This past weekend we got to see the first Mythic Championship of 2019 coming out of Cleveland. It was an awesome event with lots of highs and lows, great coverage, and some fantastic matches over the course of the three days. To top it off, we got to crown the first ever non-binary and first ever English champion in Autumn Burchett, who piloted their Mono-Blue Tempo deck masterfully throughout the weekend. Historic doesn’t even come close to describing it. However, the next Mythic Championship (due to take place in London at the tail end of April) promises to be a very different affair.
If you missed it, last week Wizards of the Coast announced that Mythic Championship London will be the testing grounds for a new update to the game, and we aren’t talking about War of the Spark. You see that weekend we will be seeing a new update to the Mulligan rule, and it has garnered quite a lot of interest from the Magic community. Some players are excited for this update, while others are terrified for what it could mean for the game and for older formats. Today, we will look at the pros and cons of the ‘London Mulligan’ and see what it will mean for Standard, Limited, and beyond. So strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
As many of you will already know, the current ‘Vancouver’ Mulligan functions as follows: players shuffle their opening seven cards back into their deck and then deal themselves a new hand with one less card for each time they’ve taken a mulligan. When they are settled on a starting hand, they may then scry 1 before starting the game. It was welcomed by many when it was first implemented and has been widely accepted as a positive addition to the game.
So, how will the London Mulligan work? Well, if you are unhappy with your starting hand, you can shuffle it away and draw a fresh seven card hand. You keep doing this until you are happy with the hand you have before putting a card from your hand onto the bottom of your library for each time you took a mulligan. So the rule is a little bit different, but the end result is the same. You have one card less in your opening hand for each time you took a mulligan, no big deal, right?
Wrong. This is a huge game changer. The old mulligan rule allowed you to potentially fix the top of your deck after a bad hand, but it only allowed you to dig one card down into your library to do so. This new rule allows you to dig far deeper than that. Sure, you don’t get to fix the top of your deck, but you do get to have many more tries at finding the perfect starting hand.
Why are Wizards of the Coast making this change? Well, after talking it through with the rest of the team I believe it was done to make the game easier and more approachable for new players. You literally reduce the number of games you will lose due to mulligans/unplayable hands, and this has the added benefit of making the game more accessible and more exciting to watch, as no one really wants to see somebody lose a close match solely because of mulligans.
This change will be most apparent in the Standard and Limited formats, which are the primary focus for Wizards moving forward. Here I feel the rule will mostly be a welcome one, helping players show off just what their deck is capable of without having to sit through three or four matches of potentially bad hands. If it works as intended, we might be able to say goodbye to the days of the Mythic Championship being decided by unlucky mulligans, instead getting to see three-five games of top-level Magic.
However, as with any big change to the rules, this has divided players over whether its a good change or not. Those that don’t like this rule change tend to be (but are not exclusively) fans of the eternal formats. Now it has to be said, this rule change is great for ‘fair’ decks for the reasons given above. However, where the rule may cause problems is when combo decks are concerned. These decks seek to amass a specific collection of cards to win the game very quickly.
Combo decks are also full of redundancies and are already quite capable of running away with a game if left unchecked. Now you start to see the problem people are worried about. The London mulligan gives these decks a greater chance of digging very deep into their libraries to sculpt the best possible opening hand. Just imagine mulliganing to four cards, but those four cards are Urza’s Mine, Urza’s Power Plant, Expedition Map, and Karn Liberated. Did you hear that…? That was the sound of thousands of Tron players laughing maniacally.
Now as I’ve said above, ‘fair’ decks will be slightly more viable following this change, but it’s the unfair decks that will get a real power boost. If you don’t believe me then you can just check the maths for yourself, as Reddit user aldeayeah did in this post. Again, not a problem for fair decks. But Modern is the land of unfair decks, and the potential problems only get worse as you delve deeper into the older formats. Just imagine Legacy or even Vintage where decks like Dredge will be incentivised to Mulligan aggressively for cards like Bazaar of Baghdad.
You can see why there is some trepidation around this new rule. However, it has also got to be pointed out that in sideboarded matches players will also be keen to make use of the London Mulligan. Even if your opponent can sculpt a perfect Dredge starting hand, all of it can be undone by you digging deep for a Leyline of Sanctity or another hate card.
The problem then is that in formats like Modern, some matches can be won single-handedly by sideboarded “silver bullets”, which are much easier to find under the London mulligan rules. Also, spells which attack your opponent’s hand are going to be a lot more common, no question about that. If combo decks do get a boost in playability then cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek will become even more important. This could lead to more Rock and Jund decks on the ever-nearing horizon, possibly pushing out other decks on their rise to dominance.
So, after all that, what do I think of this new Mulligan rule? Honestly, I’m on the fence. On the one hand, making Standard and Limited more stable and reducing the number of games you’ll lose to bad hands is a real positive, and I won’t lie and say I’m not excited to sculpt the perfect hand in my Modern Burn deck. But there is a real chance that this could break the older formats, and not in a good way. It is worth noting that Mythic Championship London is the trial run for this new rule, and after the Pros have tried their best to break it Wizard’s might backpedal and revert the change, going back to the Vancouver Mulligan.
Then again, maybe we are all getting worked up about nothing and this will all be fine for the game. It wouldn’t be the first time we as a community thought something would break the older formats. Just look at the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern. Everyone believed Modern would be ruined by him and he hardly made a dent in the format. Maybe the same will be said of the London Mulligan in a few months’ time.
But what do you think? Will the London Mulligan ruin the game, or will it improve your play experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and while you are there subscribe to keep yourselves up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. Until next time, though, remember – whatever you play or where ever you play it – Good Look and Have Fun.