Mulligans in limited.

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Magic is the game I like the most, I think it is the best game there is. I have just one complaint though: the mulligan rule in limited.

In my opinion, the mulligan rule in limited is not well designed. Very often it leads to players to (correctly) mulligan their hand because they have just one land or too many lands, just to get a completely unkeepable 6 card hand. They need to mulligan again and start on a huge disadvantage in respect to his opponent that kept his initial hand.

Now many people say you have to design your deck correctly in order to avoid having an unkeepable starting hand. I agree with the mulligan rule in constructed because you have many more deck design options to get around this problem. However, in limited you have very few options to do that. Even pro players, with a nice mana curve, two color deck and the standard 17 land deck, are often forced to send their original hand away and start at an undeserved disadvantage.

"Dont complain, its part of the game, accept it". Well, I have to, but I hate to do it. We have been at both ends of 5 vs 7 cards starting hands, and we know it is not fun in any of those ends. One player cannot even play the game because he cannot cast his spells. Its boring, unfair and unfun. You dont interact, you dont even play magic. Everytime I get my initial hand I look at my cards in fear that I may not be able to play any magic at all in that game.

I understand that luck is part of the game, but it plays a brutal role before the game even starts. If you got unlucky, your only option is to mulligan, which is already a punishment, just to play lottery again and hope your hand gets better, even if its less probable to be so. I understand as well that mulliganing correctly is a skill on its own, and a very difficult one for certain starting hands, and hard to master. But I am not talking about those difficult decision situations, I am talking about hands that are plain and clearly unkeepable.

The really big problem about all this is that it is difficult to provide a better, more fun, more fair solution than the present mulligan rule.
However, commander uses a very nice alternative: You choose which cards to keep and which to send away in your mulligans. Players can for example keep 2 hands of their starting 7 and do a partial mulligan of the other 5 (they will draw one card less, in the example 4 cards, as in a normal mulligan).

This looks much better than the original rule. Its as fast as the original mulligan rule, demands also good deck building, and the player gets to influence how the mulligan is done, which is fun, interactive and skill demanding.

I really think, for the good of us and the game in general, that limited games should mulligan like the commander alternative. What do you think?





No. I got 5th on a 5-1 record at a pre-release "tournament" where the house rules allowed for friendly mulligans. My final opponent had numerous opportunities to fish for his game-winning combo, which he did and used against me every game. 

It was ridiculously unfair and sapped all fun I had away from the tournament. This kind of "mulligan" shifts the game into combo decks and drains the craft of consistency and the skills of playing against randomness out of the game.

I found Carmen Sandiego before you were born unless you're Zlehtnoba.

I wholeheartedly agree with the majority of points you are making. Primarily that the current muliganning system is broken (for all of the reasons you described) and needs an alternative. However, I am not completely on board with adopting the Commander 'choose what you keep' discard system, because that was developed for an environment where you are playing a 100 card singleton constructed deck where virtually every card is a bomb. In a 40 card decks that are generally running between 0-3 bombs, 'choose what you keep' would replace the randomness of muligans with the randomness of opening well. At the very least you'd need to run statistical tests to determine whether the switch causes the game to be more or less random if relation to the current system.

However the problem with the current muliganning system remains: In limited even the most carefully built deck will muligan a significant number of games, and the majority of those will be 'forced' muligans, because limited hands with 0, 1, 6 or 7 lands come up around 12.1% of the time and are generally unplayable. Win/loss ratios on 7 vs 6 matchups are staggering, let alone 7 vs 5, which mean that one-sided muligans arbitrarily decide a large number of limited games and by extension, matches.

Clearly a new muliganing system should be developed to address this, but care must be taken to ensure that the randomness of muliganning isn't replaced with the randomness of openning well. However I am confident that this can be done. A straightforward solution I came up with a little while back is to make forced muligans (Unplayable hands due to mana count) different from unforced muligans (playable mana count, muliganed for other reasons), in that only unforced muligans require you to draw one less card when you redraw your hand. But even this straightforward solution has some drawbacks (although I still like it considerably more than the current system)
I also like the mulligan rule as it is.  It encourages you not to be too greedy with spells or CMCs when drafting and deck building, then forces you to think carefully before you do mulligan.  It's hard to come back from a 5 card starting hand against 7, but not impossible.  That's another challenge I like taking on (occasionaly, when necessary) and feel good about when it works.

rstnme, I would be gutted if that happened to me!

