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Lotus Breach: A Pioneer Primer

Lotus Breach is Pioneer’s complex yet powerful combo deck. Ari Lax has your essential primer ahead of SCG Indianapolis!

Underworld Breach, illustrated by Lie Setiawan

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Lotus Breach is a broken deck.


If you have not considered this deck for SCG Indianapolis, your only excuse is that you don’t know how to play it.

If you keep reading this article, that excuse is going right out the window.

The Sure Kill

Similar to the previous Lotus Field deck I talked about a month ago, the Lotus Breach deck largely looks to set up a deterministic kill with incidental paths to chain its way there.

The end game of the Lotus Breach deck is using Underworld Breach to recast Hidden Strings and Tome Scour. Each Tome Scour cast nets two cards in your graveyard (three to escape, but milling five). If you can cast Tome Scour twice for each Hidden Strings you cast, that exiles nine total cards in your graveyard and adds ten, easily milling your library for a Thassa’s Oracle or Granted to Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.

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Since your Tome Scour is in your sideboard, you need to have Fae of Wishes and Granted for it. Since you need to untap four mana with your Hidden Strings, you need a Lotus Field and any other land.

Granted can find Underworld Breach. That can be cast, and Hidden Strings can be escaped for more mana. Fae of Wishes can be cast from exile, returned to your hand, and then Granted-cast again for Tome Scour, setting up the loop.

In total it costs seventeen mana to perform these actions, but once you cast Underworld Breach you can start escaping Hidden Strings, and Lotus Field puts two cards in the graveyard when played. You just need the first eight mana and some cards in graveyard, and it’s off to the races.

If the thought of memorizing these scenarios will make your eyes glaze over, here are the shortcuts to identify when it’s time to math it out:

A common scenario is untapping with two Lotus Fields (one usually a copy) and a hand of Fae of Wishes, Hidden Strings, and two bonus discardable cards. That leads to needing four cards in your graveyard to combo. You start with six mana, Hidden Strings nets four mana untapping both Lotus Field up to ten total, Granted finds Underworld Breach, and casting it brings you to four mana. Your first Hidden Strings escape brings you to eight mana and one card in graveyard, casting and returning Fae of Wishes drops to four mana but three cards in graveyard with the discards, another Hidden Strings cast to eight mana and no cards, and from there you can Granted and double Tome Scour with ease. Oddly, an extra Fae of Wishes doesn’t help that much, since the two cards you discard to return the first Fae fuel Hidden Strings escapes which negate the four-mana recursion cost.

For context of how easy that is, getting four cards in graveyard basically amounts to “taking any other game actions prior to going off.”

The optimal scenario is two Lotus Fields and the previous Fae of Wishes and Hidden Strings in hand, but also naturally having Underworld Breach. That kill takes nothing else. Instead of dropping from ten mana post-Strings to Granted, you drop to eight to cast Underworld Breach, four to Granted for Tome Scour, and that four mana with Tome Scour in hand and Hidden Strings in graveyard is the clean kill of Scour, Scour, Strings, loop.

What about the scenario of going off the turn your Thespian’s Stage your Lotus Field? Tougher, but feasible. If you have Underworld Breach in hand on top of Fae of Wishes, you just need a Hidden Strings and another two-mana untap effect with two cards in graveyard. The extra untap effect lets you float mana first, have two ready post-Stage activation to Hidden Strings, your six Field mana casts Underworld Breach, and a single escape of Hidden Strings gets you to the “eight mana plus Granted” threshold. Note again that two cards in graveyard are just your Lotus Field sacrifices, so this is pretty easy.

If you just have Granted and the extra discardable cards, you need a second Hidden Strings (or multiple extra weaker untaps) and a variable amount of cards in your graveyard depending on what your extra untap setup was. I won’t go through all the combinations here. Just be aware that’s the starting point for doing the math since you need to convert the baseline six from untapping two Lotus Field into eight to Granted for Breach to escape Strings.

In all of these double Lotus Field kills, you can use a cast and ready Vizier of Tumbling Sands instead of a Thespian’s Stage since Hidden Strings untaps it. Casting Vizier of Tumbling Sands and then playing Lotus Field the next turn to combo is a common play against non-removal matchups like the mirror. Unlike the Thespian’s Stage activation kills, you get the floating two mana from Lotus Field’s sacrifice lands the turn you start going off, plus a mana off whatever third land cast the Vizier.

Untapping with Vizier of Tumbling Sands and three lands, and then playing Lotus Field, makes the Breach-Fae-Strings in hand kill take no extra untaps or cards in graveyard since you start with enough mana to immediately Granted, Tome Scour, and Underworld Breach before any escapes, and the Granted and Hidden Strings with two discards kill takes just four cards in graveyard to escape the Hidden Strings twice leveraging the Fae of Wishes discards.

