Meta-Calling with Ad Nauseam (How I qualified for the Pro Tour in Modern)

Ryan Donkin
May 20, 2020

Hello everyone, my name is Ryan Donkin and I'm here to tell you all about how I was able to win the Modern Super PTQ on 4/20/20 with my favorite deck for Modern competitive events: Ad Nauseam.

First let's take a look at the decklist and talk about how this deck wins a game of magic:


This is an A+B combo deck. That means you are trying to find two cards to use in tandem to generate a game winning result. By playing Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife, and then resolving an Ad Nauseam, we are able to put our entire library into our hand. After that, the game becomes nearly deterministic. With 0 cards in our library, we can resolve Thassa's Oracle to win the game or cast Lightning Storm to burn our opponent out at any moment. A strong appeal of this deck over other combo decks is that it can win at instant speed. Isn't that just wild?


Ad Nauseam is a fairly old deck that does not change very often. With the printing of Thassa's Oracle however, the numbers in the deck have shifted around quite a bit. One thing that gave me a considerable edge in this tournament was leaving most of my copies of Pact of Negation in the sideboard. This gave me better draws in matchups where that card is less relevant.

Playing four Phyrexian Unlife in my main deck also gave me an edge in this tournament. I predicted that Burn and other linear strategies would be most popular, and Phyrexian Unlife is very powerful against them, as it effectively nets you ~10 extra life. 

Sleight of Hand was also very important in my games. Many people cut Sleight of Hand, but the card is essential when it comes to sculpting your hand in the dark game one.

Let's talk briefly about the matches I played! You can find the twitch vod immortalized on my Youtube Channel here.

Naya Zoo: ✅❌✅
G Tron: ✅✅
RW Lurrus Burn: ✅✅
Amulet titan: ✅✅
Lurrus 4 color shadow: ✅❌❌(also made top8)
Lurrus Jund: ✅✅
Amulet titan: ✅✅
Lurrus Jund: ✅✅
RW Lurrus burn: ✅❌✅
Quarter: Burn: ✅✅
Semi: Jegantha 4 color snow: ✅✅
Finals: Burn they scooped ✅


With these match results in mind we start to see how I was able to take this tournament down: I built my 75 with respect to aggressive decks that were looking to play to the board, and my matchups were spectacular. Ad Naus makes quick work of decks like Burn, Amulet, and Tron, who have little to no interaction with the deck's core strategy. Seven out of eleven matchups were in my deck's favor. 

So what do we do with this information? It's important to realize that even in the wild west format of modern, a correct meta call can still be made. Burn is always a popular choice when a new set drops, and it so happened that burn got a major upgrade from Ikoria in the form of Lurrus. You can hear my exact thoughts going into this tournament here. I understand not everyone that morning could have picked up Ad Nauseam and piloted the deck to a first place finish. That being said, they could have read the writing on the wall, made a decision, and hedged against the meta they expected.

I've continued streaming the Monday Modern Super PTQ each week since my first place finish, and I currently average at 26th after four tournaments. This means Ad Nauseam continues to be a great choice! If anyone is looking to learn the ins and outs of this deck, why not check out my content on Twitch. I stream Ad Nauseam content three times a week and am always very responsive to questions in chat. I also have a sideboard guide for the decklist in this article pinned to the top of my twitter.

I could write ad nauseam about Ad Nauseam, but we'll stop here for now. Thanks so much for reading!