Last updated on May 2, 2022
Judge Gift Promos basic lands | Illustration by Terese Nielsen
For as long as Magic has existed players have always been concerned with their mana base. Whether it’s having all of the same art, foils, full arts, you name it, players love customizing their basic lands to fit their style.
Today I’m going to answer some quick questions regarding basic lands that you might have and then go down a quick list of the best ones ranging from official full arts from Battle for Zendikar all the way to the newest alters by artists.
Let’s get into it!
Swamp (Forgotten Realms) | Illustration by Sarah Finnigan
Basic lands are the most fundamental mana source in Magic. They’re basically free, included with every pack, and you’ll need about 25 of them for your first deck. The easiest way to get basic lands, whether you’re a new player or just running out, is to order them in bulk from places like Amazon and eBay where you can get hundreds of each color for only $20.
If you’re interested in some more blinged-out basics for your Commander or Modern decks, TCGPlayer has your back. You can order singles of just about any basic you like which means you won’t be wasting any money on bulk you might not want. I’ll leave you with this warning, though: some basics can get pretty pricey!
Yes, Wastes are a basic land type in Magic. They’re colorless (like every land) and tap for one colorless mana. This is used for spells that specifically need colorless mana, like Kozilek, the Great Distortion.
Some players, myself included, have recently taken a liking to these sleeves. Alter sleeves are basically just inner sleeves with a thin layer of art on the play side that work as pseudo-alters for your favorite cards, basics included.
The basic lands from the original Zendikar are the O.G. classic basic lands. These were the staple full-art lands to include if you were looking to bling out your decks for a long time.
Wizards weren’t on the full-art basics kick they’re on now, so these puppies went for upwards of $3-5 per land. Compare that with the $1.50 price tag they carry now, or the $0.20 price of the Battle for Zendikar full arts, and you’ll start to question how we survived back then.
Ah yes, the Unhinged basic lands. Even now in our world of saturated full-art lands these stand apart as some of the most expensive ones you can still buy in large numbers. These fall around the 7$ mark for lightly played and go for a couple bucks even damaged.
I think these lands are my personal favorite. I love how each one is totally filled edge to edge with the color it’s representing. There’s no chaff or filler, just an island surrounded by the ocean blue, or a mountain with a totally red sky.
The basic lands from Unglued of course deserve a mention today. They’re the weird cousin of Unhinged and are the basic land you might see your grandfather use. They just have that kind of old-timey look that I think comes from the one-of-a-kind framing on each card.
They also have a much more muted color palette overall that seems almost grayscale at times when compared to the art of Unhinged.
More recent are the basics from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt. These lands have an incredibly unique mono-color theme with art that continues past the typical borders of a full-art land. They’re very interesting to look at and make up in detail what they lack in color.
That lack of color is also a critique by some players because it makes them harder to discern when among other similar basics of other colors. Only the faint outline color shows what’s an Island or a Mountain.
The basic lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty rocked our world as players and are probably still fresh in your mind (and maybe even your decks!). These basics featured beautiful art for each basic and were presented in a framing style not yet present in Magic.
The basic lands from Theros: Beyond Death are some of my favorites. They feature some heavenly star-themed pieces that showcase their appropriate mana symbol front and center. They have a similar color intensity and brightness to the lands from Unhinged, and the large mana pip in the center helps emphasize each color further.
They’re also, coincidentally, some of the most affordable basics, each costing only a dollar or so.
Unstable’s basic lands win the award for most art packed onto a single card, if that exists. These beauties also remind me of Unhinged since they feature so much art on the card that you think it’s a print the first time you see it.
They have incredibly vibrant depictions and have a somewhat affordable price tag of $2-3 per land. Don’t even think about foil, though, as those go for upwards of $50 to $100!
The artistic side of the Magic community absolutely loves altering cards to fit their own style and preferences. Some opt to extend the preexisting art to the edges of the card while others like to completely transform the card into everything they’ve ever wanted.
This includes the basic lands, and some of the alters posted online are just so incredible that I had to include them today. So here are some of the best alters for each basic type that I could find online!
This is a wonderful set of basics in a unique art style that closely resembles the basic lands from Midnight Hunt. They have an almost entirely monochrome color palette with only a hint of the land’s respective color somewhere in the center.
These are gorgeous to look at, and I wouldn’t mind a set of my own!
