Ad Nauseam in Modern by Alex Walker

ad nauseam

Ad Nauseam in Modern by Alex Walker

I don’t like playing fair. Things that I do like to do include drawing lots of cards, playing cards that your opponents have to read, and winning on turn four. Fortunately, Ad Nauseam does all these things.

The goal is to cast draw your entire deck, lose 60 or more life, discard all lands from your hand to put charge counters on an instant that deals damage for every charge counter it carries, then zap! Win on the spot.

Simple enough, but how do you go about doing this as fast as possible and not losing until then? Let’s take a look at a decklist first.


Ad Nauseam by Alex Walker

Simian Spirit Guide
Ad Nauseam
Angel’s Grace
Lightning Storm
Spoils of the Vault
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Pact of Negation
Lotus Bloom
Pentad Prism
Phyrexian Unlife
Gemstone Mine
Dreadship Reef
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Deceit
Darkslick Shores
Seachrome Coast


Leyline of Sanctity
Echoing Truth
Patrician’s Scorn
Laboratory Maniac
Slaughter Pact
Esper Charm
Hurkyl’s Recall


The deck breaks down into

a few sections, so we’ll go through them all separately. First off, we’ll talk about the combo itself, which I quickly explained earlier.


Ad Nauseam (0)

Angel’s Grace (0)

Phyrexian Unlife (0)

Lightning Storm (0)

These are the cards to win the game.

Casting Angel’s Grace means you cannot lose the game this turn, no matter what. Once this resolves (which it should do thanks to split second), you then cast Ad Nauseam. Thanks to Angel’s Grace, the life lost from Ad Nauseam doesn’t matter, so you can repeat it until you have your whole deck in your hand. Phyrexian Unlife works in a similar way, as you don’t lose the game for going below zero life. Since Ad Nauseam doesn’t deal you damage (it’s written as “life loss”), you don’t take infect damage, and again you can draw all the cards.

Now you have your deck in your hands, so exiling three Simian Spirit Guides gives you the mana to cast Lightning Storm, the deck’s kill card. You’re playing four Simian Spirit Guides instead of three for a couple of reasons: it’s a small protection against discard, you can use the fourth Guide to combo off sooner, and in the mirror, you can cast it and beatdown. Seriously, that’s how you have to win that matchup.

Lightning Storm is a weird card from a weird set (Coldsnap). If you hold priority when you cast it, you can discard however many lands you need to rack up enough charge counters (it deals X damage, where X is the number of charge counters plus three; discarding a land adds two charge counters). When it resolves, you hit your opponent for enough damage to win.

Fast Mana:

Lotus Bloom (0)

Pentad Prism (0)

Simian Spirit Guide (0)

You’re aiming to be able to combo off on turn four. Ad Nauseam/Angel’s Grace need a total of six mana, so you need to ramp into that. An early suspended Lotus Bloom is usually enough as long as you hit your land drops. Pentad Prism allows you to go from two mana on turn two to four mana on turn three. Both of these also help with getting double black for Ad Nauseam’s casting cost. I’ve won games without playing a land by double suspending Lotus Bloom on turn one, and going off when they come into play in the same turn.

Kolaghan’s Command seeing play has been quite an issue, as it’s able to blow up a mana rock and cause you to discard: two things you don’t want to happen. There is a way to play around it. Discarding cards of your own choice isn’t much of a problem, provided you have more than just combo pieces in your hand, and if you have both a Pentad Prism and a Lotus Bloom in play/suspend, you should still have enough mana to carry on.

Simian Spirit Guide is the red source required to cast Lightning Storm, although it is worth noting spare Lotus Blooms/Pentad Prisms can produce red mana too, if Simian Spirit Guides are discarded. The extra one Guide, as noted, can be used to ramp up a little faster.

Cantrips/Digging Spells:

Serum Visions (0)

Sleight of Hand (0)

Spoils of the Vault (0)

Of course, like all combo decks, you’re not guaranteed to have the god hand every game. You want to be able to find your pieces and quickly and cheaply as possible.
Serum Visions shows up in any deck playing Blue, and being able to dig three cards deep for one mana works well in this deck too. If we could play eight, we would, but we have to settle for the second best as the other four, so we play Sleight of Hand. Sleight of Hand gives you the choice of two cards, and if you are playing both, cast this first for the highest deck penetration (total of five cards). However, it’s worth noting that Serum Visions can set up a better Sleight of Hand at the sacrifice of seeing less cards, if that’s what you need at any point of a game.