Cheers
Just a few minutes ago I came up with a creative solution to muliganning that I think might make the game more fun, and would tilt that balance considerably towards skill and away from luck, which is always a good thing. How about adding a Fact or Fiction style element to muliganing? A system that would allow you to muligan to a 7 card hand, but allow your opponent some control in deciding what those 7 cards will be. I haven't worked out the specifics of the system, but I believe if done right this has a lot of potential. Ultimately I would like a muligan system such that every player starts the game with a 7 card playable hand, but accomplishes this is such a way that good-rare/mythic openning doesn't dominate the game.
The best reason I can think of to change the mulligan rule is the inherint problem of mana flood, or more common it seems, mana screw.

There is the ever present fear of the 2 land hand, where you choose to keep it and never see the 3rd land until turn 5.  By then you're already dead.

As whacky as it seems, the odd thought this morning is, what if there was a community deck placed on the table, that was only land card, or only cards that tapped to produce 1 colorless.

During your draw step, you have the choice to either draw from the top of your deck, or exile the top card of your library to draw the top card from the community pile? Play this effect only during your draw step, and only once per turn.

This effect would almost always be worse than just drawing almost any land or card from your deck, but would be a suitable option if nothing is flowing, or you're falling behind in land drops.
Tolkein was a jerk. Seriously, what DM sends 9 Wraith Lords at a Lvl 2 party of Halflings. The only 'correct' way to play D&D is by whatever method is making the group you have at that session, have the most fun.
@LoveMonkey

Yeah, it killed me. I travel a lot, so I tend to end up hitting the pre-releases out of town, and the fact is the store didn't announce this house rule, just confirmed it when another player used it against me. I was steaming out my ears--it stank of regular favoritism. Luckily, I ended with a better record and placed higher, but that loss prevented me from tying for first. (Coincidentally, my opponent's brother got first. Hmph.)

Between games I go through my deck, break up my land clumps, shuffle, pile shuffle, shuffle, then present my deck to cut. This is legal, as it's random and your opponent can shuffle your deck, and generally prevents getting mana screwed or flooded.

However, part of playing the game is randomness. It's not random if every time you played you guaranteed had a perfectly playable hand. It's not a direct correlation, but it's sorta like how bad calls by refs in sports rarely affect a team's season, since the number of bad calls is generall balanced out by the number of calls in the team's favor. Meaning, I get as many crap hands as I do nut draws, and I'm OK with that, and as LoveMonkey mentioned some of my best/challenging games were from mulliganed hands, forcing me to catch up, play smart, and ultimately win.

I found Carmen Sandiego before you were born unless you're Zlehtnoba.

@Mufasa2, rstnme, BalogTheFierce
Yuck, those systems all sound awful. I'll take my chances.


If you really hate mana issues cube might be for you. You can aggressively draft an incredibly solid manabase if the cube has enough fixing. Yesterday I was doing an MTGO cube draft and had three duals that fixed for two of my colors, two of which could be fetched by Eternal Dragon, a man land between one of those colors and another, a Mox Diamond, and a Sphere of the Suns. I think I only had slight mana issues one game where I had to Vampiric Tutor for a basic land.

I love the mulligan rule as is. I love mulliganing to 6. If that hand is bad, I'm happy I have the option to mull to 5.

In my first ever RTR draft match, I mulled down to 5. I won on turn 6. If you make the correct mulligan decisions, you'll be better off in the long run even if sometimes, Lady Luck is out to get you, you have to go to 3, keep two lands and a 4-drop, and never get there. That happens, but so rarely as to be ignored - if you build your deck correctly.
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Between games I go through my deck, break up my land clumps, shuffle, pile shuffle, shuffle, then present my deck to cut. This is legal, as it's random and your opponent can shuffle your deck, and generally prevents getting mana screwed or flooded.



