Is Ad Nauseam The Sleeper Combo Deck That Modern Has Been Looking For?

There are plenty of combo decks in Modern, but which one is poised to dominate? Our experts weigh in!

Phyrexian Unlife, illustrated by Jason Chan

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the recent introduction domination of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Omnath, Locus of Creation, many are unsure what they’d play in Modern. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Modern event!

Ross Merriam — Ad Nauseam

I’m of the opinion that Ad Nauseam has been underrated in Modern since the printing of Thassa’s Oracle. The deck was just too all-in on the namesake card before, but the addition of Thassa’s Oracle gives you a surprising amount of additional play which mitigates a lot of the deck’s previous weaknesses.

Right now the metagame in Modern is rather slow, with plenty of blue decks around and not a lot of fast combo. It’s Rakdos Death’s Shadow that keeps people honest, and that deck isn’t nearly as explosive as previous iterations. Ad Nauseam is happy to operate in such a metagame because it can spend the early turns crafting a great hand with plenty of backup and extra mana from Pentad Prism and Lotus Bloom.

I’m also high on Veil of Summer, a card that needs no justification, but is a great fit here, since you have plenty of green sources without compromising your access to your main colors and handles nearly all of the most played disruption cards for your strategy.

Ultimately, this is a deck that for several reasons, is being massively overlooked. For more detailed thoughts on why, you can read my most recent article, but suffice it to say that playing a powerful combo deck that is flying under the radar is a recipe for success in Modern.

Dom Harvey — Jeskai Lotus Field

After recommending Evart Moughon’s (twitch.tv/aspiringspike) twist on Jeskai Control last time, I was inevitably and immediately attracted to his newest Madcap Experiment and was keen to update it to my liking. This list is a rare ‘fair’ Lotus Field deck with several ways to unlock its incredible potential — Flagstones of Trokair, Moughon’s trademark Tale’s End, and most importantly Blood Sun. Blood Sun is incredible in a format defined by Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary, and fetchlands but lacks a natural home and the cost of not playing those lands yourself is steep. His previous Jeskai Control shell, pairing Flagstones with Cleansing Wildfire, is the most promising place for it.

This twist on Jeskai Control has other features that attack the format from unexpected angles. Madcap Experiment for Platinum Emperion is a one-card combo that puts many decks — from Rakdos Death’s Shadow to Oops All Spells — in a position where they need one of a few specific, otherwise useless answers just to remain in the game.

Jeskai Lotus Field has not proven itself over more ‘normal’ Jeskai Control but it has me wanting to jump in a Modern league more than any deck in a long time.

Ari Lax — Boros Heliod

This latest Boros list is a huge leap forward in the Skyclave Apparition era of Modern white creature decks. My understanding is Sam Pardee only started playing the list to spite a friend of his who made fun of the deck when it first showed up in a Magic Online list dump. Then he kept winning and decided it was kinda good.

The problem with all the Death & Taxes variants has been they lack closing speed and powerful things to do without Aether Vial. Boros fixes that with the Heliod, Sun Crowned + Walking Ballista combo, Luminarch Aspirant, and just normal Heliod beats. Note that Luminarch Aspirant can always be a 2/2 facing down Wrenn and Six and also note the zero Leonin Arbiters as another sign of a good deck.

I am offended that the otherwise mono-white deck has to splash for what amount to Armageddons. Call me old fashioned, but that is not what Dr. Garfield intended.

Ryan Overturf — Boros Prowess (Lurrus)

I’ve been playing one or two Modern leagues every day for the last couple weeks and I’ve been enjoying the format pretty well. I was pretty cold on using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion immediately after the nerf, but I’ve come back around on the concept through a pretty roundabout methodology. The deck that reinvigorated my interest in the format was Rakdos Death’s Shadow featuring Scourge of the Skyclaves, but the more that I played the deck the more I really only liked Monastery Swiftspear and Lurrus. After trying a number of different Shadow and Prowess configurations, I ended up with approximately what I was playing in May.

