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Grinding Ad Nauseam at GP Charlotte *1st*


It’s been a while since I have last written a tournament report, but after having just won Grand Prix Charlotte with Ad Nauseam, I feel kind of obliged to share some of my thoughts on the deck, the event, and the Modern format.

I decided to go to GP Charlotte after having finished just outside the top 4 at Team GP Washington D.C. with Florian Koch and Marc Tobiasch as my teammates, drawing, respectively losing the last two rounds was rough, but the plan was still to try and get to Silver level in the Pro Players Club, and qualify for Pro Tour Sydney.

After having been Gold level and level 4/5 (under the old Pro Players Club system), I fell off the Pro Tour quite some time ago, and I have also had a history of simply not being able to make it to the elimination rounds at GPs, to such an extent that this was affectionately referred to as “the curse” by my friends, which manifested itself time and time again, and resulted in me having lost somewhere around 7 win-and-ins, just recently having the dubious honor of becoming the player with the most lifetime pro points without a Grand Prix or Pro Tour Top 8. I am glad I was finally able to break the curse and pass on that heavy crown.

Choosing a Deck

When you take a look at the current Modern format, you will notice a tremendous diversity (not too surprising after the format was dominated by the Eldrazi, and then shaken up by the bans/unbans), which is what makes me want to play a proactive and, if possible, “unfair” deck. In Modern, it seems much better to me to have my opponents be forced to react and adapt to what I am doing, and by that letting me dictate the pace of the game / define what matters when in a matchup/game. I would never play a deck like GW tokens, or a midrange deck with only a few disruptive elements that does not kill quickly. According to this theory, a deck that does something unfair, and for which people aren’t prepared, should be a great choice.

Based on these ideas, I was considering playing Storm, Infect, Ad Nauseam, or Lantern, eventually settling on Ad Nauseam (I do have a natural affinity for combo decks), since, while being a little slower than Storm, the decks currently being played can more easily interact with Storm, their removal kills Goblin Electromancer, Nahiri, the Harbinger removes Pyromancer Ascension (though it also gets Phyrexian Unlife), and you don’t have Pact of Negation to fight your opponent’s counterspells. Many of the hate cards in sideboards also work much better against a deck like Storm (it takes some splash damage from graveyard hate), whereas with Ad Nauseam, you can either maneuver around some of the hate, or it just does not work against the deck. Against a deck like Ad Nauseam it is also best if your deck is capable of interacting on the stack, and most decks are better equipped to interact on the battlefield. 

Infect and Lantern are just better known quantities, and I expected people to be prepared for these decks / know how to play against them. I still decided to bring the cards for Infect and make it my fallback option. But since I predicted Jeskai Harbinger to tick up in popularity, due to all the hype surrounding Nahiri, the Harbinger, I preferred to go with Ad Nauseam in the end. The Infect vs. Jeskai Harbinger matchup did not feel that spectacular from the Infect side of things, and my theory was that Infect (by far Ad Nauseam’s worst matchup) would be a little less popular, despite still being a great deck, or that the presence of Jeskai Harbinger would keep it away from the top tables. The results and metagame at the SCG Open and the Magic Online Championship seemed to confirm my theory.

Taking all these factors into account, it looked to me like Ad Nauseam should have lots of even to slightly favorable matchups across the board, with there being only a few really bad matchups, but that is a risk I am willing to take in a format as diverse as Modern.

When the time came to decide on a build of Ad Nauseam, I had the luxury of being friends with the real Ad Nauseam master, Dominik Görtzen (Pro Tour San Diego Champion Simon Görtzen’s brother). Dominik was originally convinced by Carsten Linde to give the deck a try, and he then practiced for weeks in preparation for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Together with Daniel Gräfensteiner, he perfected the list that Daniel piloted to a 7-3 finish at the Pro Tour, and then ran it again at the Magic Online Championship.

Dominik was kind enough to take the time to patiently explain the intricacies of his list and the sideboarding plans.

