Nothing crushes a fun game like a concession. You see someone in the game with that frustrated, hopeless look after they draw their card. They slam their hand on the table and announce “I’m done! I concede!” and scoop their cards. They start to shuffle up, hoping the next game will be better. Meanwhile, half the people still in the game are mumbling and angry, as their well-laid plans come crumbling down around them.
I’m going to talk about the reasons for conceding and try to convince you that there is really no good reason to quit and in fact, you are wrecking other players’ fun by scooping your cards.
Conceding because you have to go
There are times, when you just have to go and can’t wait for the game to end. Everyone is pretty understanding when another part of your life demands your attention now. When your ride is leaving now, you need to leave. Now. If you have to go, you have to go.
Even in these situations, you need to keep a few things in mind:
1. Did you know you weren’t going to have enough time to finish? So many players check their phone and decide they have time for one more game. Do you really have time for one more game, or do you have time for one more game that lasts ten minutes? And the shortest game you played all night was over 45 minutes. So do you really have time for “one more game?” Dropping part way through the game changes the entire dynamic of a game, and the later you stay in the game, the more the situation changes. Perhaps your creatures were keeping someone from attacking someone else. Every game decision is based on the assumption that you are playing the game to the end. If you take that away, then everyone plays differently.
Think about it the next time you say you have time for “one more game.” Do you want to ruin the last game of the night for everyone else, just so you could play for another ten minutes?
2. Did you make play decisions knowing you were going to concede? Once you knew you were going to have to concede because you were leaving, did you keep playing? Continuing to play meant that you were hurting someone’s chance of winning. The Grave Titan you played meant someone else did not attack. The Lightning Bolt to Jesse’s face meant that his life total was now too low for him to risk attacking Eric.
If you know you can’t finish the game, don’t force the players to deal with your antics. If you must leave before the game ends, stop playing as soon as you know and minimize your effect on the game. Tapping out to Inferno the board, then conceding, is just asinine.
Conceding because the game is (for practical purposes) over
Everyone has played a game of Magic where your opponent recognizes they are in a position where they are unlikely to be able to win. It may take you another five or six turns to finally get them to 0 (or 10 poison, or reach whatever alternate win condition you are trying to reach) but you are going to win this game.
This is a pretty straightforward situation… and if there are still at least 3 of you playing, this doesn’t happen. There is no way for you to know what is in your opponents’ hands and libraries. Perhaps you can’t win the game, but conceding means that you are taking the chance of winning out of someone’s hands.
Imagine you are in a five player game with Harry, Josh, Aaron and me. The game has come around to the mid-way point and Josh has slowly managed to be in pretty good control of the board. He drops a Darksteel Colossus on the board and the next turn he attacks Harry. Harry blocks with his only creature, but it is obvious that he will be dead next turn. You know that you have nothing in your deck to stop the Colossus and you will undoubtedly be the next to die, although it will take 2 turns for Josh to kill off your creatures. No one else has a way to deal with the Colossus yet. Facing the inevitable, you scoop.
Given that example, there was no way for you to win. You were next on the hitlist and if anyone had a way to kill the Colossus, they probably weren’t going to use it to save you. However, by conceding, you eliminated 2 draw phases for everyone, and the life points (or in this case, poison counters) needed to kill you off. Aaron and I may not have a way to stop the Colossus right now, but perhaps in 4 turns, one of us will. There is a good chance that since you conceded, we won’t get to that fourth turn.
Conceding takes away some of the opportunity for others to find the needed card. You take away the chance for a big comeback. The chance to make a big play is lost. Half the fun of multiplayer Magic is hoping for the big comeback. Conceding reduces the chances of that happening.
On top of that, why are you making it easier for the leader to win? In the example, your concession meant that Josh wouldn’t have to waste his time and effort to kill you, but can instead focus on fewer opponents. Make Josh work for his wins. Give me every chance to pull out an amazing victory.
Conceding because you can do nothing to win the game.
Consider the same 5 player scenario we had above. Instead of conceding, you keep playing. Harry falls to the Darksteel Colossus, and the next turn, the first of your two creatures dies. On my turn, I draw my card, get a big smile and play Capsize with the buyback. I explain that it will still take all three of us to defeat Josh, so I chose not to wait until you were dead to play Capsize.
In multiplayer Magic, you are rarely ever guaranteed to die. Much of Magic involves getting extra turns to draw more cards. Why are you conceding and eliminating your (and your potential allies around the board) chances? Someone can and often will do something to save you. Give them that chance to save you. You can thank them by stabbing them in the back to win the game later on. Right now, just keep hanging in there and hope for the best. It may take a miracle, but if you concede, you don’t even have that chance.
Conceding to be kingmaker
This seems to happen most often when the game is down to three players. Your concession will give one player an advantage, allowing them to win. If you stay in the game, you guarantee the other player will win.
This is probably the most difficult concession to argue against, since you are losing this game, no matter your choice. Why not be the player who decides who wins? That power allows you to feel a part of the win.
I have done this myself. There are nights when one player is winning repeatedly and I can give someone else the win over them simply by conceding. I like to think that my intentions make it okay. I want everyone to enjoy themselves and spreading the winning around certainly helps the enjoyment.
