There’s an old joke that Island is the most powerful card in all of Magic. I’m not sure I disagree. While some of the Eternal formats are deep enough that basic lands aren’t strictly necessary, it’s still rare to see a deck that doesn’t run at least one copy of Plains, Island, Swamp, Mountain, or Forest.
To that end, high-end versions of basic lands make for wonderful long-term speculation targets. Regardless of how each metagame evolves, no matter how the formats wax and wane in popularity, there will always be a market for cool-looking basics. You’re almost entirely immune from reprints when you speculate along this angle, too. Wizards of the Coast rarely prints the same piece of land art twice and the older printing tends to hold most of its value regardless.
Basic land speculation isn’t great for anyone who wants to make a quick buck. There’s always going to be another Mountain available in a pinch, which means that these cards are fairly resistant to the FOMO spikes that are currently driving the Reserved List buyouts. In fact, many of these cards haven’t seen their value change at all over the past decade. A few of them have started surging in price recently, however, and almost none of these cards have ever gone down in price. If you’re looking for a stable place to stash some of your investment capital, look no further.
With hundreds upon hundreds of different lands to choose from, I decided to rank each cycle of lands, from the cheapest all the way up to most expensive. Which basics might be ready to spike, and which already command a crazy premium? Let’s find out.
40) Mismatched Garbage from the Land Box (Non-Foil) – $0.10
StarCityGames.com sells wholesale lots of lands for $0.10 each, so you can make a spurious argument that this is what your random basic lands are worth as well. Of course, SCG’s lands come in nice packages and are guaranteed to be in NM condition.
Regardless, you won’t have that kind of luck if you try to sell whatever random lands you have lying around your house from old drafts and collection buys. As far as I can tell, mismatched basic lands lots basically don’t sell on eBay, though somebody recently got $2 plus $7.20 shipping for their lot of 400 random basics. I suggest simply donating these to your LGS, which is probably running out of lands because you and your pals keep accidentally walking off with them after your FNM drafts.
39) Matching Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $0.25
These are slightly better, especially if you can put together lots of twenty to 30 lands with the same art so that your deck looks reasonably cohesive. Selling these is still going to be tricky, though, and it’s really only worth it if you’ve got a big storefront like StarCityGames.com and you can keep hundreds of copies sorted and in stock. I still tend to just throw these in the ol’ mismatched lands box and forget about them.
38) Battle for Zendikar Full-Art Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $0.39
I was pretty excited for these when Battle for Zendikar was released, but it’s been about two years and they’re still relatively easy to find for less than fifty cents apiece. Not only wasn’t Battle for Zendikar nearly as beloved as its predecessor, we’ve played with these recently enough that they don’t feel all that special yet.
I’m sure that at least some of these lands will eventually end up breaking the dollar mark, but it might take a while. If you’re going to invest, grab the Noah Bradley pieces. People love Noah Bradley—and for good reason!
37) Hour of Devastation Full-Art Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $0.49
Only a third of the basic lands in Hour of Devastation were full-art, allowing them to retain at least slightly more of their value than the full-art lands from Battle for Zendikar. Other than a slight bump for scarcity, however, I expect these to follow the same slow upward trend that I’m predicting for the Battle for Zendikar lands. Holding these is fine, but they’re too low-value for me to worry too much about speculating on them.
36) Amonkhet Full-Art Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $0.75
These lands are slightly scarcer than their Hour of Devastation counterparts because only one-quarter of Amonkhet boosters contained a full-art land rather than the one-third ratio found in Hour. I also suspect that people really liked the motif of the sun growing closer to Bolas’ horns, which you can see play out in this cycle.
While Amonkhet wasn’t the most beloved set, either, I do suspect that these five lands will probably continue to set the pace for recent full-art basics. They’ll be an easy trade in the $1.50-$2 range at some point over the next couple of years.
