Play & Explain: Wishful Neobrand

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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,

Scapeshift Just Got a Big Friend

The landscape of Modern has changed dramatically with Ikoria hitting the digital world. So much so, we may see bannings to help moderate the powerful mechanic that is Companion.

The two big standout companions have been Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Yorion, Sky Nomad. This has caused Modern to almost resemble Legacy with a flurry of Delver of Secret type decks. Which has also caused a burst in the popularity of Burn. On the flipside we have the newer bigger midrange meta. Yorion has allowed for a consistent big drop and a revitalization of the spells that have come before it.

For competitive magic there’s typically a balance to any healthy format. There’s All-In Aggro, Mid-Range, Control, and Combo. Typically, Mid-Range is meant to keep the Aggro decks in check while getting chewed up by Control. Combo comes in as an X-Factor that trumps Mid-Range typically, sometimes fares well against Control, but can be weak to Aggro.

Now that we see a large rise in the Mid-Range as the race to stop Burn increases in the meta. We look to see how we can one up everyone else that is on the same level. I wrote about the power of Scapeshift awhile back shortly before Companions hit the mean streets. Scapeshift utilizes cards in the deck to function as a one-card win condition. The limiting factor was that you needed sufficient Mountains in the deck to use with Valakut the Molten Pinnacle. That’s where Yorion comes in, the 80-card builds make this much simpler.

For those that haven’t had the pleasure of pulling off a Scapeshift win. Let me give a simple explanation. Scapeshift allows you to select all your lands. You then search your library for one or two copies of Valakut the Molten Pinnacle and at least six Mountains. For each copy of Valakut that is grabbed it deals three damage per mountain put into play simultaneously.

Scapeshift is a sacrifice upon resolution spell. Meaning you do not lose anything if you try and fail. Someone can disrupt the number of Mountains you have in play and the having five other Mountains clause does indeed check upon resolution a second time. Luckily there aren’t many people playing Boomerang anymore and Cryptic Command probably would have been used on the Scapeshift itself.

Many pros have been posting their decklists to Twitter and even though Edgar Magalhaes wasn’t the first to come up with the idea. His list appealed to me the most. As he put it, how many bad cards can Yorion make up for? To me his list ran the least number of bad cards. Let me share the list and we can go into the weeds.

[deck title=Scapeshift by Edgar Magalhaes]
1 Yorion, Sky Nomad
1 Breeding Pool
3 Ketria Triome
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Mystic Sanctuary
2 Prismatic Vista
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Snow-Covered Forest
5 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
4 Stream Vents
3 Stomping Grounds
2 Valakut the Molten Pinnacle
2 Wooded Foothills
4 Ice-Fang Coatl
4 Sakura Tribe Elder
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Abundant Growth
4 Remand
4 Growth Spiral
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Cryptic Command
4 Scapeshift
2 Aether Gust
3 Mystical Dispute
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Flame Slash
3 Veil of Summer
2 Weather the Storm


It’s immediately funny to me that decks like these run more lands than the Legacy lands deck would sometimes play. This is of course important because the deck wants to optimize getting to the seven-land base requirement of utilizing Scapeshift.

The Arcum’s Astrolabes, Abundant Growths, and Ice-Fang Coatls are all cheap effective cantrips that increase the power level of Yorion. Cards like Remand and Cryptic Command are sufficient disruption typically as you race to win with a big Scapeshift.

When you’re playing with 80 cards a 15-card sideboard becomes less effective. The odds of drawing a card with only a couple copies goes so far down that additional copies become necessary. The compensation for this is to ditch certain sideboard hate for some matchups and focus primarily on the other matchups that we can affect.

Looking at Edgar’s sideboard it seems that he is prepared to encounter Burn and counter-magic, mostly ignoring the rest of the very large diverse field that is Modern. Thankfully many of these cards are versatile enough to come in against some of the other matchups. Veil of Summer for instance is also effective against Black disruption decks like Jund.

The Flame Slash is definitely the spell that has me the most confused and my best guess is it’s just a free flex spot. The one copy is inconsistent enough that it will very infrequently come up anyway. The only cards in the sideboard not printed in the last year are the Flame Slash and Anger of the Gods interestingly enough. In the main deck we have 24 copies of cards also printed in the last year. For those keeping track that’s over 1/3rd of a 95-card deck that are all new.

One of the things that I think makes this deck even better is the printing of Ketria Triome. The fact that it counts as a mountain and produces all the colors of the deck, can cycle in the late game if you’re flooding out and can be searched out with a fetch land makes this a powerful addition. There are only 11 Mountains in the deck and you’ll need around 5 Mountains to remain in the deck when you resolve a Scapeshift. Definitely keep that in mind as you’re using your fetch lands.

