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Against the Odds: The First Sliver(s) (Modern, Magic Online)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 195 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our second Against the Odds poll for Modern Horizons, and The First Sliver came out on top in the end. As such, we're heading to Modern today to play a different, combo-y take on the Sliver tribe. One of the challenges of building a deck around The First Sliver is that you could simply slam it into a deck filled with Sliver lords (Slivers have a ton of lords available in Modern) and assume it will be good in the games where we draw it. The problem with this plan is that rather than being a The First Sliver deck, we'd basically just be normal Slivers and probably win most of our games without even drawing our namesake card. Because of this, instead of being Sliver tribal, we're mostly a The First Sliver combo deck. While our deck is still stuffed full of Slivers, there isn't a lord to be found; rather than beating down, we're hoping to go infinite with The First Sliver's cascade ability and maybe even kill our opponent without ever attacking. What are the odds of winning with The First Sliver in a combo shell in Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: The First Sliver(s)

 

The Deck

As I mentioned in the intro, my main goal for building around The First Sliver was to make sure the deck was actually built around The First Sliver rather than being a Sliver Tribal deck that just happened to play The First Sliver in the five-drop slot. While it took a bit of work and it's pretty janky, the end result is basically a Sliver combo deck. To understand the game plan, we need to walk through our combo pieces and what our deck is trying to achieve.

The First Sliver

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The First Sliver is the engine of our deck. While it's a fine standalone card as a 7/7 that cascades when we cast it, its real power is that once it is on the battlefield, every Sliver we cast has cascade, and then Slivers we cascade into also have cascade, which means that we can theoretically cast a five-mana Sliver and, with some luck, cascade down our Sliver curve from four to three to two to one and end up with five Slivers on the battlefield for the cost of just one card. While hitting the right converted mana cost of Sliver to keep the chain going does take some luck (we could cast a five-mana Sliver and cascade into a one-drop Sliver, fizzling the chain), our deck is built to support the plan. Apart from a playset of Aether Vial, we don't have any non-Slivers in our main deck, and we've got a good mixture of converted mana costs to make the cascade as powerful as possible.

Mana Slivers

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Beyond The First Sliver, our most important Slivers are Gemhide Sliver and Manaweft Sliver, which basically turn all of our Slivers into Birds of Paradise. In the early game, these cards help us ramp into The First Sliver (with a good draw, we can cast our namesake five-drop on Turn 3). And then after we have The First Sliver on the battlefield, they are important parts of our cascade combo, in conjunction with another Sliver...

Haste Sliver

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Things get pretty crazy if we can play (or cascade into) a mana Sliver and Cloudshredder Sliver since all of our Slivers will tap for mana but also have haste. This has the potential to make our cascade chain infinite. Let's say we cast a two-mana Sliver and cascade into a one-mana sliver thanks to The First Sliver. We spent two mana, but we get that mana back immediately since we can tap our two Slivers for one mana each. In theory, we can cast a five-mana Sliver, cascade into three or four Slivers thanks to The First Sliver, and tap them all for mana, making the five-mana Sliver either literally or almost free. Basically, mana is almost never a problem once we have a mana Sliver and Cloudshredder Sliver along with The First Sliver—the pinch, which keeps the combo from going infinite, is that we'll run out of cards...

Card-Draw Sliver

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Enter Dormant Sliver. The four-mana Sliver makes it so we can't attack by giving our Slivers defender, but it also lets us draw a card whenever a Sliver comes into play. This means that as we work our way through our cascade combo, not only will we not run out of mana thanks to Cloudshredder Sliver and our mana Slivers but we won't run out of cards either. Let's go back to the example of casting a two-mana Sliver with this setup. We spend two mana, cast a two-drop Sliver, and cascade into a one-mana Sliver. The end result is that we spent zero mana (since we can get back what we spent by tapping our new hasty Slivers thanks to Manaweft Sliver or Gemhide Sliver), and we actually finish the chain up a card as well since we'll draw two cards thanks to Dormant Sliver. Of course, not being able to attack is a pretty big drawback to Dormant Sliver, but thankfully, we have a plan to finish the game with direct Sliver damage...