35) Outlier Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $0.50 – $1.50
There are a few basic lands that are worth slightly more than bulk due to scarcity combined with some interesting aesthetic properties. For example, Odyssey Plains #333 is worth $1.50 due to the cool thunderstorm on the horizon. Swamp #291 and Island #287 from Lorwyn hit this target as well—Faeries players like these two since they’re the only lands that show Glen Elendra. Shards of Alara Plains #233, Island #236, and Swamp #238 are sought-after since they have the amazing Esper grid-like backgrounds.
While it’s hard to sell these lands individually and most major stores list them in the $0.50-$1 range, these particular basics are often perpetually out of stock and thus are fairly hard to come by. If you can luck into a stack of twenty to 30 matching copies, you should be able to get a couple bucks each from the right buyer. People want to one-stop shop with these, though, so individual copies are a little bit difficult to move.
34) Mismatched Basic Lands (Foil) – $1
Random foil lands are worth about a dollar. That was true when I was in high school, it’s true now, and it will still be true ten years from now. You can sometimes get $2-$3 each for random foils, but you’ll need to have at least fifteen or twenty copies of the same basic land and you must find the right buyer or trader. Is that really worth your time and effort? I generally tend to buylist these whenever I have enough of them. That way, they’re somebody else’s problem.
33) Zendikar Full-Art Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $1-$2
These non-foil full-art basics from Zendikar haven’t technically lost any value since Battle for Zendikar stole their thunder, but they’re significantly harder to sell and trade. Prior to 2015, the only other full-art lands were from Unglued and Unhinged. Nowadays, there’s an expectation that full-art lands can happen at any time.
These lands should stay above $1, but I don’t see a major surge in their future unless WotC announces that they’re pulling back significantly on full-art lands—something I don’t expect them to do. For the meantime, they’re kind of a weak hold.
32) Portal: Three Kingdoms Basic Lands – $1.50-$3
Scarcity is the main driver of value here: the print run for Portal: Three Kingdoms was vanishingly small, and most players haven’t even seen this set of basic lands before. The fact that they have white borders has kept demand fairly quiet, but the fact that these are among the only cards in Portal: Three Kingdoms that actually see any sort of competitive play should count for something, right?
It seems weird to say when talking about basic lands, but these seem fairly vulnerable to a buyout. I don’t know if it will happen, but it could. I can say the same about a lot of the older sets and promos on this list, of course, but Portal: Three Kingdoms certainly seems to hit the sweet spot of scarce and cheap. If you’re going to invest, grab Mountains—they seem to be the most popular.
31) Arena 2006 (Ravnica) Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $2
Did you even know there was a cycle of John Avon promo Ravnica lands? These lands are from the final year of the Arena program, and they’re explicitly tied to one of Magic’s most popular sets.
So why aren’t they more popular? There are a decent number of Ravnica promo lands at this point, I suppose, and at a glance they don’t look all that different from normal Ravnica basic lands. Otherwise…who knows? They’re probably a bit underpriced based on scarcity, but I can’t imagine a huge outpouring of demand any time soon. Otherwise, they’d have spiked at least once by now.
30) Arena 2004 (Mirrodin) Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $2-$3
Here’s another cycle of John Avon basics, this time from Mirrodin. My comments from the Arena 2006 lands all apply here as well, with the caveat that a couple of the entries in this cycle have jumped all the way to $3. Yeah, I’m still not buying.
29) Unlimited Basic Lands – $2-$3
In terms of scarcity, these are underpriced right now. There were a lot more packs of Unlimited sold than Alpha or Beta, but those numbers are several orders of magnitude lower than, say, Revised.
The biggest problem here is that aesthetically, Unlimited lands are kind of hard to tell apart from Revised. Regardless, I expect the Old School spikes will eventually surge all these above $10, too. As with any ancient cards, grab any copies you think you’ll ever want ASAP.
28) Collector’s Edition Basic Lands – $2.50 – $3
These look like square-cornered Beta basics, only they’re not tournament legal. Cubers don’t care, though, nor do most Commander players. I’ve long underestimated the appeal of Collector’s Edition cards, and since there are so few copies out there I expect that these will eventually end up around the $10 mark as well.
