I use them all the time. I love embossing folders too but there are so many pretty backgrounds now. I tend to do tone on tone backgrounds (sometimes with ink colors on colored notecards and sometimes just clear embossing the image). Can be really subtle but so interesting.
I'm with NY Stamper -- I usually put the stamp down image side up, ink it down and put the paper on top (and rub).
If you're looking for good brands... Impression Obsession has really big ones that I find myself reaching to because they fit a whole card. Also love Hero Arts and Basic Grey.