A major rules change is coming to Magic: The Gathering, as Wizards of the Coast announced today that it would implement a new mulligan system into the game's competitive play beginning this July. Magic: The Gathering has gone through several iterations of its mulligan rule in the past, with each change going through a similar cycle of player outrage, acceptance, and then eventually fondness for the design before the next change.
The newest mulligan rule was first stress-tested during a recent tabletop Mythic Championship tournament, which saw competitors play Modern with the system, called the London Mulligan, for the first time. Although its implementation changed the way people approached the tournaments as it seemed to benefit some decks more than others, it didn't seem to drastically effect the way the format was played, and did seem to dramatically improve Limited play during the same tournament. That, coupled with testing on Magic: The Gathering Online during April, has apparently provided Wizards of the Coast with enough information to pull the trigger on making the change.
Wizards of the Coast announced earlier today that the London Mulligan would be adopted for all competitive Magic: The Gathering formats. The rule will go into effect with the release of the upcoming Core Set 2020 expansion, and will be implemented for tabletop, Magic Online, and Magic Arena play. The change was primarily best-received by players of Standard and Limited formats, which are the two predominant ways to play Magic Arena, the digital platform that has influenced Magic's incredible growth over the past year or so. That Wizards would choose to prioritize those formats as the game continues to expand makes sense, and the company broke down exactly how the new London Mulligan will work:
"Each player draws a number of cards equal to their starting hand size, which is normally seven. (Some effects can modify a player's starting hand size.) A player who is dissatisfied with their initial hand may take a mulligan. First, the starting player declares whether they 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 the cards in their hand back into their library, draws a new hand of cards equal to their starting hand size, then puts a number of those cards equal to the number of times that player has taken a mulligan on the bottom of their library in any order. Once a player chooses not to take a mulligan, the remaining cards become that player's opening hand, and that player may not take any further mulligans. This process is then repeated until no player takes a mulligan. A player can take mulligans until their opening hand would be zero cards."
Essentially, the London Mulligan is a much less punishing system for players who aren't able to produce a functional seven card hand with their first draw, and will, in theory, lead to less "non-games" (games where one player is unable to cast their spells) in competitive play. As Magic: The Gathering continues to push itself as an esport, the adoption of the London Mulligan makes sense. Preventing viewership from having to watch one player get run over by another thanks to unfortunate draws is a major goal for the growth of the game, and a unique challenge for card games in particular, as other esports don't have an equivalent problem to deal with. In League of Legends, for instance, there aren't drafting phases where someone, by chance, gets assigned a non-functional team composition.
Naturally, some players are worried about the change. There's a section of the community that is concerned that in formats with wider card pools, such as Vintage, Legacy, and Modern, the London Mulligan is much more easily abused for glass cannon decks that want to assemble a combination of cards as fast as possible to win. If that combination of cards is only 2 or 3 cards and a land or two, the London Mulligan makes it more likely they'll find them as fast as possible, putting a strain on the formats.
Overall, though, testing from both Wizards of the Coast and many esteemed community members has disproven that theory to a point, and any decks that emerge that do abuse the London Mulligan will likely be banned outright to prevent them from warping formats. In the long run, banning a few problematic interactions while dramatically increasing the number of interactive, fun games players get to play in Magic: The Gathering is a winning strategy, one that is in line with Wizards of the Coast's desire to see the game become an even bigger global phenomenon while breaking into the esports industry.
Source: Wizards of the Coast