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Keep or Mulligan? With Special Guest Paul Jackson

Hello!

Welcome to this week’s Keep or Mulligan! This time I’m joined by Australian Gold pro Paul Jackson—thanks Paul!

Hand #1

You’re playing Paul Rietzl’s Merfolk deck from the latest Modern GP:

It’s game 1 against an unknown opponent, and you’re on the draw. Your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Keep.

I don’t think this hand is excellent, but it has a lot of what you want in an opening hand—Mutavault, Aether Vial, mana, creatures. You need more creatures for it to be good (since you can’t even copy the one you already have), but there are a lot of draws that would make this hand very good, and I think it’s better to hope you draw one good, copy-able creature than trying your luck on 6 cards. If one of your lands wasn’t a Mutavault, I probably wouldn’t keep, since that’s too many mana sources, but with one of them also being a Merfolk I think it’s fine.

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Paul’s Solution

Mulligan.

This hand simply doesn’t do very much. It’s land-heavy, your only 2-drop is a Phantasmal Image which you don’t know will be able to copy anything useful (you don’t know what your opponent is playing, you aren’t going to copy your Kira, and there aren’t many cards you can draw early enough that you can cast them and also want to use your Phantasmal Image to copy them). In other words, all of these cards are dependent on other cards to be good and we don’t have any of those other cards yet.

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Hand #2

You’re playing a weird Grixis Delver variant in Modern against Junk. It’s game 3 and you’re on the play. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

This hand is too risky. It has the potential to be awesome if you draw land into spell, but it also runs the risk of not doing anything. If you don’t draw a land immediately, then you’re in an awkward spot where you don’t know if you should cast a second Delver or keep Spell Snare mana up, for example, and you really want to play those cards as soon as possible. I do like keeping “bad” hands against BG decks, because they’ll Thoughtseize your good spells anyway, which means it’s better to have two bad cards than one good card. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that keeping this hand is correct, but if it happened to me right now I’d mulligan.

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Paul’s Solution

Mulligan.

The most important thing to note here is that this hand is conflicted, because on your first draw step you both want to draw your second land and to flip your Delver of Secrets, and it’s impossible for both of those things to happen, so no matter what something is going to go wrong with this hand. Also, the new mulligan rule is especially helpful when playing a Delver deck since you’ll be a little more likely to flip a turn-1 Delver on the play, which makes mulliganing here even more attractive.

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Hand #3

You’re playing a new Scapeshift build with Bring to Light in Modern. It’s game 1, and you’re on the play against an unknown opponent. You mulligan your opening hand, and your 6-card hand is:

Keep or Mulligan to 5?

My Solution

Keep.

Scapeshift mulligans incredibly poorly—you need one specific thing (Scapeshift) and then 7 lands, so quantity is often more important than quality—and I would keep many mediocre Scapeshift hands to not have to mulligan to 5. This hand is slow, but, assuming you can Bring to Light for any 2-land spell (like Cultivate), you only need a land and an accelerator to have a turn-5 kill, which is quite good and likely much better than any mulligan to 5 can give you. You also have two Scapeshifts, and potentially three, so you’re protected from discard and counterspells.

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Paul’s Solution

Mulligan.

You have no early interaction and essentially three late-game cards, which doesn’t really make for a promising game plan. I think that it’s worth noting that this is quite close under the new mulligan rule since you can at least scry for that early interaction, and under the old rule without that benefit I would have more easily decided to mulligan to look for it.

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Hand #4

You’re playing Battle for Zendikar Sealed deck, and your deck is a BGR ramp-ish build.Your mana base is:

You’re on the play and your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Keep.

I don’t love this hand, but I think it has enough to be better than a random 6, especially in a format that is theoretically slow such as Battle for Zendikar Sealed. This hand lacks a Forest, but you have 10 sources, and 3 of them can get you your second Forest for Greenwarden. Even if you don’t draw Forest, you can still cast the Nettle Drone and then the Abomination. Abomination is not ideal here (you don’t have a lot of bad dudes to sacrifice), but it will still give you at least two cards before it’s gone (since you draw if you sacrifice it), and hopefully Greenwarden can make up for that once you get there.

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Paul’s Solution

Mulligan.

The first and foremost problem is that you don’t have any green mana in your hand, which is already an especially bad sign when green was a big enough part of your deck that you decided to play 10 green lands. The dealbreaker here is that Smothering Abomination is not even set up to be good in this hand, since you need to have curved out with creatures or made some Eldrazi Scions for that card to be really worth it, and this hand looks pretty far from achieving that.

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Hand #5

You’re playing Battle for Zendikar Sealed and you’re on the draw with a relatively slow, top-heavy UG deck. Your opening hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

My Solution

Mulligan.

Battle for Zendikar is slow, but not that slow, and you’re on the draw with a hand that does nothing. You can certainly draw out of this (you can draw, for example, a defensive 3-drop and a good 7-drop and then curve out), but that can also happen if you mulligan to 6.

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Paul’s Solution

Mulligan.

This hand consists of six mana sources and a 9-drop which isn’t going to come close to saving you when you’ve fallen behind, and falling behind is an extremely probable outcome if you keep a hand that does basically nothing for the first three turns and then adds more mana to the board on the fourth turn. You can certainly do better with six cards (and a scry).

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Discussion

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