So despite what the GP coverage might make you believe, I don’t think I am the “doyen of Ad Nauseam” at all. I wasn’t completely new to the deck either, having played it back in the days at the Extended Pro Tour in Amsterdam, when the deck was still running Ponder, Preordain, Mystical Teachings, and Coalition Relic, and did not have access to Phyrexian Unlife.

The basic deck concept hasn’t really changed over the years, and I did test new builds before various Modern tournaments in the past.

Here is the list I ended up running at the GP:

Ad Nauseam by Andreas Ganz GP Charlotte 2016 1st

Your rating: None
Average: 5 (1 vote)

I want to point out that the list published on the mothership has 62 cards in the maindeck, this is a typo and not me being on a completely different level (there should be only 2 copies of Temple of Enlightenment). People might think the additional lands are needed for Lightning Storm, which could be sort of an explanation, but I am not that lucky to get away with running 62 cards in Ad Nauseam. So hopefully we won't be seeing many more 62 card lists on MTGO or anywhere else.

How the Deck Works

Since many of my opponents at the GP seemed to be unfamiliar with how the deck operates, and there wasn’t a whole lot of literature available on the deck before the event (apart from the extensive MTG Salvation primer), I would like to quickly cover the basics.

At its heart, Ad Nauseam is a two card combo deck. Your goal is to resolve the namesake card, after having either played Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife. This combination allows you to go to a negative life total and put your entire deck into your hand. At this point, you will have multiple Pact of Negations in hand for protection, and you will be able to win the game by exiling 3 Simian Spirit Guides to get the mana needed to cast Lightning Storm, discarding enough lands to kill your opponent, while still having some lands left in hand, to foil any attempts of your opponent trying to redirect the Lightning Storm back at you. Alternatively, you can win with Laboratory Maniac, though this kill requires one additional untapped land, allowing you to cast Pentad Prism for two counters, cast Laboratory Maniac, and follow it up with Serum Visions, providing you with a way to win against an opponent on 2 billion life.

Now the tricky part is that casting Angel's Grace and Ad Nauseam on the same turn is going to cost you a total of 6 mana, this means you will need some sort of acceleration (killing on turn 6 in Modern is not acceptable), and that means you are running more of a three card combo than a two card combo. That's where Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism step in to provide the needed acceleration.

All of this is topped off with cards that help you either find your combo pieces (Sleight of Hand, Serum Visions, Spoils of the Vault), or let you protect the combo (Pact of Negation).

Card Choices

There are a couple of interesting card choices in the list, and I would like to discuss the most questionable ones.

Spoils of the Vault
Mirrodin (Foil)

Spoils of the Vault

Spoils of the Vault is, without a doubt, the most questionable card in the list. There is always the risk of losing the game on the spot when casting Spoils, either by exiling all your win conditions (like I did in the semifinals), by exiling too many Simian Spirit Guides when you are short on mana (like I did in round 15), or by simply killing yourself when you need to find Angel's Grace / Phyrexian Unlife (like I did in round 13).

Despite all these obvious downsides, I still think Spoils of the Vault improves the consistency of the deck enough that it is worth the risk. There are lists that run Mystical Teachings / Anticipate in these slots, and while that can be fine too, it just seems too clunky for my taste.

Laboratory Maniac

When running a list with Spoils of the Vault, you will need to play two win conditions anyway, and in that case, I think it is just better to go for the versatility that Laboratory Maniac offers, giving you a way to beat infinite life, and sometimes even getting the “natural” Laboratory Maniac kill.

Number of Phyrexian Unlife

There are a couple of lists that have only 3 Phyrexian Unlife main deck, and Dominik suggested moving a Phyrexian Unlife to the sideboard, since it didn’t seem to be that well-positioned anymore. I still decided to go with 4 copies main deck, since I really liked the consistency you get from having 8 of the “you can’t lose the game” effects, and it can sometimes be desirable to draw multiple copies of the card.