27) Unstable Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $2.50 – $4
Unbelievably, Unstable‘s basic lands still retail for about the same price as a sealed Unstable booster pack. The set has had at least three print runs at this point, and my guess is that we’re getting close to the end of Unstable‘s shelf life. At some point soon, then, a day will come when all of these lands will be at least $5 and you’ll wish you picked up your extra copies back when they were this cheap.
26) Standard Showdown Promo Basic Lands (Foil) – $3
These Standard Showdown promos are absolutely stunning, though I’ve long been partial to Rebecca Guay’s art. Their price is hurt by how recently they were released and how prevalent they are, but both of those problems will solve themselves in time. You can find these pretty easily in the $3 range right now, and I’d strongly consider grabbing a bunch if you’re looking for a safe and solid long-term spec. As always, focus on Islands if all five lands are roughly equal in price. They tend to end up being the most valuable in the cycle more often than not.
25) Arena 2005 Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $2-$5
These are all $2-$3 (just like their 2004 counterparts) except for the Island, which is $5. That one’s the most explicitly Kamigawa-related, though, which means that it has a niche but vibrant audience of interested buyers. Otherwise, these seem even more unexceptional than the John Avon cycle and I’m staying away.
24) MPS Promo Basic Lands – $2-$5
These Japanese promos were released between 2007 and 2010 for Lorwyn, Shards of Alara, Zendikar, and Scars of Mirrodin. For whatever reason, they’ve never really caught on. I think they look too similar to most of the non-promo lands, and the cycle is fairly haphazard. It’s possible that these will end up being popular at some point, but I’m not holding my breath.
23) Amonkhet Block Full-Art Basic Lands (Foil) – $3.50
Unlike their non-foil counterparts, both the Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation full-art have equal prices in foil. The Amonkhet versions are slightly rarer and cooler, so they’ll probably outpace the Hour of Devastation lands eventually, but all of these are probably on a fairly slow burn regardless.
22) Arena 2000 (Mercadian Masques) Promo Basic Lands (Foil) – $4-$6
I’ll be honest, this was the only cycle of lands that I didn’t actually know about before I started writing this article. I assumed that these were normal Mercadian Masques foil basics, but nope—they’re actually Arena promo lands! I have a hard time calling them undervalued since I’ve never even heard of them before, but I guess they’re kind of neat. They’re probably not poised for any kind of rally unless they start to get some press somewhere, though.
21) Battle for Zendikar Full-Art Basics (Foil) – $4-$8
It’s interesting that once foils are involved, Battle for Zendikar has the slightly more expensive lands, while Amonkhet‘s full-art lands are pricier in non-foil. This tells me that more people like the Battle for Zendikar aesthetic, and the Amonkhet versions are only more valuable in non-foil due to increased scarcity.
At any rate, most of these are either $4 or $5 right now, with Noah Bradley’s Mountain and Island acting the high-end outliers. This tells me that Noah Bradley’s other contributions are likely undervalued in foil, and that his Mountain and Island are probably the best non-foil specs in this cycle at the moment.
20) Outlier Basic Lands (Foil) – $3-$10
I don’t have specific prices for you here, but if you can somehow get, like, twenty foil copies of that Esper Swamp, you’ll be able to fetch more than its current retail price of $6. Foil copies of sought-after basics tend to sell out fast when they show up anywhere near NM, especially at quantity.
19) Arena 1996 Promo Lands (Non-Foil) – $6-$10
This cycle is…fine, I guess? It’s cool how old they are, and the Islands are getting kind of hard to find, but they look a little too much like the normal Mirage and Tempest basics for my tastes.
18) Arena 2001 Promo Basic Lands (Foil) – $7-$10
When it comes to Arena promos, I like these a tad better since this is the only way to get foil copies of Ice Age-era basics. As usual, the Island is the expensive one.
17) Arena 2003 Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $8-$12
This is a full cycle of non-foil Rob Alexander lands that doesn’t seem to have flown fully below the radar. They look pretty good, especially the Island. I don’t see this cycle as exceptional, but they have managed to gain traction beyond most of the other Arena promos.
