As I alluded to in my post a week ago, when Jeweled Lotus was spoiled it caused quite the kerfuffle, and even a bit of a brouhaha. I added an aside to my Top 5 Commander’s from Commander Legends that I felt that the reaction was a gross exaggeration with respect to the power of the card. Jeweled Lotus does cause some amount of problems as far as gameplay goes and I’ll analyze what those problems are further down. It is definitely powerful but I feel it is more contextual then some are giving it credit for, it has a high ceiling and a low floor more so than any other piece of fast mana in the format.
With that being said…
What is the Ceiling of Jeweled Lotus?
cEDH: The lotus is absolutely good enough in that meta. It will be strongest in decks that are commander reliant, like Yisan, Selvala and Gitrog. Most of these are combo decks like Gitrog and the heightened chance of dropping the key enabler of your deck on turn one or two is well worth a slot. The partner decks don’t want the lotus and most decks that are three or more colors will not be able to capitalize on the mana it generates, in those cases the lotus effectively pays for two mana of your commander’s cost which seems lackluster. The bottom line is that as far as cEDH is concerned Jeweled Lotus is another piece of fast mana which is only worth it in decks that rely on their commander and are in one or two colors. If a Gitrog player has it in their opening hand they might accelerate to an early win. Otherwise many cEDH decks, especially those in three or more colors simply are not interested. Jeweled Lotus is playable but it’s nothing new compared to the fast mana that already exists.
Similar themes apply. Jeweled Lotus is playable in decks where the primary game plan is to accelerate out their commander as soon as possible in 1 to 3 colors. Casual EDH is more forgiving on mana efficiency so a mana rock that produces two mana for a Korvold or Chulane is barely playable. Engine commanders will likely want a copy of Jeweled Lotus since their entire strategy is amplified with their commander in play. Thus, casting a general like Yarok two turns early is fine. Jeweled Lotus in these decks profiles as a similar effect to Lotus Petal, an artifact that is effectively a ritual.
Where I think it will really shine are decks like Jhoira, Weather Light Captain, Teshar, and Daretti.
The big time issue with Jeweled Lotus as a card is how its value diminishes if the commander has been cast. All the Christmas-land scenarios that were circulating assume that you have an opener with the Lotus in it. For example, let’s say our commander is Yarok and we’ve already cast Yarok and we draw our Jeweled Lotus a couple turns later. The lotus, for all its hype, is simply a dead draw. The three artifact-y commanders I mentioned sidestep the downside by the lotus having value even after our general is in play. It is a free cantrip for Jhoira, a way to recur a key creature for Teshar and sacrifice fodder for Daretti’s -2 ability. In all these cases the downsides of Jeweled Lotus are still there but it is an artifact and thus these commanders can make use of it if the fail-case happens.
Jeweled Lotus will also shine in voltron decks that have built-in protection, like Uril or Sigarda. It speeds up the lock and lessens the uphill battle voltron decks face by simply giving the table less time to mount enough resources to outpace them. The same theme’s are occurring over and over. If a deck wants its commander to be on the battlefield asap then Jeweled Lotus is a better Lotus Petal which is fine. If your commander can take advantage of the Lotus even after the commander’s been cast Jeweled Lotus goes from fine to great. If the entire game plan of your deck is to cast the commander as soon as possible again Jeweled Lotus is good in your opening hand but a dead draw at any other point in a game.
The Floor of Jeweled Lotus
I’ve touched on Jeweled Lotus’ floor a bit already but just for the sake of a full evaluation I’ll go into more detail in this space. The ceiling of this card is absolutely insane but it is balanced by the chasm that is the floor. If Jeweled Lotus is not in your opening hand it is a dead draw nine times out of ten. If your commander has already been cast then the lotus does next to nothing aside from adding to your storm count. Unless your commander cares about artifacts, Jeweled Lotus is a 0 drop with no text in this case. The hype was due to the visions of Black Lotus it evokes but the “can only cast your commander” clause is a serious restriction. Jeweled Lotus is not simply the commander version of a Black Lotus. It might help with recasting an expensive commander later in the game but nonetheless the floor is incredibly low.
Is Jeweled Lotus a Format-warping Monster?
No, not even close. However, I do foresee some issues that the Lotus brings to gameplay. It will increase the number of non-games, in that some games will be won because someone used a Jeweled Lotus to accelerate out their commander and won because of the fast start. This already happens, so it’s not a new issue per se but the recent printing of another piece of fast mana exacerbates an already existing problem.
With that being stated, are there any actions we as players can take?
There isn’t a complete answer to “feelsbad” games resulting from fast mana starts, Magic will be bound by luck just as any TCG will be from here until the end of time. However, the hubbub around Jeweled Lotus has provided the perfect excuse to add more removal to my decks. The “dies to removal” argument usually is a crutch that doesn’t hold water however, in this case adding more removal heightens the odds that an early commander will eat a removal spell which restores parity.
If the entire table is running a suite of six to nine removal spells, any hyper-aggressive starts will be mostly kept in check. Obviously, more removal existing in your deck doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have it. The fact remains that some games will simply unravel because the table simply didn’t have it, but it will lessen the amount of non-games that become more common because of Jeweled Lotus.
The same themes appear consistently when we take a look at Jeweled Lotus’ playability. It’s a high variance card that is a fantastic accelerant for commander-centric decks in the early game and awful in the late game. The ceiling is usually reason enough to justify a slot for it however, the floor is more of a pitfall. The accelerated starts will happen but any commander that shows up to the party a few turns too soon should be a prime removal target and as long as the table has a responsible amount of removal the aggressive starts should be held in check for the most part. The non-games are an issue but more interaction being present should at least mitigate the occurrence of non-games.