Evolution of the Basic Land

Posted in Arcana on October 6, 2015

By Michael Yichao

Yichao is a writer of words for plays, television, theme parks, and—most recently—Magic: The Gathering. He loves Cube Draft and corgis.

Magic has evolved quite a bit over the years, but one thing hasn't changed—basic lands.

Well, actually . . .

While basic lands themselves haven't changed in how they play, they have changed quite a bit in how they look! Not only is there new art on basic lands with almost every new set, but the layout of the cards themselves has shifted over the years as well.

Let's take a journey through time and see how things have changed. As an example, we'll just pick the best land there is—Island. (Not that I'm biased or anything.)

Here it is—the set that started it all. These were the Islands that cast the first counterspell. All blue mana that currently exists in the Multiverse is actually the tears of joy that blue mages cried when they first cast Ancestral Recall using these Islands.

In Limited Edition (Alpha), basic lands told you exactly what you did with them: Tap to add one mana to your mana pool. Pretty straightforward.

With Revised Edition, basic lands changed a bit. We started using a diagonal T as a tap symbol.

Fourth Edition brought with it the fancy-schmancy tap symbol. Islands (and all lands) got a sweet upgrade.

Sixth Edition saw a pretty major shift: Basic lands simply had the mana symbol instead of any rules text. Elegant, simple, beautiful.

The change here is subtle. Can you spot it? The blue mana symbol got a bit of shading and shadow! All of our mana symbols got a bit of an upgrade with Eighth Edition.

From then onward, lands have kept their same basic (pun!) look. Islands and the four other basic lands are still the pillars to building a Magic deck. Now, in Battle for Zendikar as in the original Zendikar, they're even available in full-art frames!

May you play with your basics with a more complex appreciation.

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