Time Spiral: Sliver Evolution Review (Part 2 of 2)
Having reached our fourth and final playtest of Time Spiral, today we’ll be taking Sliver Evolution into battle. A heavily aggressive deck capable of random bursts of obscene violence, our opponent is Hope’s Crusaders. Piloted by Jimi, they’re going to need more than hope to withstand the carnage and onslaught to follow. Will Jimi be able to take her mono-White deck to victory, or will the swarm overcome all that stand before it? Here are our notes from this epic battle.
Jimi leads off with a formidable play- a Brass Gnat– while I match with a Sidewinder Sliver. Next turn sees her continue with Errant Doomsayers after a 1-point attack. I counter with an attack of my own, then add a Quilled Sliver to the budding swarm. Jimi then plops down the unfortunate Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII, which is made even more unfortunate as my turn-3 addition is a Harmonic Sliver. Jimi’s Doomsayer taps down my Sidewinder, so I’m again only in for 1 damage. Still, things are looking very good for the Slivers.
Now turn 4, Jimi lands a Cloudchaser Kestrel. For my part, I add a second Sidewinder Sliver alongside a Spined Sliver, meaning that my 1/1’s will now trade with any 4/4’s… brutal. Hope’s Crusaders is the deck that’s supposed to be giving the opponent’s blockers fits, but it looks like I’m claiming that distinction for myself. Thanks to the Harmonic Sliver, Jimi’s Brass Gnat is smashed when my first Sliver enters the battlefield. The Doomsayer locks down a Sliver (as it will most every turn), but I still get in for 2. Jimi’s now at 16, I’m at 19. A good start.
Next turn, Jimi attacks gamely with the Kestrel, which can only be worried as it flies over the red zone at the sight of the Slivers swarming beneath it. She then plays an Outrider en-Kor and ends her turn. Back to me, I drop the hammer with a Bonesplitter Sliver, attacking for 12. Jimi chumps the Outrider and ends up taking 9, leaving her at 7.
Deliverance is close at hand, though, as she plays a Divine Congregation for 12 life. It proves short-lived, though, as I press the attack for 16 damage. She chumps the Bonesplitter with the Kestrel, so I add in a Strength in Numbers on an unblocked Sliver. When the dust settles, she’s at 2 life. She draws a Celestial Crusader, and scoops.
Another game, another turn-1 Brass Gnat, another turn-1 Sidewinder: deja vu all over again! Next turn, Jimi catches a break with an Icatian Javelineer, a card well-positioned in the early game against Sliver Evolution. She flits in for 1 with the Gnat, then passes. I counter for 1, then follow up with the Quilled Sliver.
Now turn 3, Jimi uses the Javelineer to pick off my Sidewinder, then follows up with a Zhalfirin Commander. Over to me, I have little to offer my team besides a Spirit Loop on my Quilled Sliver. Next turn Jimi begins the attacks, trotting out with the Commander. I use the Quilled to ping it on the way in, which eases the damage by half with the Spirit Loop. Now tied at 19 apiece, Jimi passes. My turn is a blank.
Jimi opts to untap the Gnat during her upkeep on turn 5, then swings in with the Commander again for 2 (reduced to 1 after my Quilled pings it). I finally land that elusive first Forest and use it to deploy a Harmonic Sliver, blasting the Gnat out of the sky. My problems only increase, though, with Jimi’s turn-6 Pentarch Paladin after another attack. Wanting to kill my Sliver on the board as well as any Gemhides I might land, Jimi names Green. As luck has it, guess which colour dominates my hand? Might Sliver, I hardly knew ye! My turn is another blank, and I’m in serious trouble.
Now turn 7, Jimi adds a Celestial Crusader and the beats begin in earnest- that my own White Slivers get the bonus as well is little consolation. Perhaps it’s my sense of impending doom that causes me to miss the ability to pick off the Zhalfirin Crusader with pings from the Slivers, but it’s not one to affect the inevitable outcome. Jimi kills off my Harmonic Sliver with the Paladin, then adds it to her offensive. My two Slivers aren’t enough to stop the onslaught, and by the time I finally add an underwhelming Venser’s Sliver, Jimi’s Gaze of Justice and Gustcloak Cavalier all but wrap up the match.
My turn to be on the play, I lead with a Terramorphic Expanse, sac’ing it to grab a Mountain. Jimi again starts off with the Icatian Javelineers. Next turn I deploy my first Sliver- the Quilled- and pass. Jimi picks it off with the Javelineers, then follows with a Benalish Cavalry.
A Spined Sliver touches down on turn 3, but I have nothing else. Jimi draws first blood with a 2-point attack, then adds a Knight of the Holy Nimbus. Back to me, I play a 4th land- a Gemstone Mine– and tap out to play the Bonesplitter Sliver- a welcome addition. Jimi attacks in again for 2 after playing a Cavalry Master. I’m now at 16 life.
Now turn 5, I hit my fifth land drop in a row and am rewarded with a Pulmonic Sliver. With all my Slivers flying, I slice in hard for 8, putting Jimi on a one-turn clock. She draws nothing, and concedes.
Thoughts & Analysis
This match offered a very diverse spectrum of outcomes which reveal quite a bit about this deck. The first match was the kind of beatdown the Slivers are more than capable of every time you play them. If you think Game One was tough, you ought to have seen the dreamcrush I laid on Jimi in the friendly, a turn-5 kill swinging for 22. Of course, that brings us to Game Two, the kind of faltering start without focus or drive that the Slivers are also more than capable of each game.
Game Three resembles Game One in that it was a hammering beatdown, but it would be fair to say instead that it was won by dropping a bomb rather than a steady takeover of the red zone. Sliver Evolution is capable of any of these outcomes, and you’ll never quite know what you’re in for. With some Slivers being generally better than others, much of the deck’s performance is draw-dependent- all the more so for being a three-colour deck with few nonbasic lands.
While the “flood the red zone” strategy can blitz an opponent before they have a chance to react, by the same token if the Slivers don’t tip the balance early, then can begin to flounder. Without so much as a single bit of unconditional targeted creature removal (be it removal or something like an Acidic Sliver), the deck was unable to fend off the Pentarch paladin in Game Two.
These are less failings with Sliver Evolution in general and more vulnerabilities of the ultra-aggro archetype, though Evolution does itself few favours. Overall, though, it’s a lot of fun to play once you’re able to start the steamroll going.
Hits: Great tribal theme that finally goes all-in and indulges heavily on the Sliver count; capable of absolutely brutal beatings
Misses: Also capable of floundering starts, and as an all-in creature strat is vulnerable to removal; pitiful removal suite makes eliminating troublesome defenders and nettlesome utility creatures
OVERALL SCORE: 4.50/5.00