No Patrician's Scorn / Echoing Truth in the sideboard

There are many lists that have a few cards, such as Echoing Truth and Patrician's Scorn, in the sideboard to deal with problematic permanents. I do think that when you have access to the Laboratory Maniac kill, most of these sideboard cards are not really needed, since you will be able to play around many of the hate cards they are meant to deal with. Alternatively, Slaughter Pact can play the role of Echoing Truth against things such as Gaddock Teeg, or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

3 Spellskite / 0 Fogs

Some Ad nauseam lists run an assortment of fog effects, such as Darkness/Holy Day/Ethereal Haze, in order to try and shore up the Infect matchup. While these cards are pretty good against Infect, I believe the matchup to be bad enough that I would rather have Spellskite, since you can bring it in against Burn too.

Tolaria West

Daniel’s list from the MOCS had a Tolaria West in the sideboard, but Dominik and I decided it was too clunky.

Tips and Tricks

I don’t think Ad Nauseam is that difficult of a deck to play compared to other Modern decks, since your gameplan is clearly defined and doesn’t really change much over the course of a game. However, it can become quite challenging as soon as your opponent starts interacting and things don’t go according to plan.

Most of your difficult decisions come when trying to sequence scry lands and cantrips correctly, deciding on when to go for the combo against a control deck, and maneuvering around multiple pieces of disruption. It’s also important to plan a couple of turns ahead, think about your mana usage, and figure out how you can buy the most time in any given matchup by optimally applying your Phyrexian Unlife, Angel's Grace, and Pact of Negation.

So here are a few tips and tricks on how to get the most out of the deck:

(some of these might be quite obvious if you have already played the deck, while others might be more obscure)

Laboratory Maniac
Innistrad (Foil)

  • There is a “natural Laboratory Maniac kill” available, if you get a Laboratory Maniac on the table, you can then play Angel's Grace in your upkeep, and follow that up with Spoils of the Vault naming one of the following three cards depending on your mood: “Thrun, the Last Troll” (or any other Modern legal Troll of your choice), “Dash Hopes”, or “Gilded Lotus” (in this case quickly following it up with a “Oh no, I meant to say Lotus Bloom!”, actually, it’s probably better not to do that.)
    You just have to be careful about your opponent having an instant speed removal spell for your Laboratory Maniac (especially Abrupt Decay), or make sure you have Pact of Negation backup.
    If you happen to have access to 6 mana total and a Serum Visions, you can execute this kill in a single turn.

  • You can get the rare turn three kill with the deck, if you happen to draw a Pentad Prism, Angel's Grace, Ad Nauseam, Simian Spirit Guide and the necessary lands to cast your spells.

  • Running Pentad Prism out on turn two is usually a fine play, and, depending on the contents of your hand, gives you the chance of getting the above-mentioned turn three kill.

  • Against decks with Flickerwisp, you would rather hold your Pentad Prism until the last possible moment, to reduce the chance of Pentad Prism getting blinked.

  • Cantrip and scry land sequencing is important, can vary from matchup to matchup, and also depends a lot on the game state. Against decks with hand disruption, you sometimes want to hold on to your library manipulation in order to find the missing combo piece either on the turn you go off, or the turn before, giving your opponent as small of a window to disrupt you as possible. This means that when you know what matchup you are facing, playing your cantrips on turn 3 can often be the right thing to do. If you already have a Lotus Bloom in your opening hand, you will often want to play a scry land on turn one instead of a cantrip, otherwise I recommend to go digging for Lotus Bloom, though this can change if you are already holding a Pentad Prism to play on turn two or turn three.

  • Don’t forget that it can sometimes be correct to go for a value Ad Nauseam, most of the time at the end of your opponent’s turn, sometimes even during your main phase, while you are still at a high life total, but otherwise low on action or cantrips to find the missing combo piece.

