The New Mulligan

Last week, WotC announced a couple of rules changes. The biggest was to mulligans: “After mulligans, each player who took a mulligan [real mulligan—no Serum Powder shenanigans] is allowed to scry 1.”

I love this change so, so much. It’s very annoying that so many games of Magic are decided before they begin when someone fails to draw a second land, and this rule is going to diminish this in a way that still feels interactive and that still leaves plenty of variance in the game.

Today I’m going to analyze what this rule actually means for competitive play.

I think the key factor of giving someone a scry is that the fear of a non-game is diminished. One of the biggest issues with mulliganing is that it increases the percentage of non-games that you can have. Mulliganing to 5 is particularly bad, not only because you’re down two cards but also because your early development is stifled. I can win being down two cards—I’ve beaten Treasure Cruise plenty of times—but I can’t win when one of those cards is land number two and I draw it two turns after I was “supposed” to, or when it’s my 1-drop but I draw it on turn three.

One mulligan is scary. Mulliganing to 5 is even scarier. With this new rule, it’s a little bit less scary. In practical terms, this means:

You are more encouraged to mulligan bad 7s.

This is a no-brainer. A 6-card hand is now strictly better than a 6-card hand was before, whereas a 7-card hand is identical. Given the change in the rule, you should now mulligan at least a little bit more aggressively than you did before. Just be careful to not go overboard on this one. 7 is still better than 6 plus a scry, so don’t go around mulliganing every hand that is not perfect.

You can keep 6 cards more often when you’re missing a piece

With a scry, it’s easy to find any missing piece you need. Take, for example, a good one-lander. Now that you have a scry to find your land, you’re less likely to brick, and that hand becomes more appealing. I expect hands that need one land to “get there,” or that need one particular card (an early piece of interaction, a creature in infect, etc), to be much more keepable than they were before.

You can mulligan bad 6-card hands more often.

“But PV, didn’t you just say you were supposed to keep more 6-card hands?” Well, kind of. You are encouraged to keep 6, since it has a scry, but 5 also has a scry (though it’s a litlle tilting that it’s not two scrys, one per mulligan. I guess that would have been too complicated). I think the decision changes based on the characteristics of your 6-card hand.

Instead of a one-lander, take a six-lander. This hand isn’t looking for anything specific—it’s looking for business. If you scry into a 2-drop, do you even want it? What if you scry into a 4-drop? A 5-drop?

This hand is not lacking quality—it’s lacking quantity. It doesn’t need one specific card, it needs multiples of any card. It will be helped by scry 1 if you scry a land to the bottom immediately, but that’s about it. In this spot, the fact that mulliganing to 5 is now safer is more appealing than the scry 1 you get, and I’d be more incentivized to mulligan.

Combo decks get better game 1, but worse game 2. Specific, powerful sideboard cards get better as opposed to generic answers.

Combo decks make more use of the scry 1 than most “normal” decks, since their cards have vastly different power levels (a card in a combo deck either wins you the game or does nothing a lot of the time). After board, however, I think combo players will have a harder time with this new rule, because it really helps people who have sideboard hate and are looking for it. Now, you’re not the only person who has a card that is vastly better than your other cards—they have one too, and for them it’s only one card. I’m not sure the degree to which this new rule will impact things, but I think it leads you in the direction of having incredibly powerful/more narrow cards as opposed to generic answers, because now you can afford to mulligan for them more often.

For simplicity sake, let’s say they are trying to find Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin, and I’m trying to find Spellskite to stop them. If they see neither, then they can mulligan down to 6. If they have one piece, however, then do they want to mulligan? They might end up with a hand that has neither. They’ll likely keep a decent hand with one.

If I have a 7-card hand without Spellskite, I can just go ahead and mulligan it, regardless of the rest. The chance for a “no-game” to punish me is smaller, and I even get to see one extra card when looking for my Spellskite. If I do find my card on a mulligan to 6, I’m more likely to be able to cast it—a hand with one land + Spellskite, for example, is now actively good and has less of a chance of backfiring. If my card is powerful enough, I can even mulligan to 5 to try and find it and, failing that, have one extra draw step to find it in the middle of the game.

The same argument can be applied to cards like Stony Silence, Blood Moon, Meddling Mage, and Tormod’s Crypt. Those cards are so much more important than all your other cards that they are probably worth mulliganing away a mediocre hand, and when you do that now, you get 1 extra scry to make sure you aren’t being punished very much. Even Leylines benefit—you can’t scry into them, but you can afford to mulligan more hands without them.

Being on the draw is better.

One minor side effect of this rule is that the person on the draw gets an advantage, because they can play the card they scried into on turn one. It effectively helps them find a turn-one play, and the same is not true for whomever is on the play.

Imagine, for example, I scry into an Elvish Mystic, or into a tap land. This scry is very valuable if I’m on the draw, because I can then play whatever it is immediately. On the play it’s worse, because the time for those cards has already passed. Of course this is something that already happened by virtue of you drawing a card (if my top card is Elvish Mystic, that’s better on the draw than on the play regardless of the new mulligan rule or not), but I think this new rule exacerbates this effect by a little bit. Imagine I’m playing a deck like Belcher and trying to kill on turn one. In this case, the scry does nothing for me if I’m on the play, but I’ll have access to that card on the draw.

This is highly relevant with Temples. If I’m on the play, keep my scry card, and I play a Temple, I’ve effectively wasted that scry. If I’m on the draw, I get to scry, draw that card, and scry again with a turn-one Temple, which is much better. It’s also very different with fetchlands—if I scry to the top and play a fetchland, then I can’t use it or I lose my scry. If I’m on the draw, I don’t care about that.

This probably shouldn’t make someone choose to draw when they otherwise would choose to play, but it is a very real benefit that was added to the person on the draw (which I like a lot). The one exception seems to be if you have Delver of Secrets, in which case it’s often better to be on the play so that you can leave the scry’d card on top until you next turn

Some cards will offer more possibilities now.

Imagine you’re on the play. Your opponent mulligans, scrys, keeps his card. You play Island and Thought Scour targeting them. You mill the land they kept on top. They don’t draw another land and die without playing a spell. Good guys win. Or you mill the Griselbrand they kept, and die on turn two. Either one.

Now, I’m not saying you have to do this, or that it’s even going to be good to do it—but it’s important to keep in mind that you can. A play that would almost never be made before is now viable because of this rule. The same can be true, for example, with Thoughtseize. Now, if they keep their top card, you might want to wait on a turn-one Thoughtseize, because it’s likely to be something they actively want. I’m sure there are more cards that gain new dimensions with this rule, and we’ll find them eventually.

That’s about it for today! I look forward to playing with this rule to find out if my conclusions about it are correct or not. I hope you’ve enjoyed this.


Scroll to Top