23, Nov, 23

MTG Foil Treatment Guide

Article at a Glance

First appearing in 1999, foil MTG cards have been around for well over two decades at this point. For the majority of that long lifespan, players knew exactly what they were going to get, foil meant foil. As time has marched on, however, Wizards of the Coast has repeatedly experimented, creating myriad new variants.

Initially, this trend appeared slow going, with new foil variants being the talk of the town. In recent years, however, Wizards has massively stepped up the pace, creating new foil variants at a staggering pace. As much as they do look nice and fancy, all the new foiling techniques have been a lot to keep up with. So much so, in fact, that you may well need a guide to catalog and admire them all. 

Thankfully, if you’re looking for a guide like that, we’ve got you covered with all you need to know! So, to dive right into the juicy details, here’s a comprehensive rundown of all the foils in MTG!

Traditional Foils

To kick things off, we have the classic Traditional Foils. First seen in Urza’s Legacy from 1999, this foiling treatment can still be found in packs today. Curiously, however, despite keeping its name over decades, modern foils do look different compared to the classics. This change took place in 2003 with the release of Eighth Edition.

Prior to the change, old foil cards could be easily identified by the WPN star logo, which was used as a shiny watermark. You’ll often also be able to identify old foils online thanks to their price. Due to the rarity of this printing technique, old foils are usually incredibly expensive.

Following the change in Eighth Edition, Traditional “Rainbow Foils” became the cards we all know and love today. Found within Draft, Set, and Collector Boosters, these foils are no longer a rarity at all. In fact, it’s not rare to see certain foil cards be cheaper than their normal non-foil variant.

Currently, as you might expect from their name, Traditional Foils are the most common foiling technique around. Unfortunately, this can make them a little hard to identify thanks to the prevalence of unique art treatments. If you’re ever in doubt, however, just look out for the clean rainbow shimmer adorning the entire card.

From The Vault Foils

The second ever foiling technique to be released, From The Vault foils were even shiner than usual. In fact, these cards were known to be twice as shiny, and also treated with a unique varnish to make them pop. Thanks to these factors combined, the From The Vault Foils looked almost holographic.

Beyond just having a unique look, the From The Vault foils also had some physical differences. The unique varnish, for instance, made cards feel slicker while also being harder to write on. Curiously, From The Vault foil cards are also heavier than a normal MTG card, however, these cards are still legal in all formats.

Unfortunately, due to From The Vault having the first new foiling technique, it was also rather prone to issues. Between major curling/pringling issues and manufacturing defects, clean From The Vault cards are quite the rarity. 

Foil Etched

Foil Etched MTG Cards
The Foil Etched card (right) is notably more metallic

First introduced with Commander Legends in 2020, the Foil Etched technique is rather divisive. Identified by its unique more metallic shimmer, Foil Etched cards only highlight specific elements of a card. While this foiling technique can look absolutely amazing, unfortunately, there are some consistency problems.

Compared to most other sets, for instance, the Foil Etched Retro Frame cards from Modern Horizons 2 look dramatically different. This is due to the foiling technique only being on the border of the card, not the art. Alongside this major outlier, from set to set, Foil Etched cards will often vary in intensity.

Most commonly, Foil Etched cards can be found within preconstructed Commander decks. Here, you’ll often find the deck’s face Commander adorned in this commemorative style to make them look extra special and fancy. As a note, however, this Foil Etched card is typically the “Display Commander” within these products. This means it’s printed on thicker card stock, and not for tournament play. 

Silverscreen Foils

Silverscreen Foil

Only seen, so far, on cards from Innistrad: Double Feature, this foiling technique is unique, to say the least. As the name somewhat implies, these foils feature a silvery monochrome look, reminiscent of black-and-white cinema. While these foils did have a compelling unique look, for better or worse, they may never be seen again in the future.

Due to all the set’s cards looking very similar, Innistrad: Double Feature caused huge legibility issues. This issue was compounded by the Silverscreen foiling technique, which made identifying cards at a glance even more difficult. Thanks to this, it seems unlikely that Silverscreen Foils will make a major return in any way.

Neon Ink Foils

Neon Ink Foil

Debuting in Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, Neon Ink cards are one of a few ultra-rare foiling techniques. Only appearing on a tiny selection of cards, Neon Ink Foils have a number of unique colored variants. Each one of these colorful variants has a different rarity, with red typically being the rarest.

So far, only the cards Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos, Cavern of Souls, and Mana Crypt have Neon Ink variants. Due to the rarity of the foiling treatment, these cards are all fantastically expensive.

