About the Author
Stuart (Phobos1869) began playing Modern in 2013 and picked up Ad Nauseam around 2017. It has become one of his favorite decks to play in Modern. He describes the deck as having a unique combo and many intricate lines of play. Stuart primarily plays in paper but you may bump into him on MTGO under the username TheOnlySJR.
Modern Ad Nauseam has a long history. The deck was played from the very start of Modern in 2011. The deck was based around the core cards of: Ad Nauseam, Phyrexian Unlife, Lotus Bloom, Angel's Grace, and Simian Spirit Guide. The win con was Lightning Storm and sometimes Laboratory Maniac. Spoils of the Vault became a regular inclusion after Darien Elderfield finished 3rd place in GP Charlotte 2015, an event featuring 2870 Modern players.
The list really hadn’t changed much over the years until the release of Theros Beyond Death in February 2020. This set introduced us to Thassa's Oracle. This printing gave the deck an alternate win condition replacing Laboratory Maniac due to Thassa's Oracle‘s triggered ability being tougher to interact with.
Unfortunately about a year later it was announced that Simian Spirit Guide was banned in Modern. This banning both hurt the speed Ad Nauseam could combo but also made it very hard to cast the main win condition at the time; Lightning Storm. Most players ruled Ad Nauseam dead as a deck due to this banning.
Fast forward to June 18, 2021: Modern Horizons 2 was released, and Ad Nauseam was given a new hope in the name of Profane Tutor. This new card breathed a second life into the archetype by increasing the deck’s consistency and helping unlock a new element of potential for the deck.
Today, Ad Nauseam primarily uses Thassa's Oracle to win on the spot. The combo is tricky to stop and this new reincarnation of the deck is fun for new players and returning players looking to give combo a try or rekindle an old flame.
Ways to Win
- Have 4 mana available that can provide WUUB
- Cast and resolve Thassa's Oracle
- Holding priority with Thassa's Oracle’s trigger on the stack, cast and resolve Angel's Grace
- After Angel's Grace resolves and still in response to Thassa's Oracle, cast and resolve Spoils of the Vault. Name a card NOT in your library. Your library will be exiled and revealed to your opponent.
- When Thassa's Oracle’s trigger resolves, should nothing funny happen on your opponent’s end, you win the game! This will be because your devotion to blue is higher than or equal the number of cards in your library (0).
Replace Angel's Grace with Phyrexian Unlife (perhaps played on a previous turn) for the same result. You can win as early as turn 3 this way. This requires a hand with Angel's Grace, Spoils of the Vault, Thassa's Oracle, Pentad Prism and three lands.
The Oracle kill is tough to interact with because even if the opponent removes Oracle from the battlefield in response to its trigger, you’ll still win the game if its trigger resolves with nothing else happening. This is because your devotion to blue at that point (0) is still equal to the number of cards in your library (0).
Of course, there are ways around this, such as the opponent casting Endurance after you exile your library and you have 3 or more cards in your graveyard. Be careful when this is a possible play from your opponent.
Another way to win with the deck that has been brought back after New Capenna’s release is with Lightning Storm. Below is the primary way of how this works:
- Have 7 mana available, must include at least WUBB
- Cast Ad Nauseam and hold priority
- Cast and resolve Angel's Grace
- Resolve Ad Nauseam, reveal your library to your opponent and put the cards into your hand.
- Cast Intervention Pact and hold priority
- Cast Pact of Negation targeting your Intervention Pact and hold priority again
- Cast An Offer You Can't Refuse targeting the Pact of Negation
- Still holding priority, use one of the two treasures you got from Pact of Negation being countered for U to cast your second An Offer You Can't Refuse targeting the Intervention Pact
- Upon the resolution of the second An Offer You Can't Refuse, you’ll have three treasures. Use those three treasures to cast Lightning Storm targeting your opponent and HOLD PRIORITY
- While holding priority, activate Lightning Storm’s ability and continue to hold priority. Repeat this process until you have discarded enough land cards to get enough charge counters onto Lightning Storm after they all resolve to kill your opponent. Remember that Lightning Storm deals 3 damage to start, and each land adds 2 damage.
- Pass priority to your opponent. They’ll likely try if able to activate Lightning Storm’s ability to change its target back to you. However, you should have more than enough lands to activate the ability again to send it back to your opponent.
