I’m back with Keep or Mulligan, and today I have Czech GP winner and soon-to-be Platinum player Petr Sochurek as a guest—thank you for joining me, Petr!
Hand #1: You’re Playing Corey Burkhart’s Grixis Deck in Modern
You’re on the play against an unknown opponent. Your hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
This hand is simply too slow. Having turn-1 Visions on the play is appealing, and this hand can work out very well against some decks (I’d keep it against most black-based decks with a lot of discard), but in the dark I think you’re risking too much. If you’re facing down basically anything other than Jund/Junk then this hand is not good enough. Grixis is also a very grindy deck without many catchup mechanics, so it’s possible that even if you do resolve both Visions you still lose because you don’t have a card like Damnation to draw into.
I would keep this in a control mirror, but this hand just won’t be functional in too many matchups and you will die without doing anything. Many people might think that it would be worth it because of the huge upside if you get there, but you have to realize that even if you survive to the point when you start resolving Visions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to win.
Hand #2: You’re Playing Stock GW Tokens
You’re on the draw against an unknown opponent. Your hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep, but I don’t love it.
I think this hand would be good on the play, but on the draw it’s a little slow, and you ideally draw something to do before turn 2 and a white mana. The main problem is that GW doesn’t actually have that many things to do before Nissa, so it’s not like you’re guaranteed to hit one if you mulligan. In the end, I’d rather keep this hand because it’s going to be good against most “normal” starts, even though it’s not going to be good against especially fast starts.
You already have a play in Nissa and you are likely to draw a white source by the time you want to cast Gideon, which means that you have a pretty good potential to curve out Nissa, Gideon, and Avacyn, which is a great start. Even if you don’t get there, you are likely to draw other spells to cast.
Hand #3: You’re Playing Standard Esper Planeswalkers against GW Tokens
It’s a sideboarded game (you boarded in Dragons), and you’re on the draw. Your opening hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
This is the hand Seth Manfield kept in his final game against Steve Rubin in the Top 4 of PT Shadows over Innistrad. At first I thought this hand was awful and a clear mulligan, and concluded that Seth was out of his mind, but after further analysis I now don’t think it’s that bad because the Dragons are your best cards in that matchup. If you try to out-control GW Tokens, you’ll usually lose, so you need to have reactive spells early and then Dragons in the midgame, and this hand has both.
Ultimately, though, 2 Swamps is just too bad—you need to draw multiple lands and the right colors, and your reactive cards are counterspells, so if you miss your land drop or if it enters the battlefield tapped and your opponent plays Gideon, then you can’t recover by drawing a land in the future. If Languish said “destroy all creatures and planeswalkers” then I’d maybe keep this hand because you have a way to win even if you fall behind in the beginning, but GW is not necessarily a creature-based deck so I think too much has to go right for you to win with it.
You just need too many things to go your way if you want to have a shot with this hand. Obviously if you draw only lands, then the hand is great, but you will probably draw only some (if you’re lucky) and it will take a lot of time until you will actually be able to cast the Dragons, and 2 Spell Shrivels on the draw aren’t even that good if your opponent has an early play. Maybe it would be closer if the Languish were actually good in the matchup, but that is just not the case.
Hand #4: You’re playing Gerry Thompson’s Nahiri Deck in Modern
You’re on the draw against Craig Wescoe. Your hand is:
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep, and I’d be very happy about it.
The main purpose of this question is “should you adapt your mulligans when you know your opponent has a preference for an archetype?” and I think the answer is “yes, you should.” It’s not guaranteed that Craig is playing a creature-based deck, but it is very likely. If you know your opponent is predisposed to play something over all else, you should assume they’re playing that if the decision is close—I would not keep this hand against Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, for example. There is a benefit to playing the same type of deck over and over—you get very skilled with it—but there are drawbacks too, and this is one of them.
Snap-keep—this is probably 1 card off of the hand I would choose if I could pick any 7 from my deck against Wescoe.
Hand#4b: Exact Same Scenario, Except You’re Playing Against an Unknown Opponent
Keep or Mulligan?
Keep, though I’m much less happy about it.
Modern has about 25 decks that someone can play, but the majority of them involve creatures in some form—even some decks that aren’t necessarily “creature decks” like Infect depend on their creatures to win. If your opponent is playing control, this hand is bad, but it has 4 lands, so it’s not awful. If they are playing some sort of noncreature combo (such as Ad Nauseam) then this hand is awful, but I think this is a risk you take when you play Jeskai in a tournament—your opening hand is never going to be good against everything, so sometimes you have to hope they aren’t on a particular archetype. If my hand were the opposite (3 cards that are good vs. control/combo and 4 lands) I would not keep, because I think creature decks are more prevalent and they also give you less time to recover.
Having Path as your only early-game removal spell isn’t ideal, and the hand doesn’t do anything in many matchups, but this is what you get for playing a bad deck in Modern and you just have to cross your fingers and keep.
Hand #5: You’re Playing Shadows over Innistrad Limited with Luis Salvatto’s GW Deck From the PT
You’re on the play against an unknown opponent, and you mulligan your first hand. Your second hand is:
Keep or Mulligan to 5?
Again I don’t love this hand, but I think it’s good enough that your odds of winning with it are better than going to 5. You have 16 creatures in your deck, which is a good number, and if you draw 1 then you’re already in the game. Besides, it’s not like this is a super aggressive deck—it’s aggressive, but it has beefy creatures, so you can win the late game even if you don’t have a blazing start. You also have 2 Pack Guardians and a Duskwatch Recruiter, so you have ways to turn excess lands into resources.
I keep most hands that are functional on 6 or have a realistic way to get there. Here, the only thing you need is to draw creatures, and you have a lot of them. Obviously the hand is bad, but I think that it gives you higher win percentage than going to 5, which is all that matters.
As always, if you have any interesting Keep or Mull scenarios, post them here and I’ll analyze them in a future article!