Throughout MTG’s almost 30-year history, players have come up with countless suggestions on how to improve the game. As you might expect, few of these suggestions ever become a reality. However, occasionally, a rare idea will become a reality. Subsequently, MTG players are keen to pitch their suggestions on what should be next in Magic’s future. Whether requesting returning mechanics, characters, or planes, MTG players truly have no end of suggestions for Wizards of the Coast. Alongside these future suggestions, occasionally, some players take it upon themselves to suggest immense mechanical overhauls that could benefit Magic. Recently, one such enterprising player has suggested that the longstanding mulligan system in MTG is needing an update.
The History of the MTG Mulligan
Since the very inception of MTG in 1993, a mulligan rule has always been an accepted part of gameplay. While an official rule wouldn’t be ratified until 1997, players still had the option to redraw their hand before then. Unlike taking a mulligan today, however, in its earliest form, the rules around taking a mulligan were surprisingly strict. Rather than being able to mulligan for any reason, players could only mulligan after having drawn either zero or seven lands in their opening hand.
The Paris Mulligan
Following this more casual ruling that kept games interesting, Wizards would add a mulligan to the Comprehensive Rules in 1997. Introduced officially for 1997’s Pro Tour Paris, this new rule allowed MTG players to mulligan for any reason at all. There was a catch to this newfound freedom, however, as a player’s new hand must contain one card fewer than the previous one. Under this system, players could take as many mulligans as they pleased until no cards were left in their opening hand.
The Vancouver Mulligan
Existing for eighteen years, the Paris mulligan rule was core to MTG’s rules for much of the game’s long life. In 2015, however, Wizards of the Coast updated the rules, creating the Vancouver mulligan. Launching alongside Battle for Zendikar prereleases in 2015, this revised mulligan rule allowed each player with fewer cards than their starting hand size to Scry 1. This change allowed players to pilot their decks with a little more certainty, slightly reducing variance.
The London Mulligan
The latest change to the mulligan rule, however, took this variance-reducing principle one step further. Introduced for Core Set 2020, the new London mulligan rule always has MTG players drawing seven cards. Following this, a player must put a number of those cards, equal to the number of times that player has taken a mulligan, on the bottom of their library in any order. Players do not Scry after taking this action, no matter how many mulligans are taken.
Allowing players to hunt for their ideal opening hand more selectively, the London mulligan made many decks significantly more consistent. Despite this, some players have claimed that the London mulligan doesn’t go far enough. Subsequently, taking to social media, Twitter user @Magical__Hacker has suggested a new mulligan ruling to reduce “non-games.” While this idea has taken the community by storm, not every player is enthused by the idea of drawing 12 cards.
A New Frontier
In a recent Twitter thread, MTG payer @Magical__Hacker proposed a new system that would do away with mulligans altogether. Rather than getting to mulligan time after time, Magical__Hacker’s suggestion is instead a new “draw 12, put 5 back” rule. According to Magical__Hacker and their math, this new ruling should be better in practically every single way.
“1. It slightly decreases how often the opening hand causes a non-game.
2. It makes starting off with a 2-card combo happen over 10% less often.
3. It greatly speeds up the game startup time.”Magical__Hacker
While Magical__Hacker brought math into the equation, across social media, many players highlighted how this suggestion isn’t entirely new. On Twitter, for instance, several users, such as @deathriteramen, highlighted how their playgroups have already adopted a similar mulligan rule to great effect. Additionally, members of the Commander Advisory Group (CAG) noted their interest in this new mulligan technique. Should their testing prove Magical__Hacker’s claims, this new mulligan could even become the new norm in Commander.
