Welcome to a special edition of the Mirror Gallery here at Hipsters of the Coast! My name is Donny Caltrider, and this is the Hipsters home for all things related to Magic: the Gathering art. Wizards of the Coast has graciously given me 20 free preview cards from Core Set 2021 to share with you all, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to see the Basic Lands of Core Set 2021!

There are twenty different basic lands total, including five brand new Showcase Basic Lands, each aligned to the major Planeswalker of that color:

The other fifteen are reprints we’ve seen before, from across the last decade of Magic Core Sets. Because the special Showcase lands are coordinated to their associated Planeswalker’s home, that’s how I have chosen to frame today’s preview. The idea of home is something we’ve all faced directly over the last few months. For some, it’s become an unusual everyday reality, and for others (myself included), a respite after venturing into the world during uncertain times.

In Magic, basic lands create this feeling of home. They are often representative of the creatures and characters that reside within our decks, and in turn tell a story greater than any words can write. There are lots of folks that start with lands first, just to ensure that extra degree of flavor in deckbuilding. These Showcase basics and Core Set reprints are perfect additions to this process. Today we’re going full resolution on each of these lands in a lightning round Grand Tour of sorts that features each new card and its associated artwork. Are you ready? Let’s go!


To begin, we met the new Planeswalker Basri back on June 8th, and the Showcase Plains takes us to his home plane of Amonkhet.

Plains by Jonas de Ro. Digital.

For a moment, we are transported back to a time when both sun and pyramids rose from Amonkhet’s, and we get another glimpse into what a less-devastated Amonkhet look like.

The other three Plains are some of Magic’s most beloved depictions, and appear for their third Core Set in a row amongst a half dozen other printings. Nils Hamm’s impressionistic sunrise, infused with the entire spectrum of color but especially those vivid purples and pinks, is an absolute classic example of grain-laden Plains.

Plains by Nils Hamm.

The second Plains, also depicting a sunrise and amber waves of grain, comes from legendary artist and landscape illustrator John Avon.

Plains by John Avon. Digital.

Whenever I saw this image, I always heard the music from Gladiator and pictured Maximus walking through the fields of Elysium, and it turns out that’s exactly the inspiration Avon had for this illustration. These are two of my all-time favorite Plains.

The final Plains comes from Andreas Rocha, and gives us a counterpoint to these dreamlike depictions, showing the harshness and scrub that is also found on the open Plains. Sometimes it’s not all sunrises and rainbows!

Plains by Andreas Rocha. Digital.

These are the Plains of Core Set 2021!


Core Set 2021 is Teferi’s set, and his Showcase land takes us to a craggy pool on his home plane of Dominaria.

Island by Jonas de Ro. Digital.

Look closely at that rock formation. It appears as an overturned hourglass, the cascading waterfalls reminiscent of the spilling sands of time. We know that Teferi is the master of time, and this is a fantastic visual representation of his power.

Island by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

Jonas De Ro has another basic Island in this Core Set, and it’s the perfect complement to his new showcase land. Originally from M14, it almost certainly prompted his newest creation, appearing from the same field of view. I love when artists draw inspiration from their previous work even when almost a decade apart, and it’s a perfect inclusion in this lineup.

Towering structures and streaming waterfalls do seem to be the aesthetic for Core Set 2021 Islands, and this continues with the addition of one of Magic’s most prolific Islands by Cliff Childs, being reprinted for an astounding twelfth time!

Island by Cliff Childs. Digital.

This hulking, almost bulbous elevation is equal parts magnificent and ominous as it rises from the deep, a landmass shrouded in mist, creating a decided air of mystery. The last Island, by Andreas Rocha, lightens the mood a bit, all by a bit of strategic color.

Island by Andreas Rocha. Digital.

It’s amazing what a bit of color and sunlight can do to brighten a palette and the overall mood of a landscape. It’s only a peek of sunshine, and some dots of vegetation, but it brings adds a certain happiness to the entire work.

These are the Islands of Core Set 2021!


The Showcase Swamp belongs to Liliana, and is a beautiful piece of storytelling in landscape form

Swamp by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

We are no doubt in a Swamp, but more important is what cuts through it: a path. The Liliana we see in Core Set 2021 is Liliana, Waker of the Dead by Anna Steinbauer, and she was concepted as a “more pensive, perhaps even remorseful Liliana, with the pose and background echoing Liliana, Heretical Healer painted by the incredible Karla Ortiz” according to a summary of the art description shared on Twitter. The twisting and turning path embodies the saga of this planeswalker over the last five years, one of the greatest stories told in Magic. For Liliana, her journey is very much a part of her home, and to have her history subtly told within a basic land is just fantastic.

