State of the Union: FNM Foils and Judge Foil Promos

Today the Bleiweiss has turned in an article so packed with “stuff” that it’s difficult to describe all of it in a concise blurb. Try this on for size: 9th Edition and Ravnica Speculations, the short and long-term past and future of FNM prizes, the cards that absolutely NEED to be made into Judge promos and how the judges got the shaft last time, the coolest proposed GenCon Vintage Championships prizes of all time, and so much more! This will be the water cooler article for your friends for the rest of the week, so you’re going to want to read it.

[Editor’s Note: Yes, I know this isn’t a strategy article. It needed to be at the top of the page. Deal with it.]

What’s the state of promotional foils in the world of Magic today? This is a topic virtually never discussed in Magic, but it directly affects tens of thousands of Friday Night Magic players, judges, and other support staff each year, and indirectly affects millions of players through the secondary market worldwide. Since the topic of foil promotional cards has been all but neglected, I figured I’d bring I’d start a discourse regarding these Magic items.

If you’re a regular to Friday Night Magic, you’ve noticed that the quality of the foils given out as prizes has risen steadily over the past few months. This is because Wizards changed their policy on which cards to feature as the foil prizes for FNM. The new philosophy is all about Extended – printing new-border updates on Extended legal cards so that FNM player will be able to get their hands on some of the better common/uncommon foils from Extended. This is great, because most FNM events are run as Standard, and this gives the FNM player incentive to play Extended, or to trade off their highly desired foils to Vintage/Legacy/Extended players in exchange for Type Two cards. Let’s take a quick look at the previous round of FNM cards (the ones that began reprinting older cards with the 8th Edition border) with the newer batch of these cards.

Before I begin, I’d like to give thanks to Ralph Herold and the Magic Rarities community at www.magiclibrary.net for providing the resources for this article!

Older FNM Cards with the new card face (August 2003 to June 2004)

8/03: Smother

9/03: Whipcorder

10/03: Sparksmith

11/03: Krosan Tusker

12/03: Withered Wretch

1/04: Willbender

2/04: Slice and Dice

3/04: Silver Knight

4/04: Krosan Warchief

5/04: Lightning Rift

6/04: Carrion Feeder

This isn’t an impressive list of cards. All of these cards are Onslaught block commons and uncommons. Each of these cards also had a readily available old border foil version that had recently seen print, lowering their demand. On top of this, several of these cards are mediocre to middling – Krosan Tusker and Willbender are pretty pathetic as Friday Night Magic tournament prizes. At this point, there were three foils given out per FNM tournament – one was a random door prize, one was a sportsmanship prize, and one was for the winner of the tournament. This structure changed as of January 2005 to become four foils – two random and one each for first and second.

Newer FNM Cards with the new card face (July 2004 to April 2005):

7/04: Treetop Village

8/04: Accumulated Knowledge

9/04: Avalanche Riders

10/04: Reanimate

11/04: Mother of Runes

12/04: Brainstorm

1/05: Rancor

2/05: Seal of Cleansing

3/05: Flametongue Kavu

4/05: Blastoderm

Much better. Two of these cards are among the hottest Vintage foils (Brainstorm and Accumulated Knowledge) giving them an immediate value in the double digits. Almost all of these cards are set to rotate out of Extended in November of 2005, with Flametongue Kavu as the sole exception.

You could make an argument for each of these cards seeing print before the next Extended rotation in 2008. From most to least likely to be reprinted:

1) Brainstorm

2) Blastoderm

3) Seal of Cleansing

4) Avalanche Riders

5) Treetop Village

6) Mother of Runes

7) Accumulated Knowledge

8) Rancor

9) Reanimate

1) Brainstorm

Brainstorm has been an Extended staple for years, and it’s due to rotate out of Extended along with Mercadian Masques in November. I’ve been telling people that I see signs that Brainstorm will be reprinted in 9th Edition, if for no other reason than to keep Brainstorm in Extended (where is it eminently fair and even necessary, given Cabal Therapy and Duress). Wizards has repeatedly said (mostly on MTG.com) that Brainstorm is a fair and balanced card in most formats (except for Vintage, which they don’t keep in mind for development) and could be a candidate for reprinting. I have no inside information about 9th Edition, but if I were a betting man, I’d put Brainstorm on my list of cards that will make the new base set. It was in a previous base set (5th Edition) after al.

