Good morning everyone, and welcome back to the Mirror Gallery here on Hipsters of the Coast. Today is the fourth installment of the recurring series that fellow Hipsters writer Ryan Sainio and I embarked on last year, as we each explore our favorite basic lands of each color. For those of you returning to the column you already know this, but for anyone new, I like basic lands a whole lot. They are one of my favorite parts about deckbuilding, and I think they are one of the strongest storytelling components in the entire game. This article, like the Plains, Island, and Swamp editions before it, came about after Ryan and I wrote an article about our favorite Planeswalker art (his is here and mine is here). It was also inspired by John Dale Beety’s 2018 article On Swamps, a series I very much wish could have continued, so make sure you click through to read.

Our goal is to highlight our favorites of each basic land type and give our audiences a little insight as to why, and for those who read the Swamp article, I have Hipsters own Urchin Colley, back again to tell us about one of her favorite Mountains too!

After pouring through Scryfall and the hundreds of different artworks and printings, I’ve found my favorite twelve Mountains. Red has been my go-to color since I started playing back in 2003, and with a bit of a break before Core Set 2021 is totally revealed, it’s another great chance to go basic land exploring. Let’s start climbing this penultimate article in the Mirror Gallery Curator’s Choice series: this is Matching Mountains.

At a Glance: Basic Mountain

Taking a look at Scryfall, there have been 216 unique illustrations of Basic Mountain as of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. They have been printed 553 different times between paper, promos, Magic Online, and Magic Arena according to the search engine.

As I mentioned earlier Mountains have always held a special place in my Magic heart, as one of the very first decks I ever made was a Red Burn deck (then called Direct Damage, at least amongst my friends). While I may not have been overly concerned with what lands went into that deck back then, today I’ll showcase on full display the diversity of the often simplistically described “mountain.” They’re quite more than a big hill, and have taken many magical forms over the game’s history. Let’s begin:

Mountain #265 (Khans of Tarkir) by Titus Lunter

Mountain #265 (Khans of Tarkir) by Titus Lunter. Digital.

Lunter has 72 land illustrations to his Magic oeuvre: 46 basic lands and 26 non-basics. That’s a staggering number for any Magic artists active or otherwise, and this Mountain from Khans of Tarkir is one of my favorites among them. The illustration gives us a little bit of everything: snow-capped peaks, a bit of lava flow, a forest as a frame, and among all else, a magnificent sense of scale. It’s a gorgeous work in foil, and maybe my favorite of all Mountains to play.

Mountain #275 (Core Set 2019) by Jonas De Ro

Mountain #275 (Core Set 2019) by Jonas De Ro. Digital.

Magic meets the Hudson River School in this Mountain by Jonas De Ro. A serene valley view, replete with soaring peaks and a rising sun, this is a place I want to visit and is equal parts imaginative and realism. It was first printed in M14, reprinted in various supplemental products, and then again in M19 where I really noticed it. Sometimes it happens that way—a land could be around for years and years before you discover just how special it might be, but it’s never too late to find a land you love.

Mountain #263 (Throne of Eldraine) by Jesper Ejsing

Mountain #263 (Throne of Eldraine) by Jesper Ejsing. Traditional.

This was Jesper’s very first basic land commission for Magic, completed even before his cycle of basics for this year’s Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. I loved it then and I love it all the same now; it tells a wonderful story. The player becomes the protagonist, walking this Mountain pass and following the fairy lights into parts unknown. The purple palette is a decided mark of the artist, and anytime those dusky hues can be added into a basic land, I’m all for it.

Mountain #2018d (Grand Prix Promo) by Donato Giancola

Mountain #2018d (Grand Prix Promo) by Donato Giancola. Traditional.

This Mountain was one element of Donato’s Grand Prix Promo Panorama, one of the commissions that marked his return to Magic after ten years away from the game. I am continually stunned by the sun-bathed mountainside that looks so good in the foil treatment, and becomes a literal bright spot to this massive landscape. I’ve written about this Mountain previously, and I even own the final sketch of the larger artwork. It’s a gorgeous illustration; to say it’s among my favorites is an understatement.

Mountain #4 (M20 Promo Packs) by Piotr Dura

Mountain #4 (M20 Promo Packs) by Piotr Dura. Digital.

Here is another land I discovered while going through the foil basic land binder at my LGS. It’s beautifully simple and so very real despite our knowledge that it’s fantasy. It fits perfectly within the frame of the card, and I think will be one of those quiet instant classics we see used in decks again and again.

Mountain #294 (Shadowmoor) by Dave Kendall

Mountain #294 (Shadowmoor) by Dave Kendall. Traditional.

Shadowmoor will always be one of my favorite Magic expansions, and Dave Kendall’s Mountain is very much a part of that. A master of the macabre, Kendall has transposed the fairytale darkness of the plane into landscape form, creating something both beautiful and a bit creepy at the same time. The green glow and flickering firelight creates an ominous uneasiness; coupled with his Plains—yes, it’s a diptych—they tell the story of a world turned on end.

