It’s as easy as that. A four card hand that kills on turn one significantly over half the time. Obviously, playing Ad Nauseam isn’t always that simple, but it can be that rewarding. Ad Nauseam is possibly the fastest and most powerful deck in Legacy.
While Ad Nauseam was always good, a bunch of changes in the metagame have resulted in Ad Nauseam’s improvement. First of all, Counterbalance has become a lot less popular. While certainly not unwinnable, it is nice to see what is probably the toughest matchup for Ad Nauseam almost disappear from the metagame. In addition, Dredge has become more popular. In addition, combo as a whole hasn’t been too popular. Thus, there isn’t much generic combo hate in people’s sideboards. The one difficult change in the metagame is the increase in the popularity of Team America. However, with the right sideboard plan, I believe Ad Nauseam can beat Team America.
I took Ad Nauseam for a spin in the Starcitygames Open in LA. I ended up 6-2, good for 22nd. Here’s the list I played:
This deck is based on James Lance’s top 4 deck from the Legacy Open in Dallas. For what it’s worth, I think he did a great job building the deck. Even the mana base is pure genius. It fits in as many fetches as possible while allowing for two of each basic and two Seas. There are three Islands because you cut one when you board in the Trop and still want access to two Islands.
I absolutely love playing decks with lots of selective discard effects. By looking at the opponent’s hand, you can sculpt out a plan to beat it, and will only lose if the opponent draws well after your discard effect. I really felt like I knew exactly how to win every single game based on my opponent’s hand.
Most of my games weren’t too interesting, but one of my toughest games was. I was playing against Joe Losset (who eventually got 2nd place) with Cephalid Breakfast. He was on the play for game three and opened with Ponder. After drawing, my hand was 2 Brainstorms, a Lion's Eye Diamond, a Lotus Petal, and 4 lands (2 of which were fetches). I figured that it was important to try and find a discard spell and I had a second Brainstorm anyway to get rid of the excess lands. Thus, I went for the turn one Brainstorm. I found a Duress, and used Petal to play it. I took a Brainstorm, which left Joe with almost no gas.
While Joe was trying to find gas, I was trying to find non-lands. After Brainstorming away some blanks, I was in a situation where my hand was Infernal Tutor, Lotus Petal, and a land. As long as I drew a spell, I would be able to Tutor up an Ad Nauseam, and probably combo the next turn. Instead, I drew running lands. At this point, I had four lands in play, and was still stuck with a hand of land Petal Infernal. I finally drew a spell, but it was a Tendrils, which wasn’t exactly optimal. I played the Petal, followed up with the Tendrils, and then Infernal Tutored for Ad Nauseam. On the following turn, I was able to cast Ad Nauseam. By the time I was at ten life, I had revealed enough gas to go off with Ill-Gotten Gains (I only have one Tendrils in the deck) with an extra mana to Duress. The Duress revealed a blank hand and I happily went through with the IGG plan. Unfortunately, it was then that I saw an Abeyance that had been cycled earlier in the game sitting in his graveyard. I tried to figure out a way to fight through it, but I couldn’t get there. If I had simply waited a turn I could’ve easily fought my way through the Abeyance by IGGing back the Tendrils with enough mana to cast it before Joe could Abeyance. It was frustrating to lose a game that I played well for the most part, but threw away in the end.
Regardless it did show off the power of the deck and how even flooding out in a sixteen land deck can be played around. One of the things to be careful of when playing this deck is not to lose track of the seemingly unimportant things since the deck takes so much focus and brainpower. I simply forgot about the cycled Abeyance since I was so focused on doing the math for that turn. It’s a tough balance, which is why practice is so important.
Overall, the deck felt really powerful. Besides the round I punted away, I lost a round to Team America. The matchup seemed tough, but I think I found a way to beat it. One of the best ways to beat decks with heavy disruption and discard is with card advantage sources. Historically, the best source of card advantage for Legacy decks like this has been Dark Confidant. However, there is now another option: Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Jace is not only great for grinding out Team America’s disruption, but can also essentially Time Walk them by bouncing creatures like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. A resolved turn three Jace off of Dark Ritual or Lotus Petal is extremely hard for them to beat.
With that in mind, I have a new list of Ad Nauseam. It is still pretty similar to the original list, but incorporates Jace and has specific board plans in mind.
This build really embraces the Jace sideboard plan. It plays three so that with all of the cantrips you can consistently find a Jace. This sideboard really allows you to construct your deck however you want. If you want to be a deck that strips their hand and then casts a quick card advantage card you can. If you want to be a deck that plays Xantid Swarm and then sticks a Jace or Ad Nauseam, you can. This deck opens you up to a near unlimited number of options based on what you board in. While it may seem like boarding in a few Jaces or a set of Xantid Swarms wouldn’t be enough to consistently draw them, the cantrips make it all work. With 12 cards in the deck that can all look at three or more cards it is pretty easy to find a card that you are playing three or more of.
I know it isn’t even an option for a lot of people, but I would recommend not playing Grim Tutor even if you have it. The card is very clunky and the deck has enough gas in it with the Infernal Tutors and all of the cantrips. At most, I would play one as drawing two is very awkward.
Here’s how my board plans are looking right now:
Your deck is now less about a quick Ad Nauseam, and more about card advantage. Cabal Ritual doesn’t help accelerate into Bob or Jace, so it gets cut. The Chain isn’t really necessary, and Preordain is simply your worst card after that.
Zoo, Goblins: none
Until you know how important the bounce is, I would just stick with the main. If you don’t see a lot of problem permanents, you can bring in one Jace. If you need more cheap bounce, you can cut some of the Duresses for Chain/Truth.
