Pro Tour The Lord of the Rings wrapped up yesterday in Barcelona, with first-time PT attendee Jake Beardsley taking home the top prize after piloting a Rakdos Scam deck to victory against Christian Calcano’s Mono-Green Tron. While Magic legends like Frank Karsten have wasted no time in calculating the best decks of a new LotR-filled Modern Meta from the weekend’s matches, one major element of Magic’s biggest event series has gone critically under-discussed once again: which basic lands made their ways to the top tables?
A small aside: If you missed the livestream of the final match, I cannot recommend Game 4 more as one of the most thrilling games of high-level Magic to date: link to Twitch stream.
Basic lands are one of the most meaningful ways to express yourself in a world where most modern decks vary less than 10% from list-to-list within an archetype, even with the fire hydrant of variants that are printed for new cards. And with more unique pieces gracing the art boxes of basics in the last three years than in the first 20 years of the game combined, there’s more options than ever.
Even with this year’s increased volume of coverage (and cheers to the WotC team for making this the most engaging PT to watch to date), we did not get enough volume to mathematically determine which basics provided better odds of winning overall with any degree of statistical significance, but we were able to assess which basic lands the top 8 ran. Without further hesitation, please enjoy this infographic:
Jake Beardsley: 1st | Rakdos Scam
Our winner, Jake, picked Sam Burley’s iconic “Nyx” Swamp as the only basic included in his list — I guess you don’t need mountains when you run out a Blood Moon every other game! The Nyx cycle of basic lands was surprisingly not represented at all in our run-down of the top 8’s basic lands in PT March of the Machine, but based on sales estimates across TCGPlayer, eBay, Magic CardMarket, and Card Kingdom, they have been perennially amongst the most popular with players since their printing in early 2020, a fact that can be validated by any trip to a local game store.
Christian Calcano: 2nd | Mono-Green Tron
Christian Calcano had an extremely classy choice for his lone basic land art: Scott Bailey’s Euro Forest depicting the woods of Schwarzwald, Germany. The “European Land program” was given to European players who cut out and mailed in the bar code of their booster boxes for each of the premiere expansions released in 2000, featuring beautiful locales from the continent. The 15 basics included in the program are amongst the game’s most expensive due to a combination of their scarcity and their appeal with Magic players who have an appreciation of both the classic border and some of the best artwork found in the game.
Simon Nielsen: 3rd | Mono-Green Tron
Third-place Simon Nielsen chose a moody Forest from Time Spiral from Vance Kovacs. While this Forest pairs very well with the Swamp by the same artist released alongside it, it’s a strange choice for Tron, not achieving thematic resonance nor general style points as with Calcano’s pick above. That said, the unsettling vibes of the painting were certain to act as an apt prelude to the many turn 3 Karns and Wurmcoils Nielsen was able to unleash over the weekend in Barcelona!
Dom Harvey: 4th | Amulet Titan
Cube savant and 80-page Amulet Titan primer author Dom Harvey has such a classic choice for his sole Forest style in Jung Park’s Zendikar full-art that I would wager it hasn’t changed since he first put together the deck. While they were long seen as the gold standard for basic lands in competitive events and casual decks alike, Zendikar full-art basics have fallen gradually out of favor in an era where every major expansion now has at least one full-art cycle to play with. Interestingly, the commentators of Dom’s semi-final match also found the old-school nature of his pick notable, as this was the only choice of basic land I heard discussion on during the final day of the Pro Tour.
Javier Dominguez: 5th | Mono-Green Tron
Javier Dominguez rounds out our third Mono-Green Tron list with the most anticipated choice: John Avon’s Forest from the Unhinged cycle of full-art lands. As the first true full-art lands, this Avon cycle from 2004 has become one of the most iconic suites of basics in the history of the game. Unlike the Zendikar basics, they were not printed in a popular premiere expansion, and so have carried a higher price and been less accessible than their adverts cousins, so while they have not been as ubiquitous as them in totality, for nearly 20 years, the Unhinged 5 have continued to be some of the most prevalent cards found at premiere events around the world.
Marco Del Pivo: 6th | Temur Rhinos
Although half of the top 8 ran red, Marco is the only one to have a basic Mountain amongst the bunch — a sad note for the state of us Basic Land Enthusiasts. With Rob Alexander’s Forest, Dana Knutson’s Mountain, and Terry Springer’s Island, all from Mercadian Masques, Del Pivo’s Temur Rhinos was able to have a sheer of old-school cool otherwise limited in a Modern format so heavily defined by cards printed since 2019. Respectable choices all around, Marco!
Stefano Vinci: 7th | Temur Rhinos
Like the champion of the event, Stefano Vinci ran the “Nyx”-style full-art basics sometimes described as “Pokémon Energy Cards” — in this case, Sam Burley’s Island and Forest. The more magical, ephemeral look of the basic lands is wholly unrelated from the deck on a thematic level, but there’s little denying that they look pretty.
Kai Budde: 8th | Temur Rhinos
The German Juggernaut returned to the Pro Tour Top 8 for the first time in over a decade with Temur Rhinos and highly thematic lands for the weekend in tow: Deven Rue’s Middle Earth map-styled Forest and Island from the same expansion that shares a name with the event. While The Lord of the Rings: Tales from Middle Earth’s full-art basics were somewhat controversial due to the challenge associated with quickly assessing which basic was which thanks to a green-heavy color-pallet, Kai’s two choices overcame this easily, with the blues of the Belegaer Sea taking up the slight majority of the Island and the Forest being…a forest.
While delightful in concept, the previously mentioned issue of the challenge with grokking a basic land’s type/color from a glance and their counter-intuitive inability to be combined into a single large map make this cycle of Basics a miss as far as we’re concerned, but Kai made it work and was able to tie together his Modern deck to the theme of the event as a whole…beyond simply including The One Ring into his 75.
Basic Land choice may be a personal one and associated with aesthetics, but here at Cardboard by the Numbers, we strive to put a number on everything. So for our #1 winner of this event, at least as far as choice in basic goes, we’d like to award Christian Calcano as our favorite! Which basic land suite do you think deserved to win the Pro Tour?
Thanks so much for reading! We have more Basic Land analysis coming in the next few weeks and new Magic: the Gathering infographics and analysis nearly every week, so if you’ve enjoyed this article, please sign up for our newsletter to find out first and make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and now, Threads!!