Pwn Your Opponent with Tentacles!--The ANT Primer
So, I've been testing ANT for the past 6+ months and think that it is a strong deck right now. It has been a while since there has been a thread, so I decided to post my list with explanations and matchup analysis.The list
3 Tendrils of Agony
4 Ad Nauseam
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Memory Jar
3 Dark Confidant
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Demonic Consultation
1 Chain of Vapor
1 Hurky's Recall
4 Polluted Delta
2 Bloodstained Mire
3 Underground Sea
4 Dark Ritual
3 Chrome Mox
2 Cabal Ritual
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Lotus Petal
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
4 Yixlid Jailor
4 Phyrexian Negator
3 Slaughter Pact
2 Hurkyl's Recall
First of all, why play ANT? ANT is good because it is a combo deck that combines a fast kill with disruption and resiliency, resulting in a decent game against most decks in the current meta. More specifically, I am concerned with the following decks (in about this order): Tezz/Drains, Oath, Dredge, Stax, Fish, Beats, TPS. Combo generally slaughters random decks.
As an auxiliary reason, I find combo simply fun to play. What could feel more satisfying than killing your opponent on turn 1, before they even get a chance to do anything? If Stax players take sadistic glee in locking their opponents out of the game while slowly eating away their boards, ANT players take similar joy in going busted and exploding all over their opponents' faces.Maindeck Card Analysis
:3 Tendrils of Agony
I think that this is the ideal number for an ANT deck, combining with Demonic Tutor, Demonic Consultation, and Topdeck Tutors+Draw Spells to ensure that you usually have access to Tendrils in order to kill after resolving Ad Naus. I think 4 is too many because you rarely want to see it until you have resolved, or can resolve, a powerful bomb, and it sucks to flip it off Ad Naus when it is not needed.Tinker+Jar
Eric Becker first (to my knowledge) suggested the inclusion of Tinker/Jar, and testing has proved it to be invaluable, for a number of reasons:
1: Tinker/Jar does insane things in this deck with all the fast mana.
2: Their inclusion improves the deck's threat density, reducing the amount of mulligans resulting from hands with no business.
3: Tinker/Jar is a method, besides Yawgmoth's Will, which allows you to combo out at low life.
Ultimately, the power Tinker/Jar adds to the deck outweighs the drawback of adding another 5cc and 3cc spell. I have won far more games off the back of Jar than I have lost from flipping it to Ad Nauseam (I still rarely lose after resolving Nauseam--in fact, I often flip Jar and nevertheless go on to win).
As a side note, Tinker-->Lotus to set up Will is also a strong play, so it has utility besides Jar.Necropotence
I see ANT builds without this card, so apparently its inclusion is questionable for some people. Personally, I see no reason not to run this card--in fact, it's probably the most powerful bomb in the deck relative to its casting cost. Land+Ritual+Necro is all that is needed to set up a win for next turn. I realize it doesn't have great synergy with Ad Nauseam, but with all the Rituals and fast mana, 3 Tendrils, bounce spells, tutors, Yawg Will, and multiple other bombs like Tinker/Jar and Timetwister, Necro is insane in this deck.Timetwister
Although it is perhaps the most questionable of the bombs, I still think that this spell is worth running. Once again, it's great with all of the fast mana and 3 Tendrils, and increasing your threat density is never a bad thing.3 Thoughtseize
Lots of testing has shown this to be better than Pact of Negation. The lifeloss might seem bad, but it's definitely worth it. I was running 4 for a while but cut 1 when I added Twister. I would like to find space for the 4th Thoughtseize but the list is really tight.3 Dark Confidant
Dark Confidant is simply amazing in this deck. In addition to the obvious benefit of drawing cards+attacking, and the synergy with the low curve and the Tendrils kill, Dark Confidant allows this deck to play the long game. Instead of having to rely heavily on your opening hand and a couple top decks, and try to kill in the first 1-3 turns or simply lose, much of the time you can simply drop Confidant, Duress a couple times, and ride it to victory. Dark Confidant is also a great card against Stax, because it feeds you cards to develop your mana and board, thus significantly improving one of the deck's hardest matchups. Once again, I'd run 4 if I could find the space, but there isn't anything else I'm willing to cut. 3 has been working fine anyway, ensuring that I draw Confidant enough for it to be useful but don't end up with too many off Ad Nauseam.1 Chain of Vapor+1 Hurkyl's Recall
I have eschewed the 3-4x Chain plan common to other builds for several reasons:
1: I find that I rarely need to use bounce spells to build to lethal storm after Ad Nauseam.
