MTG Wiki

Foil cards, officially styled as "premium" cards,[1] are Magic cards which have a foil or "glossy" finish to them.

Foil layer

Foil layer on a card back


Underprinting on the foil layer

Building a card

Physical elements of a Magic card

Top layer

Final printing

Properties[ | ]

The process involves a special metal foil layer on the card that highlights certain parts of the artwork over others (the lighter areas are more reflective). All foil cards are black-bordered, even those from the last white-bordered core sets, the exception being that of the Un-sets, which are silver-bordered. Foils do not pass the bend test; because foil cards have metal on the front, they crease when bent.

Rarity[ | ]

Foil cards are randomly inserted in Draft booster packs. From Core Set 2020 forward, 1:45 cards in Draft Boosters is foil, instead of the previous 1:67.[2][3] Collector Boosters, introduced in 2019, and Set Boosters (introduced in 2020) contain foils in higher rates. Mythics, rares and uncommons are harder to locate than commons, just like their unfoiled counterparts.

Slots[ | ]

Before Time Spiral, if a (Draft) booster pack contained a foil card it would replace the card normally found in that rarity. (i.e. the card Shared Triumph is rare, if there was a foil version in a pack it would replace the card found in the rare slot). Starting with Time Spiral, in every set a foil card replaces a common card regardless of the rarity of the foil card.[4] This means there is a chance of getting two rares (or three in the Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Shadows over Innistrad or Eldritch Moon packs due to the double-faced card slot) or even mythic rares in a single booster pack: one foil, and one regular (as well as one double-sided in the aforementioned sets).

Producing foils[ | ]

The foil process has not always been the same through the years. There have also been different foiling processes used for release cards (which creates a diagonal-slant effect), From the Vault: Dragons (double-foiled), supplemental sets (usually lower quality), etc.[5]

Foil types[ | ]

Pre-Modern foil[ | ]

Urza's Legacy was the first set to feature foil cards in booster packs.[6][7][8] However, Lightning Dragon was the first widely-available foil premium card, as it was the card given away at the Urza's Saga prerelease.[9] This type of foil would last all the way up to Scourge.[10]

Pre-Modern foils have a shooting star in the lower-left-hand corner of the card. The process to create these cards involved a problem where certain foils would include a "cutline" or "printline": a seam in the foil treatment across the face of the card.

Traditional foil[ | ]

The traditional foiling process (which eliminated print lines) started with Eighth Edition.[11] Traditional foils have a "rainbow effect" covering the whole card.

These "rainbow foils" have an extra layer on the card that highlights certain parts of the artwork over others, the "white under-print plate", or "WUP."[12] The holographic foil laminate (a metallic "sticker") has to be bonded to this WUP and the regular card back. After being allowed to "cure" for several weeks, the foil laminate is then overprinted with regular paint for the matching card art. Foil laminates are tricky on playing cards due to the standards needed for wear resistance and ease of shuffling.

Even trickier are the challenges of printing on the foil background.[13] Opaque areas require a base of white ink, and black and white inks have to be double-printed for readability. Instead of the normal four- or five-color process, premium cards require eight separate color plates. Film alignment has to be precise - even slight misregistrations can ruin an entire sheet.

The time period around Future Sight-Lorwyn- Shadowmoor had very dark foils.[10]

You can peel the foil laminate off a traditional foil card, which leaves the paper card with a blank white front.

Because of the laminate, foil cards are not fully recyclable.[14]

From the Vault[ | ]

From the Vault sets were printed using a special foiling process that was unique to the series. They were printed on a foil stock that is twice as reflective and treated with a varnish.[15] This resulted in a shinier and stiffer card that had an almost 'holographic' look to them. They feel much slicker to the touch and weigh a notable amount more than a regular foil. From the Vault cards are also exceedingly hard to write on (e.g. an autograph). However, these cards were also notable for having many production issues, like one-pixel vertical lines going down the card-face. They were also more prone to curl, regardless of moisture (but moisture makes it worse).[10]

Foil-etched[ | ]

Commander Legends introduced the "foil-etched" treatment. These cards use a brand-new foiling process that looks different from previous foils.[16][17] From that moment on, the regular foil was called "Traditional" foil.[18]

Foil-etched is sparkling shiny when touched by light. It doesn't make use of a foil laminate but instead uses metallic paint or varnish. It doesn't cover the whole card but only highlights specific parts. Cards with an etched foiling appear almost grainy and feel textured to the touch.[10]

The foil-etching process presents an interesting twist when dealing with older cards in Modern Horizons 2.[19] In the early days of Magic, Wizards of the Coast didn't have custom "WUP" treatments for artwork, so on foil-etched retro frame cards, the foil effects don't show inside the art box itself.

