How to Play Magic: The Gathering Part 10: Taking a Mulligan

You may recall in Part 2: Steps of a Turn, I mentioned that players may choose to take a mulligan before the game begins. I also said that there are multiple ways of taking a mulligan. In tournament settings, the mulligan style changes now and then. With the upcoming release of Core Set 2020, Wizards will be adopting a new form of mulligan for all competitive play. There is no doubt it will also make its way into casual play as well. I will cover all of the mulligan types in this post starting with the new one to be adopted within the coming months.

While that taking a mulligan can be a vital strategic move, it is possible to take too many mulligans and diminish the returns. You can mulligan all the way down to 0 cards in your starting hand, but you would never want to do this. If you mulligan too far, you don’t have any way to strategize. As a personal rule, I don’t mulligan more than twice unless I don’t draw any lands or spells. I would advise you to do the same.

The London Mulligan

To perform a London mulligan, players reshuffle their hand back into their library and draw the same number of cards that they initially drew, which is 7 in most cases. Then, once both players have decided to keep their hand, the players select cards in their hands equal to the number of times they have taken a mulligan and puts those cards on the bottom of their libraries in any order.

This is the current competitive mulligan method as of July 2019.

The Vancouver Mulligan

To perform a Vancouver mulligan, players reshuffles their hands back into their library and draw an amount or cards equal to their starting hand size minus 1 for each mulligan taken. Then, once both players decide to keep their hand and not take any more mulligans, any players whose hand has fewer cards than the starting hand size can scry 1, meaning they look at the top card of their library and decide if they want to keep it there or move it to the bottom.

This was the method of competitive mulligans until July 2019.

The Paris and Partial Paris Mulligan

A Paris mulligan is exactly the same as the Vancouver mulligan except you don’t get to scry 1 with the Paris mulligan. There is a variant call the partial Paris mulligan which was mainly seen in commander and is still often used in casual games of EDH. A ppm (partial Paris mulligan) allows a player to choose to keep cards instead of drawing a completely new hand. To do a partial Paris mulligan, a player selects cards from their hand to be set aside face-down (cards they do not wish to keep). The player then draws one fewer cards than what they set aside. Once a player decides to keep their hand, the cards that were set aside are shuffled back into the library.

The Original No Land/All Lands Mulligan

Back in the day before the rules of Magic were as balanced and refined as they are now, players could only take a mulligan if their opening hand contained all lands or no lands and they could only do it once per game. To take one of these old school mulligans, a player had to reveal the hand to their opponent, and then draw seven new cards. No do overs, no ifs, ands, or buts; one mulligan per game.

Having an optimum opening hand is so crucial to performing well in a game of Magic. The more lands you have, the fewer options you have when it comes to spells to play and on the other hand (haha, get it?), fewer lands means you may not be able to cast your stronger spells at the optimum time. So what is a good land to spells ratio for an opening hand? Honestly, that’s going to depend on your deck and the rest of the cards you draw in that hand. A red deck that seeks to win fast with cheap spells is going to want fewer lands than a blue control deck that runs a lot of counter spells, but as a rule of thumb, most decks want to see 2 or 3 lands in their opening hand.

Lands alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor in weather to keep a hand or take a mulligan. The cost of your spells plays a huge role as well. The player that usually wins is the one who can spend their mana in the most efficient way, which means playing the right spell at the right time. Say that you’re playing a green deck in the current standard environment (War of the Spark at the time of this post), and your opening hand contains two basic forests, a Llanowar Elves, a Steel Leaf Champion, a Carnage Tyrant, a Giant Growth, and a Vivian Reid. You obviously wont be able to play Vivien or the Carnage Tyrant anytime soon, but having that Steel Leaf Champion on turn 2 would be great, unfortunately that means you wont be able to play Giant Growth which could keep the Steel Leaf Champion alive, especially against a deck that uses damage based removal, like Lava Coil from a mono red deck, which is everywhere.

Llanowar Elves
Giant Growth
Vivian Reid

Even if your deck happens to give you more lands or mana sources over the course of the next two turns, you still wont be able to play Vivian until turn 4, or 5 if they kill your Llanowar Elves. So what do you do until you can play her? Nothing, and you will get further and further behind. Carnage Tyrant is great against mono red, but again, this card is too expensive to cast and you would have to get extremely lucky to get enough mana to even play it on curve (which basically means you add one mana to your pool each round). If you were to draw Vivien or the Carnage Tyrant later in the game and replace them with another spell to play on an earlier turn, it would be a better hand and may look something like  the following: 

Basic Forest
Basic Forest
Llanowar Elves
Giant Growth

This opening hand would allow you to play a land and the Llanowar Elves on turn 1, a second land and the Growth-Chamber Guardian on turn 2, keeping a mana open for Giant Growth should you need to protect one of your creatures, and on turn 3 you can adapt the guardian or play the champion. Of course this also depends on what the opponent does and what you draw into, but this hand is much better than the previous one since all of the cards can be played early on in the game.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu