When the London Mulligan was first announced, the voices of 1000 Legacy players immediately cried out in fear. The pitchforks were raised, articles were written, and the usual Twitter-drama ensued with great vigor. Now we’ve played with it. Now have experience with it. We don’t have to purely speculate any longer. Do we still hate or fear the London Mulligan? How did it really play out? Was it truly as warping as people feared? Did we come to love the thing we expected to loathe? I’ve taken a statement on the London Mulligan from twenty different high-level players, grinders, and content producers on how this change impacts Legacy specifically. Let’s see what they have to say…
I’m pro London-Mulligan. I think it leads to less punishing games when one player unfortunately has to ship down to six cards. I’d like to see it go into effect immediately.
I think the London Mulligan is excellent for Magic as a whole and totally reasonable in Legacy. While people were initially scarred that the London Mulligan would further enable combo decks, it also has the drawback of combo being less resilient due to this mulligan; opposing decks have similar opportunities to sculpt their hands with interactive elements. Outside of the “combo scare,” the London Mulligan is a strict improvement in keeping games of Magic competitive and makes mulligans less punishing. I’m all for it.
After having talked to a bunch of people, I personally believe the issues with the London Mulligan are two-fold. A) It leads to homogenization of games (it’s far easier to do the same thing repeatedly when you get to look at groups of seven cards repeatedly and ‘Brainstorm’ a few to the bottom). B) It doesn’t actually solve the problems in Standard or Limited (which it was intended for), because too often raw card quantity matters too much. Even if you stack a 5 card hand versus an average 7 card hand in Standard or Limited, you’re still a heavy dog to win the game. People refer to the ‘unfair’ deck benefiting a lot, but that’s covered by A), but also fair decks benefit in a similar way under A) as well.
The London Mulligan is great. It doesn’t swing matchups or decks as much as it reduces overall variance. Now, if you’re favored in a matchup, you are more likely to win the matchup since your deck is more likely to function. Chalice decks are still weak to the same strategies and combo decks still lose to hate, so overall I like the change a lot.
I didn’t have much of an opinion on the London mulligan until they removed it from me in the middle of a stream. I immediately got disappointed when I clicked on mulligan and only saw 6 cards, and then clicked again and only saw 5. Later in the same league I had a complete non game after I mulled to 4 cards; I would have most likely stopped at 5 or 6 with the London mull. Overall though, I don’t think the decks I am playing are in any way abusing it, so for me it only ever served its intended purpose. And I think I still had a good enough win rate against decks that tried to abuse it.
I’m not a fan of the London Mulligan, and this is why. 125 games before and after the MTGO trial.
The London Mulligan is very good for “events that matter.” It is a net positive for paper Magic and larger online events like Legacy Challenges. However, it has negatively impacted MTGO leagues. MTGO has always had an over-representation of combo online due to the desire to grind value quickly, and the London Mulligan really exacerbated that aspect of the online experience. Admittedly, some amount of the increase in combo is just due to people trying out the decks that stand to gain the most from the London Mulligan, so hopefully this would normalize a bit over time if fully implemented.
As a fan of Delver type decks, mulling to 6 under the Vancouver mulligan rules always made me hold my breath and pray for a playable hand. The London mulligan rule greatly increased the consistency of mulligans where winning on 6, or even 5, was quite common, I loved it.
I thought it would be bad for the format, but playing with it quickly reversed my decision. While I love not feeling incredibly punished for choosing to mulligan a weak 7, my favorite part has to be that it helps elevate skill over luck. Choosing which card(s) to tuck away is often a difficult, skill-testing decision that gives players a lot more agency.
Editor’s note: Lawrence’s response was long and has been condensed.
I think the London Mulligan is great for Magic overall and probably fine for Legacy. The first few days of the London mulligan made Legacy leagues feel somewhat unplayable, because a lot of people were stress testing with turn 1 combo decks and various Chalice shells; however I think the Challenge results showed a much more normalized metagame. I think whatever metagame shifts happen will likely normalize over time. I did find it a bit preferable to play with; someone mulling to 5 doesn’t need to be a death sentence, and fewer non games is better for everyone in the long run.
I DID lose to Chalice decks mulling to 5 more, because they could keep hands that were still functional on the first couple of turns, as opposed to how they operate under the Vancouver mull (where they tend to just flounder if they mull to 5ish cards). With that said, under the London mull they often had medium draws as the average topdeck of those shells are often mana intensive and wildly vary in terms of power.
I should love the London Mulligan, because my win percentage has gone through the roof with it, but that’s what worries me the most. I don’t see a world with the London Mulligan where we don’t see serious bans from the A+B combo decks, with Grislebrand being first on the chopping block. That is a shame, because the Legacy meta is in a really great place right now.
The London Mulligan gives everyone more powerful hands on average when mulliganing, but well-built Legacy decks don’t spend too much time mulliganing. I think overall I prefer mulliganing with the London Mulligan, but only slightly more than Vancouver mulligan. That being said, people are going insane and changing the meta drastically for what is a minor mulligan change for most decks; this is because of the drastic difference it makes in glass cannon or single-card-matters decks. I also dislike how the London mulligan works out mechanically.
