Commander Showdown - Sliver Battle Royale
Sliver and Gold
Sliver, Sliver, everywhere! Modern Horizons recharged a bunch of tribes, from Ninjas to Bears, but none are more excited than the hive mind. The First Sliver joins the likes of Sliver Overlord, Sliver Legion, Sliver Hivelord, and Sliver Queen, spilling the whip-tailed menaces into play to share their augmentations with the entire world.
Sliver players now have five potential commanders to choose from, each with their own set of crazy abilities. The Sliver you pick to lead the swarm can have big ramifications on deck construction and strategy. Today we're diving deep, assimilating ourselves into the hive mind to better understand the tribe and their glorious legendary leaders. Let's get to it.
Let's start from the bottom of the list. There can be no doubt that Sliver Legion is an impressive beast, but it shows up at the head of a mere 78 decks. Not only is it the least popular Sliver commander, it's the least popular five-color commander.
It isn't difficult to deduce the precise reason Sliver Legion is the lowest on the ladder, even if it's high up on the food chain. Its effect is basically Coat of Arms, a fantastic blowout card to end a game with your army, and a handy thing to have in the command zone... but it's also a redundant ability. Many Slivers already provide incidental buffs to the team, from Sinew Sliver to Megantic Sliver. Slivers are a tribe where 1 + 1 = 3, as their buffs make each new member more powerful than the sum of their parts. Sliver Legion doesn't add anything new to that equation, it just makes the equation bigger.
That said, as a commander, the Legion could provide a fun take on the traditional Sliver formula; most people expect the tribe to buff itself incrementally with its smaller Predatory Sliver-style minions, but a Sliver Legion in the command zone frees up the rest of the deck to exclusively use utility Slivers.
Who needs extra buffs on tiny creatures? Focus on putting small creatures into play that defend themselves well, and when you have enough of them, slam the Legion into play like it's an Overwhelming Stampede for one big flourish. If this is the commander you choose for your Sliver army, it's because you'll treat it more like a spell than a creature.
Card to Consider: Clot Sliver. The goal of this deck is to preserve its numbers until it can assemble one big out-of-nowhere strike. Clot Sliver is usually budged out of other Sliver decks because they need space for Muscle Sliver effects, but here, you have more room.
Up next is Sliver Queen, who proudly sits atop a neat 303 decks. To be frank, her popularity is largely hampered by her limited availability and immense price tag (and frankly, this is probably true for Sliver Legion as well; Slivers can of course be built on a budget, but they definitely have some expensive pieces).
In truth, I struggle to see the Queen as anything but a combo commander. Mana Echoes only shows up in 30% of her decks, but dang it, the synergy is off the charts. If the Queen makes one Sliver token, Mana Echoes will refund the cost, which allows her to make another token, which then makes even more mana... there are many commanders that go infinite with just one card in the 99, and this is definitely one of them. There's a reason Demonic Tutor is the #1 card in the Queen's Sorceries section.
Once you have all these tokens and all this mana, winning the game is almost an afterthought; Heart Sliver can haste all those tokens into enemy life totals, and the new Lavabelly Sliver can ping people along the way. Necrotic Sliver can also use the excess mana to delete your enemies off the face of the planet.
This is also a deck that likely won't need many of the Muscle Sliver or other combat-focused tribal effects. If you spy the Queen in the command zone, be on the lookout for combos. Those tokens are a resource for purposes quite apart from the traditional boundaries of the tribe.
Card to consider: Purphoros, God of the Forge. I know, it's not a Sliver at all. But that's the thing - Sliver Queen isn't really a Sliver deck. Heck, just look at her most popular themes:
Other legendary Slivers have one possible theme: Sliver tribal. But the Queen? She has popular builds for tokens with Divine Visitation, and heck, even a planeswalkers option, because she makes excellent blockers for a Superfriends strategy! She's a traitor to Sliverkind!
Grandstanding aside, her specialities as a commander lay outside the realm of tribal. Leaning into her token generation seems to be the wisest move, and given its sheer efficiency, cards like Purphoros, God of the Forge and Impact Tremors will end the game in shorter order than any concessions you make to tribal synergy.
With just about 80 decks more than the Queen, Sliver Hivelord swings in to make the army indestructible! I'm personally aesthetically bothered that this is the only one of the five legends to sport a power and toughness of 5/5 instead of 7/7, but I suppose there had to be an oddball in the family somewhere.
