It’s round nine of a Grand Prix. You have six match wins coming into this, the final round before the first cut. One more win is all you need and you make the cut. Your opponent is in the same boat. Game one is a tough battle but one you eventually lose. Confidently, sideboard cards replace main-deck cards and it’s on to the next game. In the second game you execute your plan flawlessly and are now completely focused on the task at hand. The final game is grueling. You and your opponent jockey for any advantage but little ground is gained. Then you hear it. The head judge has called time. A judge approaches your table to make sure you heard the announcement. Your opponent passes the turn. Turn 1… Turn 2… Turn 3… Turn 4… Turn 5. It’s a draw. Then your opponent looks up at you…

“Would you like to concede?”

This question comes up often and players react in very different ways. The scenario has a lot of factors that play into this pivotal moment. Are both players competing for a shot at moving on? Was one player clearly ahead (more on this later)? Am I friends with my opponent? These are all questions you may ask yourself when your opponent asks for a concession, or before you decide to request one yourself. Last week I posed this question to the MTG community of my LGS, the Twenty Sided Store in Brooklyn, NY, and here are some of the responses I got:

I scooped once to an opponent in a match where he could potentially win into the top 8, but i could not. He was a nice guy and he had some rotten draws, so I didn’t feel badly about potentially screwing someone else out of the spot and I didn’t care too much about the prizes i’d miss out on.

Only for a friend and only if I was clearly losing. In a deadlock, I wouldn’t scoop. I mean, kudos to anyone who does it, but I wouldn’t do it, personally

If I were in a winning position, I’d ask for a concession based on board presence, but wouldn’t fault my opponent for saying, “no.” If I were losing, I would probably concede unless my opponent was a total jerk. If we were completely deadlocked, I’d probably be fine with the draw.

Unless the season is perilously close to ending and the 8 pwp could potentially cost me byes–or I guess if my opponent(s) are asshats–I would scoop

The general theme seemed to be that most people would scoop to their friends. That is completely understandable as the success of any Magic player is often a success shared by their compatriots (sometimes in the form of cake). However, often the case is that you are playing a complete stranger, so that’s more of an edge scenario. Another commonly mentioned piece of information is the demeanor of the opponents. If they are a ‘total jerk’ or an ‘asshat’ then any concession (or any favor really) is likely off the table. Again, perfectly understandable condition.

The final theme that seems very difficult to gauge is the board state. Many people would like to extrapolate the game’s final board state, possibly flip over the next few cards of each deck, and agree with their opponent on who would have won the match had time not been called. This scenario is most peculiar because it takes the results of the actual game that was actually played, and then puts them into a hypothetical world in which the game works a little differently, namely you have more time to finish matches. However, there is no actual way, especially not by just looking at the board and the top few cards of each deck to properly extrapolate the eventual winner. Too many decisions are made in even a few turns of Magic and various conditions other than the cards will affect the outcome of a match.

I would propose that in the majority of scenarios, while an eventual winner may seem obvious to one or even both players, it is actually impossible to predict the winner with any sort of accuracy. Magic is most often described as a combination of the deterministic and strategic virtues of chess crossed with the variance and human condition elements of poker. The method of resolving a draw this way treats Magic as if it were completely chess, though if you can coax your opponent into conceding to you I suppose that is an element of poker indeed. However, for the most part, you are only looking at half the game, doing a general disservice to both players.

The 6-2-1 dilemma, as I’m now going to refer to it, is a very tricky one indeed. What makes it most difficult is that all things equal there are no tangible benefits to conceding the game. Unlike in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, for example, where both prisoners benefit if they both make a sacrifice, there is no option for both players to concede to each other. The only options are for one player to have a positive outcome or for both players to have a negative outcome. This means that, ultimately, the incentive for conceding is a purely ephemeral one. It may be a sense of personal justice, or a deposit in the karma bank.

Unless your opponent bribes you for a concession, in which case there is a clear incentive but you should probably call a judge and turn your concession into a match win.

The Quick Hits

  • We kick off the week with this interview with rogue deck-building master Conley Woods [Channel Fireball]
  • Blake Rasmussen talks about what it takes to be a Magic community writer [Gathering Magic]
  • Lego Jace vs Lego Chandra probably wouldn’t sell as well as Lego Batman [Treasury Hunt]
  • Here’s 20 Questions with Gerard Fabiano, who is not my favorite pro player [20 Questions]
  • Mark Rosewater gives us a glimpse into the lingo used by R&D [Making Magic]
  • Now for a collection of (mostly bad) ideas about the future of Magic. Yay crowd-sourcing! [20 Tweets]
  • Magic Online is 11 years old. I’m 30 years old. Jeez [Daily MTG]
  • Mike Linneman talks about breast plates. Don’t get too excited [Gathering Magic]
  • Next month we’ll finally get some FtV:20 spoilers and we’ll find out if I’m getting a free copy [Magic Arcana]
  • The internet hates the new MTGO interface. Also, the internet is dumb [20 Tweets]
  • AJ Kerrigan talks about tilt, becuase I guess every month one prominent writer has to? Do they draw straws? [StarCity Games]
  • Here’s a primer on how the Future-Future-League works [Daily MTG]

Wallpaper of the Week

While I appreciate the effort to include a few wallpapers that aren’t just character portraits, I don’t think that Sword of Fire and Ice really hit the mark. For starters, the main focus of the art stretches from one corner of my screen to the other. It doesn’t really have a good focal point. This makes it difficult to use as a wallpaper. Furthermore, let’s face it, the ‘updated’ art for this card is a little lacking.

Grade: C

The Week Ahead

I’m not going to Vegas so… whatever.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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