2: Maindeck bounce is not very good in a number of matchups--for example, against control. I hate drawing Chain/Hurkyl's against Tezz because they are usually useless. I would prefer to maximize my chances of drawing business & disruption
3: I am generally comfortable with 2 bounce spells.
4: Chain is a catch-all solution to problem creatures as well as artifacts, while Hurkyl's answers the most dangerous artifact threats in multiples, including the annoying Chalice at 1. I like to have access to both maindeck through Demonic/Vamp/Mystical Tutor, even though the 1/1 split has less synergy with Consultation.3 Chrome Mox
I run 3 Chrome for pretty much the same reason I run 3 Tendrils--you rarely want to see one in your opening hand, and 2 in the opening hand is simply horrible. 3 Chrome, along with moxes+Lotus, is enough to ensure I reliably hit free coloured mana post Ad Naus.2 Cabal Ritual
I hate Cabal Ritual, because without Threshold it is pretty awful. In order to actually use this to cast Ad Nauseam you usually need to combine it with a Dark Ritual or a Mana Crypt/Vault. It is not very useful off Ad Nauseam because, excepting Lotus, you need to have 2 other accelerants in order to even cast it. Nevertheless, it is a necessary evil for this deck. 2 seems to be the ideal number--I certainly wouldn't want to run any more.0 Imperial Seal
I tried running this card but I hated it for a number of reasons:
1: With only Brainstorm, Ponder, Ancestral, and Jar to draw cards, casting Imperial Seal usually requires you to pass the turn afterwards. I hate this because it forces me to commit to a line of play for my next turn before I see what my opponent does on their turn. If they do something unexpected, it can screw up my entire plan, especially if they are a good player and are able to determine what I tutored for.
2: If you have a Dark Confidant in play, tutoring for an Ad Nauseam will knock off 7 life, greatly reducing the number of possible cards you can draw. For this reason, Imperial Seal is not a useful tutor for Ad Nauseam when you have a Confidant in play, which happens to be a great deal of the time.
3: Hands with more than 1 topdeck tutor are quite slow, and when I was playing all 3 I would frequently draw 2 in my opening hand, with the result that using both hurts my tempo, effectively double Time-Walking my opponent. If I don't use two, 1 is simply dead.
4: With the deck as it is now, I would add the 4th Thoughtseize or Dark Confidant first--I think they are both better than Imperial Seal.0 Pact of Negation
When I first began testing this deck, like everyone else I started with 4x PON. The additional first turn kills through FOW that PON provides are obviously quite spectacular. The problem with PON, however, is that it severely limits your line of play. PON is only useful when you have Ad Naus+Mana to cast it, or a lethal Will. Outside of these two situations, it merely sits in your hand, incapable of disrupting your opponent or protecting your other spells. It can also force you to go all-in on an Ad Naus if you hit the danger range without yet having the kill, instead of being able to Duress your opponent, pass, and set up Will or Jar for next turn. Additionally, I boarded Pact out against every deck except Drains--it's not worth playing a card that's only really good in this one matchup, especially since the matchup is already in ANT's favour.6 Fetches/3 Duals
: Running 4 Duals is unnecessary. Barring a huge prevalence of Stifle, fetches are better because they act as both duals and basics. Fetches are better against Wasteland and Wasteland is more common than Stifle. In fact, 7 fetches/2 duals would probably work also, but I like being able to fetch the 3rd dual if necessary.1 Island
: This might seem questionable to some, since unlike TPS this deck is clearly predominantly Black. I'll admit, drawing the Island in the opening hand CAN screw you. I believe, however, that I have won a lot more games from being able to fetch a maindeck Island against Stax and Fish than I have lost from having to mulligan 1-Island hands. Fetching the Island to cast Brainstorm/Ponder/Ancestral as set-up, without exposing yourself to wasteland, is often important. Clearly there is a trade-off here but I think it is worth it.Sideboard Card Analysis
[note--if you are worried about Sadistic Sacrament you can easily cut something for a 4th Tendrils in the board]:4 Yixlid Jailor
This is the hate I have chosen for Dredge. One could make a case for other cards, as well, such as Crypt/Relic/Planar void. Leyline (as well as Trap) is bad because it's 4cc. I prefer Jailor because it makes it so their deck doesn't function as long as it's in play, & doesn't affect me at all.4 Phyrexian Negator
These are VERY good against Stax post-board, especially if they don't expect them. Even if they do, it means they need both permanent hate AND storm hate. I have won a lot of games in testing against Stax just by beating them down while they sit there with Spheres and Chalices in play. Negators+Confidant beats means they need Spheres+Wire+Stack ASAP, and it can be difficult for them to assemble this complete lock quickly enough.
