The Vancouver Mulligan Rule

Posted in PRO TOUR MAGIC ORIGINS on July 31, 2015

By Marc Calderaro

There are so many aspects to consider going into any Pro Tour. Playtesting two formats with a slew of new cards is no joke. Usually, adding anything more to players' plates is enough to overload them. But there's a new wrinkle here at Pro Tour Magic Origins that seems like anything but a burden: the Vancouver Mulligan.

This Pro Tour is the first to showcase a change to the now-traditional "Paris" Mulligan, and just might be the new standard going forward.

The rule is a fairly simple shift. If you don't like your opening hand of seven cards, the Paris Mulligan allowed players to shuffle up and draw again, but draw one fewer card instead. This process could be repeated all the way down to zero cards. The Vancouver Mulligan is the same, but once both players have resolved mulligans, and a player has settled on a hand of less than seven cards, that player now gets to Scry 1—looking at the top card of the library, and if it's no good, shipping it to the bottom.

Here is the exact rule from Hélène Beregot's article:

103.4. Each player draws a number of cards equal to his or her starting hand size, which is normally seven. (Some effects can modify a player's starting hand size.) A player who is dissatisfied with his or her initial hand may take a mulligan. First, the starting player declares whether or not he or she will take a mulligan. Then each other player in turn order does the same. Once each player has made a declaration, all players who decided to take mulligans do so at the same time. To take a mulligan, a player shuffles his or her hand back into his or her library, then draws a new hand of one fewer cards than he or she had before. If a player kept his or her hand of cards, those cards become the player's opening hand, and that player may not take any further mulligans. This process is then repeated until no player takes a mulligan. (Note that if a player's hand size reaches zero cards, that player must keep that hand.) Then, beginning with the starting player and proceeding in turn order, any player whose opening hand has fewer cards than his or her starting hand size may scry 1.

The scuttlebutt from the pros is overwhelmingly positive. Despite (23) Shota Yasooka saying it rewards aggressive strategies more than control, "and I always play control," he laughed, Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Shuhei Nakamura—just coming off his seventh Grand Prix win in Dallas-Fort Worth last weekend—was all for it. And (20) Mike Sigrist gave me a gigantic thumbs up.

We literally mean that Mike Sigrist gave this mulligan rule the thumbs up.

He said though the change might only slightly affect how many people mulligan down to six, and specifically from six cards to five cards, it just feels better. That sentiment's unsurprising, because that's just what the rule was meant to do.

R&D member Sam Stoddard said the goal of the rule was to minimize the amount of "non-games" that can happen with multiple mulligans. "We still want players to be penalized for taking mulligans … and want to reward consistency, but just not quite as penalized [as under the Paris Mulligan rule]." He continued that keeping seven cards is still far-and-away the best, and increasing your percentage of hands you can keep by building mono-colored strategies and having the right number and mix of lands is still the best way to stay at that seven. Though the actual win percentages from mulligans to five might not change dramatically, it is hoped those games will be more fun games of Magic.

It's no wonder almost everyone likes this change.

Time will tell if this change is permanent. And though it might be yet another Pro Tour aspect, so far it seems like more fun is a burden players are willing to shoulder.