When is it right to concede?

Today what I’m going to talk about is inspired by something that happened early on in my magic playing life. I was playing at my local store at the time, a friendly game VS the stores owner. A turn before I was going to win, he draws a card and then concedes. After the game my friend came over and said “That’s not cool, he should have let you finish the game”. I disagreed at the time and still do, your opponent has every right to concede and move on with their life. Concessions are built into the mtg rules, they are the fastest action that can happen apart from a judge ruling. Even if they weren’t I would always be OK with my opponent conceding. Why? It’s not about the winning, it shows tremendous respect for your opponent to admit to them you have lost. It shows they respect your time and their own as well as a respect for the game.

Now I doubt my opinion here is unique, in fact I’d wager the majority of people reading this article are A-Ok with concessions but I would say there are times where it’s wrong to concede. I’m not talking about conceding to early and you later found out you could have won. Say you’re playing against timmy, timmy has you on the ropes and then makes the big new mythic dragon. It will win him the game next turn. What’s the harm in letting timmy swing with his big mythic dragon and letting him finish the game? None and if you are playing against a timmy I sure do hope you let them hit you with that dragon.

There is also the worst type of conceding, the sore loser conceding. It almost exclusively happens in multiplayer. I’ll give you an example from my experience, I have played many many games of EDH with Edric, Spymaster of Trest both as my general and against him as a general. I was swinging at someone for lethal and at the end of declare attackers they conceded, so that I didn’t get to draw any cards off of Edric. Now I get it, it’s the last thing you can do to screw me over, fair enough. Some would argue that it’s the correct play, to help the others at the table by denying resources to the guy who just took a player out. I would argue, strongly, that in the most family friendly way I can put this, that it is a unsportsmanlike move that should be avoided. Though I will admit I’ve probably done this exact thing myself, giving into a overwhelming sense of pettiness in a moment of weakness, I never said I wasn’t a hypocrite.

Now my dear reader, it’s story time. I have a couple of good examples of conceding too early to talk about and I’m going to start with a game between me and a friend who travelled with me to a GPT. It was the start of the innistrad-return to ravnica standard, I was playing gw restoration angel and my friend was playing uw control. He won game one. Game two, he supreme verdicts my board, leaving me with a 3/3 beast token and rancor goes back to my hand. He has 2 mana up and puts feeling of dread to the top of his graveyard, to remind him to flash it back to tap down my beast, as he’s on 5 life and rancor + beast token will win the game otherwise. Pass to my turn, I cast rancor targeting the beast token. Now in this instant, my friend does the maths and says “Oh I’m just dead” and scoops up his cards, conceding the game. As we are shuffling up for game three, he said “wait, I had feeling of dread in the bin didn’t I?”, to which I responded with “you sure did friend.”. He then proceeds to massively tilt himself out of game three, asking such gems as “Do you feel good about winning that game?”. After the best of 3 finished and we signed our sheets, I said to my obviously disgruntled friend “feeling of dread… Nananananana feeling of dread!”. This became a joke that we can still joke about today, so yes friend, I do feel good about winning that game, because I got a funny story out of it.

Not quite a conceding early story but I feel this one does have a good talking point. We were playing EDH, my opponent cast some game winning spell, I think it was going to let him go infinite. So I cast pact of negation to counter it. His problem wasn’t that I countered it, such things are par for the course in competitive EDH, it was that I couldn’t pay for the pact of negation cost on my upkeep. I was pacting myself out of the game to stop him winning. Sure enough, my turn rolled around, pact upkeep trigger, I lose. Now that friend did go on to win that game. I will never forget how he put it “If it comes down to you lose or you lose the game to your own pact trigger, you shouldn’t cast the pact of negation. The other player has won, let them win as it makes no difference to you, you have lost. What you did there was commit seppuku and with the sword that impaled you has cut me. Not killed me, just slowed me down.”. Upon reflection, maybe he’s right. Certainly it’s more sportsman like to let him win and move on to the next game but I would argue that play had a much bigger upside, it was really funny and it got the pacted player mad. Worth it, would do again.
It’s an interesting one, as a textbook definition of a Spike, I will always be OK with conceding. At the end of the day it’s the rules, it can allow for both you and your opponent to get on with another game sooner and it does show respect. Just think about whether your concession does show respect for your opponent or if you are being a little bit petty 🙂


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