Project Gorehorn

Brandon Amico • September 29, 2023

In 2019, Throne of Eldraine introduced us to the"showcase frame," a unique and flavorfully fitting card treatment that would accompany each new Standard set going forward. We're accustomed to them now, but at the time Wizards hadn't yet begun the practice of providing unique treatments everywhere you turn; we hadn't seen something like this before, and the decision was met with a fair amount of excitement. Eldraine being a plane filled with fairy tales, a storybook frame fit perfectly. Soon after, we got constellation frames in Theros Beyond Death and comic-book stylings in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.

Core Set 2021, the release following Ikoria, had a cycle of cards tied by name to the five colored planeswalkers (not Ugin, though. Sorry, Ugin). A common, uncommon, and rare card titled "Planeswalker's X" accompanied Chandra, Teferi, and the others.

But this is where things get a little weird. The green planeswalker for the set, Garruk, Unleashed, had a common creature in his named cycle with no abilities, what we call a "vanilla creature": Garruk's Gorehorn. While not a particularly exciting or commonly played card (I'm sure it did chunks of 7 damage quite often in draft, though) as part of the cycle, it got the special treatment. Which looks like this:

No rules text. No flavor text. Just a big, empty rectangle with the faintest hint of a pattern on it. Why nothing in there at all? While at MagicCon Vegas in late September this year, I spoke with Mike Turian, product architect for Magic (though his role while M21 was in design was principal product designer, according to his LinkedIn), and he confirmed that for M21 the design for showcase cards was intended to keep the text boxes clean and uncluttered, kind of like you would see in simple but powerful spells with only a few words on them, like Wrath of God or Counterspell. Which meant no flavor text on any of them. The Gorehorn was the only vanilla creature to be found, but did not receive an exception to this rule: no flavor text plus no rules text meant an empty box.

So... What is Gorehorn Project, Then?

Ever since I saw the showcase version of Garruk's Gorehorn, I couldn't get over the way it came out. To my knowledge, there had never been a card with nothing in the way of rules or flavor text (purposefully textless variants, like promo Lightning Bolts, notwithstanding) before the Gorehorn, and nothing since. It looked like it was just waiting for someone to write something in it, and I, too, waited for the opportunity to do something cool with it.

That opportunity came when I started writing for Commander's Herald, focusing my articles on building decks around flavor text, and then went to Las Vegas for MagicCon. I had an idea: if this card needs some flavor text, why not see what the community comes up with for it? I decided I'd look for as many Magic personalities and friends as I could at the show and have them write in their own flavor text for the card! So I gathered a bunch of copies of the card before jetting off to Sin City and that's exactly what I did!

I wanted to see how different people approached the same card when coming up with flavor for it; it's a big beastie, yes, but beyond that it's pretty much a blank canvas. Would the text be funny? Serious? Weird? Some combination? Let's see what they came up with!

And what better way to start than with Mike Turian himself?

"The Gorehorn emerged from the forest and stared blankly." 

I love the pun on "blank" here, and the art does suggest the Gorehorn emerging from the woods, the perspective being that this giant dude just walked out from behind a (what has to have been a massive) tree. There's also a nice fit between Mike's text and the fact that we often refer to cards like this, huge bodies with no other synergies and abilities, as dumb beaters, so I could see the Gorehorn with a blank look on his face, at least when he's not giving the menacing one you see here.


Or...maybe the Gorehorn is being cute? Streamer Voxy gave the card this simple but effective text. Maybe he's a playful beast, albeit one that could accidentally crush you while playing (reminiscent of the flavor text on Deadly Rollick). I enjoy this subversion of what is expected of a giant beast!

Oh, and if you're wondering about the numbers above the power and toughness, I thought it would be fun to mark the order in which people provided flavor text, so I numbered them all out ahead of time; Voxy was the first I ran into on Friday morning at the convention, hence the #1 here.

"I'm just trying to be cool..."

Awww. These folks are gonna make me feel bad for what is likely a murderous hell-beast (seven power is a lot, y'all). Here we have Logan, AKA Seraph Six, humanizing the murder machine that is the Gorehorn. We all want to be cool; sometimes that means wearing certain clothes or listening to the music that is popular right now; other times it means winning combat or at least trading with basically every creature around. (Oh, and every fifth Gorehorn I handed out was in foil. Mostly because doing so every five cards felt like creating checkpoints throughout the process and this amused me.)

"Whose horse is that?"

Chase Carroll (ManaCurves on Twitch and Twitter) made me laugh out loud with this one. One thing I worried about when setting this project up was that there wouldn't be much room to write in by hand on these cards; even with a thin Sharpie, unless you have tiny handwriting there just isn't much space for longer text. But Chase nailed it in four words; I can picture the mix of incredulity, surprise, and fear in the speaker's voice. That's a weird horse, but it's gotta be a horse, right? No way it could be anything else...

"Gore-horn? But I don't hear anyth--" --Zalto, Last Words

Many people went the humorous route, which is right up my alley. Here's the one and only Gavin Verhey, who I grabbed during a break in his excellent Unknown Event at MagicCon (seriously, next one you go to, make sure to sign up for it!), with a play on the different meanings of the word "horn." It's not his main job, but Gavin told me he has written a few flavor texts for printed cards before, and maybe he's responsible for some of the other "last words" running jokes throughout Magic's history!  Poor Zalto. (And it's serendipitous, or like he's read my Last Words article, where I made an entire deck based on flavor texts of characters' last words and stupid moves!)