2) Blastoderm

Blastoderm is an eminently fair Green fatty – it stays for a little while, gives an opponent fits, and then goes away. It’s one of the marquee cards of Masques block, and it should be reprinted again once fading makes a comeback as a mechanic in a future set.

Aside #1: Hands down, Fading is the Magic mechanic that is the most overdue to be revisited. It only appeared in a single set (Nemesis) but made more of an impact than any other key worded block mechanic (not counting Rebels/Mercenaries here). Fading allows R&D to push the envelope of the power of cards by giving them temporary existence. It’s also a great skill tester for resource management – cards such as Parallax Wave/Parallax Tide test use versus time used, while Phyrexian Prowler posed a problem of power level versus time used. There are so many other permutations for Fading (cards get more powerful as counters are removed, cards start with a drawback per counter such as loss of life but these penalties are reduced as fading counters vanish) that haven’t been explored that it would make a great full-block mechanic.

There are two factors working against the return of Fading:

Wizards does not like mechanics which require a ton of counters.

Wizards has been avoiding mechanics with mandatory upkeep costs.

Both of these reasons are peripheral to gameplay itself. They are policies born out of research groups (players hate keeping track of a billion counters and new players often miss mandatory upkeep costs, causing problems with the game state), but in the highest level of expansion sets, these reasons should be negligible versus the flavor and possibilities this short-lived mechanic brings to the game of Magic.


3) Seal of Cleansing

White’s already been given back some measure of artifact kill at a reasonable price (see Terashi’s Grasp). Seal can only be played to the board at sorcery speed (although it can act as a instant once it’s on the board – but it can also be removed before an artifact/enchantment is played – see Rushing River/Illusions of Grandeur), and there’s a good argument that all five of the seals were essentially fair cards. If the Eradicate/Quash cycle has been reprinted, the Seal cycle wouldn’t be out of the question.

4) Avalanche Riders

If echo ever comes back, this is a balanced land destruction echo creature. There’s no need to really update it, since it’s above average on the power scale but not overwhelmingly so.

5) Treetop Village

The Genju have supplanted individually colored man-lands for the time being, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see the cycle of lands from Urza’s Legacy get reprinted down the road. Treetop Village and Faerie Conclave were the two better of these lands, and would probably be the ones to survive intact. Forbidding Watchtower is easily the worst and should be replaced by something better in the future.

6) Mother of Runes

This is the cut off for the more unlikely reprints on this list, but I’ll make the case for the Mother and other cards anyhow. Wizards doesn’t like how a first turn Mother of Runes quickly locks up the board for the White player against all sorts of removal spells and tricks. Mother of Runes is quite powerful, but it’s not all that. First, in order to utilize Mother of Runes, you need to keep it back from attacking. Given Savannah Lions, Isamaru, Suntail Hawk and Lantern Kami, you’d have to give up some early offense to run Mother of Runes (and you would). There are a lot more artifact solutions to Mother of Runes than previously were in print (thanks to Mirrodin Block), making the card much more easily solvable.

7) Accumulated Knowledge

Is Accumulated Knowledge an unfair card without Intuition? It’s still good, but not nearly as good as people make it out to be. Fact or Fiction is the closest post-November 2005 card that can abuse Accumulated Knowledge, and even that’s a crapshoot. The problem with reprinted Accumulated Knowledge is that it limits the types of tutors/graveyard dumping cards that can see print in the future. However, Wizards is a lot more cautious about tutoring cards into the graveyard these days (see Entomb, Hermit Druid, Intuition) and so this might not be as big a problem as it seems.

Aside #2: Aether Burst, Flame Burst, Life Burst, Mind Burst, Muscle Burst. None of these were broken, Aether Burst came in and out of favor between Repulse, Seal of Removal, Echoing Truth, Rushing River, Boomerang, and other bounce spells, and the others barely saw play in any format. This is definitely a cycle of cards which can be revisited in the future. These were inspired by Kindle, which inspired Accumulated Knowledge. Doesn’t R&D owe Black, Green and White a second of each of these cards by now?


