The Fourth Psychographic
By Daniel Rezendes on July 24th, 2007 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Mark Rosewater, imperial head poobah of Magic R&D, has told us many things in his weekly Making Magic articles - design styles and stories, how his love life relates to card design, the flavor and design aspects of each color (and, later, each Ravnica guild), etc. Few of his articles, however, have had the memorable impact as those discussing the three player 'psychographics' cards are designed for. First, a quick review.
Timmy wants to experience something. Timmy plays for the experience, for the visceral thrills of the game.
Johnny wants to express something. Johnny crafts a deck as a poet would a verse, or an article writer an overlong and increasingly overwrought metaphor.
Spike wants to prove something. Spike wants to win, and improve. Magic is more than a game, it is a test of his mettle and a challenge to his gamerhood.
We all know these players. Each of us belongs to one or more of these psychographics. However, while MaRo is famous for telling us interesting things, he is also known for cleverly not telling us things. Sometimes, because it's a secret about a set coming up. Other times, because it's a topic for a later time. And then, there are the times that the topic is simply uncomfortable or embarrassing. And what I'm here to tell you today falls in the last category.
There is a fourth psychographic. Due to my own experiences, I dub him 'Dave.' What is Dave about? What are Dave's goals with Magic? And why won't R&D, or even most actual Daves, admit to his existence?
Dave wants to annoy something. Dave plays out of such a deep-seated misanthropy that his decks, his play style, often even his manner of speech is intended simply to piss you off. That's why WotC won't admit he's there, just like they don't like discussing the success of Coldsnap and why it took them many years to
Dave's soul isofficially admit Homelands was a little less than sub-par. They don't (I hope) design cards specifically for Dave, but many cards are easily perverted to his use (particularly what most sane players consider jank rares, like Confusion in the Ranks and Norin the Wary). So, while Dave might not be a psychographic R&D caters to, he is out there, and I'm willing to wager you've met him.
full of hate.
Like the other psychographics, there are few things other than the base desire to unify Daves. Some Daves enjoy destroying every permanent in the game, or better yet, stealing them. Some Daves enjoy playing annoying cards. Some enjoy doing all they can to win the game, while refusing to end it, preferring to shut you out of the game and watch you suffer like a particularly sadistic cat (which is why I imagine Bateleur is quite familiar with playing against Dave).
Some of you might think, "Isn't Dave just a particularly odious subset of Timmy? One of the 'Social Gamer' subset gone horribly, horribly awry?" I say thee nay. Timmy plays because of the game experience, be it powerful cards or effects, unusual or exciting experiences, or just having fun with their friends. For Dave, the game is a means to an end. Dave doesn't play for the whiz-bang excitement of big flashy creatures or effects, of overcoming an opponent, of much anything in the game itself. No, Dave plays for the looks of anger or disgust on his opponents' face, for the look of soul-suffering
I dunno, those sleeves don'tpain in their opponents' eyes. Timmy and Dave might both play Platinum Angel and equip it with a Shield of Kaldra... but only Dave will refuse to attack with it.
look quite scuffed up enough yet...
Others might think Dave has more affinity for Johnny. In a way, it is true that Dave wants to express something - mostly that he secretly hates all mankind. However, Johnny wishes to express something about himself, whether it be he likes combos, odd experimental decks, or the like. Dave doesn't necessarily care how he aggravates you, so long as he does. If Dave expresses anything about himself, it's probably more because his sadistic goals are transparent than from any conscious desire toward deck artistry.
Dave even has Spikelike tendencies. Dave wants to win, yet - but he's not actually playing Magic: the Gathering. In Dave's mind, he's in a contest of wills, and loser of which is the one most mentally or emotionally put-off by the end of it. Even if Dave loses the game of Magic, if you grab your deck and leave the table in disgust, who is the more satisfied?
So, Dave isn't a subset of any one existing psychographic, because his goals can be easily expressed through any of the three. And that goal is distinct enough from Timmy's and Johnny's and Spike's for him to be a category of his own. Dave, simply put, is an *******. For those of you who can't translate asterisks, he's that guy who makes your teeth grate, the guy who fills your soul with a slow, simmering fury, who everyone in your playgroup secretly hates. Every bad experience you have with a Magic player probably comes at the hands of a Dave.
But, like those three official psychographics, Dave is not a monolithic classification. There are subcategories of Dave, each infuriating in his own specific, hateful way.
Mr. Suitcase has existed since the beginning of the game. The term describes that 'gentleman' who carries around a suitcase of every powerful card imaginable. Suitcases have the money or trading power or general obnoxiousness to get all the most powerful cards, and overwhelm their opponents with sheer card quality, competition or banned lists be damned. Mr. Suitcase plays power in casual. Mr. Suitcase might have four Tolarian Academy in his deck. Mr. Suitcase wants to make sure you know he has cooler stuff than you, which naturally makes him better, doesn't it?
Spazoids are a force for chaos. Their preferred strategy is to have no strategy - and not let yours take root, either. They play unpredictable cards like Confusion in the Ranks, or Tidal Influence, Shared Fate, or Chaos Lord, just to cause confusion. If they have the means, they take delight in casting Shahrazad, and if it were possible, Power Struggle or even Whimsy from the old Microprose game. They have enjoyed Soldier of Fortune for years, just for
Microprose's Magic game includedthe sake of wasting time. Spazoids take particular pleasure in ruining multiplayer games, playing as unpredictable berserkers who try to hurt everyone, regardless of which players are actually the most dangerous.
one of the most Dave cards of all...
particularly when it started in play.
