General Medicine — HiveWalker Unholy Alliance!
Doing the rounds!
This time, the Doctor has found a very special spicy brew to go under the cutting knife. It's a hybrid brew of slivers and super friends! The deck is helmed by Sliver Hivelord and comes to us from reader Cowboy Kyle. He writes that the deck has been fun to play but it rarely wins. The idea is to play the planeswalkers, tick them up manually and get incremental value from their help while casting slivers to block for the planeswalkers while they do their thing. It's a quilt of value and synergy woven together by all the five colors of mana! There are some issues with the deck, however, that we will get to as we go along, but we will focus on Cowboy Kyle's main concern: the deck very rarely wins.
As we can tell from the list, there is some lack of direction. Cowboy Kyle himself states that the deck is made up of the planeswalkers he has collected over the years, coupled with the slivers to defend them. This is fine as a starting point, but the number of planeswalkers in the deck has left is with a pretty high curve, which we will either need to adjust by adding some cheaper spells, or by adding more ramp. There's a suitable proliferate-theme going on as well which enhances all of the planeswalkers in the deck, and we're going to expand on that a bit.
As far as the two most important parts of any EDH deck, card draw and ramp, I'm counting twelve cards that offer some sort of card draw or card filtering, and an entire fifteen cards that will help us with our mana. This seems great, though some of it is quite situational, and I think we can do much better on particularly the card draw front. Part of the ramp cards, namely Gemhide Sliver and Manaweft Sliver offer a double-edged sword in that they do ramp the deck, but they also tap down the blockers for the planeswalkers. Others, like Kiora, the Crashing Wave are limited in their use - though this particular planeswalker is fantastic in this regard since she provides both card draw and ramp. Some act only as card filtering, however, and does not allow the deck to go up in cards in hand - for example Dack Fayden and Nahiri, the Harbinger are both excellent cards in their own, but they don't generate card advantage as long as we don't have a way to interact with the graveyard.
To grok the rec
At rare times, there are difficulties getting good recommendations for our EDH decks from EDHREC. I tend to encounter these when building with a theme that's disparate from the commander's usual business. For example, I currently play a very fun dimir-colored "sacrifice for value" deck led by Vela the Night-Clad and when I put that deck into EDHREC, I get recommendations based on other builds of her - i.e. ninjas. There are ways to refine this, however, we can look at other commanders for example, and filter by themes! With Vela the Night-Clad, we can look at Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and filter out the zombie tribal things.
For this particular deck, however, the EDHREC analysis proved more than competent, since there are a few people who have indeed built super friends decks with slivers as a sub-theme. The recommendations include both a large variety of other slivers we could use, as well as some super friends things. Chief among the slivers we could add are Galerider Sliver, who is effectively a better version of Winged Sliver which is already in the deck, and Venom Sliver who is a very effective "rattlesnake" for all opponents looking to hit our planeswalkers. Further down the list, we find a personal favorite of mine, Hibernation Sliver, who lost a lot of steam due to the damage on the stack rules being removed but is still very good at protecting our creatures from removal and blocking creatures without trample. Crypt Sliver can act in a similar way for combat (block and tap after blockers are declared), and also protect from some removal.
On the super friends side of things, EDHREC suggests a number of cards. Though Cowboy Kyle mentions no exact budgetary restrictions, other than that he generally doesn't often spend more than around $10-15 for a single card, and I get that. In particular, he doesn't want to spend money on a Doubling Season, and at over $60 at the time of writing, it's easy to see why. The card is getting prohibitively expensive, in large part due to the popularity of our format. The Chain Veil is more reasonably priced and an excellent card in any planeswalker-heavy deck. Among friends in particular, if we restrict ourselves a bit to again reasonably priced cards, we find Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and Dovin Baan as cards that can help protect our turf and draw us cards, and Vraska the Unseen who can also act as removal, but more importantly becomes a win-condition with only two activations!