Gold foil-etched[ | ]

Secret Lair Drop Series: MSCHF featured cards that were "Gold Foil Etched" "Gold-Etched". It comes with a shiny and glittery finish where some of the detailing is etched into the card itself.[18]

Textured foil[ | ]

A "textured foil" treatment was introduced for Double Masters 2022.[20][21] These are foiled with a special textured pattern, giving the art some appearance of movement.[22] These cards are visibly etched, with raised lines in the art that are visible even at a distance.[10]

Textured foils have been released in other sets like Dominaria United, with legendary creatures getting the treatment, and they returned Commander Masters.

Ampersand foil[ | ]

A very rare foil type, released in limited numbers to WPN Premium stores with the release of Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. They are traditional foil, but overlaid with a glossy foil ampersand (&) the, Dungeons and Dragons logo.[18]

Silverscreen foil[ | ]

For Innistrad: Double Feature the usual "rainbow" foil treatment was swapped for a unique "silverscreen" foil that enhanced a cinematic monochrome effect.[23][10] This style of traditional foil shows off the art with a special silver substrate treatment and a glossy varnish finish that. It was also featured as "Eternal Night" in the 2021 Innistrad sets.

This is also possibly the same foiling that was used in Secret Lair Drop Series: MSCHF where it was described as "Traditional Foil with Silver Laminate".

Neon ink foil[ | ]

Neon Ink Hidetsugu

Neon Ink

Premiering in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, "neon ink foils" sport a fluorescent ink that pops right off the card.[24][10] Neon Ink returned in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan with six versions of Cavern of Souls in different colors.[25] Similarly, there are six versions of the Special Guest Mana Crypt[26]

Gilded foil[ | ]

Streets of New Capenna introduced the "gilded foil". These cards have the golden frame elements three-dimensionally embossed in gold atop a traditional foil card with a "3D hot stamp". The foil is slightly raised from the card surface and has a highly reflective gold finish. This embossing is smooth and legal for play in sanctioned Magic tournaments.[27][28] This type of foiling also features a golden card frame.[10]

Galaxy foil[ | ]

Galaxy foil

Unfinity introduced "galaxy foil", which looks like stars in space.[29] The foil pattern is similar to that of Base Set 2 Pokémon foils.[10]

Surge foil[ | ]

Sol Ring Surge Foil

Surge foil

The Warhammer 40,000 Commander Decks introduce the "surge foil", featuring a ripple-style foiling effect.[30] The foiling treatment looks like a surging wave, or a sun streaked meadow, and is exclusive to Universes Beyond.[10]

Double-rainbow foil[ | ]

A rare type of foiling is the Double-rainbow foil that was introduced for the Retro Frame Artifacts connected to The Brothers' War set.[31][10] It only appears on the serialized versions of the "schematics" available in Collector Boosters.

Step-and-compleat foil[ | ]

Taking inspiration from Step and repeat red-carpet banners, the "Step-and-compleat" foil was introduced in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. The foil treatment reveals a repeating pattern of the Phyrexian symbol, similar to the Greek letter Φ, across the card.[32][10]

Oil Slick Raised foil[ | ]

Oil slick

Oil slick raised foils

Oil slick raised foils are a foil treatment found in the Phyrexia: All Will Be One Bundle: Compleat Edition[32][10] The Slick Oil Raised foiling looks deep but glistening as if the cards became contaminated with Phyrexian oil.

Halo foil[ | ]

Halo foil is a treatment used for Multiverse Legends of March of the Machine.[33] The foiling gives a swirling, almost liquid-like, effect mimicking the magical substance it draws inspiration from.[10] It is likely using a similar process to Surge Foil.

Rainbow foil[ | ]

Rainbow foil was introduced for Secret Lair Goblin & Squabblin' Foil Edition and continues to appear in Secret Lair drops. Rainbow Foil is a lot like traditional foil, but it's printed using a different technique and has more vibrant colors.[34]

Confetti foil[ | ]

Confetti foil was introduced for the Japanese anime Enchanting Tales cards in some Wilds of Eldraine boosters.[35] It provides the cards with a shimmering sparkle.[36] The many little speckles give the card the confetti effect.[10]

Invisible ink foil[ | ]

Invisible Ink MKM

Invisible ink foil

Building on the detective fiction theme of Murders at Karlov Manor, the invisible ink foils have unique case notes written by Alquist Proft in the margins of the card.[37] The foiling is designed to be visible when the card is viewed at right angles.[10]

Raised foil[ | ]

Raised foil cards were introduced in Outlaws of Thunder Junction/The Big Score. Five of the Vault Frame Showcase cards appear in raised foil with a special elevated golden stamp embedded in the frame to commemorate the shiniest loot from Oko's heist. Raised foils are also exclusive to Collector Boosters.[38] Raised foils were reused for Bloomburrow, were the golden frame of the card name and text box is raised.[39]

Ripple foil[ | ]

Ripple Foil

Ripple foil

Ripple foil cards were introduced in Modern Horizons 3. It ripples like water.[40]

Quality issues[ | ]

Foils are notoriously harder to keep in Near Mint condition than non-foil cards.[5] They tend to collect dirt easier, creating a "cloudy" look on the front of the card. They can also have more noticeable print lines (especially on foils made pre-Eighth Edition when they changed the foiling process), tend to curl/bend/warp (colloquially known as "pringling", because they look like a pringle when severely warped) a lot easier (especially in warmer climates), and don't shuffle as well.