  • If you are desperately trying to survive, you will want to make sure to use up your Angel's Graces before Phyrexian Unlife, since once you are at a negative life total, Angel's Grace will stop working.

  • Make sure you don’t lose to your Pact triggers (it is fine to put some object on top of your library to prevent you from drawing a card on your turn), either by paying for them, or by casting Angel's Grace. I once managed to lose a game to my own Summoner's Pact a couple of years ago, but luckily avoided an equally awkward moment this time around.

  • It can often be correct to use Spoils of the Vault to draw a card you just scryed to the top of your library, sometimes even just a land.

The Tournament

I am not going to do a round by round report, instead I am going to focus on the most interesting situations that occurred at the GP, and then provide some general matchup and sideboarding advice. My deck choice seemed quite fitting, considering how day 1 unfolded, with all the delays and technical difficulties causing us to finish at close to midnight, and making the whole tournament experience quite a grueling and exhausting affair. It was also the first time I faced someone at 2-3 when I was 5-0.

Despite all this, I do think SCG really made the best of a bad situation that they were not directly responsible for, they just need to work on their announcements, since announcing that “the tournament will continue within a reasonable time frame” isn’t of much help, especially when said time frame turns out the be completely unreasonable. :) 

Here are the matchups I faced in the event in no particular order:

3 Affinity

3 Boros Burn (1 loss)

2 Melira CoCo

1 Jund (loss)

1 Bant Eldrazi

1 GR Eldrazi

1 UR Blood Moon / Thing in the Ice

1 Jeskai Harbinger

1 Scapeshift

1 Kiki Chord

1 Naya Midrange

As you can see, I was quite lucky to dodge Infect completely, and then got favorable matchups throughout the Top 8, so that it didn’t hurt me as much as it normally would when coming in as 8th seed, and being on the draw for all three matches.

Interesting Situations

There was a recurring theme throughout the event, that my opponents wouldn’t know how the deck or some individual cards worked, this resulted in quite a few suboptimal plays, due to the unfamiliarity of my opponents with the deck. It went as far as one player asking me if I was able to beat infinite life, when they had just seen my whole deck in game one, including Laboratory Maniac.

So here are some of the best, funniest, and most interesting situations that transpired during the 18 rounds, including some of my own embarassing misplays:

(I want to point out that I list questionable plays made by my opponents not to ridicule them, but rather to show what cards / interactions people were not familiar with, and to encourage everyone to always call for a judge to clarify when you are unsure about a certain card/interaction.)

  • I started the tournament off strong by misplaying horribly against RG Eldrazi. My opponent cast a Thought-Knot Seer, which I countered with Pact of Negation, he then cast Ancient Stirrings as his last card in hand, and with one untapped red mana. I was holding a second Pact of Negation, but felt like there wasn’t anything he could possibly do for one red, and even if, I was going to just counter that.
    As it turns out, you can’t counter a Ghost Quarter.
    Ghost Quarter was pretty problematic, the turn before I had just scryed the missing combo piece to the top of my library, and I needed all my lands, to have exactly enough mana to execute the combo. This put me in an awkward spot of either not having enough mana for the combo, or not having all the pieces, should my library get shuffled.
    Luckily, my opponent decided to wait until my upkeep to use his Ghost Quarter, and I was able to tap my land for mana to cast Angel's Grace.

  • The card that caused the most confusion and judge calls was definitely Phyrexian Unlife. If you take a lot of combat damage while at a positive life total, you will go to a negative life total and not take any infect damage, as combat damage is being dealt simultaneously as one big instance of damage, unless creatures with first strike are involved.
    This interaction became the downfall of one of my Affinity opponents. While I was at 5 poison, my opponent attacked with a 4/4 Inkmoth Nexus and enough regular combat damage to put me well below 0 life, he still had an active Blinkmoth Nexus and Steel Overseer, but then decided to pass priority and have combat damage be dealt, assuming some of the damage would be dealt as infect. Unfortunately for my opponent, this put me at 9 poison counters and negative X life.

