The (imperfect) Storm: The story of the most reviled mechanic in Magic history


Let's look at Magic's "Storm Scale."

For over a quarter of a century now, Magic has been introducing, taking away, reintroducing, and tweaking card mechanics. Some, like Flying or Scry, always pop up. Others, like Intimidate, are either defunct or only makes a rare appearance nowadays.

But there has been one mechanic that was so hated (or loved, depending on which side you're on) by the players and creators alike, and proved so broken and disastrous, that it is never going to see the light of day again. For any veteran Magic player, this one word is sure to bring a groan just based on the memories of this: Storm.

Storm first became a mechanic for several cards in the Scourge expansion in 2003. Created by one of the top designers at Magic, Brian Tinsman, Storm was an ability that affected the entire stack. Every spell used before hand would be used again, instantly bringing down a flurry of previously used spells on any remaining opponents. If dealt late into a round, it was essentially a nuke, as it was designed for being used shortly into the game. It didn’t count on people having them deep in their deck with a lot of spells.

As in every spell they previously used:

It was a huge problem. Players immediately complained about the sudden curb stomp battles, and Magic soon recognized the big issue with it. Decks with Storm overwhelmed tournaments that year, and seeing how broken it was, the mechanic was quickly shuffled out.

In 2006 they tweaked Storm again for the Time Spiral expansion, but again, they proved to be too powerful. While they tried to clip the wings of those cards, they still didn’t limits for the number of spells or how much mana was drawn to cast them. If anything, they were now even more powerful. Despite appearing a few more times, like in 2011 in Commander with a single card coming out with Storm. Even that single card proved to be too much.

Right after Commander, Mark Rosewater and others at Magic called it the worst mechanic they ever created, and said it would never be coming back.

How much so? Well, in the early 2010's Magic released the Storm Scale, a list of mechanics ranked on how likely they would be used again. Bottoming the list was its namesake, you guessed it, Storm.

Despite not being seen in almost a decade aside from a getting a little love in Modern Horizons, Storm proved to be the mechanic that finally made Magic sit up and realize just how powerful some of the cards they were making really were. After Storm we got a scale and creators speaking out, as well as more and more balanced decks after more scrutiny from R&D.

Storm almost broke Magic, but it also helped make it stronger in the long run.

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.