While we tend to cover topics that impact the MTG community, whether it be the newest hot topic or a card that trended overnight, we rarely get the opportunity to cover our own exploits within the MTG community. Admittedly, the tournament I won was a relatively small 22-person RCQ (qualifying me for the Regional Championships), but I won it with some tech cards that may push a serious Pioneer archetype to the next level. It’s not just this tournament, though – this new tech allowed me to win locals without a hitch, place multiple records in MTGO events that broke even in prizing or did better (and, of course, the one 0-2 drop Challenge where nothing went right) and go on a strong 4-2 run in one of the most competitive Pioneer tournaments to date before dropping since I had no shot at top eight and wanted to attend the tournament I ended up winning the next day. It definitely doesn’t solve all of the archetype’s problems, but this is why I think you should consider trying Chandra, Hope’s Beacon in Pioneer’s Lotus Field Combo!
What is Lotus Field Combo?
While I can literally write about this deck for thousands and thousands of words, I only have so much time, so I will kick things off with a quick introduction into how this deck works from the perspective of someone who hasn’t really seen it before. For decklists pertaining to recent big finishes, here is a list of recent ones (Magic Arena decks do not count!), which should give you the gist of what most common decklists look like.
Your objective is to, essentially, get two iterations of Lotus Field into play that are targetable by Hidden Strings. For reference, Hidden Strings allows you to tap or untap two target permanents. The best way to do this is to use your Thespian’s Stage to copy Lotus Field so you can untap those lands with your Pore Over the Pages, but this second iteration of Lotus Field can also be something like a Vizier of Tumbling Sands, Hope Tender or Voyaging Satyr that is not summoning sick. You can try to play two Lotus Fields the traditional way, but this takes a lot of time and will, commonly, be too slow for the Pioneer format.
If your opponent is a removal-heavy strategy like Rakdos or Izzet Phoenix, you should generally try to copy Lotus Field with your stage since it’s more difficult to interact with this. Additionally, in removal-heavy matchups, you’re generally better off holding your Vizier and cycling it instead of running it out. All of this, of course, relies on your Judgement.
Two Lotus Field-ish cards represents six mana that you can use immediately, but it also represents the potential for Hidden Strings to float an additional four mana when targeting two sources that, essentially represent three mana on tap.
Once you get this online, you want to cast a sequence of spells that wins the game. These sequences are pretty complicated and take some reps to understand, but Emergent Ultimatum is generally the big spell you want to build up to. You can even win a game off of casting an Emergent Ultimatum without having two Lotus Fields accessible, but these lines are generally quite tricky to pull off and are not always there. That said, resolving your Emergent Ultimatum, more often than not, means you win the game as long as you know what you should be searching for with it, even if you aren’t winning on that turn.
An example of this from the Regional Champion Qualifier I won was the use of Emergent Ultimatum to find a Sphinx of the Final Word against an 8-Pyromancer deck that had a lot of counterspell-based interaction. It took a few more turns to convert into a win since I did not have the lands set up to properly go for it, but the Sphinx shut down all of their interaction and made it difficult for them to swing in without losing creatures.
While I will discuss some common piles that you should be finding with Emergent Ultimatum, since that’s part of the reason why Chandra, Hope’s Beacon is in the deck, this will only be scratching the surface of the deck itself.
A big part of piloting Lotus Field Combo properly is being able to line up deterministic Emergent Ultimatum kills. To explain this in more detail, we first need to look at what Emergent Ultimatum actually does.
For two blue, two black, and three green mana, Emergent Ultimatum allows you to search your library for three mono-colored spells with different names. You then exile those cards and make your opponent choose one of them. That card returns to your deck, but you can cast the others for free.
A ‘deterministic Emergent Ultimatum’ refers to a pile of cards you find with the Emergent Ultimatum that will navigate you towards a win no matter what your opponent chooses. The most common traditional form of this occurs when you have at least one additional blue mana to use after resolving the Emergent Ultimatum (and have the targets available in your library). I will walk you through that to demonstrate what this looks like.
The Most Common Deterministic Emergent Ultimatum
To reiterate, in order for this pile to guaranteed win you the game, you need to have the cards listed in this sequence available in your library, have at least one blue mana open, have Spell Mastery off of Dark Petition after resolving any other spells on the stack and, finally, make sure your opponent doesn’t have any graveyard hate.
The most common card for your opponent to put back is Omniscience. If they don’t, you should assume that they have some removal for it as long as they aren’t tapped out. Leyline Binding and Boseiju, Who Endures are the most common cards that fit in this category.
In the case that they give you Dark Petition and Behold the Beyond, you should always resolve Behold the Beyond first. This is because it will discard the card you searched with Dark Petition otherwise, and usually means you will have Spell Mastery online when the Petition resolves. While we’re on the topic of order of resolution for Emergent Ultimatum targets, you should always resolve Behold the Beyond first and Omniscience last.
Search for Hidden Strings, Omniscience, and Bala Ged Recovery with your Behold the Beyond. Pay attention to how much mana the Hidden Strings can generate, because your fourth card from Dark Petition usually depends on this factor. You need to hard cast the Omniscience, so if you need more mana, find another Hidden Strings (or a Pore Over the Pages/Vizier of Tumbling Sands in the situation where you only need one mana and the Pore can untap two Lotus Fields).
