The Sliver hive always have been the ultimate expression of the Tribal mechanic. This is what makes them so popular: It’s easy to build a thematic deck around them, and they will result into something powerful. More than a sum of their parts. You don’t just get the creatures on the cards, you can build your own monsters, picking and choosing abilities and meld them together into something fearsome. A whole army of that, even. And every once in a while, the hive pops up and there is much rejoicing. It can be argued that tribal themes like this makes it too easy to build a functioning deck. But it’s nice to have an option to quickly and easilly assemble something that doesn’t surprise, but just works.
The last time was actually last year; M2014 had a Sliver subtheme, but somehow something was wrong. It’s not that they where that bad; Bonescythe Sliver had something to offer to the hive. Galerider Sliver was in multiple ways better than Winged Sliver before it. Manaweft Sliver is better than Gemhide Sliver, and having both for redundancy is better still.
But the problem was there wheren’t enough Slivers to make it work in Standard. The previous waves of came in normal blocks, so there was plenty of space for the hive. Just one Core set isn’t large enough for them. And there where a couple of changes to the hive that caused a disconnect. First of all, they now only influence your own Sliver. Okay, this is actually a good change, even though it doesn’t make a lot of thematic sense, being a hivemind and all. And why would Sliver fight Sliver?
The worst change was the art. Wizards explained that somehow, insectoid creatures with one arm in the middle where too hard to draw for artists, and to make expressive enough to show their abilities. Every sliver just looks like a sliver. And here I was believing the whole “restrictions breed creativity” mantra. Which somehow doesn’t translate to art direction.
The excuse whas that these are ‘evolved’ Slivers. This evolution made them more humanoid. This is not how evolution works, Wizards! Not even magical evolution. Probably. It can be argued that Slivers already always where at the peak of evolution, with their efficient communication and the ability to instantly grant evolutionary advantages to the rest of the hive, magically changing their phenotype as they go along.
All in all these new “predator” type Slivers wheren’t as succesful and glorious a return as the hype around Slivers wanted them to be, even though they pretty good.
As a sort of an apology for the lack of impact last year, Wizards decided to put six new Sliver cards in M2015. There are 5 uncommon Slivers, one of which turns all Slivers into Banisher Priests. Then there is a Sliver land at rare and a new Sliver as a Mythic.
The land is a very welcome addition to any Sliver deck, as your hive will probably be multicoloured. Cavern of Souls is great utility, and getting that minus the anti-counter clause is still good. In a Sliver deck those are already City of Brass / Mana Confluence without the lifeloss.
The ability to tap and pay to put a Sliver token into play is a nice bonus. Tapping 6 land for a 1/1 doesn’t seem so spectacular, but since it’s already part of your mana-base makes means it’s good to have the option. In a Sliver deck that token rarely will be a vanilla 1/1 anyway. The old style Slivers pictured in the art almost makes it the perfect apology for last year’s fiasco.
Then there is the Hivelord, who is halfway between the classic and the predator-type slivers. He makes all Slivers Indestructible. It’s hard to say if that’s exciting enough or not. It protects Slivers very well, especially with Crystalline Sliver on the table, but with all the exile effects and Mutilate effects, Indestructable means less and less. Also worthy of note is that he’s only 5/5, while previous Slivers where all 7/7. So how does he compare to the others?
Sliver Queen is the classic Sliver boss card. She makes lot of tokens, for cheap. When I started playing Magic, I was very impressed with her ability to go infinite with Ashnod’s Altar and Heartstone. She does a good job in representing the ‘strength by numbers’ aspect of the Hive. All those tokens gladly join the hive and gain all sorts of interesting abilities.
Sliver Overlord is the second supersliver to come out. His design is excellent, because he can direct the evolution of your Slivers, by picking and choosing possible traits from your deck. He really is the end of evolution, where mutation and selection flows into intelligent design. As a bonus, he can also find the queen from your deck, as well as the other lords. He’s even more insane when honorary Sliver Amoeboid Changeling is on the table, as he’ll start to assimilate everything into the hive.
Finally, there is Sliver Legion. He’s a Sliver-specific Coat of Arms and while that’s not that interesting an ability, at least it tends to end games quickly. As dead opponents can’t remove the hive, I’d say it’s still a cut above an Avacyn, Angel of Hope style effect. But does that matter?
Sliver Hivelord will still make the cut in any Sliver deck, even if Indestructable isn’t the most exciting design. The real Sliver lord of the set is Sliver Hive, though, which is in many ways a reverse from previous entries. Instead of topping off the evolution, it starts it. Instead of costing it provides it. It still is the best take on a Sliver boss that went unexplored, even though there is enough land to provide the colours. It makes me excited enough to try to make a deck around the most tribal of tribes.