Saiba Syphoner Art by Bartek Fedyczak

Brewing with Saiba Syphoner in Historic Control

When Saiba Syphoner was announced for Alchemy: Kamigawa, I was incredibly excited to try it in Historic. My immediate thought was to try it with some sort of copying instant or sorcery to try to make it go infinite, or at least be loop-able. That lead me to Sublime Epiphany and a deep dive into a card that I ended up having a ton of fun with. My first iteration to hit Mythic was a Dimir variant that used Death's Shadow and other stand-out newcomer Painful Bond. I decided to lean into the control aspect of the list, and cut the Death's Shadow package for straight Dimir Control. The results were impressive. I went to Mythic in half the time on my second account. Why do I use two accounts? Well, it used to be a friend’s account who quit, and they were draft-only and had over 100 rares. We don’t waste jank potential in my household, but I digress.

After the success of the Dimir straight-control version, I thought the logical next step was to move to the color pairing that all the top control players are on right now. The UW version was terrifying. It eliminated my one bad match up: Food. With just two copies of Farewell, I was able to take my win rate against Food from the high forties to the mid fifties in my first 100 games. So let’s take a look at the card, the lists I came up with, and do a little deep dive into the card and why I think it is so powerful.


Saiba Syphoner Breakdown

So I am going to break this 4 mana 2/2 down by ability. First and foremost is Flash. This is the whole reason this card is good. Without flash, this card would just be a slightly more cost efficient Tazeem Roilmage, and hardly would be worth a mythic wild card. Flash enables us to hold it up and use it when we have nothing better to do at the end of our opponent’s turn. Flash lets us use it in response to a threat, whether that be to grab interaction for an imminent threat, or just to save something in the graveyard from being exiled by our opponent.

Cost Reduction is gravy. We do not want to be casting this for UU, as that would mean something has gone wrong. We should strive to always keep interaction in our hand as a control deck. I barely ever cast this for two mana, however, in the instances where things have gone wrong, the reduced cost can be a matchup-saving boon for us.

Return an Instant or Sorcery to hand. I am not saying the whole card is better than Snapcaster Mage, but this effect is objectively stronger than Snapcaster’s effect. You don’t have to cast the card you get back immediately, so you can play it proactively. The way you want to play it is get control of the board, then when there is an opening, play Saiba proactively.

Now that it is on board, any Sublime Epiphany you play you can immediately return to hand and since you have two copies of Saiba now, even if they use this tapped-out window to remove one, you still have another. Even if they answer BOTH, you still ended up ahead in cards and they are tapped out. Just an insanely powerful interaction, if I’ve ever seen one.

When it dies, it shuffles back into deck. Probably meant to avoid recycling abuse, but we found a way to do that anyway. Since we don’t actually have a way of getting dead creatures back to our hand, this effect which was supposed to keep us from re-using it, actually enables us a way to get him back, albeit slowly and randomly.


Blue-White Card Selection

March of Otherworldly Light Art by Nils Hamm
March of Otherworldly Light Art by Nils Hamm
UW Saiba 60
by MonkeyInATopHat
Historic
best of 3
10 mythic
46 rare
1 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (7)
Creatures (4)
4
Saiba Syphoner
$0.00
Sorceries (3)
1
Divine Purge
$0.00
2
Farewell
$13.98
Artifacts (4)
60 Cards
$597.19
Sideboard
4
Dovin’s Veto
$15.96
3
Divine Purge
$0.00
2
Rest in Peace
$15.98
15 Cards
$46.4

March of Otherworldly Light: Success using control in Historic right now comes down to two things: the quality of your spot removal and card advantage engines. This is probably our best option in white for spot removal

Fateful Absence: At first I was skeptical, but being able to remove planeswalkers at instant speed for 2 mana has swayed me. This is quality removal in White. I prefer it over Fragment Reality due to its ability to get rid of planeswalkers, and the fact that they have to spend mana to draw, then spend mana to cast what they draw. Fragment just gives it to them and guarantees that it is a threat to me, albeit a technically smaller one.

Reckoner Bankbuster: So I’ve been asked a lot, “Why go Bankbuster over Mazemind Tome?” Well, because we use Sublime Epiphany which lets us reset the draw charges. When Mazemind maxes out, it exiles itself as part of its reward trigger. When Bankbuster maxes out, it sticks around on the battlefield waiting to be used to attack, or in our case, to get bounced back to our hand to reset the charges.

