Saiba Syphoner Art by Bartek Fedyczak

Historic Jeskai Control Top 25 Mythic Deck Guide: Infinite Loops, Infinite Fun

This guide contains everything you need to know to be an excellent Historic Jeskai Control player in Magic: The Gathering.

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to be covering my Jeskai Control deck in Historic which I recently used to get top 25 with on the Arena ladder. I’ve been testing out a bunch of different shells and colour combinations for control in Historic and this has definitely felt like the strongest so far – it has a great selection of card draw and interaction and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria alongside Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate gives access to two insanely strong late-game engines. I’ve also put up a video on my YouTube channel with game play if you’re interested in seeing the deck in action.

Jeskai Control
by Altheriax
Historic
best of 3
8 mythic
41 rare
8 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (4)
4
Saiba Syphoner
$0.00
Instants (18)
2
Ephemerate
$2.58
4
Lightning Helix
$1.40
4
Censor
$2.36
Sorceries (8)
4
Divine Purge
$0.00
Lands (26)
1
Island
$0.25
3
Glacial Fortress
$17.97
2
Sulfur Falls
$10.98
4
Deserted Beach
$47.96
4
Steam Vents
$95.96
4
Raugrin Triome
$71.96
60 Cards
$685.18
Sideboard
4
Dovin’s Veto
$15.96
15 Cards
$58.55

Main Deck

The Win Conditions:

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: This has been a mainstay in Historic control decks since the beginning of the format and for good reason! The +1 ability to draw an additional card every turn helps run away with the game and the fact you get to untap two lands means that you can immediately defend it during the opponent’s turn with instant-speed interaction as well as ensuring you always have mana available to defend it on future turns too.

The -3 ability allows you to temporarily deal with any problematic non-land permanent whether that’s a large creature, an annoying artifact or enchantment and the ultimate will almost always win you the game if you can reach it. Getting Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in play and defending it has been a very strong strategy in the format for a long time now, and it’s easier to do now more than ever due to the high quality and efficiency of interaction the control decks have available to them.

Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate: Saiba Syphoner on its own is a really nice tool in the deck; it’s a flash threat that gets back whatever the best instant or sorcery is in your graveyard as well as providing a 2/2 body that you can either block with to stabilise or protect Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as well as a way to close out the game once you’ve stabilised.

The fact it shuffles back into the deck instead of dying also means that you’ll be able to keep re-using it throughout the course of the game and is always a card you’re happy to draw assuming you have access to your graveyard.

As a 4 mana card it’s decent on rate for what we want it for: it having flash is huge as this deck is wanting to play a more ‘draw-go’ style by holding open mana during the opponent’s turn, and it gives us a really good proactive option to play during the opponent’s end step if they don’t do anything we want to interact with with our other instants.

If you don’t have any instants or sorceries in your hand, the cost is reduced to 2 mana which is such a good rate, however, since the deck has a large number of instants and sorceries, this doesn’t come up too often, but it’s so strong when it does.

When we pair Saiba Syphoner with Ephemerate though, it turns into an insane late-game engine that is potentially even more powerful than Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as it allows us to rebuy the best instant or sorcery from our graveyard every single turn-cycle!

The way this works is you can cast Ephemerate targeting Saiba Syphoner (at the end of the opponent’s turn for example) which will blink it, allowing you to get the best instant or sorcery back from the graveyard.

Then, at the beginning of your turn, you get the rebound off Ephemerate which allows you to cast it again from exile – you target Saiba Syphoner again which blinks it to get another trigger. By the time Saiba Syphoner enters the battlefield this time, Ephemerate will be back in the graveyard so you can use the Saiba Syphoner trigger to get Ephemerate back to your hand and you’re ready to do the loop again.

This allows you to repeatedly get the best instant or sorcery back to your hand every turn cycle which is so powerful and can lock a lot of decks out from winning. You can repeatedly get back hard-counters like Archmage's Charm or Dovin's Veto, repeatedly get back sweepers like Divine Purge or Settle the Wreckage, repeatedly get back card advantage like Expressive Iteration and so on so it will almost always be good enough to win the game if your opponent can’t break the loop.

