One of the things that players always ask of me is “Sam, when will you put out a Mulligan Guide for X deck?” Sadly, this concept is a bit harder to put down on paper than it would seem. There are a few general deck specific heuristics (some that we will be going over in this article), but for the most part, mulliganing is pretty matchup specific. After playing a format for a while, you begin to understand what type of interaction you will generally see from a wide range of decks, and you begin to start forming your own heuristics on what types of hand work in that format. One of the best ways for you to learn how to form your own ideas is to practice, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this article.
You’re on the play with Jund Sacrifice against an unknown opponent. Your hand is the following:
We’re starting off on a hand that caused a bit of controversy in some of my circles… This hand is super close to being good enough. Cauldron Familiar into Deadly Dispute is a great way to start off the game, and playing a turn four Korvold can be too much for a lot of decks to handle. However, this hand begins to quickly unravel if our opponent disrupts us in any way at all. Removal spell for our turn one Cat? No sacrifice fodder for Dispute, hand doesn’t work. Thoughtseize for Dispute? No action until turn five, hand doesn’t work. Counterspell for Korvold? Hand probably doesn’t work. If this hand had any relevant thing to do before turn four, such as a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or Bloodtithe Harvester, this hand would be a clear keep, but with four lands in the grip, this should be a mulligan.
You’re on the draw with Gruul Bushwhacker against Mono-Green Devotion in game three. Your hand is the following:
This is a pretty tricky hand. It has a lot of what we want in this matchup – a pretty quick clock, and two of the cards that really matter, Kari Zev's Expertise. This card is in the sideboard of this deck solely for the Mono-Green Devotion matchup, so having two of them must be great, right? Well, not exactly. This card is good at pressuring your opponent, but if you’re casting this card without the intention of killing your opponent on that turn, you’re effectively not affecting the board at all. If you spend turn three stealing an Old-Growth Troll and attacking, that’s great and all, but your opponent is still going to untap with three additional devotion. We would much rather just Lava Coil it and get it over with.
However, this hand still attacks for five on turn three, has the lands to (probably) cast the spells, and any future spells we draw can be cast for free off of the Kari Zev’s Expertise’s last line of text. This is a hand that is a lot closer than it looks at first glance, but it is still a keep.
You’re on the play with Abzan Greasefang against Azorious Control in game two. Your hand is the following:
This is another super close one, but as we look into it more and more, it becomes pretty obvious that this hand is a keep. Azorious Control’s main game plan against Greasefang is to land a Rest in Peace and protect it, and this hand allows you to Thoughtseize turn one, and not even be forced to take that RIP, as you already have a decent answer to it. Although this hand can be rough on the mana, we have Witherbloom to potentially fix it, and the Can’t Stay Aways go a long way in allowing us to grind through their answers. This deck may be a bit slow, but it is definitely good enough
You’re on the play with Mono-White Humans against an unknown opponent. Your hand is the following:
Last month, I taught you all about the concept of “Kumano Theory,” which stated “If you have a Kumano and a creature to trigger Kumano, you keep the hand.” Well today, we’re going to learn about Adeline Theory! This new theory states “If you have a hand that has the potential to cast an Adeline by the third turn, you keep the hand”. This is the single card that makes this deck tick, and is one of the most annoying threats for any aggro or midrange deck to deal with. Adeline is commonly a three mana 4/4 immediately, it comes along with a 1/1, and it will grow much larger than that on a following turn, and getting through blockers with a Brave the Elements the turn or two after casting her will usually end up being lethal. This hand does all of that. Turn one Inspector allows us to crack the clue on turn two if we don’t find the white source in the first draw step. This hand is powerful and resilient enough to remove where I’m pretty ok that we don’t have any painless white sources. This hand is already pretty good into most aggressive decks that aren’t exactly the mirror
You’re on the draw with Mono-Blue Spirits against Rakdos Midrange in game one. Your hand is the following:
Although this hand doesn’t do a lot early, it does have a lot of what you want in order to pull ahead in this matchup. Using a Rattlechains to protect a creature holding a Curious Obsession effect is a very good way to ensure the card advantage engine will continue to flow. That being said, this hand is pretty slow, and we could get stuck with no threat after they deal with the Supreme Phantom. We plan on playing on turn two, but mulliganing this type of hand against Rakdos Midrange does not seem like a winning plan.
You’re on the draw with 5c Enigmatic Incarnation (Yorion) against an unknown opponent. You’ve taken one mulligan, and your hand is the following:
Three lands, a two mana enchantment that draws a card, a decent three drop, what’s not to love? Well, a lot actually. This hand presents a few issues, mostly in regards to speed. This hand doesn’t actually cast it’s first spell until turn three, as all of your lands come into play tapped. This hand has no real way to interact with the opponent’s board unless you draw a Leyline Binding within the first three draws. Renegade Rallier also does close to nothing with this hand, as it’s just a 3/2. As a matter of fact, all three of the creatures we have in hand right now are ones that we really do not want to have in our hand. Renegade Rallier is a creature we want to grab off of an incarnation after we sacrifice a Trial of Ambition or another random two-mana enchantment. Titan of Industry is only good in the deck when we sacrifice a Leyline Binding, and Kenrith is mainly in the deck as an anti-aggro card during one of our Fires of Invention turns. This hand does not have a reasonable gameplan, so therefore, we need to go to five.
Dominaria United has given us a lot of new tools that have reinvigorated some older and weaker archetypes! That makes right now a great time to freshen up your knowledge on these awesome decks. These new cards, mainly Leyline Binding and Phoenix Chick, are both extremely versatile and fit into a variety of different decks under their respective macro-archetypes. They are both the type of cards where their powerlevel in any specific game relies on the rest of your hand. Leyline Binding only works efficiently if your mana base is exactly what you need, while the Chick can only be truly great if you have a mass amount of creatures to support it. The decisions you make when deciding on your opening hand will determine how impactful these cards will be in any given game. Making the right choices on turn 0 will really turn up the power of cards like these, as when these cards are good, they are good.
Whether you’re playing with new cards or old, the most important decision you make in every game is the mulligan — so you better make sure you can do it right! Until next time, friends!