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  • October 17, 2023 9 min read 0 Comments


    If you’ve played Magic for almost any length of time just the name of these creatures is enough to stir memories. The ninth most popular creature type according to EDHREC, Slivers are as beloved by many as they are hated by others. First introduced into the world of Magic in the Tempest expansion in October 1997, they’ve made several subsequent appearances over the years. Today we’ll look at the visual and gameplay evolution of Slivers, how they relate, and a controversial change that Wizards made and then walked back on.

    Tempest (1997)

    talon sliver

    From what we can tell visually, most Slivers are vertebrates with a head, and two appendages: a long prehensile tail and a single talon-tipped arm. Each Sliver has a unique genetic anomaly, giving it a distinct feature which it shares with other members of the hive when they are in close enough proximity to one another. These features have both visual and gameplay implications. Compared to the other Slivers in Tempest, The Talon Sliver simply has a slightly longer talon than most, making it a good representation of the typical Sliver. As we will see, the more radical a Sliver’s unique genetic attribute, the more distinct they will look from this baseline.

    armor sliver

    Scott Kirschner’s depiction of Armor Sliver shows a sort of exoskeleton over the top of the creature. The pointy head, taloned limb, and long tail of Mike Raabe’s Talon Sliver are all present, but the detailed musculature in Raabe’s image isn’t present in Kirschner’s piece. The exoskeleton is highlighted, but much about the creature is otherwise left to the viewer’s imagination. The Armor Sliver grants an activated ability to all Slivers, allowing them to buff their toughness when activated. It seems strange for a creature with an exoskeleton and “armor” in its name to give only a temporary buff, making this a bit of a flavor fail compared to some other designs.

    winged sliver

    The first of several Slivers which grant flying, Winged Sliver has a pair of wings and a double tail in addition to the typical single limb with talon. Apart from the wings, this Sliver as depicted by Anthony S. Waters is pretty in line with the look of other Tempest Slivers.

    muscle sliver

    Muscle Sliver has the gameplay ability of making all Slivers stronger. It’s a straightforward ability, and the card has a straightforward name to match. What isn’t as straightforward is the Richard Kane Ferguson image depicting it.

    Looking at all the other images of Slivers in Tempest, it is unclear how these creatures see, hear, or consume nutrients. Setting aside RKF’s distinct art style, this is the first Sliver to appear to have a mouth, and a massive set of teeth. The teeth look sharp and pointed, giving strong indications that this Sliver is predatory. It’s a strong deviation from the faceless look of other Slivers. It will be several years before we see anything like this again.

    Stronghold (1998)

    sliver queen card

    In Tempest, there were 10 mono-colored Slivers, and one colorless artifact Sliver. These mono-colored Slivers appeared to represent Slivers as they naturally existed, with the colorless artifact Sliver representing creations of the storyline antagonist Volrath, who used his artificial Slivers to try to infiltrate and control the Sliver swarm.

    Moving to the Stronghold set, we are introduced to a cycle of gold ally-color pair Slivers, and the first five-color Sliver, and Magic’s first ever five-color card: Sliver Queen. Ron Spencer’s art on this is reminiscent not only of his Heart Sliver artwork from Tempest but shows the Queen having visual attributes from all the other Slivers in the two sets. The flavor text “Her children are ever part of her,” reinforces what we see visually on the card. It’s worth noting that the Queen has two limbs and what appears to be multiple tails, both characteristics we will see in some future Slivers.

    Legions (2003)

    spectral sliver

    Slivers would not return to Magic for five years, popping up once more in the second set in the Onslaught Block, Legions. Legions was an interesting set in that it was the first Magic set which was exclusively composed of creatures. No noncreature spells of any kind appear in the set. While a bit of a gimmick compared to contemporary set designs, a set of all creatures was a perfect home to reintroduce Slivers to the game.

    According to the lore, these Slivers were grown by the Riptide Project from remains found in Urborg, transported there from Rath during the Rathi Overlay as part of the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria. The Slivers created by the wizards of the Riptide Project were entirely new breeds compared to the Rathi Slivers. Without the central hivemind of a Queen to control them, these new Slivers were feral and ultimately escaped the control of the Project, nesting on the Dominarian continent of Otaria.

    These Otarian Slivers look much like their Rathi cousins, with similar body structures. We do see a few radically different Slivers thanks to the Otarian influence. Possibly the most radically different is the Spectral Sliver, a ghostly apparition controlled by the Otarian Cabal. It’s interesting to note in the first printing that the card only has the type Sliver, while it is clearly no longer living. In the Premium Deck Series: Slivers, the reprint was given the additional creature type Spirit, making it clear that it was the ghost of a dead Sliver, not a living part of the brood.

    blade sliver

    It’s worth calling brief attention to the Blade Sliver, as it is the first Sliver we’ve seen other than the Sliver Queen with two forelimbs, each tipped with a sharp talon, and what appears to be a pair of undeveloped lower limbs as well. This is interesting as it hints at the possibility of multi-limbed Slivers, something we will see in the future.

    Scourge (2003)

    sliver overlord

    The Sliver Overlord is the second-ever five-color Sliver, and the only Sliver printed in Scourge. According to the official lore from a now deleted 2004 story by Rei Nakazawa originally published on the Wizards website, the Sliver Overlord was a fusion of multiple Slivers into a single being to act as a hivemind to control the unruly brood. Its ability to gain control of other Slivers represents that part of the story in gameplay.

    Sadly, Wizards has deleted from their website all lore published before 2014, so our only references to this are the fan Wiki, and disparate other blogs across the web. Visually, we can see the multiple heads and limbs of the various Slivers who have joined together to form this new being, and it appropriately has the Mutant creature type to reflect this transformation.