The real fun starts with single Lotus Field kills. From Lotus Field and any other land, a hand of Underworld Breach, Hidden Strings, and Fae of Wishes plus six cards in graveyard is lethal. Hidden Strings is only plus two mana, bringing you to six mana. Underworld Breach gets cast to bring you to four mana, double escape Strings brings you back to eight, and that’s Granted and double Tome Scour.

If you have a Vizier of Tumbling Sands to cycle, the requirement drops to three cards in graveyard. Vizier’s immediate cycle brings you up to four cards in graveyard and seven mana post-Strings. Breach and then Strings breaks even on seven mana and down to one card in graveyard, Granted and then Tome Scour leaves you two floating mana and six cards in graveyard, and that’s exactly enough to escape Hidden Strings and start escaping Tome Scour in the loop.

Be aware that with most single Lotus Field kills you need Thassa’s Oracle in graveyard at the end since you are netting zero mana and one card in graveyard per ten milled, so don’t exile it along the way. In the Vizier kill listed here, that means you can’t hit it in your first Tome Scour either. An extra card in graveyard always prevents this.

The weird corner-case plays:

  • Hidden Strings can be used to tap down their mana to stop counterspells. It can also perform similar duties against Tormod’s Crypt.
  • You can sometimes have mana available on an earlier turn to get a first Granted cast out of the way.
  • Some of your combo cards can start in the graveyard against Thoughtseize decks thanks to Underworld Breach recasting them.
  • Very rarely Arboreal Grazer can put cards into your graveyard on a combo turn with a bonus Lotus Field.
  • There are precise library counts that are outs to single Lotus Field scenarios where Thassa’s Oracle is gone but you are lightly constrained on graveyard. These are too narrow to really discuss, but it’s worth doing the math on the spot if you are desperate.
  • There are cosmic brain scenarios with Hidden Strings in graveyard where you can cipher a second Hidden Strings onto your various one-power attackers to bridge Granted casts across main phases.

The Backup Plays

We are through all the crunchy but important stuff. What about when you don’t have it all cleanly set up?

Pore Over the Pages is your short combo. It is almost always right to just fire it off and see what happens. With two Lotus Field you net one mana on Pore Over the Pages, and that conveniently bridges to having seven mana for Underworld Breach, escape Pore Over the Pages. Each escape of Pore Over the Pages costs two cards in graveyard but nets mana, which means it is extremely hard to run out. You can often slip a Strategic Planning in the middle there, draw a Vizier of Tumbling Sands, really any number of things to convert that mana into more cards in your graveyard until you stumble into Hidden Strings plus Granted and actually go off. Pore Over the Pages plus Tome Scour and Underworld Breach with two Lotus Fields is also a clean kill, and the out to Unmoored Ego on Hidden Strings.

You can also just Granted and cast Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. This is most common against Bant Spirits, which has huge issues with Ugin unless they immediately fire back with Collected Company. Even then, you can often set up even more mana to cast your adventure Fae of Wishes after the Ugin –X as a blocker and that is a true wrap.

Similar Granted target “kills” exist in other matchups. I’ll mention those in the sideboard guide, but this versatility is a huge upside of this deck.

The Early-Game

Your opening hands are all about finding Lotus Field and two other lands. Sylvan Scrying is also a Lotus Field for these purposes, and a solid chunk of your opening hands are easy keeps.

I’m a loose goose and keep a few too many hands with just one non-Field land, but if you have a lot of key combo pieces and an Arboreal Grazer you can justify it since the Grazer catches you up a turn if you miss. If your non-Field land is Temple of Mystery, I think the hand goes from loose to just an obvious keep since you get multiple looks at the extra land.

There are also a number of hands without an actual Lotus Field. Since Strategic Planning can find Sylvan Scrying or Lotus Field or another Strategic Planning, any hand with it is a favorite to find Lotus Field early on. Satyr Wayfinder is a little dicier since it only finds Lotus Field, and without a backup card selection option I would be wary of keeping a hand leaning on it to find Lotus Field.

Don’t accidentally set up to sacrifice Thespian’s Stage to your Turn 3 Lotus Field.

That’s it. Once you have a Lotus Field, it’s right back to the combo math section.

Card Decisions

Most of the Lotus Breach deck is fairly stock. Some quick comments on the few cards that do vary from list to list.

The entire point of a maindeck kill condition is avoiding an auto-loss to your Fae of Wishes getting exiled, so neither of these cards will be that exciting. Thassa’s Oracle enables the single Lotus Field kills. Expansion doesn’t. Thassa’s Oracle is even fine to cast as a slightly worse Strategic Planning early on to set up the kill. Expansion has some cool interactions against discard, counterspells, and with Hidden Strings, but it doesn’t add up to the flexibility of single Lotus Field kills.