Warping[ | ]

Traditional foil Magic cards are made of two things, cardboard, and metal foil.[41] Like all paper materials, magic cards have a tiny amount of moisture within the cellulose pulp. This water is partially what gives paper flexibility without snapping it. If you remove the water, the paper becomes more brittle. If you add more water, it becomes more flexible. One way this occurs naturally is through humidity, which can cause the water content inside a card to fluctuate. It's this fluctuation that causes cards to grow or shrink, on a virtually imperceptible scale.

With non-foil cards, this doesn't cause a problem because the entire card expands evenly. But on foils, this can cause the cards to curl because while one side of the card is made of cardboard that changes size when water is added or removed, the other side is covered in a metal foil layer that does not expand through moisture. If you store your cards in a very humid environment, the cards will curl with the backside of the card bulging out because the backside of the card has room to expand while the front half is fixed in place by the foil layer. But if the humidity is lowered, this causes the water to go down, causing the cardboard to shrink, and the front side to bulge out.

But humidity is not the only factor that causes cards to curl. Much like how humidity causes the cardboard to grow and shrink, the same happens to the foiling when exposed to heat, because heat causes the metal to expand, and lower temperatures cause it to contract. These two factors control how much a card warps. If the temperature and humidity are at the temperature the cards were printed at, they won't curl. If you keep your cards in a super dry environment and under a lot of heat, you are going to get extreme curling. Keep them super cold and damp, and you'll get extreme curling in the other direction.

Foil-etched cards warp less than traditional foils.

Foil vs. Premium[ | ]

In Magic, “foil” and “premium” used to be (almost) synonymous. Wizards of the Coast would say “premium” because they wanted to use a consistent word for all their products and not all their premiums in every product were foil.[42] For example, Duel Masters had some promo cards printed on metal.[43] In actuality, foil is a subset of premium.[44] Back before Wizards of the Coast started making foil cards, the prerelease cards were still premium thanks to the gold-stamped date.[45] In fact, any special treatment, including unique layouts or stamps, is considered premium.[46] For example, a Game Day promo of Abrade is also premium. As such, it can be used with the Un-card Super Secret Tech, which cares about premium cards.

With the introduction of Booster Fun in Throne of Eldraine the Premium range was expanded upon with showcase cards, extended-art and borderless planeswalkers.[47] All the Booster Fun frames are premium cards, and they exist in foil and non-foil.[48][49] Secret Lair cards are also considered premium.[50]

Currently, any version of a card that is not the base version (different art, different frame, different treatment - things like foiling) is considered to be a premium card.[51]

Foil-only[ | ]

Booster[ | ]

The Alara Premium Foil Booster pack contained fifteen foil, black-bordered cards from Shards of Alara, Conflux, and Alara Reborn. It was released on January 8, 2010 (MSRP: $11.99).[52][53][54]

Sets[ | ]