  • One of my other Affinity opponents almost got me with a maindeck Stubborn Denial. I was expecting him to be holding Galvanic Blast, when I went for my combo and put Ad Nauseam on the stack, he thought for some time, and then let it resolve. He slumped a bit in his chair, as I flipped over my deck and he caught a glimpse of the three Pact of Negations. After the match my opponent informed me that he was holding Stubborn Denial, and I have to assume he just wanted to take a look at my deck, and then counter the Lightning Storm.

  • When you are facing Ad Nauseam as the control player, it is quite often correct to focus on only countering Ad Nauseam (the most expensive spell) and none of the other cards.
    There was a situation where my UR Blood Moon opponent remanded a Phyrexian Unlife, now this can be a fine play if the Ad Nauseam deck is low on mana and can’t recast Phyrexian Unlife. But in that specific situation, I was simply able to recast Phyrexian Unlife, and then cast Ad Nauseam with Pact of Negation backup on the same turn. Had my opponent instead thrown both his counterspells at Ad Nauseam, I would have used up all my resources and would not have been able to recast Ad Nauseam (or be forced to throw Pact of Negation at Remand).

  • I again misplayed badly in game 2 of the match I lost to Jund. I had to discard down to hand size while on 8 life, and eventually decided on discarding 2 copies of Leyline of Sanctity, fully aware that this would grow my opponent’s Tarmogoyf and give him 7 damage on the board, but realizing too late that if my opponent was holding a creature and a discard spell, he could grow Tarmogoyf by one more point. This forced me to Pact of Negation the Inquisition of Kozilek my opponent targeted himself with, and left me close to 0 outs to win the game on my turn.

  • One of my opponents attacked for lethal damage, and I had to play an Angel's Grace, putting me to one life. My opponent then Lightning Bolted me in his second mainphase, thinking I would end up at negative 2, probably either assuming the Angel's Grace effect would wear off after combat, or confusing Angel's Grace with Phyrexian Unlife.

  • When I lost to Burn, my opponent had Eidolon of the Great Revel out, while I was on three life. I cast Phyrexian Unlife and my opponent responded with Lightning Helix (not acknowledging the Eidolon trigger in any way) , which I countered with Pact of Negation. My opponent triggered his Eidolon for the Pact of Negation, and after a short break, informed me that he also wanted to trigger the Eidolon for my Phyrexian Unlife.
    Since the stack had not yet resolved, it was ruled that this was fine, and while I understand the ruling, it still didn’t feel great in that situation.

  • Just before the semis started, there was a problem with the top 4 brackets, again caused by the tournament software. Somehow players / brackets got switched (were not printed correctly) and I almost started playing the wrong opponent.
    Though I was told by some friends that this was a known and frequently occurring issue, the judges in the feature match area didn’t not seem to be aware of this at first.

Matchups and Sideboarding

A general rule of thumb when sideboarding with the deck is: less is often more. If you are in doubt about how to sideboard in any given matchup, I suggest you sideboard as lightly as possible, since the main deck is already really tight, you just run into the risk of making the deck worse overall by sideboarding too heavily. By any means, if there is a card you know your opponent will have access to post-board, and that you need to have a solution for, then make sure to bring in as many answers as you have. With Ad Nauseam it is also much more difficult to decide on what cards to take out than what cards to bring in.

First of all, here are some of the cards that can be considered cuttable in general:

1-2 Pentad Prism vs. grindy matchups / especially if you expect them to have access to Stony Silence post-board

2 Pact of Negation

1-4 Phyrexian Unlife

3 Spoils of the Vault

1 win condition (usually Laboratory Maniac)

1 Sleight of Hand (vs. fast decks)

1-2 lands (Gemstone Mine vs. slower matchups / if you bring in Boseiju, who Shelters All)

Here are the most important matchups, some tips on how I would approach them, and how I would sideboard:

Jeskai Harbinger

I feel like this matchup is pretty favorable. They have to respect your ability to win at instant speed. As soon as you have access to 6 mana, they basically can’t afford to tap out anymore, and even if they keep up counterspells, you can still go off with Pact of Negation backup, or have Angel's Grace and Boseiju, who Shelters All post-board. I think the easiest way how to lose this matchup is by missing landdrops, and thus giving them the luxury of tapping out on their turn. If they can resolve a Nahiri, the Harbinger , while not having to fear you going off, then that’s a problem. Post board their best cards are Vendilion Clique and Stony Silence, since they will need a clock in addition to a lot of counterspells.

