Tuesday
Jan212014

The Grand Unified Theory of Basic Land Artisanal Hipsterism

"Hey, your Mountains look very nice. They look old! Where are they from?"

I had somebody ask me that at a tournament not too long ago. I'm used to the reaction: it happens pretty often. My foreign, black-bordered 4th Edition basic land—mostly Chinese, Japanese, German, and Portuguese—isn't seen too much in these parts.

Actually, my land was older than he was. But I didn't break it to him. I'm a gentleman. An old gentleman, but a gentleman nonetheless. So I thanked him and explained what they were from and where I got them (I bought a lot of foreign starter packs in high school).

The comment did get me thinking about my motivations for using that land, which got me thinking about how this feeling of self-worth could be quantified and—dare I say it—used to prove that I was a better human being. I mean, obviously I'm using these lands because they're different, and because I like how they look, and because I like the reaction.

Crap, you're talking to a guy that wore a jacket, tie, and pocket square to Grand Prix Toronto.

Similar to some of the collective tendencies displayed in the "A Matter of Taste" episode of Walking The Planes, there's something to be said about using basic land as your means of expression. After all, the most abundant card in your deck is your basic land, and it can be obtained for virtually free. Thus, there's a payoff to having basic land that you actually paid money for, and has a common theme that you enjoy.

And so, I hereby submit

The Grand Unified Theory of Basic Land Artisanal Hipsterism (GUTBLAH), which states:

The weirdness of your basic land is directly proportional to your worth as a human being, with the hierarchy for basic land weirdness being as follows:

"Basic" Basic < Zendikar < Old < "Un" < Foreign, black-bordered original-art

Other assumptions:

Foil versions of a basic land are better than the non-foil counterparts, but not as good as the step above. What foil says about you is generally the same as what non-foil says about you, with an extra dose of "Oooh, shiny!"

Keeping your land all the same art is often a strategic consideration and, therefore, does not contribute to GUTBLAH. GUTBLAH is all about aesthetics, not strategy.

I could try to cram in where Beta lands, Guru lands, etc. all go, but for now I'm content with the general structure.

Here are the tiers, in order from lowest to highest.

Tier 1: "Basic" Basic Land

Land from Return to Ravnica. I just snagged this picture off of eBay.

What it is: Basic land with no distinguishing characteristics, assembled from whatever you have on-hand
What it costs: Usually free. Foil versions run about $0.50 each.
What it says about you: A combination of "I couldn't be bothered." or "This is dumb." or "I fall asleep during intimate moments."

Tier 2: Zendikar land

A selection of Zendikar land. I think I snagged this picture off of eBay.

What it is: Full-art basic land from the Zendikar set, released in 2009.
What it costs: $1 each on average. Foil versions run about $5 each.
What it says about you: "I cannot be content with mediocrity. These things look pretty sweet, don't they."

Tier 3: Old land

Mirage land: a personal favourite of mine. Image snagged off of eBay

What it is: Basic land from older sets (Me, I'm a sucker for Mirage and Tempest lands.)
What it costs: Not much. Maybe $0.25 a land or so. Foil versions probably don't exist
What it says about you: "I would like to subtly direct your attention to the patches on my tweed jacket."

Tier 4: "Un" land

Unhinged and Unglued land. No idea where I got the picture. I think I Googled it.

What it is: Full-art basic land from the Unglued or Unhinged sets, released in 1998 and 2004, respectively. (Personally, I find the Unglued land to be ugly as sin, but the Unhinged land is awesome.)
What it costs: $7 each on average. Foil versions of Unglued land don't exist; foil versions of Unhinged land run about $40 each.
What it says about you: "I'd like you all to know that I've been at this a long time, and I have the land to prove it." EXCEPTION: If they're using all foil Unhinged land, it says "I value my cards more than I value a house, car, or education."

Tier 5, AKA The Pinnacle: Foreign, black-bordered original-art land

Aaaahhh. Sweet, sweet old-school land. Picture from eBay.

What it is: Basic land from Revised or 4th Edition was originally in white border and looked pretty pale and ugly; basic land from Revised or 4th Edition in foreign languages, however, are black-bordered and far more saturated in colour.
What it costs: $2 or so each on the retail market but, man, it's tough to find at times (tougher than foil Unhinged land, I think?).
What it says about you: "I reject traditional notions of what is cool and what isn't, and am a true basic land hipster. I believe in only the finest, and that the finest need not be flashy. Bask in my glory."

OK, so I'm a bit biased, since I'm putting my land choice at the top of the pile. But I feel it's justified: the only other person I've seen that uses this land has been Nathan Holiday, the winner of Grand Prix San Diego in 2013, whose land was all Portuguese Revised.

A screen-grab from Youtube of the GP San Diego finals. Nathan's on the left. Using beautiful land.

Check. That. Out.

I'm in good company.

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