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Who is Timmy? January 10, 2010

Posted by James in : all, random , trackback

We should all know who Timmy, Johnny, and Spike are. In particular, they all enjoy playing Magic for different reasons:

I recently had a revelation about what “Timmy” is really about, and you will probably realize that you enjoy playing Magic because you are partially a Timmy. What I realized is that Timmy enjoys Magic because of its ability to tell a story.

My previous article, Why We Enjoy Magic mentioned two very important elements for enjoying Magic: (1) We can express ourselves when we create our own deck, and (2) the game simulates a fantasy world. If a player doesn’t enjoy playing Magic for either of these reasons, then it isn’t clear why he or she doesn’t play something else, such as Chess, instead. (I suspect that players who think they are a Spike really do identify with Jonny and/or Timmy as well.

Johnny enjoys Magic primarily to express themselves to make their own deck, and Timmy enjoys the game primarily to enjoy the story created by its fantasy simulation.

Magic is a Fantasy Simulation

We could play Magic as nothing more than a randomized game of logic. Cards do whatever the rules say. We try to win by making the best decisions possible based on the rules and probability. But this is pretty boring. People who see Magic as nothing more than a bunch of arbitrary rules and probabilistic decision-making will tend not to want to learn how to play. It looks way too complected from that point of view. Instead, we need to understand the rules in terms of simulating the fantasy world. Flying makes good sense. You can’t have a nonflying creature block a flying creature because he can’t jump high enough.

Seeing the game from the simulation viewpoint encourages the designers to “make sense.”  Protean Hydra grows two heads for every head lost, just like the Hydra in Greek mythology. A bear isn’t big enough to kill a dragon. Lightning Bolts can kill elephants, but not dragons. And so on.

Once we see the game as a simulation, we can enjoy playing the game “just for the experience” of creating a story. I think this is one of the first things new players enjoy about the game. If we can’t start off as a Timmy, then we will never learn the game well enough to become a Johnny or Spike.

When you first play the game, the idea of making your own deck isn’t yet exciting because all the cards are new to you. You have no idea what anything does or why certain cards should be put into a deck. You certainly can’t yet be a Spike because you will have no skill worth mentioning.

Are You A Timmy?

Here are some common characteristics of Timmys:

  1. They will want a game to represent an epic battle. It’s not just that they like the challenge of defeating a good opponent. It’s that it makes a good story. They like to imagine two powerful forces duking it out.
  2. Many like to play multiplayer games where people are supposed to build large armies without trying to kill each other right away.
  3. Timmys will dislike it when a single card wins the game. This isn’t just because it could invalidate the benefit of skill and all previous decisions could be meaningless. It is also because it ruins the story. It’s like reading Lord of the Rings then Godzilla appears and stomps everyone to death. The end.
  4. They might like to shuffle random cards together to play with “just to see what will happen.” Two ways people do this: Mini Master (each player uses a booster pack and 10 lands as a deck) and “playing off the top.” To play “off the top,” people generally draw one card each turn and play spells for free.


Timmy isn’t just a guy who likes big creatures, and the description of Timmy given by Mark Rosewater seems a bit vague. The truth is that Timmys enjoy something about Magic that is unique and hard to come by. A game that can create interesting stories of epic battles.


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