The Negators have also been surprisingly good against control decks, as they put your opponent on a fast clock while providing a way for you to win through storm hate.3 Slaughter Pact
This is awesome against Fish and Beats decks. They usually do not run Chalice, and it takes care of any one of their creatures that matters.2 Hurkyl's Recall
I used to run 3 but found that having 4 Hurkyl's post-board against Stax wasn't really necessary. The hard part of this matchup is getting into a position where you even CAN cast Hurkyl's EOT and go off. By the time you get to this point, usually you will have found one of the 3 or can tutor for 1.1 Island+1 Swamp
These are awesome against Stax, and decent against Fish, too.0 Xantid Swarm
I have omitted Xantid Swarm for several reasons.
1: The sideboard is quite tight, & it simply doesn't make sense to me to use up 4+ slots solely for the control match-up, when it is already favorable.
2: There is a good chance that Xantid Swarm will be invalidated by cards they bring in, such as Darkblast etc for our Confidants, or permanent-based combo hate such as Arcane Lab/Trinisphere.
3: There isn't very much that I want to side out in the control match-up. Almost all of the maindeck, with exception of Chain and Hurkyl's, is quite strong against them.0 Sadistic Sacrament
I simply don't think this card is necessary. If I were to run it I would want to run 3-4 to ensure that I see it consistently. Tutoring for it is bad because tutor+BBB can just resolve Necro and win. Once again, Tezz & Oath are not the most problematic match-ups, and the combo mirror is pretty rare around here. There is also not much I would want to side out for it.Matchup Analysis
I have broadly classified matchups as either Favorable, Slightly Favorable, Slightly Unfavorable, or Unfavorable. I have also indicated whether my data come from tournament experience only (small sample size), or from moderate or heavy testing. Obviously these are imperfect approximations based on my own experience, and will vary depending on the build of the deck. As such, they are meant to be taken as general guidelines rather than hard-and-fast claims.
Sideboarding strategy will of course also vary, and is merely a guideline.Meandeck Beats
: Favorable [Tourney]
You only really care about 3 cards: Thoughtseize, Null Rod, and Gaddock Teeg. Out of these 3, Null Rod is by far the most dangerous, because by shutting down your mana it prevents you from being able to do stuff. Fortunately, Beatz only has discard to protect their Rods, so if you can Duress/Thoughtseize their Rod or tutor+bounce it, you should be able to go off pretty easily. Teeg stops Ad Naus, Jar, and Tendrils, but does nothing to the rest of your stuff. 4 Thoughtseize is not enough discard to pose a serious threat. I have not played this match outside of tournaments, but from the experience I've had with it, you can usually go off relatively easily through their minimal disruption and clock. Post-board, you get Slaughter Pacts to well, slaughter them.
Sb: -4 Duress, -1 Chrome Mox. +3 Slaughter Pact, +2 Hurkyl's Recall.
[note: on the play you might want to keep in Duress instead of Hurkyl's, since you have Duress to deal with Rods. In general, however, answers that deal with permanents on the board are more useful than discard because they can always take care of problem permanents]Dredge
: Favorable [Tourney]
Unlike most other decks, it is actually possible for ANT to race Dredge game 1. Since many current builds don't run Unmask/Chalice, you can often rely on them having no turn 1 disruption, which generally means an easy T2 win if you are on the play with a decent hand. If you are on the draw it might be tight, since their usual T2 goldfish means you really need the goods for T1. Basically, both decks are capable of crazy fast draws, but ANT has the advantage IMO since it can go off T1 while Dredge can't. Post-board, you cut useless chaff for 4x Jailor. Your goldfish speed is unaffected, while they are forced to slow down their deck to try to deal with their hate. If they don't deal with Jailor, they lose. If you combo off, they lose. They usually lose.
