Beating Companions with Ad Nauseam

Hello everyone, my name is Ryan Donkin (GR_DONKIN on MTGO) and I’m here to tell you all about what we can learn from my first place finish in the Lotus Box League Modern event with Ad Nauseam. Here’s the decklist we played for that day:


Going into this tournament, I knew that the decks to beat were going to be Yorion Scapeshift and RB Prowess. This was great news to me as Ad Nauseam is a strong favorite in this field. Scapeshift plays expensive counter magic that folds very easily to Pact of Negation, and RB Prowess struggles a great deal when sitting across the table from a Leyline of Sanctity.

Yorion Scapeshift uses permanent-based cantrips and ramp spells to generate large amounts of card advantage. The deck also runs a suite of tempo-oriented counter spells to ensure there is enough time to resolve a game winning Scapeshift. The problem with this plan however, is that Remand and Cryptic Command cost 2 and 4 mana respectively while Pact of Negation from Ad Nauseam costs 0. This gives us a game winning mana advantage when interacting on the stack.

RB Prowess is a burn deck that grinds so hard it makes Jund look silly. The addition of Abbot of Keral Keep gives the deck another source of card advantage in the form of an aggressive threat. Cling to Dust is also another powerful synergistic tool for this deck as it provides yet another source of grindy card advantage while still being a flexible piece of interaction. While this particular deck does have discard spells to give it an edge vs Ad Nauseam in game one, it folds even harder to Leyline of Sanctity out of the Ad Nauseam sideboard.

What do these two decks have in common? Why were these two decks so successful in this tournament? The answer is simply one word: companions. Lurrus and Yorion are not only a free 8th card you are guaranteed at the start of the game, they also provide copious amounts of card advantage throughout the course of the game at seemingly no cost. This information leads me to our first big takeaway: Card advantage does not matter when the game ends on turn four.

Ad Nauseam simply does not care about how much incremental card advantage the opposing deck can create, and while the card advantage provided by these companions seems free, the awkward truths about these pushed 2020 rares makes them uncastable against Ad Nauseam. Let’s talk about Lurrus and Yorrion decks in general.

The biggest detriment to Lurrus is that it is a 3 mana play that has zero impact the game before turn 4. It simply does not interact with Ad Nauseam’s game plan in any way. There is a running joke within my Twitch community that Lurrus is the Modern Time Walk and it really plays out that way. The Lurrus opponent will tap out on turn three for a 3/2 lifelinker that maybe draws a card, then Ad Nauseam untaps on 4 and wins. There is never a good time to resolve Lurrus vs Ad Nauseam.

Yorion has the same problem as Lurrus but more so. How in the world does a five drop matter in a game that is slated to end on turn four? It doesn’t! Yorion cannot be deployed until after turn four, and by then it is too late. To make matters worse, the Yorion player is running 80 cards, which decreases their ability to specific haymakers or interaction.

By threatening to win the game on turn four, opposing decks built around their companions cannot utilize them effectively. This became very clear to me when reflecting on my matches for the tournament, I won all five of my Yorion Scapeshift matches, and three of my four RB Prowess Matches.

Another learning moment I had during this tournament was how I changed my decklist to account for the fact that it was an open decklist event. This means that both players had access to their opponent’s exact deck list before the match begins.

I think that this kind of information provides a huge advantage to both players, but how can this information be best utilized? The answer is to change your decklist to reward aggressive mulligans, and to build your sideboard in a way that makes it difficult for your opponent to sideboard effectively.

When talking about Ad Nauseam, I have always been the biggest advocate for Sleight of Hand. Sleight of Hand is an excellent card in Ad Nauseam because it gives you immediate card selection. There’s nothing quite better than hitting a Lotus Bloom off a Sleight of Hand on turn one! The main reason for Sleight of Hand however, is to fix good hands that are bad in a particular matchup.

A few examples of this are:

  • Keeping a good hand with no white card vs RB Prowess
  • Keeping a good hand with no Lotus Bloom vs G Tron

Sleight of Hand puts us on a fast track to getting those pieces sooner than later, which is important when trying to win on turn four. When I found out this tournament was an open decklist, I realised I no longer needed Sleight of Hand. I could afford to mulligan more aggressively to get an ideal hand in game one.

Another thing that gave me an edge in this tournament were the large haymaker creatures in my sideboard: Sphinx of the Final Word and Chandra & Awakened Inferno. I never brought these cards in against any deck that day, but they still helped me win. You may be wondering how, but the answer again lies in the fact that this was an open decklist tournament.

My opponents see these uncounterable threats in my sideboard, and they must respect them when making sideboarding choices. This could mean leaving in wraths post-board for the Sphinx, or perhaps even siding in Aether Gust for Chandra. I never needed these cards to win the game that day, but I’m sure the mind games from the sideboard gave me an edge.

If you’d like to hear my thoughts going into the tournament as well as all the gameplay from the day with my commentary, you can watch my video of the event here. I also stream Ad Nauseam multiple days a week on Twitch. My streams on Wednesday are always focused on educating people on how to best pilot Ad Nauseam!

That’s all I have today. I hope you enjoyed reading my explanation on why Ad Nauseam is a natural predator for companion decks, as well as how to better improve your decklist for an open decklist tournament.

Thanks so much for reading,

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