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Cover Your BASEs

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Magic Culture

Hello all,

Wizards of the Coast developed a template to label the various types of Magic players: Timmy, Johnny, and Spike. I’ll provide a quick refresher, but if you’re interested here is the original article.

Today, we’re going to explore a new way to analyze a Spike and identify key traits and examples to help improve our spell-slinging.

The original three “psychographic profiles” form a good baseline for identifying how one likes to play magic.

The flashy player: whenever Timmy is doing his thing he’s doing it in a big way. A Timmy will play the expensive crazy spells to overpower his opponent, most likely a win-more driven player.

The stylistic player: whenever Johnny is doing his thing he’s doing it in his own way. A Johnny will play the cliché cards that few are willing to experiment with, *cough cough defenders* and focus on enjoying his or her game.

The competitive player: whenever Spike is doing his thing he’s winning and testing himself. A Spike will play to improve him or herself, and enjoys the thrill of victory, knowing that he has proven himself to both his play group and the community.

Personally, I’m a Spike/Johnny and enjoy creating decks that are often overlooked, while fine tuning lower tier decks to shine in a specific metagame. While I want to win and ultimately do my best at tournaments, I believe the most important thing about magic is having fun and enjoying the community the game provides.


The BASE theory is merely a redefinition of the constructed-Spike player into various categories of expertise. Keep in mind, this article won’t go into the variations of Spikes with Timmy and Johnny; while those connections do exist in BASE, they are not the main focus. BASE stands for Brewer, Adapter, Specialist, and Expert and is a concept that I believe will help players take their game to the next level by identifying mindsets and skills to fine tune.

Let’s begin by looking at the B – Brewer:

The Brewer is a player who enjoys the fundamental aspects of Magic including: creating decks and finding synergies among cards. The Brewer’s main strengths include card analysis and deck construction. The Brewer approaches the metagame as a giant puzzle waiting to be solved. Thus, the Brewer’s strongest time of year is typically spoiler season, when bright new cards are showcased across the globe. This gives the Brewer the ability to start figuring what cards to build around (i.e. Collected Company and Jeskai Ascendancy), and what cards to socket into current tier one decks (i.e. Dig Through Time for control, and World Breaker for ramp).

Take a look at the list Ivan Jen won SCG Oakland with in September 2014. Ivan showed a great amount of attentiveness in noticing that the metagame was weak to a quick aggressive shell. Abzan and GB Constellation were dominating the weeks prior and were unable to answer the sizable army Ivan could produce.

At the time, Jeskai Ascendancy was mainly used in conjunction with tokens to overpower the opponent on a single turn with a combination of cheap spells and ascendancy. However, Ivan developed a list to be much faster and to go infinite with two creatures, Jeskai Ascendancy, Springleaf Drum, and Retraction Helix. The list gave Ivan the option to win without even drawing ascendancy by being hyper aggressive in the form of Akroan Crusader and friends.

Next we’ll take a look at player type A – Adapter.

The Adapter is a player who enjoys shifting between decks that have proven to perform well. An Adapter’s main strengths are metagaming and deck flexibility. This means he or she is proficient at recognizing strong lists and piloting decks of various archetypes. The Adapter’s strongest time of the year begins roughly a month after a set’s release, as Brewers have had time to prove their lists. In the meantime Adapters will most likely be testing different lists, or practicing the strongest list that had the smallest change on rotation (i.e. Bant Company for Standard).

Consider the previous Modern format: Eldrazi were everywhere and most believed they should join their ranks rather than figure out how to beat them. While the Brewers may have developed the lists that unleashed the monstrosity upon Modern, the Adapters are what kept it cutting edge. The Adapters who took on the Eldrazi lists helped fine tune the initial pro-tour variations by realizing that mirrors were mainly going to be won by swarming opponents or sticking a Worship. This then led to the RG variation playing World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return to counter both aspects of the UW lists. By the time GP Detroit came around even the UW Eldrazi lists strayed away from Worship and opted for the game opening Cyclonic Rift.

In the grand scheme of things, Adapters are the main reason for the cyclical nature of formats. For instance, when Midrange preys on Aggro, Control picks up to beat Midrange, then Aggro rises to beat Control, and so-on. While specialists will stick to the deck they know, adapters are far more likely to shift to whatever they feel is best for that weekend.

Now we’ll analyze the S – Specialist.

The Specialist is a player who will proficiently play the same deck regardless of its performance in the hands of others. The Specialist’s main strengths include repetition and technique. While the Specialist will most likely be found in older formats, archetype specialists exist in the younger formats, which we’ll look at later.

A Specialist is a player who has dedicated at least a year to mastering a specific deck Joe Lossett is a great example. Joe is highly regarded as one of the best Miracle players in Legacy, and his track record helps drive that point home. Whenever Joe picks up a deck, it is quite clear that he puts in the hours to master it. His technique with the decks is also quite extraordinary. For example, his use of Bring to Light and Sensei’s Divining Top is both quick and efficient and both cards take a while to get used to.

Further, the Specialist is a person that can provide meaningful insight into how a specific card operates within a deck. For instance, if a brewer wants to craft a deck around Counterbalance in Modern, then a Miracles Specialist in Legacy could help form a basis for how the card should be used, in conjunction with cards in the desired format. Specialists can also provide Adapters with highly-tuned lists and give them tips on how to play through certain matchups as well as how certain cards should be used given the Adapters’ limited experience with the list.

Lastly, we have the E – Expert,

The Expert is a pro-level player who has a strong grasp of the three other player types. Most Experts will have a specialization within BASE. For instance, Craig Wescoe is an Expert – Specialist in regards to White Weenies. The other three types benefit greatly by testing with Experts because it allows them to push their skills to match that of their opponents. If you don’t have an expert who you can directly communicate with, find a pro whose strongest type matches yours and follow their articles and videos so you can pick up on their habits and adapt them to your own.

Similar to Johnny, Timmy, and Spike’s combinations, the combinations of BASE mainly exist within experts, or those who are close to reaching that level. Brad Nelson is a primary example of an Expert – Adapter/Brewer. His success in Magic has mainly come from his ability to shift decks, improve upon them, and then play them at a high level. Last year on the SCG Circuit, he ended up playing many of his own decks and still out performed. Mainly because he had a strong grasp of the metagame and built decks to exploit its weaknesses.

Personally, I identify as a Brewer and have been working on both Adapting to Modern and becoming a Specialist for Lands in Legacy. While I’m nowhere near the level of becoming an Expert yet, I hope that my analysis of each of these player types will help you achieve a higher understanding of your competitive ventures in Magic. Check back for further development on this theory as we break down each type and delve into improving our skills in a specific category of BASE.

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