Now, here’s where things get a little messy. Spoils of the Vault is another one mana spell used to find your pieces. However, this card can outright lose you the game. It can kill you if you lose too much life and you didn’t play an Angel’s Grace, and it can put your Lightning Storms in the bin. So why are we playing it? Well, danger is my middle name, and mathematically, it won’t kill you most of the time. I’ve only lost to it once or twice, and I’ve cast it a lot. This is the reason you’re playing two Lightning Storms. You have a 6.7% chance of exiling both of them (thanks, Franks Karsten, for the math), which is a risk I’m willing to take, and it protects you against an unfortunate Thoughtseize. It’s a sure-fire way to hit a card you’re missing, if you don’t mind taking a bit of a gamble.

Combo Protection:

Pact of Negation (0)

Boseiju, Who Shelters All (0)

This is all well and good so far, but what if your opponent is playing Blue? Fear not, Pact of Negation is here. If your opponents didn’t like Hive Mind while Summer Bloom was legal, they won’t change their mind any time soon. Pact of Negation is the perfect counterspell for this deck – it doesn’t require you to amass extra mana, and you don’t have to worry about the upkeep cost (provided you win that turn). You can also cast Angel’s Grace in response to the Pact of Negation trigger, if you had to cast it to stop something like Scapeshift from beating you, and then if you have it, cast Ad Nauseam. I’ve won plenty of games in my upkeep by waiting for my opponent to tap out, counter it, and then win in response to losing the game. If your opponent tries to counter Lightning Storm after you’ve drawn your deck, you’ll have access to all three Pacts, which is more than enough to punch through whatever your opponent has.

The one-of Boseiju, Who Shelters All is great. Once it lands, you’re ready to rumble. A word to the wise though: if you’re below zero life with Phyrexian Unlife in play, you cannot activate Boseiju, Who Shelters All, as you cannot pay life you don’t have. This card is a great answer to the slower Blue decks. The reason you’re only playing the one is because the decks it’s great against often don’t represent much of a clock, and you don’t want it against aggressive matchups, which it does nothing against.

Remaining Landbase:

Gemstone Mine (0)

Dreadship Reef (0)

Island (0)

Plains (0)

Temple of Enlightenment (0)

Temple of Deceit (0)

Darkslick Shores (0)

Seachrome Coast (0)

Theros’ temples in Modern? Yes, temples are great. Turn one Lotus Bloom and Temple of Enlightenment/Temple of Deceit is a good way to start things off, as it adds a little more deck manipulation without sacrificing too much speed. The rest of your lands coming in untapped is enough to ensure you won’t have to wait to untap that annoying land next turn to combo off. Dreadship Reef can allow you to stack up mana for use later, if your draw is a slower one or to attempt an early combo without interruption of something like Spell Pierce. You also have a couple of basics just so you can still play through Blood Moon.

But this can’t be right: a Modern deck with no fetches or shocklands? While it’s not a conventional manabase for the format, fetches and shocks just aren’t necessary. The colours you mostly need are blue for your early cantrips and white for Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife. The majority of your lands produce those colours and come in untapped without any downside.


You have a lot of sideboard options, and they’re all valuable in places you need them, so we’ll examine them in order.

Leyline of Sanctity

This one is an another level of protection for your combo. Bring these in against B/G/x decks, dedicated discard decks, and any deck trying to race you with targeted damage. I’ve kept an opening 5-card hand of double Leyline of Sanctity, no lands, Lotus Bloom and won against 8-Rack deck as it completely stonewalls them if they’re not playing Pack Rat.

Echoing Truth

I used to play two to three of these when Splinter Twin was in the format, as it was a great card to have against Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite, but I’ve now cut it down to one since its banning. It’s still a useful little tool against Token decks, to reset planeswalkers or deal with any other annoying permanents.

Patrician’s Scorn

Ever heard of it? This is the leyline killer. I’ve had many opponents give me a smug smile when they play their own Leyline of Sanctity before a game starts. I like to feign disappointment, but in reality it’s great. They’re down card advantage AND they always have to read what the card does. It’s essentially a free spell, because you play it only after you’ve already cast a white spell in the form of Angel’s Grace) and drawn your whole deck. Now, your leylines… destroy them all.

Laboratory Maniac

This is your alternative win condition out of the board. If they have some way of removing Lightning Storm consistently, you can play Laboratory Maniac, end your turn keeping Pact of Negation in your final seven cards, and then winning in your upkeep. It’s also what you want in the mirror, which we’ll get to later.

Slaughter Pact

This one-of deals with disruptive creatures like Meddling Mage, and was also another inclusion against Twin and Amulet Bloom decks. Those decks are gone, yet I still feel it’s a card worth having in your sideboard as another path clearer.

Esper Charm

The White-Blue-Black charm is a nice tool to play in slower games. They draw you cards, disrupt your opponents, and can hit enchantments. While Bogles deck may be a little too fast for using the final option, hitting a Daybreak Coronet is a decent use of this ability.

Hurkyl’s Recall

Your colours are a little restrictive for Affinity matchup, and the cards you have access to (i.e Stony Silence) don’t match up with what you’re trying to do very well. Hurkyl’s Recall can buy you a turn or two against them, which can be necessary in what boils down to a race most of the time.


