Considering today the Dominaria PreRelease starts, I found pretty fitting to feature a Magic: the Gathering exclusive creature in my A to Z challenge: Slivers. Slivers are creatures that share a hive mind, which allows them to share their abilities with other nearby slivers. The creature type was introduced in the Tempest set and were depicted as reptiles, with variations in accordance with the abilities each has to offer to the hive. An evolved form of slivers from Shandalar has humanoid features. D&D has no official version for the slivers, so I created one back in 4e (I’m sorry, but the article was written in Spanish). I still have pending creating one for the 5e rules.
Since no mechanics are definite yet, I’ll focus this article into its history, both in Dominaria and Shandalar. If you’re still curious after reading my article, you can head for this summary (Rei Nakazawa’s “A Sliver Story”) and this short story about them (Matt Knicl’s “The Bard and the Biologist”).
Slivers have an armored vertebrate body, a long, bifurcated whip-like tail, one arm with a single talon for a hand, and a head with an armored crest and no eyes. A sliver’s anatomy often reflects the adaptation that it transfers to the other members of its species. Telekinetic Sliver, for example, shows brainy lobes. To reflect its added wiliness in battle, Watcher Sliver has evolved rows of eyes along its head, where most slivers have none. In a subtle approach, Bonesplitter Sliver carry around bonesplitters; it has a special adaptation to its blood. Its blood rages with bioluminescent blood. Spinneret Sliver sports organs referred to in its name: organs that let it spin webs like a spider, and it also makes arachnid-like clicking sounds.
The first slivers we know lived in Rath. It’s unknown from where they originally came. Volrath, the storyline’s villain, used the sliver hive to guard the Legacy (a bunch of powerful artifacts) and to attack those who wanted to recover them. During the Rathi overlay in the plane of Dominaria, the slivers were transported to Urborg, a swampy area. Most of them were killed when they materialized in the heart of a volcano, and all the others were killed in the subsequent battles of the Phyrexian Invasion.
One hundred years later, wizards involved in the Riptide Project on Otaria discovered sliver fossils on their journeys and planned to bring them back to life in order to study them. The Riptide wizards did not know the importance of the Sliver Queen, however, and didn’t recreate her. Without her, the slivers went rampant and overran the island housing the project. At the same time, the magical waves the Mirari produced accelerated the slivers’ growth, but it also lured them to the mainland since they confused its call with that of their deceased queen. Most of the slivers were therefore present at the battle at Sanctum and were killed in the magical explosion that created Karona. A small group of slivers survived, however, and fused into the ultimate manifestation of the hive mind, the Sliver Overlord. If you feel curious about these events, you can read my articles about the story of Dominaria, parts I, II and III.
Slivers that survived the apocalypse caused by Karona’s destruction and a few breeds that were “timeshifted” into the present tried to flourish on the dying plane of Dominaria. As other species fought for survival in a world almost completely drained of mana, the slivers continued to multiply and mutate into new forms. Without the leadership of their Queen, these sliver swarms raged across the plane, largely unstoppable when gathered in great enough numbers. The destruction caused by the slivers was not necessarily malevolent, but just instinct-driven.
For a time, the planeswalkers Freyalise and Lord Windgrace maintained some control over the slivers in their respective realms. The Hivestone, a strange artifact discovered within the ruins of the Stronghold, was later found to have been used by the various evincars of Rath’s past to control the seething sliver hive and its Queen. Upon its rediscovery however, the device became a curse to its wielder, bending its possessor’s will to the will of the swarm. Slivers are implied to survive well into the future of Dominaria, taking on even more new and bizarre abilities.
On the shores of the eastern Sea of Shandalar, an evolved race of Slivers build the “Skep”, a great nest or hive. The Slivers had gleaming, gemlike eyes and “hair” more like the squirming tentacles of a jelly-fish or polypod. Many still had a bestial appearance, but a few could generously be considered humanoid. All were covered with chitinous plates that glistened and slid about like oiled pieces of machinery. The creatures use a chittered speech. The slivers on Shandalar are divided between the human sized “less brood”, with tails and singular claws, and “primes”, which are bi-pedal and humanoid, looking like sentient races of Shandalar. One sliver, the hivelord, rules over all slivers of the hive. The hivelord is around 20 times the size of a human.