The Hivelord is a truly excellent insurance policy against the biggest weakness of tribal decks: board wipes. Wrath of God and Decree of Pain will knock creature-based decks out in short order, which is why cards like Heroic Intervention and Teferi's Protection have become so popular. With the Hivelord, you have that security baked right in; all you need to worry about now are bounce effects and exile-based removal, but removing Wrath effects from your list of concerns is a big relief.
It should be no shock that Galerider Sliver and Winged Sliver are great options here, especially in conjunction with Sentinel Sliver, providing a near-impenetrable defense to the tribe. Crystalline Sliver and Diffusion Sliver provide protection from single-target removal like Swords to Plowshares and Reality Shift.
I have to pause for a moment to call out a card on Sliver Hivelord's page that does not deserve to be there: Pillar of Origins. This shows up in 44% of Hivelord decks. Stop playing it immediately. Play Fellwar Stone instead. Or Darksteel Ingot. You'll need mana to cast your Distant Melody and Kindred Summons and Vanquisher's Banner, so don't waste a mana rock on a card that only casts a third of the cards in your deck.
With Sliver Hivelord, slow and steady wins the race. In fact, I think there's a lot of yet-untapped potential here. This commander seems like a great place for your own cache of board wipes such as Blasphemous Act, blasting away any creature that would impede your indestructible army. The oft-ignored Psionic Sliver will never accidentally kill your creatures, since they're indestructible anyway, and opens up a lot of fun interactions with Spiteful Sliver and Syphon Sliver. Indestructibility can be a straightforward battering ram, but it can also be extremely tricksy; when a Sliver deck is playing one-sided board wipes, you know you're in trouble.
Card to consider: Synchronous Sliver. This deck relies on persistence, and wisely contains a lot of the low-drop Slivers (such as Quick Sliver and Striking Sliver) in its arsenal. With indestructibility, any low-drop critter will prevent even the biggest baddie from getting through your defenses. However, you still need to knock people down, and that involves attacking them, an act that normally leaves your defenses down. Sentinel Sliver can't do the job alone. Get more vigilance into the mix so you can relentlessly push damage through to your enemies, leaving a wall of indestructible creatures to block any counterattack.
(Bonus card to consider: Call to the Kindred. If your army is indestructible, you should expect an effect like this and/or Descendant's Path to stick around for a while.)
With 1,285 decks to its name, Sliver Overlord is the most popular legend for the tribe by a long shot, and the fourth-place five-color commander overall. It's no secret why this ability won out over the other contenders; Overlord's tutor effect is unique, mirrored only by Homing Sliver, and considering the multitude of abilities offered by the tribe, the toolbox this commander opens up is second to none.
Enchantments in your way? Go fetch Harmonic Sliver. Need a pump? Go find Bonescythe Sliver. Need evasion? Shifting Sliver is there for you. No matter the problem you encounter, you can go find the exact tool for the job.
Beyond that, tutoring up your Slivers is an easy solution to a tribal deck's typical weakness; if you put a bazillion creatures into play and get blown out by a Damnation, tutoring for new Slivers will pick you right back up where you left off, rather than leaving you stranded without any cards in hand.
The Overlord also has a few nasty tricks up its sleeve, using Amoeboid Changeling to transform and steal enemy creatures like it's casting New Blood! Turn any creature into a Sliver, then nab it with Sliver Overlord's second ability. Just make sure your opponents aren't able to gain control of your commander; if they do, they can use its ability to gain control of not just your commander, but your entire army.
Additionally, as is often the case with tutor commanders like Prime Speaker Vannifar and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, there's usually a specific sequence of creatures the deck will choose to fetch out to maximize its potential. The toolbox attitude is still there, but it wouldn't be a shock to see folks use the tutor ability to pull out some Sliver Queen + Basal Sliver combo when fetching the pieces is so easy to do.
Sliver Overlord's abilities are potent, but mana-intensive. Any of the commanders love to have Gemhide Sliver for the color fixing, but for the Overlord, their mana advantage is absolutely vital to keep the engine running. It should come as no surprise to see ramp effects prioritized in this deck more than the other Slivers. Smothering Tithe, Cryptolith Rite, and Training Grounds are particularly important here, to keep the fire fueled. By fetching just a few important Slivers, you'll be able to dismantle any hopes your enemies have of stopping your onslaught.
Card to consider: Unnatural Selection. This only shows up in 21% of Overlord decks, compared to Amoeboid Changeling's 54%. I think the synergy is just as strong here, even if the Overlord can't tutor for this specific enchantment. If you happen to get it into play, your opponents need to be worried for the rest of the game. Overlord is mana-hungry and greedy, and as with any tribal deck, it will flood the board with tons of creatures. If the waves of aggression are stymied, this is one more way the deck can ferociously claw back into the fray, not by finding its own creatures, but by taking away everyone else's.