Divine Purge: I think this is the strongest card in Historic and it warps the format around it. One of the things that has allowed Phoenix decks to take hold of the meta is that it dodges Divine Purge, so if they can get one to two out against control on turn 3, which isn’t that difficult, then the control player can’t answer with a wipe until it’s taken two rounds of attacks from Phoenix.

Narset, Parter of Veils: Play this against another control player and watch the panic to remove it. She is also a very solid option against auras and enchantress, but will be more difficult to defend against them so make sure you have answers before you send her out there.

Archmage's Charm: The versatility offered to us in this card is worth the heavy blue cost. Don’t sleep on the steal-yo-1 drop mode as it hits a ton of relevant cards in this format. Your opponent can’t sac to an oven if you steal it hen it will be you with the baked goods. Seize the means of producing pies.

Settle the Wreckage: This is a meta decision. There is just so much Phoenix right now, and Wraths/Purge alone don’t get the job done.

The Wandering Emperor: I have been thoroughly impressed with her as a control planeswalker. She offers us removal, tokens, and a way to pump them, all of which are things we are looking for. However, what makes her really shine is the flash. The cost in combination with flash means our opponent can never be sure whether we are holding mana up for her or Settle the Wreckage which is a neat perk. The duality between Settle hitting all attackers versus Emperor being able to hit just one offers you a lot of utility if you are fortunate enough to get both in hand. They play very nicely together.

Saiba Syphoner: You know why it’s here.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: The reason we play white is Teferi. He is everything you could ever need in a planeswalker, and to be honest I can’t believe he never gets talked about for bans. He draws cards, he provides spot removal that gets around indestructible and reanimation, he untaps lands allowing us to spend mana on our own turn, and he has a game ending ultimate. There are weaker planeswalker cards that cost 7 mana.

Commit: We can look past the high price of Commit in order to have access to the Memory-Narset combo. Going up 6 cards and/or shuffling our opponents’ graveyards back should be back breaking when you go for it. Don’t force it, though.

Farewell: lol bye food

Sublime Epiphany: I’ve already talked about the combo, so let me talk a little about how to use this card in our deck. We want to use it aggressively. It is not our last out, rather it’s our first. We want one of them in the yard, so that when we draw our Saiba, it has its target ready to go.

Now for the same reason, you want to play Saiba even if you haven’t drawn Epiphany yet. We want to set the board up so that when we play whichever one we draw second, it begins the loop. It does not matter which piece you play first, as they loop in both directions.

Blue-White Sideboard Guide

MatchupInOut
Phoenix+2 Rest in Peace
+2 Fragment Reality
+2 Dovin's Veto
+1 Narset, Parter of Veils
-4 Saiba Syphoner
-2 Sublime Epiphany
-1 Divine Purge
Control+4 Dovin's Veto
+3 Narset, Parter of Veils
+1 Leyline of Sanctity (vs black)
-3 March of Otherworldly Light
-2 Settle the Wreckage
-1 Farewell
-1 Divine Purge
-1 Fateful Absence (vs black)
Food+2 Fragment Reality
+2 Rest in Peace
+3 Divine Purge
+1 Leyline of Sanctity
-2 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Saiba Syphoner
-4 Fateful Absence
Auras+3 Divine Purge
+2 Fragment Reality
+3 Narset, Parter of Veils
-1 Commit
-4 Archmage's Charm
-2 Reckoner Bankbuster
-1 Sublime Epiphany

Blue-Black Card Selection

The Meathook [card name=
The Meathook Massacre Art by Chris Seaman
UB Saiba Control
by MonkeyInATopHat
Historic
Control
best of 3
12 mythic
37 rare
4 uncommon
7 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (6)
2
Kaito Shizuki
$19.98
Creatures (4)
4
Saiba Syphoner
$0.00
Instants (11)
2
Doom Blade
$0.50
2
Heartless Act
$1.38
3
Sublime Epiphany
$14.97
Sorceries (7)
4
Thoughtseize
$71.96
1
Languish
$0.99
Artifacts (5)
Enchantments (2)
Lands (25)
4
Island
$1.00
1
Swamp
$0.25
4
Drowned Catacomb
$35.96
1
Castle Vantress
$1.29
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$19.96
4
Watery Grave
$75.96
60 Cards
$583.49
15 Cards
$137.65

Bloodchief's Thirst: We go with this over Fatal Push because we needed a way to deal with planeswalkers. It not being instant speed is made up for in its low cost for removing smaller threats, and its ability to hit things that cost more than four mana.