Use your Hidden Strings and other mana-makers to untap your Lotus Fields and float mana. Cast Omniscience. All you need to do past this point is target Bala Ged Recovery for free and get your Behold the Beyond back, which can then be cast for free to search for three new cards. It’s straightforward to win the game past this point, but lines differ depending on your win condition. We will go into win conditions momentarily.
If the opponent gives you Omniscience and it looks like they may have the mana to remove it, resolve it last. This will allow you to use your search spell to find another Emergent Ultimatum that you can cast for free in the short window before your Omniscience gets destroyed. If the Omniscience does not die, it is, once again, very easy to win the game. What to do past this point heavily depends on the board state and the cards you have access to, which is beyond the scope of this article.
If you have a card in your hand that ensures you win the game under an Omniscience, another deterministic pile you can search for is Behold the Beyond, Pore Over the Pages and Omniscience. If your hand has no action, there is a chance that Omniscience plus Pore Over the Pages will not do anything, but if you have guaranteed action in your hand, this can easily win the game as well. The other selections can copy the previous sequence discussed (Omniscience in play plus a Behold the Beyond should always win the game).
Piles with Chandra, Hope’s Beacon
This gets us to the first practical use of Chandra, Hope’s Beacon in Lotus Field Combo. In matchups where your opponent has a lot of discard-based disruption, like Rakdos Midrange, it’s very common to get low on Emergent Ultimatum targets. Chandra, Hope’s Beacon is not only an extra target if you don’t have your Omniscience or your Behold the Beyond available, but it can also make Emergent Ultimatums that don’t have floating blue mana attached much more deterministic. This is done by utilizing the plus two ability on Chandra to float blue mana, but her passive ability is also incredibly important.
When combined with Hidden Strings and two Lotus Field sources, Chandra, Hope’s Beacon can immediately represent ten additional mana. This is because Chandra’s copies the first instant or sorcery spell you cast after it resolves. The first Hidden Strings essentially floats four mana. This is because, while the two Lotus Fields make six mana, you need to spend two of that to cast the card itself. The copy, however, is free. When you have limited Ultimatum targets for various reasons, this can be the guaranteed mana you need to win the game.
You can set up deterministic kills with Chandra piles, but these typically need outside variables to line up. If, for example, you do not have floating blue mana but do have some sort of follow-up play in your hand, you can add Chandra to your Ultimatum pile alongside two searchers and find Hidden Strings with the search. This will allow you to generate enough mana to get to the follow-up. In the case that Chandra and Behold the Beyond resolve, you should be able to find both a Hidden Strings and a follow-up, which should always be able to win the game.
This can also help map kills when you cannot access your graveyard. Bala Ged Recovery is a crucial part of the more common deterministic Ultimatum kills, and being under something like Rest in Piece forces you to take alternative routes. Chandra can be the piece that helps find a route that doesn’t require you to Boseiju a Rest in Piece.
In a void where you have no floating mana and nothing in your hand, Chandra can be a much better Ultimatum target than Omniscience. These piles can be tricky since you need two mana sources to continue playing, which will usually result in you having to choose Hidden Strings and Pore Over the Pages in your pile, amounting to nothing if you don’t draw anything off the Pore. Omniscience and Pore Over the Pages is generally your best choice in this scenario, but Chandra can provide a much better chance of winning in the situation where you get it and Pore Over the Pages instead of Omniscience.
If you do not get anything off the Pore, Chandra can dig five cards deeper into your library with its plus one ability. This doesn’t always mean you’ll hit something, but seeing eight cards is much better than seeing three in these situations. In the likely scenario where you do find a payoff, Chandra’s static ability can copy it, granting a ton of resources for you to utilize.
Don’t worry about exiling your Mastermind’s Acquisition this way. While exiling both Omniscience and the Acquisition can be awkward (you can cast the Acquisition to get it into your graveyard, but sometimes you’re in a scenario where this isn’t good enough), Chandra can act as a win condition as well.
Chandra as an Alternate Win Condition
There is a major debate within the Lotus Field community regarding the best win condition. Mastermind’s Acquisition is the most traditional one – useable to find something in your library in a pinch. Its main purpose is to find an Approach of the Second Sun out of your sideboard, which can easily be cast twice when you have an Omniscience or a Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, plus some Hidden Strings available.
Another popular win condition is Peer Into the Abyss. This card runs much better as a failsafe since resolving it safely with some floating mana usually wins the game. Mastermind’s Acquisition can be a bit clunky in comparison.
The trade-off is that this card cannot win through graveyard hate (you’ll have to remove it with your Channel lands) and requires you to use Hidden Strings to tap your opponent out (that’s right, this card can also be used to tap your opponent’s lands and force out interaction) since your win condition is casting this card repetitively targeting your opponent to kill them. I’ve also found the card to be a death sentence with an opposing Sheoldred, the Apocalypse in play, which has scared me away from using it.
