Posted in GRAND PRIX LOS ANGELES 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 19, 2014

By Frank Karsten

The top decks in Standard are filled with incredible three-color cards. Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino are prime examples. But with these powerful cards comes the danger of a three-color mana base: What do you do when your opening hand is filled with three-color goodies but only contains two colors of mana?

To gain some insight, I sat down with No. 14 Ben Stark. Out of the all competitors at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir last weekend, he had the best Standard record at 8-1-1. The deck he ran there was Jeskai Wins, so to understand his dividing line between a keep and a mulligan, I set him up with the following opening hand:

Shivan Reef
Seeker of the Way
Mantis Rider
Stoke the Flames
Jeskai Charm

This hand is excellent except for one flaw: it is missing white mana. "I would mulligan this hand on the play and on the draw," Stark said. "Jeskai mulligans extremely well, and you don't want to fall behind if you miss your white mana for a turn. Jeskai is great when you're ahead, but it has a hard time coming back from behind. Generally, in my opening hands, I look for a two-drop or a three-drop and the mana to cast them, and this hand lacks the right mana."

Ben Stark

Stark admitted that it was a close call, so I asked if his answer would change if Shivan Reef would be replaced by Temple of Epiphany. "In that case, I would keep it on the draw, but probably still mulligan on the play."

Having learned that being able to scry can matter a lot for a mulligan decision, I then asked him about the following hand:

Magma Jet
Mantis Rider
Mantis Rider
Mantis Rider
Mantis Rider

"I would keep this," Stark said. "My version of Jeskai has 19 blue sources because of Nullify, and thanks to Magma Jet, I will usually be able to find a blue source in time."

It's always good to learn how Ben Stark approaches mulligans. Since hands like these can come up so frequently in this Standard format dominated by three-color decks, I wouldn't be surprised if the players who are able to tackle these close mulligan decisions correctly will come out on top of the standings.