Modern, like other formats, goes through instances of evolution and change. Although Modern has felt settled with Amulet Titan and Dimir Whirza remaining at the top of the metagame, there are still approaches to prey on these strategies which can be successful. One of the positives in Modern currently is the lack of change in the metagame every week, which means you can settle on a strategy and not fear for it being poorly positioned in a short space of time. Alternatively, in an adjusting or unsolved metagame, adopting an aggressive approach is a reasonable way to go. There is a strategy in Modern currently that's both well positioned now and will remain so when the format shifts again, and that is Mono-Red Blitz.
Mono-Red Blitz (also known as Mono-Red Prowess) is incredibly favored in the current Modern metagame due to its explosiveness against strategies that require time to set up. Mono-Red Blitz is an evolved take on the once-powerful Mono-Red Phoenix, which leaned on potent cards such as Arclight Phoenix to leverage the graveyard favorably. Since the banning of Faithless Looting last year, Mono-Red has gone through various revisions and has settled on a prowess subtheme to unlock the most damage possible. At its heart, Mono-Red Blitz is a burn strategy that cares about killing the opponents as soon as possible but also has approaches to combat the long game if required.
Another positive about the strategy is that it's incredibly affordable, even fully upgraded. Over the years, there have been misconceptions in Modern that you need to invest heavily in a strategy to offer the best chance of success. While partly true, there are times where high investment doesn't offer a high reward, and Mono-Red Blitz is an example that success can come from investing less compared to other Modern strategies. I'm a huge fan of Mono-Red Blitz as it's evidence that you can achieve success at an affordable rate, and it offers the chance to branch into established strategies such as Boros Burn if you so choose.
Let's start with a budget foundation of Mono-Red Blitz, with routes to creating a competitive and optimal build of the deck.
At just under $70 (or 16 Tix on Magic Online), this budget take of Mono-Red Blitz offers a solid foundation into the strategy. One of the benefits of Mono-Red is that it utilizes recent and current Standard cards in Crash Through and Light Up the Stage. As a result, Mono-Red Blitz creates an excellent port from Standard to Modern if you already play Mono-Red in Standard.
Mono-Red Blitz is built on burn and creatures which appreciate cheap spells, such as Monastery Swiftspear and Kiln Fiend. Although there is plenty of discussion on whether you should play Kiln Fiend or Runaway Steam-Kin in Mono-Red Blitz, in this build, Kiln Fiend complements Mutagenic Growth which provides more damage output. Admittedly, it's more "all-in," as Kiln Fiend encourages more aggression compared to Steam-Kin, but overall it is a meta call whether you want to play either. Runaway Steam-Kin is the better card going into an unknown metagame due to its potential to unload burn with its activated ability, but from a budget perspective, Kiln Fiend works well.
Early last year, Modern Horizons provided plenty of tools for Mono-Red Blitz, with Lava Dart becoming a key addition to the strategy.
Lava Dart is the best card in this deck, and it isn't close. It's important to always run four as it provides a higher ceiling and couples well with the prowess on our creatures. Modern is full of cheap and powerful creatures with one toughness that Lava Dart takes advantage of greatly. It's important to keep the ratio of Mountains high to meet the flashback criteria, which is why no fetch lands are featured in the optimal lists. Primarily we are one color, and the filtering isn't as needed given we are operating on a low land count.
Similar to Modern Infect, most of the cards used in Mono-Red Blitz are at common rarity which creates an excellent route in Mono-Red Burn in Pauper. This means your Blitz cards have additional reach and will allow you to play one of the most interesting formats in Magic at present.
Mono-Red Burn has been a mainstay in Pauper for years and encourages quick wins similarly to its Modern counterpart. Although you will need to pick up some additional commons to create Pauper Burn, it's a great way to use your cards in other formats and allows you to improve as a Burn player overall. Most of the skills you learn with Mono-Red Blitz port over to other formats, which creates learning experiences and the opportunity to become an archetype master.
Circling back to Modern, we can upgrade into a fully functional version of Mono-Red Blitz by adding $150 to the build.
While the core of the build remains the same, we are adding Runaway Steam-Kin over Kiln Fiend for the reasons mentioned above, replacing Forked Bolt with Manamorphose, and cutting basics for Sunbaked Canyon and a Fiery Islet. Although it may seem odd to run lands that can tap for white and blue, these cards are sorely needed. These "Horizon" lands are the other crucial new cards from Modern Horizons, and they mitigate one key issue with the strategy—card draw.
As we are deploying burn and threat after threat, our hand becomes empty quickly. We need tools to offset this drawback to present more aggression. Lands such as Fiery Islet and Sunbaked Canyon provide an excellent answer to this issue. I recommend picking up a playset of Sunbaked Canyon and one or two Fiery Islets for Mono-Red Blitz. Most stock Mono-Red Blitz builds utilize five to six of these Horizon lands, but the strategy is playable with less if needed. A good tip is to be aggressive with sacrificing these for card draw early on as Mono-Red Blitz can operate incredibly well on two or three lands at one time.
Although Fiery Islet is cheaper, getting Sunbaked Canyon will let you port into Boros Burn more easily. There is plenty of crossover between Boros Burn and Mono-Red Blitz, and if you want to provide longevity for your cards this could be a good approach to go down. Boros Burn has been a staple Modern strategy since the inception of the format and typically a solid choice across the board. In general, I recommend slowly picking up all the "Horizon" lands as they will all see play in the future, if not currently. Just look at Horizon Canopy, which has become fairly expensive due to its limited print run and demand in Modern. Although these lands are in a newer print run, that circulation will dry up which will inflate the price.
Another staple for Mono-Red Blitz is Manamorphose. It may seem an odd inclusion especially as we are a mono-colored deck, however, its purpose is powerful. Manamorphose is essentially a free cantrip that pumps our creatures and discounts Bedlam Reveler, allowing us to pump through considerable amounts of damage.
Not only does Reveler draw cards, but it's rarely cast for the full eight mana and averages around three to four usually. Bedlam Reveler is Mono-Red Blitz's version of Tarmogoyf, as it enters with decent stats and becomes more powerful the more spells are cast. Unlike Tarmogoyf, running a full playset is less than ideal as being bricked with multiple Bedlam Revelers is a situation we want to avoid.
We are also adding a playset of Soul-Scar Mage which can create favorable blocks and attacks with its pseudo-wither ability. The minus counters can become incredibly relevant, and can turn our burn spells into hard removal if utilized correctly. Although Soul-Scar Mage does not have haste, it can keep a clear board of threats when we can't go directly with our damage.
Rounding out the upgrades is the sideboard with the key addition of Blood Moon. Although Amulet Titan can operate around a Blood Moon thanks to Dryad of the Illysian Grove and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, the enchantment remains a potent answer to big-mana strategies or strategies that utilize plenty of non-basics. As the bulk of our land base is Mountains, the downside to deploying a Blood Moon hinders us less compared to our opponent. Over the years, Blood Moon has become less of a trump card due to there being other outs to beat the enchantment. This is where applying pressure is important, and Mono-Red Blitz achieves that well.
One of the challenging aspects of Modern is finding a strategy that you enjoy, which also encourages affordability as well as offering a competitive edge. Mono-Red Blitz ticks all of these boxes and offers a foundation for Burn archetypes in other formats. Even if Mono-Red Blitz does eventually fall out of favor, you can add white for more removal and post-board answers—the features that make Boros Burn a powerful strategy in Modern. However, at present, Mono-Red Blitz is a fantastic option for the Modern metagame as it can go under threats that need time to set up. So now is a good time to sling some burn, bolt your opponents, and light up the stage.