First Impressions: The London Mulligan

We have written quite a bit about the London Mulligan at this point. However, those entries utilized calculations based on decks built under Vancouver rules. These are useful but nothing is as informative as true testing in a London mulligan metagame. The London Mulligan rule has been on Magic Online since April 10. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to play with the rule a bit and start to build my first impressions about the change. I had my concerns going in but I would like to share what I have learned so far.

First Impressions
We’ve all been mana screwed. It has always been a part of Magic and it has never felt good. The London Mulligan won’t prevent you from that one lander you shouldn’t have kept, but it will force you to keep them less often. In a lot of ways, this change supports aggressively mulliganing. The bar for borderline hands got a little higher since it’s less likely you’ll need to mulligan due to a bad hand configuration. This also opens up the ability to mulligan to specific sideboard hate a lot more safely.

Modern is a format riddled with many powerful sideboard cards. Cards like Stony Silence, Damping Sphere, and Leyline of the Void can heavily swing games. The new mulligan rule gives us more opportunities to see those cards. Some people would argue that this makes matchups feel more swingy. I would disagree. Modern is an incredibly diverse format. Sometimes you run into matchups where you need to mulligan to your sideboard hate. This was still something  we needed to do under the old rules, but now it feels far less punishing. The London Mulligan increases your chances of having a playable hand with sideboard hate.

One thing that I think people forget about this change is that it is not one sided. Your opponent also has access to the new mulligan rules. This means that when you  are playing against dredge and mulligan to Leyline of the Void, your opponent can also mulligan to Nature’s Claim. Due to this, I personally feel like I’m having some of the best games of Modern I’ve ever played. Both players generally get to execute what they are trying to do. This has been a major positive and has alleviated a lot of the tension that I’ve had about the change.

When they first announced the London Mulligan, I was very concerned that it was going to allow combo decks to dominate the format. While the change is still relatively new, I am considerably less worried about this after playing with the new rules.  As noted earlier, both players get to mulligan aggressively. Not only can combo players mulligan to their combo, opponents can mulligan down to their answers. Izzet Phoenix and Grixis Death’s Shadow are still doing incredibly well online. While it’s possible that a particular combo deck might one day be too good, I would strongly prefer we ban that offender to make this change work. The London Mulligan has brought a lot of positive changes.

One final thing to note is that I feel like discard got better overall. Decks that rely on redundancy like Storm or Burn have traditionally been pretty good versus discard. Decks with key pieces are hurt significantly more by discard spells. The London Mulligan definitely benefits decks with key pieces. We also lost the Scry 1 effect of the old mulligan rules. Scrying and keeping a card on top meant that that card dodged turn 1 discard spells. Some people also consider Scry “half a card” in card advantage calculations since it does give you a little bit. This going away is another increase for discard’s power level.

In regards to the meta, I haven’t seen a drastic change personally. Keep in mind, I am a single person so I do not have all the data yet, but I didn’t see any drastic shift in the leagues I played. Magic Online’s meta does tend to shift faster than the paper meta, however, there may still be some lag effect from this. Modern decks are expensive to build and pilots tend to be pretty loyal to their decks. That being said, I don’t think the new mulligan rules are going to make things unhealthy. If they do we can reassess but there is no reason to be concerned yet.

The London Mulligan is going to be a big step forward for Magic in my opinion. It’s going to reduce the number of non-games of Magic which I think is a huge win for everyone. What have been your impressions? Any archetypes that have significantly improved or dropped off entirely? We would love to hear about it in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back Monday to summarize the weekend’s tournament results. Until then my friends.

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