In this edition of Keep or Mulligan, I’ve enlisted the help of Platinum Pro Craig Wescoe—which is only fitting, because two of the hands are with the GW Company deck he recently piloted to a GP Top 8. I’m going to present you my hand, then my solution and Craig’s solution. We wrote our answers independently.
To play along, record your answers in the comments before looking at our solutions, then see how your answers compare to ours.
You’re playing GW Collected Company (You have all the usual aggressive creatures and you sided in 2 Elspeths, Wingmate Roc, and 1 Mastery of the Unseen) against a BG Control deck (with Courser of Kruphix, Whisperwood Elemental, Hero’s Downfall, Bile Blight, Crux of Fate, Thoughtseize, Ugin and Garruk). Your opening hand on the play is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep. This hand is weak to Thoughtseize, but it’s going to be strong against everything else, and most 6-card hands are also weak to Thoughtseize. Your opponent is playing a lot of 1-for-1 removal spells, so Mastery is a great card to have, and it could win the game singlehandedly—yet you only have one of them.
Extra lands aren’t good when you’re playing the 1-for-1 game, but you also boarded in 5-drops and Elspeth, so they could still become good in the future. I’d keep this hand and hope that my opponent doesn’t lead with untapped black source + Thoughtseize (which is admittedly more common in his deck since he is only two colors). If that doesn’t happen, then I’d expect this hand to perform much better than the average 6. If it does, you can still topdeck your way out of it (you could draw Den Protector to return Mastery for example, or one of your big drops).
Keep. BG is a slow grindy matchup without a lot of ways to push through a line of manifests. This hand has active Mastery on the third turn on the play and is very likely to have double activation by the seventh turn. You’re also likely to draw more action spells and flip some number of creatures with the Mastery. In short, this hand allows for a strong opening in the matchup and has a lot of upside regardless of what you draw. I wouldn’t play the Temple until turn 4 unless your draw steps change your plan.
You’re playing round 1 of a Modern PTQ with Abzan, the same version Jesse Hampton took to the Top 8 of Pro Tour Fate Reforged. You sit across someone you’ve never seen before, but they have a Grim Lavamancer playmat, a red UltraPRO deck box, and Chandra sleeves. You’re on the draw, they keep their opening hand, and your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep. I think this hand is quite tricky to evaluate, because it’s a decent hand against most decks except for the fast red decks, Burn in particular, yet your opponent clearly likes red because they went out of their way to buy all those red-themed supplies. If you know for a fact that your opponent is playing Burn, then this hand is a mulligan. If you don’t know anything, then it’s a keep. How much should you be swayed by his sleeves, playmat, and deck box?
In my opinion, you should be swayed a little bit, but not enough that I would mulligan this hand. If I’m playing against this person, then I’ll go a little out of my way to, say, not take damage from my lands on turn one—but that’s about it. The hand is quite bad against Burn, but you can still win if they kept a bad hand and you topdeck something like ‘Goyf into Rhino.
The most important point for me, however, is that Burn is a very hard matchup game 1 anyway. You are not a favorite to win with a good 7-card hand, and you’ll be even less of a favorite if you go to 6. How silly would you feel if you mulligan this hand and it turns out your opponent is playing Splinter Twin? If it turns out that my opponent is indeed playing Burn, then I’m just going to take my game 1 loss, which I likely would take anyway.
Keep. If I know for certain that the opponent is a burn deck, then I mulligan, but in Modern many players just borrow a deck from a friend and I would look foolish if I mulligan this hand against, say, an Abzan or Twin opponent. Even if the opponent is on Burn, we take a few burn spells with Thoughtseize, netting a few points of life, and start ticking up Liliana to effectively prevent even more damage or minus her to kill the opposing Goblin Guide or whatever first-turn creature they play. And, drawing any creature in the deck (Tarmogoyf, Tasigur, Siege Rhino, Scavenging Ooze) will stabilize the board from any attacking threats. So I keep unless I know for certain the opponent is on Burn. I’m not convinced enough by the sleeves, playmat, and deck box to mulligan this hand though.