8) Rancor

R&D changed the cost of this card from either G2 or G1 to G at last minute without playtesting the change. The rest is history. This is considered a mistake card, so it’s hard to argue that it should be reprinted. I’ll debate this anyhow. Allow for the supposition that equipment has generally replaced enchant creatures in most instances, and has especially replaced recurring enchant creatures. Compare Rancor to the most similar equipment:

Rancor: G to cast, +2/+0 and trample. Returns to hand when creature is killed, or when Rancor itself is destroyed. Dies if creature is killed in response to Rancor being cast.

Bonesplitter: 1 to cast, 1 to equip. +2/+0. Stays on board when creature is killed, goes to graveyard when it itself is destroyed. Stays on board if creature is killed in response to Bonesplitter being equipped.

Rancor is a more powerful card, as it costs half as much to cast the first time down, and gives trample in addition to +2/+0. However, Bonesplitter ends up costing the same once it is on the board, so each creature past the first ends up as a dead head on mana investment between the two cards. In addition, Bonesplitter costs colorless to cast. Moreover, Bonesplitter can move to another creature – so while a Rancor sits there on a Pacified creature, Bonesplitter merrily moves to the next available attacker. Rancor requires Green mana. Is a colorless requirement worth the loss of trample? Perhaps, but Bonesplitter has barely made a dent in Standard over the past year and a half – it saw marginal play in Affinity and has seen marginal play now in White Weenie. The disparity between the power levels of these two cards isn’t so vast as to explain why one was played heavily and the other wasn’t, so let’s look for the other explanation:

Green during Urza’s block had a plethora of fast creatures – Pouncing Jaguar, Wild Dogs, Albino Troll. The base set at this time (6th Edition) added River Boa, Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise. This meant that theoretically, the Green mage could drop a 2-power creature on turn 1, Rancor it on turn 2 while adding another 1-2 power creature, and keep on the offense all game. These days, White is the color of fast creatures (see Mother of Runes, above) whereas Green mainly gets utility creatures (Birds of Paradise, Wirewood Herald, Vine Trellis) at the 1-2 drop slots, and does not begin to appreciate in power until the 3-4 mana slot (Troll Ascetic, Ravenous Baloth). This means that in the past, Rancor was suited best for the color in which it was printed. In present Magic, it’s best suited for White, and would require to be splashed in order to be as useful as in the past.

Aside #3

Is equipment too powerful? Two of the most problematic cards in recent memory are both pieces of equipment (Skullclamp and Umezawa’s Jitte – early buzz shows it to be as problematic in Kamigawa Block Constructed as Cursed Scroll was in Tempest block constructed). Equipment has been a mostly successful attempt to solve the problem of enchant creature cards. By nature, creature enchantments are risky propositions, for if the creature they enchant is killed, the enchant creature card and the creature are both lost, leading to card disadvantage/advantage (depending on which side of the exchange you’re on). There have been attempts to fix this problem in the past, including enchant creatures which can return to hand (Crown of Flames), enchant creatures which return to hand rather than going to the graveyard (see Rancor, above), and enchant creatures which can become creatures and vice versa (Licids). The final solution to this problem seems to have come in the form of equipment cards, introduced in Mirrodin block.

It’s hard to tell whether equipment was meant to become a permanent fixture in Magic, but it’s one of the only block mechanics to immediately be adopted into the next block. Equipment has proved to be popular with players, since they A) encourage people to play with creatures, B) are reusable after a creature dies, and C) are colorless/artifacts, so they can be played in virtually any color deck. Several pieces of equipment have already seen play in Tier 1 and Tier 2 tournament decks, including the aforementioned duo of Skullclamp and Umezawa’s Jitte, Bonesplitter, Cranial Plating, Grafted Wargear, Lightning Greaves, Paradise Mantle, Shuko (look for this to be huge post-Extended rotation as a replacement for en-Kor creatures in Life), Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, and Tatsumasa, the Dragon’s Fang (with Tenza, Godo’s Maul being a strong contender for block play in Godo-based samurai decks). Furthermore, two pieces of equipment have been considered among the strongest non-rare draft picks in their sets (Loxodon Warhammer and Leonin Bola) with others (Viridian Longbow, Mask of Memory) sitting as respectable first picks.

