Insider: Modern Control Decks and Foil Profits

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Hey guys. I have a lot Magic-related on my mind right now, but 99% of my thoughts are on Modern. I want to cover a few of the fun money-making opportunities scrawled onto my notepad for this week.

A Few Thoughts on Modern Foils

We've all heard of pimping out decks. In fact, many of us have done just that with our collections. With Legacy on the decline and Modern skyrocketing in popularity, I'd like to delve a bit into what “pimping” decks is, and how we can make money off of it in Modern.

When a deck jumps in popularity, or a card, we go and buy nonfoils for a quick flip. Often, I see sold-out cards where the foils are about the same price as non-foils. Those foils will go up in price as well. Sure, the non-foils can be quicker money, but if you have more money, grab the foils too.

Modern is a format where people's decks change much less often. Heck, I've only had one Modern deck in the last nine months since I moved into the format. I have heavily modified it, and it is over half foil right now. If I weren't trying to profit from Magic, it would probably be 100% foil. Many others like to foil Modern decks because the metagame shifts more slowly. So you can expect these foils to continue to rise.

When cards shoot up, the foils often are easier to pick up. When I went out two days late searching for Bloodhall Ooze, I found ten foils at $1.25 each, and not a single nonfoil at below $3. I was a bit amazed that TCG had some foils at $5, when most were listed at $7-8. I sold three of them at $9.99 on TCGPlayer, and that alone made me my money back. The foils actually jumped at a much higher rate.

Importantly, this is extremely abnormal, for a variety of reasons. For starters, foil rares are not usually 300% of the nonfoils. Also, Conflux foils are usually very cheap and readily available, due to the massive foil printing from Shards block premium packs. So, when we aren't buying foil copes for a third of TCG mid on nonfoils, we want to stray from trying to hit foil rares and Shards block foils.

Why so much for a foil Bloodhall Ooze? Well, the only thought I have -- Jund is still a driving force in Modern. It is no longer uncontested, but is still a great Tier 1 deck. People who previously had a pimped-out Jund deck want pimped-out Bloodbraid Elf replacements.

Using this as an example, we can start to look at other cards in the same manner. An important one is uncommons and commons. Commons especially can hit ridiculous spreads between nonfoil and foil.

Serum Visions is an interesting example. The nonfoil is $3. There was a promo printing, which goes for $9-$10. Yet the foil still maintains a $7 price tag. This is down a bit, as I recently sold a few at $8 each.

So, we need to identify commons, uncommons and even rares that are not quite to the Serum Visions[/card] level, but are gaining popularity to the extent that foils may go up further. We can identify these when a deck starts to gain popularity, but mostly when a deck starts using a new card they were not using previously.

Shadow of Doubt
Photo Courtesy of

Shadow of Doubt, which is seeing play in a few decks, has seen recent increases. The foils are at about $3 and sold out on TCGPlayer. This offers a unique opportunity if you can find any –- as your TCGPlayer prices are now the price of the foil. I love these as a spec target, because they really shut down a deck in your favor.

This brings me to my next point.

Control... in Modern!?

Control decks are coming out in Modern (finally), and the metagame is probably the most diverse I have ever seen since I began playing. I'll be honest, Wizards did this format right. There is no nonland card you have to own to play Modern at all. I love it, and if I could, I would probably abandon Standard entirely for Modern.

So, these control decks are offering us a few opportunities. First, the foiling –- cards that are going up there can cause the foils to go up as well. I like foils because they go up slower, don't fluctuate, and have ridiculous ceilings. If you've read my past articles, you know I always bring up the shiny, and I really think there is money in them.

Looking at a few recent American Control lists on MTGO, we see some great targets. First, Supreme Verdict is seeing play. This shuts down even Merfolk lists, with their pesky counter spells. I really think Supreme Verdict is too cheap. It should be a $6+ card, as it is played in every format, and also has EDH and casual appeal. I would pick these up at $4 in trade, or $3 in cash.

We also see Electrolyze here. Now, this is a Commander reprint and a Champs promo. Obviously, the Champs promo is out of the question as a spec target, but the Guildpact foils are sold out. If you find them, they will probably fetch a pretty price tag.

