Last week, I wrote about Team Italy, and our Top 4 at the World Magic Cup. Today I will begin covering the 3 decks we played in Team Unified Modern, going deep on each with card selections and sideboard plans.
I’ve noticed that Modern is an incredibly popular format with comparatively few articles written about it—most are about sideboard plans, and good articles are important if you want to play a deck with little experience.
I’ll start with Ad Nauseam, and you can watch the video I recorded later this week to see how the deck ticks.
Since the deck is a little obscure, many of our opponents often called for oracle text of our Italian cards or asked how some interaction worked. I’ll cover those questions alongside some tips and tricks.
Team Italy, Seat C
How the Deck Works
It’s a combo deck that uses Ad Nauseam to draw the whole deck with either Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife. Once you’ve done that, you can either exile 3 Simian Spirit Guide and cast Lightning Storm targeting your opponent, then, holding priority, you discard enough lands to make it lethal.
There are some cases where you can’t win with Lightning Storm, so you need to go for Laboratory Maniac + Serum Visions. It’ll take more mana and it will be a sorcery-speed kill, but it will still be lethal.
Those scenarios could be:
- Your opponent has gained too much life, and you don’t have enough lands to kill them.
- They have Spellskite in play and a a high life total.
- They have Pithing Needle naming Lightning Storm.
- They have Aether Vial on 3/Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, and by discarding a land they will counter the Lightning Storm.
- You discarded/exiled Lightning Storm.
These, alongside various corner cases, are why it’s important to have a second win condition.
Tips and Tricks
- Phyrexian Unlife is a complicated card and it’s hard to understand just by reading it. If you are at 1 life and your opponent is attacking you for 10, you’ll just go to 0 life and 0 Infect. Once you’ve reached the 0 life total threshold, you’ll start ticking up Infect damage in the next combat phase. If you are playing Ad Nauseam and your opponent is attacking you to put you on 0 life, remember to play Angel’s Grace because once you’re at 0 life, Angel’s Grace won’t save you anymore.
- Pact of Negation and Slaughter Pact can be paid just by playing Angel’s Grace in your upkeep. This is why I like to call Pact of Negation Force of Will.
- Blood Moon is a hard card to play around. Some people play basic Plains, but I don’t like it, so I’d play around it with Pentad Prism and Lotus Bloom.
- Spoils of the Vault is a dangerous card. It’s often a 1-mana Demonic Tutor, but it can also make you lose the game. Not only by life loss—even if you Phyrexian Unlife in play or Angel’s Grace on the stack, it can mill too many Simian Spirit Guides, or both combo pieces.
Alternatively, Spoils of Vault can just cycle itself naming the card you scryed to the top with a Temple.
- It worth noting that this deck has an alternative combo kill: Laboratory Maniac + Angel’s Grace + Spoils of the Vault. We did that against Dredge. We played Maniac turn 3, and then in our following upkeep played Angel’s Grace and Spoils of Vault, naming a card that is not in our deck. This way, you’ll mill your whole deck and win with the Maniac. Or if you have enough mana and Serum Visions, you can win in a single turn.
- It’s important to play your cantrips in the correct order. On turn 1 it is usually correct to play Sleight of Hand to give yourself the best chance to find Lotus Bloom. If you have Temple + Sleight, play your Sleight first. If you have Temple + Serum Vision, play your Temple first.
It’s hard to sideboard with this deck since it requires so many pieces. Often, you sideboard very lightly to preserve as much of the deck as possible. The additional Dreadship Reef in the sideboard is there for when you remove your Pentad Prism to play around artifact hate. At that point, you’ll need some way to ramp up your mana, and Dreadship Reef is perfect for that.
Infect vs. Ad Nauseam is probably the most unfair matchup in Modern. Both Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife don’t do much other than combo’ing off with Ad Nauseam, and their clock is way faster. Darkness helps, but it’s still an awful matchup.
This matchup is great. Their clock is slower and you have many ways to delay their win. I read somewhere that the best number of Leylines to play to have the highest chance of having it in your opening hand and not draw it later is 4 followed by 1. They have Collective Brutality, which is pretty annoying, and a singleton Leyline should be better than the third Darkness.
Boarding out Sleight of Hand is never good, but it’s sometimes necessary since you don’t have anything else to cut.
Leyline of Sanctity changes the matchup from very hard to very easy. They rely on discard spell to disrupt you, and Leyline makes you untouchable. I love to cut Pentad Prism because they board in Ancient Grudge and Rakdos Charm, and Lotus Bloom plays well around those since it comes into play just when you are ready to combo off with 6 mana on turn 4. If you play against Abzan I don’t think you want Wear // Tear, since while Stony Silence turns off your Lotus Bloom, it’s just 2 cards.
The matchup is so good that you don’t need to change anything.
This matchup is great. Phyrexian Unlife is not only a combo piece, but also gains 10 life, which is huge. Spoils of the Vault doesn’t look great, and when you cut that, there’s no reason to keep Laboratory Maniac (only good if you exile Lightning Storm—that can’t happen). Also, you keep in 1 Pact of Negation just in case your opponent tries to Deflecting Palm your Lightning Storm.
Against Jeskai Control, it’s hard to lose since you can win at instant speed and their clock is pretty slow. In the late game you can pay for their Mana Leak/Remand and Pact of Negation the real countermagic. On top of this, Boseiju and Thoughtseize out of the sideboard make everything easier. Against Grixis Control it’s a little more difficult because they can have discard, Kolaghan’s Command to slow you down, and delve creature to pressure you.
This matchup is so easy that you can afford to bring in Leyline of Sanctity just to make Thought-Knot Seer a 4/4 for 4. They have Stony Silence, so you are fine boarding out Pentad Prism for Dreadship Reef, and their clock is slow enough that you’ll have enough time to win even without artifacts.
Another classic matchup that sees Ad Nauseam versus an uninteractive deck that wins more slowly, hence a positive matchup. We went 4-0 against this deck at the WMC and lost only when we couldn’t beat Chalice of the Void.
As you can see, I classified a wide chunk of the format as a favorable matchup for Ad Nauseam, and I really believe this to be true. Infect, however, is so bad that it alone could make this deck unplayable in a regular tournament. Though, if you like this strategy, and like to turn-4 people with very little thought, this is the right deck for you!