However, here still, you are messing up a game that you have no business messing up, just as surely as you are when you start a game knowing you don’t have time to play to the end. Stay out of it and don’t concede. Players expect everyone to play to the end.
If you need a better reason, how about “there is no prize for being the loser who crowns the winner.” Putting the crown on the head of the winner or not, you are still a loser.
Conceding to be an ass (Douche Scoop)
Let’s say John has been irritating you in games all through the night. You feel like he’s been unfairly targeting you, or at the very least, he’s targeted you far more often than anyone else in the game. He opened himself up to an attack when he sent all his creatures in to attack another player in the game. He is about to gain 32 life off of his Congregate, taking complete advantage of the ten token creatures you have on the board. That 32 life will guarantee he is in the game until his next turn, when he will likely be able to pull off the win. If your thoughts were images, John would likely be twisted into a pretzel in his effort to have sexual relations with himself.
“While Congregate is on the stack, I concede,” you announce, cutting 10 creatures from the Congregate. John lifegain goes from 32 to 12 and he becomes completely vulnerable to everyone else’s attacks. John says nothing, but you can feel his stare boring into your skull as you put your cool 3D tokens into your bag, slide all of your cards into a single stack, and dump them on top of your library. You can barely conceal your self-satisfied grin and feeling of self-righteousness; John got exactly what he deserved.
As satisfying as this is to you right then and there, you have just become an ass. Performing the Douche Scoop* has to be the worst type of concession. You just quit a game in order to ensure that someone else loses. You just intentionally lost a game to ensure someone else loses. Weren’t you trying to win the game? It certainly appears that you were playing just to make sure John had a lousy time. Consider the three possibilities:
1. John is truly a jerk and has been unfairly targeting you throughout the night’s games.
It felt lousy when John targeted you the first time. Each and every time he did it after that, you felt even worse. You were frustrated and couldn’t comprehend why he was doing this. You may even have asked him why he was doing it and John’s response was that someone needed to suffer and tonight it was going to be you.
While John needs to be dealt with, the Douche Scoop is not the way to solve this problem. John will be angry with you and will continue to unfairly target you, and now he’ll have a reason. It is also likely that if he hadn’t done it yet, you can expect that he will add the Douche Scoop to his bag of dirty tricks.
Doing the Douche Scoop is only lowering yourself to his level. Find another way to solve the situation with John. Another reason to avoid conceding in these scenarios is if you are wrong about John. This leads me to the second possibility.
2. John has been targeting you throughout the night’s games because you’ve been in the power position throughout.
While it has seemed unfair to you that John is targeting you, we should all remember that our viewpoint is skewed. Each of us sees what is happening in the game from our own point of view. There are plenty of times when someone’s play makes absolutely no sense to us, simply because we don’t know what is in our opponents’ hands. Other times someone’s play makes sense to them because they have different card values than we do, so they attack the “wrong” player or make a play that appears to make no sense.
Perhaps John views you as a particularly cagey opponent (you are reading the Muse Vessel, so I know you are an intelligent player!), or he sees your decks as particularly difficult for him to beat. John may be running a mostly artifact deck and knows that you are the one mostly likely to be able to shut his deck down. These are all things that we may be blind to, so while it appears that John is targeting you unfairly, in fact, he just sees you as the primary threat.
John’s actions are a compliment to you; you are the most dangerous player in the game. Your response to his compliment was to concede just to make sure he doesn’t win. Wow, you must feel like a complete jerk now. He didn’t do anything wrong. He was actually complimenting you! And you Douche Scooped! Maybe next time you should talk to John and find out exactly why he has been targeting you. Perhaps you just need to alter your strategy slightly to avoid getting all this love from John.
This possibility is a lot like the point above, but instead of you not understanding why you are the primary target, you did not see that John was targeting everyone fairly. Here again, John didn’t do anything wrong. The end result of you conceding in this situation is that you look like the Jerk John from the first possibility. You just treated someone like garbage who did nothing to you. Congrats.
Conclusion – Solution
Admittedly, the situations above do not cover every possibility; this is Magic. There are going to be situations that can be imagined (or remembered) where there was just no way to overcome a single player, but it would take too much time for that player to go through the motions needed to kill off each player. In those situations a group concession may be in order. Since this sort of thing doesn’t leave any remaining players, the downside of conceding, wrecking the game for the remaining players, is gone. Just be wary. Someone may have a possible solution but needs time to find it. Asking the group if anyone can beat this may let the dominant player know who he needs to attack first. This can create the same problems you would have in conceding alone in a group game.
The general rule, in almost every instance: don’t concede. It is the wrong move in almost all situations. Let the players play it out and determine the winner through play skill, as opposed to your carefully timed scoop.
Finally, if you are finding this to be a problem with your group, try instituting this rule that I heard on Commandercast: you can only concede at start of your turn. A concession at any other time leaves the game to assume that you are still playing the game until the start of your turn, but simply not doing anything. You don’t attack, block or do anything. This prevents people from quitting while a spell is on the stack.
While this method doesn’t solve all the problems (long-winded combo guy will still spend 15 minutes finishing his turn), if your group is already headed down Douche Scoop Lane, point them here, then institute the rule. Hopefully your playgroup can fix itself.
*I first heard it called this on Commandercast so I’m giving them credit for the name.