Keep or Mulligan is back, this time with 3-time PT Top 8 finisher Chris Pikula as a guest—thanks a lot for your help Pikula!
Pikula: These were obviously made more difficult than usual, in order to make me look bad, so I did briefly discuss them with my co-workers, including Pantheon member Jamie Parke!
Thanks a lot to Jamie and the co-workers too!
You’re playing Atarka Red against Dark Jeskai. It’s game 1, you’re on the play, and you mulligan to 6. Your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan to 5?
This was the hand I had against Finkel in my first game of the Top 8, and I kept, but I wasn’t sure. I have my best 1-drop (Swiftspear is better in some hands, but it certainly won’t be in a 5-card hand), but I also have arguably the worst card in my deck in this spot, so it’s tough to say—though this card could end up being pretty important in the future. I ended up keeping because I felt I was more likely to draw enough cards to make this hand good than to win with a 5-card hand, and extra lands with 2 fetches aren’t completely dead because of Become Immense/Abbot, but it was just a gut feeling that could definitely have been wrong.
The big question I asked myself here was “are most 1-land hands better than this?” and I think they are. I suppose you could try to convince yourself that you are holding 2/3 of the “combo” in your hand with a creature and a Battle Rage, but that seems pretty optimistic. You also know you are playing against Jeskai, which is one of the worst matchups for trying to resolve a big Battle Rage.
You’re playing Dark Jeskai against an unknown deck. You’re on the draw and your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
This hand is simply too slow against an unknown opponent, and there’s nothing in it that gets you back in the game if you fall behind—you’ll be stuck trying to find answers for their threats for the rest of the game. Command is a 2-for-1, but doesn’t impact the board very much, so I think it’s too likely you’ll be overrun with this hand, and if you’re playing against a deck that requires pressure (such as Eldrazi Ramp) you’re never going to win. Against a slow deck, this hand could be great, but against a faster deck it’s disastrous and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I had this hand at GP Quebec, and I mulliganed it.
This one feels very close to me. I would keep this on the play, especially because the Command becomes a more effective removal spell when you go first (although the second mode, which would likely be making your opponent discard, is not quite as good on the play). If I knew what I was playing against it would also help my decision quite a bit—this hand is fine in an attrition matchup. I also think that maybe Jace is just so good that throwing back any mediocre opener without Jace isn’t a crazy idea.
You’re playing Dark Jeskai against an unknown deck. You’re on the draw, you mulligan your opening hand, and your 6-card hand is:
Keep or Mulligan to 5?
This was the hand I mulliganed into at GP Quebec (after mulliganing once). This time, I thought that the chance my opponent was playing a deck against which this hand was decent trumped the chance of me beating one of the faster decks on a mulligan to 5. The way I saw it, if they were playing a super fast deck, I was unlikely to win on 5 anyway, but if they were playing a slower deck, then this hand could still end up being quite good. The mana in Jeskai is so awkward that I didn’t want to pass on a hand with perfect mana (since there’s definitely a chance that I mulligan to 5 and can’t cast a spell, or that I have all wrong spells since the deck has a lot of cards that are great in some matchups and bad in others), and the deck has lots of ways to mitigate flooding with Tasigur, Dig, Soulfire Grandmaster, Jace, Commands, and the Silumgar that I already have.
It turned out my opponent was playing Mono-Red, so the game wasn’t very fun.
This is like the previous hand, but even slower. Obviously the risk is greater because you are going to 5 cards instead of 6, but it would be difficult to construct a slower hand. Jeskai is very good at recovering card advantage in most matchups, so I think speculating on 5 is the way to go.
You’re playing Jeskai against Abzan Aggro. You’re on the draw and you mulligan your first 6. Your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan to 5?
This was the hand that Ryochi Tamada kept against Kazuyuki Takimura in the finals of PT Battle for Zendikar. Some people laughed at him, but I don’t think it’s an outrageous keep—you are on the draw and you have a scry and a Fiery Impulse, and theoretically you only need two lands because you then have Jace, which should find you your third land. That said, I’d still mulligan, because the potential for this hand to do nothing is just too great—if you brick early you can almost never win, but if you hit you certainly don’t auto-win, so I think your odds are better with 5. But it’s very interesting to me that a 0-land hand in Standard might actually be considered keepable. I think the fact that I analyzed this hand will eventually lead to me keeping a 0-lander with Mono-Red at some point in the future.
This is a great example of a hand where the new mulligan rule makes a huge difference. Under the old system, you’d draw 2 lands in a row to start the game around 22.5% of the time. With the new mulligan, you actually draw 2 lands in a row to start the game in a third of your games. Consequently, this hand is way closer to a keep than I initially thought it was. It also helps that you are playing Jeskai rather than Dark Jeskai—it minimizes the times where you draw the 2 lands, but they are off-color or come into play tapped. But, this still feels like an unnecessary risk to me.
You’re playing a Battle for Zendikar Draft. You have a token-based BG deck, and you’re on the play against an unknown opponent. Your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
I expect this to be another one of those Limited hands that I mulligan and most people keep, but I honestly can’t justify keeping a hand that does nothing until turn 5 (and nothing meaningful until turn 6). If my 5-drop was a very powerful card that could potentially get me back in a game if I fell too far behind, then I’d probably keep, but as it is my 5-drop is a 2/1 with effectively no abilities, so I’m going to need to draw a lot of stuff to make this hand work against any sort of aggressive draw. Of course, sometimes they’re going to have a slow draw and you’re going to draw a 3-drop and then you’ll win the game, but this can happen if you mulligan as well, so I don’t think you should risk it. In the end it comes down to whether you think you lose more games because they’ll aggro you out with a very slow hand or because they out-attrition you when you mulligan, and I think the answer is that you’re going to lose more because you can’t keep up.
This is a lot of lands, but you have 6-drops in your deck, one of your two action cards is a powerful one, and one of your lands can be turned into a spell later. I actually think this is a pretty easy keep. On the draw this is a much tougher decision, and I might need to know a bit more about the contents of my deck.
That’s what I have for today! If you have any suggestions for future Keep or Mulligan hands, please post them in the comments.