Mulligan and Blacklisting
Fundamentally, Gwent is a game of sequencing plays. The opening mulligan mirrors this principle: simply, sequencing matters.
The “blacklist” mechanic, coined by this article, is that mulliganing a card blacklists all other copies of that card for the rest of the mulligan. That is to say, all copies of any card you mulligan will not be able to be drawn back for the rest of the mulligan. Note that other mulligans such as the between-rounds mulligan and Francesca follow the same rule, although resetting the blacklist independently. This might seem like a strange and unintuitive mechanic, and while that’s true to a degree, if this mechanic weren’t in place, the mulligan would feel much less impactful, and it would be commonplace to waste at least one of your mulligans getting the same card back. The way this mechanic is implemented, however, lends itself to some gameplay implications, the most major of which being that it creates efficient mulligan sequencing. To illustrate this, let’s proceed to our first example scenario.
We have a few cards we don’t want to see here. Let’s ignore matchups and see that we already have 2 cards in our hand we absolutely don’t want there, the Blue Stripes Commando and the extra Temerian Infantryman, as both of those will be played from deck. In addition, as we mulligan the next three cards, there’s a significant chance of drawing back more copies of either of those cards. This is where mulligan sequencing comes into play. We know we have 2 Blue Stripes Commandos and 1 Temerian Infantryman in our deck. Knowing that the first card mulliganed can’t be drawn back, the first mulligan should be Blue Stripes Commando. If we mulligan the Temerian Infantry first, we actually have double the odds of drawing a dead card, in this case a Blue Stripes Commando.
So, lets say we mulligan the Blue Stripes Commando and get unlucky enough to draw Roach from it, another card that plays itself from your deck and that you don’t want in your hand. But we know we should mulligan a Temerian Infantryman next because even though we don’t want Roach in our hand, mulliganing the Infantryman will prevent us from drawing the third copy as the last two draws, while mulliganing Roach here won’t. So we do that and draw Phillipa Eilhart. Looking good, we can safely mulligan our Roach off last.
We started with what could have been a very bad hand, and managed to salvage the situation with a little luck and a little technique. By this point, some of you may have realized by this point that the first mulligan is the most important one. The first card blacklisted affects three draws, the second affects two, and the third only affects one. Given these rules, your first and second mulligans should almost always be different cards, and if you have something you want to get rid of but don’t need to blacklist, like roach, that’s a perfect candidate for the third mulligan. Now that we have a bit more of an understanding of the details behind this mechanic, let’s do another example.
So, off the bat, we see we drew all of our pirates; definitely mulliganing two of those. At the same time though, you run three copies of clan brokvar hunter, and your opponent is a faction which gives you no real targets for them. So instead of mulliganing your pirates right away, why not start with the brokvar hunter to improve your draws? There’s one reason you might not want to do that. If you happen to draw roach (also in your deck) in the first two mulligans, he will be a more important mulligan than brokvar hunter. Here, you’re taking a risk. Do you mulligan your two pirates first, saving the potential to mulligan roach if he replaces one of them, or do you start with the brokvar hunter, guaranteeing that none of your three drawbacks will be hunters? Take a moment to think about it.
In this case, I would probably mulligan the brokvar hunter first. The odds of drawing roach in the first two draws is low (~10%), compared to the odds of drawing either brokvar hunter over three draws (25-30%) and brokvar hunter really isn’t that much better than roach in hand in this matchup. Indeed, even if roach is drawn, he can be mulliganed away in later rounds via the round 2 mulligan.
So hopefully you were able to learn a bit how to improve your opening hands, as Gwent is hugely determined by the cards you have available to you. Some may argue that the blacklisting mechanic shouldn’t exist, but if it didn’t, mulligans would be a lot more random and give much less control to the player, resulting in a noticeably more stochastic match result. Others may say that this mechanic is unfair because the game doesn’t explicitly state it and therefore a lot of people don’t know about it, and that’s exactly why this article was written. And who knows, maybe there are other hidden mechanics that will be found and written about. But until then, this was Swim, and I’ll see you guys next time.