It's not often you do a deck tech with someone who just earned their third loss; but's it's also not often that you run into Mono-Red Control in Modern. Chicago native Davis Merced lost in Round 13 to Luis Scott-Vargas. And LSV conceded that it was a pretty close match. Though this deck might not have been perfect for this particular Modern field, its stellar Day 1 record and ability to finish near the top of the standings at a 4,300-person tournament merits accolades.
Modern is an open format; you can basically do anything. When I sat down with Davis the first thing I asked was why he played this particular deck. And his response echoed what we've been saying about Modern this whole season: "Play what you know." Merced smiled and shrugged after he said it. Merced loves playing Mountains, and he does so consistently. In Standard he plays Mono-Red Devotion, and in Legacy he plays Mono-Red Sneak Attack. "Also, I didn't feel like racing against Zoo and Affinity all day."
Davis explained the origin of this particular build: "Last season I played a more aggressive version of this with Figure of Destiny and Kargan Dragonlord ... then about a month ago I saw Caleb Durward's Modern brew contest video and he played a version of this deck." Davis swapped around some cards, played more to his own strengths, then voila! Mono-Red Control is a competitor.
"Blood Moon.dec is my favorite deck," he said, so why not play six of them? (He plays a couple Magus of the Moon as well.) The deck ends up playing like the Blue Moon deck from Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but with a much faster finish. "Koth of the Hammer, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Boros Reckoner end the game real quick." You might question how the 3/3 actually ends a game, but as Davis extolled, one or two Skred pointed at the Reckoner can often deal all the damage to an opponent you need (after you redirect the damage, of course).
As you may have guessed after reading Skred, the deck has a very simple mana base: 21 Snow-Covered Mountains and 2 Scrying Sheets. That's the first time I've seen Scrying Sheets break into Modern. Much like Blue Moon, it keeps its land simple so that it doesn't manascrew itself with a Blood Moon. "Sometimes Blood Moon just gets concessions. I played a turn-one Magus of the Moon against Infect, and, well, that was the game." Merced shrugged and chuckled. Though that hand required both Simian Spirit Guides, he said he's still looking for cuts to fit the last two.
For the particular match-ups, the aggro decks are in your favor. With tons of removal, main deck Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout, and sideboard Blasphemous Act and Anger of the Gods it's generally a blow out. And with the Fallout, "you can do some funny things in combat with a Boros Reckoner in play."
The control match has some good play too because you have a higher threat density, and your threats are bigger and faster than theirs. "Scrying Sheets is really good against control." With the land and the Chandra, Pyromaster creating some much-needed card advantage for the red deck, it can still go toe-to-toe against the blue players.
As far as combo decks go, most of the matches are good. "Main deck Relic of Progenitus makes a big difference ... and Combust really helps against Twin." The artifact is also assistance against Pod decks, ensuring that Murderous Redcap and Kitchen Finks don't return. He admits that the big weakness of the deck is Storm—which is not a great deck to be stone-cold to in the current metagame. "The matchups like 80/20, in their favor." But he continued that the Relics mean you aren't just dead game one; you just have to run a little hot. But he beat Storm today, and with flourishing style: "I just Skredded him out." Near the end of the day here, Storm has been dying out a bit, so we'll see what lasting metagame impact it maintains.
One of my favorite aspects of the deck is the speed of the end game. Maybe your Blood Moon doesn't do great (like against straight blue-red versions of Twin), but if Plan A doesn't work, Plan B of attacking with giant, hasty monsters can still get you out of jams. Where Blue Moon closes games out in inches, this deck does it in miles.
About any potential changes he would've made in the deck, Davis said, "I would've liked to sneak in some more Anger of the Gods ... and Batterskull has done basically nothing," (although he admitted a Zoo deck just scooped to it when a Goblin Guide revealed it on the top of Merced's library). Other than those choices, he's really happy with how the deck played, and would play it again in a heartbeat.
"I get to play all of my favorite cards, Koths & Bolts!"
If you're looking for a great, inexpensive deck that will take your FNM by surprise, look no further than this. And if you're looking for a deck name, I think you can do worse than "Koths & Bolts."