In: 1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All, 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Pact of Negation

Out: 1 Gemstone Mine, 3 Phyrexian Unlife

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Negate, Stony Silence, Dispel


The Affinity matchup is all about Inkmoth Nexus and Phyrexian Unlife. Phyrexian Unlife and Angel's Grace allow you to buy a lot of time, sometimes even giving you the luxury of not having to win on turn 4 against them, but only if they don’t have an Inkmoth Nexus plus Cranial Plating / Arcbound Ravager.

In: 3 Hurkyl's Recall, 1 Slaughter Pact

Out: 1 Sleight of Hand, 3 Pact of Negation

The sideboarding plan I discussed with Dominik did not involve bringing in Slaughter Pact, but during the tournament I changed my mind and started bringing it in, mainly as a way to fight a big Inkmoth Nexus.

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Stubborn Denial, Ethersworn Canonist, Thoughtseize, Spell Pierce


This is by far your worst matchup and close to unwinnable, since the Infect deck can simply win through Angel's Grace and Phyrexian Unlife, while also being a much faster deck in general.

Post-board your chances improve slightly, thanks to having access to three copies of Spellskite. You should mulligan any hand that can’t reasonably win by turn four, while preferably also having some disruptive element(s) to prevent them from killing you on their turn three.

In: 1 Slaughter Pact, 3 Spellskite, 2 Thoughtseize

Out: 4 Phyrexian Unlife, 2 Sleight of Hand

It’s possible you also want to bring in the fourth Pact of Negation.

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Dispel, Spell Pierce

Melira CoCo

Having them gain infinite life doesn’t really matter at all, since you will still be able to win the game with Laboratory Maniac. It only becomes problematic if you give them enough time to assemble the Murderous Redcap kill. If they make their creatures really big with Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit you can still buy some extra turns with Angel's Grace and Phyrexian Unlife (preferably multiples to not lose to Qasali Pridemage)

In: 1 Slaughter Pact

Out: 1 Phyrexian Unlife

You need to be mindful of Abrupt Decay destroying your Phyrexian Unlife, and Burrenton Forge-Tender preventing the damage from Lightning Storm. This only really matters if you go for Ad Nauseam with only just enough Simian Spirit Guides left in your deck, no extra mana available, and them casting Chord of Calling (Collected Company) for Burrenton Forge-Tender in response to your Ad Nauseam, or if you have boarded out all copies of Pact of Negation (because otherwise you will be able to Pact of Negation their Chord of Calling)

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding:  Abrupt Decay, Burrenton Forge-Tender, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Stony Silence, Qasali Pridemage, Sin Collector, Tidehollow Sculler


I have heard people say this is an unfavorable matchup for Ad Nauseam, but, while Jund is always an annoying deck to play against, I do believe it to be slightly favorable for Ad Nauseam, especially if you hit your Leyline of Sanctity post-board. Again, you have to be wary of Abrupt Decay destroying your Phyrexian Unlife at an inopportune moment.

Here’s how I sideboarded during the swiss rounds:

In: 4 Leyline of Sanctity

Out: 2 Pact of Negation, 2 Phyrexian Unlife

After sideboard you want to avoid having two Leyline of Sanctity in play at the same time. Mainly because of Maelstrom Pulse, and also to use additional copies as fodder for Liliana of the Veil.