Who doesn’t like Time Walking their opponents? Darkness is the name of the game against aggressive decks, fogging them and giving yourself an extra turn to draw and/or combo off. It’s great when you have it against Infect, casting it when they go all in on a creature for the win and letting them waste a few cards in the process.

ad nauseam


Before we wrap things up here, it’s worth going over this deck’s matchups: The Good, the Even and the Ugly. I don’t have the space to name every deck out there, so we’ll hit the bigger decks in today’s meta, along with some hot new favourites.


Control, Burn, Tron, Scapeshift, Chord/CoCo

Other than Burn, these decks have no real clock on you, or in Scapeshift’s case, combo off slower than you. You can wait for Control to tap low enough to go off, Tron has little interaction and a lot of dead cards, and Burn is generally a couple of turns slower, especially thanks to Phyrexian Unlife and Angel’s Grace. It should be noted, however, Destructive Revelry is a nasty piece of sideboard tech they have against you. Chord of Calling/Collected Company decks don’t have much interaction and often can’t do enough to you if you combo off on time. They have Stony Silence, which can be a bit of a headache, but Esper Charm, while a little slow, can allow you to go off next turn.


Affinity, Jund, Grixis, Grishoalbrand/Goryo’s Vengeance

Affinity is a straight-up race, and is completely draw dependent. Neither deck is interacting with each other, especially pre-board, so hope your opponent doesn’t hit you too fast, and hope that you have the combo sharpish. Angel’s Grace can be cast to get you out of jams, and Phyrexian Unlife does a good job of extending your life total – however, it’s useless against Inkmoth Nexus.

Jund is another middle-of-the-road matchup. Their early discard and Liliana of the Veil are headaches, but I’ve found it’s not too bad, generally – unless they have enough copies that would ruin any deck. The rest of their deck doesn’t do much to interact with you, and you’re likely to combo off faster than they can kill you. Leyline of Sanctity is a tough card for them to deal with, and works well in this matchup post-board.

As with Jund, Grixis’ slew of discard spells can be troublesome, but are a slow killer. They don’t present much of a clock, and an early Tasigur, the Golden Fang/Gurmag Angler means they’re less likely to be able to Snapcaster Mage back Inquisition of Kozilek. They can’t have it both ways. It’s not a walk in the park by any means, but it’s not a dead matchup also. Leyline of Sanctity is even better here as they have no real way of dealing with it.

Combo vs Combo is always a sweat, and this comes again down to who has the better hand. You’re more consistent, but can’t win on turn two. You have enough cards in your sideboard to deal with their various routes to victory, but bear in mind you don’t want to sideboard out too much that it slows you down.


Infect, Abzan, Ad Nauseam (mirror)

Infect is a nightmare. You have absolutely no interaction pre-board that can help you, and Phyrexian Unlife is totally useless as a means to extend your life. The best bet is – outside of having enough luck to just not play against them – is to hope they have a very slow draw. Post-board, Darkness and Slaughter Pact are good options, but by no means make the matchup easy. This is probably your worst matchup by quite a stretch.

While Jund was an okay matchup, Abzan is a little different. They also have the discard spells and Liliana of the Veil, but less dead cards such as Lightning Bolt, and have better sideboard options due to them playing White. The one thing you have going for you is they’re not the fastest deck in the world, so it’s a winnable match. Expect a tough one, although it isn’t as bad as Infect. Once again, bring in your Leyline of Sanctity and Echoing Truth to reset Liliana of the Veil if you feel it necessary.

The mirror is probably the one thing you don’t want to see more than anything, not because it’s hard – because it’s just not fun. You have to resort to hardcasting Simian Spirit Guide and beating down, as if you go off and they have Angel’s Grace, you just lose. Laboratory Maniac stops this, but your opponent may well just have it too and kill you in response.


There we have it: Ad Nauseam deck in all its glory. It’s a fun, fast and affordable deck that’s competitive and unlike most in the format. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys combo decks and playing unconventional cards. With practice, a good Ad Nauseam player is a formidable opponent and can sweep the field if the meta is in your favour. It’s one of those decks that when it pops up at the right time is a real nightmare for the rest of the room. With Twin and Amulet gone, it could be a good time to pick this deck up, depending on where the format moves. The more Tron and Burn the better, the more Infect – not so much.

I hope you’ve found this an informative, enjoyable primer, but most of all, that it has inspired you to give the deck a go.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Walker


[schema type=”review” url=”” name=”Ad Nauseam in Modern by Alex Walker” description=”Welcome to a primer on Ad Nauseam deck. If you like combo decks, drawing lots of cards, playing cards that your opponents have to read, and winning on turn four, this is a must read for you.” ]

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