Breeches, Eager Pillager$20.00 (+100.00%)
Aladdin$102.63 (+51.53%)
Swamp (0289)$5.00 (-50.00%)
Island (0287)$5.00 (-50.00%)
Plains (0287)$5.00 (-50.00%)
Forest (0291)$5.00 (-50.00%)
Mountain (0290)$5.00 (-50.00%)
Xenk, Paladin Unbroken$69.99 (+41.39%)
Vault of the Archangel$3.83 (+27.67%)
Food Chain$10.89 (-27.35%)
Serum Visions$4.46 (+26.35%)
Faerie Mastermind$13.49 (+26.07%)
City of Death$7.50 (+25.00%)
Fleshbag Marauder$6.25 (-23.03%)
Godo, Bandit Warlord$9.59 (-22.35%)
Thunderhawk Gunship$2.64 (+22.22%)
Mirrex$2.29 (+20.53%)
Notorious Throng$5.88 (+19.51%)
Rampant Growth$7.99 (-18.47%)
Jeska, Thrice Reborn$10.69 (-17.58%)
Island (1131)$17.42 (+17.39%)
Island (Post Malone)$5.38 (-17.23%)
Sentinel of Lost Lore$2.00 (-16.67%)
Preordain$4.84 (+16.63%)
Flamekin Harbinger$6.09 (-16.58%)
The First Sliver$25.00 (-16.47%)
Terminate$11.99 (-15.32%)
Asceticism$4.99 (-14.55%)
Nekusar, the Mindrazer$12.23 (-13.99%)
Phyrexian Arena$4.58 (+13.37%)
Daxos the Returned$5.99 (+13.02%)
Chandra's Ignition$12.39 (+12.64%)
Abrade$12.25 (-12.50%)
Preordain (CMR)$4.99 (-12.46%)
Tinybones, Trinket Thief$11.82 (-12.44%)
Grave Pact$17.61 (-12.39%)
Garruk Wildspeaker$11.00 (-12.00%)
Thassa's Oracle$48.41 (-11.97%)
Misleading Signpost$4.02 (+11.36%)
Talisman of Hierarchy$2.65 (+11.34%)
Rite of Flame$3.35 (+11.30%)
Bottomless Pit$6.68 (-10.93%)
Tempt with Reflections$2.05 (-10.87%)
Deadly Dispute$2.77 (+10.80%)

The Big Things: Foil Etched Divisions

01 May
by Harvey McGuinness

A few months ago, I wrote about how the price multipliers for foil cards have shifted with time.

From their debut in Urza's Legacy all the way up to their specialty iterations in collector products, foils have cemented themselves as the premier specialty allure for collectors and players alike to hunt down whenever a new set releases. However, in an era with multiple different types of foils abounding with each new release, it is important to pay attention to developing trends whenever they arise - enter the foil etched treatment.


Foil Etched: Origins

Initially appearing as a specialty version of several key insert cards within the initial Commander Legends release, foil etched cards were a smash hit with players and collectors alike. By this point, foil etched cards occupied a role similar to that of the Masterpiece Series, albeit significantly more common. As such, the pricing of foil etched cards remained relatively low by comparison to other premium card printings, but nonetheless higher than that of traditional foils.


Sakashima of a Thousand Faces (Foil Etched)


When comparing foil etched cards to other premium printings, it is important to understand that specialty printings as distributed by booster products (i.e. Collector Boosters and the Booster Fun project) were still largely in their infancy, as exemplified by the short printing of Commander Legends Collector Boosters and the non-existence of Commander Legends Set Boosters. When viewed in the context of the broader market as it existed at release, foil etched cards had little comparison - more collectible than traditional foils, less so than Masterpiece Series cards.

Outside of the scarcity of foil etched cards, another key factor added significantly to their appeal: playability. Unlike modern era traditional foils, which have been notorious in recent years due to the issue of warping of cardstock, most iterations of foil etched cards have been able to avoid this problem due to differences in manufacturing. As such, many players have begun gravitating towards foil etched cards not just due to the visual appeal, but also because of their general usability.