This group of Daves is almost the opposite of the Spazoid - instead of making it impossible to guess what's going to happen, they try to make sure nothing happens at all. Whether playing good decks like Draw-Go or just a pile of recursive Fogs, they keep you from winning while doing nothing to win themselves. Worse, even if they manage to take total control of the game (say, with Tolarian Academy-fueled Memnarchs or Legacy Weapon shenanigans), they refuse to actually win it, relying on something like a Doorway to Nothingness they only activate when you start to recover, or even just playing a 65 card deck and drawing the game out to 53 turns. These guys love slow torture.
Phasing. Licids. Opalescence and Humility. Rulekillers are like combo-Johnnies who like to torture animals - (particularly zombie monkeys). But they don't exploit card interactions to win the game, or even further their goals - but only to confuse and dismay the other player(s), or ideally, cause the rules to implode. You ever wonder what gave Woapalanne his evil, evil eyes? These guys would be the reason. Probably. [Woapalanne says that no, he IS a rulekiller, just not while he's playing. But he is very happy that the rules fight back by getting updated to work.] Luckily, the streamlining of the rules makes it harder and harder to truly break them (you can no longer use Mask of the Mimic on a Splintering Wind token to get a sorcery into play, for one stupid example), but they always find some weakness to exploit for no gain.
Timmy likes having cool experiences in the game. Dave likes making the opponent miserable. Getting both goals to coincide isn't too hard - Timmy/Dave just makes sure that he gets the only awesome stuff in the game, or at least the awesomest stuff.
He wants you to suffer, but he wants you to suffer in a very unique and generally impossible way. These are the Johnnies so obsessed with their combo they will stop at nothing to get it in play, and working, even if it take them fifty games. The deck either won't defend itself at all, or the deck will be entirely defensive except for a few copies of whatever inevitably ridiculous combo pieces are involved.
Spike wants to prove he can win. Dave wants you to suffer. Spike/Dave, simply
Does Dom of ugmadness.net only admitenough, wants to prove (in his mind, at least), that he is better than you, and regards any attempts you make to stay in the game with total contempt. And, should you somehow win, he will rant and rail about your "'lucksack draw" or his mana problems. Truly a joy to play.
to half his true nature?
A normal Timmy/Johnny likes to have fun, and likes everyone to know it. Dave is the same, only he doesn't want anyone else to have fun with him. He might insist on playgroup rules nobody else likes, or to make entire multiplayer events utter misery for everyone else. I must admit I myself have done this in the past, with a 4 Pox/4 Death Cloud/4 Balance deck I whipped out when in a particularly foul mood, that won on the back of lifegain from Demon's Horn. But I would only play it once a week or so. Timmy/Johnny/Dave would play it until physically restrained.
Timmy/Spike/Dave is an interesting creature, more at peace with himself than many Timmy/Spikes. While Timmy/Spike is sometimes torn between fun and winning (since the winningest decks can often be "unfun"), Timmy/Spike/Dave has no reservations about playing the dominant deck. Timmy/Spike/Dave LOVED Raffinity, and HulkFlash, and any other deck that necessitated bannings. Hell, he still plays them.
You know those infinite engine decks, from Fruity Pebbles to Project X, that rely on some recursive combo to win? Johnny/Spike/Daves love those. But
Deep in the Floor Rules, it saysthey love going through every iteration until you are dead. No just showing you the repetition so you see how it works... nope, it's sacrifice the Ornithopter to Goblin Bombardment, Enduring Renewal brings it back, damage your creature. He'll do this until he's wiped your board, and taken you down to 1... or if he's really Dave-ish, to just outside your mana-burn range.
that you are allowed to punch someone
in the face whenever they cast this.
There are probably only about half a dozen of these in the world - that's a lot going on in their head, there. Timmy/Johnny/Spike/Dave is a connoisseur - he wants to make a splash in the most complicated, but successful way possible, all while challenging your faith in mankind. All the effort he is willing to put into pulling off his victory makes him particularly insidious... if Doctor Doom plays Magic, he's probably one of these.
So, what can we DO about Dave? Unfortunately, most things we'd like to do to him aren't terribly legal in most states. Furthermore, I have found that Dave tends to have a real talent for ignoring subtle attempts to modify his behavior, like saying "Dave, it's no fun playing against you," starting "We Hate Dave" groups on facebook, or pointing a taser at him whenever he brings out a deck. The best tactic I have found to combat Daves is simply not to give them the satisfaction of getting angry. Unless he's a spike, simply conceding when he starts to be annoying can really ruin his fun. Just say, "Hmm, that's rude. I think I'll play someone more fun," and scoop. So long as you aren't bothered, this usually ends up making Dave feel just what he wanted you to. However, this usually gives you a thrill of schadenfreude that can make you just as bad as they. Beware the Dave path, or forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will, like it did Gadiel Szliefer.
I know you've met Dave before. But now, you know his name. Identifying the problem is the first step toward solving it. Next time that Timmy toys with you instead of attacking for the win, or that Johnny assembles a combo even more useless and inane than the last, or that Spike derides everything you do, don't blame those innocent psychographics for Dave's crime. And at the same time, be willing to admit when the Dave inside you comes out to play. Every Jekyll has his Hyde, after all, and every Magic player has his Dave. PLEASE, for the sake of the rest of us, try to leave yours at home.
By Daniel Rezendes on July 24th, 2007 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Daniel Rezendes
Journeyman Wordsmith and Magic player for over a decade. In recent years, I've stopped sucking at writing, which is always a plus. Would certainly not say no to a job offer from WotC's continuity department.