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[Primer] - Ad Nauseam Combo [[Procellam Legit]]

Modern Combo Competitive Creatureless Primer



Competitive Ad Nauseam, in recent weeks I have been playing more and more of this deck; it quickly becoming one of my favorites and a staple of my modern deck rotation. And in case anyone was wondering the real reason I got into it was becasue I am a Latinist by trade so it merged both interests.

A more detailed description and primer will follow here as I find the time, but for now for those who are unaware of this deck, Ad Nauseam, built around its namesake card Ad Nauseam is a two-card combo deck that is looking to do one thing and one thing only, its effectiveness lying in how consistently it can do that one thing. You may be asking what that one thing is right about now:

The Goal

Resolve Ad Nauseam after having cast Angel's Grace or with Phyrexian Unlife active, this allows us to go into negative life totals upon casting Ad Nauseam which notably involves "lose of life" as opposed to "damage", two terms that are not synonymous with each other (see rule 118.2 and 119.3a). Becasuse of this technicality, upon resolving Ad Nauseam we simply draw our deck, exile three Monkeys for and use this to cast Lightning Storm maintaining priority and discarding enough lands to kill our opponent. Alternatively, with the availability of Laboratory Maniac followed by Serum Visions is our other route to victory.

There are an incredible amount of little nuances to this deck that I hope to share with you all; I just have to find the time to do so :P

These three cards; 4 copies of Ad Nauseam , 4 copies of Angel's Grace , and 3-4 copies of Phyrexian Unlife ; constitute the core of the combo outlined above. The basic idea, once again, is to cast Ad Nauseam with either Phyrexian Unlife on the field or Angel's Grace 's effect active. One will note that the deck has significantly more enablers than Ad Nauseam itself to provide redundancy, however one must then take into consideration what this means when playing the deck. Because of this distribution Ad Nauseam is logically harder to find and should be prioritized in your hand, in other words if opponent ticks up Liliana of the Veil and your hand is Angel's Grace and Ad Nauseam then 9/10 it is correct to discard the Angel's Grace .

A further note on the enablers: Angel's Grace , owing to the fact that it is near-impossible to interact with, is the "better" of the two and, if possible, is the preferred option. Note that it is an instant enabling the deck to win at instant speed with both Ad Nauseam and Lightning Storm also being instants. Phyrexian Unlife has one advantage over Angel's Grace in that, if the situation arises, for example against Lantern Control after Lightning Storm has been named with Pithing Needle , Ad Nauseam can be cast and resolved leaving one card in your library to draw on your next turn (this play should be done on your opponent's end step) allowing for the Laboratory Maniac win the next turn with access to all your untapped mana and deck in hand. Notably Angel's Grace can not do this as the moment the turn is passed we lose as a state-based action for having less than 0 life. With Phyrexian Unlife however, this does not matter as the enchantment is removing this action; although if our opponent removed the Phyrexian Unlife we lose on the spot. This situation is exceedingly rare and I personally have only had it come up twice, once against the aforementioned Lantern Control and once against Bogles.

These represent both my own preferred wincons and the wincons that have become the commonly agreed stock. 1-2 Lightning Storm : The preferred wincon of the deck, with Ad Nauseam drawing our whole deck one has, by coincidence, all of their lands in hand to feed Lightning Storm . As explained above, to cast Lightning Storm the most common method is to simply exile 3 Monkeys , although occasionally when this isn't possible remember if comboing on your turn that you have a land-drop. When playing Lightning Storm you MUST maintain priority, if you do not maintain priority your opponent can simply say that they elect not to add any counters to Lightning Storm and then it will resolve only dealing 3 damage. To maintain priority in paper announce when you cast the card that this is what you are doing, on MTGO hold CTRL when casting the Lightning Storm . Moreover, when adding counters to Lightning Storm NEVER add more damage than is needed to kill your opponent at that moment, there is always the possibility that your opponent has a land in hand or if they respond by gaining life you can simply discard more lands.

