Keep or Mulligan? with Alex Majlaton

Hello!

Welcome to another edition of Keep or Mulligan, this time with Affinity player extraordinaire Alex Majlaton as a guest—thank you Alex! (And also thank you for buying Codenames for me).

As always, if you have any hand suggestions, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Hand #1

You’re playing Atarka Red versus Esper (non-Dragons). You’re on the draw and your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

I think this hand is simply too slow, especially on the draw, and it’s also too threat-light. You can’t really sandbag your Abbot in this matchup, so you’re just going to jam it on turn 2, and if they kill it you have nothing. It seems like this hand is kind of all-in on your opponent playing a turn-2 Jace to give you something to do, and I’d rather mulligan for a hand that is faster, or if not faster at least with more threats than this one.

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Spoiler

Keep.

This is a strange hand. It’s not terribly explosive, and having to cast the Abbot on turn 2 if you don’t draw anything else isn’t particularly thrilling. However, you aren’t really looking for any one specific card in this matchup, just as much action as you can get. If you mulligan looking for a card like Zurgo to lead off with, you’ll probably get more early damage in but I think you’ll end up feeling the effect of being down a card a lot faster unless your 6- (or 5-) card hand is very good. You are also not that unhappy about the Wild Slash since it’s an answer to Jace, and it gives you a turn-1 play if your opponent casts it on turn 2. I’d keep and hope to just keep drawing action.

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Hand #2

You’re playing a Ruw deck in Battle for Zendikar Draft. You have only 2 blue cards and 2 white cards, and your mana is 9 Mountains, 4 Islands, 4 Plains, and 1 Evolving Wilds. You’re on the draw and your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

This hand is very hard for me to evaluate. If I were playing a normal, 2-colored deck, I’d never keep it—it’s simply too slow and clunky, especially for a Red deck on the draw. If I were playing a more heavily tri-colored deck (with a mana base of say 5/6/7), then I would keep it, because having all your colors of mana is an important feature. The challenge in this hand lies in deciding which side of the spectrum it’s closer to.

When I had this hand originally, I kept, thinking that having my 3 colors was too good to pass up. Upon thinking about it further, however, I believe that was wrong—I’m only splashing 2 cards in either color anyway, and I have a decent number of sources for how many cards I have. It’s possible I play the entire game without drawing a card in a nonred color, and if I do draw them chances are I’ll be able to cast them. So I think you should mulligan, but I’m not sure.

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Spoiler

Mulligan.

I won’t lie, having perfect mana is attractive, but unless the rest of your deck is exclusively 2- and 3-drops, your chances of playing anything on curve before turn 4 are pretty low, and your turn-4 play isn’t even all that likely to be able to attack or block profitably.

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Hand #3

You’re playing a UGr Battle for Zendikar draft deck. You’re on the play, and your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

This is another tough hand. You have a ton of 2-drops, and Fertile Thicket basically guarantees you a second land, so you know you’re going to be making plays. The problem appears when you consider how the rest of the game is going to go. Unless your opponent struggles a lot early on, I think you’re unlikely to win this game without topdecking a bunch of lands in a row and some good cards after that, at which point I’d rather just mulligan. If you had a decent 3-drop, or maybe even a better 4-drop, I think I’d keep.

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Spoiler

Mulligan.

I think you are very likely to be able to find a land from Thicket and play 2 consecutive Invokers, and maybe it’s even an Island so you can play Skyrider Elf too. The rest of this hand, however, is incredibly mana-hungry. You need to hit 2 more lands to play either of the Wurms, 2 more to cast Wave-Wing Elemental, and more on top of that to trigger landfall or activate your Invokers. You will end up stumbling way too often, and since your deck is green the other spells you draw probably aren’t even strong enough to bail you out if you recover.

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Hand #4

You’re playing Modern Infect against Zoo. You’re on the draw, it’s game 2 and your opponent mulliganed to 6. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

I think this is a mulligan. Sure, it has a creature and a lot of pump spells, but it’s an unprotected Blighted Agent against a deck with cheap burn. The fact that you only have 1 land means you need to topdeck 2 in order to have a chance to save your creature, and I think that is just too slow, even if you can cycle Twisted Image. The way the game is going to go is that you’ll likely play a turn-2 Agent and it will die, or you will play a turn-3 Agent and then you will die.

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Spoiler

Mulligan.

My immediate intuition was to keep this hand, since you’re on the draw and you can probably cycle Image to see another card if you don’t instantly draw a land, so I think you are pretty likely to cast Blighted Agent on 2. Is that even good though? Well, it’s great if you get to untap with it, but a single Lightning Bolt from your opponent means your only threat is dead. Your only other option is to hope to draw 2 lands and cast Blighted Agent on 3 with Vines/Blessing backup, which MIGHT lead to a turn-4 kill IF your opponent hasn’t killed a very defenseless you with Nacatls yet. After looking at the different ways to play this hand, I decided that way too much has to go right for me to win, so I would mulligan.

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Hand #5

You’re playing UR Splinter Twin against Amulet Bloom in Modern. It’s game 2, you’re on the play, and your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Keep.

I dislike keeping 1-card hands when you actually have game against someone (i.e. you don’t NEED Blood Moon to win with Twin versus Amulet, so you don’t have to keep a hand like this), but Blood Moon against Amulet is just too good. They can kill you turn 2, but that would beat most of your hands anyway, so this hand is only truly bad when they have Seal of Primordium, which I think is a fine risk to take, because you can still win the game even if they do that.

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Spoiler

Keep.

Blood Moon vs. Amulet is as close to a K.O. as you can get in Modern. You even have access to 2 basic Islands to operate with. Your opponent basically only has two ways out: casting a Primeval Titan on turn 2, or playing a Seal of Primordium on turn 2 (well 2 and a half really, since your opponent can always just spike a basic Forest and a Seal later on, but hopefully you’ve drawn some action by then). Still, I like your chances and I would keep.

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