Sb: -3 Thoughtseize. -1 Necropotence (on Draw) +4 Jailor, +2 Hurkyl's (& minus 2 Duress, if Chalice)5c Stax
: Favorable [Heavily Tested]
I was in fact quite surprised by the outcome of this testing. All the 5c Stax piolets will probably disagree with my classification of the match-up, but out of the 22 matches I tested and recorded with this configuration, ANT won 15 while 5c Stax won 7. I think a great deal of ANT's strength in this matchup lies in the Confidants in combination with the Negator sb. Post-board, Stax needs more than just a million Sphere+Chalice to win--they need to follow it up with Wire+Stack ASAP to avoid getting beaten down, while ANT retains the ability to Hurkyl's Recall and combo out. Stax's best weapons are In The Eye of Chaos, to prevent bounce, and Tinker-->Titan, to kill lands and counteract ANT's beatdown plan. Stax won A LOT of games with Tinker-->Titan. Nevertheless, ANT has a clear advantage post-board with the extra basics and multiple avenues of attack, all of which must be answered quickly for the Stax player to avoid the loss.
Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence. +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 SwampThe Deck
: Favorable [Tested]
The Deck doesn't have as strong control, combo, or draw elements as Tezz. What it does have is mana denial. Wasteland and Gorilla Shaman can be very annoying--the few games you lose to the Deck will probably be quite frustrating, as you sit with no hand and permanents getting beaten down by a mox monkey. Most of the time, however, you should be able to combo them out fairly easily, since all they have to stop you is Force+Drain (or Pierce in some builds). You also don't have to worry about them going Vault+Key out of nowhere like Tezz does. Like Stax, the scariest thing they can do is Tinker-->Titan. Post-board Negators come in to give them more stuff to worry about. The strategy is to simply overwhelm them.
Sb: +2 Negators, -1 Chain, -1 Hurkyl's (feel free to keep Chain in if you think they are boarding Arcane Lab or whatever)Tezz
: Slightly Favorable [Heavily Tested]
The matchup is definitely on the side of Ad Naus, but not as much as I would like. Tezz combines a strong array of permission elements (usually some number of Duress/Thoughtseize in addition to Force+Drain) with the ability to randomly win out of nowhere. The matchup if very hand-dependant--ideally you want T1 Duress/Thoughtseize with T2 Ad Naus ftw, before they have time to set up. Riding a Confidant can be risky, because of their combo and the fact that they have removal and Confidants of their own. In general, whoever gets the stronger hands will win, but greater speed and brokenness give us an edge.
Sb: -1 Hurkyl's Recall, -1 Timetwister. +2 NegatorTPS
: Slightly Favorable [Tourney]
They have Fow, which can be annoying, but we have 7 Duress and are faster, giving us the advantage in the combo mirror.
Sb: No change (nothing to board in).Fish
: Slightly Favorable [Tested]
I realize I am lumping a lot of different builds together here, but basically for all of them what you are worried about is Rod+Mana Denial+Fow, along with whatever clock and/or disruptive creatures they have. Pre-board it is fairly even in my experience, but post-board is more favorable because we have more answers to their stuff. If they have annoying dudes like Canonist, we bring in Slaughter Pacts, along with extra Hurks for their Rods. We need to watch out for Daze, but can usually afford to take a bit of time to set up because their clock is not very fast. Obviously watch out for Stifle on fetchlands, since cutting us off mana can be dangerous, and keep in mind that they can Stifle Jar. Stifle on Tendrils is usually not an issue because if you go crazy and resolve Ad Naus or w/e it's easy to just Duress them to make sure the way is clear.
Sb: -2 Duress, -3 Chrome Mox. +3 Slaughter Pact, +2 Hurkyls
[Chrome is not as useful because of their Rods, and not as necessary because we don't have to go off as quickly, so can usually afford to have at least 1 mana floating after resolving Ad Naus]Oath
: Slightly Favorable [Tourney]
I am lumping the Oath builds together too, though obviously Iona Oath is tougher because they usually win just through 1 activation. Nevertheless, unless they assemble Vault+Key or cast Walk, they have to pass the turn after resolving Oath, whereas by comboing out we kill them instantly. This match is pretty much like the Tezz matchup, but they have 4x Oath instead of Confidants.
