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February 2, 2017

Table of Contents

Legend Tips: The Science of optimizing Mulligan

Introduction


Hello everyone ! I’m Spark, Legend player from Hearthstone, and today I’m not sharing a new Decklist but we’ll dive deeper into the secrets of Mulliganing properly 😉

First of all, Why this article ? 

It’s not rare to see people complaining about getting bad hands when you write Deck guides …
Of course, sometimes you’ll just have bad luck but in the long run, if you’re doing things right you must feel the consistency of a Deck !

After playing some games with a friend recently, he asked me “How can you always have the perfect starting hand ?”
Obviously, I may have been a bit lucky in those games but it made me realize one important thing :

People clearly underestimate the strengths of a good Mulligan so I decided to share my thought process about it through this article !

I really think that this is an important part of improving as a player to reach Legend, so if you’re stuck in higher Ranks this little insight can definitely help you out but this also applies to everyone trying to improve their overall level of play 😉

Mulliganing in Hearthstone


As a starting point, let’s compare it to Magic: The Gathering. In this game, the act of Mulliganing is way different as it requires you to throw back your whole hand and draw one less card. Pretty punishing, isn’t it ?

In Hearthstone, you’re allowed to keep some cards and polish your starting hand without a single drawback ! That’s a pretty amazing possibility so you should definitely use it to your advantage 😉

The first few turns of a game can be really decisive, depending on how your Deck is designed and what you expect from your opponent, you generally want to dig for specific cards that will help you win this battle.

Here are the two best examples that I can provide to highlight this concept :

  • The importance of an early Fiery War Axe for Control Warrior to fight early aggression and make it to the late game
  • The amount of pressure that brings an Undertaker start for aggressive Decks in order to snowball the game quickly

Deckbuilding : Optimizing Variance


As you may already know, I’m quite an experienced Deckbuilder and I think that optimizing your Decks is an important part of Hearthstone, even though I would still insist on the fact that player level is the most important !

There are many things that you can adjust by changing Tech cards here and there but before that, your Deck needs to be built on a solid basis that will optimize the variance of drawing in Hearthstone, especially for the first few turns 😉

When you begin designing your Deck, you should definitely consider what kind of starts you want with it and how many cards you should fit in some specific slots to achieve that while remembering that the Mulligan phase provides strong options to get those starts.

Even though some Maths can be done to estimate the probability of having at least one card from a specific set in your starting hand while taking Mulligan into consideration, there is no magic rule to follow or such a thing. At best, you can try to optimize these numbers like Ra-V did in his recent premium article on this site.
But in the end, adjusting your set up pretty much depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your Deck and how you experience it through playtesting 😉 

To give you a starting point, I would say that having 6 to 10 cards in your Deck that you’ll be happy to see in your starting hand is a good number. However, Control Decks can generally afford to have less because they run more situational cards and Aggro Decks would generally prefer running more of those to start dominating in the very first few turns. That’s basically why Zoolock has always been such a consistent build, you have so many 1 and 2 drops in the Deck that your starts will generally allow you to pressure the opponent right away !

Beside, you can see an example of a solid core (23 cards) that I chose for my Deathrattle Midrange Hunter since GvG got released. There are basically 10 cards that I’m happy seeing in my starting hand, ensuring I’m having some Turn 1 and Turn 2 plays to keep playing on curve with the other cards afterwards.

The rest of the Deck is filled with Tech cards that fit the build (some traps obviously) and my play style, or simply help fighting the metagame. As debating this Deck is not the purpose of this article, I’m linking you the full Decklist for some more explanations and gameplay videos if you’re interested in that 😉

Knowledge : Optimizing Decisions


Now that you’ve optimized your Deck’s variance and learnt to Mulligan properly for key cards that you want to see early in the game, the last step of Mulliganing perfectly is basically acquiring a strong knowledge of the game !

I’m obviously not going to provide you a list of useful cards for each class against each Match Ups but you get the idea : the very important concept here is to adapt your Mulligan to what you are expecting from your opponent !

Apart from the usual cards that you want early on to fit your Deck’s strategy, here are some good things to remember against each class :

Warrior — You are facing a slow Control Deck, so keep your aggressive start if you can but remember that he will probably deal with it, so try to have some good possibilities for Turn 3/4. Dealing with Acolyte of Pain and Armorsmith may also be a good idea to keep in mind.

Hunter — You are facing an aggressive Deck, you need something that can answer an Undertaker really fast and try to establish board presence afterwards !

Warlock — This Match Up is harder because Zoolock and Handlock are both 2 strong ladder Decks. Generally you need to Mulligan expecting Aggro because you’ll just die to it if it happens to be Zoolock and you didn’t prepared for it ! Try to keep Handlock in mind by keeping cards that are good against both archetypes, like Earth Shock for example.

Mage — The most popular build is something Midrangy running either Mech interactions or Deathrattles and Secrets, so you need to fight for Tempo here. Playing on curve minions and keeping soft removals for early threats is recommanded.

Paladin — Once again, expect a Midrange/Tempo battle, so dig for your standards and be prepared for a Turn 3 Muster for Battle !

Druid — You can either face Ramp Druid or fast variants looking to beat you down to death, the difference impacts more the way you play the game than the Mulligan itself. In both cases you want something standard but need to keep in mind the devastating power of Innervate, so keeping a hard removal may be a good idea 😉

Shaman — This guy will have an easy time dealing with your early threats so try to keep it somewhat slow but dig for early game presence that can deal with Totemic Call.

Priest — Save something that can deal with Northshire Cleric before it snowballs out of control and try to be the beatdown Deck, else he will dominate you with Injured Blademaster and Dark Cultist.

Rogue — You’ll either face some gimmicky Controll-ish builds or simply aggressive Tempo Decks so you need to keep some early presence. Also be ready to deal with an early SI:7 Agent play as it generally gives Rogue a strong Tempo swing.

One last thing to remember, especially for Midrange Decks that are looking to play on curve minions, is that The Coin is a very powerful ally to help you curve out smoothly so you should always consider your first few turns when Mulliganing and see if you can fit a double Turn 2/3 play early on or just going more conservative by saving it for a strong mid game play 😉

Closing


To conclude, I strongly recommand players to stop complaining about luck in Hearthstone but rather start taking a deep look into their Decks and improve their overall knowledge of the game to achieve a perfect Mulligan phase. This is the first stage of a game and it’s very powerful to succeed at a competitive level of play so you definitely don’t want to mess up with that.

Know your Deck, know your enemies and start using your brain !

That’s it for the article guys, I hope you liked it and that it can help you being a better player, whatever your current level is !
Don’t forget to rate the article if you liked and don’t hesitate to discuss about it or ask any question in the comment section below 😉
Be sure to check out more of my work on Hearthpwn or here on HSPfollow me on Twitter if you want to keep track of my updates and subscribe to my Youtube Channel for some Gameplay videos.

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2 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A very good guide for an important part of the game that’s usually only deign given a “Mulligan for x’ line or two in most guides.

    PS. I’ve been playing your Midrange Hunter for the past few days and am currently something like 14-4 with it, combined with some lucky streaky control warrior wins I’ve got farther down the ladder December than I ever have been before, and even more impressively it’s the first time I’ve ever had fun playing as hunter. Kudos to you for this guide and that deck, and Happy New Year

    • Spark says:

      Thanks man, I really feel like this is an overlooked part of the game yeah and “Mulligan for X or Y” is generally not enough informations to do it properly indeed.

      Nice, this Deck is good example of optimizing variance through Deckbuilding ! Thanks and happy new year to you also =D