Comprehensive Guide to Mulligan

Hi! I’m Asmodeus, multiple times Legend and infinite arena player. I’m also the author of The Complete Guide for Hearthstone Player. In this article I will explain how you can maximize your mulligans and what to do, to put yourself in a great spot, right from the start of the game. You’ve probably heard before […]


Hi! I’m Asmodeus, multiple times Legend and infinite arena player. I’m also the author of The Complete Guide for Hearthstone Player. In this article I will explain how you can maximize your mulligans and what to do, to put yourself in a great spot, right from the start of the game.

You’ve probably heard before that mulligan is a very important part of a game and that’s very true. It sets you up for the rest of the match and determines how effective you can be in the first few turns. Mastering the mulligan is an excellent way to prevent many problems from even occurring during the game.

How mulligan works

At the start of each game you will be able to see the name of a player you’ve been matched with, his rank and the class he’s playing.  Player one is offered three cards from which he can elect to keep or exchange any number of them. Player two can do the same thing but he has a choice between four cards instead. Both players will have 65 seconds to act from the time they see their cards.

It is important to know that any cards you choose to return, won’t be given back to you immediately. If you have two copies of a card, you can get the second copy but you can never get the exact same card back. Contrary to what some people believe, the cards you return, don’t go to the bottom of your deck. They’re shuffled back in and the entire deck is randomized, so you can draw them at any point during the match.

Another feature of the mulligan is the ability to see whenever your opponent hovers over his cards and how many cards does he replace. I’ll talk more about that in the chapter about reading your enemy, but the important thing to remember is that you can only see highlighted cards that your enemy hovers over, before he replaced his cards.

Knowing your deck

A good starting point to getting better at mulligan is knowing exactly what are your options. If you can’t remember your deck by heart, make sure to have a screenshot of it or use Hearthstone Deck Tracker. It’s always easier to make decisions if you know precisely what else you can draw from your deck. You can also easily count the number of remaining cards in your deck and compare it to what you’ve been offered as your starting hand, that way you’ll see if it’s worth replacing those cards and how big of a difference it would make. If your chances to draw a marginally better card are not very good, you should probably just stick with what you have.

Knowing each and every card in your deck will also make it easier to plan future turns and play it out in your head. In many matchups there are crucial cards that you’d like to have in your hand and you might want to start fishing for them right there in the mulligan phase.

Reading your opponent

There is a lot of information you can gather just from the way your enemy mulligans and what you can see at that point of the game. First of all, we can see the name of your opponent. You might know the player or remember playing against him recently. You can always check the name of your enemy from last game on the bottom left of your hearthstone client where your friends list is. This might inform you about the deck you’re playing against, which is very valuable to know.

Second thing you can see, is the class of your enemy. If you don’t know the player, you should base your mulligan choices on what is the most popular deck used by the class you’re facing. Unless you have another source of information, going with what’s most popular and most likely is the safest approach.

One of the biggest tells during mulligan is the number of cards replaced. You can see how many cards go back to your opponents deck and get replaced by new ones. In general the more cards your enemy keeps, the stronger his opening hand. If your enemy keeps all the cards, he’s showing you that he likes what he’s seeing. On the other hand, if you see your enemy throwing everything away, he’s desperately searching for an early play and it’s much less likely that his first few turns are going to be very strong.

In some cases, you can even get an indication of what deck your enemy is playing. Aggressive decks can play many different minions during the initial turns but slower decks usually require specific answers to react appropriately. This means that aggressive decks are slightly less likely to replace cards. The most useful situation to apply this information is distinguishing between Zoo and a Handlock. Check out this Quantitative Analysis of Mulligans to learn more about finding out which of those two decks you’re facing.

Remember that the cards get highlighted whenever you hover over them, until you make your final choice to keep or replace your hand. Avoid hovering over your cards to conceal the information form your enemy. He might be waiting for your mulligan in order to see how many cards you exchange to try and guess your deck, but many times people are not sure if you’ve already made your choice and they’ve just missed it, or are you still thinking. Leave them in the dark and don’t hover over your cards until you’re ready to make the final decision.