Sb: No change.Mono Red Rod Stax
: Slightly Unfavorable [Tested]
Not a good matchup. They have Chalice/Sphere/Rod to slows us down until they get Wire going or Bazaar+Welder to seal the deal. Post-board is a bit better if they are unprepared for the Negators, but still tough because Bazaar lets them dig for the answers they need, and they abuse Welder like crazy. Not many people actually play this though.
Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence. +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 SwampB/R Stax
: Unfavorable [Tested]
Pretty much like Mono Red Stax, but even worse because they have Confidant to deal with our Confidants, as well as drawing them into more locks & beating us down.
Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence. +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp9-Sphere
: Unfavorable [Heavily Tested]
The worst of all the Stax matchups. Spheres simply rape this deck. Thankfully not many people play this.
Sb: -4 Duress, -3 Thoughtseize, -1 Necropotence. +4 Negator, +2 Hurkyl's, +1 Island, +1 Swamp
The above 3 Stax matchups are my least favorite to play, but they are by no means unwinnable, especially if you win the die role game 1, so if you lose game 2 (likely) you will be on the play again game 3. Beating Stax on the play is quite doable either by going off turn 1, or developing a board with Confidant and/or other mana sources. Beating Stax on the draw generally involves lucking out, since any decent draw they get will inevitably constrain your development. If for whatever reason they are unable to hard lock you in time you can pull out a win by casting Hurkyl's and then going off.
Furthermore, although B/R seems to have been gaining popularity lately, the other 2 seem all but dead (at least around here), and the 3 most difficult Stax matchups make a small enough percentage of the meta that I am comfortable piloting Ad Nauseam in tournaments.Random Deaths
: Before picking this deck up, it is important to realize that sometimes you WILL die to Ad Nauseam and/or Confidant or Demonic Consultation. This is unavoidable and is simply something you have to accept. This may seem bad and could be argued as a reason to avoid the deck, but I don't think this is as big a deal as some people make it out to be. Magic is about playing the percentages. Ultimately, the only thing that matters in a tournament is what matches you win. If you are a serious/competitive player, highest overall match win % against the expected field should be your goal going into every tournament, to maximize your chances of victory. Every deck can crap out--it makes no difference whether you lose by mulling to 5 with Tezz or flipping all 3 Tendrils in the top 6 with ANT. In the long run, the number of games, and thus matches, you win because of Ad Naus and Consult will far outweigh the small number of times you "should" have won but didn't. How to Section
(this is rather basic--if you know how to play combo feel free to skip it):Calculating Mana and Storm
I usually count mana and storm separately before making any plays. First I look at my board and hand and total up the number of mana. Remember, for cards in hand Dark Ritual adds +2 Black, Mana Vault adds +2 colourless, (normal) Cabal Ritual adds +1 Black and filters 1 colourless to Black; Thresholded Cabal Ritual adds 3 Black and filters 1 colourless to Black, and Sol Ring adds 1 colourless. Once you have the total mana, make sure that is enough to play all the spells you are planning to cast. After counting mana throughout the chain of play, count the total storm; remember to count cards that you will tutor for.Cabal Ritual
Keep in mind that since Thresholded Cabal Rit makes 2 more mana than regular Cabal Rit, you can actually gain mana if you cast a 1 mana spell to achieve Threshold before casting Cabal Rit. For example, if you have 6 cards in the graveyard, it is better to Duress your opponent before casting Cabal Ritual, even if s/he has an empty hand, since you will spend 1BB to get BBBBB instead of 1B for BBB. Also remember to think of fetchlands in the hand/battlefield, and/or Black Lotus/Lotus Petal on the battlefield. Whenever you have Cabal Ritual in your hand, you should do a survey of the gamestate to see if it's possible to achieve Threshold before casting it.Duress/Thoughtseize
These not only disrupt your opponent, but also give you valuable information about their hand and deck. The large number of Duress effects is one of the main strengths of Ad Nauseam, so it is important to take full advantage of them. Generally, if you are planning on casting Duress/Thoughtseize during your turn, it is best to cast it before doing ANYTHING else (aside from planning out your line of play, of course), including playing land, casting other mana sources, brainstorm, ponder, etc. This is for 3 reasons:
1: it gives you more information to use in determining the best line of play.
