Standard And Modern With Growth Spiral!

A lot of players have come to Gottlieb with the expectation that he’d be in love with Growth Spiral! The truth is a little more complicated! He has a few decks that want the spell…and a few others that should never go near it!

No matter how good a Standard format may be, there comes a point in its
progression where I start getting that itch. You know the one. It feels
like an insatiable urge to flail your arms across the precariously perched
building blocks that make up the metagame and just start all over on
something new.

I won’t deny for a second that this has been one of the best Standard
formats in recent memory –
some even say it’s the best
– but I’m ready for fully powered manabases and a world where every guild
and shard combination is in play. If Ravnica Allegiance delivers
on the promise of its predecessor, we’re in for something special indeed.
The first wave of previews have definitely whet my appetite, and I begin my
exploration of the set by talking about a nifty Simic instant with
potential applications in Standard and Modern.

Growth Spiral obviously calls to mind a card which was previously dominant
in both Standard and Modern: Explore.

In the Standard context, I think it’s extremely dangerous to base our
expectations for a card on a close analog’s past performance. However, if
we’re going to talk about Growth Spiral’s role in Modern, a direct
comparison makes much more sense, since both cards will be present in the
cardpool simultaneously. Indeed, for Growth Spiral to see play in Modern,
its card text must in some way outshine Explores, since the mana cost of UG
is far more prohibitive. Besides the mana cost, Growth Spiral differs in
only one meaningful way:

It’s an instant.

In some ways, this very dramatically simplifies our analysis. We’re only
going to replace Explore in situations where the mana cost is
non-prohibitive, and it being an instant alters play patterns. Similarly,
any decks which choose to slot a Growth Spiral that chose not to play
Explore (or didn’t exist prior to the printing of Growth Spiral) must also
be doing a lot of business at instant speed.

As far as replacing Explore goes, only two noteworthy decks are currently
including any copies of the spell. The first is TitanShift. No blue mana
here, and the deck is not particularly interested in acting at instant
speed. Next.

The second deck is Amulet Titan. Since I’ve been appointed as an official
member of the executive board of the Amulet Titan Fan Club, everyone on the
planet decided to reach out to me via social media to get my thoughts on
how many copies of Growth Spiral I’ll be playing going forward.

Folks, Growth Spiral is not even close to making the cut in Amulet
Titan. I already think Explore is awful in the deck and have not regretted
cutting it for even a moment. Growth Spiral represents a much harder to
cast version of Explore in a deck that has virtually no regard for acting
on its opponent’s turn. Hard pass.

Growth Spiral’s Modern impact will not be made as an Explore replacement
but as a powerful new tool for a couple of fringe archetypes.

Bring to Light Scapeshift has been sitting just on the edge of playability,
and maybe Growth Spiral is what it needed to break out. This deck does a
great job of utilizing every part of the Growth Spiral buffalo. With 27
lands, there should often be an extra land in hand to make use of the
additional drop. The four Remands do a nice job of forcing opponents into
unwinnable situations. No longer will you be punished for taking off Turn 2
to hold up Remand when your opponent just puts a land on the battlefield
and passes. Instead, you just keep ramping and moving deeper into your

You also get to repeat this pattern on the following turn, when your four
mana will allow a Snapcaster Mage to potentially do some more instant speed
ramping. I also like the way Bring to Light’s sideboard is shaping up.
Unmoored Ego is a sneaky good print for this deck, and it’s possible we
should be including even more copies. Meanwhile, the Madcap
Experiment/Platinum Emperion Combo is a beautiful curveball that will steal
games from an unprepared opponent.

Countermagic will be a hallmark of Growth Spiral decks, but my next
suggestion takes things a step further by packing some rarely seen
countermagic for the attack step as well.

Rather than attempting to hold control of the game across countless turns,
this version of Modern control seeks to leverage Growth Spiral to
accelerate into the powerful Nexus of Fate/Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin end game. Look at just how much of this
deck operates at instant speed! Also, I don’t think I need to tell anyone
just how powerful a Turn 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor can be, and the combo of
Explore and Jace has done top notch work in the past. Growth Spiral
represents a significant upgrade, potentially catching an opponent unaware
of the threat of Turn 3 Jace and leaving them with shields down.

Using Angelsong as opposed to Terminus keeps our cantrip count sky high and
helps make untapping with a Teferi and Azcanta much more likely to yield a
victory (and much easier to do). This deck isn’t moving into the realm of
lightning fast, but I do think you will occasionally be taking all the
turns as early as Turn 6 or 7. A setup like this is a much more reasonable
way to attempt to take control in Modern, where there are just too many
impediments to stretching a game across twenty-plus turns.

It should surprise exactly no one that I’m excited for this archetype to
make the jump back into Standard as well. Growth Spiral is the two-mana
ramp spell that Bant Nexus has been praying for since it first appeared on
the scene at Pro Tour Magic 2019. Again, Growth Spiral’s ability
to replace itself as the deck moves to the lategame – where every single
topdeck matters – is the real sauce here. Many games will be subtly decided
by the Bant Nexus deck’s ability to use mana on their opponents turn after
successfully representing a Settle the Wreckage or Negate. Much like in the
Modern version of the archetype, the surprise value of a non-telegraphed
Turn 4 Teferi can be worth a lot, and having another funnel for mana
generated by Teferi’s untap clause is always nice. A decklist feels
entirely premature at this stage, but I just can’t help myself.

Nothing feels more liberating than escaping the clutches of bad mana, and
Bant Nexus has been rocked by the absence of dual lands since rotation.
Adding Breeding Pool and Hallowed Fountain to the mix is no small upgrade,
and in combination with Growth Spiral, we may have cause to commiserate
Nexus of Fate’s printing one more time.

As far as other potential uses for Growth Spiral, I’m going to wait and see
what other tools the Azorius and Simic guilds are working with in this set.
It seems entirely plausible that Growth Spiral could have a home in more
traditional control decks, as well as dedicated ramp strategies. We’ll have
to wait and see exactly what these decks will look like, but as far as raw
power level goes, Growth Spiral checks the box.

It took exactly one card to get me hyped beyond belief for Ravnica Allegiance. January can’t get here soon enough.