Basic Land Finance

Written By:

Douglas Johnson @Rose0fthorns

Hey everyone! I hope your summers are all going great. I’ve been selling some Magic cards on Twitter, and trying to save up money to set aside for my first semester of grad school in the fall. It’s been going pretty well so far, but this week I was absolutely swamped with some pretty large collections that I couldn’t turn down. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m going to have to have a relatively quick turnaround on these than what I’m normally used to.

As much as I would love to rinse and repeat that paragraph a few times and hit “Publish” so that I could get back to collection buying, I did actually find something worth writing about while I was piecing out one of those previously mentioned collections.


swamp island

The person who was trading in a bunch of bulk to me had these two basic lands included in the relevant stuff, among great cards like Vampire Nighthawk and Thought Scour. Before you ask, they were not foil. I assumed he had just mixed these in on accident, so I put them in the “stuff I don’t want” pile as I continued to sift through the relevant cards that he was trading up towards a set of Liliana of the Veil. After seeing that I was uninterested, he let me in on this little nugget;


Yep. I mean, I know that the art on a card can affect the price, that’s some pretty basic finance. I’m just surprised to see the price of a non-foil basic land affected to such a degree when it’s not full art. While these are both gorgeous pieces, there’s got to be another underlying reason for such a drastic price difference from all other Lorwyn block lands, right?


Okay, that makes a lot more sense now. Thanks to @thatresolves on Twitter for solving that mystery for us! It makes a lot of sense that Fae players would want the lands that represent where their mischievous little creatures come from, more so than the “traditionally fancy” full-arts from Zendikar or Unhinged. While I really don’t have a battle plan for moving these non-foil $1 basics, it’s certainly nice to have that knowledge for future picks and pulls. Maybe you can throw them in an Ogre box  at $.25 and see which vendor bites once you explain that they’re $1+ retail.


All this thinking about niche basics got me thinking; what other basic lands am I unaware of that are worth money? The value of basic lands can very easily slide under the radar due to the difficulty of actually looking up their value. What app do you use when trading or looking up card prices on the go? I’m assuming a lot of you use MTGFamiliar; a universal free app that also has a life counter, round timer, and card search functionality. While it’s still pulling data from the “TCG mid” metric instead of “TCG Market Price”, it’s still one of the most common smartphone sources of looking up card prices in my experience. Go ahead, try to look up the prices of different basic lands using this app.


Mhmm. In this case specifically, it looks like the app only pulls the data for the first numerical island of the set; it’s looking up Island 286 when 287 is the Glen Elendra one. If we want to see all four of the Lorwyn Islands to compare, we have to go to the actual TCGplayer website and grab a microscope.


Now considering it doesn’t seem very practical to do this for every single basic land. While it won’t be a comprehensive list, I’ve been using StarCityGames’ buylist to easily find a general idea of which art styles will get you more cash.

plains1 plains2 plains33028_200w

scg plains

According to SCG, people really like fields of wheat that include the horizon towards the back of the art. I dunno, I guess that’s popular. Thunderstorm Plains from Odyssey is 10 cents nonfoil and two whole dollars for the foil.  This isn’t even only concerning older basics; one of the foil Mountains from Khans of Tarkir is $1 on SCG buylist.

Unfortunately, this “check the SCG buylist to see if a bunch of other people enjoy the art” doesn’t always work out. If you’re picking through your bulk foil basics and have a hunch, you’ll likely have to do the grunt work of searching for that specific art on TCGplayer. For example, I recently purchased a Kami of the Crescent Moon Commander deck where all of the Islands were matching foils. While SCG doesn’t have a buy price for any foil Mirrodin lands, it looks like they go for at least $2 on TCGplayer for NM copies. The struggle will be finding another player who wants to foil out their deck in that specific way, but I don’t mind waiting.