One of the weaknesses of this engine is that it’s weak to graveyard hate which is one of the reasons I really like pairing it with Tefero, Hero of Dominaria as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and the rest of the deck don’t care about graveyard hate at all. If the opponent boards in graveyard hate against you, you can easily win and basically ignore the graveyard hate by using Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and the rest of the deck, and if you do happen to draw Saiba Syphoner, you have access to March of Otherworldly Light which can remove basically all types of graveyard hate anyway.

The other downside of running this engine is that Ephemerate is essentially a dead card until you can find Saiba Syphoner, but it’s definitely felt worth it considering how strong the loop is. You have a lot of card draw to find Saiba Syphoner if you do have Ephemerate already, and since it’s only a 2-of, it’s not felt too bad to me.

I did test other creatures that work well with Ephemerate to give it a bit more redundancy but none of them felt great. Torrential Gearhulk is an option that fits nicely into the control game plan, but 6 mana is way too expensive without any way to ramp into it, and if you run it alongside Saiba Syphoner as your win condition, your deck is suddenly a lot more vulnerable to graveyard hate.

I also wasn’t a fan of other creatures you have to tap out for like Wandering Mind or Skyclave Apparition, because while they’re great with Ephemerate, they go against how the deck is trying to play. You can’t really afford to be tapping out for a 3-drop creature when you want to be constantly holding up mana for counterspells and other instant-speed interaction. There are interesting and strong Saiba Syphoner decks that are running those sorts of cards, but at that point you’re playing more of a midrange deck than a pure control deck.

The Interaction:

March of Otherworldly Light: This is a really versatile removal spell that can take out any problematic creature, artifact or enchantment.

The flexibility on this is huge at taking out both smaller early-game creatures as well as bigger late-game creatures when you have more mana available. Furthermore, being able to take out problematic artifacts like Witch's Oven and Nettlecyst, or enchantments like Search for Azcanta or Enchantress's Presence is huge and something that previous control decks struggled with.

Being able to exile another white card from your hand to reduce the cost, and trade card-advantage for tempo is a great option to have as there are certain threats in the early-game that are important to kill immediately like Kor Spiritdancer or Greasefang, Okiba Boss so having that option, especially when you’re going second is also amazing.

Lastly, the ability for this to take out both creature tokens and creaturelands for just one mana is also so important and March of Otherworldly Light is a great card to rebuy with the Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate loop as it will allow you to repeatedly deal with any problematic permanent the opponent might have.

Archmage's Charm: This is one of the best pieces of interaction in the control deck and is absolutely worth warping your mana base in order to accommodate it as all three modes are incredibly useful.

The hard counter is absolutely necessary in any control deck as being able to deal with permanents on the stack is one of the biggest draws to being in blue in the first place. This is an effect that is amazing at every stage of the game: countering the opponent’s early plays to help get to your late game engines, helping to defend Teferi, Hero of Dominaria once it’s in play, and also looping this with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate to be able to counter a spell every turn are all crucial parts of the deck’s game plan.

The option to draw 2 is great at digging for answers if the opponent already has important threats in play; helping to dig for lands if you need as well or to help find Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Saiba Syphoner to start running away with the game if you’re at parity.

Finally, the option to steal a nonland permanent with mana value 1 or less is also very useful against powerful 1-drops like Dragon's Rage Channeler, Esper Sentinel, tokens from Shark Typhoon or The Wandering Emperor, or non-creature permanents like Witch's Oven.

Divine Purge: This is my sweeper of choice in the deck and is great against basically all of the creature or artifact-based decks outside of Izzet Phoenix. This is great against decks where their game plan relies on attacking with creatures to win like Auras, Humans, Embercleave aggro decks etc and is absolutely back-breaking against decks like Golgari Food and Affinity.

Aside from being 3 mana, one of the biggest reasons I’ve chosen to go with Divine Purge is because you can repeatedly loop it with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate. This doesn’t work with traditional wrath effects like Wrath of God or Anger of the Gods, because they will end up killing your own Saiba Syphoner which will break up the loop. Since Saiba Syphoner is 4 mana, Divine Purge doesn’t exile it, which means you can repeatedly get it back with the loop and cast it over and over again.