You’re playing Esper Dragons in Standard against Mono-Red. It’s post-board, you’re on the draw, and your hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Mulligan. This hand looks fine, since it has removal, life gain and a finisher (which you really do need against Mono-Red), but it’s simply too slow. Trading 1-for-1 a bunch is not good when you start on turn three and they already have multiple guys in play. Post-board you have access to five or six 2-mana removal spells, four 2-mana counterspells and 2-3 Drown in Sorrows, and those are the cards you want in your opening hand. Against Mono-Red, on the draw, post-board, I don’t keep any hand that doesn’t have turn-two interaction of some kind or Drown in Sorrow, it doesn’t matter what else is in it.
Mulligan. This hand has lands and spells, but you don’t have any Drown in Sorrow, Bile Blight, or other ways to handle a fast draw from the opponent. You have a solid plan from turn three to turn five, but that’s the opposite of what you need from your opening hand in this matchup. It’s much more valuable to have your first two turns scripted by your opening hand than your next three turns (like with hand 1 in the example above with Mastery of the Unseen). With 7 copies of Bile Blight/Drown in Sorrow post-board, I like my chances better with an average 6-card hand than I do with this hand. Even if you had an Ultimate Price over one of the 3-mana removal spells I would keep it, but not without any early interaction (and note that Anticipate does not count as early interaction).
You’re playing GW Collected Company in Standard, and it’s game 2 against Mono-Red. You’re on the draw and your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep. I hate keeping this kind of hand when I have a good matchup, but the potential for this hand is too big and the matchup is not that good. You have over 60% chance to be able to play a 2-drop on turn two, in which case I’d imagine it would be almost impossible for you to lose the game (barring something like double Atarka’s Command). Since you have three Clerics and Command, I’d expect you to be a favorite to win the game even if you miss for a turn unless your opponent has a really great start. If you brick for four turns, then you’re dead, but I think taking that risk is better than going to 6.
Keep. This hand is basically the best possible hand if you draw your second land in one of the first two draw steps. You have 18 untapped lands (assuming you correctly boarded out your 2 Mana Confluence) and four tapped lands. So you are 22 of 53 to complete your hand on the first draw step. Then you are 18 of 52 to complete it on the second draw step. Given this hand’s ability to catch up, I think you’re more likely to win if you hit your second mana on turn 3 than you are with an average 6-card hand. You are 1-[(31/53)*(30/52)*(33/51)]=78% to have two mana by turn three and 1-[(31/53)*(34/52)] = 62% to have it by turn 2. You’re favored to win with an average 6-card hand, but not by more than 78%. You will lose some of the time to a runaway Goblin Rabblemaster with this hand, but a lot of things have to go wrong to lose with this hand if you hit your land quickly and it’s possible to still win even if you don’t hit your land until turn four.
Whether I’m right or wrong, hopefully I’ve offered some valuable insight as to why to keep or mulligan these hands (and hands in general).
Well, that’s what Ive got for today. Thanks a lot to Craig Wescoe for offering his input!
If you have a hand that you think is interesting and would like to see featured in the coming weeks, just leave it in the comments and I’ll take a look. Some guidelines:
- You must be playing a competitive deck, because I want other people to be able to relate and I also don’t have enough experience with all the rogue decks to be able to have an opinion. Format must be Standard, Modern, Legacy, or Limited. If it’s Limited, I’m going to need a deck list or a very good explanation of the deck.
- You must give me all the relevant information—what you’re playing, format, which game it is, sideboarding or not, play or draw, whether you know your opponent’s deck or not, whether there is anything unusual with your deck list (I don’t need the whole deck list, I just need a general idea of what’s going on and might impact the decision).
- The hand has to be at least interesting. Don’t submit a 0-land hand that’s obviously unkeepable, for example, and don’t submit a hand that is clearly great but “didn’t get there.” Something you’re genuinely unsure if you should keep or not.