January 9, 2018

Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Best Sleeves for MTG

As a Magic player, there will come a point in time when you’re going to have to consider accessories, and finding the best sleeves for MTG is part of maturing as a collector. Magic is more than just your everyday, run-of-the-mill card game, and the cards that you have in your collection can hold value well after they’ve rotated out of standard play.

An explanation for why you need card sleeves... because your friend spill food on them!

If you ask any Magic player, they’ll tell you that sleeving up your cards is one of the best ways to save the value of your cards as well as protect them from the surfaces you’re going to be spell-slinging on.

Introduction to Sleeving

What are Card Sleeves?

Magic: The Gathering is the oldest and most successful modern collectible card game to date. But that doesn’t mean the Wizards of the Coast didn’t borrow a few things in order to make the game easier for them to produce.

All MTG cards are made to the “standard” form factor for cards, meaning that they fit into standard sized sleeves (MTG cards come in dimensions of 88mm x 63mm and sleeves usually are a few millimeters more on both axes in order to completely sleeve the cards).

The MTG community now has a wide selection of different sleeves in different construction materials, colors, and feel. The most common distinct feels for cards are gloss, matte and double-matte.

Gloss sleeves tend to be a lot harder to shuffle when they’re initially sleeved but become a lot better with use. Matte sleeves offer a better shuffle and generally feel better without having to be broken in like glossy sleeves.

Why Use Card Sleeves?

Some of the cards that are staples in decks now can go for quite a pretty penny, and by playing with cards unsleeved, you affect their value each time you cast them. Sleeving them up helps retain their mint condition for longer and protects them from dirt, grime and all sorts of things that cover a play area. The second reason sleeves are important is because they allow you, the player, to express yourself in a way that is unique to you.

commander game in progress with card decks in sleeves

Check out this sweet commander game… everyone has protected their cards!

Because of the wide range of colors and designs available to us as players, we can now feel free to choose a color and style that best represents our decks. So now that we’ve covered why you should sleeve up, we’ll answer the big question: What are the best MTG sleeves?

What Makes a Card Sleeve “Good?”

There are a few key components that you need to consider when you’re looking at buying sleeves. Among these are the durability, ease of shuffling and overall feel, aesthetics, and the reputation of the brand that you’re buying.

Each of these have their own impact on whether the sleeve can be considered the best, with even established brands having hit-or-miss additions to the pool of sleeves. Using these criteria, we’re going to help you find the best sleeves for MTG. Let’s get cracking!

Sleeve Reviews

Dragon Shield Review

Premium Matte Sleeves

Around $12 for 100 sleeves.


Many MTG players swear by Dragon Shield products because of their longstanding reputation for quality. The matte sleeves are among their most popular products in the MTG community because of how easy they are to shuffle and how natural they feel in the hand.

There is no need to worry about these sleeves sticking together since the matte finish helps to keep the cards separated and ensures that you won’t have a hard time trying to separate one card from another. Their durability is helped by the fact that they are among the thickest sleeves on the market, coming in at 110 microns.

While this is good for those of us who single-sleeve, it can lead to some pretty bulky double-sleeved decks, so if double sleeving is intended, these sleeves might not be the right ones for you. Added to this is their occasional problems with consistent production which may lead to some durability issues in a minority of packages.

Darker colored sleeves are far better for competitive play, since they are opaque enough to conform to Wizards’ rules about being able to see through sleeves.

Lighter colored sleeves are not recommended for tournament play. Catering to the MTG community, Dragon Shield Mattes are available in packs of 50, 60, and 100 sleeves, and also come with a handy carrying box that can fit a sleeved 60-card deck and 15-card sideboard easily.

Pros

 Easy to shuffle due to double-matte
 Tournament legal
Very thick and durable

Cons

Somewhat “bulky” feel due to thickness
Some complaints of inconsistent production quality

Ultra Pro Eclipse

Around $8 for 80 sleeves.

Another common name for the MTG community is Ultra Pro, manufacturers of sleeves, gaming mats and deck boxes. Many of us started off our MTG careers with a simple Ultra Pro plastic deck box to hold our first 60-card constructed deck. Their longstanding reputation has a few blemishes however – their classic sleeves (both gloss and matte) aren’t extremely durable.

Ultra Pro has managed to address these issues with durability in the latest iteration of their premium offering, the Eclipse sleeves. These sleeves are among the thickest and most durable on the market. They compete directly with Dragon Shield as they offer comparable protection but at a lower cost. One area which they consistently outperform Dragon Shield sleeves is in their production quality, which is far more consistent than their competitors’.

The opaqueness of Ultra Pro’s Eclipse sleeves doesn’t vary between dark and light colors. Any color Ultra Pro Eclipse is fine for tournament level play. These sleeves can be purchased in packs of 50 or 100, allowing for you to hold on to spares after sleeving your initial 75 in case one or two of them do split through use.

Pros

 Easy to shuffle due to double-matte
 Good, consistent production quality
 Tournament legal
Very thick and durable

Cons

Somewhat “bulky” feel due to thickness

KMC Hyper-Matte

Around $6 for 80 sleeves.

At around $6 for 80 sleeves, these are very affordable. In the early days of sleeving cards, KMC and Dragon Shield were both on the same level as far as construction but in recent years KMC has fallen behind Dragon Shield in their production quality. That said, the KMC Hyper-Matte are among the better offerings that the company has for Magic players.

KMC also offers matte sleeves which offer a pretty good feel when it comes to gripping and shuffling, but the Hyper-Matte sleeves takes this to a whole new level offering textured backs that are far above the quality of the original matte sleeves.

Hyper-Mattes are great for double-sleeving (especially when using KMC’s perfect-fit sleeves as the inner sleeves) and gives a decently sized, final sleeved deck that is responsive to shuffling and feels good in hand.