This is almost impossible for any creature deck that doesn’t run haste creatures to beat like Auras, Humans, Merfolk etc. and basically locks them out from winning the game entirely.

The one big downside of maxing out on Divine Purge is that it’s pretty bad against Izzet Phoenix since it doesn’t hit Arclight Phoenix, Crackling Drake, or Stormwing Entity, but we have a lot of cards in the sideboard to help against Phoenix which helps improve that matchup significantly. Divine Purge is so strong against the rest of the creature decks that it’s felt worth it.

Censor: I like Censor in this build as I feel like I wanted to be running more early interaction and also felt like 4 Archmage's Charm wasn’t enough counterspells. Since we’re running 10 late game cards (Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Saiba Syphoner, and Ephemerate) and there are a lot of early threats in the format that are important to answer, I felt like having a high density of early interaction was crucial for stabilising and getting to the late game. Censor is great at punishing the opponent for playing on curve and dealing with important threats early on.

It is definitely a card that loses a lot of value later in the game, but that’s not a huge issue since you can just cycle it away for 1 mana. The cycling ability can also be nice in the early game at digging for lands if you need as well as ensuring you have a target in the graveyard for Saiba Syphoner on turn 4 even if you haven’t cast anything else.

I’ve seen some lists playing Jwari Disruption instead, which makes sense if you’re running high numbers of Narset, Parter of Veils as you can then essentially hit lands off a Narset, Parter of Veils activation. Since I’m not running Narset, Parter of Veils though, I much prefer Censor as you can cycle it into a useful spell in the late game which is much better than playing it as a tapped land.

Expressive Iteration: This is potentially the best card advantage spell in the whole format and is one of the reasons I’m running Red in the deck. This is great at ensuring you keep hitting lands as well as digging for important spells in the early game, and then becomes even better in the late game when you have the mana available to pick two spells off it.

Aside from just being one of the best card advantage spells, one of the main reasons I’m high on this card in control right now is that it helps a lot against Rakdos Arcanist which is probably the worst matchup for control. Arcanist is such a bad matchup because of the high amount of discard spells that deck runs which means they can strip your whole hand pretty quickly.

The big weakness of the Arcanist decks though is that they don’t really have good ways to deal with powerful threats off the top of the deck and the main ways I’ve managed to win this matchup from the control side, is drawing cards that can get you back into the game like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria off the top which their discard spells can’t stop.

Expressive Iteration is another card like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria that can pull you back into a game and so running 4 of both means you have a much better chance at recovering in that matchup.

Finally, Expressive Iteration is also another card that is great to loop with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate if you have a lot of mana available as it will just provide so much card advantage every turn and can help you dig towards your other lock pieces, like sweepers against the aggro decks and hard counterspells in the mirror.

Lightning Helix: While Expressive Iteration is potentially a good enough reason on its own to be running Red, Lightning Helix is an arguably even more important reason in this particular deck.

Like I said, I think having early interaction is particularly important in this deck, and even though March of Otherworldly Light is really nice as flexible interaction, it’s not particularly efficient in the first few turns so I felt like the deck needed more efficient early interaction. I tested a more streamlined Azorius version of this deck that didn’t go into Red, but the biggest problem with that deck was that it didn’t have great options for efficient early interaction.

The best option you have in white is Fateful Absence, which is a decent card to run in relatively low numbers, but as your main source of early interaction, the Clue tokens it gives really adds up and gives the opponent ways back into the game.

Additionally, not having access to main deck lifegain was a real problem in the deck since a lot of decks in the format have good reach in the late game – Cat/Oven decks can easily burn you out if the game goes long, there are blitz and burn decks running burn spells that can finish you off, and there are also decks running haste creatures like Arclight Phoenix that can deal considerable damage out of nowhere so having a way to buffer your life total to put those matchups out of reach once you’ve stabilised felt really important.

Lightning Helix basically solves all of these problems and is another card that is great to loop with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate against decks where the life gain is relevant. It also gives you good reach as well and I’ve won quite a few games by finishing the opponent off with Lightning Helix.

Mana Base:

26 lands has felt like a decent amount considering the amount of card draw we have available. In terms of the actual lands themselves, I’ve gone for one basic Island (to hedge against a card like Field of Ruin) and all dual lands. Generally in control, there are a few utility lands that are appealing such as Castle Vantress, Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, Otawara, Soaring City, and particularly Hall of Storm Giants.

