Mythic Championship London just happened this weekend and it was a blast to watch! Modern is one of my favorite formats and watching all of these pro players do their best to break the format is always interesting to see. For this Mythic Championship, the wrinkle lies in the London mulligan and visible decklists. These 2 simple changes did a lot to the format and changed how the professionals approached Modern.
The London Mulligan
When the London Mulligan was first announced, I could have sworn the sky was falling down in the MtG community. I heard claims that decks such as Narset Cannon would become a viable and dangerous deck, and that Serum Powder Eldrazi would bring the return of Eldrazi Winter. Obviously, these claims are outlandish, and these were only the most extreme examples that I saw, but the general Modern community was not excited about these changes. I was of the opinion that I would hold my judgment until I got to see the mulligan in action at the MC. My initial impressions of it were very positive, as I got to test it in a few cube drafts and commander games and it was consistently helpful.
As much as I enjoyed the London mulligan in my own personal games, there is no denying that it warped the Modern metagame. 14.6% of all decks were Tron, the deck that benefited the most from the London mull. When the mulligan was first announced, I was skeptical that it would impact the format so significantly. People claimed that the Vancouver mulligan would break Modern, so why was this mulligan any different? At least, that’s what I first thought. Tron with the new mulligan could go down as low as 4 cards, and still threaten to win the game at any point in time. We saw this in the quarterfinals with Adrian Zhu vs Brian Braun-Duin and how even on a mull to 4, Adrian was threatening to win the game at any point. With the old rules, mulling to 4 would have been a death sentence, but the London mulligan enabled Tron far more than any other deck.
As it currently stands, I believe that the London mulligan should not be implemented into Modern without changes. The London mulligan turns many non-games of Magic into legitimate games. The problem is that Tron is a deck that only needs one spell to win the game, and is willing to abuse the mulligan system to enable Tron, turning the game into a question of whether the Tron player finds a payoff or not. Very rarely can decks compete with Tron after it has been assembled, and turning every game of Modern into a top deck or bust moment is not very enticing.
The other significant change to the format was provided in the form of visible decklists. This change was comparatively swept under the rug in comparison to the London mulligan, but it still had a significant impact on the format. Getting to see your opponents decklist, in combination with the London mulligan, allowed people to mulligan for main deck silver bullets and find them before the first game even begins. This change was most significant for humans, however, because it allowed them to name exactly what they needed to with Meddling Mage. Knowing that your opponent plays 4 Oblivion Stones and only 1 Ugin can help to name the correct card.
Is this change good for the format? One of my favorite things about Modern was trying to identify what kind of deck my opponent is on by the lands they play. If they lead on a Temple of Deceit, I immediately know that I am playing against Ad Nauseaum. But if they lead on a basic or a fetchland, it’s more difficult to figure out what deck they are playing, but is still possible. This rewards player skill greatly and can allow for people to bluff what kind of deck they have just by the lands they play. If you’re playing Jeskai Control and never need to fetch a mountain, you can surprise your opponent in game 2 with a Lightning Bolt. Visible decklists take this aspect of Magic away, but they do provide a new angle in main deck hate cards.
However, this is a change that only a few decks can really benefit from. Decks like UW control can afford main decking Rest in Peace, but something like Spirits can’t take the risk. This change is also just a direct buff to humans and makes Meddling Mage a very powerful card for the event. I don’t believe that having visible decklists brings enough to the format for me to want this to be a consistent thing. I do find this change to be less egregious than the London mulligan, but it has had a significant impact on the metagame nonetheless.
MC London was a very fun event to watch, but I don’t believe that it is reflective of Modern with the rules that were in place. Humans and Tron got huge buffs going into the tournament due to rules changes, and other decks were left by the wayside in comparison. If we were to go through the rest of the year with the MC London rules in place, without anything changing I would be very surprised. I do want change, but I want it implemented in a way that isn’t unfair to the rest of the metagame. Maybe Modern Horizons has the tools we need to successfully implement the London mulligan into Modern.