The backs are opaque enough to conform to Wizards’ tournament sleeve rules and they come in a variety of colors making it easy to find one that suits you. On the downside, the front of these sleeves have a bit of cloudiness that won’t stop you from seeing the cards, but can be annoying for some players.

They’re not really in the same league as premium sleeves, but they are pretty good at their price point. They come in packs of 80, so you can sleeve up a full 75 and still have a couple left over in case of emergencies.

Pros

 Easy to shuffle due to double-matte
 Feels “good” in hand; feels like some grip
 Good for double-sleeving
 Tournament legal

Cons

Some complaints of “cloudiness” and ease of reading cards

BCW Double Matte

Around $14 for 300 sleeves.

Double-matte sleeves offer a lot in terms of tactile response and BCW certainly delivers in this respect. At a very affordable price point, the BCW sleeves are one of the most affordable sleeves that a Magic player can invest in. Sadly, the quality reflects the price and the BCW double-matte sleeves have a lot less going for them than they should. While the feel is really nice, and the shuffle stands up to scrutiny, they are not very durable and the sleeves themselves feel thin prior to sleeving.

They don’t even stand up to regular play very well, with some iterations showing wear after a mere 30 minutes of playtime. While shuffling feels good, the cards tend to ride up the sleeves during shuffling and can lead to some of them poking out above the sleeves, which defeats the purpose. If you’re looking for a decent card sleeve at a cheap pricepoint then maybe BCW Double-Matte might be your sleeve, but I think there are better budget options out there.

Pros

 Easy to shuffle due to double-matte
 Feels “good” in hand; feels like some grip
 Very affordable

Cons

Less durable than other options
Some complains of showing wear easily

Dex Protection Hyper Mat

Around $9 for 100 sleeves.

A number of these sleeve producers offer a wide variety of colors and designs, even going so far to offer differences in texture. Dex Protection only produces one single sleeve, but that sleeve is probably the best investment an MTG player on a budget can make in the acquisition of these types of accessories.

Dex Protection Hyper Mat sleeves come in convenient packs of 100 (enough for a commander deck), and although they are only available as matte, the shuffle they offer is superb for the price you get them at. On the downside, the Dex Protection Hyper Mat has the disadvantage of being pretty large for a sleeve (almost a whole millimeter more) and can leave the sleeve feeling a bit loose on the card.

The sleeve edges also have a slight tendency to catch against each other occasionally which might make for some awkward shuffling now and again. Still, at the price you can get them, Dex Protection Hyper Mat is actually a great investment for a MTG player looking for pretty decent budget sleeves.

Pros

 GREAT product for the price
 Feels “good” in hand; feels like some grip

Cons

Somewhat “large” for a sleeve

Legion Sleeves

Around $12 for 100 sleeves.

Textured, artistic sleeves are Legion’s forte and their dedication to detail and production quality shows in their sleeve production. Companies such as StarCityGames utilize Legion for their own proprietary printed sleeves, showing how much of a reputation they have built up in the retailer community.

At present their selection covers over fifty print and patterned sleeves that MTG players can utilize to express themselves where playmats and dice don’t. Legions are pretty durable and can stand up to regular play pretty well.

On the downside, while Legion sleeves are a pretty decent fashion statement, they aren’t among the sleeves that you’d take with you to a tournament. There is the tendency of some of the designs to be less than fully opaque making them non-legal in tournament play. Continuous play leads to a lot of obvious imperfections coming out after a short amount of time.

Additionally, their double-matte sleeves tend to be a bit stickier than other sleeves, and makes pile-shuffling a chore. Aesthetically, they are unmatched, but if they had the same opacity and ease of shuffling as other brands like Ultra Pro, they would definitely be ranked higher in the consideration of the best MTG card sleeves.

Pros

 Customization and “personalization” due to printing
 Quite durable

Cons

Not recommended for tournaments; some “sticking.”

Player’s Choice Japanese Card Sleeves

Around $15 for 60 sleeves.

This is an interesting one, and quite the sleeper as well. Many MTG players overlook these sleeves because the company advertises their product as Yu-Gi-Oh sleeves, and those cards are usually smaller than MTG cards. However, surprisingly, they work just well for MTG cards and are among the more premium sleeves you will find anywhere.

They do have a pretty hefty price, but based on their usage, the price point is justified. They are opaque enough for tournament play and are quite durable, maybe on par with Dragon Shield and the Ultra Pro Eclipse sleeves.

Another surprise is that while they are gloss sleeves, they avoid the problem of having cards stuck together while shuffling and drawing. These sleeves feel just as comfortable shuffling as some matte and double-matte sleeves. Double-sleeving with them may be difficult because they can make for quite a tight fit, but there is no need to worry about the cards moving about once sleeved.

The only problem these sleeves tend to have is that they ride up a bit while shuffling, although not as much as other competitors’ sleeves. Definitely a sleeve to test if you’re looking for a durable replacement for your tournament decks.

Conclusion

Determining the best MTG card sleeves is a gargantuan task because of how many different nuances each player has when it comes to their particular shuffle. Some players prefer matte sleeves that slide across one another while other players prefer having more control over their shuffles because of the tendency of gloss sleeves to stick together.

Still want to learn more? Consider checking out this forum post as well from boardgamegeek, which has a lot more details regarding sleeve thickness.

re artistic and deep while others are satisfied with a sleeve that refers to the dominant color or colors of their deck. To determine the best MTG card sleeves on the market would be impossible because of all of these factors to be considered. Only you could determine which sleeve works best for you, but hopefully this guide will be able to help you narrow your choice down to a sleeve that ticks all the right boxes. Good luck finding the best sleeves for mtg. Until next time, happy shuffling!