I would have liked to run a single copy of Hall of Storm Giants, but I felt like ensuring I had the right colours in time was much more important. Since we need Blue + Red on turn 2 for Expressive Iteration, Red + White on turn 2 for Lightning Helix, double White on turn 3 for Divine Purge, and triple Blue on turn 3 for Archmage's Charm, there’s a lot of strain on the mana base.

Running 25 duals has felt like it allows me to consistently cast these cards on curve the majority of the time. I was also previously running a single copy of Sacred Foundry to provide slightly more Red and White sources, but I would occasionally not be able to cast Archmage's Charm on turn 3 because of that (which is by far the most important card to have access to on curve) so I elected to go with all blue lands to just ensure I always have triple blue ready on turn 3.


Sideboard

Rekindling Phoenix Art by Jason Rainville
Rekindling Phoenix Art by Jason Rainville

1 Unlicensed Hearse & 3 Soul-Guide Lantern: Graveyard hate is very important in Historic right now because of decks like Izzet Phoenix and Rakdos Arcanist (which are typically tough matchups for control) as well as Greasefang, Okiba Boss so I’m running 4 pieces of graveyard hate to ensure we draw at least one fairly often.

Typically, Unlicensed Hearse is better than Soul-Guide Lantern as it’s not single-use so the opponent can’t force you to crack it and then have access to their graveyard again. Since we’re running Saiba Syphoner, we also have a way to crew it which can be an effective way of closing the game out quickly.

The one big weakness of Unlicensed Hearse is that it’s bad in multiples which is why I’m only running the single copy and the 3 extra Soul-Guide Lantern which you can cycle away if you do draw multiples.

Unfortunately, we can’t run Rest in Peace in this list because we need access to our own graveyard for Saiba Syphoner.

4 Rekindling Phoenix: This is a tech of mine and a card I’ve been really impressed with. Typically, the opponent will be boarding out or at least trimming their creature removal against you and Rekindling Phoenix really takes advantage of that as they would need two pieces of creature removal in order to take it out permanently.

This is a great card in the Izzet Phoenix matchup as it can block basically all of their creatures and unlike a card like Baneslayer Angel, it doesn’t just die to Unholy Heat with delirium. It’s also been really effective in the Rakdos Arcanist matchup as it can pressure their planeswalkers, block their creatures, and is also immune to the first piece of creature removal if they do keep any in.

Additionally, I’ve found it to be useful decks like Golgari Food where chump blocking is effective and other decks like control where pressuring planeswalkers or the opponent’s life total is important.

Similar to Saiba Syphoner, Rekindling Phoenix being 4 mana means that it also won’t get hit by Divine Purge.

4 Dovin's Veto: This is here predominantly for other control decks or non-creature combo decks like Jeskai Creativity.

Having a counterspell the opponent can’t counter can ensure you have an answer to their big threats like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Indomitable Creativity and this is another card that is really strong to loop with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate at ensuring the opponent never gets to resolve their powerful non-creature spells.

3 Settle the Wreckage: This is a sweeper that is really strong in the Izzet Phoenix matchup as well as being great against a lot of the other decks that are relying on attacking to win like Auras, Humans, Merfolk, Embercleave aggro etc.

This is weak against decks that run creatures that don’t attack and generate value like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Gilded Goose, and so on, but is great against pure aggro decks, especially ones that are using haste creatures.

Similar to Divine Purge, this is another wrath effect that we can loop with Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate since it won’t kill Saiba Syphoner and is another way to lock the game out against aggressive creature decks.


