got my shot at building new-style sliver decks when Legions came out, so we'll be spending this day's column meeting the needs of Sliver Week in a totally different way.
We'll be turning all of your creatures into slivers.
Welcome to the disease known as sliverocity.
Sliverocity creates extraordinarily volatile conditions for your creatures, and all players. Under some circumstances, games will end incredibly quickly. Under others, games will take an age and a half. Do not willingly contract sliverocity for more than a few hours every two or three months – it's an annoying disease for many people. In any case, let me see through the basics of the format first; at the end, I'll suggest some medical measures to keep games at a reasonable level of length and competitiveness.
Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to handle a sliverocity infection without appropriate equipment.
Indications Of Sliverocity
Sliverocity has four key indications. All must be present for an accurate diagnosis.
All creatures have the same abilities as all other creatures already in play. That means if Eager Cadet comes into play, and there's a Wall of Blossoms and a Mageta the Lion already in play, you draw a card and your Cadet can set off a modified Wrath of God. Mana costs are the same as on the original card – so if you don't have white mana in this instance, you're out of luck.
A corollary here is that creature cards in your hand (or any other zone besides “in play”) don't benefit from what's on the board. If there is an Avatar of Woe on the board, it does not make the Darksteel Colossus in your hand cost 6 less, no matter how many dead creatures are piled across graveyards. And only the original Glory will work in a graveyard.
When a creature leaves play, all other creatures lose the ability(ies) that departing creature possesses. Unless, of course, another creature's still out there with one or more of those abilities. For example, if there are two Marble Titans in play
Creature abilities that refer to “you” or “your” work for each creature's controller, not just the original creature's controller. So if Player A has a Nightscape Familiar, and Player B plays an Eager Cadet, Player B's red and blue spells cost 1 less to play. (And of course, so do Player A's.)
Creature types, colors, stats, costs, and other aspects do not change. We're not actually turning all of these creatures into slivers. We're just using the sliver mechanic to create awful messes.
There are certain symptoms of a “normal” infection of sliverocity you should expect.
- Certain evasion abilities – namely flying and shadow – become highly irrelevant. With Soltari Foot Soldier and Wind Drake out, all creatures become flying shadow creatures, and can all block each other (assuming they're untapped). If you set aside a special night for this format, don't bother paying extra mana for this ability.
Creatures with come into play effects are a considerably mixed blessing. To be sure, every creature in your red/green Fires of Yavimaya deck (if you use the traditional Blastoderm/Flametongue Kavu/Saproling Burst build) will work like a Flametongue Kavu once you have the first one out – but then again, so will everyone else's creatures. That said, Man o' War is still very good in this format.
- The vigilance ability (“does not tap to attack”) gets less and less helpful as the game goes on and players collect more and more creatures capable of blocking. It's perfectly reasonable to expect massive standstills among legions of vigilant creatures – at least until someone plays the first Reiver Demon.
- In general, there will be a lot of abilities to track. A board with Warrior en-Kor, Cerulean Wyvern, and Silklash Spider can be complicated enough. A board where all three do an imitation of each other can get tricky. Be ready for a certain amount of confusion.
Those are the somewhat negative side effects. Here are a few that some players may consider positive:
- Since the mana costs for abilities like Thornscape Master must be paid in the original color, this format encourages dipping into five colors. That sticks to the flavor of many sliver decks, which is nice. Of course, someone can play Quicksilver Elemental and give the blue mages an easier time of it.
- Easily activated abilities with powerful effects can be great fun, if you like short games. A single Bloodfire Colossus hitting the table can end the game quickly, even if everyone's sitting at 20+ life.
- “Leaves play” abilities, like Sundering Titan, are just as double-edged as comes-into-play abilities – but they're distributed among fewer creatures, and they should be more fun to explore since some players at the table won't expect them.
- Creatures that can be played at instant speed give the owner a certain advantage, since the format rules don't allow creature cards in hand to pick up abilities on the board. So your own Mystic Snakes and Defenders of Chaos are still excellent.
- A single Raging Goblin can make the board go wild.
For newer groups using cards from just the last block or so, the format as I've laid it out should be fine: you shouldn't experience too much variation in game length. For older groups with everything from Hypnotic Specter to Nicol Bolas, it may on occasion get “too weird”. It really does depend on the temperament of the group.
If you find this format leads to an unacceptable level of unpredictability, may I suggest the following tweaks. You should not necessarily apply all of them at once! Just try one at a time, depending on the problem you're having.
