Welcome back, readers!
Today's article was inspired by a simple trade request that began online. Someone wanted some extra Ensnaring Bridges of mine. When they showed me their trade binder not much caught my eye, except for a judge foil Morphling.
I have been keeping my eye on this card ever since Mairsil, the Pretender came out. He didn't get as much hype as Kess, Dissident Mage, but he's still a powerful commander with a lot of combo potential. Those are the commanders that tend to attract the competitive players, who in turn are the most likely to pimp out their decks. Giving Mairsil five abilities including the ability to untap and protect himself via shroud is very relevant.
Unfortunately, this judge foil had already jumped considerably between when I first started tracking it (when it was sitting around $20) and its current price of $35. Sadly, the trade didn't really develop, but I did find a cheap foil copy on TCGplayer—and also got the inspiration for this article—so things worked out in the end.
Morphling is one of several judge foil versions of cards on the Reserved List. This is especially important because Wizards decided to restrict themselves after FTV: Relics came out (with Mox Diamond) and no longer do foil reprints of Reserved List cards.
So if anyone is trying to foil out a deck and it includes Reserved List cards, then judge foils are the only option. Back when these were printed the playerbase (and thus judge base) was much smaller, so there are a lot fewer of them out there then you might think.
I've gone through all the judge foils of Reserved List cards and compiled this table:
|Card Name||Judge Foil Year||Reserved List||Non-Foil Price||Judge Foil Price||Multiplier|
|Survival of the Fittest||2009||Y||$44.96||$310.39||6.9|
|Wheel of Fortune||2010||Y||$88.99||$291.86||3.3|
The multiplier column above is the judge foil price divided by the non-foil price. This metric gives a feel for which ones might have more room to grow (i.e. those with a low multiplier).
Some of these are already extremely expensive. Speculating on the higher-end judge foils would require a great deal of capital, and they may be difficult to unload. Just take a look at that Gaea's Cradle price...
But a few cards on this list might be good trade pickups. Note that both Deranged Hermit and Phyrexian Negator have pack-foil options, which are much more expensive than the judge ones (as they are likely rarer).
Looking at this list there are a few cards that do jump out as decent speculation targets. Phyrexian Dreadnought used to be a Legacy staple played in the Stiflenought deck, and the multiplier is still pretty low (2.4). It's also a four-of in that deck. Now, unfortunately, that deck has fallen out of favor and we don't see it having much success anymore.
Dreadnought was originally printed in Mirage, so the only foil option is the judge foil. It doesn't show up in a lot of Commander decks according to EDH REC, though it is really good in Varolz, the Scar-Striped. Varolz is a fun deck, but not extremely powerful, and thus not favored by the competitive players who are more likely to foil out their deck.
All that said, I don't know if I'm a fan of buying Phyrexian Dreadnoughts with cash (unless the price is really good). I would definitely be happy to trade for them if I see them in binders, though in all the years I've been trading I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen this card in a trade binder.
Another one that I see some potential in is Deranged Hermit. This is definitely a casual favorite as he makes Squirrel tokens and serves as a Squirrel lord. From a power level he's a bit sub-par nowadays, but with all the blink effects available now, he can really get out of hand. He also fits extremely well in decks that play creatures out of the yard, as the echo mechanic provides a free sacrifice outlet for the creature.
The pack foils go for closer to $60-$70, so the judge foil is currently a good "cheaper" option for those who want to foil out a deck and save a few bucks. I'm confident enough in this pick that I actually ordered one while writing this article (to have for personal use).
I also like to check the various Facebook trade and buy/sell groups for cards when I consider speculating. When I search multiple groups and find zero copies for sale in the past few months, I make a mental note to keep my eye out for the cards. This one seems to be rare enough that if you want a personal copy I suggest getting it sooner rather than later.
Lastly we have Phyrexian Negator. This one is definitely lower on the pickup list. There was a Duel Deck printing in foil (with new artwork) back in 2010 so there are cheap foil options available for anyone who actually wants to play this card. If you ever wanted to see a card that sees very little Commander play, despite being a powerful Standard card, here's your opportunity. The downside of this card is big and obvious, so it doesn't get much love.
However, what's interesting is that it's an older judge foil of a Reserved List card that can still be purchased for under $7. It is by far the cheapest of the judge foils on this list, and probably one of the cheaper judge foils of all time. The opportunity here is mainly if you are a collector (who also wants all the judge foils) or if you believe that the original artwork will command enough demand from anyone who wants to play it.
If we look at a card like Morphling, the judge foil sat around $10 for over a year before slowly rising to $20 and then spiking with the release of Mairsil, the Pretender. If Wizards ever printed a commander that could turn the Negator's downside into a positive, then this could easily jump to $20-$30.
Now that is a pretty large "if," so I wouldn't go cashing in all your treasury bonds to buy up all the judge foils. But it might be worth considering picking up one or two if you see any in trade binders or have some extra store credit lying around. Especially when you consider that this was a judge promo 13 years ago (back in 2004), so there are likely very few of these around.
Lastly, while it has already jumped up in price a good bit, Morphling still isn't a terrible pickup. Its current (post-spike) price still has a relatively low multiplier when compared to regular copies, and it only gets better as more creatures that copy/steal activated abilities gets printed.
Remember that Morphling is also one of Magic's more iconic cards, serving as a fantastic win condition in the older control decks once all the ridiculous combo decks of Urza's block got hosed.
The list of Reserved List judge foils is actually pretty small, and many have jumped in price already. There are still a few potential ones to keep an eye out for and I know I'll be looking to pick them up if I see them in trade binders.
Judge foils are a deep topic that I hope to cover more another time. Outside of the Reserved List specifically, lots of other judge foils are very expensive (especially thanks to Commander players), and some may have room to grow. In the future I will likely write an article looking at the non-Reserved List judge foils that seem to be underpriced. Let me know your thoughts below.