That brings up a good point, in offline Magic mana issues and muligans are mitigated for precisely this reason. But I play near 100% of my magic games online these days and I can't remember the last tournament where I didn't have at least one lost game due to either mana issues, muligans or both (6 card hands miss their 3rd land drop more often than 7 card hands)

So I've been doing a little more thinking regarding my new Fact or Fiction based muliganning system and here it is:

If you choose to muligan your initial 7 card hand, you shuffle and draw 6 cards from the top of your deck as in the current system. Then your opponent looks at the top 2 cards of your deck and places 1 of them in your hand and the other at the bottom of your library. If you choose to muligan your hand again, you shuffle and draw 5 cards. Your opponent looks at the top 4 cards of your deck, places two of them in your hand and the other two on the bottom of your library. This process can be repeated up to 7 times, each time you muligan you draw 1 less card and then your opponent selects 7-n cards for you from the top 2*(7-n) cards from your deck, where n is the number of cards you drew.

I feel this new system is better than the current one because you are always guarenteed to start with 7 cards but there is still a prohibitive cost to muliganning playable hands, because the 'extra' cards [over the current system] that you are getting are chosen by your opponent, which means they will select the ones they believe give you the worst possible chance of winning (and now know at least some of the cards in your starting hand) In addition, it increases skill because players who know the game well will make better decisions regarding which cards to give their opponents on muligans. Decks that are uniformly strong will no longer lose games arbitrarily due to improbably poor draws, but weak decks with a few bombs will not do considerably better than they do under the current muliganing system.

I am very excited about this new system I have developed. I'm not sure this is the final form, but I definitely feel there is something here that is much better than the current system. I am eager to try this out in draft!
That system is broken, get out.
Also @Mufasa2, please don't worry too much about the reactionary sentiment on these boards, you stated your position very well and made excellent points. It's always like this with rule changes -- A number of eloquently stated facts and conclusions in favor of change, followed by a number of terse statements that evaluate to 'Things are fine the way they are' Keep thinking about alternate muliganning system(s) and show objective reasons why the new system(s) are better than the old and you should get through to at least a few people.
That system is broken, get out.



That statement is factless. It doesn't even demonstrate that you understand how the proposed system is working.
Your opponent doesn't get to see your hand. So when faced with the situation "Do I give my opponent a land or do I give them a spell?" you often got what is close to a free mulligan. Sure they get to deprive you of a bomb, or give you a "crappy" spell, but I'd say it's close to mulliganing to 6.75 cards. I mean, if both cards are good you're still just getting a hand of seven solid cards in your deck.
Your opponent doesn't get to see your hand. So when faced with the situation "Do I give my opponent a land or do I give them a spell?" you often got what is close to a free mulligan. Sure they get to deprive you of a bomb, or give you a "crappy" spell, but I'd say it's close to mulliganing to 6.75 cards. I mean, if both cards are good you're still just getting a hand of seven solid cards in your deck.



I see. So what you are saying is that you feel muliganing to 6.75 cards is not a steep enough penalty. Well that is interesting. I do agree that in a certain sense you are muliganing to a fractional number of cards, and that is what I was shooting for, but I'm not sure what that number is. It may be 6.75 on the first, but I would imagine it drops considerably on subsequent muligans, when your opponent has more cards to choose from and is dictating a larger portion of your starting hand. Perhaps something alone the lines of 7.0 -> 6.66 -> 6.0 for 0, 1 and 2 muligans respectively. Further it depends primarily on the overall strength of your deck, particularly the lower end, if you've made any questionable deck inclusions and your opponent sees them, they are most likely the ones you are getting in the later muligans.

The main goal of this new muliganning rule is to ensure that decks that are solid overall don't lose games arbitrarily to muliganing and double muliganing hands that are 'no-choice' muligans due to their land counts. In limited you can construct very solid decks, decks that you can expect to win over 90% of their games with solid play after keeping their initial 7 cards, that nonetheless win less than 50% of their single muligan games and less than 10% of their double muligan games. The few times I've seen 5 cards beat 7 it's been flukey draws, T1 Tormented Soul -> T2 Dark Favor or T1 Stormkirk Noble -> T2 Spectral Flight stuff -- some early threat or clock played by the 5 card person that the 7 card person had no answer for. When the 5 card person loses to the 7 card person (which is what happens in the vast majority of cases) the person playing the 5 card hand could play out their cards in any order and it would make no difference in the final outcome. This is especially egregious in situations where the 7 card person makes numerous, significant play mistakes that the 5 card person is unable to capitalize on because ... they only have 5 cards. Cards that deal with other cards on a 1 on 1 basis, which is the vast majority of cards in the Magic universe, become a liability in that situation, even solid removal like Murder and Pacifism.

