I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking for a good excuse to write about Ad Nauseam in Modern. The deck puts up the occasional 5-0 finish on MTGO, but for the most part, Ad Nauseam has existed on the fringes of Modern’s metagame. So when William Moody secured a second-place finish at the SCG Philadelphia Modern Classic, I had to take advantage of the opportunity. Here is the list Moody played in Philly:
Ad Nauseam by William Moody, 2nd at SCG Philadelphia
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Thassa’s Oracle
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Pentad Prism
4 Phyrexian Unlife
4 Ad Nauseam
4 Angel’s Grace
1 Lightning Storm
3 Pact of Negation
4 Spoils of the Vault
4 Serum Visions
4 City of Brass
3 Darkslick Shores
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Seachrome Coast
2 Temple of Deceit
2 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
4 Leyline of Sanctity
1 Echoing Truth
1 Fatal Push
2 Path to Exile
3 Veil of Summer
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
First for some context. I started playing Ad Nauseam in Modern around Pro Tour Born of the Gods in 2014, when Jared Boettcher and Bryan Gottlieb piloted the deck to strong finishes.
There have been some significant changes to the deck in the interim five years, including the the inclusion of Spoils of the Vault to the deck, as well as the shift away from fetchlands to fast lands. That being said, the core pieces of the deck have remained largely the same for a while.
One of the parts of Boettcher and Gottlieb’s Ad Nauseam list that remained constant for arguably the longest period of time was the deck’s win condition: Lightning Storm.
Originally, Ad Nauseam played Conflagrate in Lightning Storm’s place. Once it was discovered that Lightning Storm allowed the deck to win at instant speed, players shifted over to the new list. Then, players started to keep Lightning Storm in the deck and play one copy of Laboratory Maniac in the mainboard as a second win condition. One Lightning Storm as the deck’s sole win condition made the deck too fragile. This was made painfully clear in Boettcher and Gottleib’s Ad Nauseam lists from Pro Tour Born of the Gods, as both ran one copy of Conjurer’s Bauble in their main deck.
Then last Spring, when Jace, Wielder of Mysteries was released in War of the Spark, lists began playing the new Planeswalker in favor of Laboratory Maniac. It was a useful card outside of its function as a win condition, and it allowed Ad Nauseam to win with less mana, as it could be cast the turn before the combo and then simply uptick to win the next turn, as opposed to casting Laboratory Maniac and a draw spell to win the game.
Now, with Theros Beyond Death legal in Modern, Ad Nauseam players have a new win condition, and it might be the best one yet: Thassa’s Oracle.
While lists have tested varying amounts of the Merfolk Wizard, Moody’s four seem correct to me. Instead of playing the rather common four copies of Sleight of Hand, Moody has gone all in on the Oracle both as a win condition and a card selection spell.
Thassa’s Oracle serves a number of functions in Ad Nauseam, all of which help the deck’s game plan over the course of a game. First, Thassa’s Oracle can block, which has become increasingly important in a format that is home to the very potent Mono-Red Prowess.
Second, as mentioned earlier, Thassa’s Oracle effectively reads “Scry 2” in this deck, which is at least on par with Sleight of Hand considering it’s other utilities.
And finally, Thassa’s Oracle is a win condition. The ability for Ad Nauseam to now play 4 copies of its win condition because it isn’t a dead card earlier in the game is very exciting and also a powerful option for the deck. With such a linear strategy, card efficiency is critical, and Thassa’s Oracle is one of the most efficient cards in the deck.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention one more piece of innovation in Moody’s Ad Nauseam list, the one copy of Sphinx of the Final Word in Moody’s sideboard. Ad Nauseam lists have been known to run one or two creatures in the sideboard that can give the deck another angle of attack in post-board games. In the past Grave Titan, Godhead of Awe (for the Death’s Shadow matchup), Dragonlord Dromoka, and other cards have been tested. Sphinx of the Final Word, however, is definitely one of the more fringe inclusions in recent memory.
A 5/5 flying hexproof creature that can’t be countered seems great in a lot of matchups, even in spite of its hefty converted mana cost. The card also has text which allows you to combo off without worrying about opposing counter magic, which is a very powerful tool for the deck. Obviously this card isn’t an auto-inclusion is most matchups, but against Control decks, Urza variants, and the mirror, the card seems exceptionally strong.
So it’s clear that Ad Nauseam has improved over the years — it has become more explosive and more powerful as the pool of cards available to it has grown over time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Modern metagame is any more favorable to the two-card combo. Luckily, for any fans of Ad nauseam in Modern, I think the format is ripe for Ad Nauseam to put up strong finishes as we move towards Modern season. First we have to address the Titan in the room. As I mentioned in my last article, it’s clear that Amulet Titan is the best deck in Modern. The deck placed 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th in this weekend’s SCG Philadelphia Team Constructed Open and has been showing up in large numbers online as well.
The only interaction that Amulet Titan has in game one for Ad Nauseam, however, is typically one copy of Engineered Explosives. And without copies of Trinket Mage in the deck these days, and the card not being fetchable with Once Upon a Time, it is not of much concern.
Post-board the deck has a number of tools to interact with Ad Nauseam, namely Force of Vigor, Mystical Dispute, Reclamation Sage, and Beast Within. But most of these tricks are not difficult to play around for an experienced Ad Nauseam pilot, and with these pieces of interaction slowing down the Amulet Titan deck, Ad Nauseam is able to build inevitability in the long-game.
Veil of Summer, Path to Exile, and Thoughtseize are all powerful tools available to Ad Nauseam in post-board games, and do well to counter Amulet Titan’s post-board plan as well.
So Ad Nauseam has a good matchup against the best deck in the format…what else does it have going for it? While it’s not new, the existence of the London Mulligan is a big boon for Ad Nauseam.
Not only does it make finding its critical sideboard pieces much easier than it was prior to the introduction of the rule, but it also makes finding your combo significantly easier, as it only consists of two cards. With an already streamlined and effective deck, having this mulligan rule as additional help has made the deck much more consistent.
But while Ad Nauseam has good matchups against some of the top decks in Modern, namely Mono-Red Prowess, Amulet Titan, and Tron, there are decks in the format that will surely cause the deck trouble. Death’s Shadow and Eldrazi variants can be very tough for Ad Nauseam to beat — they feature incredibly efficient disruption on top of a fast clock that is a tough combination for Ad Nauseam to overcome. If these decks continue to perform well, Ad Nauseam’s sideboard may have to undergo material changes in order to make the deck better positioned in the format.
So as we head towards the Modern season in 2020, I would recommend testing Ad Nauseam. The deck is relatively easy to pick up, and with practice, the more intricate play patterns of the deck can become like second-nature. With a skilled pilot at the right event, Ad Nauseam is definitely well-positioned enough to take down a big tournament in the near future.
Professor Jonah Gaynor is speaking with the parents of the Theros Beyond Death Gods, and it looks like someone is in trouble! Is Purphoros’ report card really that bad, or can he still pick up his grades before the end of the format?