Scent of a Gamer

From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.

Basic lands in Magic

Basic land cards are often overlooked in Magic: the Gathering. They are the building blocks of the game, the invisible keystone without which the system would collapse. They perform a necessary, unglamorous function. They are rarely loved.

However basic lands perform a visual as well as a mechanical function. Through their art, they can build a picture of the games setting in players minds, whether consciously or not, as they play.bl10e_rav_forest_martiniere_lg

Basic lands in core sets tend to be straightforward representations of plains, islands, swamps, mountains, and forests. In the expert sets they help build the world. The lands of Ravnica show a world dominated by the urban form, though that form changes to form different landscapes. The lands of Mirage evoke the African feel of that set. The metallic plains of Mirrodin show a world very different from others, while in Innistrad and Shadowmoor all lands are suffused with the foreboding feelings of those worlds.

The lands can be drawn in a number of different ways. The easiest if simply five different representations of each land, by the same or different artists, done according to the style guide.

In other sets a panorama is created, which is then divided into the different basic lands. Players may then reconstruct these if they wish. Below is one example, the Kamigawa island panorama created by Martina Pilcerova.

bl panoramic pilcerova kamigawa

Other sets have expanded the land art out to use the full face of the card. These full-frame land arts are some of the most sought after cards in Magic. That’s right, there are basic lands that change hands for more money than all bu tthe most tournament playable rares.


The most well-known are those from the Un-sets. Seen above, I prefer the second row, all illustrated by John Avon, and indeed these are the most expensive such lands to acquire. Outside of the Un-sets, the world of Zendikar also used full-frame lands. This fit with the land based theme of the set and was again very popular.

Full-frame and panoramic basic lands remain popular with players. Basic lands are well worth a second look, if you’ve never paid much attention to them before.


4 comments on “Basic lands in Magic

  1. regina5000
    August 17, 2014



  2. daggerandbrush
    August 19, 2014

    Lands alwasy struck me as one of the most beautiful art in Magic. They always conjure a variety of fellings depending which colour they are attributed to: Beauty, decay, hope, a sense of adventure, all of them contained in such small card board pieces.


  3. Pingback: Clan lands in Khans of Tarkir | Scent of a Gamer

  4. Pingback: Plains of Magic: the Gathering | Scent of a Gamer

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This entry was posted on August 17, 2014 by in Art, Magic the Gathering and tagged , , , , , .
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