Thoughtseize: If you are in black, there is not much reason to not use these. A turn 1 Thoughtseize will usually win the early game for you. The access to information is just as big a deal as hitting a card.

Doom Blade: Black creatures are by and large non-existent in the current meta. The only creatures that are black in the current meta are cards like Cauldron Familiar and you don’t want to spend resources removing it, since it will just be right back.

Heartless Act: We need more than four copies of our two-cost removal, and with the Thoughtseizes, we already have quite a bit of life payment. With that, I went with Heartless Act over Infernal Grasp

Reckoner Bankbuster: Serves the same purpose in this deck as the white variant. A repeatable card draw engine that lets us recycle it by bouncing it to our hand.

The Meathook Massacre: One nice thing about this card is its an enchantment so it doesn’t count towards Saiba’s card restriction. It can also be returned to hand with Sublime Epiphany if it’s on the battlefield, so you can recast and loop it with Saiba, so long as you keep X under three.

Tome of the Infinite: This is a charming little card that can lead to some absolute blow outs. Before you say “B-b-b-but random!” let me remind you that drawing a card from a pool of 6 possible cards is slightly more consistent than drawing a card from your deck.

Archmage's Charm: I could copy and paste what I wrote for the other section, but I’d rather take this space to plug my pet-gripe. WotC, this card has no reason being this difficult to cast in Dimir colors. Print the rest of the Fastlands already!

Kaito Shizuki: Kaito is a sneaky-good control walker. It costs 3, it can protect itself, and it makes a token that can’t be removed by blockers. That last part is important because it lets it always hit thecard draw effect without discarding a card unless the opponent wants to waste removal on the token.

Saiba Syphoner: Look if I haven’t convinced you to try this card by now…

Languish: We use this along with the massacres because sometimes what we need to get back with Saiba is a board wipe and The Meathook Massacre is not a target.

Sorin the Mirthless: I don’t get why Sorin’s so lacking in mirth; it’s a great walker. Sorin makes friends that gain life. Sorin’s got a killer pirate shirt, Sorin can draw cards while avoiding opposing Narset, Parter of Veils. Quite a lot of utility if you ask me.

Lolth, Spider Queen: I don’t love the pricey five mana cost, but her tokens can trade with two Phoenixes. And she has that really important effect that any walker in historic needs to have to see play: card draw.

Sublime Epiphany: Counter this, counter that, pop that back to hand, copy my Saiba, and for good measure draw a card. Did we like that? Okay, everybody back to one, we’re going again.

Blue-Black Sideboard Guide

DeckInOut
Phoenix+2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+3 Aether Gust
-4 Thoughtseize
-1 Sublime Epiphany
Control+1 Soul Shatter
+2 Negate
+2 Bloodchief's Thirst
+2 Narset, Parter of Veils
+1 Thought Distortion
-2 Doom Blade
-2 Heartless Act
-2 The Meathook Massacre
-1 Sublime Epiphany
-1 Languish
Food+2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+2 The Meathook Massacre
+2 Bloodchief's Thirst
-2 Doom Blade
-4 Thoughtseize
Auras+2 Bloodchief's Thirst
+2 Narset, Parter of Veils
+2 The Meathook Massacre
-2 Lolth, Spider Queen
-2 Sublime Epiphany
-1 Saiba Syphoner
-1 Reckoner Bankbuster

Conclusion

Of the two lists, I think the black variant wins a wider array of match ups; however, in the current meta, the white variant has much better match ups against Phoenix and Food. The control mirror tends to go to the black variant due to the Thought Distortion in the side and the relatively cheaper draw engines in black so if Control becomes popular, keep that in mind. Either way, both lists are strong enough if your goal is to climb the ladder to Mythic.

I think Saiba should be considered in any deck that is looking to control the board for their win condition. The ability to recur important interaction at instant speed makes it a viable card in the current Historic meta, and I think if you enjoy control you should give it a try and feel it out for yourself.

Special shout out to the folks over at the Historic discord for helping me get these lists just right, especially @GalopinMTG for his help with the mana base.

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