Tempo and Mulligans

I have been thinking on mulligans lately and how to best define when to do so and when to keep. Keyforge allows you to freely toss away your hand and grab a new one, minus one card of course, in hopes of a better hand. So why don’t I see that many people using their free mulligan? Why do I often play my one card out first turn and pass to have my opponent play one or two mediocre cards after they’ve kept their full mitt of 6?

Today I am going to teach you all you need to know about mulligans and when to do them (spoiler answer is almost always).


Tempo Master

This game is so tempo orientated. Think of all the games you have played. Now think of all your loses that you’ve had. How many of those losses did you find yourself thinking you could have won the game on next turn or the turn after? If only you could have another turn! This is tempo my friends. The balance of card games. The back and forth of being ahead (in the lead) and behind (losing) on board and in cards. One turn you may be way ahead on board with 5 Brobnar creatures in play and a Warchest

and your opponent has a couple Urchins out. You’re feeling pretty good. You’re ahead in the tempo game and about to make a lot of Amber. The next turn your opponent calls Dis, plays Gateway to Dis followed by 2 Succubus and a Shooler to steal an Amber from you. The tempo has swung in your opponent’s favour, perhaps costing you that last turn that you need to win.

Keyforge does an amazing job of the tempo game with constant swings happening in each player’s favour throughout every match. It is the style of cards I love to play and I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about tempo decks and what wins the tempo game. A great way to buy yourself that extra turn that you need to win is right from the start of the game, in your opening hand, and deciding to mulligan. I’ll break down my thought process when looking at my opening hand starting from most basic rules you can do with even a new fresh deck up to your most loved deck that you have the most reps with. Here we go!


Can you hear me now!?

Are You Playing Second or First?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you are playing second or first. The types of cards that are good when playing first vs second isn’t too different but some cards are more attractive when playing first. Take, for example, that you playing an Mars deck. Your opening hand consists of a Commpod

, John Smyth, Grabber Jammer, and 2 cards from each of the other houses. Artifact removal is pretty rare so a turn one artifact will almost always stick on the board. Keeping this and playing out your Commpod sets you up for a 3 Amber swing on your second turn, or some turn down the way. You have options now, on your second turn, to call Mars and get the 3 Amber swing (John Smyth, ready with Commpod, play Grabber jammer, reap, ready, reap, capture) or use on of your other two houses as you see fit with the board state. It great to have options!

Artifacts aren’t the only great turn 1 plays. The card advantage engines in cards like Mother and Tocsin, or cards like Ember Imp that pigeon hole your opponent, that are going to work for you right away are great turn one plays. For one, these cards put the opponent at an immediate disadvantage and having them out on the first turn maximizes the juicy card returns. The dream situation is that your opponent may not have removal for these hay maker cards, which means you get maximum profits! If they do have removal, it may not be in the house they were planning on playing. I always like throwing my opponent a curve ball in game. Making them choose the tough decision – Use their Poison Wave to kill one creature first turn or call a different house and only play two cards because of Ember Imp – is a great path to success.


great tempo combo

Evaluate House Distribution.

This one continues to baffle me. I’m often sat across from an opponent who hasn’t mulliganed and after I play first they play one or two weak cards and say pass. Uhhh…. What? Why did you keep your hand? There is almost zero downside to mulliganing your mediocre opening hand. If you draw your first 6 and don’t see several of the same house or a few hay makers you send that mitt back, shuffle, and draw 5 new cards.

I typically send back my hand if the houses are evenly distributed (ie: two of each house). You want to take advantage of being on the second turn by playing out as many cards as possible and swinging your opponent’s first turn tempo back your way. If you’re only playing one or two cards that tempo meter isn’t moving much. Dig deeper and try for more of one house.



Evaluate First and Second Turn Playability.

Another thing to look at is how playable each card is on your first, second, third turn. Are you getting full value from the cards in your hand if you play them within the next couple of turns? Take Nerve Blast

for instance. How usable is it in the first couple of turns? Below average I’d say. Your opponent may not have Amber to steal, for one, or even a creature to target if they do. This card also doesn’t give an Amber bonus, which mean its a dead card if you can’t play it. I always look at how playable each card is in my hand prior to keeping. Bait and Switch is another card which is unplayable in the first couple of turns. Charette is all right as it counts as a body, but I’d prefer it a few cards deep in my deck so I can play it when my opponents is a 7 or 8.

Analyze the playability of the cards in your hand. If 2 or more late game cards are staring at you in your opening hand I say ship it back! These cards will end up rotting in your hand (and effectively chaining you up) for several turns, or be played for minimum effect.


Uhh… That house you’re going to beat me with.

Know Your Deck

It helps to have a few reps with your deck for this last point as you need to understand what you deck wants to do. Is your deck a race deck? Then you want to keep a hand full of creatures. Is one particular card in your deck a complete bomb such that it wins you games on its own? Keep any hand with that card in it (yes, consider ignoring the rules above).

Also, if you know your opponent’s deck and understand what it is trying to do you may be able to make more informed decision about what to keep from your own deck. If they have super powerful Logos combo then keeping based on the Restringuntus in your hand can be a great successful call.

I hope with these few insights about when to mulligan you can get more wins. If you end up with a worst hand, which is rare, you can always blame your loss on variance.


I won because of my skill!


I lost because of variance