For the most part, competitive MTG decks and EDH fan favorites don’t cross over too much. Putting aside Doomsday-style Thassa’s Oracle combos in Legacy and cEDH (with Demonic Consultation), tribal decks, in particular, are all over the place in Commander but have not been too successful in competitive lately. Elves are fine in Legacy and see some occasional play in Pioneer. Soldiers recently saw some Standard play, but does not put up tier-one results currently. Seeing some Modern play, Merfolk is a bit of an exception to the rule. That said, one tribal archetype surprised many players this past weekend, going 8-0 before losing in the top 8 in a massive Modern tournament thanks to a new March of the Machine card. The Sliver tribe may be competitively viable for the first time in quite a while!
Slivers are Back!
Slivers are one of the strongest tribal archetypes to grace MTG. The tribe is quite a popular one in Commander, known for its massive snowballing potential. Each Sliver gives a buff to all your other Slivers, allowing them to overwhelm your opponent quickly once you get a few on board. The above decklist shows monstrous potential, growing your Slivers fast and shutting your opponent down. The deck’s suite of Slivers is far from all the Slivers available in the Modern format, but they are incredibly tuned for common gameplans in the metagame. Cloudshredder Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Predatory Sliver, and Galerider Sliver help the deck get in fast and hard, providing draws that close the game out by turns 4-5 with little effort.
Force of Negation allows for Slivers to compete with faster strategies like Living End that can cause massive problems for the deck, but the new MTG March of the Machine card that allows this deck to shine isn’t a Sliver card; its Surge of Salvation.
The Anti-Fury Tools Tribal Decks Needed
Surge of Salvation caught many players’ attention in early March of the Machine spoiler season because of how powerful it was against one of the biggest boogeymen of the Modern format: Rakdos Scam. This nasty archetype employs devastating Fury plays that put a 4/4 Double Striker on the board while dealing eight damage to your creatures on as early as turn one (utilizing the Scam combo). Fury is also a fantastic spell for any deck running red, since you can Evoke it out for a quick four damage, ruining any momentum that your board is trying to accumulate.
Surge of Salvation is an excellent tool against this. Not only does it give all of you and your permanents Hexproof, but the card also prevents damage to your permanents from red and black sources your opponents control. This is important because it both stops your opponent’s Fury from devastating your early board states but it also allows you to eat the creature in combat without losing any creatures of your own. This deck runs two Surge of Salvation in the maindeck and two in the sideboard. If you want to read more about Surge of Salvation, we wrote a massive highlight of it when it was previewed.
It’s Not Just the Surge
Fury is a first class disaster for tribal strategies, but there’s a lot more hostility in Modern’s current metagame that makes playing snowbally creature strategies difficult. Thanks to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer’s effect on the metagame, many Modern decks run multiple pieces of removal or interaction for early creatures. This card swings the game so heavily in its favor once it connects with an opponent that many decks cannot afford to let it through more than once.
Because of this, cards like Unholy Heat, Lightning Bolt, Dismember and more are all over the format, ready to take out any small creatures that come their way. These make cards like Unsettled Mariner and Diffusion Sliver a whole lot better.
Both of these cards demand an additional tax whenever one of your Slivers, or anything of yours for Unsettled Mariner, are targeted. Suddenly, the cost-efficient one-mana removal spells cost two extra if they target a Sliver when Diffusion Sliver is around, and one one extra targeting anything you control (including you) if Unsettled Mariner is on the battlefield. This can gum up your opponent’s mana, allowing you to get ahead before they can pick your board apart.
Of course, the above cards also work on Fury, making the card cost an Evoked card from their hand and some extra mana.
Is This Deck Actually Good?
Modern is a pretty open format. Players who want to see some consistent results usually run known tier-one decks, but it’s easy for many different strategies to have a strong run and do well in any given tournament. Slivers may have had one strong run in a Modern Challenge, but is the deck actually good?
Well, here’s a run of the undefeated Sliver list from Modern YouTuber ElectricBob31, who tried the archetype after it went 8-0. I won’t spoil the results in case you choose to watch, but the deck continued to perform well, admittedly alongside a little bit of luck.
Slivers may not be a top-tier archetype, but there are a lot of MTG players who adore the strategy. With promising early runs for the archetype so far, there’s definitely going to be a camp of diehard Sliver fans who may return to Modern to give this archetype a try!