Keep or Mulligan


Welcome to my new column, Keep or Mulligan! I present you a number of hands with different archetypes and then say whether I would keep or mulligan them and why.

My original idea was to come up with hands that I thought were interesting, like I’ve done in the past for similar articles, but I’ve realized it’s more interesting if I use hands that actually happened to people, so I’ll be taking hand submissions every week so that I can use them for next week’s column (more on that by the end of the article). This article already includes some submissions I got, as well as some hands that happened to me or to friends of mine.

I’ve included deck lists whenever possible just to contextualize things—that doesn’t mean I think those deck lists are the best deck lists for those archetypes and they are certainly not the point of the article, they’re just to help you make an informed decision.

Also, before I begin, remember that mulliganing is rarely an exact science. I can’t do more than give you my opinion and explain why I think that. I’m sure that in many of these hands there will be some very good players who will disagree with me, and we might never know who is right, but hopefully once I’ve made my case you can then form your own opinion.

So, let’s start!

Hand #1 – Playing Abzan Aggro

You’re playing against UB control, game 1, on the draw. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

Hand #2 – Playing BW Tokens

You’re playing against Affinity, on the play, and it’s game 3. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?

Hand #3 – Team Limited Jeskai

I’m playing Team Limited with a Jeskai deck. My deck is not very aggressive, but my opponent’s deck is better than mine and I felt that he had more late-game power than I did, so I sided in cards like Valley Dasher and tried to go aggressive game 2. My mana is OK but not great. I have a triland and two duals, I think. For game 3, on the draw, this is my hand:

Keep or Mulligan?

Hand #4 – Legacy Show and Tell

You’re playing Legacy Show and Tell, game 2 on the draw against Miracles. This is your deck:

You’re on the draw against Miracles, and it’s game two. This is your hand:

Keep or Mulligan?

Hand #5 – RG Scapeshift

You’re playing RG Scapeshift against Jund at PT Born of the Gods (old Modern).

It’s game 1 and you’re on the play versus Jund. Your hand is:

Keep or Mulligan?


Hand #1 (Abzan Aggro)


I would keep this hand. Normally it wouldn’t be close—If you’re playing any other Abzan deck, then this is about the best hand you can hope for, but Aggro Abzan is actually capable of applying pressure, which makes this a much harder decision. The fact that you have a Murderous Cut in there is also not helping you very much, since it’s effectively a dead card until the extremely late stages of the game (and if you reach those, you’re probably not winning anyway), but I think this is a keep anyway.

I think the thing that would lead most people to mulligan this hand is the name “Abzan Aggro,” which is a bit deceiving. This deck is more aggressive than other Abzan decks, but it’s not an aggro deck, it’s a midrange deck. It has 11 removal spells, and 8 of them are bad while the other three are Sign in Bloods.

You also have four Rhinos and four Rocs, so a lot of your deck is expensive. Given that you only have eight 2-drops and four 3-drops, I don’t think it’s reasonable to mulligan any hand without them, especially when they’ll often just trade for the same kind of card Siege Rhino would trade with. As far as hands go this is decent—it’s hard to do much better.

It is, however, easy to do much worse. You could have hands without lands, without your colors, with three removal spells. The question is “do I need to do better?” because, if this hand can’t win and there are hands in your deck that can, then you have to ship it regardless. I think the answer is no—this hand can already win. If you do find a 2-drop (and you have a Temple for it and all your colors already), then this hand is actually pretty good, and, even if you don’t, you still have game (or as much as you’re going to have with this deck).

Hand #2 (BW Tokens)


This was the opening hand Martin Juza had at the last PT, and he kept it, but I would mulligan. My reasoning is twofold. First, it’s possible for an Affinity deck to beat Stony Silence. Sure, it’s very hard, but it’s doable if you’re doing nothing else, and this hand is doing nothing else. Second, he actually has game against Affinity. His deck has three Stony Silences, two Zealous Persecutions, 3 Dismember, 4 Path, 4 Souls, 4 Bitterblossom, and discard on the play.

It’s not like you need to draw Stony Silence to beat Affinity, and it’s not like you have only one. There are many 6-card hands that I think are favored in the matchup and do not have Stony Silence in them. If you absolutely needed Stony Silence to win, then I would keep the hand, but I don’t think that’s the case.

Hand #3 (Jeskai Limited)


I think this is a clear mulligan, though I kept it at the event because my teammates told me to. In the abstract, you are not mulliganing this—it has all your colors and two decent answers that you can cast early, but this hand is not good for how I think the matchup will play out. I think my opponent has such a better late game than I do, so much so that I am willing to side in a card like Valley Dasher, so what does this hand accomplish?

This is a hand that hopes to get to the late game, but it has no pressure whatsoever. Given that I have Valley Dasher in my deck, I cannot keep this.

Hand #4 (Show and Tell)


I think this hand is good and would keep it. You have turns one and two Defense Grid, which should make sure that you resolve your Sneak Attack if you ever draw a land—which you likely will, because they don’t pressure you, and at that point you win the game. If there is a red land in your first three cards, then this hand will win turn four through double-Force of Will, all the while ignoring Pyroblasts because you don’t have any blue cards you want to cast, and that’s a very strong hand against Miracles.

If you don’t draw a red land, then you can just wait some more time and you’ll eventually draw it. Your chances of winning the game diminish, of course, but they don’t even diminish by that much if you have a Defense Grid in play.

Hand #5 (RG Scapeshift)


This was a hand that happened to me in round 7 of the event, playing against Willy Edel (hence why I knew he was playing Jund). It’s very outdated, of course—I sure hope you aren’t playing RG Scapeshift—but I like the principles behind it, so I’ve included it.

When I got this opening hand, I thought long and hard about it, and eventually I kept. My reasoning was that I knew my opponent was playing a deck with a lot of discard spells, and my way to beat him is by having a “last threat” that survives his disruption. My whole deck is lands—I’m not going to lose because I don’t have them, and I’m not going to lose because I’m not fast enough. The way the game played out was that he led with Inquisition of Kozilek, which missed and made me feel really smart.

Most people I talked to said they would not have kept this hand, so if you said “mulligan” you’re in good company, but I personally disagree. I think this hand is very bad in the dark but it’s kind of what you want in this particular matchup and I think it would be a mistake to mulligan it.


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 directions:

  • 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. 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.

See you soon,



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