2: it doesn't give your opponent a chance to counter any of the other spells you are going to cast
3: it gives your opponent less information in determining how to respond to your Duress (whether to counter it, cast Brainstorm or some other instant, etc)
The main exception to this guideline is when you want to play around Spell Pierce. For example, if on your 2nd turn your opponent has U up while you have in play a Swamp, and topdeck Mox Sapphire while holding Delta and Duress, you can play your cards in the following order to ensure you have 2 mana up for each spell you play: Delta, Sapphire, Duress.Ad Nauseam
The deck's namesake, and the main reason to play this deck, since it allows you to draw a massive amount of cards for 3BB at instant speed. The average CMC for this deck is 85/60, ~1.42, which, although slightly higher than other ANT builds (+~0.15), allows you to draw an average of about 8 cards off Ad Naus before getting into danger range (<6), assuming you resolve Naus at 16-17 life. This might not sound very impressive, but I rarely have problems winning when I resolve Ad Naus at around this life total, since the deck has a lot of fast mana, 3x Tendrils, a bunch of tutors, and other bombs.
Generally you want to resolve this during your main phase, so that you can attempt to win on that turn, employing the storm you generated casting it--often no more than additional accelerants and a Tendrils/Tutor are required. You can, of course, also use Ad Naus to fuel Will, Tinker/Jar, or Twister. Even if you cannot win that turn, you will usually have drawn enough cards that you can Duress your opponent and pass, setting up the win for next turn.
Even though most of the time you will want to cast it during your main phase, the fact that Ad Naus is an instant can be quite useful. For example, you can cast it at your opponent's EOT to bait out a counter, in order to untap and play another bomb. You can also cast it in response to your opponent's spells; for example, if a control player taps out to cast an instant speed draw spell at the end of your turn, or tries to Duress you when you have sufficient mana up. Against Stax, you can cast it during your upkeep in response to the trigger from Tangle Wire or Smokestack. Yawgmoth's Will
To properly abuse Yawgmoth's Will, generally 2 things are required:
1: Re-usable fast mana.
2: "Business," which can be either Demonic Tutor/Consultation, Mystical/Vamp+Draw Spell, or some other bomb (Ad Naus, Necro, Tinker/Jar, Twister)
Alternatively, you could have Tendrils+ enough fast mana and/or bounce to get to 9 Storm.
In any case, before casting Will you should plan out exactly what you are going to do. The order in which you plan does not necessarily matter, but this is the way I do it. First, I count up my total mana BEFORE casting Yawgmoth's Will, as explained in Counting Mana/Storm. I then subtract 2B to see how much I have floating after I cast Will. Then I count whatever re-usable mana I have in my graveyard, and add it to determine the total mana I have post-Will (don't forget you can replay a fetchland or a land that was previously destroyed or discarded). Once I have determined the amount of mana I would have, I count up the total number of spells I would end up casting to determine the storm. This way I ensure that I have both sufficient mana and storm.
Example: My turn 3 on the draw. Opponent (19 life) has in play Underground Sea, Island; in hand 4 cards; in graveyard he has Force of Will and Brainstorm, in Exile zone Sphinx of the Steel Wind. On the battlefield I have untapped Underground Sea, Swamp, Mox Jet, Chrome Mox (Black). My Graveyard has a Polluted Delta and a Necropotence. In my hand I have Duress, Demonic Consultation, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, and I topdeck Yawgmoth's Will (how fortunate!). I count my mana on the battlefield BBBB, add BB (Ritual), B (Cabal Ritual), B(Consult-->Ritual), for 8 total mana (BBBBBBBB) that I have access to pre-Will. Duress+Will costs 2BB, with would leave me with BBBB floating, after which I add BB (Ritual), BB (Ritual), B (Cabal Ritual), B(fetch) for a total of 10 Black mana post-Will, easily enough to cast Duress+Consult+Tendrils. Now I count storm. Duress (1), Ritual (2), Cabal Ritual (3), Demonic Consultation (4), Dark Ritual (5), Yawgmoth's Will (6), Dark Ritual (7), Dark Ritual (8), Cabal Ritual (9), Duress (10), Demonic Consultation (11), Tendrils of Agony (12) for 24 Life. Having determined that I have sufficient resources to kill my opponent, I cast tap swamp to cast Duress. If the coast is clear, I proceed with the determined line of play. If not--say, for example, my opponent has 2 Drains in hand to go with his UU up, I need to think of another line of play--I can instead Consult for another Duress to take both Drains. But now I need to re-calculate to make sure I still have enough mana and Storm. Instead of 8 (BBBBBBBB) pre-will I have 7 (BBBBBBB), -BBBB2 (Duress, Consult, Duress, Will)=B floating after casting Will, +BBBB(Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Fetch)=BBBBB, just enough mana to cast Consult and Tendrils. Do I still have enough storm? Duress (1), Demonic Consultation (2), Duress (3), Dark Ritual (4), Cabal Ritual (5), Yawgmoth's Will (6), Dark Ritual (7), Cabal Ritual (8), Demonic Consultation (9), Tendrils (10) for 20. So this line of play leaves me with exactly enough mana and storm to kill my opponent. If the opponent Drains my Demonic Consultation, it results in the same storm count as if I had cast the 2nd Duress--I merely have B more mana. Thus, I proceed with the 2nd line of play, and win the game.
