Welcome back, readers!
In last week's article I dug into the Reserved List cards that were printed as judge foils. Those are obviously the safest ones to purchase (as Wizards's self-instated reprint policy won't allow for specialty foil printings anymore). However, there are a lot of judge foils that aren't on the Reserved List. Today we will review those to look for potential.
Note that many of the more recent judge foils seem to be aimed heavily at Commander players (with quite a few cards out of the Commander products printed as judge foils). Obviously, plenty of Commander players will simply take the cheapest option available. However, as always there is a subset of players (typically the competitive ones) who like to foil out their decks. Anyone willing to go to this effort will likely do so only for a commander they really enjoy that's also powerful.
With this in mind, I want to look at all the judge foils to date. I'll look at the price of the most recent non-foil printing, and then compare that to the judge foil cost to determine its multiplier (i.e. how many more times the judge foil is worth than the cheapest option).
|Card Name||Judge Foil Year||Current Price (JF)||Most Recent Non-foil Price||Judge Multiplier|
|Avacyn, Angel of Hope||2017||$49.21||$18.89||2.61|
|Azusa, Lost but Seeking||2016||$80.44||$46.05||1.75|
|Capture of Jingzhou||2017||$140.86||$372.49||0.38|
|Crucible of Worlds||2013||$93.95||$61.76||1.52|
|Decree of Justice||2007||$16.42||$0.39||42.10|
|Defense of the Heart||2016||$18.37||$9.20||2.00|
|Doran, the Siege Tower||2017||$57.00||$9.47||6.02|
|Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite||2014||$248.60||$16.80||14.80|
|Feldon of the Third Path||2015||$10.42||$3.15||3.31|
|Force of Will||2014||$344.99||$79.97||4.31|
|Forest- Terese Nielsen||2014||$104.95|
|Hammer of Bogardan||2002||$6.26||$0.42||14.90|
|Hanna, Ship's Navigator||2014||$21.00||$2.50||8.40|
|Island- Terese Nielsen||2014||$152.50|
|Karador, Ghost Chieftain||2014||$16.79||$7.70||2.18|
|Maze of Ith||2009||$95.83||$9.72||9.86|
|Mountain- Terese Nielsen||2014||$55.00|
|Nekusar, the Mindrazer||2014||$14.99||$3.59||4.18|
|Oath of Druids||2001||$41.00||$1.30||31.54|
|Oloro, Ageless Ascetic||2014||$14.68||$3.60||4.08|
|Plains- Terese Nielsen||2014||$77.72|
|Ravages of War||2015||$59.60||$212.50||0.28|
|Riku of Two Reflections||2014||$16.47||$10.47||1.57|
|Show and Tell||2013||$39.99||$14.25||2.81|
|Stroke of Genius||1998||$14.72||$0.46||32.00|
|Survival of the Fittest||2009||$303.22||$44.99||6.74|
|Swamp- Terese Nielsen||2014||$71.25|
|Sword of Feast and Famine||2014||$47.22||$24.99||1.89|
|Sword of Fire and Ice||2011||$84.47||$46.49||1.82|
|Sword of Light and Shadow||2012||$39.90||$30.99||1.29|
|Swords to Plowshares||2013||$35.00||$1.25||28.00|
|Wheel of Fortune||2010||$285.00||$85.00||3.35|
|Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed||2012||$37.00||$83.99||0.44|
|Zur the Enchanter||2016||$17.00||$0.99||17.17|
The most recent non-foil printing is a good stand-in for the cheapest copy. If we see that the judge foil isn't that much more expensive than the most recent non-foil printing, then that might be one we look at investing in. After all, if people are willing to pay $10 for the non-foil, then the foil should surely be worth a good bit more.
There are a few instances in which the judge foil is worth less than the most recent non-foil printing. This appears to be limited to Portal: 3 Kingdoms rares (which are exceedingly rare) and one from Portal: Second Age (Temporal Manipulation).
So without further ado, here's our list of judge foils with a multiplier of 2.0 or less:
- Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- Command Beacon
- Crucible of Worlds
- Defense of the Heart
- Doubling Season
- Mana Crypt
- Mana Drain
- Riku of Two Reflections
- Rishadan Port
- Sneak Attack
- Sword of Feast and Famine
- Sword of Fire and Ice
- Sword of Light and Shadow
- Vampiric Tutor
That's quite a list. However, one thing we might want to consider is the cost of speculating on some of these. If you're like me, you don't have the bankroll to invest in too many cards greater than $50. If we ignore those, our list drops to the following cards. (Note: Trader Tools does not track judge foils separately, so graph data appears for non-foils.)
Bribery has seen some play in Modern, typically in the Mono-Blue Tron decks. It's also a casual favorite, as Commander is a format of giant powerful creatures and cheating your opponent's best creature into play way before they might be able to is very powerful. It is also important to note that this is a four-year-old judge foil (as the playerbase increases, so does the judge base, which means that newer judge foils likely have higher print runs).
