By: Jeremy Lee
One of the most frustrating things for Magic: The Gathering fans in recent years has been the frequent printing of foil Magic cards that seem especially prone to curling beyond the point where they could feasibly be tabled, especially for competitive play.
The hyper popular set Commander Legends is a fantastic Magic set, full of staples both new and returning. It’s full of EDH staples and the new etched foils for the commanders look great in my opinion. However, there is a common complaint about the quality of certain CMR foils, specifically the standard foiling on regular and extended art cards. The major problem is that CMR foils can become dry and curl, especially if you live in a low humidity climate, home or place of business, turning your new cards into the shape of Pringles. Fortunately there is a technique you can use to revive your curled foils that takes only a few minutes of effort and a little patience.
To uncurl most foil Magic cards you’ll need to raise the moisture of the card which you can do in a homemade “hydration chamber”. The technique is straightforward: create a small space with high humidity to rehydrate the card, remove it, then flatten it overnight to reshape it.
Do keep in mind that foils placed in a higher humidity than they were manufactured will tend to curl in the opposite direction to those which are moved to a dry environment. Cards in this condition require a different technique to dry them out (and is a topic for another article). You can tell which technique you need by the way the card is curling: if the sides of the card curl away from you when you’re looking at the front of the card it needs to be hydrated, not dried out.
It’s important to note that while I’ve used this technique successfully on two dozen cards, you will have to experiment a bit to find the right timing for your environment. Start with cheap common foils from the same set/box and work your way up to the more valuable cards from the same set/box as you perfect your process.
Here is a solid starting point for most rehydration operations:
- Grab an old to-go container or Tupperware tub (any glass or plastic box, preferably something with a see-through lid)
- Lightly wet a single paper towel until it’s damp and line the bottom of the box with it
- You’ll need to make or find a platform for your card – I use the plastic top off a pencil case. The only requirements are that the platform is flat, waterproof, and preferably has a lip around the sides so the card can’t slide off
- Set your platform down in the middle of the hydration box, put your card on it, and close the lid
- Wait 30 minutes and check on the card. If it’s in a halfway curled/uncurled state (ideally it will look a little wavy) that’s the sweet spot I’ve found. If it’s still curled give it another 30 min
- Be mindful that your lid isn’t dripping water on the card – it shouldn’t be so humid that water is condensing and dripping from the top. Once you’ve used the hydration chamber a few times (or opened and closed it a lot) you might need to rewet the paper towel
- Depending on how dried out the card was it’s hard to give exact times, but I’ve never had to wait more than 60 min. Your climate may differ and take more or less time. Note that It won’t look “perfect” in it’s rehydrated state, it will look wobbly but the flattening comes later. If you overhydrate the card and it starts to curl towards you – the opposite of what you were trying to achieve – don’t panic. Even in that state you should be able to leave it out for a while until it loses enough moisture to proceed to the next step
- Once you’ve gotten it to a state that’s somewhat flat and wavy, leave it out for about 10 minutes so it can acclimate a bit to your air (definitely let it “dry” if the surface of the card looks damp) then slide it in a sleeve and press it under a heavy book overnight
- Note: If you notice that your cards begin to curl the other way, you’ve gone too far, and will need to dehydrate the cards instead, a process we will cover in a future article.
- Note 2: If you find yourself needing to hydrate a lot of cards – or that you need to do it frequently – you should consider investing in some humidity control packets used for cigar humidors. These last a few months each, cost less than $20, and can be found online. Same approach applies to the steps above, but replacing the towel for the humidity control packet and waiting a day or two instead of an hour
Here’s a quick video of what my hydration chamber looks like:
After this method and a night under a heavy book your foil should be as flat as the day it was printed! Now get it into another sleeve and into a perfect fit sleeve, penny sleeve and a hard plastic toploader so it stays that way.
Major thanks to fellow ProTrader Alexis who suggested this technique!