Best-of-One

Bo1 Jeskai Control
by Altheriax
Historic
best of 1
8 mythic
42 rare
7 uncommon
3 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (4)
4
Saiba Syphoner
$0.00
Instants (17)
2
Ephemerate
$2.58
4
Lightning Helix
$1.40
3
Censor
$1.77
Sorceries (8)
4
Divine Purge
$0.00
Artifacts (1)
Lands (26)
1
Island
$0.25
3
Glacial Fortress
$17.97
2
Sulfur Falls
$10.98
4
Deserted Beach
$47.96
4
Steam Vents
$95.96
4
Raugrin Triome
$71.96
60 Cards
$698.58

The only change I would make for Best of 1 is replacing one copy of Censor with a single copy of Unlicensed Hearse. Graveyard hate is pretty valuable in best of 1 due to the presence of all-in graveyard-based combo decks like Dragonstorm, Reanimator, and Greasefang, Okiba Boss and the value you gain off the first copy of Unlicensed Hearse is great at helping in those matchups.

Even against decks that aren’t abusing the graveyard, we can still grow the Hearse over the course of the game and use it to close games out more quickly by crewing it with Saiba Syphoner.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Settle the Wreckage Art by Dimitar

Izzet Phoenix:

InOut
+3 Soul-Guide Lantern-4 Divine Purge
+1 Unlicensed Hearse-4 Censor
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
+3 Settle the Wreckage-2 Expressive Iteration

This is a rough matchup game 1, but we have a lot of tools to make the matchup favourable post-sideboard. Graveyard hate is important at shutting off Arclight Phoenix as well as delirium which will keep their Unholy Heat only dealing 2 damage.

Rekindling Phoenix is a great blocker and can trade off with the majority of their creatures in the early-mid game which is really good at stabilising. It’s also useful as an attacker to be able to pressure planeswalkers like Narset, Parter of Veils and Chandra, Torch of Defiance which are pretty commonly brought in from their sideboard.

Settle the Wreckage is amazing in this matchup and setting up Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate getting back Settle the Wreckage every turn will make it almost impossible for them to beat.

In general, you want to try and use your removal on their non-Phoenix threats and use graveyard hate to shut off their Arclight Phoenix wherever possible and always be wary of Mystical Dispute and Spell Pierce games 2 and 3.

Golgari Food:

InOut
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-4 Censor

This is a pretty good matchup overall because you have so many good ways of killing their engine cards using cards like Divine Purge and March of Otherworldly Light. Furthermore, they’re not particularly fast at closing the game out which gives you time to establish your late game engines and run away with the game.

Rekindling Phoenix is nice here to ensure you don’t get run down by big Ravenous Squirrel if they have an aggressive start as well as being able to defend Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and apply pressure if they have a slow start. Our single-use activation graveyard hate isn’t effective in this matchup as they can easily make excess Food to play around it so we don’t bring that in here.

The main way you can lose this matchup is getting drained out by Cat/Oven especially when alongside The Meathook Massacre so the extra life gain you can get from Lightning Helix is important at stabilising. Always be working towards an end-game of setting up a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria ultimate or repeatedly casting Divine Purge off Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate to close out your games.

Azorius Control:

InOut
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-4 Divine Purge
+4 Dovin's Veto-4 Lightning Helix

Dovin's Veto is probably the most important card in this matchup at ensuring the opponent doesn’t get to land an important Planeswalker.

Rekindling Phoenix is also useful here at applying pressure and killing their Planeswalkers as they’ll typically board out creature removal which makes it very difficult to deal with once it resolves. They usually keep in some number of March of Otherworldly Light which can cleanly answer it, but that will cost them 5 mana which will usually tap them out and then give you a window to resolve something else.

Saiba Syphoner is also particularly good in this matchup as if they tap out to answer it at the end of their turn, that will often give you a window to resolve Teferi, Hero of Dominaria the following turn. If they don’t answer it then you get to rebuy the best instant or sorcery and have a 2/2 that can apply pressure and you can use to set up the Ephemerate loop with later.

Be very careful when deciding when to cast your Ephemerate as having your Saiba Syphoner killed in response is really bad; successfully setting up the loop is usually good enough to win this matchup on it’s own, especially if you have an Archmage's Charm or Dovin's Veto in the graveyard to rebuy, so try and bait out their interaction on other cards first if possible.

Auras:

InOut
+3 Settle the Wreckage-3 Expressive Iteration

If you have more answers than they have creatures then their deck basically does nothing so make sure your opening hand has interaction in this matchup; March of Otherworldly Light, Lightning Helix, Settle the Wreckage and particularly Divine Purge are all important to this end. You’ll want to play very conservatively in the first few turns to try and ensure that they don’t get a creature to stick.