It is also always good to be aware of your damage potential with Lightning Storm at any given time in the game, the table below illustrates the damage potential for a list with 20 lands:

                                Damage Potential

/* Usually you will have played 2-3 lands as 3 gives you 6 mana with Bloom */
1 Land on Field = 20 - 1 = 19 = (19 x 2) + 3 = 41
2 Land on Field = 20 - 2 = 18 = (18 x 2) + 3 = 39
3 Land on Field = 20 - 3 = 17 = (17 x 2) + 3 = 37
4 Land on Field = 20 - 4 = 16 = (16 x 2) + 3 = 35
5 Land on Field = 20 - 5 = 15 = (15 x 2) + 3 = 33
6 Land on Field = 20 - 6 = 14 = (14 x 2) + 3 = 31
7 Land on Field = 20 - 7 = 13 = (13 x 2) + 3 = 29
. . .
11 Land on Field = 20 - 11 = 9 = (9 x 2) + 3 = 21
12 Land on Field = 20 - 12 = 8 = (8 x 2) + 3 = 19

The second wincon of the deck comes in the form of Laboratory Maniac . The basic premise, as outlined above once again, is to have Laboratory Maniac on the field and then cast Serum Visions . To this end there are two scenarios where this win comes into play.

The first, and by far most common, is to win with Laboratory Maniac as part of the Ad Nauseam combo. Doing this requires one more mana than winning with the aforementioned Lightning Storm does and two of that mana has to be . There are two ways to create this mana, option A is to already have an untapped source on the field, or the ability to play a land after resolving Ad Nauseam . In this scenario, one taps the source and exiles 2 Monkeys to cast Laboratory Maniac , then the other 2 Monkeys to play a Pentad Prism on 1, removing the counter for and casting Serum Visions . Alternatively, with any land one can tap it and exile a Monkey to play a Pentad Prism on 2, then remove one counter for and exile 2 Monkeys to cast Laboratory Maniac and removing the last counter to cast Serum Visions . Either way the result is the same. Also worth noting is that if you are playing 2 Desperate Ritual in your 75 then the Laboratory Maniac win can be pulled off on turn 4 with the availability of Lotus Bloom if you had missed a land-drop like Lightning Storm as you will have the ability to create 6 and filter 4 of it into 2 with Pentad Prism , however in my opinion this is not a sound reason to be playing Desperate Ritual .

The second, and by far rarer, way to win with Laboratory Maniac can pop out of nowhere. Commonly referred to as the Spoils of the Vault kill, the idea is that with either Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife active and Laboratory Maniac on the field. If, in hand, one has Spoils of the Vault , Serum Visions , or alternatively 2 Spoils of the Vault , then a win can be pulled off on the spot. For sake of example, let's say that both Spoils of the Vault and Serum Visions are in hand. With Laboratory Maniac on the field and available, one starts by casting Spoils of the Vault naming a card that is not in the deck, I usually go with Rowdy Crew , exiling the entire deck and putting one's life total to negatives; after this cast Serum Visions to win with the Laboratory Maniac . With 2 Spoils of the Vault , first tutor for the piece of this kill missing, and use the second to exile your deck. While a fun and interesting kill, this should never be your first option as, unlike the primary combo, this is very easy to disrupt, if playing Ad Nauseam is a possibility, or you are not dead next turn, then wait, however if the opportunity presents itself and opponent is tapped out then the Spoils of the Vault kill is an option to be aware of and is more common than one would likely imagine.

0-3 Peer Through Depths : This is a card that has fallen out of favor in recent years since its initial inclusion in Ad Nauseam. The effect itself is powerful and very likely to hit what you need, however that is the problem with the card, it is simply "likely" to hit as opposed to Spoils of the Vault which has come to replace it. Regardless of it's falling out of favor the effect remains powerful and is recommended to players just picking up Ad Nauseam for the first time. The appeal to Peer Through Depths is that it is not nearly as random as Spoils of the Vault and cannot kill you on the spot. Spoils of the Vault is by far harder to know how to play and can be frustrating to new players when it exiles all the wincons from the deck (this will happen from time to time). Peer Through Depths is thusly a great beginner option that can still be played once one has garnered a ton of experience with the deck. Personally I do not play it as the flexibility of Spoils of the Vault appeals to me more, however that is by no means a knock to Peer Through Depths which shines in the right build.