- Once your opponent can’t activate Lightning Storm‘s ability anymore and Lightning Storm is targeting your opponent, resolve it to kill them and win the game.
From experience in casting Lightning Storm in paper past and present, I’ve found it is easiest to communicate holding priority when going for a Lightning Storm win by saying, “I’m holding priority each time I activate Lightning Storm’s ability. I’ll let you know when I pass priority to you.” I’ve never had an opponent have an issue with this holding priority statement.
While on MTGO, you MUST hold Ctrl after casting Lightning Storm AND after activating its ability, or else priority will get passed to your opponent prematurely. This will be very bad.
The advantages of winning with Lightning Storm in this way is you can do this all at instant speed much like the old days with Simian Spirit Guide. You can wait for the opponent to tap out on their turn, and respond to their cast spell by going off as mentioned above. This is very important today because when you go off on your opponent’s turn, you get to dodge Force of Negation being cast for its alternate cost.
Ad Nauseam (1-4 copies)
The archetype’s namesake card; Ad Nauseam used to be a mandatory 4 of but is now played between 1 to 4 copies, most commonly 3. Ad Nauseam is still a great card to use when the time calls for it. You can Ad Nauseam for value to dig for your combo, and can be cast it during your opponent’s end step to dodge Force of Negation.
Angel's Grace (4 copies)
Angel's Grace is one of the deck’s mandatory 4-of’s. This card is going to be the primary way you’ll start off the combo win, and we’ll want to max out on copies. It is very difficult for most opposing decks to interact with it in Game 1’s. Angel's Grace also has several other useful applications. For example, you can “pay” for Pact of Negation with it, and you can buy yourself an extra turn to draw an out.
Spoils of the Vault (4 copies)
Spoils of the Vault is another mandatory 4-of in Ad Nauseam. Spoils of the Vault is arguably the most powerful card in our deck. It is how we will primarily win games alongside Thassa's Oracle. We can also use it to find a missing combo piece if we have a second copy of Spoils of the Vault in our hand. Spoils of the Vault can also be used as a last resort to dig for an out if we would otherwise lose.
Thassa's Oracle (4 copies)
Thassa's Oracle is the deck’s main win condition. Since this is how we win games, we’ll want all the copies we can play. Worst case, you can deploy this as a blocker to stave off some damage and help buy time.
Profane Tutor (4 copies)
The newest staple to Ad Nauseam, and a mandatory 4-of, Profane Tutor provides Ad Nauseam with the consistency it needs to keep up with the format and helps the deck maintain the goal of a turn 4 win. Profane Tutor has many uses; it can find the combo piece you need to win, a Pact of Negation to protect your combo, even an untapped land if you really need it to have all the mana you need to combo off that turn. This is one of the best cards we could’ve asked for to help bring this deck back to life.
Lotus Bloom (4 copies)
Lotus Bloom is a crucial ramp piece for the deck. Lotus Bloom also helps us win through a Bloom Moon effect. If you play a build with more than one copy of Ad Nauseam, it will help you cast them more easily. 4 copies is a must.
Pentad Prism (4 copies)
Similar to Lotus Bloom, Pentad Prism is a very important ramp card for the deck. It helps turbo out your combo and can help you win through a Bloom Moon. In a dream scenario, Pentad Prism can also get you a turn 3 win, which I’ll describe how to do later on in the primer. Always include 4 copies in your build.
Phyrexian Unlife (1-3 copies)
Everyone’s favorite unintuitive enchantment. Phyrexian Unlife is used as an alternative way to win with Spoils of the Vault when Angel's Grace isn’t in hand, or is unavailable due to other reasons (Chalice of the Void on 1 for example).
This used to be a 4 of staple in the deck. However, in a world of Boseiju, Who Endures and Otawara, Soaring City, we have trimmed copies due to the blowout potential of losing Phyrexian Unlife with Spoils of the Vault on the stack or being at less than 0 life and Pact of Negation not being able to save us from these cards. 1 to 3 copies of Unlife will still work as it still is a beating versus aggressive creature decks and decks that can’t remove it.
Pact of Negation (3-4 copies)
Pact of Negation is one of the best protection spells for our combo. Pact of Negation is free to cast and a free reveal off Ad Nauseam. I’ve played 3 copies main and 1 additional copy in the sideboard for a long time. I’ve since moved to 4 copies main deck because of the current meta.
