I suspect many of you saw the preview for Lotus Field last week? Blake did a great job going through the history of the card and telling you how amazing it is. That just makes sense. Lotus Field certainly has its upsides! However, I’ve actually played with the card and can offer a little personal experience to temper your enthusiasm for Lotus Field.
How is this possible that I’ve played with a card that isn’t available to the public yet? Well, I played with Lotus Vale.
Lotus Vale is the precursor to Lotus Field. Both lands demand that you sacrifice two other lands when they enter the battlefield and both tap to produce three mana of any one color. The differences between the two are minimal for our discussion, except for one point: Lotus Field has hexproof while Lotus Vale does not.
I played Lotus Vale mostly because I needed mana fixing. I didn’t have a whole lot of ways to get a variety of mana sources during Weatherlight and the years after that set, so many of my decks relied on a couple of copies of Lotus Vale that I had. It isn’t surprising to discover that Lotus Vale was often the target of spells. Land destruction was popular at the time, and taking out a Lotus Vale was like hitting three lands with a single Stone Rain. Strip Mine and Wasteland had fewer targets back then, so smacking a Lotus Vale seemed like a good idea. Given my Limited mana fixing, it often was a good idea.
Lotus Field gets around that with hexproof. If someone wants to bounce the land, or destroy it, or exile it or eliminate it in some way, they’ll need to make it untargetable. That shuts off a LOT of ways to destroy it. It sounds like they took all the issues around Lotus Vale and fixed them!
This really can be an upgrade in the right deck too! If you have ways to untap a land, you can choose to untap Lotus Field, giving you six mana for the turn! That is far better than the pedestrian two mana you would get with most lands. The problem here is that no one really builds their deck to untap their land to get six mana. It doesn’t take a giant leap to realize that decks with infinite loops are the ones that really benefit from Lotus Field. Build a loop that costs two mana or less of any one color and suddenly Lotus Field offers infinite mana.
So far, all I’ve done is fan the flames of your enthusiasm for Lotus Field! Where is the cautionary tale I promised? I was supposed to be tempering your enthusiasm!
What decks will Lotus Field be good in, other than infinite combo?
Lands get played because they give you mana and/or have an ability other than that. Lotus Field only taps for mana, so the entire benefit of the land is that it taps for three mana of any one color. The problem is that you are sacrificing two other lands to get that land that taps for three mana! Would you prefer three basic lands or one Lotus Field?
Consider this example: On turn three you play the third land you had in hand at the start of the game. You now have access to three mana. On turn four, you play another land and now you have access to five mana. With a Lotus Field, on turn three you are going to want to play a spell that costs two mana or less before playing Lotus Field, because it enters the battlefield tapped. So spend your two mana, then play Lotus Field, sacrificing the two lands that were there. On turn four, you play your fourth land for the game, and can tap for four mana.
Speed-wise, you are losing a mana on the turn you play the Lotus Field, over simply playing another basic land. Speed-wise, it is actually worse to play Lotus Field over a basic land! The only way Lotus Field is better is if you have a way to untap it. Then on turn three, you could tap the two lands before sacrificing them, play the Lotus Field, sacrifice those lands, untap Lotus Field, then tap it for three.
This holds true for whether you play Lotus Field on turn three or turn seven. Entering the battlefield tapped means you are losing access to a mana that turn, unless you can untap it the turn it arrives on the battlefield.
I should also mention the Temple of the False God argument here. There are several writers who are suggesting Temple of the False God is played in too many decks. The idea is that it is a dead card until you have four other lands on the battlefield. This means that Temple is a blank in the first part of a game. That same reasoning holds true with Lotus Field to some extent as it is a dead card until you have two lands you are willing to sacrifice. Up to this point I’ve assumed that we are willing to sacrifice two lands to put this onto the battlefield, but if one of those lands is a dual land, or taps for two mana already, are we willing to make that trade? What if the land is a Maze of Ith or Kessig Wolf Run or another land that can do something else essential for your deck to run. Lotus Field could be sitting in your hand for a while.
Perhaps you aren’t sold on the speed argument. You are getting a land that taps for different colors, so you are okay with losing mana for a turn. I understand and respect that. As someone who often plays Ravnica duals tapped because I don’t need the mana immediately and would rather not take the life loss unless I have to, that makes some sense. However, you will definitely want flexibility from that land! Lotus Field certainly seems to offer that! It gives you three mana of any one color!
Consider the following opening hand: seven cards with a basic land, another basic land, and Lotus Field. Would you keep this land? We already know that an opening hand with three basics would be faster than this hand, so the Lotus Field will need to offer versatility to make sense.
Whether you keep the hand really depends on the rest of the cards in the hand, and the deck it its entirety. You have access to three mana of one color, so playing cards that require more than one color demands at least one more land. Let’s break this down by looking at the types of deck.
Two-color decks. Lotus Field is dead until you have three lands. Once you do though, if you sacrifice those lands, you now have one land that can only produce mana of one color. Sure, it can be three Green or three Black mana, but if you are looking to cast a multicolored card, your earliest option would be turn four, without any other help. If you keep the three basics instead, the odds of them all being the same type of land are minimal. You would have mulliganed that hand away. Playing Lotus Field later in the game isn’t much help either. If Lotus Field is your sixth or tenth land, you likely already have the colors you need. Why waste time with a land that essentially enters the battlefield tapped?
And for those of you who think it will work in decks where several of the cards have heavy demands on one or more colors, think again. I regularly played a Krond, the Dawnclad deck with Lotus Vale. Again and again the Vale would offer me three of one color that I needed, but then I would only have two mana of the other color because of how I sacrificed the lands I had. I couldn’t predict which lands would come up next, so I would often guess incorrectly. In those decks I discovered taking out Lotus Vale and putting in a dual land was often a better solution. The Lorwyn/Shadowmoor filter lands are also a better option.
Three-color (and more) decks. For these decks too, Lotus Field is dead until you have two lands and you can’t cast a multicolored card until turn four. If your commander is a 3-color commander or more, you are waiting even longer as you have eliminated your chances to cast it earlier by sacrificing the lands you had. It can help around turn six in those games when you have two of your three colors, but even in a three color deck, by the time you get to your 8th mana source, you likely have everything you need.
In the end, the mana flexibility of Lotus Vale and Lotus Field is illusory. Lotus Field only really makes sense in combo decks for infinite loops, or decks with Crucible of Worlds or other cards that can get lands out of your graveyard easily. That way the sacrificed lands can be played soon after. This means that when someone is playing a Lotus Field, you should perk up and take it as the warning sign it is. Start watching for ways for them to untap the card. Lotus Field is a flashing caution light, warning you that infinite combos are ahead! Take it from someone who tried many years ago, running this card to increase your ability to get mana in a variety of colors is an error.