Abstract The warm formability of three sheet magnesium alloys was measured using the OSU formability test adapted for testing at elevated temperatures under isothermal conditions. The adapted test is shown to reliably enforce plane strain tension over a significant fraction of the sample, thus providing an assessment of FLD(0), typically the minimum major strain value on a forming limit diagram. By mathematically modeling the strain as a function of punch displacement, a case is made that the punch displacement itself provides an expedient approach to ranking the relative formability of sheet metals. Combined with knowledge of the constitutive behavior of the material, the punch displacement–strain relationship provides an explanation for the observed shape of the punch load versus displacement curves. OSU formability test results show that a new magnesium sheet alloy, yttrium-containing ZW41, is significantly more formable than traditional magnesium alloys AZ31 and ZK10. The improvement is linked to a more random texture in the new alloy, which diminishes the tendency for gross, catastrophic shear instability typical of the strongly textured traditional alloys.