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Vintage 101: London Calling

Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host Joe Dyer and I'm here to continue our deep look at the Vintage format. Things have been relatively interesting in Vintage as of late, as we have finally seen the addition of the infamous London Mulligan on Magic Online. We're going to talk about the Mulligan as it relates to Vintage and what has been going on since the Mulligan has been present on Magic Online.

Reminder that next week will be my War of the Spark set review! We will have the full set by then and I will be able to spend some time piecing together a solid set review for you guys. Quite frankly, I'm really excited for this set in regards to Vintage. It has a lot of toys for the format to play around with and try out, and I'm sure somewhere along the line our good friend Matt Murray will play all of them.

Without further ado, lets move on to the meat of today's topic. The London Mulligan

London Bridge is Falling Down

The London Mulligan went live last week on Magic Online. For those of you who don't remember how this rule functions, instead of drawing a hand of one less card for each mulligan, you will instead draw seven cards, choose a number of cards equal to the number of times you've mulligan'ed and place those on the bottom of the deck, and then proceed to decide whether or not you will keep or mulligan again. The addition of this mulligan to MTGO had a bit of a rocky start, with some games the day of being played with the old mulligan system and some with the new. It was a little chaotic but now the rule is functioning properly.

So now that the London Mulligan is available, what's happening in Vintage? Well... as we somewhat expected... there are some issues.

The Power of Workshops

As was somewhat predicted, Shops gets excessively better under the London Mulligan rules. More often than not this deck has been incredibly opening hand dependent, where you are looking for explosive hands that contain both a lock piece and a threat. The issue is that many hands often play out rather fairly, and don't always have an explosive opening. Under the London Mulligan however, piecing together hands that contain the necessary cards to beat a specific matchup on a mull to 6 and 5 is a lot easier. This has led to some Shops pilots even playing Serum Powder in the deck's sideboard, due to the sheer power post board of being able to pick up specific hate cards quickly with a Powder, and lower hand mulligans being able to shape the hand so that you can bin Powder even if you don't actually need to use it. This immensely ups the number of keepable hands.

Paradoxical Outcome

Under the new rule, PO, which often operates on a critical mass of artifact mana and a resolved Paradoxical Outcome can now locate much higher impact cards (and the ability to run more cards like Timetwister and Wheel of Fortune to help offset a lower hand mulligan) such as Time Vault and Voltaic Key (or the best possible scenario of fast mana plus Tinker). This gives PO an angle of being able to just mulligan into a very quick win by one of these methods. Also, another card that gives PO a bit of a boost is Sylvan Library since it rewards aggressive mulligans. This and the green splash of PO is pretty powerful since it gains access to Managorger Hydra.


While everyone was freaking out about the power of Dredge, people tended to forget about Workshops. Dredge does gain a marginal benefit from the London Mulligan in being able to hunt down a Bazaar easier, but hunting down a Bazaar was already a pretty high percentage in the first place. Other decks do gain a slight advantage in being able to find their hate, but Dredge is also still more than capable of locating anti-hate and more importantly capable of finding multiple Hollow One + Bazaar hands.

Dredge still feels pretty strong, but I don't believe it's overpowered like everyone thought it was going to be. If anything, Hollow One becomes the most threatening thing on the table given that the deck can try to reasonably find them.

Xerox Decks

The London Mulligan doesn't quite totally get there for Xerox lists, however that doesn't mean these decks are stone cold unplayable. They can still shape their hands fairly well under the new rule, but the rule doesn't do the same that it does in terms of sheer card quality that it does for the other major archetypes of the format. That being said, being able to shape hands into an early Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise is pretty strong still.

Other Decks

Other decks in the Vintage format, such as Survival, Inferno Oath, and Colorless Eldrazi also all benefit to an extent from the London Mulligan, as decks like Survival are easily able to find multiple Hollow One hands, while Eldrazi is capable of locating the same amount of lock pieces that Shops can. Oath benefits from being able to piece together Oath of Druids and Forbidden Orchard a little faster. Lavinia based decks also gain a huge boost because of being able to locate Lavinia + accelerants quickly to power her out.

The Real Question - Is This Good for the Format?

Here comes the real question. Is the London Mulligan actually good for the format? Well, as always the Twitter crowd is making the rounds and the answer seems to be a resounding No from most of the people I've seen talking about it. The mulligan favors very lopsided explosive starts in Vintage, and actively allows those starts to occur more frequently. While this mulligan rule is trying to stop non-games, I think this only works really in formats like Standard or Limited. In older formats where individual card quality makes up for a lot (especially in Vintage with oodles of restricted cards), it actually seems to create more non-games.

I managed to get some time to sit down and play a few games with Shops under this new rule, and a mulligan to five felt incredibly busted being able to push my hand in a specific direction. In one such game, I managed to play several Mox, Sol Ring, Chalice of the Void for zero counters, Sphere of Resistance, Tolarian Academy. My opponent played an Island and then jammed a Mox into my Chalice, before conceding. These kinds of starts are totally available for this deck and it feels gross. It honestly feels like between PO and Shops there is no reason to play other decks because the distance between these decks and the others (even Dredge mind you) is absurd.

Here's the real issue. If this mulligan rule does come to fruition, we could potentially be looking at changes made to the Vintage format, restrictions and the like. I hate this idea of being forced to make banned and restricted changes based on a rule that really doesn't mesh with the format in the first place. Furthermore, with War of the Spark on the horizon here, the metagame stands to be receiving a lot of different toys to play around with in the first place, and its possible that many of them could be pretty powerful under this new rule.

I'm of the mind that this rule should not be adopted for Vintage. I think it's potentially harmful to the format overall and has some issues with skewing specific decks. I very much hope that they do not adopt this rule.

Vintage Challenge - 4/13

With that out of the way let's take a look at the first Vintage Challenge under the new rule.

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
PO Storm 1st Condescend
Dredge 2nd WingedHussar
UR Xerox 3rd FalkonEye
PO Storm 4th ThePowerNine
Jeskai Mentor 5th GeekyJackson
Jeskai Mentor 6th Rooney56
PO Storm 7th Aylett
Dredge 8th TonyMontana

Making it into the Top 8 of this event was two somewhat different looking PO Storm lists, one piloted by Condescend who took down the whole event, and the other by ThePowerNine. Let's take a look at both of their lists.

Condescend opted more for the so-called "Sylvan Outcome," playing copies of Sylvan Library and Managorger Hydra, which seems like a pretty powerful thing to be doing right now. On the other end, ThePowerNine played a more common build of PO with Tendrils of Agony and Mind's Desire. Both of these folks are very powerful wizards indeed, and PO is in a pretty powerful spot in the format with the London Mulligan around.

It's also worth noting that WingedHussar, whose Dredge list was shown earlier, went clean 6-0 in the Swiss rounds. Pretty impressive work!

Also showing up in the Top 8, Dark Petition Storm!

The Spice Corner

This week's spice list is a sweet Abzan / Junk midrange style list by DiscoverN!

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Next week is the big deal, the big KAHUNA, the great WAR! That's right it's my War of the Spark set review! I have a lot to talk about for this set, because there are so many toys to cover, and I've never been more excited about a set than this one. Mostly because I'm a lore geek as well (as most of you guys know), so I'm just really hyped for this set to come out.

Before then though, I want to hear from you! Have you played any games with the London Mulligan? What are your thoughts on it? Please hit me up here in the comments or on Twitter and let me know what you think!

In addition, I'm working some things out to try to get back to streaming some Vintage, so be on the lookout on my Twitter for that soon!

Until next time, keep on Mulligan'ing!

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