Probably the most controversial deck of the new Commander Masters additions, the Sliver Swarm Commander Masters pre-con deck had players questioning the mana base, but does it matter? Is it a poorly designed deck? Is it fun, and does it play well? First we’ll look at the deck’s structure and what makes it work. Then, we’ll talk about how to get the most of what is included right out of the box. Finally there are more than a few easy upgrades that amp the deck up for little cost.
Forget About the other Sliver CommandersSliver Gravemother is a wonderful five color Sliver commander. It allows you to build two completely unique and different focuses for the deck or combine them into a hybrid, which is what Sliver Swarm starts out as. Removing the legend rule means you want to make copies of your legendary Slivers. Giving your Slivers Encore means you have a graveyard based deck for shenanigans.
Slivers in general have a lot of choice in terms of possible commanders but the top two are always going to be Sliver Overlord and Sliver Queen. While no slouch, The First Sliver is better as a combo enabler for a variety of other decks rather than a Sliver typal deck. In any case, these are the Sliver decks of old. This deck is not about comboing people out with infinite mana. It’s about leveraging your Encore tokens for extra value and having multiple forms of board wipe protection, two things that any creature focused deck can have trouble with.
The Great Value Brand of Creature Types
What’s better than one Sliver? Two of course. As you add more, they don’t get more powerful, they get exceptionally more powerful at an exponential rate! But there are a few issues with this theme. Other players know the deal, if you pick off one or two key cards, it’s a lot harder to come back. Additionally as you are committing creatures to the board, you’re increasing your risk of getting wiped. With no Slivers in play many of the cards in the deck like Distant Melody simply don’t function.
Furthermore, there are many high mana cost cards like Megantic Sliver that you would rather not see in your opener, and is relatively useless if it’s the only Sliver in play. A 6/6 for six is just not that good.
So, what if there were a way to cycle through your deck, pitch the expensive cards, but then simply have them ready for later? Hollowhead Sliver, Windfall and Titan of Littjara are ready and waiting.
Encore provides this strategy with a payoff and is also a counter to removal. Unless your Slivers are exiled, they have the chance to come back later with a vengeance. Suddenly Megantic Sliver becomes six mana for three 12/12s with haste, that’s three times the attackers and six times the damage from them alone. A spell that gives all your creatures +9/+9 until end of turn for six mana would be pretty decent. Even all star Craterhoof Behemoth costs eight mana and needs many creatures in play to duplicate that level of effect.
This is the power of Sliver Swarm where you get to play your creatures without fear of wipes. This is a big advantage in both tempo and strategy. Playing three or four Slivers is a credible threat against a player that is greedily ramping or setting up an engine but has no defenses.
If you do get wiped, you have a built-in mechanic that can finish off your opponents before they fully rebuild. There are numerous cards with combined finisher+recovery potential, one of the best of which is Regal Sliver. After a wipe, it’s a lot harder to lose the Monarch and this card is criminally powerful to either get free card draw or pump the entire team on an alpha strike. Could it make Legacy Slivers return? Unlikely but you never know.
A Good Offense and Plenty of Removal
Not only do you have access to a one-sided board wipe in Harsh Mercy you have the classic pairing of Necrotic Sliver and Harmonic Sliver which deal with everything. When your army is also your removal, you have little to fear. However, there are some specific types of cards that can stop you cold. In these cases don’t forget that the deck is full of anthem effects so all your creatures will be getting +2/+2 or more which is important.
A card like Linvala, Keeper of Silence turns off your activated abilities, so you do have to be careful with your limited non-creature removal package. For the same reasons, creatures with Hexproof and Indestructible can be tricky. In this case, sometimes player removal is your strongest asset so don’t forget to attack early and often at whoever you think will be the biggest threat. The first few turns of any game can give you a chance to deal a significant amount of uncontested damage so that, by the time they are prepared to answer you, you are one extra Encore activation away from overwhelming them. One way or another, though, you do have the tools to solve any situation.