Divine Purge is particularly strong in this matchup as it plays around both Selfless Savior and Karametra's Blessing and they usually won’t be able to beat Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate looping Divine Purge every turn so try and work towards that if you can.

If you can set up a situation where they only have one big creature in play then Teferi, Hero of Dominaria tucking it with the -3 ability is also really powerful however always be mindful of Spell Pierce, especially if they’re consistently leaving a Blue mana open.

Rakdos Arcanist:

InOut
+3 Soul-Guide Lantern-4 Censor
+1 Unlicensed Hearse-2 Ephemerate
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-2 Divine Purge

This is another tough matchup game ,1 but graveyard to shut off Dreadhorde Arcanist and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger as well as Rekindling Phoenix help a lot post-sideboard.

Rekindling Phoenix is great here as a blocker against their early creatures as well as providing a good way to pressure their planeswalkers as we don’t have great ways of dealing with them outside of using the Teferi, Hero of Dominaria -3 ability once they’re in play otherwise.

Even though Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate is really strong in this matchup, it’s a lot more difficult to set up since they have so much discard which makes Ephemerate as a dead card more of a liability so we cut it games 2 and 3.

It’s usually a bad idea to discard lands to Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger as you want to make sure you have enough lands to cast whatever you top deck. Arcanist’s biggest weakness is it’s inability to interact with what you draw for the turn (outside of Kolaghan's Command) so ensuring you keep hitting lands in order to cast a powerful spell like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Saiba Syphoner, Rekindling Phoenix or Expressive Iteration off the top is crucial.

Affinity:

InOut
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-4 Lightning Helix

Divine Purge is absolutely back-breaking in this matchup so always keep hands that contain it and try and work towards setting up Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate to loop Divine Purge if possible.

Unfortunately, they usually run a pretty high amount of graveyard hate which can make it hard to set up Saiba Syphoner, but their graveyard hate will all be artifacts which means you can take it out with March of Otherworldly Light and Divine Purge.

Rekindling Phoenix is nice as a way to chump block big creatures equipped with Nettlecyst or Karn, Scion of Urza tokens. The only way they can really force damage through chump blocks is with Shadowspear so try and save your March of Otherworldly Light for that if you have Rekindling Phoenix.

The most important card to play around in this matchup is Metallic Rebuke so try and bait that out on less important spells if possible and also be wary of Mystical Dispute post-sideboard.

March of Otherworldly Light can exile Treasure Vault for 1 mana so don’t forget that if your opponent plays out a Treasure Vault in the first couple of turns.

GW Enchantress:

InOut
+4 Dovin's Veto-2 Divine Purge
-2 Censor

This is a pretty good matchup if they’re playing the Nine Lives + Solemnity lock but they do have some cards that can run away with the game if you don’t answer them quickly like Sythis, Harvest's Hand, Enchantress's Presence, and Hallowed Haunting – either counter or kill these all as soon as possible.

Don’t feel obliged to stop the Nine Lives + Solemnity lock if they do set it up as we can ignore it and win with a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria ultimate so it’s usually best to focus on their other permanents first to ensure that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can keep ticking up.

Also make sure you kill Sterling Grove as quickly as possible as if they manage to resolve two, all of their enchantments will have Shroud and you’ll have no way to interact with them.

I like keeping some number of Divine Purge to deal with spirit tokens off Hallowed Haunting if they do manage to resolve one as well as giving us additional removal to deal with Sythis, Harvest's Hand and Sanctum Weaver in the early game.

GW Heliod Combo:

InOut
+2 Settle the Wreckage-2 Censor

This is a really good matchup overall as you have good interaction and sweepers so you can recover even if they combo off.

If you can afford to, its typically a good idea to take out their life gain enablers like Soul Warden first in order to stop their Voice of the Blessed and Trelasarra, Moon Dancer from growing as well as keeping them off the combo.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned is probably the most annoying card in their deck, but thankfully March of Otherworldly Light can exile it. The only way you’re likely to lose this matchup is if they combo during your end step off Collected Company so try and save your counterspells for that if possible.

