Foil cards were printed with a shiny layer on the paper, which causes a reflective rainbow effect when it catches the light. Most foils came from random insertion into booster packs, although some Promotional and Tengwar cards were also printed in foil. In general as a result, foil versions of cards are rarer and more expensive than their nonfoil counterparts, and are the holy grail for many collectors.
Decipher artists put time and effort into customizing the foil effect for each card, masking the image so that different parts of the image would have the foil effect applied. Thus, a few different kinds of emphasis were used:
Here on the wiki, we have successfully gathered images for nearly every foil card known. See List of Foil Cards for a gallery (tho be warned, it takes a while to load and browse).
For the first 10 sets, each set was printed twice: once as standard cards, and again as foil. Each booster pack had about a 1 in 6 chance of having one of the cards randomly replaced with a foil card of a random rarity. This meant that collecting full foil sets was significantly more unpredictable, and also could result in some interesting booster packs: for instance, this could result in a booster with two rares (one of them foil, replacing one of the common cards). Due to the mechanics of inserting foils into early sets, it was possible - though very unusual - to open a pack with more than one foil card plus an ordinary rare.
- 1 Common foil every 13 packs
- 1 Uncommon foil every 18 packs
- 1 Rare foil every 26 packs
Each of these chances was calculated independently, which results in each booster having a ~17% chance of having at least one foil, which is where Decipher's 1 in 6 advertised chance calculation comes from.
Foils were also awarded as rewards for tournament play; tournament directors could register their events with Decipher, who would ship foil prizes to them for a fee, which would ideally be covered by the event entrance fee. A former Decipher employee estimates that due to the tournament prizes, less than half of printed foil cards ended up distributed in booster packs.
Players can also get these foil cards by playing in sanctioned The Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game tournaments. Every sanctioned tournament will have three foils to give out. A random Rare foil will go to the winner, a random Uncommon foil will go to second place, and a random Common foil will be given out to a random participant. The foils for tournament prizes will be taken from the parallel foil set and are not different from the ones that are in booster packs. Completing the foil set will not be simple, but it will be an attainable goal. Being a tournament player increases your chances of completing a foil set of these cards.
Starting with the Shadows set, parallel foil sets were no longer created, and instead specific cards from each set were re-issued with new Collector's Info. 18 cards made up the Legends line, and 9 cards made up the Legends Masterworks line.
The foil effect on cards actually comes from the paper, which has a shiny layer added to it. Decipher produced foil images that pop by printing foil-obscuring ink on the card so that only parts of the image would shine with the rainbow effect. This was done by producing a black-and-white mask for each foil image that looked like this:
The black indicates where there would be no foil, and the white indicates which parts will have both the printed color and the rainbow diffraction foil effect.
- Information pulled from pre-release FOTR information on the Wayback: