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Keep or Mulligan?

Welcome to the second edition of “Keep or Mulligan”! The idea is pretty simple: I present some hands, their context, and you choose Keep or Mulligan. After that, I’ll give you my answer and my reasoning.

Hand #1

You’re playing Fate Reforged draft against a Sultai Midrange deck. This is your list:

You’re on the play, and you mulliganed to 6. Your 6-card hand is:

Keep or Mulligan to 5?

Solution:

Mulligan.

This type of hand is very hard, because it needs a lot to win, but it can win. When you see this hand, you have a very easy game plan: just draw a couple of lands in a row until you can cast End Hostilities. Sometimes you have to gamble when you’re on 6 cards, because it’s hard to win on 5. I’m much more likely to keep a “hit or miss” hand when I’ve already mulliganed, because when you’ve mulliganed you want to spike. A “solid” 6-card hand is considerably worse than a solid 7, and a solid 5 is worse than a solid 6, so it’s OK to aim for a 6 that can be either great or awful depending on what you draw.

The problem with this hand specifically is that you’re incredibly more likely to miss than to hit. When I think “hit or miss,” I think I need to draw one land in my first draw step, or I need to draw a creature. This hand needs four lands, and two of them have to come pretty quickly for you to have a shot. End Hostilities is the perfect card for stumbling, since it can bail you out, but costing five means you will likely just be dead before playing it, since two other cards in your hand also cost five. If I need to get lucky in four different draw steps to win, I might as well mulligan to 5 and get lucky there.

One detail that wasn’t mentioned in this scenario but that I think could potentially be relevant is whether the opponent has seen End Hostilities or not. If they have, it makes me less likely to keep a hand that relies on getting him with it to win the game, because keeping a hand that doesn’t do anything will telegraph that card and he will play around it. It doesn’t change much in this example, but is still interesting to mention.

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Hand #2

You’re playing Modern UR Splinter Twin, on the draw, against an unknown opponent. Your hand is:

Solution

Keep.

I think that, if you’re playing Splinter Twin, you have to keep this hand. It might go badly for you—they might have a bunch of Thoughtseizes/Decays and they might kill you on their turn four—but it might also be great and I don’t think 6 is going to be much better. Some decks just lose to the Twin combo, you have the Exarch to stall for one turn, and they might tap out hoping you’re not going to have the natural combo at which point you just kill them. They will suspect you are Twin, but they won’t know for sure, since it’s game 1, so they might play differently because of that too. If this hand draws into any interaction, then it’s a great hand. It’s unlikely you will mulligan into a hand that has exactly Exarch, Twin, Remand/Bolt and 3 lands, I’d much rather keep this and have to draw the Bolt or Remand if I do need to interact.

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Hand #3

You’re playing Shardless BUG in Legacy, game 1 on the play against an unknown opponent. Your hand is:

Solution

Keep.

This hand is fine. It’s slow, but it has Force of Will, so it’s okay that it’s slow against combo, and you’re on the play, so you’re not going to be incredibly far behind if they’re playing a normal deck. If they’re playing a matchup where Force of Will is bad, then you have two Shardless Agents. In most matchups where Force of Will is bad, Shardless Agent is quite good, so this hand is going to have game against almost everything. If you ever draw a Brainstorm this hand is awesome, and you will get to do some digging with two Agents. The original hand submitted was 2 Agent, 2 FOW, 3 lands, but I changed a FOW into a land to make it a little more interesting. Still a keep in my opinion, though.

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Hand #4

You’re playing UR Delver in Legacy, and it’s game two against Reanimator. You’re on the play. Your hand is:

Solution

Keep.

I think this hand is also quite good. Unless my math is wrong, you have about a 55% chance to hit a land in your first turn with two Probes, and this is not one of those hands where you will hit a land and still lose—if you hit a land, this is about the best hand you could possibly ever hope for and you’re overwhelmingly likely to win. The key is that with this hand I don’t think you even have to hit immediately. You have Force of Will, so it’s unlikely they will be able to combo you on turn one (well, it’s unlikely regardless, but even if they’re lucky). If you draw land on turn two, I’d still think you’re a favorite to win, since you then have Cage + Daze + Force of Will. Even drawing a land on turn three could still result in a win for you. I like those odds too much to pass up on them, regardless of how good the matchup normally is.

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Hand #5

You’re playing 5-Color Zoo in Modern (with Tribal Flames). You’re on the draw against an unknown opponent, and your opening hand is:

Solution

Keep.

This hand is very interesting and I’m honestly not sure what you should do. I’m hoping someone can convince me one way or another in the forums. The constraining factor here is not that you have one land, but that you have only one creature, and if that creature is dealt with, you have no hand. If they Thoughtseize or Inquisition it, if they Bolt or Abrupt Decay it, then you likely lose the game. If they don’t, you likely win. I like keeping this hand because, if you draw a land, it’s effectively a turn-three goldfish (deals 18). If they Thoughtseize/Inquisition you, you can just draw another 1-drop—there are a lot of those in the deck. And, even if you don’t, it’s feasible that you burn them out from there, since you already have 12 damage. But it’s also possible that you just never draw a land and the hand is too clunky, or that they kill your guy and you don’t draw another one in time for it to matter. I couldn’t fault you for mulliganing, but my choice is keep.

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I have plenty of submissions left from last week, but 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 conditions:

  • 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. The 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.

Discussion

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