London's Calling: The New Mulligan Rule in Modern
- Rodrigo Martin
London is calling all Modern players. During Mythic Championship II, Wizards will first showcase a new way to mulligan that might forever affect older formats. If you want to know which decks will benefit from it and what are the pushed cards, this is the article you have been waiting for. Plus, take our Mulligan Quiz!
Greetings Magic lovers. There is a ton going on in these past few weeks: the huge success of Mythic Invitational at PAX last week, several Modern GPs won by Izzet Phoenix during March, and last but not least, it's War of the Spark spoiler season.
Today, however, I would like to focus on some Modern changes that we might only begin to experience in the next coming months. As you know, the new mulligan rule that will be showcased at Mythic Championship II in London could be adapted into every Magic format if Wizards of the Coast decides to do so after the event.
In this article, I will try to evaluate how this "London mulligan" might change Modern, plus give some opening hands examples to help us decide which cards to keep and which ones to put at the bottom. Without further ado, let's begin:
1. The Facts
Just in case you have spent the last month under a rock, this is all you need to know about the London mulligan rule. Here is the official announcement from the Wizards website:
"For Mythic Championship II in London, we're going to be trying out a new mulligan rule … We believe the new rule smooths out opening hand decisions even more, though it certainly has some implications for formats like Modern". "The rule we'll be testing in London is as such: When you mulligan for the Nth time, you draw seven cards, then put N cards on the bottom of your library in any order".
Overall, WotC has tested out this new rule in Limited and Standard and it seems to be working nicely, since you can mulligan a hand with lands and spells almost 100% of the time. However, in older formats like the Eternal ones, there are some degenerate two-card combinations that can be pushed with this rule.
Most importantly, this rule will be tested and highlighted at Mythic Championship II in London and after some discussion and data analysis, Wizards will decide whether or not to implement the rule in all formats.
There is some consideration about adopting the rule in smaller formats only while leaving the actual one ('aka' Vancouver Mulligan Rule) for Eternal formats. Personally, I could see that as a viable solution, but at the same time, it might just confuse new players when shifting from one format to another.
2. How the London Mulligan Affects Modern
Although the new rule hasn't been tested yet in Modern, some content creators and math geeks have already crunched the numbers. Generally speaking, below are some statements on how the Modern format will benefit or suffer from this change – if it ends up happening:
- Mana screw mulligans won't happen as often. This also affects every other format, but especially in Modern, wherein certain archetypes run less than 19 lands (Izzet Phoenix, Humans, Grixis Death's Shadow). Ensuring that we get to see seven new cards each mulligan will translate into less non decision-making games, where one player forces a 1 mana hand or tries to scry one from the top and misses.
- A New Art of 'Mulligan-ing'. Once you get to mulligan to six or five, a lot of possibilities will happen. Getting to the bottom two or even three cards will be crucial for the upcoming game, making knowing your deck and every card in it even more important. However, as we will further discuss, there are specific decks that can consistently win with a mulligan to five or even four cards.
- Key cards will be easier to get. Because you get to see the same number of cards each time you mulligan, there will be more chances to find a specific card, either a hate piece you will be needing on second and third matches or a two-card combination that wins you the game on the spot against certain match-ups.
- Combo decks will become more powerful. Following the same principle, decks that are based around one specific card (e.g. Scapeshift, Ad Nauseam, Goryo's Vengeance) will now kindly be invited to mulligan aggressively to goldfish their God-hand. However, this huge advantage comes with a drawback: Your opponents can find their answers the same way too, meaning you should also be careful, particularly after sideboard games.
3. Cards to Watch Out For
Moving on to the cards that benefit the most with this new mulligan rule in Modern, there are some of the relevant ones that care about being in your opening hand, such as the Leyline cycles, the Chancellors from New Phyrexia, unique cards like Gemstone Caverns, the newly printed Sphinx of Foresight, and finally, a very special card in the shape of Serum Powder:
Leyline Cyles: Don't get me wrong. This new mulligan rule won't make other Leylines playable, but the only ones that matter in Modern are Leyline of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity anyway. If you want the exact number on how this rule increases your chances of finding them in your opening hand, check out Frank Karsten's article.
Long story short, the chances to find a Leyline in your opener goes up a great margin, especially if you mulligan aggressively down to five or fewer cards. So if and when the rule finally does applies, expect Leyline of the Void and Leyline of Sanctity to increase both in popularity and price.