I’m somewhat surprised to not see any Snapcaster Mages in the build. I think it’s easily a powerful addition to the deck for presenting a third approach. Lightning Bolt, Snapcaster Mage, Flashback Lightning Bolt was a common play in old Modern and I can easily see it being effective here again. Yorion also allows for Snapcaster to be somewhat reusable.

Some corner case plays I can see that you should be aware of include using Cryptic Command to return Yorion to your hand. This allows you to draw many extra cards if you have the right board presence. I can see wanting a Bojuka Bog and Field of the Dead somewhere in the 95 to provide additional leverage with your Scapeshifts. This may not become important until this deck catches on further however. There’s always the common Uroza play of using Mystic Sanctuary + Cryptic Command + the additional draw of Uro to keep countering or tapping continually.
I would rate the power level of this deck at around a 9 out of 10. Also, that its ease of play is much lower than the average Modern deck. I would recommend it for any meta that consisted of a heavy amount of Tron, Control, or even Prowess. Traditional Burn decks can present a problem however and anyone that wants to can easily hate this deck out after sideboarding. Luckily it’s fresh and new and currently outside of the meta.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading as always. See you next week!

Play & Explain: Neobrand

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Lurrus is Meow-Tastic!

If you tuned in last week you learned all about the powerful new mechanic Companions. Much like Planeswalkers did, Companions seem set to shift the dynamics of Magic forevermore.

Planeswalkers represented a recurring, stackable threat. Each usage made the cost that much more worthwhile. If left unchecked, they would eventually amount to an insurmountable advantage.

Companions on the other hand are capable of bringing consistency and an 8th card to the starting hand size. When you think of it in this way it sounds kind of absurd…. And it is. Especially considering that many of these cards are good enough to play in the main deck.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den in particular is a card that seems to be storming all formats. Even playable in Modern Storm as a companion and currently being tool boxed with in Lotus Field Storm lists. Lurrus has taken every format to a new axis and I am going to focus on an old Modern list that I feel has gotten a very powerful new upgrade.

[deck title=Jeskai Breach!]
4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
4 Lurrus of the Dream-Den
1 Thassa’s Oracle
4 Arcum’s Astrolabe
1 Chromatic Star
3 Engineered Explosives
1 Generous Gift
4 Grinding Station
4 Mishra’s Bauble
3 Mox Amber
2 Seal of Fire
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Underworld Breach
3 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Seachrome Coast
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
2 Snow-Covered Plains
1 Steam Vents
1 Sunbaked Canyon
2 Aether Gust
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
3 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Generous Gift
1 Lavinia, Azorius Renegade
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
1 Sai, Master Thopterist
1 Seal of Fire
1 Vendilion Clique

First thing to point out is that I am not playing Lurrus as a Companion, so I am not bound to its deck restrictions. The nice part here is it frees us up to play Emry, Lurker of the Loch which is a pivotal card in the deck.

Lurrus acts as Emry’s 5th-8th copies. In some instances, it outperforms Emry. If you have Lurrus and Grinding Station you can begin to grind yourself in the hopes of milling over a Breach. Then using Lurrus, cast Breach from the yard and continue to combo off for the victory. Many games will be gone with a quick Lurrus and a recurring of Seal of Fire blasting away all the opponent’s threats.

For those unfamiliar with how the deck works. Grinding Stations mills for three cards and you’ll target yourself with this ability. Ideally sacrificing a 0-mana artifact to do so (Engineered Explosives, Mox Amber, or Mishra’s Bauble). Then using Breach you’ll replay the 0-mana artifact. Which will untap Grinding Station and set you up to repeat the loop. Once you’ve milled away your deck and cast Oracle, you win!

Mox Amber and Emry allow you to combo off with just an untapped blue source after playing Breach and Station. Essentially you mill yourself until Emry is in the yard. You will need a 2nd artifact on the board if you’re comboing off underneath this restriction or eight cards in the graveyard. Then you’ll cast Emry and use Amber over and over to play anything you want. The eight cards in the graveyard is so that you can eventually play a 2nd artifact to meet Emry’s reduction cost while still having enough cards in the graveyard to cast Emry itself.

The Chromatic Star can enable an alternative kill in some scenarios with Seal of Fire. Playing Teferi, Time Raveler while “Going Off” can also help protect against certain answers. A singleton Generous Gift in the main and side is for decks packing Karn, The Great Creator, but also serves as a flexible spot to deal with other threats.

