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Feature Article – Standard Ad Nauseam (and Why Terminate is Bad for the Game)

 

Hi all,
today I’ve a few topics I’d like to talk about. As always, feedback is welcome and I’ll be happy to answer any questions in the Comments section.

“Are you tapped out?”, or, a very cool deck that might be even good

Death’s Aggro

First of all, credits to David Williamson for coming up with the basic idea, and thanks to him and Iwika Ble for feedback and brainstorming. I’ll give you the history of how we developed it, in order for you to see my train of thoughts. The first time I saw it, it looked like this:

After a few games we came to this conclusions:

– The mana wasn’t good enough to support Goblin Guide and Vampire Lacerator together, even with extra duals. There are some one drops that are powerful and flexible enough even when they don’t come down during the first turn, like Noble Hierarch. It’s not the case for these two, and 8 sources aren’t enough.

– You need a lot more Red sources than it looks at first, especially in the late game. Another reason to change the spells and rework the mana base.

Sign in Blood was just cute. On paper it made sense – fixing your draws is always nice with a deck that can produce some awkward draws. The problem is that you already have too many spells that don’t impact the board (Ad Nauseam, Blightning, a combo piece like Goblin Bushwhacker sitting in your hand”¦). Of course, double Black was the biggest reason to cut it.

Death’s Shadow was unreliable. As the deck has already too many situational cards, it needed to go. I’m still considering it as a sideboard option, as it can be very nice at times, especially when going off. Actually, I just like people’s face when they die from it.

Sarkhan the Mad was alright, but in the end you’d rather have Ad Nauseam. A deck like this is very close to giving it a home, and I’ll surely try it in Block Constructed.

– Note that Blightning doesn’t really fit your main plan (keep the board under control until you Ad Nauseam and/or go off). Therefore I tried without, but the card is too good to cut it.

Finding out the deck weak spots was easy, and just required a bit of testing. The biggest problem is, how to support the combo part? Looking at decklists from the recent past and the cards available, I think there are 2 approaches:

– playing a bunch of small, aggressive dudes to absorb some removal and rely less on your late game to close the game. Easy choice, since Plated Geopede and Kargan Dragonlord are really powerful. The main weakness is that playing “normal” creatures make you softer to cards like Maelstrom Pulse and Oblivion Ring.

Burn

– a burn list like the GP Kuala Lumpur winner: only direct damage (in his case, through hasty creatures) and burn to control the board and slow down the game. This plan gives you more time to naturally draw the right combination of cards, but you depend more on your late game.

First version:

For Ad Nauseam, the average casting cost is 1.1.

Second version:

Average casting cost: 1.05

Note these aren’t finely tuned lists, and there are a lot of possibilities out there. For example, the creature-based version could probably benefit from a few Kiln Fiends. Some choices are probably suspect: for example, Hellspark Elemental fits the general plan well (low casting cost, early damage), except it doesn’t exactly like to face a Wall of Omens, About the second Swamp, I can tell you already you’ll probably hate most of the times. My reasoning is that, between Spreading Seas and Path to Exile, you often want a second; generally speaking 12 Black sources is the right amount, in my opinion.

This is how I’d build the sideboard:

 

In previous Red decks, I found that Deathmark and Doom Blade were a lousy solution against Baneslayer and family, as they are passive answers that just dilute your main plan. Here I actually like them, since you have Ad Nauseam to reload and you become the control deck post sideboard (well, more or less). For this reason, the 4th Ad Nauseam is not only for Control decks, but also against White based aggro like Mythic. Duress is the best you can get to protect your bombs and check if the coast is clear. I’d sideboard them against any deck with access to Negate. Goblin Ruinblaster is common technology and your best option against Jund (not exciting, but still). I’d rather play a solution for Sprouting Thrinax if there was one, but such is life. Another sideboard option is Malakir Bloodwitch – I realize it doesn’t exactly combo with Ad Nauseam, but hey, some pros played Greater Gargadon and Dark Confidant together. Notice a Dragon’s Claw by your side would be even better here than in any other Red mirror, since you can put the extra life to good use.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific sideboard plan or advice, as I’m committing most of my Magic time to Block Constructed. What I noticed is that this deck is incredibly hard to play: normally you are the aggressor, but your life total is an important resource. Sometimes you change role mid-game, sometimes you have to calculate your odds and play for your outs (especially during an Ad Nauseam), or have a good read on your opponent to see when it’s time to go “all in”. Maybe Duress should be main deck, as even if you miss with it the information is precious.