Let me pose a question to you. What would the following enchant creature cost?

Enchantment of Fire and Ice

CC: ? Rare

Enchant Creature

Enchanted Creature gets +2/+2 and has protection from Red and Blue.

Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage to a player, Enchantment of Fire and Ice deals two damage to target creature or player and you draw a card.

Let’s break this down by card. Curiosity costs a single Blue mana. A +2/+2 enchant creature clocks in around two mana these days, usually either at either a Green and a colorless mana or at two Red mana. Dual protection costs a single White mana (Shield of Reason and Duty, Mask of Law and Grace), while dealing two damage comes in somewhere between two mana (Lavamancer’s Skill) and five mana (Extra Arms). For sake of argument, let’s give the ability benefit of the doubt and put it at R1. Adding all of these abilities together, Sword of Fire and Ice would clock in as an enchant creature which costs UWRRR1. Even if you’re feeling generous and want to make the mana requirements less color intensive, you’re looking at a converted mana cost of six. Sword of Fire and Ice costs five mana to play and equip to a single creature, plus it doesn’t go away when the creature it equips dies.

There’s no equivalent to Umezawa’s Jitte on this scale, because unlike equipment which sticks around, an enchant creature would go away if a creature enchanted by a mythical “Umezawa’s Jitte as a creature enchantment” swaps with another creature in combat. This makes the Jitte even more powerful than any conceivable creature enchantment. You could cost the Jitte ability at one mana as a creature enchantment, and it’d still be less powerful than the Jitte, as the Jitte has a ridiculously higher chance of sticking around to get counters than, say, a Jitte-Enchant Creature on a Savannah Lions.

There have been 56 pieces of equipment. I’ve named 16 pieces above that have either seen a lot of tournament play or were top-notch picks in draft. In addition, there are several pieces of equipment which are above average in quality and could conceivably see tournament play under the right conditions: Empyrial Plate, Leonin Scimitar, Neko-Te, Nightmare Lash, Oathkeeper, Takeno’s Daisho, Ronin Warclub, Shuriken, Specter’s Shroud, and Vulshok Morningstar. This brings the total of playable pieces of equipment to twenty-five, or just under half of all equipment cards ever printed. This list does not include cards which are very playable in slower, multi-player games such as all three Kaldra pieces (Sword, Shield, Helm), Heartseeker, Whispersilk Cloak, and General’s Kabuto (among others). Compared to every other type of spell being printed, equipment has the highest percentage of Constructed playable spells (note that I am not counting lands here, which cost nothing to play). Creatures could only wish to be 50% playable in an environment – same with instants, sorceries, artifacts, and various and sundry enchantments. The drawback to equipment is that it is useless without creatures. The less tangible drawback to equipment is that it has pushed the envelope of enchant creatures past the breaking point – even reusable enchant creatures such as Rancor would never have the cumulative effect on a game that using Skullclamp multiple times or equipping Jitte on both offense and defense has on the game.


9) Reanimate

I can’t see Wizards reprinting Reanimate. I’m sure they regret that Life/Death is still going to be around in Extended for the next three years, much less Stitch Together (which will neatly take Exhume’s place in Ghoul-based reanimation decks, and will be useless in more traditional U/B or mono-B Reanimator). Properly costed Reanimation comes at three to four mana (Doomed Necromancer, Zombify), allowing players a chance to respond to an early reanimation spell. At one mana, games were too often being decided by a second turn Reanimate/Exhume, and whether a person had an answer in the form of Seal of Removal/Diabolic Edict or the ability to combo on turn 3/4 (Mind’s Desire, Aluren).

At any rate, A+ to Wizards for their most recent crop of FNM foils. The hit parade will continue into the end of the year, as the following foils have already been announced (courtesy of Wizards’s FNM page at various times over the past few months):

Cabal Therapy

Fact or Fiction

Juggernaut (Beta picture)

Duress (Urza’s Saga picture, new card frame)

Kird Ape

Aside #4: Kird Ape? All previous FNM cards from the most recent batch have been Extended legal cards. Kird Ape not only hasn’t been printed in an Extended Legal set in over a decade (Revised, 1994), it was on the original banned list for Extended along with Juggernaut and Serendib Efreet! This makes little sense as a promotional card until you consider a brief look into the future.