A quick Xantid Swarm is clutch in this matchup. Again, Cabal Ritual gets cut for its inability to cast turn three Jace. Bob is decent in this matchup, but I’ve found it to be too awkward as playing a Bob gives the opponent time to set up Counterbalance which will make it irrelevant how many cards you have in hand. Bouncing Tarmogoyf with Jace is pretty awesome as they have so few threats that it is consistently a pure Time Walk. For those of you who want to board out IGG, I actually like it in this matchup. The vast majority of games you win involve Xantid Swarm, and as long as they can’t play spells, IGG is pretty awesome. Unfortunately, Swarm doesn’t stop Counterbalance which makes this matchup tricky. If you really want a board plan to beat Counterbalance, the Doomsday plan is much better.
Petal is your weakest ritual, and thus is the logical cut. The deck has plenty of sources for Swarm without the Petals, so I think it works out pretty well. Many people think Merfolk vs Ad Nauseam is a tough matchup, but I disagree. It’s not that hard to rip apart their hand and go off. If they have a disruption heavy draw, they won’t put much pressure on. If they are disruption light, you can easily race.
I tend to like the matchup against other combo decks as you are usually just as fast and have lots of discard. Obviously, which sideboard cards you want depends on which combo deck you are playing against.
Obviously, sideboarding isn’t the only difficult element of Ad Nauseam. The deck is also incredibly challenging to play. The first thing I’d say is play around Wasteland at any cost. Unless you literally have a one land hand and need both Black and Blue, you should avoid Underground Sea like the plague. When opening on a hand with a draw spell and a discard spell, you often decide which to lead with based on which you have two of. If I have a Duress and a Thoughtseize and a Preordain I would lead with Swamp Thoughtseize and then go Island Duress Preordain. On the other hand, if I open on Brainstorm Ponder Thoughtseize, I would lead with Ponder, then go Brainstorm Thoughtseize.
Another thing that I think people misunderstand about Ad Nauseam is the importance of IGG. As long as you know the opponent doesn’t have a counterspell (either based on their deck or based on seeing their hand from a Duress effect) you should make an effort to kill with IGG instead of Ad Naus. Even at 20 life with mana floating, Ad Nauseam can miss. Assuming you do the math properly, IGG is a sure thing. Most of the time, you won’t get punished as Ad Nauseam still usually works. However, throwing away percentage points on a consistent basis will cost you in the long term.
Overall, I think Ad Nauseam is a great choice in the current metagame. You will see me playing it in Providence unless I find something completely broken. Work hard testing and get comfortable with the deck, and then take down your next Legacy tournament with Ad Nauseam.
Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to announce something pretty awesome I’m going to be doing.
Everybody loves videos. However, do to some card restrictions, the Legacy community has been missing out on this great way to learn and improve. Fortunately, Magic Online now contains every card in Legacy, making Legacy videos viable. Instead of just putting up a Legacy video here and there, I am going to do something similar to what Luis has been doing in Standard.
I will take a teir 1-2 deck and run it through a gauntlet. To start, I am going to be using the bottom Ad Nauseam list posted above.
Because of the diversity of Legacy, making a gauntlet is a little tricky. I’m going to try to choose one of the best aggro, control, and combo decks. For aggro, I think I’m going to go with Affinity. Affinity recently won an Scg open and seems to be one of the best aggro decks. I also considered Merfolk, Goblins, and Zoo, but Merfolk seemed too aggro-controlly and Zoo and Goblins are too soft to combo for the current metagame. For control, I think Counterbalance is a good litmus test. It is very powerful and should get more popular to combat the rise of combo. For combo I chose High Tide. It is getting a lot of talk after the recent dominance of the Hatfields with it, and I’d like to see just how good it really is.
I’m going to run a variety of decks through the gauntlet, but Ad Nauseam seemed like a great place to start. I have a lot of experience with Ad Nauseam and enjoy playing it, and I happen to think it is one of if not the best decks right now. After I am done with Ad Nauseam, I am going to let you guys pick the next deck I play with. I’m happy to run anything from Elves to Landstill to Goblins, or any of the other decks above. I should be well into the series by the time Providence roles around so it should help me, and hopefully you, pick a deck for the GP or your next local Legacy tournament.
And without further ado, here is the first matchup!
Ad Nauseam vs High Tide (piloted by LSV)
To see the rest of this deck's matchups, as well as the current Running the Gauntlet series, click here!
The results speak for themselves. This matchup is pretty good for Ad Naus, since not only is the clock faster, 8 Duress effects trump 4 Force of Wills, and sideboard Xantid Swarms are gold. Other combo decks are definitely a reason to play Ad Nauseam.
That's it for this week, but before I go, from the High Tide side of things, here's LSV:
The Tide is High But I'm Holding On
LSV here. Since I'll be contributing to this series as well, it seemed like it would be good for me to throw in my 2 cents. Like Matt said, this matchup is pretty bad. I even had a good sideboard against Ad Nauseam, since I got to bring in 3 Mystic Remoras. Xantid Swarm is just too much of a beating, and I got thoroughly destroyed in postboard games as a result. Game one isn't horrendous, but Duress and Thoughtseizes do have the edge against Force of Will. Overall, I'd much rather be on the Ad Nauseam side of things.
One more thing about High Tide (CONTAINS A SPOILER)
Of course, now that Mental Misstep appears to be a card, there is even more reason to avoid High Tide. The fact that almost every deck in the format now gets a 0-mana counter for High Tide is devastating, and seriously calls into question the wisdom of even considering this deck. I for one would avoid it, and had we known about Mental Misstep we would have chosen another deck to feature. Either way, I hope this was a good start, and we will be back with more Legacy Gauntlet videos shortly!