I don’t know who was more excited to roll up the sleeves and get down to playing- me with the new Fire & Lightning deck, filled with one of my favourite archetypes, and Sam with the five-colour critterfest Slivers. They seemed an enticing matchup, for the decks were not balanced against one another in design (the way, say, Duel Decks are) and anything could happen. In Phyrexia vs. The Coalition, Wizards similarly pitted a five-colour deck versus a mono one, and had to build in some restraints to the Phyrexia deck so that it didn’t just win almost every time (as you’d expect a Suicide Black to do).
These constraints- a larger mana curve and disparate win conditions- helped balance both halves of that Duel Deck, but for the Premium decks no such considerations were in place. Indeed, the nature of Slivers and its inherent card economy- where much like Allies each successive card of that type makes all the others stronger- meant that I fully expected to be given a run for my money. Fire & Lightning is more spell-heavy than the typical precon, so I’d have fewer creatures to provide a recurring presence. Slivers is almost entirely made up of creatures. Would I be able to burn through them all and get there, or would I find myself drifting with an empty hand while the swarm of Slivers overran me?
We sat down to find out, and here are our notes.
A year ago, Wizards of the Coast released to some fanfare a new product line, the Premium Deck Series. Consisting of an all-foil theme deck, it was aimed at a very interesting segment of the market: casual players with an interest in pimp cards. Its Slivers tribal theme had zero Standard appeal however attractive the cards, but there was a welcome audience amongst the cube set who frequently enjoy using foils, foreign cards and alternate printings (promo, textless, etc) to make their creations stand out.
If Slivers fell far short of being an overwhelming success (you can still find them quite easily today for around $20), it was perhaps a failure in scope than it was in concept. Like most tribes, the Slivers have their adherents within the Magic community, but they are far fewer than say the Goblins or Elves. Having found that the right premium cards can command a large markup (see: From the Vaults), they returned to the drawing board and came up with an answer: don’t go deep, go broad.