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Keep or Mulligan – RW Aggro

I’m back again to talk about the Red/White Aggro deck that’s been putting up great results recently. This time I want to talk about some of the deck’s mulligan decisions—from the tough keeps to the ideal hands. This is a part of the game that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should, since the time spent keeping a hand is such a small percentage of the time used up in a match that it seems like you make so many more decisions that have a larger impact on the game.

Especially in an aggressive deck, what you do in the early game matters the most, and the best way to control that is with good opening hand selection.

The Ideal Hand

This is the bread-and-butter hand for Red/White aggro and I would keep regardless of play or draw in any matchup. It’s exactly what you want because it has Goblin Rabblemaster, with a back up Rabblemaster even if they have removal, and you have multiple good ways to remove blockers and push through damage. This hand lacks a third land, and without that you will surely lose, but that’s just Magic—sometimes you have to keep and just believe it will work out often enough for it to be a good decision.

Hand #2

This hand is unexciting but a clear keep. It has an adequate number of lands, a removal spell, and some good pressure. It has a clear and concise game plan and there’s no glaring flaw. It’s unfortunate the hand doesn’t have a two-casting-cost spell, but the deck only has Seeker of the Way and Lightning Strike. If you spend your time mulliganing to get to one of those cards not only are you going to take heaps of mulligans but you’ll also having Lightning Strike in your opening hand a huge percentage of the time with the possibility of playing against matchups where it isn’t at its best. This hand is a keep on the play or the draw.

Hand #3

I would keep. This may be the most surprising of the hands I talk about today but I really think Goblin Rabblemaster is just too good of a card and having two means you’re likely to beat a removal spell or Thoughtseize. It’s the bottom of the range for hands I would keep, but I really think this is a hand where you have to say to yourself: “this is what I signed up for.”

When you pick this deck, you want hands like this, since having an uncontested Goblin Rabblemaster is the single most likely way you win a game and this hand does that well enough. It’s a weak hand but I think you’d be surprised at how often it wins.

Hand #4

This hand is a mulligan. On its surface it looks like a fine hand with a good mix of lands and spells, but when you being to imagine how the game is going to play out it’s not as attractive. This hand is a real fixer-upper, you need to draw something quality in your first few draw steps or you’re dead. Simply playing lands and saying go until you play Dragons and hoping they taking you home is optimistic at best.

I dislike that this hand isn’t good against fast aggro or dedicated control, too slow against aggro and too easy to keep pace with against control. I could see someone keeping this hand and having it work out for them, but your chances to win the game will be higher if you take a mulligan and hope to draw one of your hallmark cards like Seeker of the Way, Hordeling Outburst, or Goblin Rabblemaster.

All of these hands were assuming an unknown opponent and my decision remains the same on both the play and the draw in these cases, but that will influence your decision in other situations. Three keeps and a mulligan sounds about right—I’d love to hear what you think and why.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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