3-4 Sleight of Hand : Of the two cantrips in the deck Sleight of Hand is the worse of the two, hence why it is possible to occasionally see lists running only 3 as opposed to the playset. The lack of a scry and its only digging two deep makes Serum Visions the better cantrip as the game goes on. On turn one however, Sleight of Hand is the preferred option as it gives one the greatest possibility of hitting a turn 1 Lotus Bloom . Whereas Serum Visions has to draw Lotus Bloom , Sleight of Hand offers a choice of 2 cards making finding the all important mana acceleration slightly easier. Additionally, in regards to sequencing cantrips, it is always correct to Sleight of Hand prior to Serum Visions so as not to disrupt the scry of the latter, and to this end to play Sleight of Hand prior to playing a scry land , again to preserve the scry and dig as deep as possible in search of the combo pieces needed to win. Also notably, Sleight of Hand does not work with the Laboratory Maniac win as you never actually draw a card.

4 Serum Visions : In addition to enabling the Laboratory Maniac win as outlined above, Serum Visions is the best blue cantrip in the modern format, and that does not change here. The playset is mandatory for the deck as it provides the ability to dig three deep in pursuit of the combo. As a note on sequencing, if possible, always play Serum Visions after a scry land to set up the draw, and in the worst case scenario, dig four deep instead of only three, a significant difference as digging four deep is equivalent to seeing 6.6667% of a 60 card deck whereas three deep is 5%.

0-3 Spoils of the Vault : In the lifetime of Ad Nauseam, Spoils of the Vault is comparably a newer addition to the deck, however it has proven to be by far the perfect card. The drawback itself is often inconsequential as when one casts Spoils of the Vault the intent is often to win, protect the win, or set up the win. In other words, it is very rare that casting Spoils of the Vault blind is the only option available, however, even then the card has an appeal to it, allowing the Ad Nauseam player to set up a win out of nowhere. With Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife active the drawback of Spoils of the Vault is a non-issue, and from experience it is not uncommon to tutor for a Pact of Negation to counter a Cryptic Command for example targeting your game-winning Ad Nauseam . With all this said Spoils of the Vault can be very frustrating owing to its randomness. Usually, one should wait until they have at least one combo piece in hand and have put at least one wincon to the bottom before casting this card. Moreover, an interaction that is sometimes lost on newer players is that with Serum Visions or a scry land , it is possible to set up a Spoils of the Vault to essentially work as an extra draw by tutoring for the card put on top; this can come in handy, allowing us to see two cards instead of one in some spots.

0-1 Mystical Teachings : Personally, I am an advocate for the inclusion of Mystical Teachings in Ad Nauseam. The card does everything we want it to do, often in control matchups providing much needed redundancy and flexibility to the deck that is not as painful or random as Spoils of the Vault . In addition to any combo piece, out of the board, if you so chose to play them, it can grab Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir as well as Vendilion Clique ; both solid options, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir in particular being great in a control heavy meta. I would never not have a copy in my 75, however to those picking up the deck who consistently play more aggressive decks on a regular basis and do not face much control, 3 Spoils of the Vault is a fine option. Also note that one should never run more than 1 Mystical Teachings , its high cost is a bit too ambitious in multiples for the deck.

0-2 Island | 0-2 Plains | 0-1 Swamp

The basics used in the deck vary from player to player, some will argue that 2 Plains is the most important as the only relevant cards in the deck that you must cast are Angel's Grace and Phyrexian Unlife . While I understand this argument, I do not put it into practice as I find it too focused on the points where you have the combo. As of writing this I am playing one of each relevant basic, not because I think this the best split, but because I matchup against Blood Moon on a regular basis, if this was not the case I would be running 2 Island and 1 Plains as I believe it is important to have as many possible lands to cantrip on turn one.

2-4 City of Brass | 2-4 Gemstone Mine

The five color sources for the deck, these are, in terms of just creating mana, the most important lands in the deck. One should have a combined total of at least 5 in their deck at all times, the split is up to you however, in a meta of control City of Brass tends to be better, against more aggressive decks Gemstone Mine tends to be better.

2-3 Darkslick Shores | 2-3 Seachrome Coast

In a deck where one does not generally play more than 3 lands in a single game Darkslick Shores and Seachrome Coast essentially function in this deck as Underground Sea and Tundra respectively. Outside of grindier matchups, and even occasionally still then, going past three lands (bar a scry land or a utility land ) is not in our best interest. That makes the fast lands perfect for this deck as the draw back is very rarely relevant to us. A note on quantities, while I have seen players play as low as 1 of each, I believe this to be incorrect due to the efficiency they have in this deck and would recommend 2-3 of each dependent on the number of 5-color sources you wish to play.

