Despite the frequent complaints that too much is happening in the world of Magic: the Gathering, MTG players can’t resist the allure of the future. Whether it’s speculation about future sets, villains, or even creature types, there’s always a debate among the community. Helping to guide these debates, for better or worse, is MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater.
Via their Tumblr blog, Blogatog, Mark Rosewater often reveals tantalizing tidbits of information that whip the community into a flurry. While Rosewater’s informative treats cover a broad range of MTG topics, requests for details on mechanics are a common occurrence. Rosewater created the Storm Scale to cater to this demand, which catalogs the likelihood of each mechanic’s return in MTG.
Due to its popularity, the Storm Scale isn’t solely for Blogatog’s Question Marks. Instead, Mark Rosewater often details the current state of the Storm Scale in almost yearly dedicated Making Magic articles. While this yearly trend skipped 2021, Rosewater has brought it back for 2022 to recount the popularity of recent mechanics. Covering the sets between Throne of Eldraine (2019) and Strixhaven: School of Mages (2020), Rosewater revealed some rather surprising details. Notably, Rosewater highlighted that one disastrous mechanic isn’t as unlikely to return as players expected.
Shortly after it launched, the Companion mechanic from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths was criticized as one of the worst in all of MTG. While not as confusing as Banding or dangerous to cards as Stickers, the Companion mechanic was simply too strong. Enforcing a deckbuilding restriction as a downside, the Companion mechanic allowed players to always start the game with their Companion in their opening hand.
This provided an unparalleled level of reliability, which in turn, made games incredibly repetitive. While each Companion utilized a deck-building restriction, these weren’t nearly enough to curb their power. Lutri, the Spellchaser, for instance, was banned in Commander on the day it was released due to the nonexistent deckbuilding restriction.
It wasn’t just Commander that was quickly plagued by Companions, as almost every format threatened to be overhauled. Subsequently, Wizards of the Coast had to take divisive action rarely seen in MTG. As the mother of all errata, Wizards fundamentally changed the Companion mechanic to nerf its overpowered cards. Through this nerf, Companion cards were no longer accessible at the start of the game. Instead, players had to pay three mana to put their Companion into their hand from outside the game.
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Despite being one of the most broken MTG mechanics ever printed, in their recent article, Mark Rosewater revealed that Companion isn’t at a ten on the Storm Scale. Instead, miraculously, Companion sits one step lower at a nine. That’s the same ranking as Landwalk, Phyrexian Mana, and the Untap Symbol. Explaining this baffling decision, Rosewater acknowledged that in almost every element, Companion was an awful mechanic. It was unpopular, had a small design space, had problems during development and play design, and seriously affected playability. The only upside of the mechanic was that it had a neutral level of versatility.
In their article, Rosewater admitted that “I should probably give companion a 10.” Despite noting all of its flaws, Rosewater stated, “It’s a mechanic that I get asked about a lot (I believe the ratings don’t totally reflect the public’s interest).” Subsequently, Rosewater stated that ideally, “if the perfect opportunity arose, we’d at least think about it.” As a result of this optimism, perhaps Companion isn’t as dead as once thought.
Given the immense problems it caused, it’s safe to say that MTG players were somewhat surprised by this decision from Wizards. In an accompanying Reddit post, players such as u/borissnm stated they’re “actually surprised it wasn’t a 10.” Dispute its ranking lower than Storm, u/PulsatingOrb even said that “they should rename the Storm Scale the Companion scale.” Alongside these comments, players such as u/initiatefailure noted some of the mechanic’s significant problems. “The line between unplayable and broken with Companion is just so narrow like it doesn’t feel worth exploring.”
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What Is the Storm Scale in MTG?
According to its creator, Mark Rosewater, the Storm Scale is “a fun way to predict the likelihood of certain mechanics or other features returning to a Premier set.” The list itself was named after the infamous Storm mechanic, which currently sits at a ten on its namesake list. This naming strategy was also used for the Rabiah Scale, which catalogs the likelihood of a plane’s return. As with the Rabiah Scale, it’s important to note that Rosewater isn’t a perfect representation of what’s to come.
Instead, the Storm Scale is “based on a general sense of the future without actually factoring in what I know about the future.” It’s also important to note that Rosewater may deliberately obscure information about what’s in the works. “If we are about to do something unexpected, I still treat it as unlikely.” For example, Mark Rosewater consistently rated Madness at an eight on the Storm Scale, despite knowing it was due to return in Shadows over Innistrad.
Interestingly, there are also instances where a mechanic that is high up on the Storm Scale is still relatively popular in a specific format. Take Annihilator, for example. Despite having a Storm Scale rating at level 9, the ability isn’t as poorly received in Commander as you might think. In fact, a relatively new card, Flayer of Loyalties, was recently printed with this ability in Commander Masters. While it’s less likely that this ability will show up again in premier sets, this is a prime example of a mechanic that is high up on the Storm Scale being featured in a different way.
With that explanation out of the way, let’s go over what each level of the Storm Scale means.
- Level 1: Will definitely see again
- Level 2: Will definitely see again, but not necessarily right away
- 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
In their Storm Scale articles, Rosewater explains that five critical criteria determine an MTG mechanic’s ranking. These five criteria are as follows:
- Popularity – Did players like this mechanic?
- Design Space – How many more cards could we design with this mechanic?
- Versatility – How well does this mechanic mix and match with other mechanics?
- Development/Play Design – How easy is this mechanic to cost? How easy is it to balance? How easy is it to make this mechanic?
- Playability – Did players have problems understanding this mechanic, both in how it worked and how it interacted with other mechanics?
Storm Scale Rankings
Now that we know what the Storm Scale actually is in MTG, here’s the long list of where every MTG mechanic sits on the Storm Scale. This list was last updated on the 14th of June 2023! We’ll be coming back every month to make sure everything is up to date!
Also! Before we get into the list properly, it’s worth mentioning that new mechanics can take some time to appear on the Storm Scale. This is the case for Battles, the new card type introduced in March of the Machine. According to Mark Rosewater, Battles are currently considered a deciduous mechanic. This means they could appear in any future MTG set when needed. That being said, however, new Battles won’t arrive for roughly two years…
With that brief aside out of the way, let’s get into the Storm Scale. For real this time!
|Mechanic||Storm Scale Ranking|
|Affinity for artifacts||8|
|Affinity for basic lands||6|
|Augment and Host||8|
|Bands with other||11|
|Cartouches and Trials (in combination)||8|
|Colorless mana as a cost||6|
|Daybound and Nightbound||6|
|Daybound and Nightbound (on Innistrad)||5|
|Dice rolling (d20)||5|
|Dice rolling (d6)||7|
|Dual Lands with Basic land types||3|
|Embalm (on Amonkhet)||5|
|Embalm (outside of Amonkhet)||8|
|Enchantment artifact (Non-Theros Plane)||7|
|Enchantment artifact (On Theros)||3|
|Legendary sorceries or instants||8|
|Locus Land Type||8|
|Modal Double-faced cards (MDFCs)||2|
|Mutate (non-Ikoria plane)||7|
|Mutate (on Ikoria)||3|
|Planeswalkers with static abilities||2|
|Processor (tribal mechanic)||9|
|Protection from […]||2|
|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|
|Transforming Double-faced cards (TDFCs)||2|
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