The next Swamp is one of my favorites in Magic; I love trees in my Swamps!

Swamp by Mike Bierek. Digital.

This is the third consecutive printing of this seeming anthropomorphic dead treefolk, and I’d like to think it could spring to life at any moment. Look closely, and you’ll see there are travelers on the bridge in the background. What do you think they would do?!

The third Swamp in this group is one that’s only been printed once before in M19, by Christine Choi.

Swamp by Christine Choi. Digital.

That red sun hanging high in the hazy sky really sets this swampland apart, grabbing your eye immediately and then letting is cascade down through the rest of the work, just like the waterfall we see underneath. What a beautiful and dark piece of art.

The last Swamp is another prolific multi-reprint by Cliff Childs, this one seeing its ninth printing in Core Set 2021!

Swamp by Cliff Childs. Digital.

This has the classic feel of a Magic Swamp, but also uses a group of greens and purples to reinforce those ideas of decay, rot, and ultimately rebirth. Is it a bit gross? Yes. Is it great? Also yes.

These are the Swamps of Core Set 2021!


This blazing Showcase Mountain takes us to Chandra’s home plane of Kaladesh

Mountain by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

The lands of Kaladesh always evoke great movement and we see the same thing here, as the mountaintops themselves emulate flickering flames and lick at the sky of swirling clouds. This Mountain is unmistakably Kaladesh from the sky to the spires to the patterns on the ground, and I think there are a lot of Chandra fans who will be very excited to use it as their home base in their deck.

This next Mountain is in my Top 5 Mountains in the history of the game—it’s Hudson River School meets Magic to the maximum degree!

Mountain by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

Equal parts imaginative and realism, and from the rising sun to the lush valleys below; it’s one beautiful painting. Next we head far over the Misty Mountains cold:

Mountain by Andreas Rocha. Digital.

These spires are shrouded in mist to the point where we don’t even know where we are. At the peak? Somewhere in the middle? Or are we actually falling, and this is just a glimpse as we plummet towards the earth?

The final Mountain of Core Set 2021 is by Cliff Childs, and it’s another that we’ve seen quite a few times before. Like its Island counterpart, it’s being printed again for the twelfth time!

Mountain by Cliff Childs. Digital.

We see these landscapes by Cliff Childs reprinted so often for a reason. It’s not only because they are beautiful landscapes, but because they are able to capture the essence of Magic’s color so simply: from the dramatic lighting that highlights this mountain pass to the innumerable shades of stone that make up the rock formations.

These are the Mountains of Core Set 2021!


The final of the five Showcase lands, as well as the only one not seen before this article, is Garruk’s Forest!

Forest by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

We almost always see Garruk heading after something, so it’s no surprise that seeing him at home in the Forest would include that feeling of motion. We look from his perspective, up to the treetops, as he charges through the wood. We can’t quite be sure where he’s heading, but my guess is it won’t take too long to find out.

The next Forest in Core Set 2021 is one of the most popular Forests in all of Magic, seeing print now for the sixteenth time! It’s Steven Belledin’s Forest!

Forest by Steven Belledin. Traditional.

This work was inspired by the artist’s childhood growing up near the forests of Pennsylvania. The emotion he’s infused into this painting has has resonated with players for nearly a decade. Folks absolutely love this Forest, and I’m happy to see it back again.

Forest by Volkan Baga. Traditional.

The penultimate Forest and basic land of this article is by the ever-creating Volkan Baga, who first painted it way back when for M12. It brings a storybook feeling to this group of lands, and momentarily tips the scale away from realism for a bit of an imaginative vacation. I love that.

We’ll finish this tour with the same artist we’ve started with and seen several times throughout; the final Forest by Jonas De Ro.

Forest by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

Seen a half dozen times beginning in M14, the intensity that’s created with the sun beaming through the trees is just stunning. It gives this landscape real warmth, and is a perfect, feel-good conclusion to our basic lands as Magic home discussion.

These are the Forests of Core Set 2021!

Wrapping Up

I want to give a special thanks to Wizards of the Coast for the opportunity to preview the basic lands of Core Set 2021. It’s been a fabulous experience getting to explore each of these miniature realms, dive deep into their artwork, and weave their story into the greater Core Set narrative. The idea that Showcase Basic Lands should be representative of their Planeswalker’s home is brilliant, and something I’d love to see again in the future.

Basic lands are Magic’s home. They are the simplest cards in all of Magic: the Gathering, but hands down the most important. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this lens into their great storytelling.

To see more original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, make sure to follow me on Twitter, and keep an eye out for new articles every other Thursday at 9am EST on Hipsters of the Coast. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks for stopping by, and see you again real soon!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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