Just like the Modern format, this weekly column is subject to its occasional shake ups and breaks from the past. So in lieu of my weekly Modern deck review, and in the spirit of keeping things fresh, I decided to speak with a good friend of mine, and recent tournament winner, Ryan Donkin. And in another plot twist, this week’s article will be a tad shorter, as my interview with Ryan is linked below!
On Monday, Ryan won the Modern Super PTQ piloting Ad Nauseam. The event was 12 rounds and had roughly 260 players. And don’t worry, Ryan talks all about his deck choice, testing process, and experience at the event in the interview.
But before you listen, I want to walk you through Ryan’s deck and some interesting choices that he made for made for the tournament. The list he played to earn his second PT invite is below:
Ad Nauseam by GR_DONKIN – 1st at Modern Super Qualifier
4 Phyrexian Unlife
Now aside from wacky variants of the deck, like the Glittering Wish build which sees only fringe (and that’s generous) play online, Ad Nauseam lists have become rather stock. While that may sound boring, what it implies is that Ad Nauseam subscribes to the same mantra as now-filthy-rich toilet paper company Charmin: “Less is more”.
There are a few small choices that Ryan made in this list that I think helped him be victorious at the PTQ, and some of these choices he will talk about in more detail in the interview.
First is Ryan’s cantrip package. When I wrote about Ad Nauseam back in February, I was looking at William Moody’s second-place list from the SCG Philadelphia Modern Classic. Moody’s list was heavy with four-ofs, with the only main deck exceptions being 3 Pact of Negation and 1 Lightning Storm.
Ryan moved away from this in favor of similar, but more versatile redundancy in the deck. Ryan cut some Thassa’s Oracles and Pact of Negations to make room for the inclusion of Sleight of Hand — a move that I agree with.
Sleight of Hand is a powerful cantrip effect in Modern that lets Ad Nauseam continually bottom cards it doesn’t want to see and reach its combo more quickly. But also, in a deck with Lotus Bloom, Sleight of Hand is the best turn-one cantrip in the format.
The second choice I want to look at is Ryan’s decision to only play one main-deck copy of Pact of Negation. You will hear Ryan say this in the interview, and I think this should be law for any Ad Nauseam pilot — every list should run at least one Pact of Negation. The difference between 1 and 0 copies is astronomical.
I initially started to always keep one copy in to counter Deflecting Palm out of the board of RW Burn lists. But its utility extends far beyond what is already a strong matchup — the ability to find it off of Spoils of the Vault, essentially giving you 5 main-deck copies, is vital too. Definitely tune into the interview for more on the card’s uses!
But why 1 over any other number? The metagame, primarily. Aside from being a tight list as is, blue control decks have taken a step back in favor of the more aggressive Mono-Red, Jund, and Eldrazi strategies. As such, Pact of Negation is a bit worse in higher numbers in the main deck.
All in all, Ryan’s performance on Monday was a strong testament of his ability, and the potency of Ad Nauseam in Modern. Ryan’s performance also shed light on the state of various Modern decks, including the many Lurrus of the Dream Den lists that have been running the format, and which one might be best-positioned right now!
Listen to the interview to find out which variant Ryan is partial to, and for more on his streaming schedule and future content plans as well!