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On “Greasiness”

Occasionally I’ll get a good idea and this year was no exception. Noticing that there were quite a few people in the /r/Spikes subreddit writing “tournament reports” in the form of long text posts in the subreddit, I offered everyone the chance to write them up on BrainstormBrewery.com so they would benefit from having them read by an editor and formatted professionally. Decklists look better in a table where you can hover over the card to see an image of it and being published on a website just seems better than farting out a text post in the equivalent of notepad. Some people were naturally suspicious, but lots more took me up on the offer. One of them was Max Perlmutter, a grinder and resident of the Philadelphia area.

Max has produced a few well received pieces for the site, but his best one came this week when he realized “Hey, I played that scumbag Trevor Humphries recently and he knocked me out of the Top 8!” Max put together a great tournament report that doubles as a great detailed account of what Trevor did to knock Max out of contention with a combination of psychological warfare and repeated deck-stacking shenaningans. It’s a brief read, but if you’re interested in the Humphries case it’s a good one.

The real revelation came when the article was posted to the /r/magictcg subreddit and the top comment (it’s since been downvoted to the middle of the pack) didn’t concern Humphries’ inherent greasiness but rather Max’s own when Max asked an out-of-contention opponent for a concession that would put Max in the Top 8. “Greasiness isn’t my word, either.

 

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All of this started a nice debate. Is it “greasy” to ask an opponent to concede? Does it make sense for two guys on the bubble to both miss the cut to Top 8 because “that’s how the match turned out” or “Why should I let him win if there is nothing in it for me?” Experienced players are likely to consider refusing to concede when it would mean at least one of you made the cut to be greasy.

Osyp did a great interview about the subject and the culture of Magic at high levels. Some people aren’t aware of the etiquette at higher levels, but most players who have been there before know what’s up. Osyp refers to it as “paying it forward” and while you can’t ask for packs in exchange for a concession, you can have faith in humanity and hope your opponent does the right thing. Having been in that situation myself a lot, if you’re not “greasy” it is obvious what is right. If I took the majority of the time in the match and I’m the reason we didn’t finish the match or my opponent has much, much better breakers, it’s obvious that the onus is on me to concede. The times my opponent has scooped me (including into 9th place, twice. Daggers…) I have given them some packs, and not as a payoff for scooping me, but rather because they would have gotten more packs if we’d drawn and they should have some sort of remuneration for doing the right thing. If you ask me, people who fold their arms obstinately and say “Well, I guess we both draw then” or don’t give their opponent any of their packs if they’re scooped are the greasy ones.

Don’t be afraid to ask an opponent for a concession if it would put you in the Top 8 and a draw would keep you both out. It’s not “greasy” or “collusion” (unless you try to explicitly bribe them with packs or some other consideration – don’t do that) it’s good, solid game theory.

What do you think? Is it wrong to ask for a concession? Is it wrong to ensure both players miss Top 8? Leave it in the comments section. Got your own “on the bubble and one of us needs to scoop” story? Leave it in the comments section.

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Jason Alt

Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on Gatheringmagic.com. He is also the Community Manager at BrainstormBrewery.com and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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12 thoughts on “On “Greasiness”

  1. I think a lot of it comes down to the noncompetitive crowd looking in on the competitive scene and honestly just not understanding it.

    1. Bingo. That is a great observation, but I think a portion of it stems from people who haven’t been in Top 8 contention not knowing the moves, also.

  2. Sure some guy scoops to give you a free pass into the top 8. It also means that someone else missed out on top 8 because some guy scoops to give you that free pass.
    There are two expectations at work here: the guy who expects the scoop so he can waltz into the top 8 and the guy who expects you to play your best so he can have a chance of his own for top 8.
    Here’s a quote from someone who shall remain nameless: “I missed out on top 8 because some loser scooped for packs.”
    Who is the greasy one in that scenario?