    Time Spiral (2006)

    plague sliver

    After the appearance of the Sliver Overlord in Scourge, Slivers didn’t return to Magic until the Time Spiral expansion three years later. What’s most interesting about this batch of Slivers is that nearly all of them call back to creatures from Magic’s past. The most notable of these is the Plague Sliver, the first Sliver which introduced a drawback to Slivers. The card’s mana cost, power/toughness and ability are all a direct reference to the Arabian Nights creature Juzám Djinn, a popular, and in its time, powerful creature from Magic’s first expansion. This Sliver is massive in size, and its illustration matches its stats. Its skin oozes some sort of contagion, which we see dripping off the creature, making its affliction easily spreadable.

    Planar Chaos (2007)

    sinew sliver

    The main theme of Planar Chaos, the second set in the Time Spiral Block involved color-shifting gameplay mechanics into new colors from where they traditionally appeared. These sort of ‘what-if’ ideas played with the idea of the color pie as something malleable. Most, if not all the Slivers in this set play with this idea of color shifting. The most notable of these is the Sinew Sliver, a white creature that is the color-shifted version of the original Muscle Sliver from Tempest.

    Visually, the anatomy of this Sliver is mostly conventional, however, we can see the strength conveyed by this Sliver in the rippling muscles which appear across its entire body. The Steve Belledin art shows this in an impressive amount of detail. There’s no way to ignore how ripped this Sliver is compared to others.

    Future Sight (2007)

    virulent sliver

    The Slivers from Future Sight represent echoes of possible futures for the creatures. Among the most notable of these is the Virulent Sliver. The Franz Vohwinkel art shows a vibrantly colored Sliver, with a large stinger-tip on the end of one of its tails. The color pattern of the Sliver looks awesome, especially set in the special Future Sight future-shifted frame. There’s more to the brilliant colors than just cool visuals though. The appearance of this Sliver is like how many poisonous amphibians, particularly Poison Dart Frogs, appear in the wild. Their colors are meant to ward off predators.

    In addition to being one of the coolest Slivers visually, Virulent Sliver was a powerful card in Time Spiral Block Limited. In the 2007 Pro Tour San Diego, the only Two-Headed Giant Booster Draft Pro Tour, the duo of Chris Lachmann and Jacob Van Lunen used Virulent Sliver and a horde of other Slivers to poison their opponents out on the way to winning their debut Pro Tour.

    Magic 2014 (2013)

    steelform sliver

    Six years passed before we got a return of Slivers in the Magic 2014 Core Set. These Slivers were functionally different from past Slivers, with abilities that only affected Slivers you controlled, instead of all Slivers in play. This was good because it meant you wouldn’t buff your opponent’s Slivers when yours entered play. In addition to the mechanical change to Sliver abilities, the visual look of Slivers also changed. Rather than continuing to follow the general visual look established with past Slivers, Wizards introduced a variety of looks to Slivers. While players appreciated the change to Sliver abilities, they almost universally detested the variety of new looks of the Slivers. Perhaps the most detested one was Steelform Sliver. This Sliver looks more akin to the humanoid monster from the Predator movies than it does to any of the Slivers we’ve seen in the history of the game.

    blur sliver

    Blur Sliver’s ability features the updated templating of only affecting Slivers you control. Visually, this Sliver looks at first glance to be akin to Slivers of the past. On closer examination though, it looks as though it possibly has legs instead of a tail, making it a bit of a cross between the other humanoid-esque Slivers of Magic 2014 and past depictions of Slivers.

    predatory sliver

    Predatory Sliver is an update to Muscle Sliver with the new one-sided gameplay templating. Its image featured a distinctly un-Sliver looking four-legged Sliver. While not humanoid, this was another part of the mixed bag of new Sliver depictions in Magic 2014.

    Magic 2015 (2014)

    diffusion sliver

    The humanoid style of Slivers seen in Magic 2014 continued into the following year with Slivers like Diffusion Sliver in the Magic 2015 Core Set. This Sliver is among the most humanoid looking of the M15 Slivers and is depicted casting some sort of spell or performing some sort of ritual. The image almost looks more like what we’d expect from a Merfolk or a Cephalid than from a Sliver.

    Modern Horizons (2019)

    scuttling sliver

    Perhaps reacting to player feedback, when Slivers returned in Modern Horizons, they mostly reverted to the traditional style of past Slivers. One of the few exceptions, Scuttling Sliver has multiple legs, and the added creature type Trilobite, making it clear that this is a hybrid or prehistoric Sliver somehow returned to life. Where the Modern Horizons Slivers feature the classic look of Slivers, their templating was the one-sided templating affecting only your Slivers, rather than all Slivers on the battlefield.

    Commander Masters (2023)

    sliver art

    When Slivers returned in the recent Commander Masters set, several of the Slivers were reprinted from M14 and M15, but with updated art. These updated pieces discarded the mixed bag of humanoid and other variations of Slivers in favor of depicting them in the style of the classic Slivers players love.

    lazotep sliver

    Arguably the most interesting of all the new Slivers introduced in Commander Masters, the Lazotep Sliver imagines an eternalized Sliver from the world of Amonkhet. While it’s been revealed that cards in Commander Masters are not necessarily canon, This is a cool what-if of what an eternalized Sliver existing on Amonkhet could look like.

    End Step

    Slivers are a beloved creature type in Magic, and perhaps the most beloved of creatures unique to the world of Magic: The Gathering. While their look and gameplay has evolved over time, Wizards has mostly kept true to the general idea of Slivers as originally envisioned by the artists working on Tempest. What’s your favorite Sliver? What other creature types in Magic are you interested in exploring?

    Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter/X: @ComeauPaulJ! Join me next time when I pull one of Magic’s oldest unique creature types from the Breeding Pit and dissect what makes them enthralling (en-thrull-ing?).