The next block coming out is the Ravnica block, and sources have all but confirmed (via promotional material and Lotus Noir magazine) that the theme of the set will be the cooperation across colors such as with Invasion. Birds of Paradise were moved from 9th Edition to Ravnica, and this move makes sense – a rare which can produce five colors of mana fits perfectly in a set which thrives on multi-color decks. At first I thought that Kird Ape might be printed in 9th Edition, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense that Kird Ape will be printed somewhere in Ravinca block. It’s one of the original cards which works off of allied colors (along with Sedge Troll) and the idea of a Red creature which gets stronger when you play Green would be ideal in Ravinca block. This would also suggest that the Ravinca Kird Ape will be either common or uncommon, and will have different artwork than the original Arabian Nights Kird Ape.


Wizards is doing a great job with Friday Night Magic foils, and there are a plethora of post-November 2005 Extended legal cards that need updating in the new card face.

Commons: Aquamoeba, Basking Rootwalla, Cabal Ritual, Careful Study, Counterspell (in 7th!), Daru Spiritualist, Deep Analysis, Firebolt, Force Spike, Innocent Blood, Lava Dart, Nightscape Familiar, Terminate, Wild Mongrel

Uncommons: Anger, Arcane Laboratory, Arrogant Wurm, Astral Slide, Barbarian Ring, Brain Freeze, Buried Alive, Cabal Coffers, Chainer’s Edict, Circular Logic, Compulsion, Engineered Plague, Fire / Ice, Fires of Yavimaya, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Matron, Goblin Ringleader, Goblin Warchief, Lobotomy, Nimble Mongoose, Pillage, Roar of the Wurm, Skeletal Scrying, Squirrel Nest, Standstill, Starlit Sanctum, Sterling Grove, Stitch Together, Temple of the False God, Tendrils of Agony, Violent Eruption, Wash Out, Wing Shards, Wirewood Channeler, Wirewood Hivemaster, Wonder, Zombie Infestation.

Please note that aside from gold cards, there’s a single White card on this list (Daru Spiritualist) which wouldn’t be that strong of an FNM card to begin with compared to the likes of Goblin Warchief, Circular Logic, Counterspell, and Fire/Ice.

Five cards on the above list that would hold the highest value (in no particular order): Fire/Ice, Counterspell, Wild Mongrel, Circular Logic, Engineered Plague

Bottom five cards on the above list that would hold the lowest value. (in no particular order): Daru Spiritualist, Lobotomy, Wirewood Channeler, Wirewood Hivemaster, Starlit Sanctum

Enough about the Friday Night Magic cards. Every year, Wizards of the Coast produces Judge Reward foils. These cards are given out to judges who work major (Grand Prix and higher level) events as a bit of a “thank you” for attending. These cards are also given out to people who do coverage for MagicTheGathering.com, and to volunteers at these types of events – but otherwise these foils are not circulated. These are not to be confused with the once-a-year mailing that every DCI certified judge gets (this past year it was Balance), but are instead separate foils intended solely as rewards to those who do their part to promote Magic at major events.

Unlike FNM Foils, Judge Promos have not been limited by rarity or time of original printing. Some cards printed as Judge Promos were on the reserve list at the time of printing. Aaron Forsythe provided the explanation for this on the February 17th 2005 column of Ask Wizards on MagicTheGathering.com:

“The last set is what we call ‘judge promos,’ and that is where we pull out the big guns. The judge promos are foil versions of popular older cards (that are usually rare), and are sent to or handed out to DCI judges as a ‘thank you’ for all their hard work. These cards are chosen solely on their coolness factor, and whether or not any of them might be reprinted is not considered. (Some, like Phyrexian Negator, cannot be reprinted thanks to the Reserve List, which does, by the way, allow for special premium versions of cards on the list to be made.)”

