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The Comboist Manifesto: Ad Nauseam
By Stephen Bahl
The Comboist Manifesto Volume I, Article 9: Ad Nauseam Card Spotlight

Because I couldn't think of a topic I really wanted to use for this week's article, I was initially going to just write about a dilemma I've been having in constructing a Legacy deck. While I pondered how I'd explain my dilemma, it occurred to me that I could instead write an article about the central card that I've been working with. When I introduced this series, I made a passing reference to “individual card spotlights.” It's about time that I do one of those, and it seems appropriate that my first spotlight goes to one of my favorite combo cards ever: Ad Nauseam.



Most of my favorite combo cards are considered to be broken. Ad Nauseam isn't broken. Well, that's a subjective judgment, but it's also one that can be supported with facts. Ad Nauseam has never been banned or restricted in any officially sanctioned format, nor in any alternative or casual format that I've ever heard of. It has also been a key component of successful combo decks in virtually every major constructed format, and I'll post some decklists as a reference to its presence in Standard, Extended, Vintage, Legacy, and Modern. I've never heard of Ad Nauseam showing up in Commander or in Block Constructed, but it isn't really the sort of card one would expect in Commander anyway and I'm not entirely convinced that anyone ever even played Alara Block Constructed. This sort of healthy balance for a card is unusual, and Wizards of the Coast must have known they were taking a risk when they printed Ad Nauseam. Black cards that involve paying life to get more cards can very easily be too strong, with some pretty famous historical examples that have been banned in multiple formats. Ad Nauseam provides just the right balance of power and limitations on that power, making it one of the most successful combo-oriented cards of all time.

Ad Nauseam can dig up an arbitrary number of cards, but because the loss of life for doing so is tied directly to the mana costs of the cards, there is a fundamental deck-building consideration: the more expensive the cards in one's deck are, the smaller the pile grabbed by Ad Nauseam will turn out to be. Additionally, the high mana cost of Ad Nauseam and the small life total that will usually be the result of using the card create more constraints. Ad Nauseam must be cast early in the game, before one loses too much life. And that requires mana acceleration. It must also be part of a deck that has a high density of cards costing zero mana or one mana, and which can create a condition for victory even after five mana has already been used to cast Ad Nauseam in the first place. While it's a very powerful card, Ad Nauseam cannot simply be thrown into any combo deck.

Here are some tournament decks since the release of Shards of Alara that demonstrate uses for Ad Nauseam...

Ad Nauseam in Standard: Seismic Swans
During Ad Nauseam's tenure in Standard, it was used as an enabler in a combo deck based around the cascade mechanic and the interaction between Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault. These decks contained upwards of 40 lands, and used Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast to cascade into Swans of Bryn Argoll and Seismic Assault. Seismic Assault could discard lands to damage the Swans, which would draw more cards. Because the deck was so full of lands, Ad Nauseam was employed to obtain a sufficiently large hand to turn the Seismic Assault + Swans of Bryn Argoll combo into a kill.

Seismic Swans was a versatile deck, which got a lot of mileage out of Seismic Assault. It could pitch lands to kill opposing creatures, controlling the board or clearing the way for its own attacks with man-lands. The primary kill condition, though was to discard lands to damage Swans, drawing two cards for every land discarded and, thanks to the high density of lands in the deck, accumulating a large enough hand full of lands to kill the opponent outright with Seismic Assault. This deck didn't need Ad Nauseam to win, but had it as a sort of ace-in-the-hole, sometimes using Ad Nauseam to acquire enough lands for a lethal Seismic Assault barrage even without Swans of Bryn Argoll. Here's Joel Calafell's winning list from GP Barcelona in 2009.

2x Battlefield Forge
2x Cascade Bluffs
4x Fire-Lit Thicket
2x Ghitu Encampment
4x Graven Cairns
1x Mountain
4x Reflecting Pool
4x Spinerock Knoll
4x Treetop Village
4x Vivid Crag
1x Vivid Creek
4x Vivid Grove
1x Vivid Marsh
4x Vivid Meadow
4x Bloodbraid Elf
4x Swans of Bryn Argoll
2x Ad Nauseam
2x Bituminous Blast
2x Captured Sunlight
1x Primal Command
4x Seismic Assault

Sideboard:
2x Aura of Silence
4x Countryside Crusher
2x Maelstrom Pulse
1x Primal Command
2x Vexing Shusher
2x Wickerbough Elder
2x Wrath of God