5C Niv:

InOut
+4 Rekindling Phoenix-4 Divine Purge
+4 Dovin's Veto-4 Lightning Helix

This is another good matchup overall as they are also essentially a control deck, but you tend to have the better late game. That said, the main ways you can fall behind is if you let them resolve either a Niv-Mizzet Reborn or a planeswalker like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Teferi, Time Raveler so save your counterspells for those if possible.

Rekindling Phoenix is nice as a way to apply pressure or chump block Territorial Kavu as they’re likely to board out creature removal and won’t have as many clean answers for it.

In general, if you can keep them off Niv-Mizzet Reborn and set up either Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate then you’ll usually win, but be wary that they usually bring in Dovin's Veto against you so they can hard-counter your Teferi, Hero of Dominaria off 2 mana, even if you have other counterspells to back it up.

Embercleave Aggro (Mono R/ Gruul):

InOut
+3 Settle the Wreckage-3 Expressive Iteration

This matchup is all about trying to stabilise so keeping early ways to interact is really important. They run a big selection of haste creatures so they can still force through a win if you stabilise at a low life total – Lightning Helix is very important at helping to put those games out of reach.

Settle the Wreckage and Divine Purge are both really important in this matchup and setting up Saiba Syphoner + Ephemerate with either of those will usually be able to lock the game out, but be aware that you can’t use Settle the Wreckage against a Gruul opponent who has Gruul Spellbreaker since it will give them hexproof during their turn. Thankfully most of the Embercleave aggro decks I’ve seen recently are Mono red so that hasn’t come up very often.


Tips & Tricks

Ephemerate Art by Rovina Cai
Ephemerate Art by Rovina Cai
  • If you have Saiba Syphoner and one instant or sorcery in hand and you tap out during the opponent’s end step to cast that instant or sorcery, you’ll go into your turn with Saiba Syphoner costing 2 mana. If you don’t set a stop during your upkeep then it will skip straight through to your draw step, and if the card you draw for turn is an instant or sorcery, Saiba Syphoner will go back up to 4 mana. Setting a stop during your upkeep will allow you to flash in Saiba Syphoner for 2 mana before you draw.
  • Similarly, if you have Saiba Syphoner and one instant or sorcery that will draw you cards like Archmage's Charm or Expressive Iteration, you can go into full control mode, cast that instant or sorcery that will draw you cards, and with that card on the stack you can flash in Saiba Syphoner for 2 mana in response before you draw. If you wait to draw, then Saiba Syphoner will go back to 4 mana if you draw an instant or sorcery.
  • If there is no creature to target with the rebound on Ephemerate then it will stay in exile and you won’t be able to rebuy it with any future Saiba Syphoner. Therefore, if you have a Saiba Syphoner in play, an Ephemerate in exile waiting to rebound, and a second Saiba Syphoner in hand you should always set a stop during your upkeep. That way, if the opponent kills your Saiba Syphoner in play, you can flash in the Saiba Syphoner in hand during your upkeep, before the rebound, so you can target the second Saiba Syphoner with the rebound and continue to loop the Ephemerate. If you don’t set a stop it will immediately skip to the rebound trigger with no target and you’ll lose the Ephemerate in exile.
  • You can win with just a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria even if you have no other available win conditions. If you ultimate Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and either have another in hand to play or you uptick the first one to 9 loyalty before using the ultimate, you’ll eventually exile all of the opponent’s permanents off the ultimate including their lands. You can then repeatedly tuck Teferi, Hero of Dominaria back into your deck using its -3 on itself to make sure you don’t deck out and the opponent will then eventually losing to decking out themselves. This is useful if the opponent either exiles all of your Saiba Syphoner, or you can no longer win through combat damage for whatever reason.
  • -Don’t forget the opponent can stop your Rekindling Phoenix from coming back by using graveyard hate so think carefully about blocking with it if they have something like a Soul-Guide Lantern in play.

Conclusion

This deck has been so much fun to play and also feels really well positioned right now so If you like playing control, I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks a lot for reading!

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Altheriax

Alth is an MTG Arena grinder who has been #1 on the ladder multiple times and is always looking to bring new ideas and archetypes to the format and push them to the top spots on the ladder. You can follow him on Twitter and YouTube.

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