The London Mulligan, and the Modern Format

Greetings everyone, and welcome back to some more Modern Musings with yours truly. I hope you all have had a good weekend, and (if you are an Marvel fan like I am) are eagerly awaiting Avenger: Endgame this coming weekend. I can’t believe it’s nearing the end of April already. This month has flown by, and as much as some like Winter I am very glad we are in the midst of Spring.

Was there anything you did in April that you wish you could have a chance to do-over? How many times do we wish we had a chance to correct something? To have a mulligan? While those opportunities may not exist in real life, they do in Magic: the Gathering at the beginning of each game in every format.

This weekend Magic: the Gathering is presenting it’s third mulligan option developed since 2004. It will be used only at MagicFest London. Before we look into this particular mulligan you may be asking yourself: “What is a mulligan in Magic: the Gathering“? From the wiki on this exact subject:


“A mulligan is an optional process by which any player may attempt to draw a superior hand before starting the game. For sanctioned play, the mulligan process is exactly defined in the Comprehensive Rules“.

Essentially if you do not like your opening hand of seven cards, you can mulligan to put those cards back, shuffle up your library, and draw cards equal to seven minus how many times you have not kept. So on your first mulligan you would only draw six cards, your second mulligan five, and so on until you were satisfied with your hand.

These mulligans have been named based on the locations where Magic: the Gathering has tested these rules. In these last few months you may have heard the name “London Mulligan” being thrown around. That is the mulligan rule being tested this coming weekend, since the event is taking place in London, England. Let’s take a look at the history of mulligans in Magic: the Gathering.

Mulligan History

Paris Mulligan: This mulligan allowed players to shuffle their hand back into their library, and draw one less card than the number the previously drew (six for your first mulligan, five for your second, and so on). Prior to this there was no across-the-board rule to a mulligan. Players would sometimes only mulligan if another player did, or if they had no lands, or whatever the case may be. The introduction of this at Pro Tour Paris allowed for the game to have a streamlined and agreeable rule to begin the game.

Vancouver Mulligan: This rule, which started with the Battle For Zendikar pre-release, allowed for players to have an additional Scry 1 once they decided to keep their hand after choosing to mulligan, and only if they chose to mulligan. If you kept your opening seven you do not get to scry, but anytime you chose to mulligan (even if you went to zero cards) you would Scry 1 before starting. This allowed players to look at the top card of their own libraries, and decided to leave the card on top or place it on the bottom. This rule also helped enforce the turn order in deciding mulligans with the player going first making the decision to keep or mulligan, followed by the next player, and once both kept their hands the Scry 1 would follow the same pattern. This is the current system until this weekend.

London Mulligan: This new rule is being tested this coming weekend. Expanding on the previous rules, this will allow players to draw seven cards with each mulligan. However, once the player decides to keep the drawn cards, they would place cards on the bottom of their library (in any order) based on the number of times they chose to mulligan. For example if I draw seven cards, and want to mulligan I would shuffle my hand back in my library. Then draw seven new cards, and if I keep that hand I would put one of my choice on the bottom of my library. If instead I chose to mulligan again, and choose to keep that new hand, I would then choose two cards to put on the bottom.

So why is this happening?

Sometimes what happens when a player chooses to mulligan is that due to them drawing one less card each time they find hands that are simply unplayable. They could copy a full decklist from a website, sleeve it up, and even play the deck a lot; however there will still be moments where that player lost a game due to them not being able to play the cards they drew. These are considered “non-games”. Wizards of the Coast has been testing this new mulligan, and are unleashing it upon MagicFest London featuring both the War of the Spark Draft format, and Modern constructed format.

That’s what brings us here today.

How does this effect Modern?

In the article written by Blake Rasmussen it was even stated “it certainly has some implications for formats like Modern.” While there have been other players and content creators showcasing this mulligan, and Wizards of the Coast allowing it to run briefly on Magic Online, none of us truly know what will happen when this rule is implemented (and it will be).

While I am no Frank Karsten (who is?) his article here goes over the math of this mulligan rule. While this rule is no “fix” to a poorly constructed deck, there are concerns that games may have similar results when played out with this rule. What I am going to do instead is go over three decks that I feel this rule will have the most impact on, and then cover some more Modern thoughts on the way.

The Good

Azorius Control

Creatures (3)
3 Snapcaster Mage

Planeswalkers (5)
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Enchantments (1)
1 Search for Azcanta

Instants (20)
4 Path to Exile
4 Opt
3 Cryptic Command
3 Mana Leak
1 Hieroglyphic Illumination
1 Absorb
1 Negate
1 Condemn
1 Spell Pierce
1 Spell Snare

Sorceries (6)
4 Terminus
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Timely Reinforcements

Lands (25)
6 Island
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
3 Plains
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain

2 Rest In Peace
2 Stony Silence
2 Dispel
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Celestial Purge
1 Runed Halo
1 Negate
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Surgical Extraction

Of the decks in Modern impacted by this new rule, I put Azorius Control (and pretty much any Azorius based control deck) firmly in the “Good” category. How many of us have drawn our opening seven, and have no plays for the first three turns? Ok we can all put our hands down. Seriously this deck needs to interact in the early turns until it can either clear the board, or land a Planeswalker to gain control of the game. Having this new mulligan rule will provide control players reasonable hands more often when starting the game. This may help them be more of a presence in tournaments than they already are.

Should anything change?

I don’t see anything getting out of hand with this deck. Although it currently sits as the top control deck in Modern, most of the community feels Jace, the Mind Sculptor is nowhere near as powerful as he was in Standard, or currently is in Legacy. He would be the only card people would want banned if things went crazy.