Serum Visions (2-4 copies)
We play Serum Visions as it’s one of the better cantrips we can make use of. It replaces itself and we can fix our draw for the next turn and possibly the one after that. In today’s Modern, you need to play more carefully with Serum Visions if your opponent is on a Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer deck. You don’t want to scry the card you need to the top because it’ll get exiled away.
Sleight of Hand (3-4 copies)
Ad Nauseam typically plays 20 lands, though you may see some lists feature a 21st. 7 of these are fast lands; 4 Darkslick Shores and 3 Seachrome Coast. The 4/3 split favors Darkslick Shores because white mana is only normally needed on turn 3 or later. Just like when the deck was created in 2011, 4 City of Brass and 4 Gemstone Mine have remained stock. These are untapped 3-color lands for our deck. We also play 2 Clearwater Pathway, a relatively new printing. This land allows us to choose Blue or Black mana depending on what we need when we play it. 3 basic lands is stock, though it is often disputed which 3 is best. I personally play one each of Plains, Island, and Swamp. Basic lands are a necessity for us to have a way to win through a Blood Moon effect and to have something to search for if one of our lands gets hit by Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, Boseiju, Who Endures and so on.
Ad Nauseam has a few open slots depending on the list. Stuart uses these slots on 2 An Offer You Can't Refuse, 1 Intervention Pact, and 1 Lightning Storm. Other options include: Wishclaw Talisman and Demonic Bargain.
An Offer You Can't Refuse is a flexible counter spell as it can hit both your opponents spells or hit your own to ramp you. Intervention Pact is your primary spell you want to counter with An Offer You Can't Refuse to set up an instant speed win with Lightning Storm to avoid Force of Negation.
Leyline of Sanctity (4 copies)
Leyline of Sanctity is a necessity for us and primarily used to keep decks with targeted discard effects at bay.
Prismatic Ending (4 copies)
Prismatic Ending is a super flexible removal spell. It beats any problematic permanents. Notably, it is able to destroy a Chalice of the Void on any number since our deck plays lands and mana rocks able to produce all colors.
Veil of Summer (3 copies)
Nicknamed the green Cryptic Command, Veil of Summer is able to negate an opposing discard or counterspell and draw a card for the low cost of 1 mana. It can also deflect a blue or black bounce or removal spell such as: Brazen Borrower, Abrupt Decay or Assassin's Trophy. The biggest downside of Veil of Summer is that not all our lands can cast it.
Thoughtseize (2 copies)
Sometimes your opponents will have cards that need to get ripped out of their hand. Thoughtseize also lets you know if the coast is clear for you to combo. Currently, Thoughtseize appears to be a great sideboard card for this meta.
Slaughter Pact (1 copy)
Sometimes you just need a free kill spell in hand to deal with a problematic non-black creature, such as a Meddling Mage. Magus of the Moon has also seen a resurgence in play due to enchantments being worse now because of Boseiju, Who Endures, Otawara, Soaring City, and Force of Vigor.
Fracture (1 copy)
A new card from Strixhaven, Fracture permanently deals with issues that Echoing Truth was previously tasked with covering. It is a little tough to cast due to it’s mana cost but since most post-board games are slower, this has been a welcome addition through my testing to date.
Blink/Elementals (Yorion Piles):
|+2 Prismatic Ending||-2 Serum Visions|
|+3 Veil of Summer||-1 Pentad Prism|
|-1 Profane Tutor|
|-1 Lotus Bloom|
If they cast Emrakul, the Promised End and you have Spoils of the Vault, cast it and name a 4-of. If you have Ad Nauseam in your hand, just burn it. This is the only thing you can do to not instantly die when they control your turn.
|+4 Leyline of Sanctity||-2 Serum Visions|
|+1 Veil of Summer||-1 Pentad Prism|
|-1 Profane Tutor|
|-1 Lotus Bloom|
|+2 Leyline of Sanctity||-2 Serum Visions|
|+2 Prismatic Ending||-2 Pentad Prism|
|+2 Veil of Summer||-1 Profane Tutor|
|-1 Thassa's Oracle|
Contact the Author
Thank you very much for reading my Ad Nauseam primer! Hopefully this was able to give you some insight and advice.
If you have any questions or want to get in touch, you can find me at the links below:
If you are interested, please see the original guide for more in-depth matchups analysis and details: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q9kBu7tc83LKWmAvO5B-3lQBYru6HIWqCTEDcJBXoY4/edit