Ad Nauseam

Posted in Feature on June 27, 2013

By Sam Black

Sam Black is a Platinum Pro Player and longtime writer for He is a respected deck builder and took over Daily Decks for the first half of 2013.

Modern is home to a number of bizarre combo decks, some of which are far more intuitive than others. One of the more abstract decks is the Ad Nauseam combo deck. Like Splinter Twin, this is basically a two-card combo deck where you win when you play both cards together—but that deck can be explained by a simple loop that results in attacking with an arbitrarily large number of creatures, or "Infinity Faeries," an easily understandable concept. With this deck, the goal is to play either Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife, which allows you to keep playing after losing all your life, then draw your entire library with Ad Nauseam, then discard most of your hand to the flashback on Conflagrate after casting it the first time for 0 to get it into your graveyard to kill the opponent—slightly more convoluted, but no less effective.

Ad Nauseam

The reason to go to such great lengths, for this two-card combo in particular, is that unlike Splinter Twin, it doesn't rely on a creature, so it's much harder for most opponents to interact with. Also, the card Mystical Teachings can search for either or both cards in the combo.

The comparison between this deck and Splinter Twin offers an interesting opportunity to understand the cost-benefits of different directions in building combo decks. Because Splinter Twin needs Splinter Twin or Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite or Deceiver Exarch (there are other ways to do it, but those are the ones the deck usually uses), it's relatively easy to find the combo, and because the blue cards are instants, the mana can be broken up over two turns and you don't need to start the combo until your opponent's end step. This means the deck doesn't need to play too much mana or library manipulation—you still want some, as a combo deck, but the redundancy goes a long way. Instead, the deck focuses on counterspells that allow it to interact with the opponent, which it assumes it will have to do because, as a creature-based combo deck, most opponents will be able to interact with it, and it will have to fight back.

Ad Nauseam, relying entirely on spells, assumes most opponents won't be able to interact with it in the first game; they will have to race. As such, it doesn't bother with counterspells or many other interactive cards; instead, it plays additional mana sources like Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism to try to execute its combo as quickly as possible, since most games, especially before sideboarding, will just be races.

Almost every card in the main deck is devoted to finding or casting Ad Nauseam, Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife, and the following Conflagrate—only the three Pacts don't directly contribute to this plan. The sideboard is almost entirely dedicated to cutting off expected means of interactions from opponents after they're prepared. This deck is never trying to stop the opponent from doing something. It's always going to race, and it assumes that its endgame will trump the opponent unless the opponent has a way to stop it from happening. Against everyone else, it's just a race, and the main deck is already set up to race as fast as possible.

rock2011's Ad Nauseam

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