Yesterday, Mark Rosewater went into detail about the Storm Scale, an informal estimate of how likely a mechanic is to return in Standard. It’s a mainstay of his blog, something which I strongly recommend checking out (if you aren’t already a Question Mark). His article was an excellent insight into how Wizards examines its own success, as well as a reminder of all the stuff in Khans of Tarkir block. This particular sentence, however, stuck out among all the rest:

“Megamorph is the lowest-scoring mechanic of all time.”

That is some brutal, brutal honesty. Worse than Cipher? Worse than Sweep? Worse than Cumulative Upkeep? Apparently so. This poses an interesting question: just what makes a mechanic go bad?

Den Protector

Popularity is clearly a major factor in a mechanic’s likelihood to return. However, popularity seems to usually be linked to three factors:

  1. Whether a mechanic has powerful cards
  2. Whether it’s relevant in Constructed and Limited
  3. Whether it’s easily understood

Megamorph seems to succeed in all three categories.

  1. It has a cycle of incredibly powerful Standard/Cube cards: Hidden Dragonslayer, Stratus Dancer, Silumgar Assassin, Ire Shaman, and chief above all, Den Protector, in addition to Deathmist Raptor, Ainok Survivalist, and Shorecrasher Elemental.
  2. In Limited, it had some of the best commons (Misthoof Kirin, Ojutai Interceptor, Atarka Efreet, and Aerie Bowmasters, making the mechanic visible to and powerful for Limited aficionados.
  3. As for comprehensibility, Megamorph is just about as complicated as Morph and arguably more complicated then Manifest, but it scores far worse.

There’s more than just power, versatility, and comprehensibility to a mechanic’s success or failure.


The last section aside, I’m by no means surprised by Megamorph’s unpopularity. It has a silly name, it feels unoriginal, and it had worse gameplay than Morph—Megamorph creatures had smaller stats than morph creatures, making them worse to play face up, or had substantially higher megamorph costs, making their versatility less relevant.

What I do find surprising is that Megamorph is so reviled. It isn’t an all-downside Echo, a confused and weak Chroma, a finicky beast like Suspend, or a boring Formidable (which, if you’d asked me yesterday, I’d have bet was the worst-ranking mechanic of Khans block). But perhaps therein lies the difference: Formidable was an unexciting mechanic following in the footsteps of the slightly-less-unexciting Ferocious, whereas Megamorph was the brand-new marquee mechanic following in the footsteps of Morph, the most complicated mechanic in Khans and the only one available to all clans. Aye, there’s the rub.

Megamorph was the dull third act following Morph’s exciting return and Manifest’s novel and surprisingly enjoyable gameplay. The context is key. People had high expectations of the more powerful, alternate-reality version of Morph. Megamorph failed to innovate, failed to excite, failed to meet expectations, and so, it failed.

Sudden Spoiling

The takeaway is that any mechanic can fail, and that perhaps the depths of a mechanic’s potential failure are directly proportional to its power. Some mechanics, like Tribute and Sweep, are just not going to be good: Tribute is always going to be weaker than the sum of its parts (and the best tribute card has two essentially identical effects, negating the mechanic), whereas Sweep has too high a setup cost to fill a deck (you can’t keep bouncing large numbers of land without a Fastbond or Manabond, and there are better uses for those cards). They’re unlikely to be strong and popular, but in so doing, they’re also unlikely to be despised. Megamorph had the potential to be loved, and accordingly, the potential to be hated.

I’m glad that Megamorph exists. Sure, it could have gone better, but it demonstrates Wizards’ continued willingness to take risks and innovate. They have an amazing track record of successes, but they will inevitably and repeatedly fail to execute; if they didn’t, they weren’t really taking risks, were they?

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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