card. My advice? Try it in your deck for a while and see how it feels. If you find it’s a dead card, cut it out.
Note: While rare, Bifurcate can be used in the mirror matchup to search out your own copy of a sliver your opponent played.
Shared Animosity, 3.5
Not quite as insane as Coat of Arms, Shared Animosity still grants your Sliver Hive a hefty aggressive boost. With just four slivers on the battlefield, you’ll get twelve extra damage, not counting the possibility of double strike. Still, this enchantment is often out of place in the early game, when you really need board presence, not stat pumps.
There’s a reason Wizards of the Coast doesn’t reprint Armageddon anymore. It’s an insanely powerful card that insta-wins matches and just as quickly infuriates other players. It basically reads, “If you have a better board position than your opponent, you win the game.” For new players, Armageddon can seem pointless. Why blow up all lands? The answer is simple: if you have better stuff in play than your enemies, and nobody has any lands, you’ll have a huge advantage for many turns. You can attack knowing there won’t be backup coming to aid your foe, and you can cast it right when you know he/she has been saving up to pay for an expensive bomb.
Best of all, since your opponent doesn’t know you have Armageddon in hand, he or she will most likely play ever land drawn. Meanwhile, you can hold onto two or three in-hand, allowing you to recover from Armageddon very quickly. If you weren’t around when Armageddon was still printed, it might take you a while to learn how to use it… but it’s well worth the effort.
Lifeline is one of the most unfair cards ever printed for many, many reasons (feel free to read the Wizards forum ratings in that link). Unfortunately, it doesn’t make any sense in a sliver deck. There’s no default way to abuse its resurrection mechanic in Sliver Hive, so the card is just as likely to help your opponents as it is to assist you. Some decks like Deadwalkers will even prosper with Lifeline in play. Avoid this at all costs.
Wild Pair, 3.0
On the downside, Wild Pair doesn’t do anything when you play it… it basically sits there and takes up six mana. On the upside, this enchantment can quickly overrun your opponent with an insane selection of slivers from anywhere in your deck. That’s a big bonus when you’re in the lead, but it also helps you recover from major losses quickly, too. I could go either way on this card, but wouldn’t recommend using more than one copy.
Mirror Entity, 5.0
First: if you didn’t get it, Mirror Entity counts as a sliver. Capice? Second, this three-drop creature single-handedly wins games. With as little as four mana, you can double, triple, or quadruple the size of your entire creature force! Not only that, but you can do it at instant speed, and the ability scales the longer the game goes on. Also remember that even a Megantic Sliver is “only” a 3/3 at base, so spending six mana on Mirror Entity’s pump will boost Megantic to a 9/9!
Much like Lifeline, Survival of the Fittest is a super-powerful combo-rific card that redefined the metagame when it was released fifteen years ago. And just like Lifeline, it doesn’t really do anything for your Sliver Hive deck. Yes, you can fetch out creatures you need for one mana, but without graveyard recursion or other tricks of the sort, you really won’t get any additional benefit.
Unflinching Courage, 4.5
For best results, put this on a crappy sliver (like a token) to prevent nasty two-for-one scenarios. Aside from that advice… if you can’t figure out with this card is good, read it again.
Savage Beating, 3.5
Pulling off either half of Savage Beating will deliver the eponymous barrage of death. Pulling off both halves with Entwine? It’s pretty much game over. Savage Beating is a brutal surprise… the only reason I haven’t given it a higher score is that finding two (or three) mountains is not always easy in Sliver Hive. You could include more mana ramp to accommodate this, but is it really worth it for one card?
Titanic Ultimatum, 2.0
Make that two cards. Titanic Ultimatum is a super flashy finisher, but for seven mana you’re much better off casting Savage Beating. Or rather, for seven mana you’re much more likely to be able to cast Savage Beating, thanks to Ultimatum’s incredibly tight mana requirements (RRGGGWW). The other problem with Titanic Ultimatum is that it sits at odds with using Armageddon, a card that’s significantly more valuable and castable in most circumstances. Resist the temptation to play this bomb!