Insider: Another Look at Foils

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I used to hate foils. When I began playing Magic in 1997, there were no such thing and I was quite content to keep it that way. Wizards had other ideas.

To me, foils were always a nuisance. They are less liquid than their nonfoil counterparts – anecdotally, it always feels like for every five people I trade with, only one or two really cares about foils. Even fewer are willing to give a sufficient premium on the shiny cards.

Recently this has all changed. I’ve learned to appreciate some of the significant positives of foils, thus changing my MTG investing strategy to include them. They may be harder to move, but their significant premium and partial immunity to some reprints makes them a tempting target - especially ones that fall into a couple different categories.

Newer Modern & Legacy Staples

Legacy foils always demand a major premium. Look no further than Jace, the Mind Sculptor for an example. Nonfoil copies retail for $149.99 while NM foil copies are upwards of $799.99! This equates to a multiplier greater than five!

Sometimes newer cards don’t possess the same multiplier even though they see Eternal play. This is especially the case for newly printed cards. For example, consider Scavenging Ooze. Nonfoil copies are up to $19.99 on SCG while foils only maintain the standard 2x multiplier, retailing for $39.99.

The discrepancy in multipliers means there’s likely an opportunity here. Yes, the promo versions of Scavenging Ooze are indeed foil, but set foils are often less impacted despite this.

Sometimes even if an Eternal multiplier is higher, there’s still upside potential simply because the card has upward momentum anyway. One of my favorites is Abrupt Decay.

Despite showing up all over Modern and Legacy, this card has still flattened out in price. Even foil copies seem to have stagnated. Here’s the thing: I expect nonfoil copies to rise over time, and since the foil counterparts have that 5x multiplier ($7 nonfoil, $35 foil at retail) the foil versions will rise five times as fast! That means if the nonfoil hits $10, which I fully expect come Modern season, then foils will likely reach $50. The percentage remains the same, but the absolute increase is much greater.

In addition to the larger gain, the risk is also much lower. As long as Abrupt Decay sees Modern/Legacy play, foils will not be dropping in price. Rotation shouldn’t impact things. Even should Abrupt Decay show up in an Event Deck, the foils will remain safe because foil quantities would remain fixed.

Want something even safer? How about RTR block Shock Lands? I expect all of these to go up in price in the coming months. Many have leveled out, and some have even begun an uptrend. I’ve noticed Godless Shrine on the Interests list a couple days in a row now, slowly growing in price. Despite all the Modern play, foil Gatecrash copies are less than 3x their nonfoil counterparts. Part of this may be related to the fact that Shock Lands see no play in Legacy. But should Modern continue to grow in popularity, this will adjust upwards. Expect foils to rise continuously no matter how many nonfoil reprints there are.

In terms of Eternal foils, my current bets are on Abrupt Decay and Melira, Sylvok Outcast. Due to recent Modern play, I’ve also picked up a couple foil Voice of Resurgence, but I really hope this card puts up some strong results in the coming months to justify a larger foil multiplier. I also own two foil copies of Celestial Colonnade and I just picked up a costly foil Liliana of the Veil.

Speaking of Liliana of the Veil, did you know that more copies of Liliana showed up in the SCG Invitational Legacy Top 8 decklists than Jace? The change in Legends rule sure helped Liliana strengthen, but the popularity of BUG strategies in Legacy are also a factor. There may be more copies of Liliana than Jace overall, but if this trend continues I can easily see Liliana rising in price. Of course with a 5x multiplier, foil copies will skyrocket. Don’t expect rotation to matter one bit.

Casual / EDH Foils

Don’t want to fall prey to shifting metagames? I have a few foil suggestions for the Casual/EDH crowd as well. Ever notice how iconic foil angels are super expensive? I mean, a 4x mulitpiler for a card that sees fringe Legacy play is absurd. That is, unless there’s significant casual appeal.

It seems there’s no limit to multipliers when it comes to angels. Check out the 10x multiplier in Invasion copies of Reya Dawnbringer!

My favorite target: Avacyn, Angel of Hope foils. In fact nonfoils are OK too as long as they’re not reprinted…which they shouldn’t be since the name of the set is in the card’s name! Perhaps that’s why she’s been steadily rising over the past few months despite her inevitable rotation from Standard. And don’t forget, Avacyn Restored was not opened a whole lot. In a way, she is kind of like Linvala, Keeper of Silence, except for the fact that Linvala actually sees Modern play while Avacyn does not. Still, casual appeal will assuredly take Avacyn’s foil to a multiplier well higher than the current 2.5x.

Another group of casual foils worth noting are Unhinged foils. Yes, they are silly. I know they aren’t tournament legal. I also know that some guys still love foil copies of Little Girl. There’s currently one copy on eBay for sale, a couple on TCG Player, and a few in stock at some major retailers. In short, not many of these are circulating on the market and the resulting foil premium multiplier is a ridiculous 40x!

Want something with a little less sketchiness? How about foil copies of Who / What / When / Where / Why, which are currently sold out at SCG with a price of $39.99! It seems this is one of the few Un-set cards people like to have in their cube. The result is a significant premium on a difficult-to-find card. The multiplier of roughly 13x, and I think it can go even higher.