The decks Ad Nauseam has appeared in for most of the card's history have little in common with this deck. However, I consider the example of Seismic Swans to be particularly informative because it demonstrates that even in the biggest Magic tournament format in the world, with a smaller pool of cards than other formats, Ad Nauseam was a useful combo enabler. This required alignment with some other circumstances: Seismic Assault's reprinting in 10th Edition and its synergy with Swans of Bryn Argoll allowed for the possibility of decks using extreme land counts, which indirectly created a favorable environment for Ad Nauseam. In other formats, Ad Nauseam became powerful in other ways. For instance, in Vintage, the prevalence of artifacts that cost zero mana presented another environment that favored Ad Nauseam, not as a tool for Seismic Assault, but as bomb for the storm mechanic, specifically Tendrils of Agony.

Ad Nauseam in Vintage
Shards of Alara was released in October of 2008, and players in Vintage began trying Ad Nauseam almost right away. At least in part due to an article by Stephen Menendian, the initial Ad Nauseam decks in Vintage diverged significantly from previous Tendrils decks in the composition of its individual cards. Most Tendrils decks up to that point had relied on tutors and on draw-7 spells to chain together enough spells for a lethal Tendrils of Agony. Menendian's deck, while still focused on chaining spells together, emphasized Chrome Mox and Chain of Vapor, relying on Ad Nauseam instead of the traditional draw-7 spells. This is his original decklist.

2x Island
2x Swamp
1x Bayou
4x Polluted Delta
2x Underground Sea
1x Black Lotus
4x Chrome Mox
1x Lotus Petal
1x Mana Crypt
1x Mana Vault
1x Mox Jet
1x Mox Sapphire
1x Sol Ring
1x Necropotence
4x Ad Nauseam
1x Ancestral Recall
1x Brainstorm
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Chain of Vapor
4x Dark Ritual
1x Demonic Consultation
1x Mystical Tutor
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Demonic Tutor
4x Duress
1x Imperial Seal
1x Ponder
4x Tendrils of Agony
4x Thoughtseize
1x Yawgmoth's Will

Sideboard:
3x Tormod's Crypt
4x Xantid Swarm
3x Yixlid Jailer
3x Hurkyl's Recall
1x Bayou
1x Tropical Island

Despite the substantial life loss that Ad Nauseam would cause on flipping a copy of itself or one of the four copies of Tendrils of Agony, almost everything else in the deck is a zero-drop or a one-drop. With the high-quality mana acceleration and tutoring available in Vintage, this deck didn't have to dig far to find enough spells to set up a kill, so the life loss wasn't problematic. While the exact approaches to Ad Nauseam Tendrils decks in Vintage varied, they maintained many of the same principles first developed when Ad Nauseam was initially tested for Vintage. For comparison, here's a recent Ad Nauseam deck played by Alessio Chinigioli.

1x Ancestral Recall
4x Dark Ritual
2x Hurkyl's Recall
3x Cabal Ritual
1x Mystical Tutor
1x Brainstorm
4x Pact of Negation
4x Ad Nauseam
2x Chain of Vapor
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Demonic Consultation
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Imperial Seal
1x Ponder
4x Duress
1x Yawgmoth's Will
1x Necropotence
2x Island
2x Swamp
4x Polluted Delta
1x Bloodstained Mire
3x Underground Sea
1x Bayou
1x Sol Ring
1x Mox Jet
1x Mana Crypt
3x Chrome Mox
1x Mox Sapphire
1x Mana Vault
1x Black Lotus
1x Sensei's Divining Top

Sideboard:
1x Nihil Spellbomb
3x Xantid Swarm
4x Oath of Druids
2x Dragon Breath
1x Hurkyl's Recall
2x Forbidden Orchard
2x Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

This archetype, while still played in Vintage, has faded from prominence as other storm decks have gotten new tools. Griselbrand, fetched with Oath of Druids, has become incredibly powerful, and Tendrils decks using Oath now threaten to drive Ad Nauseam Tendrils out of the format. Ad Nauseam has had a compelling tournament presence in Vintage since it was first released, but that presences is gradually diminishing and the card's future is uncertain. Even though Ad Nauseam is one of my favorite cards, I have to admit that the new storm decks, often relying on the now-unrestricted Burning Wish (a key card in storm decks that was restricted from 2003 to 2012) and on Oath of Druids (with Griselbrand), are very impressive.