I like this new muliganing system because it promotes skillful play, familiarity with set dynamics and solid deck construction without placing an overwhelming emphasis on the importance of opening well in draft. As such I like it much better than the current muliganing system which places emphasis primarily on not drawing 0, 1, 6 or 7 lands in your opening hand, something that you as a player cannot control. Certainly there must be some penalty to muliganing, to prevent players from essentially stacking their starting hands, but the current penalty of 1 card per muligan is too harsh since the majority of muligans are forced and muliganing even once drops your chances of winning significantly. It's like the original rules related to the coin-flip prior to the play-draw rule. Not many people at the time saw a need for play-draw, but anyone playing at the time knew how important winning that coin-toss was.
I think it might be fair if you could get it to work out so that it was 7.0 → 6.2 → 5.4 → 4.6 → etc. However, I don't really have a problem with the current system of 7.0 → 6.0 → 5.0 → 4.0 → etc., so I'm not really Opting for change.
Adressing the OP's point directly and ignoring Bobus' walls of text: No. I don't think the "partial mulligan" is a good rule, neither for Limited nor for Commander. I'm not even sure it decreases the variance, and I'm not even sure I want the variance reduced. I love the way mulligans work in Limited because it rewards people who are better players. If you (as many intermediate players do) overvalue the worth of a card and refuse to go to six cards on sketchy hands, you end up losing a significant amount of matches to people who are perfectly willing to throw away an unexciting 7. If you undervalue the worth of a card you end up mulliganning too much and lose because you will fall behind.

It also emphasizes another aspect of the game I like, that is, knowing what your game-plan is. I mulliganed a hand that looked roughly like this in the online PTQ this weekend:
Fog Bank, Deadly Recluse, Divination, Forest, Forest, Forest, Island.

That hand could have been perfectly acceptable in another match-up where I knew I had all the time in the world (I was playing against a deck that had a Xathrid Gorgon as well as an insane flying late-game). Because I knew I had to beat down, I mulled it away and came up with a much more aggressive hand (Rancor, Deadly Recluse, Centaur Courser, Forest, Forest, Plains, I think) that had a far better shot at putting pressure on my opponent early.
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Walls of text? I feel they would be more accurately described as walls of facts, eloquence and rational thinking. But, technically walls of text as well.

As for your points regarding the partial muligan rule, it does decrease variance in relation to the current muliganing system, and that was the reason why it was developed. Commander games are traditionally 1 ofs rather than best of 3, which is why reducing variance in another way was necessary. Yet another reason is because Commander games tend to be long multiplayer affairs and most people's inclination when faced with starting such a game at a significant disadvantage (like starting with 2 less cards than everyone else) is simply to drop out.

As for whether reducing variance is a good or bad thing, there is some room for opinion there. While some variance is certainly good I feel limited Magic would be better if there were less variance than there is now. I think the perfect balance for variance is roughly what exists in the Agricola board game. Sufficent variance so that the game feels new, different and exciting every time you play, yet little enough variance such that a skillful player will nearly always beat a moderately skilled one, and will always beat an unskillful one. The reason it is so well balanced is because the variance in Agricola is on top of the deterministic elements -- there are no random elements that force you to skip making plays in your first 3 turns, for example. All of the variance in Agricola opens up the choices the players can make, the variance in Magic restricts them.

