Foil also was selected for reprint in Ultimate Masters in 2018. Not only did it gain new artwork and the chance to get a far less expensive copy of Foil in foil (that’s fun to say), but Foil also gets a rarity downshift. Always printed at uncommon before, Foil has been shifted to common rarity for Ultimate Masters.
Why is Foil at Common a Big Deal? Foil in Pauper
Rarity downshifts are common in Masters reprint sets. But Foil, in particular, is a card that’s primed to impact the Pauper format, a format that uses only cards printed at common. Originally a massively popular format on Magic the Gathering: Online, Pauper is now extremely popular and well supported by local game stores in Paper Magic.
What makes Foil so good? If you look at Foil, it doesn’t really look like a tremendously competitive card. It’s a four mana Counterspell essentially. In Pauper, you already have good old Counterspell, which is only two mana. But, Foil has an alternate casting cost. You don’t have to pay any mana if you discard an Island and another card from your hand.
This alternate casting cost makes Foil very similar to the Legacy staple, Force of Will. That counterspell costs five mana, but if you exile a Blue card from your hand and pay 2 life, you can cast it for free. While that’s definitely a minus one as far as card advantage is concerned, you’re typically going to be countering something significant when you cast it.
While Foil is essentially a minus two in card advantage if you cast it for free, four mana to counter a spell isn’t really that terrible, especially in the later game. Also, pitching an Island and any card from your hand is nowhere as bad as exiling a card that has to be Blue (an Island doesn’t count in that case). Because the cards go to the graveyard, they can be brought back somehow later.
Is Foil Going to See Competitive Pauper Play?
While there are many counterspells in Pauper, having essentially a common version of Force of Will is better than it looks on paper. Also keep in mind that cards with the Madness mechanic, which gives cards an alternate casting cost when they’re discarded, is present in Pauper.
But, you don’t need to have a deck that revolves around Madness for Foil to be good. Here’s an Izzet Blitz Pauper deck that features two copies of Foil.
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Apostle's Blessing
1 Distortion Strike
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Mutagenic Growth
3 Temur Battle Rage
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Nivix Cyclops
2 Gorilla Shaman
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Stormbound Geist
The entire point of an Izzet Blitz Pauper deck is to build up your Kiln Fiend and Nivix Cyclops to deal massive amounts of damage. Foil helps get you there by giving you a “free” counterspell. While discarding an Island and another card can be a steep cost, it’s not a steep cost if you’re going to win the game because of what you counter.
There’s also this interesting U/B Reanimator Control Pauper deck that runs a full four copies of Foil in it.
3 Evolving Wilds
1 Ash Barrens
3 Dragon Wings
4 Lotus Petal
2 Muddle the Mixture
1 Vampiric Link
4 Striped Riverwinder
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gurmag Angler
In a deck like this one, you don’t care if you’re discarding a card for Foil. You want Striper Riverwinder or Gurmag Angler in the graveyard anyway to Exhume. Foil is actually a better card in this particular kind of deck than Force of Will, since you’d have to put one of your Striper Riverwinders or other Blue cards in exile instead of in the grave. You can also discard Gurmag Angler, too, or anything else for that matter.
Foil in EDH / Commander
While not exactly a staple in the EDH format, Foil is a useful counterspell that sees a fair amount of play in several Commander decks. Talrand, Sky Summoner, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, and Baral, Chief of Compliance are far and away the most common Commanders that utilize Foil as part of their countermagic suite. You will have plenty of Islands to pitch in these sorts of decks.
While Foil had a price over $1 before its reprinting, that was mainly due to its relative rarity being printed in an older set. Duel Deck copies aren’t all that plentiful. But, being reprinted at common makes it far more accessible, although the overall demand from the Pauper community will likely keep this one of the more valuable commons in Ultimate Masters. Also, you won’t have to pay $30 for a foil copy of Foil anymore, which is a plus.
How would you play Foil in your deck?