    1. That guy didn’t miss out on Top 8 because “some loser scooped”, though. In most cases, someone will win and someone will lose that matchup. Draws are rare in that case. This person didn’t lose out on Top 8 because someone scooped, they lost out on Top 8 because their record and breakers weren’t good enough and they wouldn’t have gotten Top 8 if that match had concluded with one of those people with better breakers winning, something that happens more often than not. If you’re relying on the people above you to draw and knock both people out of contention, you didn’t really have a shot.

  3. Over my years playing Magic, I’ve learned to get the conversation about concession started early. If game 1 is pushing past 20 minutes, or I suspect that my current match up might go to time, I’ll just ask my opponent early, ‘Hey, would like you to agree that there will be a winner of this match?’

    Some times they’ll agree flat out, sometimes they’ll ask how we should decide. I usually say something along the lines of, ‘We can be gentlemen about it, and agree based on board state, or if there is a clear winner on the following turn. I’ll even show you my hand at the end of Turn 5.’ Even if they don’t agree right away, at least the thought is in their head.

    And yes, I realize my opponent could lie, and say that we’ll decide a winner, and then not scoop to my on-board lethal, and there’s nothing I can do to ensure that they keep their promise. But you know what? That hasn’t happened in years. I’ve scooped up many draws this way, and had many scooped to me.

    I’ve found that starting the process early, and being honest and friendly about it has served me quite well.

  4. I’d scoop if its helps to put someone who worked for it in the top 8 because I’d expect the same courtesy to be done to me. Magic players for the most part are very honorable.
    Arguing about people who get screwed out of packs is just arguing shoulda coulda wouldas.

  5. I don’t know why the guy who would have got into top 8 had you not conceded doesn’t seem to get a mention here.

    I personally would not concede due to this fact and it baffles me why it seems to be OK to screw someone who isn’t directly in front of you but frowned upon to play the game to the best of your ability to determine the true outcome of the tournament.

    It’s not a case of “why should I if I don’t get anything out of it” for everyone, some of us care a great deal about integrity and how our actions can affect encompassing situations rather than just the ones in front of our faces.

    1. Because that guy’s breakers sucked and the only way he had a chance of getting Top 8 was if both of the people above him knocked themselves out of contention, something that wouldn’t happen if either Player A or Player B won their match. That guy didn’t have a prize snatched out of his hands, he just didn’t benefit from an extremely rare scenario where both people who would make Top 8 over him both didn’t get Top 8 because they eliminated each other.

  6. My goal in a tournament is to finish as highly as possible and to maximize my game win/loss ratio. The arbitrary cut to a Top 8 is a frustrating reality, and I say this as the guy who went 7-1-1, 9th place, at the largest SCG Open before they changed the attendance / round caps.

    I’m not concerned with the EV of the combination of both players. I’m not concerned with paying it forward. I am here to win games of Magic, and if we cannot finish a best-of-three series with a decisive winner or loser, then the match is a draw.

    I understand why this is different at the Pro level (a level I will never attain), where there is a significant amount of repeat matchups and a much better understanding of the game theory / EV behind these situations.

    Below that pro level, however, you’re still engaging in a meta-game that I have no patience for. You don’t want to draw? Play faster. You can’t play faster? Practice more with your deck. Can’t practice more? Play faster and lose because I put in the work to be better than you.

    Also, people need to get way better about calling Slow Play on opponents. I try to balance between reminding them to play at a faster pace, and avoiding breaking their train of thought. Sure, I could be cutthroat and try to distract them, but my goal is to get them to play faster, not worse. I’d rather them hurry to the right decision than slowly deliberate themselves into a blunder.

    1. I’m on board with this as well. Ask your opponent to play faster, if they don’t you can call a judge over to ensure that no slow play is occurring. Play faster yourself, an opponent playing slow gives you plenty of time to plan out your entire next turn based on a variety of plays on their parts / draws on your own part.

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