2-3 Temple of Deceit | 1-3 Temple of Enlightenment

The scry lands, as they are called, serve a fundamental purpose to the deck in that they act as pseudo-dig for it, allowing us, via just playing a land to dig one card closer to the missing Ad Nauseam or Angel's Grace . In addition to this they provide mana to actually cast the cards so it's a win-win. A note on the quantities, one will first notice the disparity between the recommended amount of Temple of Deceit to Temple of Enlightenment , the reason for this is simple, we want as many black sources as possible in the deck as Ad Nauseam requires two black. To this end when cutting scry lands from the stock 3-3 split, it is generally correct to cut down on Temple of Enlightenment first. The replacement for this cut will likely be a 5-color source or a utility land . In addition to this, one must take into consideration their Pentad Prism math when playing scry lands. In other words, if in your hand you have the following:

Pentad Prism , Temple of Deceit , Seachrome Coast , Serum Visions / Sleight of Hand , Ad Nauseam , Angel's Grace , Monkey

On turn one, while it is tempting to play the Seachrome Coast and cast a cantrip, there is no guarantee that you will hit another land or Lotus Bloom , and if you do not hit a land you cannot play Pentad Prism on turn two. To this end it is correct to play the Temple of Deceit first, taking the scry and setting yourself up to play Pentad Prism on turn 2 which, depending on your hand can enable a turn 3 win with a Monkey (for the hand above drawing one more land would yield a turn 3 win). To say it simply, prioritize what you have in your hand, our goal is to get to 5-6 mana as quickly as possible, playing Pentad Prism on turn three is sometimes too late and can disrupt an on-curve Phyrexian Unlife regardless.

0-1 Nephalia Academy | 0-2 Dreadship Reef | 0-1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All | 0-1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth | 0-1 Polluted Delta

These represent the various utility lands one can play in Ad Nauseam to their own liking, I will go through them sequentially. Firstly, Nephalia Academy is a card that sees very fringe play, although it can be useful. The effect itself is that of a Library of Leng , and against discard heavy decks like Jund or Grixis Death's Shadow can be useful. The problem with it is that the effect replaces your draw, not to mention how painful it is to see it disrupting playing Pentad Prism on turn 2. Dreadship Reef is a card that sees moderate play however I personally hate it. It again messes up the Pentad Prism math, and ever since the printing of Field of Ruin has been, in my opinion, obsolete. The investment is high and modern control now has a tool where, unlike before, they don't lose a land for dealing with the Dreadship Reef , others will tell you that Dreadship Reef is great, however I have always found it to be a wasted slot where I would rather have a coloured source, the matchups it is good in are now prepared to deal with it, and after that it too often can slow us down. Boseiju, Who Shelters All has suffered the same problem as Dreadship Reef , where it used to be acceptable to play it in the sideboard, Field of Ruin has rendered it fundamentally useless in many situations, the redeeming quality for Boseiju, Who Shelters All as opposed to Dreadship Reef is that it HAS to be dealt with or we will win, but regardless it is unfortunately hard to justify playing while Field of Ruin is popular. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a fine card to play. It's biggest downside is that it does not really add anything to the deck, our mana is generally fine so Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can feel surplus to requirements at times; this one would be left to personal preference of the pilot. Polluted Delta used to be in the stock Ad Nuaseam manabase, however with the move towards Spoils of the Vault has fallen out of favor. The two cards do not play well together as often before casting Spoils of the Vault one is putting valuable cards like Lightning Storm to the bottom of the deck, Polluted Delta would cause us to shuffle which isn't ideal considering, unlike Mystical Teachings , we are not getting a combo piece or something else needed. If you are not playing Spoils of the Vault and instead are playing Peer Through Depths however, then Polluted Delta can be very good, providing a shuffle after putting potentially relevant cards to the bottom with Peer Through Depths .

4 Pentad Prism | 4 Monkeys | 4 Lotus Bloom

All of the above cards are absolutely necessary for the deck, with each providing the mana necessary to win. To wait for 6 lands in modern is both unrealistic and a virtual death sentence. To combat this enter Pentad Prism and Lotus Bloom , with Pentad Prism providing a rare but possible turn 3 win, and both allowing the deck to win consistently on turn 4. Pentad Prism in specific has added value as a tool for filtering mana when comboing or in a tight spot, and unlike Lotus Bloom does not have to be used all at once. Another point with Pentad Prism to be aware of is that if opponent has Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on board then your prisms can potentially be played with Sunburst 3 instead of two, a point that makes those matchups slightly more interesting.

