Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Artwork in Magic: The Gathering
One of Magic's most iconic features is its stunning artwork—even non-players sometimes collect the cards simply for their art. And few backgrounds impress more than the mana-providing basic lands, each of which has over 100 different depictions across all sets!
Sure, art is somewhat subjective, but many sets offer particularly captivating landscapes that I think you'll enjoy—here are the ten best MTG expansions that went above and beyond with basic land artwork!
10. Ravnica Allegiance
Set Release Date: 2019
Ravnica's sprawling stonework buildings offer many opportunities for breathtaking visuals. Within its city walls, numerous guilds (two-color pairings) coexist in a tentative alliance. Ravnica is also where the Gatewatch fought Nicol Bolas in the War of the Spark set.
9. Game Night
Set Release Date: 2018
Magic's Game Night bundle features five premade decks (one for each color) designed to ease newer players into the game. The decks also feature awesome artworks for each basic land, a trend that continued in the following Game Night 2019 pack.
8. Throne of Eldraine
Set Release Date: 2019
Before Eldraine, Magic had been exploring more technological planes, which was fun, but Eldraine brought a welcome return to fantasy roots. The fairy tale-esque world offers several stunning locations with four artworks from each basic land; above you'll find my favorite visual for each (the others are also worth examining).
Set Release Date: 2016
In the Kaladesh plane, mystical energy called Aether warps the landscape, leading to captivating structures that look man-made but are really sculpted by nature. Drawing inspiration from both steampunk and Indian styles, this set yet again provides stunning basic land arts.
6. Guild Kit
Set Release Date: 2018-2019
Boy do I love the Guild Kit lands. Not only are they gorgeous, each takes inspiration from a second color; for example, the Boros (white/red) plains depicts a militaristic gathering, perfect flavor for a red/white duo.
While the lands don't have any special abilities, they let players express flavor without deviating from their standard colors. Each color can pair with any of the four other colors; above are my two favorites from each.
Set Release Date: 2004
Unhinged only features one artwork for each basic land, and as a "joke set", its cards aren't usually tournament-legal. But for a semi-official set that debuted back in 2004, it offered immersive full-arts that still hold up today.
Set Release Date: 2009
Zendikar yet again highlights the power of full-artwork lands (alongside some regular-sized ones), fitting for a set that focuses on land-based effects. With new landfall and fetch abilities, land support was on the rise, a perfect time to display the set's visuals (which often featured levitating monuments).
3. Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation
Set Release Date: 2017
These sets showcase Nicol Bolas's "Horn Monument", depicting his cruel enslavement over the Amonkhet plane. Not only do I simply enjoy these artworks, I like how they tell a story; the sun starts off to the side of the monuments in Amonkhet, before coming between them in Hour of Devastation (prophesied as the chosen time Nicol Bolas would reveal himself).
Both sets also feature new regular-sized land artworks that deserve a look.
2. Theros Beyond Death (Full-Arts)
Set Release Date: 2020
Today's most recent cards, these full-arts feature the color's symbol bathed in breath-taking hues. They're more abstract than most lands, but offer vivid representations of each. Plus, since players get one full-art land in each TBD booster, they're pretty easy to snag; you can score a full set (one of each) for less than four dollars!
Set Release Date: 2017
Like the other "Un" sets, Unstable isn't legal in most official events, but its wacky shenanigans offer completely unique battles for casual play. And like Unhinged, its full-art lands have just one art per land type, but impress with vivid colors that make even basic lands feel powerful.
With hundreds of images for each land type throughout Magic, there's some tough competition, but given the choice, I'll always take the Unstable variants.
Other Lands in Magic
Today we covered some of Magic's most iconic landscapes, but don't forget to check out the awesome artworks on non-basic lands. Also consider the snow-covered lands (full-arts of which released in Modern Horizons), which offer cool backdrops alongside the unique snow subtype, boosting certain effects, and colorless-providing Wastes lands.
Magic's artwork only gets better as time passes, and I'm eager to see what its future brings. But for now, vote for your favorite visuals and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill