In my previous article, I wrote about Lotus Storm in Pioneer.
- Taking Pioneer by Lotus Storm
- Pascal Vieren
Since then, the release of Theros Beyond Death (THB) changed the deck a lot. I played Players Tour Brussels with the newest iteration of this deck and went 7-3 in Pioneer, while my testing partner Brent Vos had an excellent 9-1 record and made top 8. In this article, I’ll talk about how the deck came to be, discuss some specific cards choices and give some advice on how to approach different matchups.
One of the first cards spoiled in THB was 《Underworld Breach》. It was immediately clear the card would be very strong in eternal formats. I thought it would be a nice inclusion in the sideboard of Lotus Storm, but felt it would be hard to combine the card with 《Dig Through Time》 in the main deck. Together with the other Belgian players, I mainly focused on existing Pioneer decks. For Theros Beyond Death, we mainly focused on trying different shells for 《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》.
This all changed when Brent Vos shot me a message. I met Brent after Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis, where we had a very enjoyable evening. For this PT, we had already arranged a day of drafting with a group of qualified Dutch and Belgian players. Brent told me he and his teammates Niels Van de Sande and Jesper Box had tried some decks including Theros Beyond Death, and found something very promising. He asked if I’d be interested in working together. Of course I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t be?
Brent said 《Underworld Breach》 in the Lotus shell was very strong. Brent really liked what the deck did and where it was going, but he felt that he and his teammates could use some more help to really get the list tuned. We tried out different versions and different cards. While there were still quite a few differences in our lists, I think our discussions gave us both a lot more insight in the deck.
Simic Lotus Breach
There are actually two decks called Lotus Breach: the Simic version I played at the Players Tour and the Izzet version Martin Müller, amongst others, played. As these decks are entirely different decks, I would suggest making a distinction in naming between both.
For reference, these are the 75 I registered for PT Brussels:
2 《Breeding Pool》
1 《Sheltered Thicket》
4 《Botanical Sanctum》
4 《Temple of Mystery》
3 《Yavimaya Coast》
4 《Lotus Field》
4 《Thespian’s Stage》
1 《Blast Zone》
-Land (24)- 4 《Arboreal Grazer》
4 《Fae of Wishes》
2 《Satyr Wayfinder》
4 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》
4 《Hidden Strings》
4 《Strategic Planning》
4 《Sylvan Scrying》
4 《Pore Over the Pages》
1 《Dig Through Time》
3 《Underworld Breach》
In my opinion, two things stand out about this list:
The general plan is:
There’s quite a lot more going on, however. This version can also win without having a second 《Lotus Field》 in play. With 《Lotus Field》 and a regular land, you can still cast 《Tome Scour》 twice and 《Hidden Strings》 once to mill 10 cards and exiling 9. You then finish by casting a couple of 《Hidden Strings》, 《Granted》 and Jace.
The deck is also resilient to cards like 《Slaughter Games》. Of course you’ll need more resources to start the combo, but winning is still very much possible. Understanding how the deck wins when having one of its pieces exiled, will give you greater understanding of the deck.
Specific Card Choices
These are the main deck cards that warrant some more explaining:
You want a lot of two-drops, as you’ll often have two mana both on turn 2 and turn 3 when you play 《Lotus Field》. 《Satyr Wayfinder》 helps find 《Lotus Field》 or 《Thespian’s Stage》, while also fueling your graveyard. The body will often chump block, which can give you a crucial additional turn.
Brent played 《Thassa’s Oracle》 in this spot. We wanted the deck to not lose to 《Slaughter Games》. I found both 《Expansion》 and 《Explosion》 to give me a lot of utility. 《Expansion》 copied both a 《Hidden Strings》 and opposing counterspell, while 《Explosion》 serves as a good way to spend a lot of mana while taking out an opposing threat.
Exiling your graveyard isn’t exactly what you want to be doing, combined with 《Underworld Breach》, but in grindy matchups it’s an excellent card. The fact that graveyard hate makes it almost useless, makes me hesitant to play more copies however.
This is a true flex slot. I liked the cheap interaction and the card is good versus Azorius Control. It also stops any nonsense your opponent might try to do when you cast Jace. Looking back, this is the card I’m least sure I’d still want to play.
Brent only played 23, but I was worried by the amount of green source I could run. Both 《Blast Zone》 and 《Sheltered Thicket》 also give you something to search with 《Sylvan Scrying》 if you already have 《Lotus Field》 and 《Thespian’s Stage》.
For the sideboard, you have some more flexibility. Understanding the role of each of these cards is paramount to improving the decklist with the evolution of the Pioneer metagame.
You need them for the combo, please don’t touch these.
Against aggressive decks, you’ll sometimes only get to 7 mana and need to survive. With 8 mana, you can just search 《Underworld Breach》 and win, most of the times, which is why I disliked 《Supreme Verdict》.
《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 is especially useful in postboard games, which are often a war of attrition. Ugin is the reason I’m not overly worried about graveyard hate. Ugin will solve any problems you might face.
Spirits is by far our worst matchup. Boarding in 《Chandra, Awakened Inferno》 in that matchup does wonders. The fact that 《Supreme Verdict》 can still be hit by 《Spell Queller》 is rather unfortunate. I also board in Chandra versus Azorius, as it answers their best plan of 《Monastery Mentor》 quite nicely.
Especially with open decklists at the Players Tour, having access to an effect like this is very useful. Exiling all the 《Inverter of Truth》 can be pretty good.
Cheapest answer to 《Damping Sphere》, which is by far the best piece of hate against this deck. Also really useful versus Izzet Ensoul Artifact and in the mirror.