And finally, while it is fun to tell stories about the time you made intelligent muliganing decisions and won, or won with a 5 card starting hand despite incredible odds, that's not the problem with the current muliganing system. The problem with the current muligan system is the sheer number of games and thus matches that are decided coin-flip style. Whether or not you make the correct decisions regarding borderline hands you are still likely going to lose just because you are in a position to make the decision in the first place. Just seeing a 0, 1, 6 or 7 land hand means you are already the favorite to lose, before your decision to muligan or keep has been made. That is why the current system needs to be fixed.
Though most solutions that propose to "fix" the system actually break it and make it abusable. Limited is supposed to be variant, or at least as variant as the deck you drafted. You don't want someone to have the ease of mulliganing one or two times at little cost because then they can mulligan for some of the bombier cards in their deck (hey, weren't "mythics" one of your "three Ms" as well). 
I think it might be fair if you could get it to work out so that it was 7.0 → 6.2 → 5.4 → 4.6 → etc. However, I don't really have a problem with the current system of 7.0 → 6.0 → 5.0 → 4.0 → etc., so I'm not really Opting for change.



It would be interesting if you could play around with the values and effectively get non integer number of cards. Certainly 7.0 -> 6.5 -> 6.0 ... in limited would be better than the current system, as would 7.0 -> 6.0 -> 6.0. But I wonder what the exact best would be? 7.0 -> 6.3? 6.4? Certainly muliganing should cost less than a full card to be a balanced play mechanic, but what is the exact number? Also, aside from counting the number of lands in a starting hand, is there a deterministic way to separate forced muligans 'I had 6 lands in my starting hand' from unforced ones 'I didn't feel my starting hand had enough low drops/bombs/removal/etc'
Though most solutions that propose to "fix" the system actually break it and make it abusable. Limited is supposed to be variant, or at least as variant as the deck you drafted. You don't want someone to have the ease of mulliganing one or two times at little cost because then they can mulligan for some of the bombier cards in their deck (hey, weren't "mythics" one of your "three Ms" as well). 



Yes, the goal is to fix the system without breaking it in another way. Perhaps reducing the number of games lost overall to the 3 Ms would be the best goal. That would provide an objective/numeric way to measure the additional games lost to bombs against the games that are no longer lost to muligans/mana issues. Then the decision could be made on balance.

I do like the bit about being as variant as the deck you drafted, and that's exactly what the new muliganing rule should be shooting for. If the deck you drafted has a balance of removal, bombs, efficent creatures and evasion, that is what you should be drawing. You shouldn't be drawing a 5 card hand because the balanced deck that you drafted happened to muligan a 1 land hand into a 0 land one.
I really think "fixing" the system would only be beneficial if decks were of equal power. Then it'd come down to the skill of a player playing a deck. 

But it doesn't. We study and practice building limited decks, and we practice and study playing, and we all admit there's still a lot of luck in cracking a pack and nabbing a bomb. (That being said, my winningest decks were bombless.)

I found Carmen Sandiego before you were born unless you're Zlehtnoba.

The best way to reduce variance is to just play more games. You don't have this option on MTGO or in other competitive drafts, but if you're drafting competitively you could just draft more. 
It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 
It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 



I've learned to stay away from his mulligan rants.  There's a little too much of a Phil Hellmuth rant similarity for my tastes.

Those who fear the darkness have never seen what the light can do.

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line.

191752181 wrote:
All I'm saying is, I don't really see how she goes around petrifying swords and boots and especially mirrors. How the heck does she beat a Panoptic Mirror? It makes no sense for artifacts either. Or enchantments, for that matter. "Well, you see, Jimmy cast this spell to flood the mountain, but then the gorgon just looked at the water really hard and it went away."
It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 



I've learned to stay away from his mulligan rants.  There's a little too much of a Phil Hellmuth rant similarity for my tastes.



How interesting, because I just Googled Phil Hellmuth and I am also an accomplished poker player. Is my dislike of random Magic loses similar to his dislike of random Poker losses? (Or is there another reason for the comparison?)
It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 



I've learned to stay away from his mulligan rants.  There's a little too much of a Phil Hellmuth rant similarity for my tastes.



How interesting, because I just Googled Phil Hellmuth and I am also an accomplished poker player. Is my dislike of random Magic loses similar to his dislike of random Poker losses? (Or is there another reason for the comparison?)


Hellmuth rants all the time when somebody beats him with a band hand or when he perceives they just "got lucky" against him. He doesn't blame himself for why he lost but rather finds things that he "couldn't control" to blame. Hellmuth is a really good poker player but he acts like such a dick at the table that everybody purposely tries to bust him so he'll go off. 