Mountain #299 (Ravnica: City of Guilds) by Stephan Martiniere

Mountain #299 (Ravnica: City of Guilds) by Stephan Martiniere. Digital.

The idea of the forge as a Mountain began right here with this basic land done for the revolutionary Ravnica: City of Guilds back in 2005. Martiniere and the other artists that created lands for this first city-plane were pioneers of just how different a basic land can look while still representing the mana it creates. You can feel the heat from this image even at card size; this work, along with his other four, are some of Magic’s most important basic lands. This Mountain literally changed what a basic land could be.

Mountain #66 (Secret Lair Drop) by Grzegorz Rutkowski

Mountain #66 (Secret Lair Drop) by Grzegorz Rutkowski. Digital.

If you’d have asked me when we started this project whether one of my choices would include Godzilla, I’d have said you were crazy. But I love the composition of this work, as the blanketed and snowy slope sets the stage for this battle of the titans between the legendary Godzilla and his winged nemesis Rodan. These basics really sold me on the addition of Godzilla to Magic, and I’m very much looking forward to receiving my copies and adding them to my Commander decks.

Mountain #241-244 (Rise of the Eldrazi) by James Paick

Mountain #241-244 (Rise of the Eldrazi) by James Paick. Digital.

Returning readers know I love a landscape panorama, and to have one that breaks convention is even more exciting. I was not playing during Rise of the Eldrazi, and only recently discovered the multi-card works from this block while working on some other projects. These have quickly become some of my favorites in the game, if for no other reason than there is literally nothing else like them in 25 years of illustration. This is almost as sci-fi as we’ve seen in Magic. With Zendikar having maybe the best basic land catalog of any plane in the Multiverse, it makes me very excited to return there later this year.

Mountain #343 (Invasion) by Matt Cavotta

Mountain #343 (Invasion) by Matt Cavotta.

This was the sole land I used in my first Vintage Artist Constructed deck, a Mono Red Matt Cavotta deck that I wrote about early on in my time at Hipsters of the Coast. Vintage Artist Constructed was a brand new way to play Magic for me, and seeking out these Mountains from a handful of local LGSs was a quest I’ll never forget. I believe I may actually have more of the Knights vs. Dragons framed version now as it’s a better match for the aesthetic of the deck with the new card frame, but this OG Invasion Mountain will always have a special place in my gaming history.

Mountain #266 (Amonkhet) by Chris Rahn

Mountain #266 (Amonkhet) by Chris Rahn. Traditional.

This is Chris Rahn’s only land of any kind out of nearly 200 illustrations for the game. It’s also one of the first Magic originals I saw sold as a part of the MTG Art Market, and the illustration that introduced me to the rest of his work. Rahn is a master of light and motion as you can see on full display here; it’s simple as that. I would love to see him get a cycle of setting-sun basic lands in the future. Can you imagine?

Mountain #243 (M10) by Nils Hamm

Mountain #243 (M10) by Nils Hamm. Traditional.

This is one of the quintessential Mountains in all of Magic. If someone asked “What’s a Magic Mountain look like?” this might be one of the examples you show them. Hamm’s impressionistic style translates so well to these landscapes, and his work in this arena stands out as both representational of larger game while at the same time being entirely unique; no one does it quite like Nils. He has three of the five basic land types under his belt, and I’ll be watching for when he gets the other two.

Urchin Colley’s “I Like It”

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got fellow Hipsters author Urchin Colley back with me again to tell us about her favorite Mountain. She loves a good basic land, so let’s see what she picked!

Mountain #299 (Champions of Kamigawa) by John Avon

Mountain #299 (Champions of Kamigawa) by John Avon. Digital.

UC: Basic Mountains tend to blur together for me, but this one from Champions of Kamigawa stands out. While many mountains feature distant snow caps, the entire panorama of the Kamigawa mountains put the viewer in that snow. We’re on that mountain peak, and made witness to a harsh and beautiful vastness.

What really stuns me about this art, though, is how narrative it is. Tucked in the mid-ground is a building that evokes a Shinto shrine and sets us to wondering—who lives there? Who survives so far from society, and in such difficult conditions? And why? Red is the color of freedom, and to choose to live in an overwhelming land that neither understands nor cares about your actions… that illustrates freedom to me.

Wrapping Up

We made it to the top! Or bottom I suppose. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this climb through some of my favorite Mountains throughout Magic’s history. As always, make sure you check out Ryan Sainio’s article of his favorites coming out later today. And of course, if we missed one of your favorites, grab an image, fire up Twitter, and tell me or Ryan which Mountain is the one you like the best.

Remember, to peruse all the basic lands of Magic, I recommend two places. Scryfall (t:basic, unique:art) is fantastic for sorting by set and artist, and Basic Land Art is perfect for themes, planes, and grabbing a good image. Once a Tumblr and now a website, Rachel keeps Basic Land Art up to date with each new basic land and lots of different ways to search and group them. Check it out!

The next Mirror Gallery is only a few days away, coming on Monday of next week as I get to reveal some free previews for Core Set 2021! Make sure you come back again bright and early on June 15th; it’s an article you don’t want to miss. Stay tuned, and see you then!

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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