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Origins of Mulligan

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Origins of Mulligan

Postby mtgrares » 17 Dec 2010, 17:26

Here is an article by Mark Rosewater called Starting Over. Here are the first couple of paragraphs from the article.

Welcome to Mulligan Week! (For those that care, I actually called “dibs” on that joke in e-mail when Scott announced to the group of writers that Mulligan Week was coming up. Playfully quirky or terribly sad, you decide.) It’s time to talk about mulligans. So I thought I’d use my column this week to fill you in on a little history, a behind-the-scenes mulligan story, and then end with a little discussion about a myth concerning mulligans.

Before I jump in, let me define the term “mulligan” for my readers that are unfamiliar with the term. At the beginning of the game, you draw your hand of seven cards. If you are unhappy with those cards, the rules allow you to shuffle your hand back into your library and draw one less card. (And as you will see, this is actually the latest in a line of mulligans.) In competitive play, mulligans are very important. Pro Tours have swung on players properly or improperly mulliganing. In casual play, things often are much looser. (“Don’t like your hand? Ah, just shuffle it back in and draw seven.”)

Drawing From The Past

Let’s start by talking about where the mulligan came from. In the beginning, there was Alpha. And it was good. But players quickly realized that any game that forced you to shuffle your deck before you began playing was bound to fall victim to… random chance. And with sixty cards (or possibly forty if you were actually following the Alpha rule book), you had a lot of different draw possibilities.

Quick aside. When Magic Online was planning their first add campaign, they thought it might be neat to quote a bunch of cool stats in their ad. One statistic they wanted was the number of iterations that a sixty card deck might have with the available 2000+ cards that the online game would have available. As Marketing isn’t known for their higher math skills, the question got brought to R&D. (Don’t let my oddball writing background throw you, R&D is full of math and science folk.) Assuming you had a sixty card deck and access to 2000 cards, how many different decks could be built? I don’t remember the answer, but I do remember that it was significantly greater than the number of atoms in the universe.
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