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Often times when browsing different Magic: The Gathering sites, I will come across certain decks or cards that are said to be favoured by a Johnny, a Timmy or a Spike. Also, sometimes certain people will identify themselves or others as being some mixture of Johnny, Timmy or Spike.

What is a Johnny, a Timmy, and a Spike, and what are the characteristics of cards or players that fall into those three groups?

  • Not related to this question specifically, but interesting reading about various types of gamers and what motivates them: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bartle_taxonomy_of_player_types – John Gordon Oct 20 '17 at 2:26
  • At first glance, I thought this was a question about the Prodigal sorcery, also known as "Tim". Hehehe I learned something today – Paul TIKI Oct 20 '17 at 14:00
  • what about Melvin ? – Neil Meyer Oct 22 '17 at 16:53
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    @NeilMeyer TImmy/Johhny/Spike are player Psychographic profiles, while Mel(vin)/Vorthos are player Aesthetic profiles. A separate question about Mel vs Vorthos might be interesting though. – Malco Oct 23 '17 at 13:16
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The terms Johnny, Timmy, and Spike refer to the three player Archetypes that were outlined by Magic Card Designer (among other things) Mark Rosewater in a blog post, and later revised on the Magic the Gathering website. They are used to categorize players based on what their motivations to playing the game are, what types of cards they enjoy, and what encourages them to keep playing.

The archetypes are defined as follows:

Johnny/Jenny:

Johnny is often described as the combo player; he wants to carefully craft a plan and then execute it. Johnny players tend to gravitate towards niche cards with unique effects. Sometimes Johnnies will center decks around cards that others consider unplayable just to prove that it can be done. Johnnies are looking for a way to express themselves and their creativity, even if they don't win every time.

The common bond to all the Johnnies is that they are on a mission to show the world something about themselves. What they're showing varies tremendously, but at the core of each Johnny is a similar motivation: “Look at me, world! Look at me!” - Mark Rosewater

Timmy/Tammy:

Timmy is described as the power player. If he wins, he wants to win big just barely scraping by doesn't interest him. Timmy players tend to gravitate to big cards with big effects: anything that will help them dominate their opponents. Though he wants to win big, he doesn't really care about having a finely-tuned and efficient deck; he just wants to have fun. If Timmy only wins a few of his games, but in those games he absolutely destroys his opponent, he can go home satisfied.

Timmy plays with cards that make him happy; cards that create cool moments; cards that make him laugh; cards that allow him to hang with his friends; cards that cause him to have fun. Winning and losing isn't even really the point (although winning is fun – Timmy gets that). For Timmy, the entire reason to play is having a good time. - Mark Rosewater

Spike:

Spike is often described as the tournament player. Spike is in it to win it, and will play the best deck he can find. Spike players often look for any opportunity they can to improve their chances of winning and are considered the most competitive archetype. They are attracted to the most efficient cards and decks. They will often research what decks are currently powerful or performing well and either play them as is or analyze and tune them until they are perfect. Spikes want to win and to prove how good a player they are.

Spike plays to win. Spike enjoys winning. To accomplish this, Spike will play whatever the best deck is. Spike will copy decks off the Internet. Spike will borrow other players’ decks. To Spike, the thrill of Magic is the Adrenalin rush of competition. Spike enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent and the glory of victory. - Mark Rosewater


One thing to keep in mind is that players do not necessarily fit cleanly into one category. Often times you will have mixes, such as Johnny/Spike players who are innovating new decks to be seen on the pro-tours, or more casual Timmy/Johnny players who try to brew convoluted commander decks to play with friends. The Timmy/Johnny/Spike trio is not the end-all solution for categorizing cards and players, but it is useful shorthand for sorting or describing things.

