This is an initiative in partnership with Wizards of the Coast.

A few days ago, I was immersed in one of those special sources of information for my Magic Chronicles—the kind you can hardly remember starting two hours later—when I came across a special card from Magic: The Gathering that caught my attention.

– “Is that… is that Venice?”

I recognized the island immediately and the resemblance was too similar to be a coincidence, so the first thing that came to mind was that someone had made a fake map and I was more taken in by it as a panoli. At the time he could hardly imagine that this was just the beginning of another two hours of searching through old letters.

The magic of the real world

With the obvious doubt as to whether or not I had swallowed a fake letter, I began to look for its possible origin. I knew beforehand that Magic had tried to sever any connection with the real world for obvious reasons. You know, because of the legal issues and the typical “any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental” reports.

But not only did this letter make it very clear that the island to which it referred was the well-known Italian city of canals, it also openly listed the city and country under the name of their illustrator. This was Venice, Italy, and the more I searched for it, the more pages the letter was found to be good.

And among all of them suddenly a hint: Euroland. Not only was the map real, it wasn’t the only basic land with a European landscape as the protagonist. There was a whole collection of lands dedicated to the old continent, and it wasn’t the first time Magic had done something like that.

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A country based on its own nature

The year is 1998. Magic has been on the market for five years and its explosion across North America has been spectacular. Across the pond, both Europe and Asia seem to have embraced the game with similar enthusiasm, but for some reason the numbers reported by their neighbors are far below expectations.

Concerned about the reasons that might cause Asians not to pay the expected attention, Wizards of the Coast understood that the Western imagination the game portrayed might clash a bit with Eastern customs. You had to approach them in a different way.

And what better way to indulge in another region than with a little chauvinism? If the problem was that Magic cards were too Western, they would do their best to present them to this audience with something they valued more than any other citizen of the world, a country based on their own nature.

from west to east

Under a special collection called APAC, intended to collect various emblematic locations in Asia and the Pacific (hence the name), some base lands were filled with locations such as the Great Wall of China, the married Meoto Iwa rocks and Ayers Rock in central Australia, or the iconic Mount Fuji.

Magic Asia cards

The cards, accompanied by a region-specific set based on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novels, helped further strengthen the game’s presence in the region, and unsurprisingly, special boosters flew in to introduce multiple cards into some of the to transform Magic’s most valuable lands.

Seeing that Milhouse’s plan had been commissioned, one must have wondered if the idea could be replicated in other areas in hopes of replicating the same success. Two years later, Wizards of the Coast would repeat the strategy with the arrival of Euro countries.

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Maps from Europe

Far from being limited to a few cards from a specific set, this time around all basic land cards would be based on real-world locations in Europe and have beautiful designs like these:

  • The forests of the Black Forest in Germany, Brocéliande in France and Nottingham in the UK.

forests

  • The Scottish Highlands, the Dutch Lowlands and the Russian Tundra as plains.

Llanaras

  • The Danish Scandinavian Islands, Venice in Italy and the Cliffs of Dover in Great Britain.

wing

  • The Belgian High Marshes, the UK’s Lake District National Park and the Camargue as the last of the marshes.

swamps

The Italian Vesuvius and the French Mont Blanc would close the circle with some mountains whose great protagonist gave me a tremendous illusion. Down there, right at the level where I’d previously read Venice, Italy, I found myself with a combination I couldn’t even have imagined a few months ago: Pyrenees, Spain.

mountains

The Pyrenees map

A letter based in Spain. There are people out there playing Magic and using the Pyrenees as mana to summon goblins and dragons. Someone with a Sparks deck that, thanks to Aneto and Pica d’Estats, can blow rivals out of their boxes. It’s just that I’m very suggestible – guilty – but he seemed crazy to me.

From there, and after several hours of poking around the internet’s most lost forums, you’d think my curiosity would have been more than sated by now, but then I stopped to think:

– “Will there be more Magic cards based on real elements?”

Pyrenees

And if there are any. And that’s not a few. But as they say in these cases, that’s a story for another day. Well, if you will allow me, I have an uncontrollable desire to build a red deck.