For burn we get to bring in Burrenton Forge-Tender. Tender can negate an Eidolon from Burn for the whole turn on top of countering a lethal spell. With Lurrus it can be recast and protect the 3/2 Lifelinking body of Lurrus. This allows for life gaining attacks and can be a pivotal advantage.

Sai, Master Thopterist and Saheeli, Sublime Artificer both come in to threaten problem planeswalkers. They also provide an anti-graveyard-based strategy for victory. Monastery Mentor was also considered in this slot but I deemed it too easily killed in this new and current meta. Also, the synergies these two cards provide with the rest of the deck is enticing. With Saheeli, Station, Breach, and any 0-mana artifact. You can mill the opponents deck away. Each cast of the artifact creates another 1/1 artifact, which untaps Grinding Station another time and feeds it another artifact to sacrifice. Whereas Sai allows you to sacrifice unneeded artifacts for additional card advantage as well as give you the alternative win con of milling out your opponent.

Lavinia is an excellent card vs Tron decks but also combo decks like Griselbrand Neoform. The extra advantage to Lavinia being Legendary is it enables Mox Amber to produce mana. Vendilion Clique is similar in this regard and when we are trying to press for micro-advantages, Clique is great for surprising the opponent. It can take a planeswalker out while also manipulating their hand or your own.

Teferi, Time Raveler is one of the best ways to ensure our strategy doesn’t lose to counterspells. It also enables Mox plus gives us tempo and card advantage.  There are games I’ll play an Underworld Breach, recycle Mishra’s Bauble a bunch of times and then use Teferi to bounce Underworld Breach to my hand. This allows me to draw a bunch of cards and then combo kill on the next turn.

There will also be scenarios where you can cast Station and Breach but not have the mana requirements for Thassa’s Oracle. However, if Oracle is in your hand and you’re not facing lethal on your opponent’s turn, you’ll mill away the majority of your deck, untap and cast Oracle for the win.

Against decks like Humans my preferred method of victory is leaning on Emry or Lurrus and Engineered Explosives. Repeatedly wiping away their board presence often ensures their defeat. Lurrus has been shown to be an excellent threat for pressuring the opponent in multiple ways as well. The cat’s ability to bring back Station or Breach really brings this deck over the top in my eyes.

So far, I have only been able to test the deck in Magic Online leagues due to our present circumstances with Covid-19. I have fareed quite well starting out with a 4-1 into two 5-0’s. Once I knew I was onto something I knew I wanted to write about it because Lurrus is definitely a top runner for a banning. The funny part is the cat might get banned before we even get to own a physical copy of it or sling it in a live tournament.

That’s all for now, but be sure and check back next week for more. Modern is shifting fast and I plan to stay on top of it. If you’re hungry for more now check out my stream on

Post-Apocalyptic Modern Brew T-7000!

Oh boy, do I have something special in store for us today. Ever wanted to combine the power of Scapeshift with the raw power of Amulet? Yeah me neither, but I did it anyway! To my surprise it revealed the ability to kill on turn three somewhat consistently. With powerful new cards like Oko… errr I mean Uro! Fueling our plan A, but also acting as our plan B is extra spicy.

[deck title=Post-Apocalyptic Modern Brew T-7000!]
4 Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
4 Sakura-Tribe Scout
4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
2 Bring to Light
4 Explore
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Life from the Loam
4 Scapeshift
4 Wrenn and Six
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Breeding Pool
1 Castle Vantress
2 Field of the Dead
1 Forest
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Island
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pendelhaven
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Stomping Ground
1 Tranquil Thicket
3 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Thoughtseize
2 Lightning Bolt
3 Veil of Summer
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Dispel
3 Obstinate Baloth

Let me put up or shut up and then we can talk about it after.

Beginning with the fact that I am playing 30 lands! Holy Moley that’s a lotta mana. With Tribe Scout, Uro, Explore, and Dryad ramping us into Scapeshift. We certainly don’t want to miss a land drop. The addition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor is one of the ways to stem the tides of flooding. In addition three of our lands have cycling which can form another combo with Wrenn and Six to be a draw engine.

Didn’t I mention a turn three kill? It’s actually quite simple. Turn one Scout, Turn two Dryad, Turn three Scapeshift with six lands out. Grab two Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and it triggers six times per copy. That’s a whopping 36 damage on turn three! You may notice that Valakut doesn’t do anything in this deck without Dryad. You’d be absolutely correct. There are two copies of Bring to Light to help find Dryad. You can also go with Plan C: ramp a lot of mana, cast Scapeshift for tons of lands including 2 copies of Field of the Dead. If you have made sure you have 7 different land names, you’ll have yourself a nice army to win the following turn.