Previous Judge foils (old card face): Lightning Bolt, Stroke of Genius, Gaea’s Cradle, Balduvian Horde, Vampiric Tutor, Memory Lapse (Why?), Counterspell (DCI Reward picture), Ball Lightning, Oath of Druids, Hammer of Bogardan, Tradewind Rider, Living Death, Intuition, Balance, Argothian Enchantress.

With the exception of Memory Lapse and Balduvian Horde, these are all high demand cards that (with the exception of Counterspell) did not have previously printed foil versions (though Hammer of Bogardan has since been reprinted in 8th).

By contrast, take a look at the most recent Judge Promos – the first with the new card face: Armageddon, Hermit Druid, Phyrexian Negator, Time Warp.

Time Warp is a solid choice – it’s seen a decent amount of play in Turboland, and is a high dollar rare. Armageddon is passable – it’s still a powerful card without a foil version, but it hasn’t really seen any play in years, since the Gro decks rotated out of Extended. This leaves Hermit Druid and Phyrexian Negator. Both of these cards were quite bad choices to become Judge Foils.

Hermit Druid

Banned in Extended on December 1st, 2003. Judge Foil debuted in December of 2004. Gone out of the only format it had been played in for over a year. It’s not played in other formats (Legacy and Vintage), it’s not going to ever be reprinted, and the regular version is one of the least valuable (if not the least valuable) banned/restricted cards in all of Magic. I feel badly for any judges who got stuck with this card to the exclusion of Intuitions or Time Warps.

Phyrexian Negator

Debuted in December of 2004. Will rotate out of Extended in November of 2005. Was not seeing play except as part of transformational sideboards for years. Not played in other formats – Suicide Black is generally accepted as DOA in modern day Vintage. Worst sin of all: there’s already a foil version of Negator in Urza’s Destiny! There are countless playable Vintage, Extended and Legacy cards which have never been foiled – why make a has-been with a previous rap sheet into an undesired promotional card?

The heart of the matter is that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of commons, uncommons and rares from pre-Urza’s Legacy that are in desperate need of foiling. Many of these cards will most likely be foiled due to limited interest (Juzam Djinn, Moat). Others are highly doubtful to be foiled due to, for lack of a better term, pure headaches involved in having to print multiple cards in a cycle (Badlands, Bayou, Plateau, Savannah, Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author], Taiga, Tropical Island, Tundra, Underground Sea, Volcanic Island).

Aside #5: Suppose for a moment that Wizards really wanted to push their Vintage World Championship at Gen Con. The past two years they have given away original artwork reinterpretations of classic Power 9 cards (Black Lotus and Timetwister) which have some curiosity value, but aren’t in general very functional. The best way to get interest in this event up would be to give away foil versions of Vintage cards which would be infeasible to give away as a Judge Prize – such as the dual lands above. Imagine the following payout (all foils with the new face):

Try not to wet yourself at the thought.

1st through 8th Place: Choice of foil versions of the Power 9, with the 9th piece (most likely the Timetwister) going back to Wizards.

9th through 16th Place: 1 playset of random foil Dual Land

17th through 32nd place: 1 random foil Dual Land

These prizes would only be available through Wizards-sponsored Vintage events that are on the level of the Pro Tour – they would not be given out through any other means. I guarantee you that attendance to these events would triple from the current 150-175 to over 500 people, and that the prizes (which would cost Wizards virtually nothing compared to a payout on a Grand Prix or Pro Tour level) would be highly valued, highly sought after, and would do nothing to damage the secondary market (if there were 1-5 playsets of foil Power 9 cards being released each year, the only effect it would have on the market would be to send those foil cards through the roof – this release would not have enough effect to drive down prices on non-foil Power Nine cards).


As I mentioned, there are a cornucopia of cards waiting to be printed in Foil. Of these cards, here are the ones that should be issued as Judge Foils before any others (listed alphabetically):


Force of Will

Goblin Lackey

Hypnotic Specter

Land Tax

Mishra’s Factory


Mox Diamond

Survival of the Fittest

Swords to Plowshares


This is one of the few remaining heavily-played engine cards that has not yet been made into foil. You can play foil Cavern Harpy, Living Wish, Maggot Carrier, Wall of Blossoms, Hickory Woodlot, Forest, Vampiric Tutor and Wirewood Savage, but the namesake card of the Aluren deck has no foil version. If they can print Hermit Druid, they can surely print Aluren.

