Hello everyone, today I bring an article for people who like a competition. Let's talk about Lotus Combo, also known as Hidden Strings, one of the hardest decks to pilot on Pioneer that doesn't have a straightforward play style. Here, though, we're going to try to make it as clear as possible how this deck works.
I am an enthusiast of this deck because, besides playing Lotus Combo on Pioneer, it was the first deck I built in this format. I started by buying its Challenger Deck and gradually acquired the missing cards. I also like it because it's the oldest combo deck in the format. But enough nostalgia, let's go to the list I've been running:
Getting to Know the Deck
Looking at it for the first time, those who still don't know it, usually don't understand how the deck wins, but it's quite simple: it wins with the sideboard. The sideboard of Lotus Combo is an extension of the maindeck, where your main win condition is Approach of the Second Sun.
And how are we going to get these cards from our side? With two cards:
Understanding the Combo
The core of our combo is making tons of mana with Lotus Field. The idea is to have only one Lotus Field and one Thespian's Stage in play. Target Lotus Field with Thespian's Stage's ability to copy a land (you won't have to sacrifice two of the same lands to Lotus because Thespian's Stage already entered the battlefield).
Now that you have two Lotuses in play, the idea is to tap and untap them to have a lot of mana floating around.
With Hidden Strings, you can untap your two Lotuses (a Lotus Field and a Thespian's Stage copying it) for just two mana, and with Pore Over the Pages you can untap two Lotuses and still draw three cards and then discard one (this discard will not be a problem since we are looking for our combo pieces). We also have Vizier of Tumbling Sands, where most of the time you'll cycle, drawing a card and untapping a Lotus.
Hidden Strings and Pore Over the Pages are two essential cards for our combo. Try digging with Impulse, finding your Lotus or Thespian's Stage, then cast Hidden Strings and Pore Over the Pages, so you can cast your main spell.
With Emergent Ultimatum you practically won the game. The problem is knowing how to do the correct sequencing and knowing which mana you should add with your Lotus. Unfortunately, there is no cake recipe with this combo. It is not linear at all, and this is where the difficulty of knowing how to play it lies. The only tip I can give you is that, most of the time, add the green mana last, and keep a reserve of blue and black and then add the three green to cast Ultimatum.
Once the Ultimatum is resolved, most of the time you'll look for these three cards:
The biggest danger for our opponents is in Omniscience because we can cast our spells for free. So, usually, our opponents choose Omniscience to go back to the library, so we can cast Pore Over the Pages to untap two Lotuses and Dark Petition to add mana, if we have two or more instants and sorceries in our graveyard, and search for Omniscience again to cast it.
These three cards are just a guide, and there will be games where you'll want to opt for a Bala Ged Recovery because a relevant part of the combo may be in the graveyard. Other times it may be better to choose to seek out a Lier, Disciple of the Drowned.
Postures and Mulligan
Your ideal starting hand is to have a Lotus Field and a Thespian's Stage, or one of these two cards plus a Sylvan Scrying, or worst-case scenario Impulse, to get the Lotus or the Thespian's Stage that is missing. Don't forget that you'll still need the lands to sacrifice, so this is a deck you'll want to aggressively mulligan.
Try to play Lotus Field and Thespian's Stage as quickly as possible. Arboreal Grazer is a great card to speed this up. Our goal here is to cast Approach of the Second Sun twice or put an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon on the board in such a way that our opponent can't get back into the game. The difficulty of Lotus Combo is how we are going to assemble our victory, card sequencing, which mana I should leave floating in case Emergent Ultimatum comes along. Therefore, it is not because you started to combo that you immediately won the game.
This is a deck you can train on your own because no matter who you're up against, our goal is the same. So, I goldfish with the Lotus Combo often.
Mono Green Devotion or Nykthos Ramp
Although there are subtle differences between them, they are basically the same deck, where they play dorks and make a lot of mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. So, our plan is to return the elves to our opponent's hand with Fading Hope to delay their game and mainly, add our Pithing Needle to stop Karn, the Great Creator.
The current best deck in the format. Thoughtseize and Duress put us in a bad position, that's why I like to add stupidly big creatures in this matchup, since they tend to be so focused on stopping our combo that we manage to keep these creatures in play long enough to win.
Mono White Humans
In this game, we must be cautious with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that can greatly hinder our game plan.
Mono white doesn't have a lot of interaction with us, but it's another deck that can be pretty fast and explosive, so we're going to add our sweepers.
Here I don't like to add Pithing Needle to stop Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, instead, I'd rather run our creatures. We don't need to worry about being fast: make your opponent spend their counterspells trying to stop our combo and then put our big threats on the board. And Thought Distortion needs no introduction in this game.
Lotus Combo is a difficult deck to play, but as I said earlier, it has the advantage of being possible to train alone with it to get used to it more and more.
It's a strategy that has been around for a long time and still manages to keep up with the format, mainly now that Gruul Vehicles has been gaining more space into the Metagame.