16) Unglued Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $8-$10
These are scarcer than their newer Unhinged counterparts, but they’re also more polarizing. While everybody loves the Unhinged cycle, these are the European Art Films of the full-art land world: people either think that these are the nicest-looking lands in the game, or they consider them to be weird and off-putting. Much like with the Unhinged lands, though, these are safe long-term holds that are likely to keep steadily gaining for years to come.
15) Unhinged Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $8-$12
At long last, we’ve arrived at the gold standard for cool non-foil basic lands: iconic, beautiful, and unique. I can’t imagine that the Unhinged basics are ever going to be worth significantly less than they are right now. The release of Unstable didn’t hurt their price any, and it’s not like we’re getting another print run of Unhinged. I have no idea what it would take to cause these to spike too far beyond the $10 range, but they’re a very safe hold.
14) Arena 1997 (Urza’s Saga) Promo Basic Lands (Foil) – $8-$16
This is my favorite Arena cycle. Since Urza’s Saga was the last expansion of the non-foil era, this is the only way to get your hands on foil basics from one of Magic’s coolest sets. If you like old-bordered foil lands, I highly recommend grabbing some of these. It’s hard to find non-warped copies these days, but it’s well worth it.
I feel like there should be some room for these to grow, but they’re probably just too obscure. These were worth about $10 each more than a decade ago when I bought mine, and I think people have more or less forgotten that they exist during the intervening years.
13) Simplified Chinese Portal Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $13-$18
Hey, here’s another bunch of weird lands that nobody knows about! These are a cycle of cool Portal basics that were only printed in Simplified Chinese in order to appease the weird censorship requirements of the Chinese government. I don’t know what that has to do with basic lands are but there you go.
At any rate, these cards are really hard to find and thus are somewhat impressive to the five people who actually know what they are. Much like the Urza’s Saga promos, I don’t think these are well known enough to be worth what their scarcity would otherwise dictate.
12) Zendikar Full-Art Basic Lands (Foil) – $8-$30
The original Zendikar full-art foils are still in demand, though a lot of these prices have dropped considerably since Battle for Zendikar was released. The bucket Island took an especially hard tumble thanks to the fact that it was actually reprinted during our latest trek to Zendikar, but they’re all a little bit less cool now that there are more full-art lands out there.
These will likely remain in the $10-$20 range (the whirlpool Island is the only $30 outlier right now), but I don’t see a lot of strong growth potential here. As long as WotC continues to print full-art lands on a semi-regular basis, these cards won’t feel exceptionally special.
11) Arena 2002 (Beta) Promo Basic Lands (Foil) – $10-$30
This is a bit of a cheat, since this “cycle” is really just two cards: Forest and Island. They’ve each got a piece of original Alpha/Beta artwork, only they’re done up in foil for the only time ever. There’s a certain kind of Vintage mage who will pretty much only consider running this Island, which is why it’s currently $30 even though the Forest is just $10. The demand is real, though, and one day this Island will be $50-$60.
10) Euro Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $5-$38
First off, not all of these lands are created equal. Most are in the $5-$8 range and would be a lot lower on this list were it not for the significant outliers: the UK Plains ($15), the French Forest ($16), the French Swamp ($16), the Dutch Plains ($25), and the Italian Island ($38).
If you’re looking for a coherent way to determine which of these lands are the most expensive, it’s generally the ones that are either very visually distinct or the ones that depict some easily recognizable real-world feature. Beyond that, it pretty much only takes one or two collectors to spike any of these prices, though the value of these has been pretty constant for several years now. They’re safe investments, but not particularly robust—unless someone decides to come along and snap them all up, that is.
9) APAC Promo Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $7-$50
Most of these are in the $5-$8 range as well, though a larger majority of them are expensive than their European counterparts. The expensive outliers are the Japanese Island ($15), the Australian Plains ($15), the Chinese Plains ($15), the Hong Kong Island ($20), the Taiwanese Swamp ($28), the Japanese Mountain ($30), and the Japanese Plains ($50).