Point is that the rules of the game are the rules of the game and you have to use them to your advantage rather than complain that the rules are stacked against you without understanding that it is stacked against everybody.  You certainly cannot win every hand of poker and magic is the same way. Sometimes you'll just lose even though your skill level is higher than your opponent. 
You guys are spoiled. The Mulligan rule as it stands is a huge improvement over anything. Try playing with no mulligans.

The problems with alternate systems is most often, they're complicated or time-consuming. Mulligans need to be done quickly to get to the real business. Yes, poor hands decide games, but waiting for your opponent to finish shuffling is boring. Randomness>>Boring. This is a large part of why there is no "one free mulligan" rule. Mulligans should be discouraged.

That said, one I do like is "put hand on the bottom of the deck, draw one less card without shuffling." Nothing annoys me more than mulliganing into the same thing, minus a card. This is also less time-consuming. The strategic impact is minimal. However, like QWERTY, the current system is too ingrained to change.
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oh my god, AWESOME! Then changing the Slivers was your idea! haha lol
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It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 



I've learned to stay away from his mulligan rants.  There's a little too much of a Phil Hellmuth rant similarity for my tastes.



How interesting, because I just Googled Phil Hellmuth and I am also an accomplished poker player. Is my dislike of random Magic loses similar to his dislike of random Poker losses? (Or is there another reason for the comparison?)



Sorry, I'm having to get over the weirdness of you saying you're an accomplished Poker player and yet have to Google Phil Hellmuth.  Those two don't seem to connect in my head considering he's one of the most famous Poker pros out there.  It'd be like being very good at Magic and not knowing who Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, or Brian Kibler are.  Maybe it's just me.

And it's not that he dislikes random Poker losses.  Most people have their 'bad beat' stories.  It's the loud, ongoing and sometimes petulant way he goes on about it like it should never happen coupled with the attitude of being so good that luck is the only reason he loses.  Yes, Hellmuth is a great Poker player.  12 WSOP bracelets (most all time still I believe) tells that story better than his mouth ever could.  I also hate listening to him go on and on and on about how these other players are so bad when they're beating him.  That's one of the reasons I prefer a player like Jon Finkel who is gracious than a player like Mike Long for example.

Those who fear the darkness have never seen what the light can do.

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line.

191752181 wrote:
All I'm saying is, I don't really see how she goes around petrifying swords and boots and especially mirrors. How the heck does she beat a Panoptic Mirror? It makes no sense for artifacts either. Or enchantments, for that matter. "Well, you see, Jimmy cast this spell to flood the mountain, but then the gorgon just looked at the water really hard and it went away."
Wasn't Mike Long just a cheater?
Wasn't Mike Long just a cheater?



Very probably, but I couldn't think of another loudmouth off the top of my head.

Those who fear the darkness have never seen what the light can do.

I've seen angels fall from blinding heights. But you yourself are nothing so divine. Just next in line.

191752181 wrote:
All I'm saying is, I don't really see how she goes around petrifying swords and boots and especially mirrors. How the heck does she beat a Panoptic Mirror? It makes no sense for artifacts either. Or enchantments, for that matter. "Well, you see, Jimmy cast this spell to flood the mountain, but then the gorgon just looked at the water really hard and it went away."
Wasn't Mike Long just a cheater?


He cheated in numerous amounts of ways and did stuff that wasn't cheating but frowned upon. Talking to your opponent is allowed in games and using that sometimes to gain an advantage is a real thing. 
It's okay, bobus has some "statistics" saying that muligans ruin magic for him. 



I've learned to stay away from his mulligan rants.  There's a little too much of a Phil Hellmuth rant similarity for my tastes.



How interesting, because I just Googled Phil Hellmuth and I am also an accomplished poker player. Is my dislike of random Magic loses similar to his dislike of random Poker losses? (Or is there another reason for the comparison?)



Sorry, I'm having to get over the weirdness of you saying you're an accomplished Poker player and yet have to Google Phil Hellmuth.  Those two don't seem to connect in my head considering he's one of the most famous Poker pros out there.  It'd be like being very good at Magic and not knowing who Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, or Brian Kibler are.  Maybe it's just me.