Yawgmoth's Will doesn't always necessarily involve generating 9 storm+2BB+Tendrils. For example, if I had had a 2nd Duress instead of Demonic Consultation, I could have Duressed twice, then cast Will to replay Necropotence, draw a bunch of cards, and go for the win next turn. Sometimes Will can be used to generate the necessary mana to cast an Ad Nauseam from hand--or even just to replay Duress+Ancestral Recall. Although Will is an important aspect of Ad Nauseam, it is not as important to Ad Nauseam as it is to other storm decks, so I don't hesitate to use it to gain incremental advantage like I might with TPS. Likewise, this deck is often capable of ignoring graveyard hate such as Leyline of the Void or Tormod's crypt--another strength in the current meta, given the popularity of Dredge.Memory Jar
The main question with Jar is usually whether to crack it the turn you get it into play, or to pass the turn to untap mana before cracking it. This is obviously heavily dependent on the circumstances, including the board and what deck you are playing against. If I have at least 2-3 mana floating, I will usually crack it the same turn. If I have 1 or less, with 2+ mana on the board to untap, and I am not worried about my opponent comboing out or dropping Rod/Needle, etc, I will usually pass the turn.
Also note that if you do pass the turn, it is best to maximize the amount of cards you have access to on the turn you Jar. This means you should usually crack Jar during your opponent's end step, so you keep your Jar hand into your turn. This way, if you draw Mystical/Vamp, you can cast them during your opponent's EOT, or (if you are tapped out) after you untap during your upkeep, so you can use them that turn. If not, you will draw as normal and have 8 cards to work with.Timetwister
Like Jar, I usually prefer to have at least 2 mana floating when I resolve Twister, in order to be able to do stuff immediately with my new hand. Keep in mind that using Twister is more risky than Jar, since your opponent gets to keep their new hand. The risk is minimized, however, by the large number of Duress effects we run, since even if we cannot win after Twistering, we can usually at least Duress them before passing, to make sure they cannot do anything too broken on their turn.Demonic Consultation
Assuming at least ~45 cards in your deck, the chances of dying, or removing all 3 Tendrils, when consulting for a card with 3 or 4 copies in your deck, is quite low. I'm too lazy to do the math on this, but I almost NEVER die to Consult for a 3 or 4-of, even when I cast double Consult when going off with Yawg Will. I can only recall 1 instance when this happened, in months of testing.
Consulting for a 1-of, is, of course, much more risky. I prefer not to do this--I will only go for the 1-of Consult if I think it is the best chance I have of winning the game. Because of the risk, this usually means if I am in a desperate situation and see no other line of play I can pursue to try to win. Even in this case, however, it's not a terrible play, because usually the card will not be in your top 6 or under all 3 Tendrils.
Remember to keep in mind the possibility of removing 1-ofs when determining the order of your plays. For example, if you are going to cast Consult+Tinker-->Jar or Demonic-->Will in the same turn, make sure to cast Tinker or Demonic first, to make sure Consult does not remove Jar or Will. This can also sometimes be relevant with fetchlands.Mulliganing
My rule for mulling is, for any 7 or 6-card hand, if I do not see myself winning the game with the hand, I ship it back (this is what I do with every deck). At 5 or less, I try to judge whether I am more likely to win with the current hand than with a random hand of 1 less card, because I usually will not win with these hands anyway.
I find that many players tend to overestimate their chances of topdecking whatever cards they need to make their hand good, be it mana, business, draw, etc. Unless you have Confidant or Ancestral, it is not good to rely on future draws for your hand to function, because you are almost always more likely NOT to topdeck what you need.
