Thursday, February 21, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #52: Hurloon Minotaur

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development, and I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


O.K., so here's what's up with this Innistrad ability word craziness appearing on an Alpha card: I wanted this minotaur to have the ability to enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if a creature died earlier in the turn. But I couldn't figure out the correct wording for Alpha's time from the other cards without it seeming like it triggered every time a creature died. So, I figured I'd just use the modern wording anyway. Then I also figured I'd go one step further, since I'm already out there, and just slap "Morbid" in front of it.

But this decision for this ability is a legitimate decision - check it out: There's not much to go off of in the art. In fact, the art showing a very normal minotaur is a boon for a vanilla design. But it already started out as a vanilla creature, so I couldn't do that. Then I sought to give it first strike or haste. But there are other Minotaurs in Magic: The Gathering that have first strike or haste.

So, the next thing I did was read the flavor text:

The minotaurs of the Hurloon Mountains are known for their love of battle. They are also known for their hymns to the dead, sung for friend and foe alike. These hymns can last for days, filling the mountain valleys with their low, haunting sounds.

Three things:
1) Hymns to the dead, friend or foe. Thus, keying off of whether ANY creature died this turn. It can't be an ability that can trigger off of multiple deaths since that would make it an uncommon.
2) Love of battle. Since we're counting a creature death as a condition, what benefit do we give? We give the minotaur a benefit that can be used in battle - combat. A +1/+1 counter both does the job and works as an indicator that this benefit has been given.
3) This minotaur is not just any minotaur - it's from the Hurloon Mountains. Since I'm going off of the flavor text, I had to keep the name intact to show that this is a Hurloon-ian doing what Hurloon-ians do: singing hymns to the dead.

Another reason for +1/+1 counters: while it exists in Alpha on two rares and an uncommon - there aren't any at common. One at common where no more than one would be used wouldn't hurt the set too much with complexity, I believe (obviously, it's all right nowadays, but considering its time).

Lastly, since Gray Ogre is a 2R for 2/2 and Hill Giant is a 3R for 3/3 - I had to appropriately cost Hurloon Minotaur with its size (power and toughness) and the +1/+1 counter, which is why it SEEMS overpriced in its mana cost, but is actually fair within its own environment.


  1. You can cost arbitrarily in Alpha and fit alongside Alpha cards.

    Alpha had Granite Gargoyle (a 2/2 flyer with toughnessbreathing for 2R) and Sedge Troll (a 2/2 that gets +1/+1 and the ability to regenerate for B if you have a swamp for 2R) plus the aforementioned Grey Ogre as differet three cost red creatures.

    This is also why when people decry strictly betters in Standard as a terrible crime against Magic I point and laugh at them - costs are arbitrary, and Sedge troll in the correct colors (Hedge Troll from Planar Chaos) did not even see Standard play when he was around.

    Other commentary!

    This guy would not have been a common in Alpha with that textbox. Creatures that grow themselves (even badly like Fungasaur) are all rares in Alpha. (Other than Plague Rat, which was common so you could get them more easily.) Common creatures are mostly vanilla or have one very straightforward ability in Alpha:[%22Limited+Edition+Alpha%22]&rarity=|[C]&type=+[%22Creature%22]

    You are also fighting Scavenging Ghoul for "things died and I get better" as thematic space, and the cards in Alpha are mostly very distinct from each other with strong top-down designs with very little stretching.

    The ability is fine on color (see Rockslide Elemental), but it is very out of place on a common from Alpha.

    Also, is it strange that I only post contextual history lessons on sets when you design a card? I just realized that this is really all I do, when I see a card that fits fine I just kind of shrug and go on. Is the context useful at all?

    1. Keep doing what you're doing since it's helping me grow as a Magic: The Gathering designer. For a designer, it's important to know your history, and you're helping me in that regard. =)

      I COULD cost arbitrarily, but since I have the choice, I wanted to cost appropriately. Besides, when designing a red common creatures alongside two other red common creatures - it's harder to let an arbitration of costing happen and for it to be O.K.

      Sea Serpent and Dwarven Warriors (besides Plague Rat) are the common creatures that seem most complex, and I think you're right in that getting a +1/+1 counter based on a condition of death would make this more at home as an uncommon in Alpha.

      And if that's the case, then, yes, it would be fighting for the same space as Scavening Ghoul. I have known what you mean about how each card plays into their own unique design spaces. Alpha was trying to cover a lot of bases with its card designs, so a lot of them are unique from each other.

      Thanks again, Robbit!

  2. You put a lot of thought into this design and did a great job explaining how you got there. But I was heartbroken to see you didn't stick to the technology of the time with your final product. You really wanted to make use of a +1/+1 counter and that led you away from Alpha design. I'll get over it, but I like it so much more when you stay in the mindset of the time. Let me make a suggestion.

    Alpha had a lot of defensive creature designs. The original Hurloon Minotaur was a pretty defensive card for red, so I would have explored the more aggressive side of the color that wasn't addressed in Alpha so much.

    Hurloon Skald
    Creature - Minotaur
    (same flavor text.)

    This vanilla sits comfortably next to Gray Orge and Hill (and also is instructive next to Fire Elemental.) And it helps showcase the midrange reach Red does so well. It's a fragile body, but it can get you there if you clear the way with burn. Plus, it gives Red a common chance to trade fairly in combat against Sea Serpents, Craw Wurms and Ironroot Treefolk. So there you go.

    1. Heartbroken! Wow, I'm happy to make that much of an impact with my daily redesigns!

      I like your solution and thoughtfulness of your design. I very much appreciate it.

      When I do this exercise every single day; sometimes, I have off-days. And that's O.K. And sometimes, I have home-runs. And that's part of the benefit of doing this daily (besides keeping in practice with Magic design).

      Thanks, Nich!

    2. The technology of the time is fine. Alpha had +1/+1 counters on several creatures, but they were all rare, as I mentioned above. (Fungasaur, Rock Hydra, Sengir Vampire, and Clockwork Beast all used counters, and the Beast's were +1/+0.)

      Otherwise very agreed.