Sources:
MTG Official Blog- Mark Rosewater, TIMMY, JOHNNY, AND SPIKE
MTG Official Blog- Mark Rosewater, TIMMY, JOHNNY, AND SPIKE REVISITED
GDC Talk- Mark Rosewater, Magic: the Gathering: Twenty Years, Twenty Lessons Learned

  • fwiw, If you're looking for a discussion of why psychographics aren't "the end-all solution," this essay is a pretty good start: blog.killgold.fish/2015/10/against-timmy-johnny-and-spike.html – Alex P Oct 18 '17 at 17:50
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    Your quote and your personal description of "Timmy" don't agree. – T.J.L. Oct 18 '17 at 17:55
  • @T.J.L. added some clarification to the Timmy breakdown – Malco Oct 18 '17 at 18:21
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    @Cronax Wasn't aware of Vorthos and Mel. After some cursory research it appears that they similar but separate ways of catagorizing players. TImmy/Johhny/Spike is the players Psychographic profile, and Mel/Vorthos is a players Aesthetic profile. A separate question about Mel vs Vorthos might be interesting though – Malco Oct 19 '17 at 15:31
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    @Sidney The Tammy and Jenny came from the video linked as the third source. Mark considers Spike a nickname, and so it is unisex. – Malco Oct 19 '17 at 21:02
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The player psychographic profiles known as "Timmy", "Johnny", and "Spike" were introduced in an article by Mark Rosewater on the official Magic: the Gathering website in 2002. In his own words:

Timmy

Timmy is what we in R&D call the "power gamer." Timmy likes to win big. He doesn’t want to eke out a last minute victory. Timmy wants to smash his opponents. He likes his cards to be impressive, and he enjoys playing big creatures and big spells.

Johnny

Johnny is the creative gamer to whom Magic is a form of self-expression. Johnny likes to win, but he wants to win with style. It’s very important to Johnny that he win on his own terms. As such, it’s important to Johnny that he’s using his own deck. Playing Magic is an opportunity for Johnny to show off his creativity.

Spike

Spike is the competitive player. Spike plays to win. Spike enjoys winning. To accomplish this, Spike will play whatever the best deck is. Spike will copy decks off the Internet. Spike will borrow other players’ decks. To Spike, the thrill of Magic is the adrenalin rush of competition. Spike enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent and the glory of victory.

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    Aaaand this is what happens when three people simultaneously reference the same article to answer the question. :) – BJ Myers Oct 18 '17 at 15:58
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    You an I referenced not only the same article but the same text in the article. corsiKa actually referenced a different, more recent article. – murgatroid99 Oct 18 '17 at 15:59
  • @murgatroid99 I was torn between the two, I figured the more recent one would be better for a newcomer to the idea since ... that's why he re-wrote it! – corsiKa Oct 18 '17 at 16:14
  • @murgatroid99 Actually, you and I referenced exactly the same text from the two different versions. I was also using the 2013 rewrite. – BJ Myers Oct 18 '17 at 16:21
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Johnny, Timmy, and Spike are three basic types of Magic players, or "psychographic profiles," that the Magic R&D team use to create new cards and determine the metagame for new expansions. Creating (and naming) these player profiles provides an easy way to examine how different playstyles will be affected by new game mechanics.

Mark Rosewater has an article describing this in detail. Here's the short version for each of the players:

Timmy

Timmy is what we in R&D call the "power gamer." Timmy likes to win big. He doesn’t want to eke out a last minute victory. Timmy wants to smash his opponents. He likes his cards to be impressive, and he enjoys playing big creatures and big spells.

Johnny

Johnny is the creative gamer to whom Magic is a form of self-expression. Johnny likes to win, but he wants to win with style. It’s very important to Johnny that he win on his own terms. As such, it’s important to Johnny that he’s using his own deck. Playing Magic is an opportunity for Johnny to show off his creativity.

Spike

Spike is the competitive player. Spike plays to win. Spike enjoys winning. To accomplish this, Spike will play whatever the best deck is. Spike will copy decks off the Internet. Spike will borrow other players’ decks. To Spike, the thrill of Magic is the adrenalin rush of competition. Spike enjoys the stimulation of outplaying the opponent and the glory of victory.

The full article is available here.

6

Johnny (and Jenny), Timmy (and Tammy) and Spike are the three player psychographs that are used to describe what people get out of their Magic cards.

Mark Rosewater explains them in a Making Magic article.