“Our playgroup house rule lately is Draw 10, Shuffle 3 Back and after a few months of this, I feel like it’s significantly reduced the amount of non-games, sped up games in general, and led to better play. And everyone deck builds well with sufficient land counts.”@deathriteramen
“An interesting take on the mulligan system. Might have to experiment with this one on my discord.”@TheKristenEmily
A Suspect Suggestion
While their math supports their proposal, across social media, MTG players weren’t enamored by Magical__Hacker’s idea. One of the first points dissected was the claim drawing 12 cards and putting five back would speed games up. On Reddit, for instance, u/lightsentry commented that “watching people resolve brainstorm makes me think that this will not speed up game start-up time whatsoever.” Similarly, over on Twitter, Magic Judge @Pharmacistjudge claimed having more cards to analyze would significantly slow the start of games. “I think you underestimate the decision paralysis of staring at 7+X cards and putting X back. It’s why Scry 1 is fast and Scry 2 takes forever.”
Alongside raising time concerns, several players also highlighted how a new mulligan system could completely warp deck construction. As u/KJJBAA points out on Reddit, this would invalidate the math Magical__Hacker used to draw their compelling conclusions. “The problem with this math, of course, is you won’t be playing 24 lands in a 60-card deck anymore in that system. You could play way fewer.” Further raising this point, u/AuntGentleman spotlighted how dramatically changing mulligan rules could significantly affect the strength of decks.
“This would give game 1 advantage to fast aggro and fast combo decks, and then allow control to find their sideboard pieces against those decks more readily in game 2. It creates a huge disparity in the first vs next games in BO3 while still likely benefiting proactivity. ESPECIALLY in the land drop situation you describe.
It’s an awful idea.”u/AuntGentleman
While numerous MTG players across social media pushed against the proposed mulligan overhaul, Magical_Hacker noted this backlash wasn’t entirely unexpected. After all, throughout Magic’s history, it seems that players have always been averse to change, even when it’s for the better.
“Almost every change in life will have some lovers and lots of haters. Look at the history of MTG for plenty of examples of players fearing change. New card frames, the introduction of planeswalkers, removing damage on the stack, eliminating the tuck rule in commander, Universes Beyond cards, and even each mulligan rule change are all part of a much, much longer list of changes players decried. And yet, the world keeps on spinning. The only thing that will never change is this: ‘Things will always change.’ In general, humans are afraid of changes.”@Magical_Hacker
A Reasoned Response
In theory, the indisputable power of math should reassure MTG players that Magical__Hacker’s mulligan suggestion is for the better. In reality, however, it’s hard to ignore how a new mulligan would affect Magic’s many formats. After reaching out to us to provide more details, Magical__Hacker explained as such, noting that formats would absolutely be turned on their heads.
“Players are deathly afraid that their favorite deck will be one of the decks that is hurt. Without the ability to see the future, I would expect that the threshold to ban a card becomes much lower since getting one in the starting hand becomes harder. This means more cards can be unbanned, implying that decks will perform in a smaller range from their worst performance to their best performance. Decks that utilize great numbers of mulligans currently, like Tron, may be the most negatively impacted, but it’s ironically brought up as the worst example of a deck that would benefit from this system.”
While the changes that a dramatically different mulligan may introduce seem scary at first, Magical__Hacker went on to state how this change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “This mulligan replacement would make people confront their own weakness in deckbuilding. Unlike the current mulligan system where you can say that you have bad luck for not drawing enough lands in your deck, being unable to mulligan away a hand without enough lands directly influences players to play a more appropriate number of lands in their decks. […] For some reason, players feel that they will be able to play fewer lands because of this system, while it’s clear that such an approach will be punished much more heavily in this system.
Time for a Change
Across both Reddit and Twitter, it’s safe to say that MTG players had mixed opinions about this rules change. Thankfully for concerned players, there’s no indication that this rule change will occur anytime soon. The math is admittedly compelling, however, Magical__Hacker is merely just another MTG player with an interesting suggestion for the future, not a WotC employee. Thanks to interest from the Commander Advisory Group, however, is a real chance this new mulligan could be implemented into Commander.
For those who do like the idea of a new mulligan, there’s no reason players can’t implement their own version of this rule. Some Reddit users, such as u/AnnikaQuinn and u/ihavequestionsTA, attest to already doing this within their playgroups. Subsequently, should you like the sound of this idea yourself, there’s little reason not to try it out in your next casual game. Just make sure you get the table’s approval first. Otherwise, you might get some funny looks for drawing 12 cards.