Last updated on October 17, 2023
Siani, Eye of the Storm | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe
You may have heard the “Storm Scale” referenced either by players speculating about future sets or by Wizards staff when talking about upcoming sets. Unless you actively search out and read Blogatog or other official write-ups, you may have only heard or seen it in passing.
Well, here’s all the info regarding this concept that you may need to know or ever wondered about.
What Is the MTG Storm Scale?
Stormbound Geist | Illustration by Dan Scott
The Storm Scale is a numbered scale that reflects the likelihood of a certain mechanic being reprinted in a future set. It originated from a question asked to Mark Rosewater on Blogatog back in back in 2012. The question:
In this example, cycling was a great mechanic and one that has appeared in several sets in Magic’s history. Storm, while is also appeared in multiple sets, allowed for very chaotic plays and broken decks.
The storm mechanic was at the highest end of the scale (i.e., 10, very unlikely to be reprinted) is because of Mark Rosewater’s distain for it. He called it the “most broken mechanic we’ve ever created” and said that it would almost never be printed again in a Standard-legal set. The scale itself isn’t official policy, but rather a personal scale that MaRo uses when discussing the game.
The Importance of the Storm Scale
The Storm Scale is the best measure of what’s going on in Wizards’ R&D collective brain. Since Mark Rosewater is the head designer, he mostly gets to say what does and doesn’t get put into Standard rotation. WotC is understandably tightlipped about what they’re working on and Mark tends to not speak definitively until either a) a set is directly on the horizon and he’s giving a spoiler to the incoming spoilers; or b) he’s only sharing his opinion and it might come true.
The Storm Scale is a way for us to get a glimpse into the hive mind’s head.
The Levels of the Storm Scale
The meaning of the levels can be found in a few different places. Here’s the best rundown from the man himself:
- Level 1: Will definitely see again, most likely in the next set (i.e., evergreen)
- Level 2: Will definitely see again, but not necessarily right away (i.e., deciduous)
- Level 3: Will most likely do again, probably many times
- Level 4: Will most likely do again, but they have issues that make them less of a guarantee
- Level 5: We need to find the right place to bring it back, but I'm optimistic
- Level 6: We need to find the right place to bring it back, but I'm a little less optimistic
- Level 7: It's unlikely to return, but possible if the right environment comes along
- Level 8: It's unlikely to return, but possible if the stars align
- Level 9: I never say never, but this would require a minor miracle
- Level 10: I never say never, but this would require a major miracle
- Level 11: Never
As a note, level 1 doesn’t always mean evergreen mechanics. Take cycling as an example. Also, fun fact, only one mechanic has been given a level 11 designation (bands with others, believe it or not), so that’s not something that’s given lightly.
Would Mark Rosewater like Storm to be there as well? Probably, but he also knows (and has said several times in his Drive to Work podcast) that it’s possible that he could be overruled even if the major design direction of sets may come from him and his team, so Storm could make a return. The one that is at 11, though, is exceedingly counter-intuitive, hence the score.
Where Does Everything Rank Up?
As with other aspects of this topic, there are several places that this info has been made available. Unofficial Storm Scale lists also exist from other notable creators and influencers in the Magic community. No need to look elsewhere, though, we’ve got you covered with the full list of ratings:
|Mechanic||Storm Scale Score|
|Affinity for artifacts||8|
|Affinity for basic lands||6|
|Augment and host||8|
|Bands with others||11**|
|Bushido (if renamed)***||6|
|Cartouches and trials||8|
|Embalm (if on Amonkhet)||5|
|Enchantment artifact (if on Theros)||3|
|Legendary sorceries and instants||8|
|Locus land type||8|
|Modal double-faced cards||5|
|Ninjitsu (if renamed)***||6|
|Planeswalker static abilities||2|
|Processor (tribal mechanic)||9|
|Rebel (tribal mechanic)||8|
|Samite Healer prevention effect||7|
|Slivers (tribal mechanic)||3|
|Spellshaper (tribal mechanic)||8|
|Spike (tribal mechanic)||6|
|Starting hand effects||7|
**Magic 2010 brought a rule change to allow any card with the same name to band together as long as one had “banding with others.” Either way, it was only used in Legends and since it was meant to be about banding creatures of the same type, this variant won’t be seen again. The only 11 so far.
***Bushido and Ninjitsu have flavor reasons why it may be chosen to not reprint them. If the mechanics were given new flavorless names (ha!), then the chance increases.
*****i.e., Sliver abilities that have effects to those controlled by any player.
If you paid attention during Kaldheim, you would have noticed that changelings made a return to Standard. I, and anyone who plays tribal, always welcome them. They were last listed as a “6” in 2019 which made it sound like we weren’t going to be seeing them too soon but, not even two years later, here they are.
This one honestly seems a bit oddball that it’s even being talked about. Gotcha! is a keyword that only and should only come into play in the realm of silver-borders. The fact that it doesn’t have an 11 on it shows that some odd conversations must have been had in some R&D meetings.
This is a weird one since the mechanic itself didn’t really return but its actions did. When we made a return trip to Theros in THB, five cards were given heroic-like abilities: Hero of the Games, Hero of the Nyxborn, Hero of the Pride, Heroes of the Revel, and Hero of the Winds. As to why, MaRo said there wasn’t enough cards using it to warrant actually bringing the keyword back for the set.
Fear, Intimidate: 10
This is a mechanic that’s the same realm as gotcha, but for a different reason. Substance isn’t a keyword or mechanic that has ever been directly applied to a card, but rather ability text wording that directed a specific way for a card to be played out and then removed at a specific time in the turn order.
To help smooth out the confusion, let’s put it this way: prior to Sixth Edition, Wizards was trying to simplify the parts of a turn. You had the “main phase” which had your plays and attacking, followed by a “discard phase” and then a “cleanup phase.” This meant that anything that lasted until “end of turn” fell off the same time that damage did (e.g., Armor of Thorns or Soar could save one of your creatures). The modern turn structure was then introduced with Sixth Edition.
The cleanup phase was renamed to the “end phase” which consisted of the “end step” and a “cleanup” step. All cards that read “at end of turn” expired during the end step, and all cards that read “until end of turn” expired during the cleanup step, which is the same time that damage falls away from creatures. Suddenly, that Soar isn’t saving anything.
Needless to say, these were fixed in errata by giving them “substance” to delay this triggered action until the cleanup step. This was all changed again with the Magic 2010 rules change to remove substance from everything in the erratas and instead make it say, “at the beginning of the next cleanup step.” Now, this can still be confusing as any judge knows a bunch of stuff happens in the cleanup step before all those would expire, but I digress. It still served that same purpose. Substance is no more and should be an 11.
Phyrexian as a Creature Type: 10
I know this one isn’t on the scale nor is it a mechanic, but it’s still fun to mention. MaRo was asked if Phyrexian would ever become a creature type again, to which he replied, “10. We’ve missed our window by twenty-five years.” Well, when they decided to have ol’ Vinny come to Kaldheim as Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, that became a reality really quick.
Armor of Thorns | Illustration by Alan Rabinowitz
The Storm Scale is a bit of fun that can be read a number of different ways depending on how you look at it. A glimpse into the lead mind at Wizards’ secret lair, a joke taken too far and too seriously, or still funny and as correct as assigned power levels for Commander decks in different play groups. While it may only apply to mechanics, it has also been used/requested/”asked of Mark Rosewater” for different things like specific cards, planes, you name it really.
I say we just have fun with it. My next game, instead of saying “GG” if I’m losing, I’m telling my opponent that on a scale of 1-10, my chances of winning are “horsemanship making a comeback.”
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