Let’s go over the little micro additions that make up the “Tech” in the deck. We have a Pendelhaven to enhance Sakura-Tribe Scout yes, but also because it’s a forest that comes into play untapped and has a different name for Field of the Dead. Minamo, School at Water’s Edge is an untapped Island under a different name. This is important for playing around Choke and Boil.

Although make a special note here that Boil with Dryad out will get all of our lands. Do whatever you can to avoid that scenario. Originally, I had more blue cards in the deck (Ice-Fang etc) so that I could play Force of Negation. Without the proper number of pitch cards being blue, we are forced to resorting to playing cards like Dispel. Which are kind of awkward to bring in against a deck like Jund, but becoming necessary. Luckily Choke is not a major threat vs this deck, but Boil can be lights out.

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds is another alternative island with a secondary bonus. You may choose to return it to hand and replay it to continue activating the trigger from Field of the Dead or Valakut if you have a dryad in play already. This fact has led me to consider whether I should be playing multiple copies, but it is complicated by the fact that Field of the Dead requires a diversity.

Bojuka Bog has an obvious utility to hinder our opponent’s graveyard during a time of Uro running rampant. We can also cast Scapeshift on four mana and sac only one land to go and get the Bog if necessary. Meaning by turn three we can affect our opponent on another axis.

Castel Vantress is for flood protection and to dig to our win conditions. Also serving to function as an alternative Island. We cannot play too many of these without the risk of having them come into play tapped due to non-Island ownership.

Lastly, the Life from the Loams are meant to act as additional Wrenn and Six’s so that we do not miss our land drops. I am not sold on this slot just yet and mostly want to test to see their effectiveness. It’s possible some of the other utility creatures could be better served here like Ramunap Excavator or Oracle of Mul Days. I especially want to figure out how to jam a few Tireless Trackers into the deck. I am sure I’ll be testing out all the alternatives soon enough.

As for the sideboard I started my thought process off with what am I weak to? I came up with faster combo decks like Neoform and Infect. I determined Boil players of course, but also decks that have lots of counter-magic (Dylan D’s Temur Urza for example). Veil of Summer is the grossly overpowered sideboard card of choice nowadays. It solves the Jund dilemma as well as decks with lots of counter-magic. That paired with Dispel are where I want to be for those post board matchups.

To combat infect a mix of Lightning Bolt, Dispel, and Thoughtseize are likely enough to stay alive until we can clench victory first. This has yet to be tested of course. For decks like Burn we lose Thoughtseize but pickup Obstinate Baloth. Obstinate Baloth is a powerhouse against Jund as well with the alternate casting ability being a thorn in the side of Kolaghan’s Command, Liliana of the Veil, and now Kroxa. Some are even playing Lightning Skelemental, so it’s a pretty savage way to get around these decks.

Anger of the Gods will always be there whenever available for answering Tribal Decks. The exile clause is extremely important when facing Dredge or Crabvine as well. The fact that it deals exactly three damage is nice for evading killing your own Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. Before you have the thought of making cuts to this list like removing black. Make sure you take into account that a fourth color is needed to make Bring to Light function as a Scapeshift. It is also nice to have Bring to Light be able to grab an Obstinate Baloth every now and again.

Cavern of Souls was briefly considered but this deck lacks the Primeval Titan payoff at the top of the curve to substantiate having the colorless source of mana. While there will be times resolving a Dryad would be useful, it’s likely not enough for the times it will hinder us by not allowing us to cast a Uro from the yard. The most fun you’ll have is beginning a game with an opponent thinking you’re on Amulet. Obviously they’ll start to question that as you play a Wrenn and Six or a Uro. Then when you slam Scapeshift the jaw drops.

Now post-board games can be quite difficult. You’ll have to deal with an array of problem cards like Blood Moon and Ashiok. The only catch-all card is Beast Within. I will certainly retool the sideboard to include this card once people start to see it more. Other notable one-sided answers with some resilience and versatility are; Fry, Magmatic Sinkhole, Force of Vigor, Nature’s Claim, Brazen Borrower, Reclamation Sage, and Repeal. Until we know what our metagame consists of, the sideboard is spread for the main meta of over a month ago. When the contagion is over and a new set has been integrated, I guess we will see how things change.

That’s all for now, but check back each week as I bring you more ideas to toy around with. Only here at the best source for singles on the web. If you can’t get enough of my content be sure and give me a follow on Twitch at Twitch.Tv/EliKassis. I have a subscriber-only Discord as well for those who want 24/7 access. There’s also 50+ decklists on there, over a dozen sideboard guides, and a community of hundreds of fellow Modern enthusiasts.