The scales of Blogatog (Magic: The Gathering) and community building
Magic's lead designer Mark Rosewater maintains a Tumblr named Blogatog on which he answers questions on a near-daily basis for his "Question Marks" (the folks submitting questions). It's one of the few things I pop open multiple times a week to read, and consistently keep up with. I spend many more hours reading about Magic there than I actually do playing it, I'm sure. That's because Mark presents not only Magic trivia, but deeper lessons of creativity and management, and lifts the curtain on the inner workings of Wizards of the Coast and the decisions they make as a company. He also does a twice-weekly "drive to work" podcast, and is a weekly columnist for the main Magic site. It's all super fascinating.
But today, I wanna talk about the stupid Magic trivia.
Mark is often asked to rate the likelihood of X happening in the future. This is super interesting, because Mark has insight into up to the next 7 years of Magic development, but Wizards is famously tight-lipped about anything beyond the current sets. It's well known you can get insights into Magic's future by reading Blogatog, but the problem is you don't know which future is the real one or how they connect.
So, rating likelihood. Here are the "scales" used to rate it on Blogatog:
- The Storm Scale
- The Venser Scale
- The Rabiah Scale
- The Beeble Scale
- The Banana Scale
The named "Scales" are all 1-10 scales, with 10 being "extremely unlikely" and 1 being "basically guaranteed". They are all related to X making a new appearance in a Standard-legal set. The name of the scale is something that is considered a 10 on that scale. Let me explain.
- Storm is a broken mechanic. It can't get reprinted in Standard. Therefore, the Storm scale represents the likelihood of a mechanic to return.
- Venser is a canonically dead Planeswalker. Therefore, the Venser scale is how likely a Planeswalker is to show up in Standard again.
- Rabiah is the plane on which the first expansion set, Arabrian Nights, is set. It's the only Magic "plane" based on material that isn't the intellectual property of Wizards (being based on 1001 Arabian Nights) and thus we'll never return there. The scale is how likely we are to revisit a particular plane.
- Beebles are an extremely silly creature type from Magic's early days that the creative team has explicitly said is a hard 'no' on returning. So this scale is how likely we are to see a creature type again.
And the banana scale is how likely Mark is to try a food. He's a picky eater. He loathes bananas. (It's not all Magic stuff.)
But wait, there's more! These aren't exactly scales, but they're similar: "Can I get a 'maybe'?" and "If or When". Getting a "Maybe : )" response on your direct inquiries is a fan favorite because within past Maybes are things that have definitely happened since then, indicating he (often?) pulls good guesses and calls them a maybe. On the other hand, some are false flags. And "If or When" is basically questioning whether Mark thinks X happening is questionable or inevitable (eventually).
The joke recently on a Blogatog is that it's becoming "scaleatog" with the recent pique of interest in rating everything on these scales. I thought I'd spend a minute to catalog them not necessarily because I think they are super interesting to every non-Magic playing Icrontian, but because they are a super interesting tool for audience engagement. Folks love getting their favorte mechanic/planeswalker/creature type/plane rated on the scales, and trying to glean a bit of information from Mark (who is extremely good at saying interesting things while revealing nothing).
He's built a very effective community out of a very selective mechanism (question submission) that you don't see a lot of on the Internet. The moderation comes in the form of what questions you choose to answer, which also dictates how fast people return and what the discourse evolves into (folks naturally double down on the types of questions being answered, and ask more when more is answered). It can create a very warped view of things (what lends itself to good questions isn't necessary representative of wider viewpoints) but it's very interactive yet tightly controlled.
Anyway, that's all I have. Hope you found it interesting.