A brave new Standard is upon us.
As you are all aware, we have reached critical mass in Standard. Right now more cards are legal for Standard play than any other time until next year at this same time. Having access to this many cards provides more tools than normal. With the addition of M14, some of the preexisting decks were made stronger, and some are brand new or revitalized versions of previously successful decks.
A decent deck obtaining another quality card to fill out all the slots can take it from moderately playable to tier one. I believe that is the case not only with G/R Dragonmaster, but also with my version of Aristocrats.
In addition to making known decks better, some new decks are now possible that were not before. By now, I’m sure you all have played against the G/B Rock deck that has been surging forward in the metagame. It is definitely a good deck and it is new, but there are only a couple cards from M14 that made it into this deck.
Lifebane Zombie and Scavenging Ooze are the two cards that form the core of this deck. They are extremely good against the field right now and Jund could not really fit enough copies of these cards, hence the need for a new archetype. Let’s be honest, B/G Rock is basically the same deck as Jund. Some of the cards may be different, but their goal to control the game long enough to stick huge monsters on the field is the same.
What I want to talk about today is a brand new deck built mainly from new cards. This archetype is quite popular among the casual crowd, but with the current tools available, I know from experience how potent it can be. The deck concept in question: Slivers.
Before you leave the page and chalk this up as just another casual deck, keep an open mind and listen for a minute. Let me first say, I lost to this deck at FNM this past week. Normally that would not be cause for concern, but in this case we are talking about losing when the deck I am playing has an abnormally high win percentage. Because of how much I am winning with my Aristocrats deck, when I lose to something, it catches my interest more than it normally would.
I will say that my opponent was quite lucky during our match and I also didn’t really get to play Magic in game three because I mulliganned to four cards. Nevertheless, he still beat me and I can’t stop thinking about his deck!
What sets his version of Slivers apart from the rest? He has an engine built into the deck that provides additional potency as well as card advantage. All of the other M14-based Sliver decks I have seen were generic piles of the slivers we know are good. Of course, this strategy was not good enough and that’s why you have not seen any successful sliver decks in the top eight of any Standard event.
This engine might change that. Some of you may have seen this interaction before, but this was the first I had ever laid eyes on it myself.
Descendants' Path is a great engine for many reasons. The first reason is its similarity to Domri Rade. In Slivers the enchantment is actually quite good and I think even a better card than the planeswalker. Both have the ability to generate card advantage for you and both are good in the same types of decks because they rely on you having lots of creatures in your deck.
The next reason is one I did not know about until I was facing down a free--that’s right, check the text, free--Megantic Sliver on turn four. The wording on Descendants Path is the wording I always wished Domri had. Instead of keeping your noncreature on the top of your deck, it goes to the bottom. This is important because it helps you not to mana flood. In addition, it puts the creature in play!
Of course, it has to share a creature type with one in play, but you are playing a tribal deck. With slivers, it’s almost like they all have a comes into play ability also because they effect the board immediately. Also, you have Mutavault to turn on the enchantment if you don’t have any creatures in play.
These are some powerful synergies going on here. Between the Paths and mana acceleration granted to all of your slivers, you can accelerate into the more expensive slivers quickly. Take a look at a tentative list based on these principles and synergies.
Well, first of all, there are many amazing abilities your slivers can obtain from each other. The “Hellrider” sliver for example, is quite a beating. The ability to deal that damage anywhere you want is game breaking. When my opponent got this guy in play, he attacked and killed all of my creatures.
Because your slivers gain the abilities from each other, it becomes very difficult to slow this deck down in combat. If you are battling against another creature-heavy deck, how are they supposed to block effectively when all of your creatures have a handful of sweet abilities each? If you reveal so potent slivers off of Path, you can kill your opponent quickly as well.
Another benefit to this deck is Mutavault. The addition of a card like that to a tribal deck adds a huge looming threat just by making your land drops. Whatever slivers you have in play, your Mutavaults are going to be better than the normal 2/2 they normally are.
My main concern with a deck like this is how horrible your match against Jund will be. Certainly there are things you can do to make it better, but Bonfire seems like your worst nightmare. When your opponent only has targeted removal, they can slow you down a bit and deal with your other creatures. All they have to do is kill your best sliver, and then your army is much less threatening.
Jund can not only kill your best sliver, but also wipe the board. Because your slivers are not individually powerful on their own, you will obviously have a difficult time rebuilding your board presence. It is possible to beat Jund but it usually involves you getting lucky and them being unlucky. Boros Charm in your sideboard might help as well.
The other issue can be the mana. I'll be honest, I'm not sure this land base is as good as it could be, but I think it's close. All of your shock lands tap for red or green which casts most of your spells as well as letting Rootbound Crag be almost a free dual land most of the time.
Being that you are running four colors, there will be times where you struggle to cast your spells, but if you take out any of the colors, it makes your curve a more clunky and gives you fewer abilities. The mana is just something you'll have to deal with if this is a strategy you enjoy.
Overall, this is a good deck that is a ton of fun to play with. It is definitely good enough to play at FNM and if Jund goes on the decline before rotation, it could be good enough to compete at larger tournaments.
Just because a deck has not been competitive level in the past, does not mean it never will be. Every deck can be good enough given the right cards. Keep an open mind, sometimes the least likely person might give you a great idea.
One aspect of this game that many of us skimp on is testing. If you want to get better and become more successful, figure out how the games play before the tournament starts.
Because my schedule is so busy, I often do not have much time to test. A lot of us fall into that category because we carry normal jobs during the week.
Recently I have been using FNM as my testing. Before this summer, I did not attend many FNMs because I was traveling to so many events. Being a teacher, I had a bit more time over the summer so I started going to FNM sometimes. The reason I liked going so much, other than playing this amazingly fun and complex game, was because I used that time as testing.
If you don’t go into the FNM with the mindset that it is testing, you won’t gain any productive information from it though. During the matches I was actively thinking about things like the following: Do I like this card in this match up? How effective was my sideboard plan? Is this matchup really as good as I think it is?
If you are not actively reflecting on each play and each game, FNM won’t be a productive testing session for you. It’s helpful to write down some notes to refer back to at the end of the night as well. Another great way to use FNM as testing is to try out new cards and/or think about a card being different than the one you cast.
A great example of this is Boros Reckoner vs Chandras Phoenix in G/R Aggro. Most players have had Reckoner in their lists for quite a while, but when M14 came out, I argued that Phoenix was better suited for that deck.
One of my friends played each game with his Reckoners but kept track everytime he played one and thought about whether or not he would rather have had a Phoenix in that situation. At the end of the night, the decision was overwhelmingly Phoenix. If he had not been using FNM as testing, he might not have gotten in enough games to make that type of decision.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Slivery Force!
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