Chandra, Hope’s Beacon can function as a win condition similarly to Peer into the Abyss. In a void where your only follow-up is either the Peer or the Chandra, the Peer is still better, but, when run alongside another win condition (I currently run it alongside Mastermind’s Acquisition), Chandra can get you out of jams where your Mastermind’s Acquisition gets exiled through a Go Blank or targeted sideboard hate like Slaughter Games, The Stone Brain, or Necromentia. This deck is quite popular in Pioneer, so it’s common to run into cards like this.
Chandra’s Ultimate ability allows you to deal five damage X damage to up to two targets, where X is equal to the Loyalty you spend to do this. If you minus five Chandra, you can immediately deal five damage to your opponent’s face killing Chandra in the process. Past this point, you can use Bala Ged Recovery to return the Chandra to your hand and cast it, dealing five more damage to your opponent. There are three copies of Bala Ged Recovery in your deck, but, alongside Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, you can typically cast Bala Ged Recovery six times, which is equivalent to 30 damage dealt this way.
If, for some reason, you’re up against a lifegain deck like Angels and need more damage than this, you can copy a Bala Ged Recovery with Chandra’s static ability to return another Bala Ged Recovery plus something else (maybe that’s a second Bala Ged Recovery). You may need to reset your Chandra if you do this (if you need to create mana, for example), which usually means you will need to use Otawara, Soaring City to put it back in your hand. This will, however, allow you to infinitely recur cards from your graveyard to your hand, providing you the resources to do it. For reference, this is very easy to do under a resolved Omniscience.
Like Peer into the Abyss, Chandra, Hope’s Beacon will not be able to function as a win condition under graveyard hate. Five damage is rarely enough to do the job independently, meaning you will need to cast this card multiple times.
Chandra and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
This is, admittedly, probably the biggest reason to run Chandra, Hope’s Beacon in your Lotus Field list. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse turns off certain cards in your deck depending on your life total. Drawing three cards with Pore Over the Pages can commonly kill you since you will also lose six life (plus the two you lost in your draw step). Chandra’s biggest boon is in regards to this common threat. Considering that Rakdos Midrange is considered the best deck in the current meta by many, you should expect to run into this at least once per tournament.
Chandra allows you to access Ultimatum piles more easily that do not require drawing cards. This can replace a Pore Over the Pages in your piles, providing you have the relevant follow-up, and create enough mana to win the game.
In the case where you need to unlock your Pore over the Pages, Chandra, Hope’s Beacon can kill a Sheoldred. It’s not very difficult to win with Pore once you get yourself in a favorable position, but this is a corner case that can be relevant. I have, for reference, won multiple games because of this.
When Not to Play Chandra
Chandra is a powerful tool against disruption-based decks, aggressive decks and gives fantastic redundancy in the scenario where your main win condition becomes inaccessible. The matchups where Chandra is not great, however, are race-based ones.
Pioneer is a format that offers a lot of powerful linear strategies, like Lotus Field, that ignore what your opponent is doing and try to create an absurd amount of pressure that they cannot overcome. Decks like this include Greasefang Combo, Mono-Green Devotion, Gruul (sometimes), and Lotus Field Combo itself.
Chandra isn’t great here. Your number one goal is simply to present lethal as quickly as possible, and, unless you’re using it to play around some crazy tech like a Stone Brain, getting this in your hand in the crucial opening turns isn’t doing you any favors.
If you’re expecting to run into a lot of these matchups, I would move Chandra to your Sideboard, if you want to use it at all. An extra Hope Tendor, Voyaging Satyr, or Baral, Chief of Compliance can go a lot further here, offering more consistent turn-three wins when you open with them.
Why No Decklist?
Honestly, the deck that I used to win the small RCQ I attended isn’t the exact list that I would use nowadays. I’m currently expecting a pretty race-heavy metagame, which has me currently sideboarding Chandra due to an overabundance of Mono-Green Devotion and Greasefang Combo. I expected a lot of Rakdos at the RCQ in comparison, and, while there was some, I read the metagame correctly in the sense that there were no Mono Green decks and only a few Greasefang decks in the room.
This is the final form of the list that maindecked Chandra, but I am currently on a list that moves Chandra to the sideboard and a Voyaging Satyr and a Hope Tender to the mainboard. I do not run Baral simply because I’m trying other cards – namely, a second Pithing Needle. This is, again, because I am currently expecting an abundance of race-based matchups.
I should stress that I rarely enter a tournament with the exact same list twice unless I cannot find cards I want to try. In the effort of encouraging innovation, you should not follow this 100%. Find cards that work for you in ways that you understand combat the issues you’re running into with the deck.
Anyway, while there is more room to provide details when utilizing Chandra in combo sequences and a lot more room to go into detail regarding the deck itself, this is a quick (and I really do mean quick) summary of why I decided to bring Chandra, Hope’s Beacon in my Lotus Field build. The card performed admirably, removing Sheoldred’s, winning when my Mastermind Acquisition got exiled, and presenting crazy Ultimatum opportunities when my other targets were not available. It also just removed a lot of annoying creatures on my opponent’s boards that gummed me up, like Thalia, Spell Queller, and Reidane. If you think this card could work well with many of the situations that bricked you up, give it a try and see what you think!