The Art of Mulligan

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Fundamentally, Gwent is a game of sequencing. We all know this. What we don’t all know is that the mulligan mirrors this principle: simply, sequencing matters. In this short article I’ll be covering esoteric mulligan techniques alongside examples of optimal mulligans. The game has only been playable for six weeks now, so this topic is subject to change.

The Rule

The current hidden mechanic here 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 for the rest of the mulligan (Francesca follows the same rule independently). This might seem like a very strange and unintuitive mechanic to some, and while that’s true to a degree, most major DCGs have some kind of hidden math involving mulligans, to make them feel more impactful. If this mechanic weren’t in place, the mulligan would feel like a much weaker mechanic, and it would be a very common occurence to waste at least one of your mulligans getting the same card back. The specific 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 the first example scenario.

Example One

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Yikes. 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 foglet and the extra wild hunt rider. In addition, as we mulligan the next three cards, there’s a significant chance of drawing back a foglet, a wild hunt rider, or even a crone that would require our third mulligan or worse — be dead in our hand. This is where mulligan sequencing really comes into play. We know we have 2 foglets, 1 wild hunt rider, and 2 crones remaining in our deck. Knowing that the first card mulliganed can’t be drawn back, the first mulligan should be foglet. If we mulligan wild hunt riders first, we actually have double the odds of drawing a dead card, in this case a foglet. You might ask why foglet is the better mulligan instead of the crone: we do that because the crones count as 3 separate cards for this mechanic, so you’re not blacklisting anything.
So, lets say we mulligan the foglet and get unlucky enough to draw a crone from it. Looking pretty bad so far. But we know we should mulligan a wild hunt rider next because even though we don’t want crones in our hand, the rider will prevent us from drawing the third copy as the last two draws, while mulliganing the crone here won’t. So we do that and draw giant toad. Looking good, we can safely mulligan our redundant crone off last.

Recap

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. The more astute among you 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.

Example Two

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So, off the bat, we see we drew all of our pirates. Definitely mulliganing two of those. But wait a minute, you run three copies of clan brokvar hunter, and your opponent is monsters which gives you no real target 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 definitely 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, it’s still better in most cases to keep him in your hand over a clan dimun pirate, since proccing warships is very important right now.

 

Conclusion

So hopefully you were able to learn a bit how to improve your gameplay by reading this article.  Some of you will undoubtedly say that this mechanic shouldn’t exist, but they’re prevalent in DCGs for a reason.  If this mechanic weren’t there, mulligans would feel a lot more random and give much less control to the player, resulting in a noticeably more stochastic match result.  Some of you may say that this mechanic is unfair because not everybody knows about it, and that’s a large part of the reason this article was written.  Have a good one, fellow Gwentlemen.

8 Comments:

  1. Matthew Lethbridge

    So you’re saying that this “blacklist” affects all copies of a card in your deck and not just the specific copy you mulliganed away? Interesting information, thanks!

  2. Thanks! How did you know about it?

  3. Will cards with different arts (e.g. Queensguard) be blacklisted like Crones?

    • Good question. No, they blacklist as if they’re one card regardless of art. Thunderbolt right now is kind of the rule. If they’re all affected by Thunderbolt, they’re effectively the same card. The interesting question here is will CDPR make crone/witcher tagged as the same unit when they make it compatible with thunderbolt? Hopefully.

  4. I saw that a couple cards inherited a blacklist as you say. So, I thought I’d test out the skellige draw cards of Svanrige, Ermion, Birna Bran, and Donar an Hindar. None of these work like that. It’s random and will still pick cards you previously discarded.

    Are those 2 cards you mention the only ones that work like that?

    • It’s just “replace” mechanics, not drawing or discarding. So yes, just Thaler and Francesca.

  5. Great article, was thinking there was a blacklist mechanic but now I know for sure. Minor article slip up “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.” You refer to Roach as a he where Geralt prefers mares and the developers have (every time I have seen them talk about the card) referred to Roach as a she. Not that it really matters just wanted to point it out. 🙂

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