Timmy, Johnny and Spike meet Dota


Somewhat strangely for a Dota article I’ll start with a discussion about two other games, Magic The Gathering and Hearthstone :smile:

Magic The Gathering Black Lotus

Magic The Gathering (MTG for short) is a popular trading card game. In it you gather resources called “lands” which later on allow you to play creatures and spells which you use to beat up your opponent. It’s quite complex, there are a million cards you have to buy and they can be quite expensive. Who am I kidding, they can be incredibly expensive! If you don’t believe me click that link and look at the top 10. Number 10 starts at $700. Number 1 goes from $1500 to $3000. You can see #1 to the right, “The Black Lotus”.

Jaina, Hearthstone

Anyway, because the game can be so expensive, even though I knew people playing MTG and despite the fact that I liked the game concept, I did not start playing. I try to avoid games which are major money sinks. I do like games which are major time sinks!

Instead, I started playing Hearthstone, which is basically a simplified, digital MTG. Also called jokingly “Wizard Poker”. The game’s tutorial even has you playing the wizard mage. Yes, that’s Jaina Proudmoore aka “Crystal Maiden” from back in the Warcraft/Dota 1 universe, old-timers probably recognized her.

Anyway, getting back on track. The guys designing MTG are quite smart and they publish articles about MTG on their site. One of their articles has been very influential. It’s called Timmy, Johnny and Spike. Who are Timmy and Johnny and Spike and what do they have to do with Dota?

Well, I think that they’re relevant to almost any kind of competitive game.

The reason they are relevant is because they describe player types also called “player personalities” or “personas”. In MTG’s case they are used as sort of personas which represent the types of players the MTG designers target when they create new cards.

So, why are they relevant?


I’ll start with Timmy. Timmy is basically the kind of player that likes to crush his opponent. Timmy likes to win by destroying his opponents. To put it into Dota terms, he wants to destroy the opponent’s base with his fully farmed Anti Mage. He’ll head back to the woods to farm his 6th item so that his “suit” is sparkling when he’s destroying their throne, even though the enemy team has long given up their defense. For him it just doesn’t make sense to end the game: he’s just started to have fun as The Item TycoonTM, and everyone wants him to finish the game? Don’t be ridiculous! There’s 20 more minutes of fun neutral farming to be had!

We’ve all had this kind of player in our games:

Centaur and his big hearts He really needed to get the 6th heart in order to win the game!

Timmy will most likely stay away from tricky heroes, like Chen or Crystal Maiden. He will like big, beefy heroes that can farm quickly (or that he thinks he’s able to farm quickly with) and will feel awful for each game where he couldn’t get his shiny tier 4 items. Even if his team wins and also has fun along the way.

“What kind of game is this? Lame, we won in 20 minutes, I barely had Treads and Diffusal on my Phantom Lancer…” :unamused:

I think Timmies are actually the majority of Dota players. And when I said that these player personas are visibile in most competitive games, I wasn’t kidding. Anyone who has ever played Starcraft 1 or 2 “15 mins no rush” games against someone who wanted to attack with 15 battlecruisers or 20 archons, that’s Timmy in action.

Big Starcraft Battle Now, this is fun!

Ideally there should be at most 1 Timmy per team, playing the carry hero. Preferably not a tricky carry (Meepo comes to mind), instead heroes which don’t need many buttons to reach their full potential. He might surprise everyone with his ability to farm and win the game (and the best known Timmy in the world is an awesome farmer, Burning). Of course, that’s if he can be pulled out of the jungle long enough to win the game.


Johnny is the player type on the list, he’s basically the combo player. He needs to win with style. He thrives on tricky heroes. He’ll pick Invoker, Tinker, Earth Spirit and get flashy items such as Blink Dagger or Force Staff on everything. You’ll know that Johnny is in the house when your carry Terroblade at 40 minutes has Silver Edge, Dagon 5 and Ethereal Blade and keeps running around at 10% HP to do the good ol’ Sunder - Dagon combo. Even though meanwhile he could be doing 5x as much damage with the standard builds.

A standard Johnny in action:

Tinker and his many marvelous contraptions

Johnny is general at his best playing a flashy mid hero or sometimes an offlaner. Batrider or Clockwerk come to mind. Flashy supports such as Rubick work as well.

Johnny gets easily bored during long, drawn out games, even if he’s winning, since adrenaline is not pumping in his veins. He can also tilt if his combos fail. So the hardest part about Johnny is keeping his morale up. But he is in the zone, Johnny can make really wonderful plays (hi there, Ar1se!).


Spike is the third and final player type. Spike is the competitive freak. Spike cares about 1 thing and 1 thing only, victory! He will meticulously pore over hero and items in order to find the best combination. He will practice, often in practice mode, unlike the rest of us scrubs which practice on our poor teammates. He will try to find a way to squeeze more resources out of his current game plan so that his BKB is ready 10 seconds faster than in the previous game.

Spike won’t care about his role in the team. He’ll play the position 5 Crystal Maiden, running around at 30 minutes with Boots, Magic Stick and 40 wards, in order to provide vision for his team. He’ll keep a cool, level head when deciding if his team has a higher chance to lose if he sacrifices himself or if he abandons his team mate who is out of position and will be ganked in the next 5 seconds.

Spike will do whatever it takes to win. If that means he plays Lycan and never sees a human player all game long, so be it. He will suicide to kill the raxes, finish the game 0-5-0 and be laughed at by all his team mates, but deep down he will know that he won the game for his team.

Spike will try to become profficient in all roles and with all the heroes and will limit his hero selection only after deciding which ones offer him the best chances of success in the current situation. He is also prone to following the latest competitive trends and fads, becoming a Slark picker this month and a Leshrac picker next month.

If Spike plays a very long, balanced game with plenty of kills and a lot of action, Spike will still feel incredibly bad if he loses. He will be the one typing “bg” at the end of a 50-45 game ending with a base race.

Notail? BigDaddy? BigTail? NoDaddy?

Beyond Timmy, Johnny and Spike

Of course, not everything is as clear cut as I make it out to be. In reality, normal players are in-between the 3 player types. For example, I’d say that I’m 90% Spike, 10% Johnny. I like to win, and when I win I’m very happy but I also like to do things my way. For me, “my way” = micro. Necronomicon and Manta on all the things! :smile:

What do you think about these 3 player types? In which category do you fit it? Comment below :wink:


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