The Japanese Mountain is the one with Fuji on it, and I expect that one to end up around $50 at some point. The Australian Plains with Uluru feels a tad undervalued at $15, too—people love real-world landmarks on their basic lands, and this is one of the coolest and most distinctive.
8) Beta Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $15-$20
Well, they’re certainly not making any more of these! I’m kicking myself for not buying up as many as I could back when they were easy to find in the $2-$3 range, but I suppose we all have our Magic finance regrets.
At any rate, Beta cards just keep going up and it’s getting harder to find these at all, much less in NM condition. I’m not sure when it’ll happen, but these will jump into the $30-$40 range at some point if the current Old School economy keeps surging forward like I expect it to. Everybody wants a small piece of Beta for themselves, and this is one of the easiest ways to get a Beta card onto the battlefield under you control.
7) Alpha Basic Lands (Non-Foil) – $20-$30
These are a little bit scarcer and more collectible than their Beta counterparts. Alpha cards used to be less desirable due to the rounded corners, but that’s not really an issue now that most Cubes and Vintage decks are double-sleeved. Much like with Beta, these Alpha lands will end up at $50 someday, too. The Islands, especially.
6) Unhinged Basic Lands (Foil) – $50-$80
Now we’re getting into the real heavy hitters. These lands look incredible in foil, and they’re sure to elicit a “wow” from anyone who sits down across from you. That’s what you’re paying $50-$80 for, right? The release of Unstable didn’t put a dent in the price tag for these like I had feared, and the Island will likely end up over $100 at some point. Hold with confidence.
5) Unstable Basic Lands (Foil) – $60-$90
Can you believe that these are more expensive than the Unhinged foil lands? It’s true! A big reason for this is that foil lands were fairly common in Unhinged—about one per booster box, on average—but with Unstable, you had to open three to four boxes (on average) to pull even a single foil basic land.
This tells me that Unstable’s foil basics are currently a tad underpriced, believe it or not. Even though the overall supply of Unstable is likely a tad higher than Unhinged, there are roughly the same number of non-foil basics (one per booster pack) and significantly fewer foil basics. Since the Unstable non-foils are also more expensive than the Unhinged non-foils, the foils should be much more expensive. At some point, this Island will spike above $100 and it won’t come back down.
4) The Arabian Nights Mountain – $200
For those of you who don’t know the history behind this card, allow me to explain. Back when Arabian Nights was designed, WotC had planned to print it with a pink card back to distinguish Magic’s expansion cards from Alpha and Beta. Since Arabian Nights was supposed to be an entirely separate game, they knew that players would need pink-backed basic lands.
WotC changed their mind right before the set went to press, however, and decided to make sure that Arabian Nights was compatible with the existing game. They quickly changed the backs and switched up the common sheet to reflect the fact that the set no longer needed any basic lands. They forgot to remove a single Mountain, however, and thus the first print run of the set had Mountain printed at the C1 rarity.
This card was $100 up until a few months ago, and it’s still sold out at $120 here on StarCityGames.com. The real-world price right now is far closer to $200, however, thanks to yet another Old School buyout. While I don’t see it going any higher right now, it looks to be stable at its current price—a triumph in and of itself for a lowly basic Mountain.
3) Judge Program Promo Full-Art Lands (Foil) – $80-$250
These are gorgeous, incredibly scarce, and considered to be the ultimate in full-art foil lands. A buyout back in December spiked these from $150 to $250, and it’s hard to know how much higher they might end up going. I can’t see them surpassing the #2 cycle of lands on this list regardless, so I feel like they’re close to their short-term ceiling right now.
2) The GURU Lands (Non-Foil) – $250-$450
If you really want top-tier flashy showoff lands, GURU has always been where it’s at. You had to jump through a bunch of different hoops to get WotC to mail you one of these during a brief window more than fifteen years ago, and very few people actually took them up on their offer. As a result, these are vanishingly scarce.