For the most part, Ad Nauseam has been used as a 4-of in Vintage, the primary gameplan in decks that include it. Rarely, it is used in another manner, somewhat reminiscent of Ad Nauseam's old role in Standard as a backup plan for another combo. This has never really caught on. Perhaps if dedicated Ad Nauseam Tendrils decks go extinct in Vintage, this alternative use for the card will represent its only remaining presence in Vintage. A single copy of Ad Nauseam is a viable option for Belcher decks, but this use is currently still marginal at best.

Ad Nauseam in Extended: Angel's Grace
Vintage Ad Nauseam combo decks can count on digging through several cards with Ad Nauseam and acquiring enough components for a lethal spell chain. The card pool in Extended was smaller and lacked the acceleration available in Vintage, so this approach wasn't feasible. Rather than using Ad Nauseam as a simple hand-filling bomb followed up with a chain of cheap spells and a storm finish, Extended players used a two-card combo: Ad Nauseam + Angel's Grace.



With Angel's Grace, paying life to Ad Nauseam isn't a problem as long as one wins in the same turn that Ad Nauseam is cast. Since Ad Nauseam could essentially draw an entire library and these decks were designed to win off of Ad Nauseam, this was not a problem. Here's a sample decklist used by David Ángel Bueno.

4x Ad Nauseam
4x Angel's Grace
4x Manamorphose
4x Peer Through Depths
4x Seething Song
1x Tendrils of Agony
3x Grapeshot
4x Ponder
4x Rite of Flame
3x Chrome Mox
4x Chromatic Star
4x Lotus Bloom
2x Watery Grave
3x Steam Vents
4x City of Brass
4x Gemstone Mine
4x Polluted Delta

Sideboard:
4x Defense Grid
4x Demigod of Revenge
4x Echoing Truth
3x Slaughter Pact

Ad Nauseam Tendrils was fairly short-lived in Extended. Less than a year after Ad Nauseam entered the format, Tendrils of Agony rotated out. Ad Nauseam lived on in Extended with a new kill condition: Conflagrate.



The Magic: the Gathering YouTube channel has a video with Frank Karsten providing an overview of his Ad Nauseam Conflagrate deck.

This is a link to the video if I didn't screw it up.

1x Murmuring Bosk
4x Misty Rainforest
5x Island
4x Arcane Sanctum
2x Underground River
1x Sunken Ruins
1x Dreadship Reef
1x Plains
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2x Gemstone Mine
4x Simian Spirit Guide
1x Vendilion Clique
1x Conflagrate
4x Coalition Relic
4x Lotus Bloom
1x Thoughtseize
1x Slaughter Pact
3x Pact of Negation
3x Mystical Teachings
4x Ponder
4x Preordain
4x Angel's Grace
4x Ad Nauseam

Sideboard:
2x Infest
1x Dreadship Reef
1x Gemstone Caverns
2x Leyline of Sanctity
1x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1x Pact of Negation
2x Thoughtseize
1x Into the Roil
1x Patrician's Scorn
1x Path to Exile
1x Aeon Chronicler
1x Baneslayer Angel

The Ad Nauseam Conflagrate deck lasted until Time Spiral rotated out of Extended, taking Angel's Grace and Conflagrate with it. While Ad Nauseam was occasionally used in other archetypes (for example, with Seismic Assault as had originally been done in Standard), it never resurfaced as an established archetype in Extended. Shards of Alara rotated out of Extended. Also, Wizards of the Coast had already begun killing Extended so as to replace it with Modern (technically, Tom LaPille said “Modern is not intended to permanently replace any existing format” back in 2011, but that does seem to be just what happened).

Extended, for reasons I can only speculate on, is also where most of the unusual applications of Ad Nauseam popped up. In addition to the old trick of using the card in a Seismic Assault deck with lots of lands, it had marginal appearances in totally different decks. For example, while searching for Ad Nauseam decklists that were used in Extended and Modern, I found this Elves deck that, quite in keeping with tradition, uses Glimpse of Nature, but that also utilizes Ad Nauseam for even more combo deliciousness. It was played by Roland Bode and was nicknamed “Sick Elves.”