Demand on these would be ridiculous.

Force of Will

Is there any card which has been so long overdue to be printed in foil? There is not, and this card is in the most need of being foiled out of any card in Magic. Demand would be high, as any deck running Force of Will would be running four copies. It’s a very relevant card in both Vintage and Legacy, and foil versions of this card would be appreciated by players and collectors alike. Aside from Mana Drain (which will doubtfully be foiled), this is the last unrestricted must-include Blue card which does not have a foil version.

Goblin Lackey

A powerful card which, though banned in Extended, is still very popular in Vintage and Legacy. Again, most of the Goblin deck can be foiled – this is one of the few cards left in that deck that needs a shiny version.

Hypnotic Specter

Although the Specter has gone past his glory days, it’s one of the flagship creatures in Magic which has never been foiled. Sengir and Erhnam got the treatment in boxed sets. Shivan Dragon, Mahamoti Djinn and Serra Angel have all been printed in base sets containing foil cards. Hypnotic Specter, a favorite of many, has no foil version and this is an oversight.

Land Tax

Among the most powerful White cards ever printed, this would be along the lines of the Armageddon reprinting – a powerful White card which doesn’t really see much play, but of which there should be a foil version. Moreover, Legacy players have been campaigning heavily for the unrestriction of Land Tax. I believe this will happen one day. When it does, it would be nice to have a foil version of this card to go along with emerging Land Tax decks.

Mishra’s Factory

There are other lands which don’t have foil versions (Bazaar of Baghdad, Mishra’s Workshop), but Mishra’s Factory is the best of the lands without a foil version where printing a foil version wouldn’t decimate the value of the originals. Print Mishra’s Factory with the winter picture from Antiquities, as it’s always been the most popular of the four pictures overall.


Same as Hypnotic Specter above, except even more so. I’ve seen three types of players who gravitate towards foils: 1) Vintage players looking to pimp out their decks. 2) Red aggressive players (Goblins, Sligh) 3) Blue control players. Give the third (and possibly first) category what they want – their marquee creature in foil.

Mox Diamond

Unrestricted in old Extended, new Legacy, and playable as a one-of in Vintage. You can’t easily foil one of the Unlimited Mox cards, but you can easily foil the first good Mox-named offshoot ever printed.

Survival of the Fittest

I have this as the second-most needed foil in Magic behind Force of Will. This card ruled Vintage for a while, and is currently ruling Legacy. People have built decks around Survival in whichever format the card has been legal, and it’s a well-loved card by many. Again, this is one of the heavily played key card which has been neglected in the foil process. This is the card that the Living Death foil promo should have been.

Swords to Plowshares

This is the only card on the list I have which has already seen print as a foil card (Friday Night Magic, 2001). However, the last printing of Swords to Plowshares as a foil was over four years ago, those versions are pretty scarce, and this is a card that would definitely look good in the new card face. Note that all the cards on this list are cards which you’d want to play in quadruple.

Just missing this list were Berserk, Candelabra of Tawnos, Cursed Scroll, Exploration, Fork, Gemstone Mine, Gilded Drake, Recurring Nightmare, Scroll Rack, and Verdant Force. Berserk and Candelabra are off the list because printing foil versions of them would considerably hurt the value of the regular versions on the secondary market . Consider these cards to be 11th through 20th place.

Please note that Yawgmoth’s Will, Tolarian Academy, Mind Twist, Fastbond, Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor and Wheel of Fortune were intentionally left off this list as they would make better yearly judge mailings (as is the case with Balance) rather than Judge Promos, since traditionally the Judge Promos have not been cards restricted or banned across every playable format.

I don’t know who is responsible for green lighting each of the different promotional foils over at Wizards. It might even be the same person who pushes for both Friday Night Magic and Judge foils. The FNM cards have been a solid effort whereas the Judge foils have been extremely lackluster over the past few months (again, excepting Balance). Judge foils are supposed to be more highly desired than Friday Night Magic foils, but this has not been the case as of late. My hope is that this trend is turned around sooner than later.

Until next time,

Ben Bleiweiss

General Manager, StarCityGames.com