Your Deck and You | Part II: Timmy, Johnny and Spike

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If you haven't yet, make sure you check out Your Deck and You | Part 1: Colors.

Mark Rosewater, chief designer and developer of Magic: the Gathering at this point, has made some interesting observations about how people approach the game of Magic. Players are broken down into three general groups: Timmy, Johnny and Spike. The fancy term for these categories is "psychographic profiles." A psychographic profile separates players into categories based on their psychological make-up. What motivates that player to play? What kind of cards do they like? What kind of things encourages that player to keep on playing?

There are some overlapping of these groups. Some people fall into multiples of these groups. Some people have a touch of all three of these groups at different points. Most people when they sit down to play the game, they take on one of these three psychographics, or mindsets.

Timmy, Power Gamer | Magic: The Gathering card


Timmy is the type of person that always looks for the one big giant, effective card. They are always looking for the most impressive move. They are the type of person that wants to play the most gigantic creature, the enormous one that costs 15 mana to play. They always go for the most expensive option on the board. The most flashy thing. They are going for the grand slam. Timmy doesn’t really mind losing as much, as long as he finds something really interesting and mega to do. If they’re playing the board game Ticket to Ride they get a really big enjoyment out of getting the six routes but are not so much interested in optimizing things. Timmy’s are most concerned with just having fun and for that reason they can be really fun to play with. You can have conversations about their big moves, and even route for them to pull it off because you know in the end, you’re probably going to win against a Timmy. These games usually make me happy, and don’t bring out my blood thirsty competitive side, and I relax when I realise I’m playing a Timmy.

Johnny, Combo Player | Magic: The Gathering card


Johnny, on the other hand, is the one that creatively approaches games. Johnny is the type of person who, if he is playing a customizable card game, is really into the deck building. Johnny very much enjoys the creative process of it. They like to come up with combos. They like to figure out all the interesting corner cases of the game, and dig into those corners and find interesting ways to do things. Sometimes Johnny’s hit the jackpot and do something really cool that beats everybody, and -- of course -- they are very pleased when they get to do that. But, ultimately, they get most of their enjoyment out of the game through the creative approach. For Johhny, it’s about creative play, and finding interesting new combos and avenues to victory. Johnny is a little more competitive than Timmy; Johnny does like to win. While Johnny is exploring the game creatively they feel really good when that creativity pays off. Johnny is probably someone who is drawing 14 tickets on Ticket to Ride, or doing something crazy like putting routes here and there and everywhere, and you can’t really piece together what they’re doing because they’re doing some sort of unusual strategy. They’re trying out something new. That’s your Johnny. You can learn from Johnnys. When I sit down with a Johnny I’m a little wary because they might be doing something crazy that I don’t know about, but I’m always trying to learn because they’re almost always going to do something interesting one way or another.


Spike is the tournament player. Spike plays to win. Spike looks for the most efficient way to victory. They will often borrow ideas from Johnny. Johnny goes through the experiment and finds some things that work and some things that don’t. Spike will watch what Johnny does, take the things that Johnny does that work and really hone them down to an effective strategy. Spike is only happy when Spike wins. That’s pretty much it. If Spike doesn’t win Spike will be very frustrated and will want to play again to win because Spike gets his enjoyment from the game out of winning. It’s usually the really competitive players that are the Spikes. When you play a Spike, they can get your competitive blood boiling, and that can present the fun challenge of trying to beat them. When I’m playing with a mixed group of players and there is a Spike, I usually keep my eye on him in terms of competitiveness. When I play a Spike that’s when my competitive blood gets boiling, that’s when I get serious, that’s when I’m really focused.

Psychograph Combo Players

Most players you play with are going to fit one of these three psychographics. There are, however, many players that switch between the three types, and this can depend on the game they are playing. Personally, most of the time I am a Johnny. But sometimes, when I take a game seriously, I can very quickly switch into a Spike mentality. I’m generally not a Timmy. I don’t really get that excited about the boom, slam, mega single play type of act aspect, that doesn’t really appeal to me that much. My most common gaming opponent is absolutely a Spike, 100 percent a Spike. He doesn’t really have much interest in combos he just likes to win. If he sees me use a good idea, because I tend to experiment more, he will often take that idea and play it against me after he has honed it a little bit. Yes, I hate it. But I can’t fault him for it. He has combined my strengths with his. This is just good strategy. It’s also fun to watch this unfold. So when I play with him I do tend to take the role of a Johnny. In other games I will approach with a Spike mentality.

What can be interesting is when you sit down at a table and actually study what other people are doing in the early turn, you can usually figure who is who, in terms of these psychographics. A lot of times “casual” players tend to be Timmy’s or Johnny’s, they are not Spikes. There is a large body of players out there that aren’t in it to win it. If you realize who is who in the game you are playing, and realize how your opponents get their enjoyment out of the game it can also increase your enjoyment out of the game because a lot of times you can self assess which of those you are.

The idea is once you realize what mindset other people are playing the game with, you accept it, and let them play their game while increasing your level of enjoyment. Understanding these psychographics can help you mentally prepare for what type of fun you are going to get out of a particular game. If you keep all this in mind the next time you sit down to play a game, it can make the whole thing a lot more enjoyable.

What type of player are you?



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