Plains (Guru Lands) | Illustration by Terese Nielsen
Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest. Something that every Magic player has in common is that they learned how to play with these basic lands. The lands that you use often say something about you since every player has access to them. Some players play their favorite artwork, or lands from the latest set, or lands from the set they used to learn how to play.
So what kind of basic lands are out there? There are plenty of choices among the promotional cards on top of the basics that are released with most sets. But what, you might ask, is the coolest, rarest, most impressive basic land to sleeve up for only the finest of occasions?
An answer that many (if not most) players would give you is the Guru land cycle. Let’s talk about that!
What Are the Guru Lands?
Island (Guru Lands) | Illustration by Terese Nielsen
The Guru lands are a set of promotional basic lands featuring a very distinct art style. They were in circulation for only about a year and half and are the most expensive version of any basic land with any legitimate printing.
A single Guru land in good condition is worth hundreds of dollars.
How Did You Get Guru Lands?
The origin of the term “Guru” comes from the Guru Program that Wizards introduced in the summer of 1999 and ran until the spring of 2001. This program was created as part of an effort to introduce more players to the game via personal mentorship.
As part of this program a player could order a demonstrative version of Magic, including two 12-card decks, a playmat, a set of rules, and a rebate book. Players that signed up for this, termed “Gurus,” then taught new players the rules of the game, filled out a postcard with that players information, and got five “Guru points” and an entry into a prize drawing along with the player they taught.
Gurus could later convert their points into promotional basic lands and booster packs of the most recent set. These would have been Mercadian Masques, Nemesis, Prophecy, Invasion, or Planeshift at the time. The rate for exchange was 10 points per land.
The program was discontinued in favor of Magic Academy in the spring of 2001, which was a program designed around promoting gameplay in stores rather than person-to-person. Unfortunately it didn’t offer any of the rewards of the Guru program.
List of Guru Lands
Above are the Guru lands under a detail of the eclipses that are depicted in each of their respective arts. Each shows a part of a double eclipse at different stages.
What are Guru Lands Worth?
Guru Mountains are generally the cheapest among the Guru lands but this difference is small compared to their relative value, with lightly played versions being commercially available for about $600. Forests, Swamps, and Plains can be found for around $650 while Guru Islands cost you roughly $950.
Given that these are luxury collectibles, small differences in condition can tremendously change their value. Being evaluated as “moderately played” can reduce a card’s cost by $100 compared to a “lightly played” evaluation. Given that these cards have existed for 20 years it’s generally very rare to find “near mint” copies, which command an extra $100 to $200 over lightly played copies.
“Drowning Man” Guru Island
There are a couple misprints beyond these copies, both of which have astronomical value. The two most well-known misprints are versions without the bronze eye stamp that takes the place of the set symbol, and the “drowning man” misprint. The stamp is flipped upside down and shifted up and to the left in the latter, looking almost like a person trying (and failing) to swim.
Why Are Guru Lands So Expensive?
The Guru program existed for less than two years and needed a big time investment from players signing up to it to reap any rewards from it. Very few of these basic lands were ever printed. As is with most cards commanding such a high price tag, the primary driver of its value is extreme scarcity.
It’s also seen as a status symbol to some extent. Pretty much every player can use basic lands which is why they’re a very prominent means for self-expression. Some players use basics from the land box at their local game store. Some use full-art lands from Zendikar, Amonkhet, and Battle for Zendikar, or snow-covered full-art basics from Modern Horizons 2 and Kaldheim.
A lot of long-time players and collectors who are deeply invested in the game see Guru basics as the crowning star of their collection, one that’s instantly recognizable for its unique art.
Where to Get Guru Lands Now
It’s hard to find Guru lands for sale at any store that isn’t a dedicated Magic vendor these days. TCGPlayer generally always has a few listings as a large site that hosts hundreds of sellers, but even those fall to single-digit-number copies now.
Another way to get your hands on the Guru lands is at large events where international sellers also show up. Those have been few and far between since 2020, but vendors at events like SCG Con might have a few in stock.
A good way to find the best deals on these Guru lands is on various high-end Facebook groups. This is still the best way to find trustworthy people looking to piece apart their collections. These cards are often marked down from even the lowest prices on TCGPlayer.
Can You Get Guru Lands on Magic Online?
The Guru lands were released as promos on Magic Online, meaning that there are plenty of copies available at online vendors. Most sell them for about 0.35 to 0.40 Tickets, which translates to about 35 cents per land.
Forest (Guru Lands) | illustration by Terese Nielsen
Basic lands are a mundane side of gameplay for a lot of players. Ubiquitous, there for functional purposes only. For others basics are there to add to the scenery, to tell a story.
For the fortunate players who seek out the rarest and most prized among the basic lands to add to their collections, Guru lands represent the superlative basic land. Rare, unusual, and costly, it’s the be-all-end-all of playing the absolute fanciest version of a basic land outside of anomalies like test prints.
Are you one of the many collectors who curates their list of basic lands for your deckbuilding? Do you enjoy matching (or purposefully mismatching) your own set of basics? What do your lands mean to you, and what do you want to say about them? Let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Discord.
Until next time!
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