Too many complex rules interactions happening? Reduce the impact. There are all sorts of abilities – continuous (like Cloud Spirit and Marble Titan), triggered (like Viridian Shaman), and activated (like Greel, Mind Raker). Make only continuous and triggered abilities available to all creatures – or maybe just continuous abilities, or activated abilities.
Too many creatures wiping the board out with their abilities? See above. What you want to do here is just allow continuous abilities, since it's the comes-into-play (Crater Hellion) and activated (Mageta the Lion) abilities that are probably causing the problem.
Too many creatures creating a standstill? Create an automatic (and unremovable) six-creature Portcullis. In other words, pretend for the entire game there's a Portcullis in play that allows six creatures (instead of just two, like the actual card says). If six isn't the right number, adjust accordingly. This card comes with its own set of demons – do check the Oracle rulings! But at least you'll only be dealing with a few creatures at a time, and you'll learn a lot about game rules.
Not complex enough – how do we make this even more confusing? Infect all permanents. Give all abilities – including lands' mana abilities – to all permanents. I'm virtually certain this will create some head-spinning situations – to borrow a card we just used above, what if every creature has the ability of Portcullis, or Gaea's Cradle? What if every global enchantment has the ability of Stalking Stones, or Skullclamp? What if every artifact has the ability of Neurok Transmuter, or Humility? (You know what? Ban Humility.)
Breaking The Sliverocity Fever
Should sliverocity break out in your area, I recommend the following prescription:
4 grams combed Blurred Mongoose fur
4 grams shined Mystic Snake scales
4 grams fluffed Cavern Harpy feathers
4 grams ground Marsh Crocodile tooth
2 grams cleansed Fleetfoot Panther claw
2 grams crushed Shivan Wurm horn
2 grams pulverized eye of that yak the Thornscape Battlemage is riding
2 grams stirred blood of a Sundering Titan
4 grams rust from a Harrowing tool
4 grams Stifling powder
4 grams debris from the wake of a Hurricane
24 grams of dust from appropriate lands, mainly forests and islands
This mixture relies on kicker abilities to give you an edge over your opponents. Very few of your creatures' abilities can be copied by others. You may allow all creatures, at your discretion, to:
- become untargetable
- become targetable again
- lose flying
- lose trampling
- leave the table at instant speed at a cost of 1 life
Meanwhile, you pound away with bigger-than-average creatures, and Stifle those comes-into-play abilities you find most annoying. Hurricane is your tech for busting up an overly busy board full of flyers and possibly finishing up a desperate game in a tie; but one hopes it won't come to that.
None of this is game-breaking stuff; but since you can adjust the board's creature abilities at instant speed, it gives you options where your opponents don't have them. In addition, if you can keep all your gating creatures in play, every creature your opponents play could end up having, “when this creature comes into play, return a blue or black, a green or white, a green or red, and another blue or black creature to your hand.” Yippee!
Considerations For Future Infections
There are certainly other types of decks you can play for this sort of format, particularly if you have warning beforehand. Perhaps one of the most interesting approaches is the “least interesting” – a series of vanilla creatures, from Eager Cadet to Hill Giant to Vizzerdrix, that leech abilities off other players' creatures.
But let's say you aren't lucky enough to have four copies of Vizzerdrix. That's okay - sliverocity gives new life to your old creatures with phasing and cumulative upkeep.
It also has something to say to much more recent tech – including modular. With an Arcbound Slith
on the board, every creature comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it, and gains a counter upon successful attack. In addition, when they die their counters might very well end up back on the original Slith, if folks are feeling generous. (Somewhere in here, there's some synergy with the Arcbound Fiend
And how about indestructible creatures? Wow, things can get bothersome with a Darksteel Colossus on the board. (Bear in mind when a non-Colossus Colossus dies – hey, you know what I mean – it should just stay dead in the graveyard, since it's no longer in play. At least that's how I'd recommend handling such situations in a format like this.)
Speaking of difficult interactions, don't spend lots of time hung up on the rules if you find cards – or combinations of cards – that get everyone scratching their heads. If a creature has an ability that would be too difficult for your group to translate in a world lost to sliverocity, you can either (a) make the ability exclusive to the original creature, (b) replace/reword the ability so that it jives with the board better or (c) ignore the ability altogether. If your group spends more than 20 seconds working it out, you're wasting your time and missing the point.
Enjoy the format – and next time, stay away from those contagions!
You may email Anthony at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sadly, the slivers that have taken over his computer refuse to provide deck help. They do, however, all have banding.