The Bad

Phoenix decks

Creatures (11)
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Thing In the Ice
2 Crackling Drake
1 Snapcaster Mage

Enchantments (2)
2 Pyromancer Ascension

Instants (20)
4 Manamorphose
4 Opt
4 Thought Scour
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lightning Axe
2 Surgical Extraction

Sorceries (9)
4 Serum Visions
4 Faithless Looting
1 Flame Slash

Lands (18)
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Island
2 Mountain
2 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Polluted Delta

2 Blood Moon
2 Abrade
2 Dragon’s Claw
2 Dispel
2 Spell Pierce
1 Ravenous Trap
1 Shatterstorm
1 Ravenous Trap
1 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Surgical Extraction

Honestly I don’t think this deck needs any help. To be truthful I’m surprised they are not splashing Green for Destructive Revelry or other enchantment hate, but there are not enough enchantments to really be concerned with having that type of hate. This deck has a lot of redundant one mana spells to fuel it’s engine to place Arclight Phoenix in the yard only to get them back when casting your third spell. Of the decks I’ll talk about today this will be the least impacted, but I can see the metagame percentage go even higher with this deck once the London Mulligan rule is in place.

Should anything change?

YES! While many people will complain about Faithless Looting, those complaints will reach higher levels if this deck performs better under the London Mulligan. The problem is that these lump Dredge into the conversation, and honestly Dredge has seen less of a metagame percentage in the last month as it drifts back to being “good” instead of (like Phoenix) “great.” Although the Izzet version is the top Phoenix decks there are still Mono Red versions out there that perform well.

Of the cards that will need to be considered for banning they would be Arclight Phoenix and/or Manamorphose. A lot players want Splinter Twin back, and I don’t know why. Arclight Phoenix IS their precious Twin.

The Ugly


Creatures (8)
3 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 Walking Ballista
1 World Breaker

Planeswalkers (6)
4 Karn Liberated
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Artifacts (19)
4 Oblivion Stone
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Expedition Map
3 Relic of Progenitus

Sorcery (8)
4 Ancient Stirrings
4 Sylvan Scrying

Lands (19)
4 Forest
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Sanctum of Ugin

4 Nature’s Claim
3 Thragtusk
2 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Spatial Contortion
2 Warping Wail
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Grafdigger’s Cage

Of all of the decks I can think of, this one could possibly abuse this new mulligan rule. With each draw of seven cards you increase your chance of having all three of the Urza Lands in hand, allowing you to have a natural Tron on turn three, and seven mana to use for the cards you have drawn. While this is not guaranteed to happen, I can see this happening more often than it does not. Players generally hate Tron more than any other deck; when building any other deck, Tron has been the deck to receive dedicated sideboard slots since its rise in Modern after the release of Battle For Zendikar. It will be a powerful choice going forward. Unless…

Should anything change?

It really might. A few years ago people were asking for 8th Edition and 9th Edition to be removed from Modern altogether to eliminate cards deemed as problems, especially the Urza Lands. While I personally do not see anything happening to this deck, I would not be surprised if Wizards of the Coast finally pulls the plug on those lands and sending them off to the banned list. This would be unfortunate, as it’s the only big mana deck that does not rely upon Primeval Titan, and has been a mainstay in Modern nearly as long as Affinity.

However with that said what else should be addressed in the format, especially with this new rule?

Problem cards in Modern

These are some other cards that honestly have overstayed their welcome, and should probably go as they will make the format worse with this rule (in my opinion).

Amulet of Vigor

This card should have left when Summer Bloom was banned. Allowing lands that were designed to come into play tapped to ignore that restriction nearly breaks the manabase this deck holds. Yes while it is unique we need to understand that Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was on the initial Modern banned list due to its interaction with Primeval Titan. Within a year that card was unbanned to give the Titan it’s deck, however Amulet has taken that over. In my opinion this was not a direction that Primeval Titan decks were to have, and it needs to go.

Chalice of the Void

This may seem odd to say, but it is indeed time for this to go. Being able to draw seven cards with the new mulligan will produce an option where you would have this in play on turn one, between Simian Spirit Guide and your first land. If the new rule is to end (as much as possible) “non-games” between players, there is nothing that abuses that more than this card. Yes people have artifact hate in their decks, but do you want to spend 20 minutes attempting to draw one? Probably not. Goodbye Chalice.

Blood Moon

By that same token, it you replace Chalice of the Void with this, a similar situation arises. Playing this on your second turn can nearly cripple your opponent, and if you went first they will stare at their non-basic land until they can get rid of it. If possible. This new mulligan rule increases your chance of having this card in hand, and honestly I am changing my long-held stance of keeping this card in by saying it needs to go.

In Conclusion

When banning cards we need to keep in mind what impact they would have on the format. If Arclight Phoenix and/or Manamorphose were banned, those players could go back to playing Storm. Or if the Phoenix stays then their deck remains. If Faithless Looting was banned it hits multiple decks, and some decks that aren’t even a problem (or won’t be). Sadly the same goes for cards such as the Urza Lands vs Ancient Stirrings. So before we break out the torches and pitchforks next week after the results of MagicFest London, let’s take a look and properly analyze what the London Mulligan did to the format.

Thank you all for reading. What are your thoughts on the London Mulligan? Have you tested with it yet? Please leave a comment below, and make sure to follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter.

Next week I have a topic that I have been wanting to talk about for a month now, and it is something that affects us all. So please stay tuned for that.

Have a good week everyone, and until then…



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *