Mastering the Mulligan in MTG – Deep Dive

Hello! I can’t tell how excited I am to write my first article for CFB Pro. For those who don’t know me, my name is Seth Manfield. If you don’t know, I have done quite well in competitive MTG events. I’m sometimes referred to as “that guy that never mulligans” (though this isn’t entirely true, I accept the label with pride). 

Well, what better topic to dig into than mulliganing? At it its roots, choosing whether or not to mulligan is one of the most difficult decisions in the game of Magic. There are many variables to take into account when weighing if losing a card is worth a brand new hand or not. I promise that after reading this article, you’ll feel more confident and comfortable in your mulligan decisions.   



Header - A Brief History of Mulligans

Quick history lesson, or refresher for players who have been around the competitive scene for a while. Mulligans have changed over the years to benefit the person taking the mulligan. The key is to not apply the same formula you may be familiar with from 15 years ago.

In Magic’s early years mulliganing wasn’t actually a thing unless you had an opening hand with all land or all spells. It wasn’t until 1997 when the Paris Mulligan rule was introduced, allowing players to always have a choice of whether to mulligan or not. The Vancouver Mulligan introduced a scry after a mulligan, which was then later changed to the current mulligan rule which is also known as the London Mulligan. It wasn’t always the case that you put cards on the bottom of your deck after a mulligan, but this certainly does make mulliganing have a bit less of a downside compared to older rules. The key here is, compared to earlier versions of the mulligan rule, you should be mulliganing a higher percentage of the time because the current rule is a bit more forgiving for choosing to take a mulligan. 


Header - Spell/Land Ratio

We’re going to talk about many topics, but the first tackles the choice of mulliganing in a way that to some may seem basic, but is also practical. For those who are first learning about mulligan strategy, the ratio of lands to spells is the first thing to look at when evaluating your opening hand. Here’s a basic rule of thumb when looking at a seven-card hand, using a traditional deck (there are a couple very unusual decks that ignore these guidelines):

  • Zero Lands: Always Mulligan
  • One Land/6 Spells: Usually Mulligan
  • Two Lands/5 5pells: Often Keep
  • Three Lands/4 Spells: Almost Always Keep
  • Four Lands/3 Spells: Almost Always Keep
  • Five Lands/2 Spells: Sometimes Keep 
  • Six Lands/1 Spell: Almost Always Mulligan
  • Seven Lands: Always Mulligan

There are plenty of factors that can influence this rubric in one direction or another, but I think it’s important to understand the need to not have too many or too few lands in your opening hand. The hands in the middle with approximately an equal ratio of lands and spells have the best chance of avoiding both mana screw (having too few lands) and mana flood (having too many lands). By having the right ratio of lands to spells, it ensures you’re able to play a functional game of Magic by playing lands on your early turns while also having impactful spells to cast. 


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2 thoughts on “Mastering the Mulligan in MTG – Deep Dive”

  1. Good start to an article.. I feel like your editor should have goaded you into another paragraph or two though. Congrats on getting published.

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