1x Regal Force
3x Essence Warden
4x Birchlore Rangers
4x Elves of Deep Shadow
4x Elvish Visionary
4x Heritage Druid
4x Llanowar Elves
4x Nettle Sentinel
4x Wirewood Symbiote
1x Brain Freeze
2x Ad Nauseam
4x Summoner's Pact
4x Glimpse of Nature
1x Pendelhaven
3x Overgrown Tomb
4x Gilt-Leaf Palace
4x Horizon Canopy
5x Forest

Sideboard:
2x Engineered Explosives
2x Fecundity
1x Gaea's Blessing
4x Thoughtseize
4x Viridian Shaman
2x Wirewood Hivemaster

Ad Nauseam in Modern: Phyrexian Unlife
Initially, Ad Nauseam decks in Modern were basically just direct ports of the Ad Nauseam Conflagrate decks used in Extended. This was pretty typical for Modern at the time anyway. I've criticized Modern in the past and will probably do so again, at length, so I hasten to add that Modern being derivative of Extended isn't a mark against it. Legacy also started out as a format full of decks ported from Extended (the old Type 1.5 didn't have as much to offer after the new banned list went into effect), and it gradually developed on its own. Using something that was successful in one format as a foundation for a new deck in another format is pretty common anyway.

Angel's Grace, Conflagrate, and many of the other cards use in Extended Ad Nauseam decks are still used with Ad Nauseam in Modern. If Modern has any real distinction for its Ad Nauseam decks, it's probably the incorporation of Phyrexian Unlife as an alternative to Angel's Grace.



This decklist was used by Bryan Gottlieb and Jared Boettcher for Pro Tour Born of the Gods.

2x Marsh Flats
2x Scalding Tarn
1x Island
1x Plains
1x Swamp
1x Hallowed Fountain
1x Watery Grave
4x Gemstone Mine
1x Seachrome Coast
2x Temple of Enlightenment
2x Temple of Deceit
1x Gemstone Caverns
1x Boseiju, Who Shelters All
4x Ad Nauseam
4x Angel's Grace
3x Phyrexian Unlife
4x Simian Spirit Guide
1x Lightning Storm
4x Pentad Prism
4x Lotus Bloom
4x Serum Visions
4x Sleight of Hand
2x Peer Through Depths
1x Mystical Teachings
3x Pact of Negation
1x Slaughter Pact
1x Conjurer's Bauble

Sideboard:
3x Leyline of Sanctity
1x Drown in Sorrow
3x Hurkyl's Recall
1x Echoing Truth
1x Patrician's Scorn
1x Slaughter Pact
1x Tormod's Crypt
1x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1x Silence
1x Tolaria West
1x Phyrexian Unlife

Ad Nauseam in Legacy: ANT and TES
Legacy is where I'm most familiar with Ad Nauseam decks. In Legacy, Ad Nauseam has evolved considerably since its initial release. As in Vintage, Ad Nauseam has been used to power Tendrils of Agony in decks with cheap mana acceleration, such as Dark Ritual. But the other details have varied considerably. While Ad Nauseam is well-established now, early attempts at using Ad Nauseam in Legacy were more hectic. I could just post a bunch of old decklists, but oh no, that's exactly what's happening!

Here's a 2008 Legacy list with four copies of Ad Nauseam.

1x Wipe Away
4x Ad Nauseam
4x Brainstorm
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Dark Ritual
4x Mystical Tutor
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Tendrils of Agony
3x Ponder
4x Duress
4x Infernal Tutor
4x Chrome Mox
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Lotus Petal
1x Island
1x Swamp
1x Tundra
3x Underground Sea
4x Flooded Strand
4x Polluted Delta

Sideboard:
1x Chain of Vapor
1x Echoing Truth
1x Empty the Warrens
1x Extirpate
1x Hurkyl's Recall
4x Orim's Chant
1x Rushing River
3x Slaughter Pact
1x Tendrils of Agony
1x Volcanic Island

Here's another list from when Ad Nauseam was brand new. This one has three copies of Ad Nauseam.

4x Polluted Delta
2x Bloodstained Mire
2x Flooded Strand
2x Underground Sea
1x Scrubland
1x Tundra
1x Swamp
1x Island
4x Lotus Petal
4x Chrome Mox
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Dark Ritual
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Brainstorm
4x Mystical Tutor
4x Infernal Tutor
3x Ad Nauseam
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Tendrils of Agony
4x Duress
4x Orim's Chant
1x Rushing River

Sideboard:
1x Plains
4x Repeal
4x Serenity
1x Swords to Plowshares
1x Slaughter Pact
4x Tormod's Crypt

And here's one from 2009. I think this list had a Top 8 finish in a Grand Prix. It has two copies of Ad Nauseam and a Burning Wish sideboard.