It has been my experience that a nerfed companion is worse to have than four Bedlam Revelers in your deck if you expect games to overwhelmingly go to Turn 5 or later, but that hasn’t been my Modern experience as of late. There’s a ton of combo in the field, which has made Abbot of Keral Keep preferable to Bedlam Reveler simply for being another threat that you can always play on Turn 2. I gave Kiln Fiend a shot in this slot but Abbot ultimately performs fairly similarly in short games and dramatically better in long ones, which are rarer but do come up. 

A number of the lists that I’ve tried recently have been Thoughtseize decks, which is a natural way to go in a field of combo, but I’ve found that enough of the field is pressuring your life total to make Thoughtseize somewhat awkward while seemingly all of my combo opponents have Leyline of Sanctity. The Leylines haven’t saved them from my beatdowns, but they would offer some sanctuary from discard spells. Cleansing Wildfire and Soul-Guide Lantern actually provide game-breaking effects for the various Oops All Spells strategies without playing into the opposition’s popular sideboard strategies. 

It seems that other Prowess players have favored Obosh, the Preypiercer over Lurrus, but I object pretty strongly to both the five-drop and the restriction that forces you to eschew Manamorphose. One thing that I do like about the Obosh lists is that they have Blood Moons for the Primeval Titan matchups, which I’ll admit is much tougher when you don’t have any prison cards to punk them with. That is about the only matchup that I feel Blood Moon makes a relevant positive difference for Prowess though, so on balance I’m happier having Lurrus than Blood Moon. If you’re having issues with Primeval Titan, you can always sideboard some Blood Moons and just play the sideboard games without a companion against them, which really isn’t that much different from how the matchup plays out anyway.  

Prowess doesn’t feel like it’s the best thing to be doing in the format by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve felt like I’ve had a fighting chance against everything and I haven’t done worse than 3-2 in a league since I’ve gotten reinvested in Modern. 

Shaheen Soorani — Four-Color Control

If you’re an active participant in league-play on Magic Online, you see a deck like this one on a regular basis.  We get the full feel of the development errors of Omnath, Locus of Creation and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in Modern.  Not only do we have fetchlands to break Omnath but the paired disruption makes it nearly impossible for aggro to have a shot of breaking through.

The life gain, card advantage, mana advantage, and size of these creatures is too much for the fair decks to tango with.  Occasionally we will see a Four-Color Control deck fall to Mono-Red Prowess for example, but that’s just how Magic works.  Nothing is 100%, but the success rates this deck has against aggro is criminal.  I find myself shaving off removal for more blue disruption, just because of how overpowered the creatures are on their own against typical enemy threats. 

The minimal blue disruption that I play, with planeswalker assistance, also makes it difficult for other slow decks to take Four-Color Control.  I would not go as far to say that all matchups are easy, but this deck operates on a different power level than most in the format.  Outside of a Turn 3 Karn Liberated, I fear no opponent in Modern when playing a deck as powerful as this one.

Cedric Phillips — Naya Reclaimer

A deck that has impressed me a ton over the past two weeks, I find Selesnya Reclaimer to be the best Primeval Titan deck in Modern at the moment. Previous versions of this deck have gone a bit too deep on the silver bullets that Eladamri’s Call can find (I’m looking at you Springbloom Druid) but I think this is the right mix of lands, spells, and silver bullets for both the maindeck (Tangled Florahedron as a land you can tutor for and Skyclave Apparition as a catch-all) and sideboard (Aven Mindcensor, Collector Ouphe, Knight of Autumn, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence don’t need much of an introduction in my estimation).

The sideboarded Boils are probably my favorite part of this deck. With how powerful and popular the Four-Color Control deck is in Modern, one of its primary weaknesses is the aforementioned powerful red instant. It’s very easy to splash Boil into this deck, simply off the back of a Sacred Foundry that be fetched for in a bevy of ways, but it’s not something that is the industry standard just yet so it’s still taking a few players by surprise.

And if you opponent is playing Dryad of the Ilysian Grove themselves? Well, I’m a gambling man who just really hopes they draw it so I can take screenshots for Twitter.