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Keep or Mulligan?

Hello!

After a long hiatus, welcome back to Keep or Mulligan! Normally I try to have a guest when I do these, but most of the pros I know are rather busy testing for the PT, so today it’s going to be just me. If you don’t know the drill, it’s pretty simple—I present you with an opening hand and context, you decide if you’d keep or mulligan it, and then I give you my answer.

Hand #1: Modern – Merfolk

You’re on the play against an unknown opponent. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Answer

Mulligan.

If this hand had 4 Islands, it would be a very easy mulligan. With 2 Mutavaults, however, you kind of have 2 threats already, which you know you’ll be able to activate because you have Vial, so it becomes closer. In the end, Modern is not a format where you can afford to sit around and draw the pieces you’re missing, so I think you have to mulligan this. You have your best play in turn-1 Vial, but that’s only the best play if it lets you flood the board with creatures, and in this case it’s sort of redundant with your 4 lands. Merfolk is a deck full of Lords, and each creature gets better with your other creatures, so you need to topdeck quite a few in a row if you keep a hand without them.

I think it’s easy to look at this hand and think the Relic of Progenitus is going to give you something good because you already have so many lands, but in the end you have to realize that there’s almost a 50% chance that this Relic turns into a land or another Aether Vial, which can be devastating in a hand that’s already flooded. Vapor Snag also has a big chance of being bad if you have no pressure to back it up, so I think overall all those factors amount to a mulligan.

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Hand #2: Standard – Mardu Mirror

It’s game 3 and you’re on the draw. You mulligan your first hand and your 6-card hand is:

Keep or mulligan to 5?

My Answer

Keep.

This was the hand I had in a Top 6 game at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and I kept it. I was criticized when it didn’t work out, but I think it’s correct and would keep again.

My rationale was that this matchup turns into a battle of attrition post-board, and having a 5-card hand makes you very likely to lose already. This hand is not good, but it has a plan, and that plan is drawing lands and/or your opponent being slow—if the plan comes to fruition, you can win. If your opponent kept a slow hand with multiple disruption spells (which is common post-board), then you have removal for their few threats and you can survive to play your Gideon. It’s not super high odds, but I think it’s better than mulliganing to 5.

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Hand #3: Kaladesh/Aether Revolt Draft – B/G Energy

I know this is an outdated format, but the problem with the hand is not format-specific, so I think it’s okay. You’re on the draw and your deck has 10 Forests. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Answer

Keep.

I think this hand is very close, and I wouldn’t begrudge you keeping or mulliganing. With 10 Forests, you have about a 50% chance of hitting on turn 2, which makes your hand very good—it’s probably one of the best opening hands you can have. Save that, there are some scenarios that I believe are still OK for you:

  • Hitting Swamp and then hitting Forest. This scenario still leaves you in very good shape.
  • Hitting nothing, and then hitting Forest on turn 3. This scenario stalls you for one turn, and you have to discard, but I think you can still reasonably win.
  • Hitting Swamp, then hitting nothing, then hitting Forest on turn 4. This lets you play a turn 4 Rishkar with an Automaton in play already, which should be comparable to most turn-4 boards.

The good thing about this hand is that once you hit a Forest, you will have plenty of green mana, so you’ll be able to play multiple spells a turn. The problem is that if you brick too much, you will end up with a handful of cards you don’t particularly want to cast in the late-game, like mana Elves and Attunes—your hand has a decent number of mana sources already. It just doesn’t have green mana, so you might hit and then be flooded.

Overall, I think this hand is good enough that it’s worth keeping for the chance of hitting. You’ll lose about 20-25% of the games on the spot due to not drawing lands, but you’ll have a great hand when you do draw land, and a serviceable hand when you brick and then draw land.

There are two things that could make me mulligan my hand, though: if my deck is amazing, or if my opponent’s deck is very bad. If there’s a combination of the two, then I’ll certainly mulligan it, because at that point I think my odds on a mulligan to 6 are good enough that I don’t have to accept the 20-25% fail rate. With that information absent, however, you should keep.

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