By Daniel D’Amato
Concession is something that every Magic player hopes to be on the receiving end of, but one of the most important skills that a Magic player can learn is knowing when a game is over. Being able to analyze the current game state and make appropriate plays is important to success in competitive Magic; knowing when to concede is one that isn’t addressed as often, if at all. Anyone that has played in a competitive Magic tournament knows that every round is timed and that sometimes matches can get drawn out leading to draws or even one game matches. Ideally you don’t want to put yourself in that situation, so what is the best way to approach that? Conceding. I will be the first one to admit that conceding doesn’t feel good, ever, especially when the game was close or could have been the deciding factor in receiving prizes or even making top 8, but there are numerous benefits to conceding games, and especially game one. There are multiple factors to consider when determining whether a game is winnable or if conceding is the right answer. One of the most common factors that is associated with early concessions is the amount of time left in the current round.
When to Concede?
Time in round, while a necessary parameter for not only Magic but any competitive atmosphere, can be one of the most stressful factors in giving yourself the best chance to win a match. Just how football teams must practice clock management when there is two minutes left in the game, Magic players need to practice clock management for playing at a proper speed and giving themselves plenty of time to win the match. So, what does time in round have to do with conceding? Control is always going to be in the game regardless of what format you play. There are many very efficient control players, but there are also many control players who have a slower pace of play. It is typically these matches that you worry about going to time and understanding when a game is a lost cause can be extremely beneficial to your success. All the following scenarios for time consideration are from a midrange deck’s point of view.
The best way to elaborate on this matchup is to explain personal experiences I have had. About a year ago when I was playing the best midrange deck in the Standard format, Temur energy. Control matches could go either way, but I knew that game one was always tough and that I had to play quick and tight. I can’t count on my hand the number of game ones I conceded against control while on Temur before turn 10. Temur was a midrange deck that planned to win through tempo creatures and quality removal, both of which are not great against control due to counter magic and board removal. I knew during sideboarded games that I would have access to 5 forms of counter magic along with my own Torrential Gearhulks to keep the tempo. Being able to properly analyze the board and the matchup your playing is important because conceding allows you to have plentiful time in what could be a grindy matchup to win. So how do you know?
The most common signals in this matchup that conceding may be the right call are card advantage and board state. Card advantage is something in Magic that can make or break a game. Control decks are designed to deal with threats, refill their hand with utility and spells, and then eventually land a threat that can’t be dealt with. This makes them very agile game one against midrange decks because they can use spot removal or board removal on our threats after our hand is depleted all while they have upward of five or more cards still in hand. This is a spot to consider conceding because now you are just watching your opponent play Magic until they find a win condition and finally beat you. This is not only one of the worst feelings in Magic but can also be one of the most time consuming. Concede. The average midrange deck has multiple answers to control style decks in the sideboard and will ultimately have a stronger success rate in the post sideboard games. When your threats have been dwindled, it is not a bad idea to just concede the game instead of wasting time. Conceding here allows for enough time to win games two and three, saves some frustration, and allows you to focus on winning the match. Staying focused on winning the match rather than the game is a huge factor because these types of matchups can become very frustrating and can cause you to lose sight of the objective. Control matchups can be straightforward or difficult and knowing when to concede can potentially give you the upper edge in the matchup.
Midrange mirrors can be the grindiest matches you will play. Both decks being designed with the same goal in mind can clash and cause a board stall or blowout very quickly. Time can sometimes be even more of consideration in these matchups due to the fact it can take a very long time to win game one and board stalls can cause a person not to concede since there are still outs to win the game. The key to winning these matchups is card advantage and threat removal. If you notice yourself falling further and further behind, consider the concession. Like the control matchups, conceding here allows for less frustration and more time to focus on the match at hand; figure out the best way to approach the matchup and how to give yourself the best chance to win the other games. Tempo and counter magic are important in the control matchup; removal and tempo are very key out of the board in this matchup. Time management is vital in this matchup because every draw and turn matters when both decks are looking to grind their opponent out to win the match. Having access to your sideboard for the next two games and hopefully plenty of time on the clock can be a strong factor in determining the outcome of this matchup.
Losing or having to concede a close match can be very frustrating and defeating. Midrange mirrors being as grindy as they are can mentally drain you and can sometimes feel like they are just one game with the chance of finishing a second. Being focused on each individual game and playing tight can help you win more matches but evaluating the current board state and mastering clock management can allow you to consider variables that not every player can consistently consider. In these midrange matchups, the main parameter to consider is card advantage. Currently in Standard we have midrange all-star Glint-Sleeve Siphoner which allows its controller to draw extra cards for the cost of one life and some energy. In midrange matchups this guy is a massive advantage because he can give the controller the card advantage necessary to apply and deal with threats efficiently; unanswered it is likely the controller will win due to the card advantage alone. However, if cards like this go unanswered and you can’t seem to find the line to win, concede and refocus, the other games are more important; remember that a match is best of three and not one.
When Not to Concede
I figured since I am giving all these examples of when concession may be the right call, it’s important to know when you are ahead and maybe your opponent should be the one considering it. All the topics can just be repeated above with roles switched obviously but it is possible to be in a losing situation and not conceding is important…. combo. Combo exists in the eternal formats and not so much Standard but eventually everyone will have the pleasure of playing against a combo strategy. For those unfamiliar, combo likes to just try to pull off a win by assembling the pieces of whatever puzzle and executing it and doing everything to protect it. It’s important that when a combo player is “going off” that you don’t concede and wait to be beaten. Not only will you gain valuable insight on how to shut down the combo, but people are also human, and they may mess up the combo along the way allowing you a victory. The latter happens often which is why it’s important to let your opponent do their thing and follow closely for better understanding.
I previously touched on situations on when to concede in control and midrange matchups but there are times where concession isn’t necessary. Things you need to consider are whether you are ahead on life total, card advantage, or board state. You obviously never want to concede a game that you are winning especially just because your opponent finds an answer. With the Glint-Sleeve Siphoner example I talked about card advantage. If you have a hand of 6 cards while your opponent has a hand of 1 card, the board state doesn’t matter because you are still ahead pending life total situations etc. Times like this is when concession should be considered because you have a greater opportunity to win based off just card advantage alone. Its situations where your opponent is the one with the card advantage where concession should be considered. I know it sounds self-explanatory on how you should be able to tell you are ahead but there are issues where people do concede while ahead or give an early concession when they analyze the state of the game incorrectly. Overall concession, while a difficult concept to grasp sometimes, can be a good tool for growth in professional magic.
Conceding a game or match obviously doesn’t feel good but it can have its benefits. The most beneficial aspect of conceding a game early is the amount of time you can gain to win the match. Time is important in competitive Magic and unfortunately this game is no stranger to slow players and thus this skill must be analyzed carefully. Conceding isn’t something that should be impulsively done but rather analyzed and determined if it is the best line to help you win the match in the end. Thanks for reading and I hope your concessions are more received than given!