This land stands in stark contrast to the previously showcased set. It’s a full alter of the original Plains, leaving only the sun pip in the middle. It’s a gorgeous piece and the visible brush strokes add a lot of unique color to the sunset in the background. Love this!
This has to be one of my favorite Forests ever. It’s a very realistic scene with a cute little fox in the bottom center. I can’t stop staring at it. It blends so seamlessly with the original art.
The color matching is just incredible, and I’m seriously impressed! I almost thought this was an entirely original piece at first.
Up next is a set of basics within the Naya () colors. These are some relatively high-contrast pieces, each showcasing their respective area. I think the Mountain is my favorite.
While I love the ultra-red mountains from Unhinged it’s refreshing to have a Mountain that doesn’t have any red whatsoever. A few calm waterfalls and a nice cloudy sky aren’t something I’ve seen on many other Mountains.
Okay, this is by far the cutest basic land I think I’ve ever seen. I love otters and they feel so in their element in this alter. The otters remind me of islands themselves, and the big fat blue mana pip rounds it out nicely.
I’m not much of a Zelda fan myself, but I’m sure those of you who are just love this Mountain. It doesn’t have too much red so it isn’t overbearing, and the green landscape is a nice touch.
I feel like Magic artists are made to refrain from having other land’s colors in the art, or they just do so by choice, and I love that about this land.
I’m not the biggest fan of spiders, but these alters really stood out to me. The flat white background really stands out and it helps further emphasize the invertebrates. They’re just really spooky and give me the creeps, which is what a Swamp and black as a color are supposed to do!
This is just a beautiful extended art of somebody’s favorite Forest. It’s an extension of a piece by Kev Walker, which is actually one of my favorites as well. The ultra-vibrant green is my favorite color, and this alter makes me love it even more!
This is the second fox alter we’ve seen today. I’m not complaining, but it’s kind of weird we’ve seen two this quick. This is another favorite of mine.
It has no green on it which feels a little out of place, but it also works. It’s just a nice fall scene and that isn’t something you see on many Forests.
The Lion King Plains
Here we have a classic movie showcased in this art. This time it’s Disney’s The Lion King, which was one of my favorite childhood movies growing up. I can’t think of a better movies to go along with Plains. The sky in this card is just magnificent and the color matching here is spot on.
I love this Island that showcases Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants busting through the card as if it were made of glass. It’s so quirky and different than most of the cards on this list and alters in general. Maybe I’m just biased because I love blue more than any other color.
I really love the sketch cards from MH2 and I’m glad I’m not the only one! I hope WotC brings these back, even if it’s just for Modern Horizons 3.
The Joker Lands
I’m not the biggest Batman and Joker fan but I have to give credit where credit is due. These twelve lands feature the Joker in the various styles and ways he’s been portrayed over the years.
I think having them predominantly on Swamps with a few Mountains included best fits the Joker’s colors. Having the Joker in white just feels off.
Don’t let the card fool you, this isn’t an original Neon Dynasty basic land. This is a sketch by the artist Martina Pilcerova, who does many other Magic cards, placed within a Kamigawa frame! This was incredibly well done. I can’t see any cut lines or things that look out of place.
This is a beautiful piece that showcases a Luna moth surrounded by some vegetation. I think this is a wonderful Forest since it doesn’t actually have a forest anywhere on it! That seemed off to me at first, but the basics from Ravnica don’t have actual islands either, so why not?
This alter, like the one shown before it, isn’t actually of a swamp. It’s rather a spooky and mysterious staircase coming out of a dungeon. It’s very on-theme with the recently released Innistrad sets, and it gives me that icky vampire feel that I crave.
This is a unique style of extending basic lands, and I’m all for it. I think the old borders are beautiful. They remind me of a nice sandstone or wooden frame.
I love what the artist did here by extending the art behind the border, preserving the artist’s name and set symbol. This is the kind of land I’d consider buying a set of to bling out my Commander decks.
Forest (Neon Dynasty) – Illustration by Piotr Dura
That rounds out today’s guide to the basic lands of Magic! I loved putting together this list as it exposed me to some new artists that I might commission soon. I love buying altered cards, and basic lands sure aren’t exempt from that.
What did you think of the alters? Are there any you’re in love with, or are there some great ones I missed that you need to share? Let me know below in the comments or talk to me about it over in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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