Reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand. You lose life equal to its converted mana cost. You may repeat this process any number of times.
Ad Nauseam is the newest spell to impact the development of Legacy storm combo. Its ability to draw an undetermined number cards opens up the potential that storm combo finally has the card it needs to become the best deck in the format. All the other card advantage spells that have seen play in storm decks either have limits on the number of cards they can draw. Meditate, Ill-Gotten Gains, Diminishing Returns, Cruel Bargain, and Infernal Contract all have limits on the number cards they can draw you and have their associated drawbacks. Ad Nauseam by comparison only costs one or two mana more than these spells, and is maybe able to draw as many as 10 or 15 cards depending on the situation. This potential alone is a reason to investigate the card and to see if it will be as good as it seems.
My first attempt to goldfish a deck with Ad Nauseam was to try and fit it into a build of Fetchland Tendrils. Fetchland Tendrils is a storm deck based around playing cantrips to setup either an Ill-Gotten Gains loop or to use cards like Cruel Bargain or Infernal Contract to generate card advantage to build a lethal storm for Tendrils of Agony. Some versions of the deck also include Doomsday as way to setup a win condition. Fetchland Tendrils seemed like a good fit for the deck, because it already includes Mystical Tutor to get Ad Nauseam, and Cabal Ritual, which makes casting Ad Nauseam much easier. Ad Nauseam took the place of cards like Cruel Bargain, Infernal Contract, and Street Wraith.
In my goldfishing I observed several problems with this build. Playing Ad Nauseam with no mana left in your mana pool would make it difficult to cast the spells you drew with Ad Nauseam. This situation would require drawing one of the 4 Lotus Petals to generate an initial mana to cast a Dark Ritual, which would have to be followed by either more Rituals into Infernal Tutor to find the single Tendrils in the deck. Infernal Tutor wouldn’t work unless you drew and Lion’s Eye Diamond to allow you to tutor for Tendrils of Agony. It was also difficult to play Blue spells that were drawn such as Brainstorm, Ponder, and Mystical Tutor, since they were competing with the same very Lotus Petals.
Trying to cast Ad Nauseam with some mana left in the mana pool took much more time. The deck wasn’t really trying to win before turn 4. The best way to win with this deck seemed to be the Ill-Gotten Gains loop since it was a guaranteed win, but that option doesn’t work against decks playing Force of Will. I sometimes killed myself with Ad Nauseam trying to find the right combination of cards to cast a lethal Tendrils of Agony. This build of the deck did not impress me at all, and I quickly
shelved it as the best way to use or abuse Ad Nauseam.
The Epic Storm
A few days later I came across a build of The Epic Storm (TES) by Bryant Cook which incorporated Ad Nauseam. This version of TES did seem to address some of the issues I was having with my version of Fetchlands Tendrils. It had Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, and a couple of Simian Spirit Guides for initial mana sources after casting an Ad Nauseam instead of just Lotus Petal. It also had more total accelerants, including Rite of Flame. Burning Wish was another way to get Tendrils of Agony without requiring Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond.
My goldfishing of the deck had better results than the Fetchland Tendrils deck. More accelerants made it possible to have both more mana leftover after casting Ad Nauseam but also being able to draw into more mana after casting Ad Nauseam. With more ways to generate initial mana, it was also safer to cast Ad Nauseam with no mana left in the mana pool. The deck was also better equipped when it did not find Ad Nauseam, because it had Infernal Tutor and Burning Wish to find other card advantage spells such as Ill-Gotten Gains, Diminishing Returns, and Empty the Warrens when necessary. Fetchland Tendrils had Infernal Tutor and Mystical Tutor. Mystical Tutor was another way to find Ad Nauseam, but I found that often I wanted to tutor for Dark Ritual or Cabal Ritual to help me cast Ad Nauseam that I didn’t have.
Encouraged by my results, I took the deck to a playtesting session with the group that I play with here in Northern Virginia. My first three or four games were against RGBSA, a Survival variant. This seemed to be a matchup very much in favor TES with TES winning all of the games. With only Thoughtseize and Cabal Therapy to offer much in the way of disruption, it is easy enough to win with any multiple ways. Ad Nauseam was very powerful serving as way to draw as many as ten to fifteen cards.
The next seven or so games were against UGB Threshold-like deck with Stifle/Wasteland, similar to Canadian Threshold decks. This matchup was the exact opposite of RGBSA. It was difficult to resolve spells through Force of Will, Daze, and Thoughtseize. It was difficult to keep permanent mana sources in play against opposing Wastelands. Trying to resolve Orim’s Chant was very difficult, and Ad Nauseam was often too expensive to cast or would be countered after using multiple accelerants to cast leaving TES with virtually no resources to recover. I may have one of the seven games, but the matchup was abysmal. In some sense I was bit relieved that this was the case, because if a combo deck could consistently beat something with that much disruption, not to mention a swift clock via Tarmogoyf, then the deck would be a real cause for concern because it would easily become the best deck in the format. That does not seem to be the case with the initially testing that we have done.
I turned the deck over to a friend to test against Landstill. While I did not test this matchup I observed the matchup very closely. This matchup seemed to be very much in TES’s favor. Landstill has too many dead cards in this matchup which consistent mostly of its removal spells. It also does not have the clock of something like Threshold and often doesn’t attack for many turns. This gives the TES player not only time to sculpt a hand of protection spells of Orim’s Chant and Thoughtseize, but also to throw out Ad Nauseam as the game goes on and force the Landstill player to have the answer. The Landstill player eventually runs of answers and simply loses to the last threat that goes unanswered.
This is by no means an extensive testing of the deck, but the initial results are promising but not worrisome. Storm combo look to still have the same problems against aggro-control decks like Threshold or decks with similar strategies. But the deck seems to be an improvement over its previous incarnations, and it may have improved its other matchups that have not yet been tested.
In the coming months, more testing and more tournament results will determine just how good Ad Nauseam will be. Whether it will just make storm combo more consistent or make it too powerful is unclear in these initial stages of development. What is clear is that Ad Nauseam will make a significant impact in Legacy combo, and will open up more paths to victory for these types of decks. Is Ad Nauseam the next engine of storm decks? We will find out soon enough.
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