Playing it out in your head

This aspect of mulligan is the one that will improve the most with your experience. The more games you play and see, the easier it will be for you to imagine how first few turns will play out. Always try to anticipate what your enemy is likely to do, at least in the first three turns.

Try to remember what are the strongest cards that each class wants to play in those early stages of the game, so that you can try to craft your starting hand accordingly. For example, as a hunter player, the general rule is to replace traps because you’d rather have the mad-scientist. However in the mirror matchup if you keep a freezing-trap and manage to use it against the enemy mad-scientist, it can outright win you the game from the insane tempo swing that it gives you.

Pay attention to how your enemy is trying to take over the board. Is he using mostly minions and spells that deal 3 points of damage? In that case you should aim for minions which are good against such cards i.e. imp-gang-boss. Maybe you’re playing against a class that is likely to use many minions with 1 health? In this situation you should try to mulligan for cards that allow you to split your damage such as arcane-missiles or haunted-creeper

Increasing your chances

As with most RNG in Hearthstone, you can influence the game to stack the odds in your favor. The more cards you have for each mana cost, the better your chances to draw one of them. For example – many experienced arena players recommend drafting around six 2-drops because then your chances of getting any of them by turn two, are a little over 75% if you mulligan for them. This makes your deck more consistent in the early game, which is even more important in arena than it is in constructed.

While building your deck, make sure that there are enough early game cards, so that you can get some of them in majority of your games. If you’re interested in more detailed math behind drawing cards check out this article: HearthMath: The Numbers Behind the Mulligan

Improving your mulligan

First of all, to get better at mulligan, you need to be aware of all the things you can consider and do, during that part of the game. Hopefully this article already did it’s job to provide that for you. To speed up the learning process, I suggest you start with one deck. Pick a deck that you want to learn and if it’s something that other people are already using try to find a guide for that deck and search for the mulligan section. Read what the author has to say about the mulligan and consider his advice, so that you don’t have to start from scratch.

First thing you should do after choosing a deck, is making a decklist that you can look at anytime you want. It can be a screenshot, piece of paper or a Deck Tracker overlay. Pick whatever is most comfortable for you. Having that list is not only going to make your mulligan easier, but it will help to facilitate your decision making at all points during the game.

Secondly, go over your decklist and and try to figure out, what are the best cards to get early in each popular matchup. Whenever you can, get help from the guides written on those decks. You can find plenty of them on HearthstonePlayers. Every class usually has a dominant deck and those decks are what you’ll be facing for the majority of your games. Which makes your mulligan against them very important.

Take your time during the mulligan and try to remember your choices. Sometimes you’ll find out that you’ve made a small mistake by keeping too slow of a card or replacing an important spell that you should have kept, but the only way you can find that out, is if you actually remember how you mulligan and keep those choices in mind during the game.

The common mistakes you should be trying to catch are:

  • being greedy and keeping a card that is too slow/expensive
  • keeping multiple cards that do the same thing (i.e. keeping two 2-drops without a coin)
  • throwing away a good card to look for a very good card which usually has a very small chance of success
  • not replacing enough cards  when looking for a crucial card in a particular matchup

The more you will play with one deck, the better you’ll become at adjusting your opening hand in each matchup.

Closing words

As you have probably noticed, there is a lot more to mulligan than it might seem at first, but the basics are simple enough:

1. know exactly what you have in your deck

2. learn what the most popular decks want to play early

3. try to read your enemy by paying attention to his mulligan

4. use foresight to predict which cards you will need based on what you know about everything mentioned above

Getting better at mulligan is one of the easiest ways to increase your win rate and learn to play any deck. Hopefully now you know a lot more about it.

Let me know what you think. Share your opinions and post your questions in the comments, I’m always happy to answer them.

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I’m available for Hearthstone coaching – you’ll find all the info you need here: Coaching with Asmodeus