Wow – you guys really seem to like Slivers. We obviously thought they were popular – that’s why we brought them back, after all – but it’s still nice to see the warm reception that the new ones have gotten in articles around the ‘Net and in the results from last week’s poll question:
|How do you feel about the return of Slivers?|
|I guess I'm glad.||1941||16.6%|
Since so many people are thinking and talking about them, I thought it would be interesting to look at each of them and talk a little bit about why the development team wound up putting each of them where we did.
(Those of you who weren’t around “back in the day” and haven’t played with the original slivers from the Tempest and Stronghold sets may want to try tracking some of those down, by the way. The Legions slivers were designed and developed assuming people would sometimes play by mixing them with the old ones.)
This guy may look to be a little on the weak side, but he plays really well. The +0/+1 bonus is obviously the weaker side of the old Muscle Sliver, but you can’t underestimate the value of getting a Sliver onto the table on turn 1. Most of our constructed Sliver decks ran this guy and he was particularly useful against the meanies who would bring in Engineered Plague against us.
Mike Elliott, the lead designer for Legions, never liked this guy because it means that not all Slivers work the same way when two Sliver decks face off (since now their color matters), but in the end we decided that was ok because this ability was so interesting in practice. Against some non-Sliver decks this can make all your creatures unblockable and unkillable. It was such a powerful effect in our playtesting that the 2/2 Ward Sliver wound up costing 5 mana even though the white rare 3/3 sliver only costs 4.
Now this one is saucy. For a while the Slivers were “cycled” in mana cost in addition to size. That is, for a while all the commons were 1/1 for 1C and all the uncommons were 2/2 for 3C and all the rares were 3/3 for 4C. In the end, we decided that was too constraining – what the various Slivers did was so different that they couldn’t all cost the same amount, plus having 1-drop slivers would help out competitive Sliver decks. One of the big beneficiaries when we relaxed that constraint was Essence Sliver. A 3/3 for 4 is already a passably large creature, especially in white. Throw on "Spirit Link" and you’ve got a real beater. Throw on Spirit Link for all your other creatures too … now that’s an exciting Sliver.
For a while this one was only U to play, partially because we wanted another 1-drop sliver and partially because we wanted a 1-drop Mistform creature. At the end, though, we thought it was inappropriate if blue got one of the best weenie Slivers. Blue just isn’t good at creatures, especially weenies, so we put this guy at two mana and lowered the green 1/1 to one mana. The green one turned out to be too good so we wound up with only white getting a 1-mana Sliver, but that’s actually pretty appropriate since white is the game’s best weenie color.
There was a lot of debate over this slot. For a while the blue uncommon was a Sliver that gave Slivers "cycling 2" and the black common Sliver gave Slivers fear. Everyone agreed that being unblockable was cooler than having fear, but there was a lot of debate about how cool it was to have your Slivers cycle. When you cycle a Sliver you aren’t necessarily going to get another Sliver, so it’s not super-cool in a Sliver deck, but it’s still kind of cool. In the end we decided we’d rather have a black common that could tap for regeneration than a cycling Sliver and thus we did Shifting Sliver instead of “Gloom Sliver.”
One of the big debates we had about Slivers was “Should they have tap abilities?” All our previous Slivers just handed out their abilities to every sliver. Your whole horde would just swarm into combat and hope they were good enough to beat up the other team. We wanted to have Slivers do new things in Legions, but on the other hand we wanted to make sure the new abilities still felt like Sliver abilities. There never was a consensus on this issue, but we did include two slivers which grant tap abilities and it’ll be your feedback that ultimately answers and ends our internal debate. One of the original “tap slivers” was a Mother of Runes Sliver that tapped to give target creature protection from the color of your choice. We were having so much fun with Ward Sliver, however, and we weren’t going to do both of those in white, so Mother-of-Runes Sliver turned into this.
This one got tweaked a couple of times, but basically it was in the set throughout the whole development process and it was just a spectator, watching all the fights from the sidelines and sometimes getting nudged by their results. For a while we were charging 3 for +1/+1 but that was too weak. For a while this was 1/1 for 1B (and common) but once we created Crypt Sliver and changed the fear-sliver into Shifting Sliver, this slid up to uncommon and became a 2/2.
When I first read through the Legions design file I was really wowed by the rare Slivers. They seemed super neat-o cool to me. The only thing that ever changed about this one is we lowered it from five mana to four once we decided we didn’t need to have all five of the rare Slivers cost the same amount.
At first this Sliver gave out first strike, but that was lame because it was just Talon Sliver in a new color. Then we tried out Goblin-War-Drums Sliver (Slivers can’t be blocked except by two or more creatures), but that was fairly lame too. Once we added the provoke mechanic to the set that seemed like a much better fit for the red common sliver.
Here’s the other half of Muscle Sliver. We couldn’t really have a 1/1 that gave out +1/+0 because if we printed it for 1R then it would be strictly worse than the original Muscle Sliver, but if we printed it at R then it would be insanely powerful. (R&D has long since decided that Jackal Pup was too good and red shouldn’t get R 2/1’s so we certainly weren’t going to do one that also gave other Slivers a great bonus.) I think we solved this problem nicely with Blade Sliver. All by himself Blade Sliver is a 3/2 for 3, which isn’t bad even in constructed decks, and mix him with other Slivers and Blade Sliver is good times.
Magma Sliver started out giving all slivers +X/+0 all the time, but he was more expensive. I’m honestly not sure which version is more powerful, but once we committed to making some use of tap abilities this definitely seemed like the cooler version. Whereas the original pumped up all your Slivers, this one creates a lot of interesting decisions once it is in play, including the decision to make any one Sliver positively gi-normous.
We felt this Sliver could have been either blue or green, though green was a bit of a better fit. At one point it was doing a dance with Synapse Sliver (each was green at one point and blue at another). For a long time Quick Sliver was a 2G 2/2 and the green common sliver was a G 1/1 that just allowed Slivers to block as if they had flying. Well, the blocks-fliers Sliver was lame and when we replaced that with Root Sliver it was obvious that Quick Sliver was more common than Root Sliver. So we slid Quick Sliver down to common and made it a 1/1. We tested it out at G for a while, but testing showed that this ability is simply too good to give away on 1-mana 1/1 Sliver so it wound up at 1G.
This Sliver came to be near the end of development, after we decided that the blocks-fliers Sliver was just lame. At first the art (which had already been done) put a severe limitation on us (because it showed a Sliver entangling a bird), but after we talked to the art guys they agreed they could use Photoshop to remove the bird from the art and that made it a lot easier to find a replacement ability.
There was a loud minority opinion that Brood Sliver would be a bad idea because “Slivers should win by becoming strong, not by becoming numerous.” In the end, however, very few people believed that theory and besides, this mechanic was just too cool to pass up. The last question was what color the Sliver token should be. Green was the obvious candidate, but we decided these tokens should be the same color as the ones made by Sliver Queen so we went with colorless and forced our graphic designers to make up a colorless token frame which some of you have probably already seen, if you’ve received the latest mailing from the Magic Player Rewards program.
There you have it – fifteen Slivers and fifteen different stories. I hope you have fun playing with all of them. Legions goes on sale next week.
Randy may be reached at email@example.com.