A few lines on UW, but not the usual ones

Since I’m a chicken, this is what I played at my first PTQ:

As you can see, it’s nothing special, nor I recommend it in particular. I won’t say anything that you don’t know already (or at least I’ll try). I just would like to point out that, if you’re a fast player, I don’t think you need to commit to finishers like Sphinx of Jwar Isle etc. I was able to finish 3 games every round during my PTQ, including 2 mirror matches. This is even more true on Magic Online, where you can just aim to run them out of time (notice you won’t be fast enough if you never played on it before).

I don’t think See Beyond is super good or anything, but it’s still better than Divination and Treasure Hunt, as long as you don’t get hit by multiple Blightnings and Mind Rots.

What I learned from Rise of Eldrazi draft:

Nomad’s Assembly is a bomb. Recurring Insight too, or almost.

Why Terminate is bad for the game

We all hate Jund (if you don’t, you’re a sadistic person). But, while playing Block Constructed, I realized there is something more than sheer dominance, Cascade and Blightning. Jund not only frustrates entire strategies like mana ramp because of its cheap disruption, but it stops a bunch of cool cards from seeing the light of day, just because of its unconditional removals. In a world of conditional removals, cards like Oracle of Mul Daya, Abyssal Persecutor, Talus Paladin, Ob Nixilis, can all shine. By conditional I mean with a weak spot: for example, Day of Judgment is one of them, since it’s expensive, sorcery and it doesn’t kill a River Boa. Oblivion Ring is ok too, since there are some answers to it and at least you leave people with options: for example, Mythic players can sideboard into Qasali Pridemage to beat it, and it actually works pretty well. I’m not saying that Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse are too powerful, far from it – in fact you rarely see the full set in most decklists. I just think they are too “obvious”, and that is bad for our fun. What I’m trying to say is that every color should have access to something like Deathmark; probably even Path to Exile or Lightning Bolt. None should have access to Counterspell or Swords to Plowshares.

On the other hand, better to have too many answers than the wrong ones. I honestly believe we would have had a lot more fun if Bitterblossom was a 3/1 flying for two, rather than an Enchantment.

Story!

Pro Tour Yokohama 2007, Time Spiral Block Constructed. Our Hero is a young Pro Tour hopeful who made it to the big game with a lot of lucky dredging. Being new to the big game, he chose to play safe and picked Mono-red Aggro (some will say he chose it because the color of Chaos is the perfect match for a young teenager high on hormones). His opponent, being Evil, is playing UB Teachings Control, a painfully slow deck, perfect for sadistic people who like to frustrate their opponents. Battling for day 2, the decider seems slightly in Evil’s favor.

Our Hero’s Resources: 8 Mountains, 14 lives, no cards.

Evil Resources: 10 lands, 20 lives, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, 2 Mystical Teachings in graveyard, 7 cards, access to multiple Cancel, Sudden Death, another Teferi, Snapback, Darkness, Extirpate.

End of the story

No wait. You still have 3 draw steps. This might not look like your classic Magic: The Puzzling, but there is still hope!

1st turn: draw Greater Gargadon. After debating if it’s not just faster to wait and hard cast it, suspend it.

greater gargadon

…..

2nd turn: Greater Gargadon ticks down to 9 counters. Draw Fatal Frenzy.

fatal frenzy

…..

3rd turn:

Draw Word of Seizing!

word of seizing

Add 8 mana to the pool. Steal Teferi. Sacrifice every land to put Greater Gargadon into play. Fatal Frenzy it. Swing for 21…

And yeah, this actually happened.

Thanks for reading,

Will

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