Howdy folks! Today I have some bonus advice for tournament players. Never concede. Make your opponent finish you off. Sometimes, they can’t. Here are two matches I won recently because of this.

Like all rules, this is not absolute. There will be times when your best decision is to concede. Figure those corner cases out when necessary. If you just think you are going to lose, and it makes you sad, keep playing. You never know what will happen.

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The Regional Pro Tour Qualifier

In my regular column tomorrow I’ll be sharing my experiences at the RPTQ this past weekend here in Denver. Here’s an interesting match where I should have lost but won. It’s round one of the RPTQ, Shadows over Innistrad sealed. I have a decent red-green midrange deck starring Arlinn Kord. My opponent has a solid green-black deck that probably wins 65% of its matches against my deck. I won game one off a solid aggressive draw, aided significantly by my opponent forgetting that Ashmouth Blade grants first strike. Oops, you just double-chumped my 7/5 trampling, first striking Timber Shredder. I would likely have won anyway, but I’ll take the assist. I then lost a quick game two to an early Heir of Falkenrath.

This set the stage for game three. I was determined not to start my RPTQ with a loss. Another turn two Heir of Falkenrath made me sweat, but I was able to pick it off a few turns later with Dance with Devils after chumping his other attackers, Accursed Witch and Sage of Ancient Lore. At this point I had sort of stabilized, except how can I keep him from killing and transforming the witch into the curse and slowly draining me out? I didn’t think there was any way I could win short of some aggressive topdecks—my deck had two Incorrigible Youths—but I soldiered on. I already had evidence my opponent was prone to misplays, so I chose not to give up.

For whatever reason, my opponent did not appreciate how easily he would win if he put the curse on me, so he kept holding his witch back to block. Eventually he figured it out and attacked, but now I had a flipped Kessig Forgemaster that was able to eat it on the block. To compound his mistake, he forgot the first trigger of the curse, sparing me a crucial life in each direction. I then drew Incorrigible Youths, leading to a full attack that forced him to trade off most his board and left me with two four-power creatures. Reduce to Ashes next turn finally got rid of Sage of Ancient Lore and cleared my way for lethal.

I won a match thanks to my opponent’s many misplays, both tactical and strategic. I sat back and let him take the wrong path, fought for every life point, and eked out a crucial round one victory. There wasn’t really a point where I would have conceded outright, but I could have given up hope many times over.

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The Grand Prix Bubble

I find myself at 5-3 going into round nine of Grand Prix Los Angeles, needing a win for my first Modern day two. I’m piloting Nahiri Jeskai and face off against one of my pet decks, Scapeshift. In game one I hold him off for a while but eventually flood out. I manage to draw all my fetchlands and fetchable lands, with only a lone Cryptic Command to protect myself from being comboed out with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. But I do have a Ghost Quarter that can potentially disrupt the Valakut triggers.

I can sense that my opponent is ready to go for the kill next turn when I draw Hallowed Fountain, the last fetchable land. I’m annoyed and decide to play it tapped. Thanks for showing up, you know. Once I did, I realized I only had five untapped blue sources, meaning my opponent could cast Scapeshift and Remand my Cryptic Command safely. Oops!

Or is it a mistake? When I Cryptic Command his Scapeshift, he’s supposed to Remand his Scapeshift then recast it instead of bouncing my Cryptic Command. He has to wait a turn, but my Cryptic is gone. Had I held up three blue mana with the shockland he surely would have done this. Instead, he took the “bait” and used Remand on my Cryptic, stranding it in hand as the potentially lethal Scapeshift resolved. I wasn’t consciously baiting him this way, but sometimes I do deep things I don’t fully comprehend at the time.

And sure enough, something funny happened. He drew his second basic Mountain off the Remand, then inexplicably choose to sacrifice eight lands for two Valakut and six mountains into my Ghost Quarter when a one/seven split would have sufficed. I saw the opening and used Ghost Quarter on a mountain with the Valakut triggers on the stack. My opponent sheepishly failed to find a basic land—he was so embarassed he didn’t even bother to fetch out a basic Forest either.

I won a few turns later, and of course took the match in three games to advance to Sunday. My opponent looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole a die. I felt pretty bad, being an empathic person, but if you are going to beat me with Scapeshift, you better manage your lands properly.

Never concede.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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