Damage Sliver

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The last piece of the puzzle is Lavabelly Sliver, which drains our opponent for one whenever a Sliver enters the battlefield. Eventually, we'll draw (or cascade) into multiple copies since we're playing the full four, and then as we cast and cascade into Slivers, draw cards with Dormant Sliver, and make mana with Manaweft Sliver / Gemhide Sliver and Cloudshredder Sliver, we will drain our opponent out of the game without attacking at all. Eventually, we'll have all four copies of Lavabelly Sliver on the battlefield as we cascade through our entire deck, at which point it doesn't take many Slivers entering the battlefield to deal 20 damage to our opponent!

Backup Plans

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If we can't win with Lavabelly Sliver for some reason (like if our opponent has a Leyline of Sanctity on the battlefield), our backup plan is to cascade into Necrotic Sliver, which we can then use to sacrifice Dormant Sliver, allowing our now-massive board of Slivers to attack and win with combat damage. Necrotic Sliver also has the upside of turning all of our Slivers into Vindicates, which means we can sometimes win games by sacrificing our random Slivers to blow up all of our opponent's lands and relevant permanents.

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While our primary plan is to combo off, another backup plan is simply playing our other five-color Slivers and beating down. Both Sliver Hivelord and Sliver Legion are just one-ofs, but they can be extremely powerful once we get them on the battlefield. Sliver Hivelord protects us from wraths and makes combat impossible for our opponent, while Sliver Legion usually makes all of our Slivers into 6/6s or even 10/10s. Plus, both are solid with The First Sliver, giving us expensive Slivers to start the cascade chain.

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If something goes wrong with our combo (like we don't cascade into our Lavabelly Slivers and fizzle), Telekinetic Sliver will save the day. We simply pass the turn with our huge board of Slivers and, on our opponent's upkeep, tap down all of their lands and creatures to Time Walk them. This buys us a ton of time and allows us to set up to try to combo off again in the future after we draw into more Slivers or find a way to kill our Dormant Sliver and attack.

Other Stuff

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Diffusion Sliver and Dregscape Sliver protect our more important Slivers from removal. Diffusion Sliver makes it hard for our opponent to target our Slivers with Path to Exile, Fatal Push, or any other removal spell, while Dregscape Sliver lets us reanimate our Slivers for a turn for just two mana. This is especially helpful with The First Sliver since we can unearth it and then immediately cast some Slivers from hand to cascade into a huge board of Slivers to rebuild after a wrath or removal.

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Finally, we have one Hollowhead Sliver and three Galerider Slivers. Hollowhead Sliver is a good way to rummage through our deck, getting rid of extra lands to find more action or digging for The First Sliver to start our combo. Meanwhile, Galerider Sliver gives all of our creatures flying, which is fine if we are on the beatdown backup plan. More importantly, it's a one-mana Sliver, so if we cast a two-mana Sliver with a The First Sliver on the battlefield, we will have something other than Aether Vial to cascade into.

The Matchups

The hardest matchups for The First Sliver(s) are fast decks that don't care about blockers. Since we don't really have cheap removal or much lifegain, decks like Infect or Burn can simply kill us before we get a chance to assemble our combo pieces. In other matches, we can get by without cheap removal since we have tons of Slivers for blocking and card advantage to replace them, but things can go wrong in a hurry if our opponent's deck doesn't care about blockers and has a fast clock. On the other hand, we have a ton of card advantage and a game-ending combo against slower decks. Plus, even if our combo fizzles and we don't cascade through our entire deck, we will still end up with a massive board full of creatures with a huge pile of abilities, which is usually enough to win in a turn or two even if we can't close out the game immediately. Between our card advantage, Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial to fight through counters, and Diffusion Sliver to protect against removal, The First Sliver(s) is especially good against removal- / counter-heavy control and midrange decks.

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches with The First Sliver(s) and won four, giving us a 66.7% match win percentage, making The First Sliver(s) solidly above average for an Against the Odds deck. More importantly, we won almost all of our games thanks to The First Sliver itself, either by comboing off or by cascading into so many Slivers that our opponent simply couldn't keep up with the Sliver value, allowing us to win the old-fashioned way by beating down with janky creatures. The First Sliver felt great, and while you could certainly play it in a more normal Sliver deck (featuring the million Sliver lords that are in Modern) and going aggro, as we saw in our matches, it can also be a pretty sweet combo piece!

Vote for Next Week's Deck

We're two weeks away from the release of Core Set 2020, which means we get one more shot at playing a new Modern Horizons card before moving back to Standard for a few weeks! Which one of these Modern Horizons cards deserves a chance to shine on Against the Odds next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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