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Thing in the Ice

Why do you choose a card to use? For style? For ingenuity? For power?

In Magic: The Gathering (MTG), Wizards of the Coast designs their cards around three specific types of player profiles: Timmy, Johnny and Spike. These player profiles reflect psychological characteristics when it comes to card selection, deck construction and even describes the driving force behind why people play the game. I believe every player who gets into MTG should ask themselves – which player profile(s) happens to fit you best? When you break apart your deck and analyze the cards you have selected, one can be pleasantly surprised how accurate these player profiles are.

Each player profile has distinct properties, and many traits can actually overlap with other profiles to create interesting, hybrid combinations. Every card set released for MTG derives from targeting these player profiles in some shape or form, and even the latest Shadows over Innistrad set is no different.

Let’s take a look at all three profiles in depth while using Shadows over Innistrad cards as appropriate examples.

The Timmy player profile is often referred to as the “power gamer.” A Timmy player likes to win big. They want their victories to be impactful, feeling glorious because they got to play their super-duper-special card. For a Timmy, winning is nothing unless it is entertaining in some fashion. As such, playing MTG is about experiencing something meaningful and memorable for this player profile.

Timmy players often gravitate toward using cards for appeal, such as visual aesthetic. A Timmy can rule out a card’s efficiency or practical implications, and instead will focus on wanting to play the card for other reasons altogether. Focusing on specific archetypes is strongly Timmy-esque.

For instance, let’s say there was a Timmy player who really loves to play anything that was a hydra, so Ulvenwald Hydra would clearly fit the bill.

Ulvenwald Hydra

This card has great artwork, has power-increasing potential and would allow a Timmy to win in a big way if they could pull it off. Other player types would probably see this card as something you would need to devote an entire deck around, and would probably be considered not that viable by itself. However, it would bring great joy to a Timmy if they could play this card, and made its stats 10+/10+ and then swing for a match victory.

In addition, Timmy players are usually seen as the least competitive of the three player profiles, but they are often the most social ones in contrast. To them, playing MTG is about having fun, and fun for them can simply stem from getting to play whatever kind of deck they enjoy.

Johnny players represent the creative minds within the MTG community when it comes to deck building. These players do not just want to win – they want to win in their own way. They will purposefully build decks that are truly unique. For a Johnny, putting their own spin on a deck concept (and making it work somehow) is part of their approach. Therefore, this is a player profile all about expressing themselves.

It is quite common for a Johnny player to give “bad” or overlooked cards a shot. They look for unrealized potential in any given card, and thus approach the strategic aspect in an entirely different angle. It is not always about efficiency or raw power. Johnny players tend to migrate toward unconventional or combo-driven decks.

A good example from the Shadows over Innistrad set of a Johnny-like card would be Triskaidekaphobia.

This card is quite awkward, but offers an intriguing alternative for defeating their opponent. A Johnny player could build a deck strategy entirely around getting this card to trigger its victory condition. Not to mention, though they like to play outside of the box, a Johnny player is still in fact competitive to some degree. They just do not want to win like everyone else. Coming out the victor has to have their name on it. They have to stand out from everyone else.

Finally, we have the Spike player profile. Simply put, a Spike is the try-hard of the MTG community. They are the ones who build their decks solely for winning. Spikes strive to build consistent and competent decks with highest probability of victory. In other words, this is a player profile about proving themselves to others that they are (in fact) the best.

This is a player profile most likely to netdeck (copying a deck recipe from online, especially a tournament-winning one). They seek out only the best of the best when it comes to cards: power, efficiency, practicality and whatnot. Understanding and keeping up with the current metagame is vital to their playstyle. Every card slot in a deck usually does not play around, nor does it try to be cute. When it comes to beating the competition, only tournament-worthy cards make the cut.

A prime example of a Spike-like card from the current Shadows over Innistrad set would be Olivia, Mobilized for War.

Olivia, Mobilized for War
This card comes out quick, has appropriate stats for its mana cost and a great effect that can quickly spell the end for your opponent in a short time. When it comes to Spike players, every set always has “good” cards made specifically for Spike-type people. If a card is viable for competitive play, a Spike player will most likely use the card. After all, competition is what makes a Spike player tick. Winning is everything.

(Player) Profiled
So which player profile fits you best? Personally, I consider myself primarily a Johnny player with some Timmy mixed in as well. I never netdeck, and I always build my decks to my liking. The Timmy side of me hones in on certain archetypes, such as angels. Linvala, the Preserver is actually one of my favorite cards in my current deck.

Linvala, the Preserver

The cool part about these player profiles? There is no wrong player profile to be, especially because you are probably going to be mixed with the other types to some degree. You could in fact be someone who likes to play a certain archetype, has a unique deck with said archetype and you play competitively in tournaments wanting to win with this specific deck. It is all good. This is what makes MTG so interesting. There are so many different types of players who bring varied personalities and strategies to the table. It keeps both the game and community constantly fresh.

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All Magic: The Gathering images belong to Wizards of the Coast. 

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