DO I LOOK? A Study for After You’ve Decided to Mulligan

i was reading this Prologue

This must be said here rather than later, but a wise man once authored that you can never lose because you mulliganed to five if you always keep seven, and this is as true as it gets. However, most of us do not have the courage to do such a thing. So, once we’ve mulliganed, and we all know that it was totally right to do so, as no one has ever, ever disagreed about such a thing, we must now decide whether or not to look at what our first draw step would have been.

There are pros and cons to both, and despite what other Magicians say, neither is “strictly correct;” a phrase that looses meaning at the same rate I lose brain cells. I do think it is important to take a stand on one side, but not because it’s right – it’s important to have values to live by. When politics and school get so muddy, it’s important to have something you know you can still live by, and if that’s “I’ll never look, so help me God,” then good for you.

(This principle is actually known as Bike-Shedding, which means that it’s easier to hold strong opinions about simple issues than it is to have even weak opinions about important ones. It’s named after the incident wherein a community was supposed to have a nuclear power plant placed in their town, and that took only a few moments to decide that they would have it – but it took hours to figure out how the workers would park their bikes at the facility. You’ve seen this in your day-to-day when arguing about which way toilet paper is supposed to fall, for instance.)

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  1. In 1962, JFK gave his famous, “We choose to go to the moon speech,” and Goddammit, we did it. We didn’t listen to “no, you can’t do that!” It was the 60s and mankind did what mankind wanted. Our desire to learn and explore was unparalleled. Our desires were that of a 14 year old boy who wanted that heaving breast of a rock we call ‘ole Moony Moon. This wasn’t nonsense. This was common We wanted to learn. We wanted to explore. Our thirst was unquenchable. Hell, I’m still thirsty. It is this same desire to learn and not be questioned that was passed on throughout the generations. When we interrogated Bill Clinton about Lewinsky, it’s because we wanted to know the truth and we would not be satiated until we knew it. When someone told Gerry Thompson that Death’s Shadow was an unplayable card, he and his team brought a format defining deck to a winning finish at a Grand Prix. And so when we mulligan, it’s that American – nay, human energy that we harness when we look at that top card. We earned it with our fucking blood, and no one can take it away from us.
  2. Everyone could only hope to grow up with the perfect amount of parental abuse, but not all of us can proudly say we got just the right amount. Some of us were neglected, others beaten, and still others weren’t allowed to play Spyro until we were the requisite age of 13 – just crossing the river into the T rating on such a game. But we’ve grown up, grown out of our past, excepting, of course, the joys of Spyro and other games with the ever elusive T rating. What we might not have grown out of is our desperate search for affirmation, a pat on the back, the touch of a lover, the “atta boy!” It’s that energy we are hunting when we play at FNM, so when we beat our opponent to a bloody pulp with a deck of our own creation, and spit on their lifeless corpse, our friend can be there to question a random inconsequential play we made midway through the second game show their support. But they aren’t always there watching, so it’s that affirmation we give to ourselves, from ourselves when we look at a one land hand, decide to mulligan, look at the top card of our deck, and see that we were right to mulligan. That’s heroin, boys. That’s Spyro.
  3. Many people are steadfast in their reasoning that looking is the wrong thing to do, and many pros are on their side. I may not be eloquent, I may not be versed, but these fingers were blessed enough to be able to type the words of perhaps the greatest poets of our generation: Rage Against the Machine:
    1. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    2. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    3. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    4. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    5. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    6. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    7. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    8. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    9. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    10. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    11. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    12. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    13. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    14. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    15. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    16. Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me
    17. ~Silence, for effect~
    18. Motherfucker!!!! Ugh!!
  4. Imagine you’re driving down the interstate. Your hair is blowing in the wind, and you’re speeding down the road in your brand spanking new Chevy convertible. Or if you’re a Ford person, whatever, your Ford, but there’s no need to be so loud about it. Suddenly, in the distance, you see it: A car crash – and it’s brutal. You’re rubbernecking hard as you pass by the scene of what could only be described as modern abstract art. You know you shouldn’t look, but every animal instinct within you pushes you to look. Mesmerizing, isn’t it? All those bodies. Well, that isn’t exactly the highlight but I couldn’t not talk about it. People died. It was a whole… thing. Anyway, just like that sort of, you should look at the top car of your deck.
  5. Also I hear people talking about how it’s good for gathering data and we can pretend that’s useful for the sake of argument and that there isn’t hypergeometric data constantly available for that kind of question.

Cons:

  1. Sometimes when I was younger, I would take tests in school and be pretty confident in myself. I studied. I knew the questions. I cheated off the smart kid. I gave the teacher apples and complimented her about things I guessed she was insecure about. The usual. But once I had finished my test, I would look back on my test and see questions that I had struggled with, and start to doubt myself. Could the answer have really been 63? What about 64? How did I come up with my solution? Where is the love? It was a Disaster, and I was spiraling. How did this happen, magic audience? Because it was in that moment that I had looked at the top card. I was second guessing what I had known to be correct, and suddenly my self-worth was plummeting. I was texting mt ex and crying, regressing into my forlorn smoking habit, and going back to the streets to be re-enveloped into the Bloods. As an astute scholar once said: “believe in yourself, who else gon believe in you?”
  2. Self-affirmation, as mentioned in the pro section, is nothing like the sweet affirmation as prescribed by another. When they see you looking at a homely hand and deciding to mulligan, imagine the pride of mustering the gumption to not be a child and look at the top couple of cards. Self-affirmation is essentially self-pleasuring in front of your computer to that one girl who occupies bookmarks in several places in your chrome bookmarks bar, whereas the affirmation of a trusted friend is like the touch of a forlorn lover coming home from the ravages of war, who only survived ‘cause they had a sweet babe back home. Yes, in that metaphor you were either a woman or a gay man, so work with me here. It’s like that test with the kids and the marshmellows; the good kids got more. That’s restraint, baby!
  3. Every opportunity to look down on people for not being as cool as you are, you should take. That being said, since we know that pros are anti-looking, you should probably take this opportunity to sardonically trash any player you see who doesn’t meet this standard. Ah, who am I kidding, you don’t need me to tell you this! You’re a magic player, you either already do it out loud or in your head.
  4. Not looking at the top card is consistent with building good habits that are hard to break. In Magic, these things can add up and save you mental energy over the course of several matches. Shuffling your opponent’s deck out of habit, declaring what phase you are on at all points during your turn, and quietly chanting “mull to five” to yourself as your opponent dismally surveys their six-card hand are all things that are difficult to start doing, but once they become a habit just happen without you thinking. Now it might be helpful to sometimes look at the top card, but when you know there is a possibility it could tilt you, it’s better to already be in the habit of not doing it.
  5. I really hate Florida, with all my might. Now before you get to defending that terrible state, let me explain: I’ve never been there, so your defense doesn’t mean anything to me. Now you’re thinking, “Jonathan, why are you like this? Why are you so woefully ignorant?” Well here’s the deal: I could never afford to enjoy Florida. If I ever visited, I might like it, and then be tempted to spend all the money I don’t have in a state I never had to go to. Right now, I’m very happy – but I could find out that I am not if I find somewhere better. The point is that happiness is typically relative, and once you know what you can’t have, you might be unhappy. Looking at that top card is exactly that feeling.

Conclusion:

I hope that I have made my arguments for and against this practice incredibly clear, with arguments that could rival the pants off of those academics and scholars who sit in their ivory towers. Please use this article as a reference for all your great debates, as I prayed to God himself for the reasoning which he allowed these fingers to scribe.

 

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