Mike Eaton, Play Unplugged
Modern Masters is happening. But it’s expensive and highly competitive. Although if you can get into an event that you think is worth it, drafting around Boros Giants will be awesome, I’m sure.
But here on the janky, once-a-week end of Magic, I’d like to focus on the heart of a different matter; the essence of the upcoming Core Set, if you will. And a topic that is dear to me, having started playing in 1997, with a little (big) set called Tempest.
Today is for Slivers.
Here’s the funny story: When I started, there were plenty of things that compounded to draw me into this game. Slivers weren’t really one of them. In fact, I found them to be needlessly complicated. Remember, this was back then; I learned to love them within a year.
But when the Wizards of the Coast tell us that beginners don’t like “downside mechanics,” I get that. I certainly didn’t want to build a deck with my favorite Slivers, only to have my opponent leech off my best stuff! Experienced players realize, though, that you’re only looking at half the equation. Unless your opponent is running an all-Changeling deck, any Slivers on the other side are certainly contributing to your success, too, right? A few removal spells, picking off the problems, and you can keep the overall tide on your side.
I’m talking about this because there’s been a considerable amount of harumphing (this link is PG, folks) about the Slivers that are coming in Magic 2014 Core Set. One point of contention is that, for the first time ever, Slivers are one-sided; that is, they grant abilities only to your own Sliver army. This is . . . this is just . . .
Think of it this way, though: Does Magic 2014 Core Set take place on Rath, the setting of Tempest? Nope. Does it take place on Dominaria, Magic’s main plane and the setting of Legions, the second Sliver set? Probably not. Core Set settings are kind of universal, and aren’t easily boxed into a particular time or place. Slivers can evolve differently on different worlds, like any other creature. Some vampires fly, and some don’t; does that mean one style is right, while the other is an abomination?
But Slivers aren’t just new mechanically; the art on these new creatures makes them look less globular than they have in the past. They look far closer to humanoid. In some cases, the Internet is still seeing them like a Rorschach test, though, because you’ll hear comments like, “This is such a ripoff of [some video game that I'm sure is very good].” My question to the Internet at large is, do you think Magic art design spent hours and hours coming up with a new, interesting look for a beloved creature type, and then just said, “Forget that! What other thing do people like? Let’s just riff on it.” Coincidences happen, even when they’re worth pointing out, but I think the folks behind this game have done too much to earn our respect just to write them off like that.
I think the new Sliver decks are going to be really fun. I think tribal decks are great for new and old players. Standard decklists are always in danger of becoming piles of junk (in the original sense of the term — cards with no synergy that are all just powerful and slapped together into a deck). It will just be nice to see a coherent and flavorful deck put together. As much as I love to pair Falkenrath Aristocrat with Silverblade Paladin to deal eight (billion) damage, a small part of my brain (not the part that ever wins) shouts, They do not like each other. She will devour him.
I mean, I guess maybe that’s cool, too. But some decks feel like they were just meant to be have a certain appeal, and Slivers absolutely still get that.
In any case, I, for one, welcome our new Sliver overlords (No, it’s not being reprinted). I don’t think one-siding their abilities takes away from their core identity as a team that plays together and stays together. I don’t think specifying their art to look vaguely like the Xenomorphs in Alien 3 suddenly crushes the flavor out of them. They’re Slivers; they’re icons. And sometimes, they’re going to be what they want to be, on their own time.
This is because Slivers, like so many of the rest of us, like to shake their limitations and Play Unplugged.