I wouldn’t be closing out this article unless I talked about being a “local buylist”, and I’m sure some of you are wondering what you should be paying when you’re brought foil basic lands. I personally pay 25 cents cash on all bulk foil basics that come my way, and I trade for them at three for $1. With the new information in this article, I’ll definitely pay a bit more attention to which basic lands I’m picking up, and see if I can increase my buy prices on certain arts that will be easier to move to vendors or other players at an increased rate. As soon as I finish this article, I’m going to go through my own box of foil basic lands, and see what goodies I can pull out that I didn’t even know I had.

These have probably been sitting in my box for at least 4 years.

End Step

I might be biased because I play Child of Alara as a Commander, but I really, really like High Market as a long term pick at sub $1. I know Jason Alt has mentioned this card on the podcast and in his articles in the past couple of weeks, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a long term pick, but I think we see it creep back up to $3 in a year or two.


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11 thoughts on “Basic Land Finance”

  1. Basic lands can be tricky. I find they fall into various categories. If non full art, the pricier ones seem to be the really old sets (ABUR) and sets that have small print runs (Legends, Antiquities and, especially anything Portal, P2a and P3K) Snow lands of any kind whether true snow lands or lands (Ice Age, Coldsnap) that have images of snow covered whatever depending on land type. Foils tend to keep really good prices if they are Core 10th edition and before. This is just from my own eperieince.

  2. I think this is a great example why it’s better to point out great investment targets and not to dissuade people from buying into inexpensive cards. In 1994 you would have been considered completely insane if you just spent $20 on 10 shoe boxes full of basic beta lands.

    1. This is true, although I think people were also considered “insane” for trading away Shivan Dragons for duals and power. The game was so different back then, and there was no expectation of longevity.

  3. In the past few months I have been working toward acquiring a complete set of all foil basic lands appearing in sets. It has been a rewarding quest with more than a few surprises along the way. I still can’t believe I ended up paying over $9 for a NM foil basic mountain from New Phyrexia (mountain 172) to complete my set! I noticed that the more expensive foil basic lands tend to either feature more sweeping landscapes (such as mirrodin island 291, compared to the other mirrodin islands), deeper colors (SOI island 288 or Shadowmoor island 287/Swamp 291), or even “bright spots” on the cards (NP mountain 172, M13 plains 231, or mirrodin plains 290). And it also seems that players like something unique going on in the landscape (animals, lightning storms, blooming flowers, etc.).

    1. Yeah, that seems to be the case based on my (very minimal) research as well. I’m surprised that the “panoramic” lands like the Kamigawa Forests that all link together aren’t more expensive, although maybe that’s because they’re obscure enough for not many people to be aware of. Thanks for the info!

  4. I recall sending all my Glen Elendra Islands to some guy through Puca for 40 PP each a few months ago. Never looked back but I wondered what would be the reason for that guy to take several “recent” basic lands for that price. Now things make sense! 🙂 BTW, Puca is now pricing them at 65 PP.
    Ross, as you work your way through endless listings of basic lands and their prices, maybe you could provides us with an extensive list of basic lands worth more than, let’s say, 0.2 in a future article? That would be interesting data! Not suggesting you work for us… (not even so slightly) 😉

    1. Oh, mistyped that, I meant Douglas, not Ross, obviously. But if Ross does want to do that work I won’t complaint!

    2. Hey Carlos,

      I honestly thing SCG buylist is a pretty good baseline to use here. They pick out specific basic lands that they pay more than bulk on (Bulk rate for a foil basic land is $.25), at increments of .50, $1.00, $1.50, etc. Their buylist is also the most easily searchable, as opposed to going on something like TCGplayer or MTGstocks and wading through multiple pages of garbage. Hope this helps!

    1. That’s pretty helpful, Corey! I think it’d be even more useful to restrict the parameters to between $1 and $20 though, or something like that; all the really obscure $x00 basics like Summer and Guru just crowd up the list and make it harder to search through.

  5. Ive been gradually aquiring beta basics for my various decks; most only have a handful of basics, so it is not very costly. Beta lands look great and will retain their value. Forests, islands and plains are super sweet, im not huge on the mountains or swamps (i use snow covered mountains for burn). Also, white bordered unlimited lands are cool if your deck needs to fetch basics, as they are easy to find quickly (same reason i like ur duals over ab).

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