1x Orim's Chant
2x Ad Nauseam
2x Cabal Ritual
3x Mystical Tutor
4x Brainstorm
4x Dark Ritual
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Tendrils of Agony
2x Ponder
3x Infernal Tutor
4x Burning Wish
4x Duress
4x Rite of Flame
3x Chrome Mox
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Lotus Petal
1x Badlands
1x Volcanic Island
2x Underground Sea
3x Bloodstained Mire
3x Polluted Delta
4x Gemstone Mine

Sideboard:
1x Empty the Warrens
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Infernal Tutor
2x Meltdown
1x Orim's Chant
2x Pyroclasm
1x Rushing River
1x Telemin Performance
1x Tendrils of Agony
1x Thoughtseize
3x Vexing Shusher

Besides the number of copies of Ad Nauseam, these lists have some other notable differences. They also have their similarities. Unlike in Vintage, Legacy decks have access to four copies of Lotus Petal and Lion's Eye Diamond. One hallmark of Legacy ANT decks, which has been pretty constant from the beginning, is that they use Infernal Tutor with Lion's Eye Diamond as a combo to accelerate the playing of Ad Nauseam. This motivated the move from four copies of Ad Nauseam to lower numbers of the card. If the plan is to Infernal Tutor into Ad Nauseam, with Lion's Eye Diamond providing mana to play it, actually drawing Ad Nauseam isn't helpful. The lower overall quality of very cheap acceleration in comparison to Vintage also means that Ad Nauseam needs to be able to dig deeper with greater reliability than in Vintage, and additional copies of Ad Nauseam can cost too much life. Three copies were initially used as a result of this problem, but two copies became the standard. Now it's down to one.

In the early years of Legacy ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils), decklists evolved into something a lot like the last of these lists. And then the archetype experienced some major changes. Mystical Tutor was banned. I'll rant about that in some other article, but ANT was definitely the deck most adversely affected by this at the time. Although the ban didn't kill ANT outright, it damaged the deck's consistency. ANT recovered with the printing of some new cards, primarily Preordain, Gitaxian Probe, and Past in Flames.



Any storm deck in Vintage uses Yawgmoth's Will, which is banned in Legacy (although it hasn't been officially stated, it's fair to assume that Yawgmoth's Will is banned for just that reason: it would be too good in Legacy storm decks). For years, decks using Tendrils of Agony in Legacy employed Ill-Gotten Gains as a poor substitute for what Yawgmoth's Will could do. Past in Flames changes that. While it's still no Yawgmoth's Will, Past in Flames offers enough recursion that it can easily lead to a lethal storm count, often while also producing mana (replaying used man acceleration spells) and drawing cards (replaying used card draw spells). Past in Flames is such a strong card for storm decks that many ANT players don't primarily use Ad Nauseam to win games. A current decklist for Ad Nauseam Tendrils looks something like this.

1x Ad Nauseam
1x Past in Flames
1x Tendrils of Agony
2x Duress
4x Cabal Therapy
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Lotus Petal
4x Dark Ritual
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Infernal Tutor
4x Ponder
4x Preordain
4x Gitaxian Probe
4x Brainstorm
4x Polluted Delta
3x Scalding Tarn
2x Underground Sea
2x Island
1x Badlands
1x Volcanic Island
1x Swamp
1x Tropical Island

Sideboard:
3x Abrupt Decay
3x Carpet of Flowers
3x Dread of Night
2x Chain of Vapor
1x Karakas
1x Surgical Extraction
1x Thoughtseize
1x Empty the Warrens

Ad Nauseam Tendrils can and does win without casting Ad Nauseam, especially when using Past in Flames. When the deck does employ its namesake, it digs up a whole lot of cards and wins, typically after having protected itself in the first few turns with surgical discard spells. Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy is particularly potent. Other combo decks in Legacy tend to run faster, but ANT is consistent and, of all dedicated combo decks in Legacy, is the best at protecting itself from disruption.

There's another Ad Nauseam deck in Legacy, and that's the source of my dilemma. But before I get to that, I need to back up to before Ad Nauseam was ever printed. Storm decks did exist in Legacy from the beginning of the format, but they were not very successful. In 2006, Bryant Cook attempted to shove things that made different storm decks together into a single deck: The Epic Storm. Oh, and that name might make a bit more sense with the additional information that there was a longstanding Vintage Tendrils deck called The Perfect Storm (which is an old expression and was also the title of a famous book). The Epic Storm had the advantage of being a fast combo deck that was also versatile. This was the decklist in 2006.

