It wasn’t too long when Magic: the Gathering was simple. You had cards with regular borders and they either came with or without foiling (a reflective, shiny layer). Most people naturally wanted the foiled cards because they are generally worth more to collectors.
Since the turn of the 2020s, there are an increasing number of foil variants in Magic, and it’s hard to keep track of it all. So how many foil types are there? There are 5 foil types by the end of 2022: the traditional foil, the etched-foil, the gilded foil (from Streets of New Capenna), the textured foil (Double Masters 2), and lastly galaxy/star foil (upcoming Unfinity).
Traditional/Retro Foil – The Classic
The original foiling that was first introduced in 1999 is still the most commonly found foiling in Magic: the Gathering. With every new release, each Common, Uncommon, Rare, or Mythic Rare card has a traditional foil version.
This was the very first foil card publicly available on Magic – a prerelease promo Lightning Dragon in traditional foiling:
The traditional foil doesn’t make the entire card glossy. For example, areas that are near black shine much less or do not shine at all. Bright areas, as it gets closer to white, will appear the shine the most.
The card itself is smooth to the touch and will likely keep to tradition since this is now considered the basic, standard foiling of Magic cards, as more variants are introduced.
Etched Foil – Metallic Brushed Look
The etch foil was first introduced in Commander Legends in 2020 that offered a rough, grizzled look, despite still being smooth to the touch. It likely took its “etch” name because it appears that tiny etch marks all over the card, as though carved out with a penknife.
Whether by fault or design, some of the early etch foil cards came out darker than traditional foils, and has been a significant talking point among players and collectors. Some players prefer having the etch foil version over the traditional version because of the antique look, while others feel it makes the art look less appealing.
So far, etch foils are usually reserved for Uncommon and higher cards, and in some sets only Rares or Mythic Rares have an etch foil treatment.
Gilded Foil – for the Great Gatsby Feel
The gilded foil is a special variant so far only seen in 2022’s Streets of New Capenna, and takes advantage of the art decor style for the set’s showcase frame.
The gilded foil is applied only on selected gold portions of a card’s border, and since these same parts are embossed (raised), you can actually feel a difference as you run your fingers across the card.
If etch foil was controversial, gilded foils are more universally liked as they fit the themes of glamour and abundance, while also being visually striking compared to the other foils, even when viewed at a distance.
Textured Foil – a Standout from the Others
Another new foil variant from 2022, textured foils are first seen in Double Masters 2. Only 5 cards have the textured foil treatment – Liliana, the Last Hope, Wrenn and Six, Kozilek, the Butcher of Truth, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and Ulamag, the Infinite Gyre.
When placed and moved around under light, you can see rays (or streaks) emerging from the card centre, giving more attention and prominence to the artwork. Unlike traditional and etch foiling, a fine grain can be felt when you run fingers across the card surface.
In terms of rarity, a textured foil beats all the other foil variants. They are hard to get, with 1 found in only 3% of Double Masters 2 Collector Booster packs. And since Collector packs are the most expensive, these textured foils are naturally pricey on the secondary market.
Galaxy Foil – Not Fit for the Stars
Released in October 2022’s Unfinity set, the Galaxy Foil is Wizards attempt to explore how much chase cards can affect overall sales. Unfortunately there only be available in Collector Booster packs (a growing trend in recent times). The reprinted Shock Lands with variant space-themed art also had Galaxy Foil variants, and those commanded the highest price
In line with Unfinity’s theme of “travelling across the stars,” the galaxy/star foil to utilise the glitter effect more than other foil variants. Imagine taking a pinch of stardust and sprinkling it over cards and that could be the end result. We’ll see!
In the space of 2-3 years, Magic has more than tripled the number of foil variants in the game. Wizards of the Coast will likely continue expanding the game’s marketability and introduce even more art and foil variants, so check back here often for future updates!
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