Upgrades and Sidegrades
Forget Sliver Hive, Sundial of the Infinite is the best upgrade for this Sliver deck. In short you can end the turn in response to the Encore trigger that makes you sacrifice your tokens and instead you keep all your tokens. Sundial has a ton of other uses like protecting your stuff on your turn, but this is by far most synergistic upgrade alongside Gravemother. Adding Sundial gives you a second way to make the most of your tokens. Obviously the deck comes with Descendant’s Fury but it really could use some help and this is the next best card to do so at a reasonable price. Sure Anointed Procession and Parallel Lives are good with tokens as well but both cost significantly more money and mana.
More Slivers are obviously always good, take your pick based on your budget as you can spend literally hundreds of dollars on just one. Changelings, however, are usually a lot less expensive and in many cases just as useful.
It’s incredibly hard to beat Universal Automaton in the budget department, though. Impossibly easy to cast, it nets you mana after an Encore if you have a mana tapping Sliver available. Consider this scenario. As previously stated you can build up a graveyard full of Slivers by playing the early game and running into a board wipe. With any of the Slivers that tap for mana you can potentially net mana off your Encores which allows you to Encore even more. With Sundial out you can end your turn with a bunch of tapped Sliver tokens and then proceed to the win step after that.
I’m more shocked by the lack of Temur Ascendency, Garruk’s Uprising, Rhythm of the Wild or one of a variety of similar effects. Certainly there are ways of giving your team haste but it’s always good to have a backup plan. Furthermore each of these Enchantments gives you a secondary ability that is quite useful and any of them could be significant.
There’s definitely a lot to be said about watering down typal decks and Slivers really wants to limit the total number of non-Sliver cards. Sliver Swarmk clearly had this in mind but could be improved upon. Even so, I think the deck can easily absorb one more of these valuable Enchantments.
There’s the obvious lack of tutor elements. The deck is five color and can run every tutor ever printed. Should you? I think it’s relatively reasonable to add in Sylvan Tutor, Eladamri’s Call or Green Sun’s Zenith so that you can guarantee your mana Slivers early on and seek out answers later. Outside of that, good tutor spells get more and more expensive monetarily speaking and there is a pretty big falloff in advantage per dollar. You must ask yourself why you’re playing a Sliver typal deck if you end up adding in a ton of non-Sliver cards.
Finally, I will touch on the lack of inclusion of Sliver Hive and the mana base in general. If you’re going for Encore based tricks, how does Hive help in that situation? It does not do much more than any other land. Additionally, paying a ton of mana to make one 1/1 Sliver token isn’t worth a turn practically ever. If anything, the deck wants Cavern of Souls far more than Hive.
An Encore based deck won’t miss having Hive at all and it’s an easy way not to spend money on a card you don’t truly need. Completely revamping the deck and moving into a different direction is one thing. But if you’re slightly upgrading the deck or going deep with an Encore combo deck there are better, cheaper options like Embalmer’s Tools. In many cases, there are a lot of two mana Slivers and rocks that don’t care if your first or third land comes into play tapped. The mana base is fine and the lands are fine, but not great, for the deck as is.
An EDH Classic Revamped
It’s an open secret that if you play Commander long enough one day you will build a Sliver deck. Try as you might a lot of the decks end up looking very similar. Optimizing for power tends to lead to sameness which can make games formulaic and a lot less enjoyable.
Sliver Swarm injects a fresh take on the typal strategy by including not just the Encore mechanic but also having a fallback option in Rukarumel, Biologist. This turns the entire normal concept on its head. While it’s not completely unheard of to run cards like Xenograft or Arcane Adaptation you have to seek out those cards and get them into play. With Rukarumel as a potential commander you are guaranteed access to this typal modifying effect. Furthermore, it allows you to add yet another type on top of the stack so you can remix Sliver Soldier Saprolings or any other types you might want. The future potential is virtually infinite.
All of these elements make playing Sliver Swarm feel like an EDH deck of yore and that is generally speaking a pretty good feeling. Each game is going to have a completely different path. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that your deck is going to inevitably have a pile of huge monsters with a bunch of abilities no matter what order they come out. It’s a solid deck with some unique and deck defining abilities. Whether you play the pre-con which is respectable as is or you build into your own personal creation, you should be fairly happy with the results.