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Legions Card Preview: Root Sliver

Friday, January 10, 2003

With Onslaught came the exposition of the creature type mechanic, a mechanic that was previously as negligible as the graveyard was before Odyssey Block. Well, maybe that’s an understatement, as the graveyard still had some uses, like Hammer of Bogardan, Shard Phoenix, Ashen Ghoul and others. Creature type before Onslaught, however, had little or no relevance except for a few specific instances.

Lord of Atlantis
The first of these occurrences spans across multiple races of creatures, but for a very similar purpose. This was augmentation by the lord creatures. Goblin King, Lord of Atlantis and Elvish Champion, in particular, all gave you plenty of reasons to care about the creature type of the boys enlisted in your army. These also were responsible for spawning decks around them, which were competitive in their time. Circa Urza’s Saga, the fish deck was very strong against the field of combo decks and Lord of Atlantis was the centerpiece.

Then, there were the races of creature types that were all similar in design, but the actual type of the creature never really came into play for any type of bonus or ability. Creatures like the griffins from Mirage were all built in virtually the same form, a 2/2 flier for 4 mana with some relevant ability. Very few cards actually cared that the griffins were griffins though, with the only good example being Griffin Canyon. From there, we have the Spikes from Tempest Block that all shared the ability to move their counters around and employ certain abilities with the counters they had. This made for interesting combat tricks and other things, but still the Creature – Spike part remained, for the most part, meaningless.

Iron Heart Chimera
In Visions, however, we found our first ray of hope in the small, but potent, race of the chimeras. This is the starting point from which we can trace the origins of the Onslaught Block. Chimeras were small and innocent things, with a single purpose: sacrificing them for the greater cause of building a super chimera. When sacrificed, they add themselves on to an existing chimera, carrying with them their base power and toughness and their particular special ability. This was, of course, risky, due to the large amount of artifact destruction in that block, but it was still an ability that was used, and there was also a Block Constructed deck based around the chimeras that included four copies of each one. The main point is that creature type was slowly starting to come into play as one of the many important fields in which players can interact in a game of Magic.

When Tempest rolled around, it brought with it the most potent creature type of all time: slivers. These odd little characters brought with them a flood of synergy and ability generation with the only limit being their race. Never before were there creatures that all possessed lord-like abilities that would be granted to every creature in play with the type sliver.

If you take a trip down memory lane, you will remember just how powerful these guys were in Limited and Constructed. The combination of Muscle Sliver, Crystalline Sliver, and Winged Sliver was an extremely potent force that was a front-runner in more than one Extended season. With the presence of the dual lands, sliver decks were free to be three or even four colors without worry of color problems. This created one of the most synergistic attack forces in the history of the game.

And guess what? They’re back!

The first question that’s on most of your minds is probably: “what abilities are they going to have? Didn’t they already use up most of the abilities they put on creatures?” The answer is indeed, yes, most of the creature abilities have already been embodied in sliver cards from the Tempest block. That leaves only new and peculiar abilities to be added to the slivers that appear in Legions. These new abilities are especially interesting, and there is one in particular I’d like to take a look at now.

Root Sliver
The card I’m referring to is Root Sliver. Despite being a little pricey at 3 ManaGreen Mana for only a 2/2, the Root Sliver comes equipped with a strong ability against the blue mage. Not only is the Root Sliver itself uncounterable, but once it’s deployed, all of the Slivers you play are uncounterable!

Think about the Constructed implications this card brings, just by existing. If a sliver deck is going to appear again, the target format is definitely Extended, because of all of the original slivers are illegal in Standard. This new sliver deck would likely include Living Wish as a great way to fetch the more specialized slivers that Legions is going to introduce. Root Sliver is a very prime example of that, in that you really don’t want more than one in the main deck (if you have a way to tutor for it) because of its relatively high casting cost. However, the threat of having one in the board practically makes every Living Wish a must-counter, because if they don’t, they can’t counter any of your future slivers. I’m not saying a sliver deck is certain to exist in the future of Extended after the release of Legions, but if it is, Root Sliver will likely be present in some form. The only reason I can’t say for sure is because the mana is less stable now with the lack of dual lands and the need to use fetch lands and pain lands. However, it is a very likely possibility.

In Limited, the Root Sliver is very mediocre. Being a four mana 2/2 isn’t really going to cut it in a format flooded with morph creatures. Even if your deck does contain a good amount of slivers, there really isn’t much countermagic in Onslaught and Legions probably won’t change that. Even so, it would take a ton of counters to make this guy good enough to justify picking and playing in your Limited decks. It’s not the absolute bottom of the barrel, however, for Limited, because it is a creature and if your deck really needs another creature, sometimes anything will do.

I do have relatively high expectations for the card in Constructed, and it could be one of the driving forces in a the reconstruction of an Extended sliver deck.

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