General situations in which to mulligan:1: No business
if you don't have Ad Naus, Tinker, Jar, Twister, Will+stuff to go with it, Dark Confidant, Ancestral Recall, or a tutor, you should probably mulligan. The chances of ripping a threat off the top in the next 1-2 turns are rather low, and chances are that by the time you do actually draw something useful you will have fallen too far behind.
ex: Polluted Delta, Sol Ring, Dark Ritual, Duress, Underground Sea, Black Lotus, Chain of Vapor2: Mana/Colour Screw
if you don't have the right colour of mana required to cast the stuff you need to cast, you should probably mulligan. As stated above, your chances of drawing the land/Lotus/mox you need off the top are too low to risk keeping the hand.
ex: Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Necropotence, Duress, Yawgmoth's Will, Dark Confidant, Mana Crypt3: Paucity of mana
: not having enough mana to cast your bombs
ex: Ad Nauseam, Ad Nauseam, Swamp, Cabal Ritual, Thoughtseize, Thoughtseize, Time Walk
The double Thoughtseize makes this hand tempting, but were we to keep this, in all likelihood we would not be casting Ad Naus for a while. For example, let's calculate the average mana produced by a card in the deck. (ignoring non-mana cards like Chain and the Tutors, because I don't want to make this too complicated). Adding up the total mana produced by all the 28 mana producing cards we get 38 (being generous & counting Sol Ring and Mana Vault as already in play). So the average mana produced by a card in the deck is 38/60=~0.63. So to get the 3 more mana we need for Ad Naus we expect to draw on average 4.8 cards! This is, of course, ignoring possible tutors and draw spells we may topdeck and have mana to cast, so in reality it may take closer to, say, 4 draws (complete guess) for us to assemble the mana to cast Ad Naus. In any case, this is unacceptable. If it's going to be about 4 turns before we can resolve a business spell, this hand is likely to lose against other decent draws, despite the double Thoughtseize."FOW or no?" hands
These hands result in some of the most difficult mulligan decisions for the deck. There are several questions I usually consider when deciding whether or not to keep these hands:
1: Am I on the play or the draw? If I'm on the draw, a "FOW or no" hand suddenly turns into a "Fow/Duress/Thoughseize/Spell Pierce/Chalice/Sphere/Null Rod or no?" hand, and my odds of winning decrease substantially. For this reason, I do not like to keep fragile hands like this when playing second.
2: What is my opponent playing? His deck might not even have FOW in it! Hands like this (on the play) can result in easy wins against Dredge, Stax, and Beats. If I don't know what my opponent is playing, however, I usually assume that their deck has FOW in it, since most decks do.
3: Do I think my opponent will have FOW? This might seem a rather obvious question to ask, if not very helpful, since it is impossible to actually know. Nevertheless, other pieces of information can give you hints as to the answer. For example, if your opponent knows you are playing ANT (they scouted you, or it is games 2/3), whether or not they have FOW will influence their mulliganing decisions, making them more likely to have it than the simple ~40% chance of getting a 4-of in one's starting hand. If you are good at reading tells, you can try to ascertain the answer from your opponent's body language when they look at their hand. If they don't know what you are playing, you can gamble on them not having FOW, since most of their keepable starting hands will NOT have FOW; this play is, of course, risky, but also has the potential to result in easy wins.
4: If they do FOW my bomb, what are my chances of recovery? Do I have additional mana to cast whatever business I might topdeck, or do I have to topdeck mana to cast other high-mana bombs? How likely am I to topdeck what I need before I fall too far behind?
5: Am I likely to get a hand that gives me better chances of winning if I mulligan? This is the ultimate question in the decision, of course, but I put it last because all the preceding questions are necessary to ask to determine one's chances of winning with the current hand. Judging how likely one is to win with a random hand is difficult and requires a lot of experience with the deck--it also depends on one's current hand-size; I am much more likely to keep a "FOW or no?" hand of 6 than a hand of 7, because often the fragile but explosive hand of 6 will give me a better chance of winning than a random hand of 5.
Example hand: Ad Nauseam, Ad Nauseam, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Mana VaultPrevious Threads
[I realize that my list is hardly original and would like to give credit to all the others who helped to develop this deck--I probably missed a few threads so feel free to link to any others]:http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36772.0http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=37945.0http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36729.0http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=37645.0http://www.themanadrain.com/index.php?topic=36720.0
Have fun pwning your opponents with tentacles!