The First Sliver
I know it's The First Sliver, but we had to save it for last. Our newest addition to the hive spawns a terrifying chain of events, providing the keyword Cascade to each of your Sliver spells. Importantly, if it's in play, and you Cascade into another Sliver spell, that spell will also continue to Cascade. (If, however, this spell is still on the stack, any Sliver it Cascades into won't yet have the Cascade effect, since this card isn't yet in play to grant them that global ability. That's no matter, though; the effect is still bonkers powerful.)
At 180 decks and climbing, how is The First Sliver shaping up compared to its contemporaries? From what I can tell, extremely well; many low-drop Slivers are basically guaranteed to pop into play with all the Cascade zinging around, providing the team with much-needed utility. Most impressively, the haste from Blur Sliver, Heart Sliver, and Cloudshredder Sliver turns The First Sliver's natural explosiveness into an even bigger tidal wave; not only will this commander populate the board with a ton of new creatures all at once, but they'll be able to attack without delay.
Put simply, tiny buffs and small abilities add up, and add up fast. This has always been true for Slivers, but the other commanders have normally kept those multiplying efficiencies at a predictable pace. Here, it's bedlam. Your opponents have to be ready for an army-in-a-can at a moment's notice. If you thought Slivers were fast before, The First Sliver is here to let you know that you ain't seen nothin' yet.
While Sliver Overlord is guaranteed to find whichever Sliver it wants, The First Sliver is guaranteed to see the low-drop Slivers all the time. Any two-drop Sliver you play will almost assuredly hit Striking Sliver or Galerider Sliver, practically guaranteeing flying and/or first strike for your team. Thus, this commander will need a high density of those creatures to make sure the Cascade effects can chain successfully into one another. I can think of no other creature to better assist with this than Hibernation Sliver, which not only saves your army from a board wipe in a pinch, but can here be used to re-trigger the Cascade effects. It may not draw you cards or tutor them to your hand, but make no mistake about it, this is card excellent advantage.
Additionally, the noncreature spells in this deck are more important and more specialized than ever. You have two options: play high-cost instants and sorceries like Kindred Dominance to make sure you never Cascade into them and accidentally stop your Sliver train; or play lots of low-cost spells to make sure you definitely run into them. I think the former is probably the most practical; Coat of Arms and Door of Destinies will be there when you need them, but Cascading into Heroic Intervention doesn't feel great. However, there's a very special exception to this, and it's my 'card to consider' for this commander.
Card to consider: Ancestral Vision and/or Wheel of Fate. Doesn't it sound lovely to cast Harmonic Sliver into Muscle Sliver into Striking Sliver into Ancestral Vision? Yes. Yes, it does.
(PS: The First Sliver is also my pick for the best budget Sliver commander. It specializes in many of the low-drops, spitting them into play quickly to begin the exponential compounding of their tribal synergies, so many of the expensive cards aren't as necessary.)
We've seen decks for all the other Sliver commanders before. They've been around for ages, and have all had time in the spotlight already. Let's see what The First Sliver can do.
The First SliverView on Archidekt
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A Sliver of Hope
I'm going to do something a little strange. I know they're all five-color commanders, but to best capture their differences, I'd like to assign each of the Sliver legends a color. Not because they skew towards Slivers of that color more than others - in fact, many of these decks rely on green more than the other colors for mana-fixing alone. Rather, this is a way to demonstrate the differences in each deck's gameplay style and general philosophy. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I think it's a fun experiment.
- Sliver Legion: Green. Amassing a ton of creatures and then pumping them so big that you can't do the math anymore? Green to a T. This is Overwhelming Stampede in creature form.
- Sliver Hivelord: White. Steady, relentless, and consistent, this deck plays like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, but with alien-worm-bug claws instead of angelic wings.
- Sliver Queen: Blue. This is a combo engine that eschews tradition for the sake of efficiency.
- Sliver Overlord: Black. A tutor machine that manipulates the board to fit any situation, even resorting to thievery.
- The First Sliver: Red. Frenetic, chaotic, unpredictable, and above all else, fast. Slivers are known for how quickly they'll overwhelm the board, but none of them will do it this quickly.
So, which Sliver is right for you? Do you think The First Sliver's speed and alacrity will allow it to overtake Sliver Overlord's popularity? Or is the consistency of Overlord too good to pass up? Are the less-popular Sliver commanders worth more than their current numbers? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Oh, and don't forget to vote for the next Commander Showdown!
Til next time!