Magic: the Gathering's Summer Set Preview -- Megantic Sliver

The weird hive-mind creatures known as slivers are returning for Magic: the Gathering's summer core set, M14. But they seem... different.

Slivers first appeared in 1997's Tempest set, reappearing every few years (in the Legions and Time Spiral sets). They haven't been around since 2006.

Although slivers have gone through some complicated storylines over the years (being co-opted by an evil warlord, then wiped out by a volcano before being resurrected by some foolish wizards), one thing has remained the same: when one sliver has an ability, all slivers gain that ability. In fact, the term "hive-mind" is insufficient. "Hive-genetics" is perhaps more accurate.

That brings us to this new generation of slivers. We don't know much about what's happened to them since Time Spiral, but they've either evolved or been intentionally changed quite drastically. Gone is the odd yet distinctive mono-claw and beak. Now they're humanoid and have somewhat definable faces. Here's an article by one of Magic's designers, Doug Beyer, explaining some of the artistic and story decisions behind the change (and here's one from someone who's... let's just say not buying in).

And now, the star of our show, straight from the rare slot in an M14 booster pack near you, Megantic Sliver.

Magic: the Gathering's Summer Set Preview -- Megantic Sliver

It's unlikely that slivers will become a force in constructed decks, since they're spread out across five colors (although the many dual-colored lands in the recent Return to Ravnica block make it more feasible). But they'll definitely be a valid strategy in limited formats like sealed deck and booster draft, and Megantic Sliver is a rare bomb that you can build around, if you find it in one of your packs.

True, it's no Primeval Titan, but it has the advantage of having only one colored mana in its casting cost. If this is the rare item in your first pack of a draft, it would be worth taking and aggressively drafting slivers, even in other colors, since you can easily splash green to ensure your Megantic Sliver is playable by turn six. And with a fair number of common and uncommon slivers already spoiled, it should be possible (though not necessarily easy) to draft a critical mass of slivers.

Also note that these new slivers are decidedly better than the old kind simply because they only affect the slivers on your side of the board. This has been a controversial decision among nostalgic players who love the old slivers, but it will simplify things on the battlefield.

If you're wondering what M14 is, each summer Wizards of the Coast releases a new core set. They get year names, like the latest Madden (but named for the year after they are released, which is why M14 is coming out in the summer of 2013). The core set is intended to be a gateway for newer players. Since 2010, the core sets have featured 50 percent brand new cards and 50 percent reprints (core sets used to be biennial and made up entirely of reprints). M14 will be released on July 19, with pre-release tournaments at game stores worldwide the weekend prior.