Chancellors and Sphinx of Foresight: Here is another cycle of cards that cares about being in your opening hand. So far, the only ones that have seen reasonable play are Chancellor of the Annex on Legacy's Mana-less Dredge and Chancellor of the Tangle in some degenerate combo decks to boost a turn one or turn two Goblin Charbelcher.
My take on these cards is don't expect a boost in their market price. Rather, take them into consideration for any strategies that might come up in the future if the mulligan rule indeed sticks.
Gemstone Caverns: This very special land designed by Tsuyoshi Fujita during Magic Invitational 2005 takes advantage of being in your opening hand if you are on the draw. Paired with Chalice of the Void, this card will allow for more turn one Chalices with the new mulligan rule.
Serum Powder: Finally, an honorable mention with this artifact that tweaks the mulligan rule itself. When news of the new rule was first published, some people went bonkers over what this card could do with the new mulligan. Sadly, an addendum was later posted, explaining the exact interaction with this Darksteel artifact:
"Since the announcement of the London mulligan test, we've received a number of questions about the specific interaction with the card Serum Powder. As noted in the official rules for the mulligan, putting cards from your hand on the bottom of your library is the last step of completing the mulligan before deciding whether to keep or take another mulligan."
"At the point where Serum Powder checks whether you could mulligan, the number of cards in your hand will already have been reduced by one for each previous mulligan you'll have taken."
In the end, Serum Powder will have the same power as with the actual mulligan rule, so I don't expect this card to be abused, except in its natural home: the Colorless Eldrazi deck, featuring Chalice of the Void (which by the way is a strategy that also benefits from the new rule by playing Gemstone Caverns as already mentioned).
4. Winners and Losers: The Mulligan Quiz
Okay, okay. At this point, you already know everything regarding the London mulligan rule, but how will it actually affect your "pet deck" in Modern? Well, I am glad you asked because we are going to play a mulligan quiz! I will give you a sample hand and you have to decide which cards to keep.
Sample Hand #1:
Izzet Phoenix. Mulligan to Five
Overall, Izzet Phoenix doesn't gain much advantage from the new rule as it wants to have as many cards in hand as possible to flip Thing in the Ice / Awoken Horror and bring back Arclight Phoenix from the graveyard. In this particular case, we don't need the third land and depending on what we are playing against, we can be extremely aggressive and keep a one lander, then fetch and throw Phoenixes with Faithless Looting.
My plan here is to set up a turn 2 Pyromancer Ascension followed by triple spell, so I am counting on drawing a second land during the Looting draw on my next turn. What's your take here?
Sample Hand #2:
Dredge. Mulligan to Five
This hand shows how the new mulligan rule can massively benefit Dredge. We don't have to find Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill specifically in our opener, but with the London mulligan rule, we can simply bottom both and keep a very functional five or even four-card hand with a dredge piece, plus a drawing engine.
Sample Hand #3:
Tron. Mulligan to Five and Four
This is another great example showcasing how well the London mulligan also works in Green Tron. Basically, any hand that assembles the Tron lands plus a payoff is "keep-able". Here, we have two Tron pieces plus an Expedition Map, which guarantees a turn 3 Karn Liberated against a non-interactive opponent.
Sample Hand #4:
Humans. Mulligan to Six and Five
Humans is another deck that won't really gain advantage from the new mulligan rule, since the deck aims to combine a critical mass of creatures to attack the opponent, while slowing down their plays. Here, our only choice is to rely on Aether Vial to put our creatures in play, since we don't have any rainbow lands to cast Freebooters.
On mulligan to five, if we are on the draw, I will force a one mana hand and hope for the best.
Sample Hand #5:
Grixis Death's Shadow. Mulligan to Five
This one is an easy choice. Temur Battle Rage is no longer needed, and we can simply draw it later. Dismember could be useless against a creature-less deck. Our plan will be to fetch for Watery Grave plus Inquisition of Kozilek, followed by a turn 2 Thought Scour to try and slam a Gurmag Angler if we draw another fetch land or draw a free spell, e.g. Mishra's Bauble or Street Wraith.
Wrapping-Up This New Rule
This brings us to the end of this London Mulligan Rule article. My general impression about this potential change in the way we mulligan is that Wizards is now more eager to try different things than before. In addition, this new rule could push forward some decks – as we have seen in this article – to the point where some cards may need to be eventually banned. However, I strongly believe that we have to wait until Modern Horizons is released before we can re-evaluate Modern in a completely brand-new perspective.
Before we finish, I would like to thank you for your time. If you want, please leave your comments and thoughts about the Mulligan Quiz below, or hit me up on my Twitter account where I have started a Magic project alongside one of my best friends.
See you next month!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.