The crib notes are:

Timmy / Tammy

Timmy cares more about the quality of his win than the quantity of his wins. For example, Timmy sits down and plays ten games. He only wins three games out of ten but the three he wins, he dominates his opponent. Timmy had fun. Timmy walks away happy.

Johnny / Jenny

Like Timmy, Johnny cares more about the quality of his wins than the quantity. For example, let's say Johnny builds a new deck that has a neat but difficult way to win. He plays ten games and manages to get his deck to do its thing… once. Johnny walks away happy.

Spike

Spike cares more about the quantity of wins than the quality. For example, Spike plays ten games and wins nine of them. If Spike feels he should have won the tenth, he walks away unhappy.

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    Can't tell the difference between Timmy and Johnny from that. – ikegami Oct 18 '17 at 17:39
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    Not sure what to tell you. If you read it, it definitely shows the differences between them. – corsiKa Oct 18 '17 at 19:37
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    They both care about the quality of their wins, and they are happy even if they don't win all of their games. Where's the difference?! In contrast, the other answers actually show differences between them. – ikegami Oct 18 '17 at 19:56
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    The difference is there ("dominate their opponent" vs "get their deck to do its thing"), but it's subtle, maybe could bold key parts? – Cascabel Oct 18 '17 at 20:29
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One card representing one of these archetypes was released in each of the silver bordered sets. With the release of Unstable, this group is now complete. The cards show off the playstyles that the archetypes are known for:

  • Timmy, Power Gamer - Timmy likes powerful individual cards, generally not caring about their high cost, to him making that huge creature hit is the fun of the game, even more than winning. He likes to play big creatures and swing hard for the win or flashy spells like massive Fireballs. The card's ability, effectively Quicksilver Amulet without the tap, lets him play big creatures for low cost.
  • Johnny, Combo Player - Johnny likes his combos, he likes to use and abuse the interactions between cards to win with effects that give him infinite turns, or loop infinite damage, and he doesn't care as much about winning as making that epic card combo work. His card is effectively a repeatable Diabolic Tutor letting him pull all the parts of his combo out to play.
  • Spike, Tournament Grinder Spike plays to win, at any cost, that's what matters to spike, she wants the best cards, creatures with good effects and otherwise high benefit to cost ratios that may not be big enough for Timmy, spells that are good, usually on their own, regardless if they have the interactions with other cards that Johnny lives for. Her card's ability is closest to Death Wish pulling cards from outside the game for you to play, cards that were so good they had to be banned at one point or another in one format or another, and doing so by optionally paying her own life to get that card.
  • What is this answer intended to provide that is not in the other 4 answers? – Joe W Mar 3 at 16:47
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    @JoeW a concrete example, in the form of the actual archetypal cards of the playstyle and motivations of the archetypes.Not one of the other answers mentions that these three are represented by actual cards in the game. – Andrew Mar 3 at 17:24
  • I am confused as to this provides missing information. Also I am not sure I agree with your descriptions for the 3 players as they don't seem to line up with the other answers and what was posted in article about it. For example it states Timmy cares about big wins and dominating opponents and gives an example of swarms of 1/1 creatures. For Johnny it is more about difficult win that is hard to pull such as a card that lets you win based on library size. And for Spike it is not playing to win at any cost but playing to win and being unhappy if they lose when they think they should have won. – Joe W Mar 3 at 17:48
  • @JoeW now your comment doesn't match any of the answers given, none of the answers mention Timmy liking swarms, two of the answers state "He likes his cards to be impressive, and he enjoys playing big creatures and big spells." The link in one of them does, but attached to Verdant Force... which is a big creature, before which it says he's drawn to the card because of the 7/7 and further goes on to say that exact quote. – Andrew Mar 3 at 19:32
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    More scrutiny will be given for an answer to a question that is almost a year and a half old with 4 existing answers than a new one. I am just not sure what benefit a new answer provides that adds some links to the unglued cards that where made with some examples of cards the players while failing to also include any links to where the the names where officially described by wotc. – Joe W Mar 3 at 21:05

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