Foil Etched: Specialty

Moving away from Commander Legends and on to the subsequent history of foil etched cards, it is at this point that Wizards of the Coast became a bit more…experimental with their development. In Strixhaven: School of Mages, the foil etched appeared in a limited motif around the borders of Strixhaven: Mystical Archives insert cards, while in Commander Legends they appeared on cards regardless of rarity and without any border treatment requirement. While the manufacturing process had secured by this point such that players could reasonably understand what a foil etched treatment would look like, the applications of this treatment had not yet been settled upon. As such, foil etched cards, when they did appear in a set, were now viewed with a bit of a mixed response. The distinctive look which they all brought with them in the case of Commander Legends cards was now gone (for the time being), only to be replaced by whatever specialty frame - or lack thereof - the set mandated.


These foil etched cards - those which lacked a coherent identity between releases and had set-specific designs - can be best understood as foil etched specialty cards. While they may not have a harmony to their release, their distribution sets them apart from that of the next class of foil etched cards which we’ll be discussing, the unified releases. Unlike unified foiled etched cards, the price trend of specialty foil etched cards must be understood as a set-specific asset. While Mystical Archive cards and Modern Horizons 2 may both be foil etched, it is important to evaluate their price trajectories separately. This is because the foil etched treatment serves as a compounding force upon the price of the primary specialty gimmick of the set, as opposed to primary allure itself.


Demonic Tutor (Foil Etched)


Scalding Tarn (Retro Frame) (Foil Etched)


Looking at the cross comparison between Modern Horizons 2 and Strixhaven: School of Mages, for example, it become clear that the prices of the foil etched series within each set is more heavily correlated with the price of their compounding characteristics, whether that be the Retro Series for Modern Horizons 2 or the Mystical Archive Series for Strixhaven: School of Mages. In short, foil etched cards within the specialty category may appear visually similar (in some cases), but they should not be treated as products within the same asset group.

Foil Etched: Unified

The unified foil etched category, however, is a bit of a different series. These cards certainly have competition with other specialty products within their own sets, whether that be the borderless foils of Double Masters 2022 or the March of the Machine: Multiverse Legends, but nonetheless behave very similarly in terms of price movement and stability. This is due to two primary factors.

The first is homogeneity across printings - what I mean by this is that a foil etched card from Double Masters 2022 will look the same as a foil etched card from March of the Machine, and that is because, in each case, the foil etched treatment is the sole treatment appearing on those cards. There is no chase for a foil etched borderless card, or a foil etched serialized card. A typical card is either foil etched or it isn’t, and the hunt stops there. This increases the allure of cards within this umbrella of foil etched printings, as well as stabilizes expectations for quality across sets.


The second factor is that unified foil etched cards are solely available in Collector Booster products. Now, this is also the case with specialty foil etched cards, but the reason that this product exclusivity matters all the more here is that, as mentioned before, the etched treatment is the only specialty treatment being applied to foil etched cards in this case. Whereas foil etched Mystical Archives cards can be best understood as a premium version of an already specialty treatment which is widely available within other draft and set products, unified foil etched cards have no intermediary class outside of traditional foils.


Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer (Foil Etched)


Dockside Extortionist (Foil Etched)


Sakashima of a Thousand Faces (Foil Etched)
Demonic Tutor (Foil Etched)
Scalding Tarn (Retro Frame) (Foil Etched)
Dockside Extortionist (Foil Etched)
Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer (Foil Etched)



So, now that we understand how to classify foil etched cards into their subcategories, why does this matter for pricing? Well, as I mentioned earlier, it allows us to make better educated decisions about how we analyze the price trajectories of all the cards that come with the umbrella term “etched.” If it's a specialty card, then look to the other compounding forces - is it borderless? Serialized? Collector-exclusive? These questions can guide you towards making better comparisons with other cards in a similar class.


Alternatively, if it's a unified printing, then it becomes a question of Collector Booster supply and the innate desirability of the card, as opposed to the desirability of any other specialty promotions applied to it.

Good luck foil hunting, and may your cards never curl.


Check out these other articles:  

History, Restapled: A Mother’s Love and a Land Reborn by Steve Heisler  

Hidden Gems #3 - Something Colorless This Way Comes by Adam Berg  

On Small Sample Anomalies by Corey Williams

Harvey McGuinness
Harvey McGuinness

Harvey McGuinness is a student at Johns Hopkins University who has been playing Magic since the release of Return to Ravnica. After spending a few years in the Legacy arena bouncing between Miracles and other blue-white control shells, he now spends his time enjoying Magic through CEDH games and understanding the finance perspective. He also writes for the Commander's Herald.

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