It’s official The “London Mulligan” will take effect July 12th at the Core 2020 pre-release. effecting all formats on all platforms (Paper, MTGO and MTG Arena)
For those who don’t know, the London mulligan is a change to the existing mulligan rule where players will always draw 7 cards and then put a card on the bottom of their deck for each time they have taken a mulligan in the current game. For a full breakdown check out this article on the Mothership. (It’s a good article that I will be referencing a few times in this write up so go check it out real quick)
We have known about the London mulligan since late February when WOTC announced that they would be testing the mulligan at Mythic Championship London (Thus the name London mulligan). Of note, Mythic Championship London was Modern format, this tells us that they were worried most about formats like modern and needed real world testing data. They have also been gathering data from MTG arena and MTGO and have what sounds to be a large data pool of games with and without the Mulligan rule.
So what does this new rule mean?
Eliminating the Non-games
The new rule has been changed to eliminate a portion of the bad games of magic, the “non-games” as Ian duke puts it. These are the games where you lose the game before you even start it. Either through a series of bad hands that leaves you with 5 or less cards to start the game, or a bad hand because you don’t want to go any lower than 4 cards.
The best example I can give of a “Non-game” is this clip of Mike Sigrist vs Joel Larsson in the finals of Pro tour Magic Origins, game 5 of a tightly contested aggro match with the Pro tour championship on the line annndd Siggy mulligans to 4 cards and promptly dies. Anti-climatic finish to an otherwise great match. (Seriously watch this match when you get a chance, Siggy’s deck is sweet and the match is a great show of Aggro vs Aggro)
We have all been there: mulligan to 5—>limp along for 4 turns —->stumble—> Die. It’s not fun, it’s not good magic, and there is nothing you could do about it due to the randomness of the game. This new mulligan is built to reduce (but not eliminate) those games which will eliminate the frustration and make for more solid games.
I think this is a great change, I feel bad when I have to mulligan to 4 and I feel worse when my opponent has to mulligan to 4, it doesn’t even feel like a real game, it’s either a dumb loss or a dumb win and both of those are not why I want to be playing magic.
Impact on the Good games
So this is where most of the controversy comes from, what happens when you mulligan to get a certain set of cards that are more favorable. The big statement has been “the London mulligan favors combo decks” while this is partially true, (combo decks will be able to mulligan to hands where they have most or all of their combo pieces) what we seem to lose is that both players will get to mulligan to the cards they need so other decks can mulligan to their turn 1 duress, or turn 2 dampening sphere, or turn 3 Crushing Canopy, or Force of will + Blue card.
Mulligans are still discouraged, people are still losing a card for every mulligan they take, and the decks are still random. This new rule doesn’t guarantee anything, it can increase likelihoods but at the cost of total cards in hand. Overall all decks starting hands will be better, which; yes favors combo decks, but it doesn’t mean combo decks will take over the planet.
Do I think combo will be everywhere? No. Do I think combo will increase in popularity? Yes but so will combo disruption and counters.
Is Bryce casting Thousand year storm too quickly? Mulligan to Cindervines or Negate or Duress ect…
Is the modern Arclight phoenix player getting their Arclights too consistently? Mulligan to Surgical extraction or Rest in peace or Leyline of the Void.
More one-of’s and sideboards
This new mulligan rule does allow for more hand sculpting, which also allows for more 1 and 2 of’s in decks if we want them.
This will likely be in the form of cards that give us a strong advantage vs a specific deck we are bad against. Standard Esper can play 1 of Elderspell or Despark to handle the Sarkhan decks that are flying around, Mono-red and Gruul can play 1 of Tibalt or Cindervines to handle the Dreadhoard and Control decks. We could even see cards like Tocatli Honor guard or The Eldest Reborn start to see some play in the mainboard of some decks. Maybe Emergency powers and Narsetts?
Okay, I digress I may be in wonderland a little bit with mainboarding Elderspells and Cindervines, but the London mulligan does let us mulligan to our sideboard cards a lot better. This means sideboards structure will be more important now than it has been ever! You are now more likely to find you sideboard cards and therefor your sideboard cards need to be relevant when you find them. Sideboard duress has moved from a should-have to a must-have and cards like your 3rd and 4th experimental frenzy aren’t as needed because you are more likely to get them in one of your opening hands.
It’s here to stay so lets learn to live with it
We can be happy or we can be upset about the rule change but fact of the matter is we are in the London Mulligan era so start practicing the London mulligan in your test games. This is a very big rule change and it changes the Mulligan mindset entirely, no more excuses for keeping a bad 5 cards, or not wanting to go to 4 cards. It’s worth learning how the London mulligan feels before it’s released in July. Draw up some practice hands as if you were down to 6 or 5, what hands do you keep and what cards do you put on the bottom of your deck? You’ll thank me later, there is a big difference between the person who has learned the London mulligan and the person that doesn’t. Trust me, it’s way different.
The “Opening Hand Spells”
Watch out for these to spike in price, cards that have an effect if they are in your opening hand suddenly get a lot more consistent when you get to dig for them, The Leylines, Sphinx of Foresight, Serum powder, The Chancellors, and Gemstone Caverns. Just keep a close eye on the price of these cards as people get to experimenting.
For a long time I didn’t like the idea of the London mulligan, and I definitely thought they weren’t going to implement it after so much time went by after Mythic Championship London. But here we are, and after thinking about it a lot while writing this and even before the news broke, I have grown to accept it more. Eliminating the Non-Games will be a huge win for all magic players, fewer non-games translates to more good games which is what we all want to be playing. I still have a few concerns and the thoughts of “maybe this is too strong” have definitely passed through my head but its here now so we just get to find out for ourselves.
Magic is an ever changing game and sometimes new stuff like this happens. So to you dearest reader I say, good luck, have fun, and don’t keep bad hands.