In the end, we are on five colors here, and we need to make sure we can cast spells, and the curve is slightly high as I previously stated. EDHREC suggests several pieces of fixing and ramp for us - Sol Ring, Commander's Sphere, Darksteel Ingot, and Oath of Nissa are all cheap both mana-wise and money-wise, and all deserving of inclusion. Sol Ring is perhaps the iffiest one here, seeing as how it only taps for colorless mana, but it will ramp us nonetheless, and there are quite a few generic numbers on our mana costs. Oath of Nissa even replaces itself and the chances of it missing outright in this deck are astronomical.
Lastly, EDHREC suggests a lot of removal - Supreme Verdict and Cyclonic Rift are both excellent, though the former is heavy with colored mana and the latter is getting up there in price. Both are worthy inclusions in the deck, in my opinion.
Another neat feature of EDHREC is the "themes" section. Here, we can take a look at what other people are playing in their super friends decks by looking at the "Planeswalker theme". Some of the most popular planeswalker-themed cards in the format are, for very good reasons, Call the Gatewatch, Deploy the Gatewatch, Thrummingbird, Coalition Relic, Day of Judgment, and Djeru, with Eyes Open. All of these are also relatively cheap, with Coalition Relic being by far the most expensive one - but this might see a drop in price now with Masters 25 to be released.
None of these inclusions help us actively win the game, however, but to that end, we're already including Vraska the Unseen and I also want to expand a bit on the creature side to facilitate winning.
The Doctor's take
Aside the EDHREC recommendations, I also wish to include Mirror Entity and Virulent Sliver as alternative win conditions. Provided we can make way for an attack, both of these can allow us to end a player with just a couple of hits. Bring to Light is pretty fantastic at getting us almost exactly what we need as well, so we're going to try to add that too. Homing Sliver can also be of use for getting us the right pieces of either offensive or defensive slivers, so we're going to try to make room for that too.
After the deck has gone under the surgeon's knife, we're left with these changes:
The cuts to the deck are tough to make, and as is apparent I've chosen to expand a bit upon the slivers theme with an emphasis on defense, and I've chosen to cut down a bit on the planeswalkers. Mainly, I've focused on cutting planeswalkers that are either too narrow in their abilities, that don't have a big enough impact on the board state, or are simply too expensive compared to what they do. Sunbird's Invocation and Megantic Sliver are both expensive six-drops that are very powerful on paper, but run a risk at not doing much at all when they hit the board. Sunbird's Invocation especially has the ability to run away with games, but our focus is primarily to activate planeswalkers, not cast spells from our hand.
On the inclusions side, I've chosen to focus on fixing, ramp, card draw, and defense. The main stand-out inclusion, in my opinion, is Mirror Entity which can, if left unchecked, simply end a player. The deck makes an awful lot of tokens that are everything from 1/1 Soldiers, to 1/1 Deathtouch Wolf tokens, to 3/3 beasts, to 4/4 dragons, and allowing them to both get huge and take advantage of any of the sliver abilities on the field could be very beneficial. In fact, putting a single mana into Mirror Entity could ramp us if we have Gemhide Sliver or Manaweft Sliver and at least two tokens on the battlefield.
The other options are cards that I didn't find room for, unfortunately, but which could all use serious consideration for the deck. All of them are worthy of inclusions, though I'd advice Cowboy Kyle to first look at the inclusions I've already made.
The final iteration
The above changes leave us with this deck:
Link to the deck on DeckStats: CLICK.
The changes leave us with a slightly lower average CMC in the deck, and though the curve is still quite high, we have more spells around CMC 1-3 than before. Hopefully, this will allow us to have game even early on, and the additions will hopefully allow us to close games once we've established a neat board of planeswalkers. Mirror Entity, Virulent Sliver, and The Chain Veil will likely all help to end games quicker, something that planeswalker-based builds often struggle with.
I hope Cowboy Kyle will have some takeaways from my build, and that he has a lot of fun playing (and sometimes winning) with the deck in the future!
What do you think of my take on this brew? What cards would you consider yourself? Leave a comment below!
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