The London Mulligan is on my shortlist for the best structural change in the history of competitive Magic. It feels incredibly good and liberating as it allows you to actually mulligan and not just spin a wheel where you have to keep any 5 or 6 with 2 lands. Having somewhat of a curve is super important in most Legacy decks, and the London Mulligan helps a ton with that.
Editor’s note: Ales’s response has been edited quite a bit for clarity.
The London Mulligan only made a large difference for decks that could afford to ship back a medium hand to find something better. For example, a Grixis Control player can ship back an opening hand with 4+ lands and still open on something like turn 1 Thoughtseize into turn 2 Hymn to Tourach. Similarly, in a Stoneblade shell, you can almost always find a playable 6 card hand with something like a cantrip and a counterspell. The London Mulligan gave an extremely big boost to combo decks in game 1, but it did give them a huge disadvantage in games 2 and 3. The MTGO metagame moved to a spot where everybody had 5+ pieces of graveyard hate in the sideboard; that meant that BR Reanimator and Dredge were almost not real decks anyway.
Like many others, I thought at first that the London Mulligan would break Legacy by providing absurd consistency to the turn zero graveyard combo and artifact prison decks. To my surprise I found in testing that the rule enabled increased levels of interaction, specifically in postboard games where players could bring in more relevant answers to fast power plays. Mulliganing felt a lot less punishing – the additional pregame card selection certainly decreased the number of deficit-based non-games. It was a short three weeks, but I already miss the London mulligan and genuinely hope it comes back to the Legacy format!
While there are obvious upsides to the London Mulligan, such as less punishing mulligans and another skill testing mechanism, the rule overall is not a good idea for Legacy in my opinion. Reducing the fail rate of already strong strategies and creating match-ups that more frequently revolve around certain game breaking cards and backbreaking sideboard answers creates different kinds of non-games at the expense of more unique games. The short test period was unfortunately timed given GP Niagara (which used the old mulligan rules) and the new set release; both altered the MTGO meta, reducing the value of the data collected. Given that many players thought that Legacy was in one of the best spots it’s ever been in prior to the trial period, is it worth it to risk a permanent change based on flawed data that could potentially lead to bans and/or a reshaping of the format?
My experience with the London Mulligan was extremely positive. Previously I would have to keep sketchy hands on 5/6, hoping to draw a missing piece, and if I did not, I would just lose the game. With the London Mulligan these games almost never came up, and I avoided so many of the nongames I generally play. I would be extremely saddened if they did not implement the London Mulligan. When I first heard about it, I thought it was silly and convoluted, but as soon as I started playing with it, I did not want to go back.
However, I could see some downsides. Superpowering combo decks might come at a big cost in older formats. I think we either have to implement the London Mulligan and potentially not apply it to formats like Vintage/Legacy/Modern if the combo decks are too problematic, or explore bannings/printing stronger answers. Bannings are a messy solution though, so I am hopeful we will have a clean solution.
I was horrified when I first heard about the London Mulligan. Surely this breaks BR Reanimator in half, right? And the Chalice decks will have a lock piece turn one every time. Sounds miserable! Well, not quite. I think this was most people’s reaction and rightly so. But once the London Mulligan rolled onto MTGO and people had got their fill of forcing Griselbrands, it all started to even out. For each time a combo deck had a strong opener, the fair deck would have its answers. The last week of the mulligan being online it felt like the meta had pretty much gone back to how it was before; you’d see a nice spread of fair decks, combo, and everything else.
Reanimator and graveyard decks did get stronger, and the power of cantrips were slightly mitigated due to the non-cantrip decks gaining more consistency, but these are then simply metagames shifts you can build your deck to beat. My experience of the London mulligan has been hugely positive and I’ll be greatly disappointed if it doesn’t end up being implemented.
I believe WOTC should implement the London Mulligan. I believe even in Legacy it creates more games of Magic played, and it’s even better for the other competitive formats at the highest level. I’m not sure what the others are thinking, but as a sidenote, they may have to ban cards because of this mulligan change; however, overall I think it’s better.
I would love to see open decklists at competitive Legacy events to complement the London mulligan. After watching Mythic Championship London (Modern), it was clear that the open decklists mitigated any advantage that the London mulligan gave combo decks. Overall the London mull + open decklists provided more interesting and interactive game 1s, which made for a better gaming experience.
I hope this article has given you a fuller perspective on some of the positives and negatives associated with the London Mulligan specific to the context of Legacy. While normally I like to end my articles with some definitive statements and conclusions, I didn’t do so this time. This wasn’t a propaganda piece that was explicitly for or against the London Mulligan. My intention was to give you some thoughtful nuggets to chew on. I really enjoyed compiling the responses for this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading them as well! I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the article, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on the London Mulligan as well!