And it's not that he dislikes random Poker losses.  Most people have their 'bad beat' stories.  It's the loud, ongoing and sometimes petulant way he goes on about it like it should never happen coupled with the attitude of being so good that luck is the only reason he loses.  Yes, Hellmuth is a great Poker player.  12 WSOP bracelets (most all time still I believe) tells that story better than his mouth ever could.  I also hate listening to him go on and on and on about how these other players are so bad when they're beating him.  That's one of the reasons I prefer a player like Jon Finkel who is gracious than a player like Mike Long for example.



I was kidding about being an accomplished poker player, since I have never played at a high level and haven't played period in years. My accomplishment was going from never having played Texas Hold Em poker to winning approximately 1 out of every 3 games in a group of 10 other players. We played every week and I went from no experience/wins to being the winnest player in the group in the span of a couple months. The person in the group who was an accomplished [online] poker player thought I was a natural because I had gotten to his skill level in months where he had been playing poker at a high level online for years. But while I enjoyed it I found playing poker stressful and did not continue with it. The high level players that I am aware of were primarily the ones mentioned in the Rounders movie which I watched during that time.
Point is that the rules of the game are the rules of the game and you have to use them to your advantage rather than complain that the rules are stacked against you without understanding that it is stacked against everybody.  You certainly cannot win every hand of poker and magic is the same way. Sometimes you'll just lose even though your skill level is higher than your opponent. 



I think this is the point of all rules discussions. While the rules apply equally to everyone certain rules will be more advantageous to some people than others. For example, my poker style, when I played, lent itself well to games where the blinds were small in relation to people's stacks. While the other players pushed to increase the size of the blinds I pushed back, even if I was dominating and upping the blinds would objectively be in my favor. Different rules are going to favor skill vs luck, others will favor particular play styles. The games that have endured over the years are primarily skill based (with a little luck) and allow for many different playstyles.

The main difference between bad hands in poker vs bad hands in Magic is that you don't have to play every hand in poker. Poker is played over hundreds of hands, where in Magic you won't have 100 starting hands across an entire tournament. Personally I would rather just have both players start every game with playable [Magic] hands and have the person with the best deck and playskill come out the winner. I don't understand the pushback on not wanting every nth game decided by a coinflip. Certainly there has to be a balance, but the current [limited] muliganing system is tipped far to the side of randomness. No matter how well you draft or play, no matter how poor your competition you are still going to lose games because of luck in the current system. For a game that is primarily skill based that seems insane to me. Fixing the muliganing rules and/or mana rules is the easiest way to accomplish this.
Your mulliganing system (or one like it) would make Magic more stressful. You'd be smacking yourself mentally trying to figure out the best way to squeeze every last drop of nectar out of your mulligans, and this is before the game even starts. A good mulligan system has to penalize fairly harshly for opting to mulligan, and should also be fairly simple. I like the current mulliganing system because losing a card is fairly severe so all one has to ask is "Do I think I can win a game of magical cards with this hand." With a more lax system the question could easily become "Do I think I have a slightly better chance of winning with a new hand." Sure that rewards a kind of skill, but it's not the skill I want Magic to be about.
Your mulliganing system (or one like it) would make Magic more stressful. You'd be smacking yourself mentally trying to figure out the best way to squeeze every last drop of nectar out of your mulligans, and this is before the game even starts. A good mulligan system has to penalize fairly harshly for opting to mulligan, and should also be fairly simple. I like the current mulliganing system because losing a card is fairly severe so all one has to ask is "Do I think I can win a game of magical cards with this hand." With a more lax system the question could easily become "Do I think I have a slightly better chance of winning with a new hand." Sure that rewards a kind of skill, but it's not the skill I want Magic to be about.



I think a 1 card penalty is appropriately harsh for dumping a playable hand, but unfairly harsh for a player who has included the appropriate number of mana sources in his deck only to find 6 out of 17 of them in his starting hand (or 0, 1, or 7) Another muliganing system I like is one that penalizes differently for muligans that occur because of factors outside the player's control vs factors that are within the players control. Simply shipping a 0,1,6 or 7 land hand, which accounts for the majority of muligans, shouldn't immediately put that player as a significant underdog in the game.

