By now you’ve probably noticed I like to throw curve-balls with these Embracing Vorthos posts. Not only is Canyon Minotaur a functional reprint of a card many players are already tired of seeing outside of a pool for Limited, but it doesn’t seem flavorful at first glance, aside from its slightly funny flavor text.
It might not be flavorful in its own right, but when compared to Hill Giant, the card it replaced in the Core Set, we can see why this minotaur is lacking some of the love it could be receiving from the Vorthos perspective.
Let’s take a look at this article about M12, of all things:
“In Creative, we try to maintain a power/toughness cutoff, a boundary that defines when human-sized creatures end and bigger-than-human-sized creatures begin. That cutoff is somewhere around the 2/3 or 3/2 mark; creatures that are smaller than that are human-sized and creatures that are 3/3 and larger are ‘giant-sized.’ Historically, creatures like Hill Giant and War Mammoth have provided that classic example of ‘3/3 means really big.’”
Now, of course, a 3/3 isn’t exactly really big, compared to, say, a 15/15. Large creatures are more likely in the present state of Magic compared to when Hill Giant was introduced. Some may call in Power Creep, or you could consider the fact that R&D has decided that creatures just weren’t powerful enough compared to artifacts and other types of cards in Magic’s past. Certainly some amount of powercreep exists, but I won’t say that having 5/5s and higher is a bad thing, something the term Power Creep connotes.
When you have creatures exceeding the 4/4 range, and many giants as 5/5s and above, Hill Giant just doesn’t seem very Giant. While certainly many humans are 3/3 and higher, even the 2/2 ones are really close to this “Giant” size that Hill Giant establishes. It’s odd that relatively normal sized humans really just need one day’s worth of a regimen to become a Hill Giant.
Now Wizards can’t take back cards it makes. Even when they ban them, they still exist. But it can end printing them and replace them with something new. In this case, Canyon Minotaur takes Hill Giant’s place. A minotaur makes sense flavorfully as being just larger than a human. Minotaurs have classically been depicted as either the size of men or more akin to centaurs. I agree with Wizard’s approach that Minotaurs make more sense as being larger than men, but even so, they certainly fit better as being close to humans in P/T than, say, Giants.
So there you have it: I believe that mostly maligned commons can sometimes still be accepted by players because they contribute something else to the game other than cards which to judge poorly compared to the cards R&D expects us to judge favorably. Attachment to the fantasy trope is one aspect (say, liking Pegasi, Griffins, or Minotaurs just because you like that part of fantasy), and another is having the card be flavorful. And, in my opinion, this card squeaks by in that aspect. Although if I ever did build a Minotaur tribal deck, I would not be ashamed to run this, even if other players may be.