4x City of Brass
4x Gemstone Mine
2x Undiscovered Paradise
1x Tomb of Urami
4x Xantid Swarm
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Lotus Petal
4x Chrome Mox
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
4x Burning Wish
2x Tendrils of Agony
4x Dark Ritual
4x Cabal Ritual
4x Infernal Tutor
4x Plunge into Darkness
1x Diminishing Returns
4x Rite of Flame
1x Empty the Warrens
4x Brainstorm

Sideboard
1x Ill-Gotten Gains
1x Tendrils of Agony
1x Diminishing Returns
3x Empty the Warrens
1x Tranquility
2x Shattering Spree
4x Dark Confidant
1x Earthquake
1x Duress

As far as I know, this was the first deck to use both Tendrils of Agony and Empty the Warrens together in the same deck as win conditions. I think it was also the first Legacy deck ever to make good use of Burning Wish, a card that many people (myself included) had tested for Legacy, remembering its power in Vintage. When I first discovered The Epic Storm, I was largely disinterested. It struck me as too unfocused, so I didn't bother testing it.

After Ad Nauseam came out, Bryant Cook put it into The Epic Storm, and the deck has evolved as an Ad Nauseam deck ever since. Here's his current list.

4x Gemstone Mine
2x City of Brass
2x Underground Sea
1x Volcanic Island
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Misty Rainforest
1x Scalding Tarn
3x Chrome Mox
4x Lotus Petal
4x Lion's Eye Diamond
4x Dark Ritual
4x Rite of Flame
4x Burning Wish
4x Infernal Tutor
4x Brainstorm
4x Ponder
4x Gitaxian Probe
4x Cabal Therapy
3x Silence
1x Empty the Warrens
1x Ad Nauseam

Sideboard:
2x Abrupt Decay
2x Xantid Swarm
2x Pyroblast
2x Surgical Extraction
1x Chain of Vapor
1x Thoughtseize
1x Grapeshot
1x Empty the Warrens
1x Tendrils of Agony
1x Past in Flames
1x Diminishing Returns

It may not be obvious from looking at the decklists, but this deck, The Epic Storm, uses Ad Nauseam to win more frequently than Ad Nauseam Tendrils does. This may seem like a pretty stupid discrepancy, but as I've explained, ANT developed gradually from the early attempts at basing storm decks around Ad Nauseam when the card first came out, whereas TES was a pre-existing deck with a large set of tools, relying on tutors for consistency, and it incorporated Ad Nauseam as one of those tools.

The dilemma that prompted this article, and which I'm still facing, is between ANT and TES. I have a TES decklist sleeved up already and I've been testing it, but I also own the cards to build ANT, and I'm not sure which deck I'd prefer to play in tournaments (assuming I attend any). For comparison, ANT...


  • Is slower.
  • Has more control elements and is better at disrupting other decks.
  • Is essentially a blue/black deck and can splash a bit in its manabase for other colors (red for Past in Flames and green for some sideboard cards).
  • Relies on discard spells for disruption.
  • Is better at sculpting its own hand to set up a win.

...while TES...

  • Is faster.
  • Has less protection.
  • Can use Silence instead of just proactively picking cards from the opponent's hand.
  • Is a five-color deck and needs access to mana of any color.
  • Is better at digging with Ad Nauseam.

I want to test both decks, but I'll also note that there's a lot of overlap between them, and that even though these two decks have different origins, they've converged into sort of spectrum. The differences I've cited apply to the extreme cases, but many players are using decks that combine aspects from both decks. I've seen decks that looked mostly like ANT, but that used Burning Wish. I've also seen decks that looked mostly like TES, but with Cabal Ritual, Duress, or other cards that are normally found in ANT instead. Rather than a sharp contrast between two different decks, there's a range of decks with differing emphases on speed and protection. My quandary lies in trying to find the deck that contains the right balance for me.

Well, that's been my Ad Nauseam spotlight. In the five years that the card has been around, it has shaped gameplay in multiple tournament formats and been used in a surprising variety of ways, including a little of each of my “ABC's of combo.” The Angel's Grace + Ad Nauseam combo is pretty clearly Pattern A. The Vintage Ad Nauseam decks are best described as Pattern B. And Legacy Ad Nauseam decks fit more into Pattern C. Building decks with Ad Nauseam is difficult, but has certainly been successful. I am eager to see what the future holds for this fascinating card.

Read More Articles by Stephen Bahl!

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