It primarily comes down to fairness, fun and promoting skillful play. Whatever rules are put in place will be in place for everyone. Why not promote rules that eliminate the arbitrary penalties in the current system and ensure that the best player wins? It's one thing for a beginning player to beat an experienced player on a pivotal play, it's another to have the experienced player lose because he muliganed to 5 or kept a 2 land hand and failed to draw a land for the first 7 draws.
Losing to mana screw has never really bothered me much honestly. Perhaps I'm just more stoic than you though. The thing is, you can draft casually and inforce whatever mulliganing rules you want. I've played with people who like playing with one free mulligan. All Wizards has control over is MTGO and their competitive events. I guess MTGO is really all some people have access to though.
From what it sounds like, you just don't like variance, period. I know this great game that you can play online that has no variance, yet has that kind of Agricola-skill-decision-making feel to it. It's called Chess and I've heard it's pretty popular.

... On a more serious note: Perhaps your mulliganning suffers from the same flaw that it sounds like some (professional) poker players' game does. I read an anecdote by Doyle Brunson about getting into an all-in with odds 6:5 in his favor against a worse player and losing. He described this as a mistake on his part because, even though the hand odds were in his favor, the game odds were more in his favor.

I think this translates nicely to Magic. If you play against a person you know is bad at drafting/building decks/playing, you can keep a hand that is "fine" but not ruthlessly effective, whereas if you're playing against a pro or just in a top 8 of a large event, you have to assume that your opponent is good and you have the option to mull that average-y hand away if you think you have a better shot with six fresh tickets.

When you are talking about fairness, I think you are misunderstanding the concept: The game has to be fair for everyone, not just the good players. While it annoys you that a much worse player casts his Thundermaw Hellkite on turn five even though you're clearly representing Essence Scatter and you happen to not draw removal in time, it makes up for all those games you win against that guy where you actually have the counterspell and he plays into it.

Have you ever had your Thundermaw Hellkite counterspelled? It feels really bad, right? Now imagine you're a newer player and that this awesome dragon is just the most awesome thing in your deck and the reason you are playing Red. How "fair" is it that an opponent taps and flicks a common card in your face and suddenly your deck is worthless? How many of those games do you need to play before you forget the one game where it worked and you scoop up your cards and go home?

That is why variance is vital in Magic. It keeps people coming back to the game even if they are underdogs. And no, we can't make a seperate rule for higher-level tournaments, because then we'd be playing another game.

Also, it's pretty clear that a game completely without mulligans would have more variance... but how small must the penalty for mulling be before better players can "game" that system or have more of an advantage because of their deckbuilding and decision-making skills? Not a whole lot, I think.

I'm not convinced there's a better solution for mulliganing that fulfills all the requirement the current one does, but if you have one handy that addresses all my points, by all means go ahead and try.
Preparing for the M14 Prerelease - New article up! IN THE TANK - my very own blog for rambling about Magic!
Losing to mana screw has never really bothered me much honestly. Perhaps I'm just more stoic than you though. The thing is, you can draft casually and inforce whatever mulliganing rules you want. I've played with people who like playing with one free mulligan. All Wizards has control over is MTGO and their competitive events. I guess MTGO is really all some people have access to though.



When I played offline I always got the impression that losing to MS bothered other people much more than me. But online it's a completely different story. I suppose the main reason is that offline you feel that losing to MS is at least partially under your control, and because of the shuffling techniques people use, happens far less. Online it means that every nth game (let's say every 7th) you just have to absorb a 'free-loss'. And while I understand that this happens for everyone, I'd be much happier with 'happens to no one' than 'happens to everyone'. And yes I understand that will mean more games will be decided by mythics, but at least in those games everyone gets to play a resonable number of spells and it feels like a real game of Magic.
If people are getting mana screwed less often offline then they are shuffling incorrectly, and indirectly cheating.
If people are getting mana screwed less often offline then they are shuffling incorrectly, and indirectly cheating.



Why do people keep repeating this when it is clearly untrue? The rules for offline Magic dictate what constitutues proper shuffling. As long as players adhere to those rules they are not cheating. Choosing the best shuffling strategy within those rules will cause people to experience less MS offline than on. You can run some simulated starting hands with various shuffling strategies yourself if you don't believe me.
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