In terms of the casual foils I am holding onto, I currently have a two foil Avacyns, two spare foil Little Girls, a foil Who / What / When / where / Why, and a foil Linvala, Keeper of Silence.

Foils Aren’t So Bad

It took me years to appreciate the upside of investing in foils. Although the initial outlay in cash is greater the partial immunity to reprints, larger multiplier, and growth potential provides enough upside to make me want to buy in. If you decide to follow, I highly recommend focusing on Eternal staples and Casual favorites.

Newer Modern cards may be prime targets because they haven’t achieved their foil multiplier potential yet due to Standard’s influence. Shock Lands have to be some of the best foils to buy right now, but I also like foil Modern staples not in Modern Masters – just make sure you unload them before Modern Masters 2 is spoiled!

Iconic foil Angels are also solid, and if they see Eternal play the price ceiling is even higher. Besides, I just think foil Linvala, Keeper of Silence is just beautiful.

But perhaps not as beautiful as foil Liliana of the Veil. And should Liliana continue to dominate Legacy and become the most played Planeswalker, the upside potential on foil copies is absurd. Don’t forget Liliana already sees a ton more play than Jace because she’s legal in Modern. If she takes over Legacy as well, there may be no stopping her original set foil despite any potential reprints!

Again, the big watchout would be Modern Masters 2 – I cannot emphasize this enough. Don’t be greedy, and you should manage to make a healthy profit.


  • Dragon’s Maze Elemental Tokens have started to rise in price. I’ve got a handful listed on eBay in the $5 range and they’ve been selling gradually. SCG is consistently sold out of these at the same price – I fully expect them to raise their buy and sell prices in the coming weeks. But I’m not a buyer of these over $2.50 each. They are only tokens, after all.
  • Anime copies of Jace and Chandra have slowly risen in price over time. I see Chandra is currently retailing for $12.99 and Jace isn’t even in stock. These are some more casual “foils” destined to only increase in price as the game becomes more popular.
  • Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is selling on SCG for less than the top buy price. There are no NM copies in stock, but there is a set of MP copies listed for $8 each. I’d pass on these and pick up any NM copies they list at their current $9.99 price tag. Foils are listed at $24.99 but sold out – this is another case where casual appeal and occasional Eternal play should help drive the foil multiplier higher.

-Sigmund Ausfresser

11 thoughts on “Insider: Another Look at Foils

  1. Although rares are super nice as foils, don’t underestimate the massive profits that can be made with playable uncs/commons. (Web)shops often underestimate the price of these gems, while on a platform like Magiccardmarket the real scarcity is more accurately represented. This can cause massive discrepancy in prices. For example, I bought out a vender of foil Sowing Salts, both versions, he only charged me 50 Eurocent per copy. These have been selling steadily for 5,50/3,50 on MKM. Also, Faithless Lootings are great, just as other playable modern sideboard cards. It always pays to do a quick search for these foils when I place an order somehwere. 🙂

    1. Anne, this is an excellent build! I completely neglected to mention foil Commons/Uncommons but sometimes they are even easier to profit on. I was all over Twitter yesterday asking about foil copies of Young Pyromancer – these are selling in the $12 range right now even though it’s an M14 Uncommon! Especially when a newly printed Standard card sees Legacy play, it’s great to pick up foils on the cheap. I still regret trading away the Foil Ponder I had a couple years ago.

      1. Oh God, you mentioned foil Ponder… I remember having one when I just started out 1,5 years ago and I traded it away too! Ah, we were all noobs once… I’m happy I understand the appeal of foil cards now.

    1. Looks like 5x – seems on par with some of the other example I cited since it does see Legacy play. At least it used to – assuming it still does once in a while in Storm or Dredge decks. I had no idea these were so expensive though – time to keep my eyes out for them!

      1. Todd Anderson used them in the Modern Goryo’s Vengeance deck and Sam Black touted them in a Modern 5- color manabase but I think they were high before then anyway. The Judge promo is the only ‘Modern’ face version.

  2. To really make good decisions about buying/trading for foils, it is also important to understand the difference between kitchen-table casual cards and Commander casual cards. If a foil is strictly kitchen-table, it will generally have a much smaller multiplier than a Commander foil.

    1. Very good point here. But why do Unhinged foils get so expensive then? Surely these are only kitchen table cards, right? Maybe barring the few that are played in Cube? But you can’t tell me Foil Richard Garfield, PhD is anything but kitchen-table. Yet foils are so expensive!

      1. Yeah, there are definitely some exceptions, but I usually find that kitchen table players are more than happy to trade away foils. In my local area, I know at least one player who has Richard Garfield in their cube, and another who made a Commander deck with him as the general. I don’t really understand the appeal of Un cards and their foils, though I can see why Who What Where When Why would be cool in Cube.

  3. Good article as always, and I’ll touch on this. AVR was opened more than you think. In its first three months on the market, it sold better than Innistrad. Doesn’t really change anything in regards to what you said, and I agree, but just putting it out there.

    1. Corbin,

      Thanks for the comment! I had no idea that AVR was opened so much. I mean, I always thought the set would be a hit because of the casual appeal. So many Angels are sweet!

      Do you have a source for this datapoint? If you have access to info on how much product hit the market, I’d be excited to learn more.



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