"Put the flavour text in this box." --Gavin, probably

Canadian YouTuber MrBevers unwittingly predicted Gavin's participation with this little quip. Notably, he spelled flavour with a u, which is standard north of the border, and reminds us all what uncultured swine we are for walking around typing "flavor" like we're in a hurry to get to the end of the word.

"Why say word when 7/3 do trick"

A few people honed in on the mechanical identity of the card. As fellow Commander's Herald writer Jubliee Finnegan pointed out, there's a case to be made that if there exists a card that doesn't need any kind of text, it's this one. A 7/3 that comes down midgame is about as straightforward as a card could be. Cast it, turn it sideways, and it'll get the job done.

"Walk softly and carry a big stick."

That's the underlying sentiment behind Commander Advisory Group member and all-time kind person Shivam Bhatt's flavor text, who adorned the Gorehorn with a version of an oft-used adage that boils down to "let your actions speak for you." A creature that is just built to smash face, this thing won't be doing much talking; it's all about action. A 7/3 is a big stick, indeed.


"It's a dog-eat-dog, bull-fight-bull, everyone hates on the goat world." --Ferdinand the Bull

That wasn't the only quote to come in from outside the game, either. Beth, the Queen of Cardboard, pulled a quote from the animated film Ferdinand the Bull. I haven't seen it myself, but I'm now intrigued, and I like the interesting way this flavor text frames the creature, adding some depth to the environment it's found itself in and suggesting maybe it wouldn't need to do much horn-goring in a different world.

"Many explorers learned the hard way what the sixth horn was for..."

Speaking of horn-going...yikes. Streamer and cosplayer Zenaide Beckham (ZBexx), left just enough to the imagination to keep things neat and proper here. It's not 100% clear to me what exactly that sixth horn is for, but this text makes it clear that it's bad, and I don't want to be one of the people learning firsthand. Zenaide told me that it was a dream of theirs to write flavor text for Magic cards, and while only for this one individual card, I'm happy to have assisted with that!

"Gorehorn...more like Borehorn."

True words from Hobbes of the Goblin Lore podcast. A vanilla 7/3 is pretty boring, especially given how much the average complexity of a card has risen in recent years, which makes it even more important that there be some flavor text to spice the card up!

"There is always spice even in the jankiest of brews."

Here we have a bit of philosophy from streamer Carlo Favretto, Jr. I appreciate this optimistic take on deckbuilding; even with so, so many builds out there with thousands and thousands of people building the same commanders, there's always room for a little spice. I do believe this myself, unless you're copying a decklist one-for-one online (though honestly, you do you), there's no way you haven't left a little bit of your personality sneak through into the deck while crafting.

It's possible it's actually "space" rather than "spice" written here, and this could be more about finding room for that last pet card, but either way--words to live and build decks by.

"Big...but also small."

MTG content creator, commentator, and co-host of Limited Resources Marshall Sutcliffe perfectly captures the thought process of anyone coming across the Gorehorn for the first time. On turn five, you're probably not expecting your opponent to drop seven power on the board; that's huge!...but also, three toughness makes it a bit thin and able to be taken out by smaller creatures or spells. I could see Marshall and LSV's Limited Resources assessment for this card in M21 draft come out the same way: "Big, but also small."

"It wasn't love at first sight. That came later when blood was shed."

Here's a really unique and unsettling one from Lynn Frank of CheckYourBulk. Is the love between the two because they survived a harrowing experience against a Gorehorn? Or because the two together shed blood, defeating a mutual enemy? Is the Gorehorn one of the ones in love? Many questions here, all haunting and intriguing. Flavor text like this that makes you engage with it and push deeper to get answers is outstanding, achieving a lot in a short stretch of time.

"Don't laugh. It works."

Finally, we have Brian Kibler, the thrice-Grand Prix-winning player and co-host of Commander at Home, porting the flavor text of one of his favorite cards, one he's known for following his first Pro Tour Top 8 appearance: Armadillo Cloak. That's some all-time top flavor text already, and it works surprisingly well on the Gorehorn: generally, a big creature that you invest a ton of mana in being this fragile is laughable...but if it's not answered, that's seven power crashing through. That's hard to laugh off.

Project Gorehorn, Signing Off

That's it for today! I'm so grateful for everyone above who took the time and effort to spice up these Gorehorns. Magic is an incredible game in many ways, not the least of which is the opportunity for self-expression. Usually, that comes out in how we build our decks, how we play them, the variants and art styles we choose or the alters we have done; we don't normally have much say over the flavor text. This project was a great reminder of how unique and creative we all already are; we simply need a canvas to work with to show it off.

Speaking of which--write some flavor text for the Gorehorn yourself and drop it in the comments below or on social media!

Brandon hosts the MTG Variety Hour (@mtgvarietyhour on TikTok, IG, and Twitter) and has been playing Magic since Odyssey back in 2001. When he's not slinging cardboard, he works as a freelance copywriter and is an accomplished poet with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. His literary work can be found at