“That is sweet.”
“Wow, looks beautiful!”
These are some of the reactions you might hear during a game of Magic: The Gathering. The strongest of emotions evoked by the humblest of cards: Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, Forest. But not just any basic land cards – full-art ones.
Hot on the heels of Theros Beyond Death’s Nyx-themed lands, Unsanctioned brings a new set of full-art basics. But there hasn’t always been a bevy of art-prominent lands to express ourselves and our decks.
Planeswalk with me back to the beginning… Well, not to when Richard Garfield invented Magic, but to the very first set to debut full-art cards!
The Silver Age
Unglued (August 1998)
The wackiest set Magic had ever seen at the time, Unglued was all about breaking the rules. One of these defied conventions was what a basic land could look like.
Up until this point, there had never been any full-art cards in Magic. It was Magic artist and then-Wizards-employee Christopher Rush who started the idea*. “Everybody knows” what basic lands do, so why not do away with the textbox to make the art more prominent?
This idea was a perfect fit for Unglued’s theme, resulting in the first full-art basic lands!
Unhinged (November 2004)
Turns out, Unglued’s full-art basic lands were a hit. Like, a BIG hit. So, what does a silver-bordered sequel gotta do? Make more!
But Unhinged’s full-art basic lands had to be different from before. Cheekily, these new lands were “fuller” than their full-art predecessors. Right up to the border!
Surely, this must be “the fullest full-art” set of lands we’d ever see. (Hold that thought.)
Stick the Landing
Zendikar (October 2009)
Up until this point, full-art basic lands only existed in silver-bordered sets. That’s because they’re different, just like the Un-sets.
Zendikar is when we start seeing the “land” aspect of full-art lands tie in with the set theme.
This was also the first time each basic land type had more than one full-art land card. This made for a total of twenty unique, new full-art lands!
Judge Gift Promos (2014)
One year, for the first time, full-art basic lands were made available outside of a Magic set. They were distributed as part of the judge gift promo cards program.
Battle for Zendikar (October 2015)
Battle for Zendikar returning to the plane of Zendikar meant living up to the legacy of the previous block. Just like Unhinged following Unglued, Battle for Zendikar released another set of full-art basic lands.
However, for the first time in full-art basic land history, these lands included reprints. One full-art of each of Plains, Island, Mountain, Swamp, and Forest from Zendikar returned.
Lastly, Battle for Zendikar included five full-art options for each basic land type. This beat Zendikar’s record, with twenty-five unique full-art basic lands released at once!
Oath of the Gatewatch (January 2016)
Oath of the Gatewatch belonged to the same block as Battle for Zendikar but differed in full-art lands.
Wastes was the first basic land that didn’t produce one of the five colors of mana. Colorless mana was a theme of this set. To help illustrate this theme strongly, Wastes was given two full-art card options.
Oath of the Gatewatch was also the first set to use full-arts to tell a story. Sometimes, a plane-wide disaster occurs! Wastes cards showed the Eldrazi titan Kozilek laying waste to Zendikar, adding a visual element to the story.
Amonkhet (April 2017)
Amonkhet block started its first set with a plan.
A beautiful plane was overshadowed by ominous, massive Nicol Bolas horns. Amonkhet’s denizens were awaiting the approach of the second sun. When this second sun appeared between these horns, “the Hours” began.
The full-art basic lands perfectly illustrated this passage of time.
In this set, “the Hours” had not yet begun. The art in each land showed a thriving, beautiful plane. And a sun, just barely reaching the point between the horns.
Hour of Devastation (July 2017)
…the Hours began. The plane suffered calamity, and it showed on the full-art basic lands of Hour of Devastation.
Each full-art basic land depicted the same place from the same viewpoint as in Amonkhet. Only, this time, the second sun is between the Bolas horns. And, accordingly, a wrecked Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, and Forest.
Unstable (December 2017)
Unhinged followed up Unglued by making full-art lands with border-hugging art. How could Unstable beat that?
Well, by getting rid of the borders, of course! These are now “the fullest full-art” lands. These lands were among the first borderless cards, testing the technology for future sets to utilize.
Modern Horizons (June 2019)
While there have been snow-covered basic lands before, there had never been full-art snow lands.
With Modern Horizons adding new cards directly to Modern, this was a great time to reprint the snow lands. This was the first time there wasn’t a set theme or silver border to set a precedent for full-arts!
There and Back Again
Theros Beyond Death (January 2020)
Leading into Theros Beyond Death, every full-art basic land depicted a place. This set was the first time full-art lands showcased something more abstract.
When you look at constellations, you can find symbolism among the stars. So, when you want to symbolize the colors of mana in full-art basic lands, well…
Richard Garfield had come up with some pretty great symbol designs back in 1993.
Unsanctioned (February 2020)
The fourth silver-bordered product, Unsanctioned, had some big shoes to fill with full-art basic lands.
In this smaller product, the full-art direction took a new turn: reference each previous silver-bordered set’s lands!
From Unglued, the stylized, oval-like frame surrounding the art.
From Unhinged, a centered card name with art hugging the border.
From Unstable, a swooshed border along the bottom of the card.
Thanks for joining me on this journey through Magic’s history of full-art basic lands!
There are many great choices in full-art lands to outfit our decks with. But which ones are your favorites to use? Let me know on Twitter at @bradleyrose!
‘Til next time, may you respond to your opponent’s Path to Exile with a flashy full-art land.
Bradley is a co-host of a weekly Magic: The Gathering design podcast, Beacon of Creation. He was among the Top 101 contestants in Wizards of the Coast’s Great Designer Search 2. He enjoys crafting custom Magic product experiences, like Archfrenemies, and building Commander decks with creative constraints.