A mulligan is an optional process by which any player may attempt to draw a better opening hand before starting the game. For sanctioned play, the mulligan process is exactly defined in the Comprehensive Rules. The term “mulligan” comes from the sport of golf, where a golfer in a friendly game may allow a less-skilled opponent to redo a poor tee shot as a courtesy; unlike in Magic, mulligans are not allowed in competitive golf.
One card, Serum Powder, interacts with mulligans. Abilities that may be used while a card is in your opening hand, such as the first ability on Leyline of Anticipation, may only be used after all mulligans are completed.
Players who want to take mulligans must announce their intentions in turn order, then each player who announced that they wanted to take a mulligan takes one. This process is repeated until all players decide not to take any mulligans, except players who decline to take mulligans in one go-around may not take any more mulligans in later ones.
Magic's earliest mulligan rule (“all land/no land”) allowed a player who had drawn either zero or seven lands in their opening hand to reveal that hand to their opponent and shuffle it back, drawing a replacement hand of seven cards. Each player could do this only once per game.
The Paris mulligan rule was introduced at 1997's Sealed Deck Pro Tour in Los Angeles, then tested for Standard play at that year's Pro Tour Paris, hence its name. A player dissatisfied with their hand, for any reason and without being required to reveal that hand, was allowed to return their hand to their library for an opportunity to draw a new one with one fewer card, after shuffling. The choice to take a mulligan was made after the starting player was determined, but prior to any other action. Players could take multiple mulligans, until either satisfied with their new hand, or left with a hand of zero cards.
The Vancouver mulligan replaced the Paris mulligan in sanctioned play beginning with the Battle for Zendikar prerelease in September 2015. To perform a Vancouver mulligan, the player returns their hand to their library, then draws a hand of one fewer card. Once all players keep their opening hands, each player with fewer cards than their starting hand size may scry 1.
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."
In other words:
- Draw seven cards every time you mulligan.
- When you are satisfied, put a card back on the bottom of your library for each time you have mulliganed.
- No scrying.
In games with more than two players, the first mulligan for each player is "free". For the first mulligan only, players simply draw and keep seven new cards. After this, the normal mulligan process starts, where the player starts with fewer cards in hand depending on how many mulligans they took.
Commander officially follows the same mulligan rule as competitive Magic, with the "free" multiplayer mulligan as appropriate. With the release of Core Set 2020, it transitioned to the London mulligan alongside other formats.
However, the rules committee informally advises deviating from that process and allowing "free" mulligans even in games with only two players, and suggests that shuffling be reduced by setting aside unwanted hands, rather than shuffling in each one, until after a hand is kept.
Two other popular forms of mulligan used in casual Commander are:
- Partial Paris - Where each player initially draws 7 cards and, as many times as they like, may set aside any number of cards from their hand and draw that many cards minus one. Once a suitable hand is kept, the cards set aside are shuffled into the library.
- Gabriel Special Surprise, or GSS Mull - Where each player initially draws 10 cards, then selects 3 cards that they do not want and shuffles them back into their library.
Magic was originally published without a mulligan rule, because some of the original playtest group believed the concept would reward poor deck building. Various informal mulligan rules existed in the period following the game's release. The first official mulligan rule (the "original mulligan" above) was instated by the DCI in 1994.
Dissatisfaction within R&D with the original mulligan rule led to the testing of an alternate mulligan process (the "Paris mulligan" above), suggested by Pro Tour player and later Wizards of the Coast employee Matt Hyra. This new rule was first tested at Pro Tour Los Angeles and a smaller gathering in Boston, but was also accidentally included in the tournament rules for the April 1997 Pro Tour Paris. The "Paris" name stuck, but for no very clear reason.
The Vancouver mulligan rule was first tested at Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver, British Columbia. Like the earlier Paris mulligan, it has adopted the name of the city in which it was demoed. Like the previous mulligan rules, this mulligan was intended to reduce the frequency of "non-games", where the winner is effectively determined by the contents of the players' opening hands. It also fulfills a secondary goal of accelerating tournament play, because the scry option increases the likelihood that a player will keep an opening hand after fewer mulligans, and thus require fewer shuffles in order to start the game.
Previously, the Commander format used a more complex mulligan process known as "Partial Paris," in which players could choose which cards in their hand to shuffle back into their library and which cards to keep. In response to the new Vancouver mulligan, that process came under renewed scrutiny. The Commander rules committee determined that both processes offered comparable results, and adopted the Vancouver mulligan with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch and stated that the Commander mulligan rules would continue to match the official mulligan rules from that point forward.
The London mulligan was first tested at the War of the Spark prerelease at the Mythic Championship London 2019, which is where it got its name It was introduced with the intention of further increasing the chance of a reasonable opening draw, leading to an increased chance of a competitive game where either player might win; although some have expressed concern about its implications for eternal formats such as Modern, Legacy and Vintage.
- To take a mulligan is to reject a prospective opening hand in favor of a new one. See rule 103.4.
- 103.4. 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, after which they may not take further mulligans.
- 103.4a In a Vanguard game, each player’s starting hand size is seven plus or minus the hand modifier of their vanguard card.
- 103.4b If an effect allows a player to perform an action “any time [that player] could mulligan,” the player may perform that action at a time they would declare whether they will take a mulligan. This need not be in the first round of mulligans. Other players may have already made their mulligan declarations by the time the player has the option to perform this action. If the player performs the action, they then declare whether they will take a mulligan.
- 103.4c In a multiplayer game and in any Brawl game, the first mulligan a player takes doesn’t count toward the number of cards that player will put on the bottom of their library or the number of mulligans that player may take. Subsequent mulligans are counted toward these numbers as normal.
- 103.4d In a multiplayer game using the shared team turns option, first each player on the starting team declares whether that player will take a mulligan, then the players on each other team in turn order do the same. Teammates may consult while making their decisions. Then all mulligans are taken at the same time. A player may take a mulligan even after a teammate has decided to keep their opening hand.
- 721.3. Because each player draws seven cards when the new game begins, any player with fewer than seven cards in their library will lose the game when state-based actions are checked during the upkeep step of the first turn, regardless of any mulligans that player takes. (See rule 704, “State-Based Actions.”)
- 722.3. Because each player draws seven cards when a game begins, any player with fewer than seven cards in their deck will lose the subgame when state-based actions are checked during the upkeep step of the first turn, regardless of any mulligans that player takes. (See rule 704, “State-Based Actions.”)
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