Which Sleeves Are the Most Appropriate for Magic?

If you’ve ever dabbled in the realm of paper magic, then it’s likely that you’ve splurged on a pack of card sleeves at some point. And if you’ve purchased a few various brands or varieties of sleeves, you’ve probably realised that the quality may vary quite a little from one to the next. If you have never purchased card sleeves before or if you have only ever purchased the same ones, you should know the following information.

Regardless of your history with card sleeves for paper Magic, it is crucial to be aware that there are a wide variety of solutions from which you may choose. Paper magicians are familiar with a small number of brands, and this familiarity may or may not be positive.

Whether you’re looking to display your collection, protect your cards while you play, need a gift for a fellow Magic player, or just want some good, high-quality aesthetic sleeves. Now that we have that out of the way, should we get started?

Let’s go through the “dos and don’ts” of purchasing card sleeves for Magic: The Gathering once we’re in the subtleties of what brand and sleeve you should purchase for your Magic: The Gathering cards. Or, at the very least, the things that you should think about when you are attempting to decide which sleeve to purchase

To begin, let us suggest that you look into purchasing a playmat if you want to ensure that your cards are kept in pristine condition while you are engaging in card games. Even though your cards are supposed to be protected by sleeves, you should still use a playmat so that they don’t collect up a lot of junk from the surface you play on. Using a playmat won’t damage anything. If the aesthetic is something that’s important to you, they also have some very amazing paintings.

Examining the features of the card sleeves you’re considering purchasing is the best way to determine whether or not the product is worth the money it costs. This is true regardless of the purpose for which you want to use the sleeves. The following is a concise rundown of various examples, along with the key considerations to keep in mind for each:

Size Matters

At the very least, it does for the sleeves of MTG cards. Even if you aren’t very concerned about preserving the value of your collection of playing cards, I really doubt that you want your cards to be all twisted, curled, or bent. Does the sleeve have a little too tight fit, and as a result, your playing cards get misshapen? Are the cards continuously falling out of the sleeve at the least provocation (and maybe being twisted in some manner along the way) because the sleeve is a touch too loose? Or does the sleeve have no wiggle space at all, but it doesn’t seem like it’s crushing you too hard either?

MTG cards in a variety of sizes

A sleeve of “standard size” is what you should seek for if you want something simple to keep your playing cards safe while you’re using them (usually around 66x91mm)

You’re looking for “perfect fit” sleeves if you want to put your cards in a binder since they are the only sleeves that will fit properly 

Because Pokémon cards and Magic: The Gathering cards are the same size, you can acquire Pokémon sleeves for your Magic deck if you wish. If you want to double-sleeve your cards for further protection, you’ll need perfect fit and standard fit sleeves.

The next topic on the agenda is the sleeve’s capacity to withstand wear and tear. How much abuse can it withstand before it begins to peel or crack? It goes without saying that you don’t want a sleeve that, after only a few months or, heaven forbid, a few weeks, will appear as if you’ve been storing it in the attic for the previous ten years.

In most cases, reviews will be able to provide this information for you, since sleeves with poor durability will most likely become completely worn out. Because it can’t even protect itself, nobody wants to spend their money on a device that’s meant to keep their cards safe but can’t even keep it safe for itself.

This consideration should be given to both sides of the sleeve. How transparent is it?

If we are talking about the rear, then it ought to be totally opaque. There should be no leakage of light, sound, or scent through the back! This is done mostly to prevent the appearance of impropriety, since being able to see the backside of the card indicates that there is the potential of marking (i.e., placing “marks” on specific cards so that you can detect when they crop up in your deck without pulling or scrying them). In most cases, you won’t even be allowed to compete in events if your sleeves are see-through. This is true even if there are no other signs of marking in your deck. Marking may also refer to the natural process of wear and tear.

On the other hand, you want the front to have no opaque areas whatsoever and be fully see-through. Everything should be able to pass through the front, except for dust and time. Can you even fathom attempting to play a game of Magic if you have to strain your eyes simply to read the cards? To me, that sounds like a terrible moment.