Command Beacon is a colorless land, so in theory it can go into any Commander deck. For decks that heavily rely on their commander being in play, this is a good insurance policy when your commander gets killed. The fact that the judge foil is under $13 seems like it's a solid speculation target given the regular is almost $7. This is also the only foil option of this card, which is always something to keep in mind.
Defense of the Heart has only one other printing back in Urza's Legacy. The judge foil is about half the cost of the pack foil (which honestly seems a bit low for an Urza's Legacy foil at around $37) and green is the most powerful color in Commander. The one downside with this card has always been that it needs to stay in play until your next upkeep to trigger, and it puts a massive target on your head. However, it does this because it's insanely powerful.
Disentomb is a Legacy staple as one of the most important cards in the Reanimator deck (and occasionally seeing play in Jund Lands variants). It's also popular in Commander thanks to a lot of reanimator-style commanders. The biggest slight against it is that the Graveborn and judge foil share the same artwork as the original, and there were a lot of Graveborns printed.
In fact, this judge foil was originally slated for 2011, but got pushed back to 2014 due to the impending release of Graveborn. I actually have two of these I picked up a couple years ago, expecting that the effect of the Graveborn version would slowly diminish over time, and it's worth the same as it was when I traded for it two years ago. I wouldn't suggest investing in this one.
Arachnogenesis has one of the lowest multipliers on the list. The fact that you can pick up the judge foil for about 30% more than the regular version means it might very well be a solid speculation target. It's another four-year-old judge foil so there are likely fewer available then newer judge foils.
Overwhelming Forces doesn't appear on the list above, as the Portal 3: Kingdoms version is more expensive. However, unlike the others in this boat, it's quite affordable. Granted it's a worse version of Decree of Pain as it targets a player instead of all opponents, but it's still a powerful card (especially in one-vs.-one Commander, where it is much closer to Decree than in multiplayer). I may not buy any as a speculation target, but I'll be looking to pick one up for my personal use.
Riku of Two Reflections is a strong commander for a deck that used to be very popular. His current price shows relatively steady gains since his release in 2013. The judge foil in 2014 likely kept the price in check somewhat. I also have a judge foil in my speculation box that hasn't grown much since I got it.
This is the first card that can act as a commander on our list. One challenge with those is that, unless a new card specifically combos with an existing commander, players tend to retire the old ones in favor of newer ones (so demand recedes with time). Looking at EDH REC he is still the #2 Temur commander behind Animar, Soul of Elements. I do think there is room for this one to grow though, and I'd be happy to trade for another one or two if I can find them at their current price.
Sneak Attack has been on a steady decline since July of 2014 (when Sneak and Show was one of the top dogs of Legacy). The latest Eternal Masters printing with the same artwork and foil option didn't help this one. Neither did the general decline of the Sneak and Show archetype (not to mention the rise of Karakas). I am not really a fan of targeting this judge foil if only because you can get Eternal Masters versions for about $10 less and they are likely rarer than the judge foil versions.
Sword of Feast and Famine is the closest card we've reviewed to our self-established $50 price ceiling. They did give it the old artifact border for the judge foil so there will be players who prefer it. However, there is a Masterpiece foil now and that will likely keep the judge foil price in check (as it's rarer and thus more "pimp").
Temporal Manipulation is our only Portal: Second Age card on the list and one of the only ones worth any money. It's a slightly better Time Warp as it can't be redirected (because it doesn't target). I'm actually very surprised this one isn't worth more. It too is near our $50 ceiling, however, it only has two printings (the original and the judge foil).
The price may be held down due to fear of reprint from players. Most people I talk to are wary of picking up any expensive Portal cards because their value is so heavily tied to scarcity and any reprint would tank them by a lot. I could see this showing up in the next Masters set, but if it managed to bypass a reprint, I could see it going to $75 within the next year or two.
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed is not a very popular commander (and mono-black isn't a popular commander choice in general). He slides into 25th place in the top 25 mono-black commanders according to EDH REC, which isn't saying much. He's another one whose original version is heavily propped up due to the scarcity of Portal: 3 Kingdoms.
However, the big difference here is that all the other judge foil options tend to be more popular in Commander (except for maybe Ravages of War, as mass land destruction is frowned upon by the majority of the Commander playerbase). At its current price I have no interest in picking up a copy even for personal use.
This week we reviewed some of the cheaper judge foils that weren't that far off of their most recent non-foil printing's price. There are a good number of options on this list and none of the prices are so obscenely cheap that they are blatantly obvious pickups. However, I do think a few of them have a lot of potential.
If I had $200 to invest on judge foils on this list, I'd personally get: 2x Bribery, 2x Command Beacon, 2x Defense of the Heart, 3x Arachnogenesis, 1x Overwhelming Forces, and 2x Riku of Two Reflections. I'm not advocating people go out and buy these cards immediately, but I like this basket as I think there isn't a ton of risk and there's definitely some solid potential.
As an aside, I will be at GP Atlanta this weekend—selling to vendors, trading, possibly buying some solid HP Commander staples, and hopefully playing in a Legacy or Commander side event or two. Feel free to introduce yourself to me as I'm always happy to chat with fellow QSers.