Monkey is our way to win the game, providing the necessary mana to cast both Lightning Storm or Laboratory Maniac on the combo turn. With this in mind however, do not be afraid to expend Monkeys to play your cards, ideally make sure you have access to 2 in deck, however if you are facing down an Inquisition of Kozilek that can take your Phyrexian Unlife the turn before you play it then it can be correct to get it down before the discard, the same is true for Pentad Prism , not allowing your opponent to cut you off your acceleration.

1-2 Fatal Push |

Fatal Push is our removal spell of choice. Of the three premier removal spells of the modern format: Fatal Push , Path to Exile , and Lightning Bolt , Fatal Push provides this deck with the most flexibility and has the least risk associated with it. It does it's job of removing problem creatures such as Ethersworn Canonist , Thalia, Guardian of Thraben , and Baral, Chief of Compliance . It shines most in our worst matchup, infect, where it is quite literally the difference between winning and losing.

1 Echoing Truth |

Echoing Truth provides a nice catch all answer to any potential problem we may face. It is not uncommon for one to play Echoing Truth to bounce something problematic like a Runed Halo preventing the deck from winning that turn. It can also be used to essentially buy a turn against decks such as infect by bouncing the Glistener Elf . It is not uncommon to see 1 Echoing Truth in the mainboard and have an additional Pact of Negation moved to the side as a hedge against humans which without it is an auto-concession to Meddling Mage game one.

1 Slaughter Pact |

In this deck Slaughter Pact is a free removal spell at all times, the upkeep trigger being able to be fizzled with an Angel's Grace (the same goes for Pact of Negation ). Slaughter Pact also opens up some interesting lines as with 6 mana available, lets say opponent is playing humans and has a Meddling Mage on board naming Ad Nauseam . In this situation one can cast the Slaughter Pact removing the Meddling Mage and still have the 6 mana necessary to win that turn, so in addition to being free and a great catch-all removal spell, Slaughter Pact has the unique ability to allow a win at any given moment.


Under Construction

Stock List

Land (20) Acceleration (12) Sideboard (15)
3x City of Brass 4x Lotus Bloom 3x Bontu's Last Reckoning
3x Darkslick Shores 4x Pentad Prism 1x Echoing Truth
2x Gemstone Mine 4x Simian Spirit Guide 2x Fatal Push
2x Island Tutor/Dig (11)1x Hurkyl's Recall
1x Plains 4x Serum Visions 4x Leyline of Sanctity
3x Seachrome Coast 4x Sleight of Hand 1x Pact of Negation
3x Temple of Deceit 3x Spoils of the Vault 1x Slaughter Pact
3x Temple of Enlightenment Protection (3)2x Thoughtseize
Combo (12)3x Pact of Negation
4x Ad Nauseam Wincon (2)
4x Angel's Grace 1x Lightning Storm
4x Phyrexian Unlife 1x Laboratory Maniac

I love Ad Nasueam and I hope that this will serve to inspire many others to take up the deck! If you like the deck please give this page an upvote!


Huge thanks to Chasmolinker for helping out with the page design. Check out his page here!


Updates Add

Following GP Toronto (went 4-4 playing Bant Spirits 3 times ): unfortunately), the list has gotten a lot shinier as we continue to foil out the deck getting closer by the day. The notable new ones are the missing 3 foil Phyrexian Unlife , the 4 Japanese foil Sleight of Hand , and the 1 foil Grand Abolisher which was brought in for the Spirits matchup - funny story I began the day with 3 in my board though my buddy convinced me to take two out as we didn't expect spirits to be popular, I shouldn't have listened though managed to steal one spirits win, other loses were to Lantern and the mirror (this one was my fault I played too aggressively).

Overall a mediocre tournament but the deck felt good and well-positioned, most of it was my error and just dumb bad luck.

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100% Competitive

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Date added 7 months
Last updated 7 minutes

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.11
Folders Uncategorized, eskere, Cool deck ideas
Top rank #37 on 2018-07-29
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