Mystic Gate
Photo Courtesy of

These decks also run Mystic Gate. These are up to $10 now, but we could see more increase. If you have these I would hold them for a bit. With control decks on the rise they could hit $12-14.

Counterflux is a great target for both Standard and Modern. These decks seem to be running it for the control mirrors, and when Dissipate cycles out, we will see its use increase in Standard as well. It could hit $2-$3 at some point. The foils are already at the $3-4 price point, and the nonfoil just needs to catch up.

Detention Sphere is also being played in these decks, and due to its “awesome” ability (being pitchable to Force of Will), it will probably start to increase slowly as RTR is being opened scarcely.

Condescend foils are about $1.50, and I think these have room to move. Gifts and U/W Tron both run a set, and both are fun decks to foil out.

I will keep my eye open for awesome new Modern decks as it is slowly becoming my favorite format. I am largely abandoning Legacy for Modern, and will continue to trade into it aggressively. Keep an eye out for my future articles, as I hope to cover new Modern archetypes –- and of course, their shinies –- for months to come.

11 thoughts on “Insider: Modern Control Decks and Foil Profits

  1. I think a Legacy decline, if any, is likely balanced out by an increase in popularity of EDH. Not that both groups like exactly the same cards, Duals will likely see only little impact of a Legacy decline, but the impact on Force of Will is likely going to be much larger. I think on the whole old cards will more and more become the casual player’s and collector’s territory, but, many cards show that the casual player and collector are willing to pay for more expensive cards.

    On the whole moving from Legacy to Modern is likely a good move. Don’t lose sight of the old cards though as they become more rare every day, so if something seems to dip rather low there might be a good opportunity.

    I personally plan to watch for opportunities to pick up good casual cards and old gems on the cheap should Legacy really start to decline and sit on them until they go up again. Might take a while, but I’m in it for the long run.

    Otherwise I agree with the Modern suggestions, nice to see Shadow of Doubt is finally seeing some action. Have been getting quite a few in bulk.

      1. Yes, but we are hoping to see these cards grow now, and MM comes out in June. I certainly can see newly emerging decks cause price increases in the next 3 months.

  2. Foils are an interesting conundrum. I have been a “foil whore” as I like to call it since I started playing. I have really debated moving to non-foil exclusively for personal use lately because I know if I sold my foil stuff I could come out very well. I do actually speculate in both on a regular basis, but I also keep a lot of foils. The problem is if I enjoy the foils and the game is for enjoyment I shouldn’t worry about value of my foils vs moving them, but as Modern continues to grow WOTC will continue to reprint cards and over time almost all foils will drop. It’s really tough to hold onto things like foil Thoughseize with them around $140 a piece, knowing that they will be printed more later and that value will drop?

    Am I the only one here with this issue, or is this common for some of you as well. I think this line is very difficult when you are trying to mix enjoyment with common business sense.

    1. It can be. I have an almost-foiled EDH deck worth nearly a grand, and I keep forcing myself not to sell it off.

      I also use foils in my standard deck. Granted, I get the foils fairly cheap. I find them cheap on eBay, buy low on TCG, but it is still largely mixing pleasure with business.

    2. I usually speculate a bit on foils I think will go up because of Standard. I used to play with them, but I’m starting to care less about having foils for Standard due to how fickle it can be and just use the non-foils for play and sell off the foils at a profit. For example, I got Farseeks for 2 each and sold them at 7 each. Now I’m having the same conundrum with Flinthoof Boar and Burning-Tree Emissary. It seems the more I get into MTG Finance, the harder it is to hang on to these cards that appreciate 3-5 times their value in a few short months.

      I don’t really get rid of foils I am currently or might use for EDH. Foiling out my EDH decks is part of the reason I’m into Magic Finance, so that I can fund such an opulent activity.

  3. I would think with Modern Masters soon approaching with the dedicated foil slot in each pack that one would want to get away from Pre-Zen Modern Foils. During the SCG Winter Sale I picked up a good number of Foil Fast Lands, and Inkmoth Nexi. Neither have seen much movement but I’m still in under buylist.

  4. Nice article, Jared! I speculated on a few Bloodhall Oozes really early on and found the foils were dirt cheap, in fact I got mine at around or just under $1, which wasn’t much more than the nonfoils, so it seemed like a great deal.

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