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (April 13, 2018). "Are foil and premium different things?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. M20: 15 Changes Every Retailer Should Know. Wizards Play Network (June 13, 2019).
  3. Mark Rosewater (July 21, 2019). "Project Booster Fun". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (September 25, 2006). "Purple Reign". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. a b Ben Bleiweiss (February 3, 2009) Insider Trading - Fifteen Fun Facts About Foils!
  6. Mark Rosewater. (March 1999). Foiled Again, Mark my Words, The Duelist # 35
  7. Mark Rosewater (August 05, 2013). "Twenty Things That Were Going To Kill Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Mark Rosewater (November 28, 2012). "Why does Wizards insist on marketing foil cards as 'premium cards' when everybody calls them 'foil cards'?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  9. Magic Arcana (July 26, 2004). "The first foil prerelease card". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ryan Hay (March, 2024). "Magic: The Gathering: Every Type Of Foil Explained".
  11. Wizards of the Coast (September 2003). "Ask Wizards - September 2003". Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Tom Wänerstrand (June 29, 2018). "Building a Card". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Monty Ashley (February 26, 2013). "Where the Foil Goes". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Sustainable MTG Packaging & Something New in Secret Lair! (Video). Good Morning Magic. YouTube (November 24, 2021).
  15. Mark Purvis (August 08, 2008). "Sneak Peek: From the Vault: Dragons". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. Gavin Verhey (August 22, 2020). "A Sneak Peek at Commander Legends". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Gavin Verhey (August 22, 2020). "Commander Legends has a brand new kind of foiling: foil etched! (Not etched foil.)". Twitter.
  18. a b c Emma Partlow (August 24, 2023). "Every Foil Type in Magic: The Gathering 2023 - Confetti, Surge, and More!".
  19. Clayton Kroh (May 21, 2021). "Booster Fun of Modern Horizons 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. WPN (May 12, 2022). "Love Your Local Game Store Promo Returns, Plus Upcoming Product & Event Previews". Wizards Play Network.
  21. Magic: The Gathering (May 12, 2022). "A select group of cards in Double Masters 2022 will be available in the new gorgeous (but subtle) textured foil treatment.". Twitter.
  22. Max McCall (June 16, 2022). "Collecting Double Masters 2022 and Product Overview". Wizards of the Coast.
  23. You're Invited to Innistrad: Crimson Vow – Magic: The Gathering (Video). Magic: The Gathering. YouTube (October 28, 2021).
  24. Wizards of the Coast (December 16, 2021). "An Electrifying First Look at Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty". Wizards of the Coast.
  25. Adam Styborski (September 22, 2023). "A First Look at The Lost Caverns of Ixalan®". Archived from the original on September 22, 2023.
  26. Zakeel Gordon (October 24, 2023). "Collecting The Lost caverns of Ixalan". Wizards of the Coast.
  27. Max McCall (April 7, 2022). "Collecting Streets of New Capenna". Wizards of the Coast.
  28. Clayton Kroh (April 7, 2022). "Behind the Scenes of Streets of New Capenna Stylish Booster Fun". Wizards of the Coast.
  29. Mark Rosewater (November 29, 2021). "To Unfinity and Beyond". Wizards of the Coast.
  30. Billie Kaplan (May 12, 2022). "A First Look at Magic: The Gathering's Universes Beyond Warhammer 40,000 Collaboration". Wizards of the Coast.
  31. Blake Rasmussen (September 29, 2022). "A First Look at the The Brothers' War". Wizards of the Coast.
  32. a b Clayton Kroh and Adam Styborski (December 13, 2022). "A First Look at Phyrexia: All Will Be One". Wizards of the Coast.
  33. Wizards of the Coast (February 19, 2023). "A First Look at March of the Machine". Wizards of the Coast.
  34. Goblin & Squabblin' Foil Edition
  35. Wizards of the Coast (July 28, 2023). "Depicting a Fairy-Tale Plane - See the Anime Borderless Cards included in Wilds of Eldraine". Wizards of the Coast.
  36. Magic: The Gathering (August 15, 2023). "The Anime Borderless Enchanting Tales cards are also available in a new foil that we're calling, Confetti Foil!". Twitter.
  37. Seanan McGuire (December 5, 2023). "A First Look at Murders at Karlov Manor". Wizards of the Coast.
  38. Max McCall (March 26, 2024). "Collecting Outlaws of Thunder Junction".
  39. Tiny and Mighty - Bloomburrow Debut (Video). Magic: The Gathering. YouTube (July 9, 2024).
  40. An Ode to Magic - Modern Horizons 3 Debut (Video). Magic: The Gathering. YouTube (May 21, 2024).
  41. CGA001 (February 16, 2020). "Possible Solution for Curled Foils".
  42. Mark Rosewater (August 31, 2015). "One thing I've had to explain to some people about the Expedition Lands is that they are not a new rarity.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  43. Mark Rosewater (May 16, 2015). "What does premium but non-foil mean?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  44. Mark Rosewater (April 13, 2018). "Are foil and premium different things?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  45. Mark Rosewater (May 16, 2015). "What non-foil premium cards are there?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  46. Mark Rosewater (July 13, 2019). "Do non-foil promo cards (such as Game Day Abrade) count as "premium" for Super Secret Tech?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  47. Mark Rosewater (September 21, 2019). "Do non-foil showcase cards and borderless planeswalkers count as premium cards for super secret tech?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  48. Mark Rosewater (January 24, 2020). "Are there non-foil premium cards now?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  49. Mark Rosewater (July 6, 2020). "Does a non-foil showcase/extended art frame count as "premium" for super secret tech?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  50. Mark Rosewater (October 26, 2022). "What counts as a “premium?”". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  51. Mark Rosewater (July 8, 2022). "How does Super Secret Tech interact with all the current alternative art treatments?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  52. Magic Arcana (May 17, 2010). "Premium Foil Booster". Wizards of the Coast.
  53. PREMIUM FOIL BOOSTER product information pageWizards of the Coast
  54. Magic Arcana (January 14, 2010). "Opening the Foil Booster". Wizards of the Coast.
  55. WPN (February 23, 2024). "Dates & Details for Modern Horizons 3". Wizards Play Network.