Had I faced Jund in the top 8, I would have sideboarded differently, based on a lengthy discussion with some of my friends before the top 8. Depending on the number of Maelstrom Pulses / Abrupt Decays your opponent has access to, I would leave in all copies of Phyrexian Unlife, since getting two into play can be fine if they don’t have Maelstrom Pulse, and I would have taken out all copies of Pact of Negation and 1 Pentad Prism.

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Slaughter Games

GR Tron

This matchup is so favorable that you don’t want to take the risk of losing to your own Spoils of the Vault.

In: 2 Thoughtseize, 1 Pact of Negation
Out: 3 Spoils of the Vault

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Nature's Claim, Chalice of the Void

Naya / Boros Burn
Being on the play and drawing Phyrexian Unlife helps tremendously in this matchup. The burn deck has a hard time beating Phyrexian Unlife pre-board.

In: 3 Spellskite, 4 Leyline of Sanctity (3 if they are running a list with Wild Nacatl)

Out: 1 Sleight of Hand, 2 Pact of Negation, 3 Spoils of the Vault, 1 Laboratory Maniac


This is similar to Boros Burn, but Leyline of Sanctity just doesn’t do enough.

In: 3 Spellskite

Out: 1 Sleight of Hand, 2 Pact of Negation 


While I haven’t faced Merfolk at the GP, I expect this matchup to be really favorable. They have almost no relevant disruption, Cursecatcher can be mildly annoying, but that’s about it.

They will have a hard time killing you in time through Phyrexian Unlife / Angel's Grace.

You have to be careful if the Merfolk player has Kira, Great Glass-Spinner on the battlefield, as you  can’t go for the Lightning Storm kill. Since, if they are holding a land, they will be able to redirect Lightning Storm to Kira, this will result in your win condition getting countered, even if you discard more lands to change the target again.

In: Nothing

Out: Nothing

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Dispel, Negate

Death's Shadow Aggro

Angel's Grace and Phyrexian Unlife should be pretty good against them, but they do have a fast clock and some disruption, I imagine they can disrupt you just a little to buy enough time to win with a double striking Death's Shadow.

In: 2 Thoughtseize

Out: 1 Sleight of Hand, 1 Pact of Negation

Cards to be aware of, especially after sideboarding: Natural State, Stony Silence, Inquisition of Kozilek


This is a highly favorable matchup pre-board, as they can’t really win through Angel's Grace. My opponent in the quarterfinals had Chalice of the Void in the sideboard, and I was not sure how to sideboard against it, but if you do know they have access to Chalice, I believe you need to bring in some copies of Hurkyl's Recall.

In: 1 Pact of Negation, 1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All, 2 Thoughtseize

Out: 4 Lotus Bloom

Wild Pair Land Destruction Combo
This is a matchup that won’t be relevant at all in any competitive event, but I decided to include it for the sake of completeness.  It is a pet deck of a friend of mine, who decided to play it at the GP just for the fun of it.

During our two byes, he decided he wanted to play a few games against the Ad Nauseam deck, and all I can say is that the matchup seems to be heavily favorable, especially if you draw your Lotus Bloom.

Wild Pair Land Destruction Combo by Anonymous

(Disclaimer: This list is only recommended for people who enjoy being mana flooded.)

In: Nothing

Out: Nothing

Fighting the Hate

There are only a few cards you really can’t beat when they resolve, or win without removing them, such as Slaughter Games or Gaddock Teeg (even against Slaughter Games on Ad Nauseam you still have an outside shot at winning with the natural Laboratory Maniac kill)

There are ways to win against most of the other hate cards people tend to bring in. Here is how you can navigate around some of these cards after sideboard:

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

You can play a Pentad Prism with three charge counters thanks to Thalia, thus making it easier to get around Thalia making your spells more expensive on subsequent turns.

There is also the option of going off over two turns with Phyrexian Unlife. Just play Ad Nauseam at the end of their turn, and then Lightning Storm on your turn.