Blink of an Eye is just nice utility. It’s another answer to hate cards after sideboarding, it’s easy interaction against even large creatures in Game 1, it can recycle Thassa’s Oracle from the battlefield for a Game 1 kill, and it can protect Underworld Breach from opposing removal if you have floating mana to recast it. Mystical Dispute is a good card, but it doesn’t extend your range the way Blink of an Eye does.

Sheltered Thicket enters the battlefield tapped. I heard multiple Players Tour competitors tell stories about this costing them games. In exchange, if you are playing against Thoughtseize decks, Sylvan Scrying is a topdeck rebuy. I would rather cast my spells.

You need the cheap sweep of Anger of the Gods, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is a given, so it’s really a debate about which medium sweeper to play. Supreme Verdict is better against Rotting Regisaur. Hour of Devastation is better against Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller. That’s it. Choose wisely.

Alpine Moon is just the fastest way to Granted kill a mirror. All the card name exile effects are just slow ways to fight Inverter of Truth, and I’m unsure they make as much of a difference as having the fast way to kill the mirror.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun kills people. It isn’t necessarily required, it’s just a great card to draw against people trying to interact via counterspells or discard. Plus, the look on your opponent’s face as they try to process the now Dragon-dominated game is always a delight.

Sideboard Guide

One of the joys of playing a Granted deck is that sideboarding is easy. Because, you know, you don’t really have much of a sideboard.

The quick version: Satyr Wayfinder can always be cut, and Dig Through Time often can. Arboreal Grazer comes out against Thoughtseize decks. Add the obvious cards, and then cards you would want to draw but not really Granted for.

The longer versions for each matchup follow.

VS Dimir Inverter

Out:

In:

This is a pretty stock plan against Thoughtseize decks. Maximize your active draws and hedge against hate.

Playing this matchup largely comes down to establishing your Lotus Field mana so you have the most live draws against a Thoughtseize. Your Fae of Wishes often threaten their faster combo setups via Granted to Tome Scour them, so games tend to drag on a bit. Blast Zone plays an important role as a way to handle Damping Sphere and is a common Sylvan Scrying target once you establish Lotus Field.

Mystical Dispute isn’t actually that good here, but it does pressure some of their specific lines of play like early Dig Through Time. The second would be nice to have, but it isn’t an impactful topdeck unless you are afraid of Unmoored Ego.

VS Sultai Delirium

Out:

In:

This is almost the same matchup as Dimir Inverter, but your anti-hate cards should hedge more against Unmoored Ego and Leyline of the Void.

VS Mono-Black Aggro

Out:

In:

Yet another Thoughtseize matchup, but Jace, Wielder of Mysteries is readily attackable and they don’t have blue cards to counter. Arboreal Grazer blocks some things, but multiples leave you drawing blanks.

VS Bant Spirits

Out:

In:

You have more spells Bant Spirits needs to counter than they have answers, more mana than they have, and their clock is slow if they are playing reactively. You are trying to play through their answers, not around them.

The Sylvan Scrying trim exploits this slowness since you have more time to find Lotus Field, and Sylvan Scrying is vulnerable to Mausoleum Wanderer anyways.

Anger of the Gods comes in here since it is generally a bad Granted target you just want to fire off early, where the two larger sweepers are more important to be able to find. There’s an argument for bringing them in since Granted is weak to Mystical Dispute, but I have found more access to them is worth the risk.

Your Mystical Disputes are used just as often to interact with their threats as they are to protect spells. If an Empyrean Eagle is adding a bunch of power, just get rid of it and expect the extra time to be more valuable.

Only worry about Naturalize effects if you see Damping Sphere. Rest in Peace loses to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon anyways.

VS Mono-Red Aggro

Out:

In:

You need answers to their hate here, most likely Eidolon of the Great Revel and some graveyard interaction. Besides those cards, this is a pure race.

Even if Strategic Planning is a great card in this deck, hands that need to cast spells to get places are a liability both on tempo and against Eidolon of the Great Revel.

Hour of Devastation is reasonable to sideboard in, but Anger of the Gods is important as a cheap Granted target.

VS Lotus Breach

Out:

In:

This matchup is all goldfish kills, with Alpine Moon being an alternate form of goldfish. You might want one Natural State as marginal respect to that end-game, with a land or a Strategic Planning being the next best cut. Thought Distortion also comes in since if you can Granted you want the less expensive end game of Alpine Moon, so you may as well draw it.

Casting Vizier of Tumbling Sands is common in this matchup since it leads to slightly faster kills than Thespian’s Stage. Consider whether you should leave up Mystical Dispute earlier to handle this.

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