Last weekend, I played Ad Nauseam to an 11-4, Top 64 finish at GP Vancouver. My back-up choice for the deck was Death’s Shadow, so despite a good record and feeling that my deck was incredible, I ended the weekend feeling silly. That said, as people start to target decks like Death’s Shadow, I think Ad Nauseam only goes up in value.
The key ingredient to the deck is the namesake Ad Nauseam. While there were times I cast value Ad Nauseams, that usually means things are going poorly. The main objective is to get to enough mana, as well as a card that makes sure you don’t lose the game for going below 0 life, and then to Ad Nauseam for your entire deck. Winning from there is academic.
Angel’s Grace makes sure your Ad Nauseam does what you want it to do—flip over your entire deck to make sure you win the game. It also has other applications in a variety of matchups where it acts as a fog effect, serving as a virtual Time Walk. It’s also a great way to make sure you don’t die to triggers that might otherwise make you lose the game during your upkeep—and with split second, there’s no way to interact with it. It’s also an instant, as is Ad Nauseam, giving the deck the ability to win the game out of nowhere.
Phyrexian Unlife is a great card against aggressive decks as they’ll have to deal 20 (or more) damage before they can even try to deal the final 10. Inkmoth Nexus can make it look ridiculous, but it doesn’t even matter how much power they have in play if you’re above 1, as you’ll get another “free” turn. If you’re at 1 and they attack you for 11, you’ll go to -10 and 0 poison.
Pact of Negation feels like Force of Will in this deck. If Ad Nauseam resolves, there’s virtually no way to interact with you as you’ll hit a bunch of Pacts. It’s also a great way to force through Ad Nauseam as you’ll be winning immediately and won’t need to concern yourself with the upkeep trigger. At the Grand Prix, my opponents would cast spells that could really make life difficult, so Pact was necessary. Angel’s Grace can save you by responding to the upkeep trigger, and if that’s all the time you needed to get the extra 5 mana for Ad Nauseam, you can feel free to go off and win the game right there.
Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism serve as your artifact mana accelerants. You either need 5 mana and an Unlife in play, or 6 mana to win with an Angel’s Grace. Lotus Bloom makes a turn-4 easy, while Pentad Prism makes the more uncommon turn-3 kill possible.
The extra mana boost is provided by a card that should likely be banned in Modern. Simian Spirit Guide is an instant-speed Lotus Petal that can’t be interacted with. Petal is restricted in Vintage, and Spirit Guide lets you cast your primary win condition at instant speed and off of the red mana. You can also filter red mana through Pentad Prism to create colors.
The primary win condition is Lightning Storm. It can be cast solely off Simian Spirit Guides, it’s an instant, and it will deal tons of damage after you draw your deck. Sometimes you don’t have enough lands, they have Leyline, they have Pithing Needle, or they’ve just gained infinite life. In this scenario, Laboratory Maniac can get the job done. You should be able to cast a Serum Visions in the same turn to win the game on the spot. This can be weak to Abrupt Decay, but you have Pacts to deal with any other answers.
Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand set up your library and find the critical combination of mana and the combo. You also have scrylands, and some number of Spoils of the Vault to make sure the pieces are in place. Spoils will sometimes risk milling your win condition, but otherwise won’t kill you if you cast Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife beforehand.
The sideboard is flexible—the only card I consider “locked in” is Leyline of Sanctity as the best way to fight against lots of discard. I liked what I sleeved up, so take a look and let me know what you think!