Ethersworn Canonist / Eidolon of Rhetoric / Rule of Law

Again, you can go off over two turns, by playing Phyrexian Unlife on your turn, Ad Nauseam on their turn, and then killing them on your next turn.

If they also have a piece of instant speed disruption that won’t work, since you won’t be able to Pact of Negation.

Leyline of Sanctity / Burrenton Forge-Tender

You can beat these cards by going for the Laboratory Maniac kill.

Pros and Cons

For anyone thinking about picking up the deck, here are a few things you might want to consider that either speak for the deck, or make it a suboptimal choice.


-Ad Nauseam is a turn 4 deck, so if your local metagame has a lot of decks that are capable of winning on turn 3, and are not vulnerable to Phyrexian Unlife (Infect, Emrakul Through the Breach, possibly Death's Shadow Aggro), you might want to reconsider your choice.

-Any other deck that can win on turn three can be problematic, such as Affinity and Burn, luckily, against some of these decks you can use Pact of Negation, Angel's Grace, or Phyrexian Unlife to buy a turn when on the play. When on the draw, things become more problematic, and there is not much you can do against their nut draw. Though in some matchups, having an Angel's Grace can be enough, or Angel's Grace into a turn three Phyrexian Unlife.

-While the deck was under the radar before the event, I would expect people to be more prepared now, so expect your opponents to have a plan against you.


-The deck has many favorable matchups across the board, and since it is capable of killing at instant speed, it can be a nightmare for a control deck to play against Ad Nauseam.

-The deck does have a pretty consistent turn 4 kill, and often even has a Pact of Negation as backup or can prevent an aggressive deck from winning on their turn 4.

-Despite being on people’s radars now, Ad Nauseam is not as easy to hate out as it might seem. Other combo decks, such as storm, or graveyard based combo decks, are much more susceptible to hate, while Ad Nauseam dodges a lot of the hate.

The Future of Ad Nauseam / Updating the Deck

Monastery Mentor
Fate Reforged (Foil)
 I feel like Ad Nauseam is still criminally underplayed, as the deck is extremely powerful, one of the best combo decks in Modern, and it should still be relatively well-positioned, as it is not as easy to hate out as the other combo decks, you will just get fewer free wins now. All in all, I would still recommend the deck moving forward.

As for possible updates, I have already mentioned that the main deck is really tight, and I don’t think there is a whole lot that can be changed, though there are some spells and lands up for debate. You could add some storage lands for example, and the number of scry lands is something that needs to be discussed. At this point, Dominik is leaning towards running the full 8 scry lands in the deck, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for doing that, since scry is quite powerful in a combo deck that doesn’t get shuffled. 

There is, however, one card we came up with during the GP that I really want to try in the sideboard, that card is Monastery Mentor.

The idea was to use Mentor to improve some of the grindier matchups, and to protect it with Pact of Negation. Unfortunately, many of these decks will have access to Abrupt Decay (Lightning Bolt) anyway, meaning Monastery Mentor is still going to bite the dust quite often.

On the other hand, it is one more card they have to deal with, and that fact alone might make it good enough. In case you get a chance to try Monastery Mentor, let me know in the comments how it worked for you.

Also, feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions regarding the deck, if you have some advice on matchups, or if you would sideboard differently.

I am sure there is still a lot to learn for me about Ad Nauseam.


About Andreas Ganz

Andreas Ganz
Andreas Ganz

Andreas is a Swiss Magic player, who has been playing Magic since 1995, and began playing tournaments in 2002. He's intrigued by the competition that comes with high level tournament play. Some of his "magical accomplishments" include:

  • 135 lifetime Pro Points
  • Pro Players Club Silver level
  • Winner GP Charlotte 2016
  • Top 8 Team GP Washington D.C. 2016
  • Top 16 GP Vienna 2013
  • Top 16 GP Brisbane 2011
  • National Champion 2010
  • Top 4 Teams Worlds 2010
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