Basic Lands Better Than Full Arts

Basic Lands We’d Run Instead of Full Arts

Kristen GregoryCommander

Everyone loves a good Full Art land, from the Ukiyo-e style of Neon Dynasty to the Dominaria United’s Stained Glass — or the classic Zendikar full arts that started it all. But what about the humble Basic land? Well, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to amazing regular Basic lands, so let’s run through some of our favorites. We’d definitely opt for some of these to finish off some of our decks before reaching for Full Arts. 


The first entry on the list is one I’ve personally never seen anyone else play, but I simply adore it. Charles Urbach’s Plains, printed in M12 and M13, is simply sublime. The god rays shining down onto the fields are as serene as they are foreboding, and in my case, they herald the soft beats of angel’s wings.

In foil, the soft glow really sings, and is a perfect complement to the color palette employed in many of white’s most popular cards that depict the dawn or twilight hours.

Meanwhile, the Eldraine Plains by Howard Lyon is a real visual treat. The soft focus and swirls of cloud let us know we’re in a magical place, while the red flowers contrast with the deep blues in the sky to brighten up an otherwise cloudy moor. 

The real center of the piece is a ghostly will-o-wisp, or faery, or… well, we don’t know, so let’s follow and find out. Equal parts whimsy and fantasy, this land could be just at home in Alela, Artful Provocateur as it would in Zur, the Enchanter

We couldn’t look at Basic Plains without covering this adorable piece by Johannes Voss. “Pupper Plains” is a delightful take on a Basic Land and one that dog-lovers everywhere can get behind. It even has some little butterflies, which help to balance the piece visually. Sure, you can put this in a Rin and Seri deck, but why stop there? It’s a top-tier Plains all round. 


Statistically speaking, a lot of Islands are actually other bodies of water — which is totally fair given that not every story is set on a coast or at sea. This Kaladash Island looks to be some kind of river delta or series of islets. 

Either way, Yeong-Hao Han delivers a dreamy, almost impressionist take on Kaladesh’s Aether-driven natural environment. The water and sky tones in this one are a treat in foil, and it’s one of our favorite Basic Islands. 

Now for something a little more abstract. Chippy’s Alara Island reveals to us that the sky is a lie. Everyone loves a good firmament myth, and this island feels at once alien, futurist and contemplative. 

This island slots really well into any artifact-themed deck. Breya is an obvious home, but really anything playing blue can enjoy Chippy’s great art. 

Damn. Sorry, I got distracted for a moment looking at more Chippy art. 

The third Island on today’s list is this Mark Poole classic. I’m not sure what I love more; the turquoise ocean hues, the demarcation of different water levels, the defiant outcroppings or the remains of a threshold where perhaps a tower once stood. 

It’s an Island that makes you think, and one that can fit in a bunch of decks. The easy win is to stick it in Dominaria themed decks, but I also think it could be some nice imagery in a Superfriends deck. Where will the door take you?


I’ve been mesmerized by Rebecca Guay’s swamp since I first laid eyes upon it back in 2017. It’s just the right amalgamation of spooky, serene, foreboding and calm. 

If you think about it, those vibes captures the night-time perfectly. What little light there is on the piece is granted by the low-hanging and lethargic moon, suggesting even it can’t protect you from the things that go bump in the night.

I’ve opted for this Swamp in my vampires deck, and I think it’s well suited to anything of the sort — from nightmares to werewolves (if you’re somehow in Jund). But really, any kind of visceral and base Jund deck would be a stellar home. The addition of a classic basic frame option means you have even more ways of customizing your deck. 

One creepy creature I didn’t mention above was the humble zombie. Zombies deserve their own more specialized Swamp. 

If you’re going Amonkhet style, then of course there are the full-art Bolas lands. But we’re here to talk Basics, and there’s a clear winner in this category: Lucas Graciano’s JumpStart Swamp. It’s like something straight out of a graphic novel or metal album cover. 

If you like foil basics, then the War of the Spark Swamp by Richard Wright might be the one for you. The Planeswalker sparks driving their way toward Nicol Bolas, Dragon God show up real nice against the darker background, and the fires of war spring out just as well. Why this Swamp?

Well, whether you’re on Superfriends, a Nicol Bolas deck, a Ravnica deck, or even an Oathbreaker deck, there’s a bunch of places it can go. It’s a historical moment in the Magic story worth capturing. 


The icy daggers in the bleak sky of this Innistrad mountain are a natural phenomenon, believe it or not. Sun Pillars are formed by light reflecting from ice crystals slowly falling through the air. On Innistrad, this is caused by Emrakul’s disruption of the natural cycles of the plane. Either way, they look badass and are present on the basic land cycle for 2021’s Innistrad sets.

The Mountain in particular looks awesome. The deep red hues and tapered points throughout the piece, from the sun pillars to the mountain peak itself, speak of one thing: danger. The Crimson Vow bundles actually came with a bunch of these lands in foil and non foil, which makes getting a thematic manabase together is pretty easy. 

From something relatively new to a relative classic: Nils Hamm’s Mountain. 

It’s hard to describe just what makes this artwork speak to us so much. Maybe it’s the scale. Maybe it’s the color palette. Maybe it’s the utter brutality. It speaks to us on a primal level. 

A great many of you love this Mountain, too, so we’re just reminding you that it could be gracing your mana base. 

This Jumpstart Mountain depicts an omen of ill portent. A sign that something wicked this way comes. A Dragon’s Approach

I don’t need to tell you twice: this should be your Mountain of choice in a Dragon’s Approach deck. And those decks are actually super fun (you should give one a go). 

You could, of course, also use it in Miirym, or Lathliss, or The Ur-Dragon. But let’s be real: Dragon’s Approach with a Mountain with a literal dragon approaching?! It’s too perfect not to build it. 


There are many great Full Art lands, but in dismissing regular Basics, you’re dismissing some gorgeous and timeless artwork. Take Alayna Danner’s Forest, for instance. It’s very clearly not a photograph, but it’s so realistic that you feel like you’ve been there. The soft evening light dancing across the myriad foliage makes this one a real treat. 

For something strikingly different, consider the comforting canopy of this forest from Neon Dynasty. You can almost hear the rustle of the bamboo in the wind. Where will the glowing path take you? Perhaps the Kami will guide you home. 

Our list is capped off with quite possibly one of the most popular basic forests in the game: Jung Park’s Innistrad Forest

The autumn hues are warm and inviting, offering a rare glimpse at a forest land that’s not mostly made up of greens. The fiery copper tones grant a sense of calm, which is rare given Innistrad’s dangerous nature. Not to disappoint, this basic doesn’t paint an entirely serene scene: in the distance, a figure looms.


Picking out basics for your deck is a great opportunity to inject some personality, flavor and aesthetic intent. Whether you’re choosing basics to match the plane, the “vibe” or just ones you enjoy, you should branch out beyond just the popular Full Art lands. 

Basic lands tell stories, and they have some stunning artwork. Which basics do you love the most? Let us know on twitter

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