This scarcity wouldn’t matter all that much if the GURU lands were duds, but Terese Nielsen knocked it out of the park with these five basics. GURU-style alterations are popular to this day, and most people have seen the GURU art, even if they’ve never actually seen a GURU land. These cards are about as safe as it gets in terms of high end promos that are likely to retain their value for as long as Magic remains popular. In fact, it might be time for them to start ticking up a little bit more.
1) Summer Magic Basic Lands – $300-$600
These are the rarest basic lands ever printed. There are almost certainly fewer than a thousand copies of each still in existence, and the real number might be quite a bit lower than that. The only issue with Summer Magic as a collectible is that these cards are hard to tell apart from Revised basics unless you know what you’re looking at, making them poor choices for players looking to show off. Perhaps the current buyout fervor will extend to Summer Magic at some point, and perhaps not. Regardless, buying one of these is like buying a small piece of Magic’s rich history.
This Week’s Trends
The big news this week, of course, is that we’re returning to Return to Ravnica for… (checks references) …the next three sets. Dang, that’s a lot of Ravnica!
The question on everybody’s lips, of course, is what this will mean for the future price of shocklands. Most people assume that shocklands in at least two of these sets is a foregone conclusion, but I’m not nearly as certain. We didn’t get fetchlands in Battle for Zendikar, remember, and shocklands already returned in our last Return to Ravnica. Are we certain that WotC won’t want to introduce a new cycle of iconic multicolor lands this time around? I’m not.
“Sell your shocklands because they’re about to be reprinted!” is also a tad reductive. The better shocklands were pretty stable in the $10-$15 range last time they were Standard-legal, which isn’t far off from where they’re at right now. Oh, and if they aren’t reprinted, the internet will panic and buy them out, causing shockland prices to spike as everybody scrambles to get their “safe from reprint” copies.
I’m still not convinced that buying shocklands right now is correct, as there are already a ton of them out there and they might be reprinted, but I’m not rushing out to sell the several dozen copies that I currently own. And if WotC does announce that they won’t be in the next Ravnica set, I’m gonna buy a few dozen more.
Meanwhile, Thrashing Brontodon was the biggest Standard gainer of the week, surging into the money uncommon range after fast becoming the go-to answer for all the dang vehicles running around Standard right now. This is why I always recommend buying the best uncommons ASAP: the outlay tends to be small and the payoff is not having to drop a bunch of money on them later. It looks like “market price” on these is about $4 right now, but StarCityGames.com still has a bunch in stock for $3. That’s closer to where I expect it to settle over the short term.
Speaking of expensive cards, Karn, Scion of Urza appears to have stabilized for now. Expect the price to begin dropping as the supply gradually begins to increase, but the drop should be low and slow. The card is so good that it’s totally fine to buy these if you think you’ll need them for the next couple of years; just know that you’re buying in pretty close to the price ceiling.
Modern had a quiet week this week, though Mox Opal was up a bit as it recovers from a small price lull. Expect its slow and steady rise to continue. The available supply is still incredibly low, and it’s one of the most important cards in Modern. Until that changes, Mox Opal isn’t going to drop below the $100 mark for very long.
There weren’t a ton of casual spikes this week, but Marrow-Gnawer is up to about $30. This card was only printed once, in Champions of Kamigawa, and it’s great in Rat Colony Commander. I expect this one will settle in closer to $20 than $30, but it’s a crucial part of that deck and there simply aren’t a lot of copies out there.
Another big piece of news: the Buy-a-Box exclusive promos are here to stay. While I still worry that WotC will eventually design one of these that is good in Standard, it’s a solid promotion if Wizards wants to get people to buy boxes at their LGS instead of online. I still like Firesong and Sunspeaker at $10, and I’m going to snag a few copies at some point soon. We’ll evaluate all future entries on a case-by-case basis.
Reserved List cards great and small continued to rise this week as well. The Power 9 and the Revised dual lands were both up big, as I predicted a few weeks back. Other Legends and Antiquities rares like Eureka and Field of Dreams surged in price as well. With Mark Rosewater reconfirming the company’s commitment to the Reserved List this week in his blog post about the Buy-a-Box exclusives, I expect that this trend will continue to expand.