Back to Basics

No matter how casual or competitive you are in terms of Commander deck building, there are a few things that unite all decks. One of which is the inclusion of basic lands. While some decks are so non-basic heavy that there is no room for even a single Forest, the vast majority of Commander decks at least have a handful. The real question is, how do you select your basics?

They’re Just Lands

The first option is to just grab the first X copies of each land you need from a pile or land station. This way is by far the quickest method for finishing a deck. All basics are functionally the same, so it ultimately doesn’t matter which basics you use. Despite this, I see players move off of this method relatively quickly.

Match the Setting

This is a very popular choice, especially among Vorthos players. Maybe you root through your basics to find all of your Kamigawa Mountains for your Godo deck. Maybe for your Surrak deck you go with all snow lands. If your Commander deck is about telling a story, why not use your basic lands to set the stage?

All the Same

In competitive Magic, matching your basics is a thing. It conceals information about how many of each you have in your deck. As a result, having all of your basics match in a Commander deck is often a holdover. Having all your basics match can also be an ascetic choice. This can be because the particular art is a favorite of yours or maybe you just like looking at all of the same lands. One last reason why you match your basics, and why I do it my Lorthos deck, is Extraplanar Lens. Lorthos runs exclusively Snow-Covered Islands from Ice Age. I could sprinkle in some Coldsnap lands because all that ultimately matters is that the land is named Snow-Covered Island, but I have enough of the Ice Age version to fill out the deck.

Almost the Same

Another popular choice is to get close to matching all of your basics. You play a few different arts, but always the same frame, and use these to fill your deck. I generally see this choice for one of two reasons. The first is that you simply don’t have enough of a single art. The second is that you want a little more variety when you play your deck. Maybe you can’t decide between your top three favorite Islands so you play an even split of the three.


Many Commander players, myself included, like to make your deck fancier than it has to be. Sure all Islands do the same thing, but Islands from the land station just seem unacceptable next to your foil foreign signed commander. The way decks are blinged out can be different. They can be foil, betas, foreign, signed by the artist, APAC, or even GURU. Whichever your flavor, normal basics just seems ridiculous.


Do you remember the basics your learned to play Magic with? If you do, filling out your Commander deck with the lands from your early days can bring back positive nostalgia. I have some fondness for certain land because they remind me of playing casual Magic with my brother in our basement. Whatever the set or style, sometimes nostalgia wins out.

My Approach

Before you read further, understand that most people find my method questionable or crazy at best. I take the time to root through my basics, but I want each one to be different. I will even strive to keep the lands with different expansions. Why do I do this? I like to see the differences in the sweet land from Magic’s history. That or I’m bad at making decisions, Tomato tomato (here’s hoping you read those two words differently).

Wrapping Up

The above reasons are likely not exhaustive and they can be combined. The real question is how do you select your basics? Do you have a favorite or two from each land type? I am curious how and why you pick your lands. Until next time, happy brewing.

– Cowboy Kyle


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