Gilded Foils

Guilded Foil Glamorous Outlaw

Gilded Foils are a treatment exclusive to New Capenna and some Secret Lair cards. These treatments feature a golden shining border that makes the card pop. This foil treatment is also slightly raised, giving the cards a bit of added texture. Despite this unique texture, Gilded Foils are legal for Tournament play. 

Galaxy Foil

Unfinity Space Lands Galaxy Foil 2
Unfinity Space Lands Galaxy Foil

Appearing first in the novelty Un-Set Unfinity, Galaxy foils look out of this world! Wordplay aside, Galaxy Foils have a spotty foiling technique that looks like stars out in space. This unique dotty appearance makes Galaxy Foils quite easy to identify. Curiously, the Galaxy foiling technique looks somewhat similar to Base Set 2 Pokémon foils.

Surge Foil

Sol Ring
Sol Ring Surge Foil | Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks

Premiering in the Warhammer 40,000 Commander decks, Surge Foils feature a rippling and streaked wave effect. While not as consistent as traditional foils, this effect is nonetheless striking and vivid. 

Following the first appearance of this foiling technique in 2022, Wizards has used it repeatedly on Universes Beyond products. From The Lord of the Rings to Doctor Who, it seems Wizards is quite fond of this technique. 

Textured Foils

Image Via: Magic Madhouse

First seen in Double Masters 2022, Textured Foils are rather easy to explain given their name. As you might expect, these foils have a ridged, or rather textured, appearance that adorns the entire card. While this is straightforward enough, unfortunately, there is a bit of a catch to complicate things. 

For Dominaria United, Textured Foils returned, technically, although not as we know them. Despite sharing the same name, these foils did not share the exact same pattern. Instead, these foils looked like glossy stained-glass windows, matching the art this foiling technique was used on.

To add to the confusion even more, the original Textured Foils from Double Masters 2022 returned again in Commander Masters.

Double Rainbow Foils

The One Ring
The One Ring | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Initially created for The Brothers’ War, Double Rainbow Foils have only been used one type of card so far; serialized cards. As the name suggests, these unique cards feature a numbered tag, identifying their rarity. To make them even more special, these cards currently have dibs on the Double Rainbow foiling technique.

As for the foils themselves, Double Rainbow Foils are fairly self-explanatory. Rather than just having the usual rainbow shimmer of a traditional foil, these cards are extra rainbow and extra shiny. 

Step-and-Compleat Foils

Step-and-Compleat Quicksilver Fisher

Step-and-Compleat foils can be found in Phyrexia: All Will be One Collector Boosters. Inspired by the idea of a Phyrexian-inspired fashion label, these foil cards have a glossy foil cover across the entire card, which is then sprinkled with flashy Phyrexian symbols.

Interestingly, this foil treatment has a bizarre issue – some players have reported that you can rub the Phyrexian symbols off the card. While a little force is needed to execute this, it seems that going over the symbol with your bare finger repetitively can damage this foiling technique. We were not able to replicate this in our own foils but be aware.

Oil-Slick Raised Foils

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines

This textured foil treatment was introduced in the Phyrexia: All Will Be One Compleat Bundle. The bundle was released about a month after the official release of the core set and contained an exclusive pack that had 12 Oil-Slick Raised foils contained within

These foil treatments are marked by a distinct lack of color combined with a texture that outlines the text boxes, as well as the entire full-art artwork of the card. The words themselves are not textured. Basic Lands with this Foil treatment have their entire artwork textured.

Halo Foils

Halo Foils are a new exclusive foil treatment from March of the Machine available exclusively in Collector Booster packs. Notably, March of the Machine has both serialized and Halo Foil treatments, but these are independent of one another.

These foils have a similar appearance to Surge Foils from the Warhammer Universes Beyond collaboration, but the lines are a lot more.. swoopy? All of the Surge Foil cards tend to feature foil lining that goes in one direction whereas these seem a bit more freeform.

Confetti Foils

Confetti Foil

Currently, the latest foiling technique to be released is the Confetti Foil cards from Wilds of Edlraine. Found exclusively on the Enchanting Tales bonus sheet, this foiling technique has definitely been named well. After all, as you can see above, it looks like the card is covered in colorful confetti.

There Will Be More Soon!

While these are all the foil treatments that Wizards of the Coast has released thus far, it’s only a matter of time before more are created. Whenever this happens, we’ll be sure to update this list with all the important information, to keep you in the know.

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