This card is great versus Azorius Control and in the mirror. Having this in the sideboard makes every 《Granted》 a must-counter. Being able to bring one in, gives you a nice edge. With hidden sideboard numbers, I counted on it being somewhat unexpected. If you combo while your opponent has potential answers for Jace, cast this before actually casting Jace if you have the resources.
A great catch-all answer. It’s especially good against Mono Black Aggro and Izzet Ensoul, as it can answer cards like 《Damping Sphere》, while also just buying time by clearing their threat.
Depending on how the metagame evolves or what decks you expect, these slots and numbers can definitely change. Open decklists also allowed me to board knowing what kind of hate to expect. If you don’t know what hate you might face, some generic bounce spells might be wanted.
Tips and Tricks
I felt I played the deck far from perfect at the PT, which cost me for sure. With only a couple of weeks between the set release and the PT, there’s a limited time of practice. With focus on finding the best possible list, it’s challenging to learn every in and out. There are a lot of small things you can do to improve your gameplay with the deck. Here are some lines of play that I’ve encountered that might be useful.
Copying Other Lands with 《Thespian’s Stage》
Always be on the lookout for this option. I’ve copied 《Castle Locthwain》, 《Castle Vantress》, 《Castle Ardenvale》, 《Mutavault》. But if your opponent plays 《Field of Ruin》, copying a basic land can keep your 《Thespian’s Stage》 safe until you find 《Lotus Field》. Copying 《Blast Zone》 allows you to destroy cards with converted mana cost zero.
Untapping Other Stuff with 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》
Casting 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》
If your opponent can’t remove it, it can serve as your second 《Lotus Field》.
Ciphering 《Hidden Strings》
Casting 《Underworld Breach》 as Your First Spell Cast with 《Underworld Breach》
If you have plenty of resources and suspect your opponent holds an answer for 《Underworld Breach》, this is a neat way of playing around that. Make sure you count your resources well however, as miscounting cost me a crucial match at the PT.
Not Taking Any Land with 《Satyr Wayfinder》
If you have enough lands in hand, the card in your graveyard might be more useful.
《Tome Scour》 Your Opponent Who Just Casted 《Inverter of Truth》
Activating the Return Ability of 《Fae of Wishes》 Twice
It is useful when you want to discard more cards to fuel 《Underworld Breach》.
Tapping Two Opposing Lands with 《Hidden Strings》 in Your First Main Phase
Getting Stuff from Your Sideboard and Using it in Unexpected Ways
In preboarded games, you’ll mostly just execute your gameplan. Postboard games might be very grindy and you’ll need to be more creative. For example, I’ve cast Jace just as a card drawing engine more than once. Also, don’t forget you can cast 《Granted》 for cards you’ve boarded out.
I’ll try to explain how some of the more common matchups play out and what lines are relevant. I won’t go into detail about easier matchups like Ramp, Niv to Light and Izzet Ensoul. Hit me up on Twitter if you have any specific questions regarding a specific matchup.
Mono Black Aggro
Game one you should be pretty favored. Their clock isn’t that fast and they don’t have a lot of interaction. In postboard games, they’ll have discard and 《Leyline of the Void》. 《Unravel the Aether》 is a decent answer to Leyline, while also hitting 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 if they don’t have Leyline. But I’d try to avoid running too many answers, as their discard spells will punish boarding too many cards. 《Fae of Wishes》 is a great blocker against them, especially in postboard games where they’ve cut most of their removal spells.
How good the matchup is depending entirely on how many and which counterspells they are running. 《Lost Legacy》 can threaten to take out their 《Inverter of Truth》, but if they cast Inverter too soon, 《Tome Scour》 can kill them. This puts them in an awkward spot.
As is usually the case, the matchup gets a bit worse postboard. Try to navigate through the counters and discard before they are able to find their combo.
Game one they have 7 spells they’ll need to counter: every 《Granted》 and every Breach. Most UW lists don’t even play 7 hard counters. You have plenty of time to set up a lot of mana, while waiting on your actual important spells. They often won’t find a safe spot to resolve a planeswalker, which puts them in a very tough spot. Just make sure you don’t run an important spell in 《Censor》.
Postboard their best shot is an early 《Monastery Mentor》. 《Chandra, Awakened Inferno》 is great answer to it, as it’s very useful in other situations as well. Your gameplan is still to develop your mana faster than they ever can. You’ll often want to make 3 《Lotus Field》s before casting any relevant spells. The second 《Thought Distortion》 does wonders here.
Bant or Azorius Spirits
This is by far the hardest matchup as they have plenty of interaction, while being able to deploy threats if you don’t cast anything relevant. Game one is doable, as they don’t have that many counters, but it still isn’t easy.
After Joel Larsson won PT Brussels with this deck, I’d expect to see it more. I faced it once during the PT and the matchup seemed decent, but Brent lost to Joel in Top 8. Game one you’ll need to work through their discard, but they don’t have the fastest clock, which should allow you to find the necessary resources.
Postboard they’ll have more good cards against us, but as is always my advice when facing a lot of discard, don’t board too many conditional answers. Having a useless card stuck in hand can make all the difference.
I very much believe this deck is a strong contender in Pioneer. I’m proud of the list and believe this will be a strong starting point for Simic Lotus Breach going forward. If this deck becomes more popular, I would expect the amount of hate to rise. So it’ll be interesting to see how this deck and the metagame evolves during the next weeks.
I didn’t play my best game during the tournament, as I made quite a few mistakes. Even so, I always tried to focus on the next game and match, which is an important attitude. I also qualified for both the next regional PT and the PT Finals, which is great. However, both tournaments are late April and my wife is due April 20th. So hopefully I can defer my invite to the next Regionals PT and PT Finals.
As always, if you have any questions about this deck or article, feel free to contact me on Twitter: @VierenPascal.
Pascal Vieren (Twitter)