The Cloak of the Sleeve

The finish on the sleeves should be your last and most important consideration, at least if you participate in competitions. This section is still somewhat relevant, even if you don’t compete in tournaments and instead simply play for fun at your local game store during events like FNMs.

There are a few different finishes available, including matte, ultra matte, and glossy. You may have an easier or a more difficult time shuffling the cards, depending on the quality of the sleeves and the polish that they have. Some of them get sticky after some time, and if the shuffle gets a little caught, there is also the possibility that the corners may bend. This may result in unintended marking of your sleeves, warping of your cards, and simply a general increase in the difficulty of handling both your cards and your deck.

In this aspect, matte and super matte sleeves perform better than glossy ones, which have a greater tendency to cling together while being shuffled. Even if they are fantastic right out of the package, shiny products often get stuck much more quickly. There are some brands that produce mattes and hyper mattes that fail the test, but you should definitely avoid such products in general. There are some brands that produce mattes and hyper mattes that fail the test.

Things That Ought to Motivate You to Speed Away

If you want to avoid acquiring sleeves that are made of low-quality materials, there are several red flags to watch out for whenever you shop for sleeves, regardless of whether you do it offline or online. When you are doing your shopping online, you should clearly be on the lookout for negative reviews. A poor indicator is when customers have a lot of complaints about the sleeves separating or bending.

Also, keep an eye out if the proportions don’t seem quite right. Some ideal fit sleeves actually have a tendency to run on the small side, which means that they will hug your cards a little too tightly, which will eventually cause them to warp. If you are looking at standard fit, the sleeves could run short, which would defeat the purpose of double-sleeving since they would be closer to a perfect fit, and you would have wasted your money in the process. The conclusion was not quite as terrible, but it was still not ideal.

The Results Are Now Available

This is the section of the conversation in which I will tell you what to purchase. This round does not involve any calculations at all! Hallelujah.

Before we get started, though, I feel obligated to disclose that I have not personally tried each each of these sleeves. I have purchased quite a number of them, but as a result of everything that is occurring right now, the shipment of many of them has been delayed, if it has ever been completed at this point. I will keep an eye on them and provide an update if I have the opportunity to test out any of them that I haven’t done so before.

Sleeves for Competitive Game Play

Smoke sleeve with a great fit designed by Dragon Shield.

In spite of the fact that I prefer Dragon Shield mattes as a general rule, it’s possible that they aren’t the ideal choice for competitive play due to the fact that they are somewhat see-through. If, on the other hand, you are dead-set on purchasing this particular brand, then investing in a few of their perfect fit smoke sleeves will do wonders for the prevention of any controversies involving infidelity caused by see-through clothing.

It is up to you whether or not you want to double-sleeve, but if you do, you should exercise caution since the Dragon Shield mattes may be a little challenging to double-sleeve with. Either continue using the perfect fit, or use another brand to double-sleeve it. That is the recommendation I would make.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Shield-Standard-Perfect-Sleeves/dp/B07ZJN4HBG

Brown sleeves with a matte finish on BCW

The BCW matte sleeves are the solution for you if you want to adequately preserve your cards while playing or simply showing them off but don’t have the money to spend extravagant amounts of money on card sleeves. If this describes your situation, then the BCW matte sleeves are the way to go. They cost around one-half as much as the majority of other sleeves but aren’t the absolute worst option available. Even while they may not be the greatest for competitive tournaments, they are more than enough for kitchen-table Magic and other games of a similar kind.

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Boxed-Double-Matte-Brown-Guards/dp/B01LX6WQDG

Double Up (Inner Sleeves) KMC Perfect Size sleeves

KMC’s Perfect Fit Size is your best choice when it comes to double-sleeving since it fits the inner sleeve the best. They are not only quite inexpensive, but they are also of relatively high quality and excel at the one thing that really counts, which is safeguarding your cards by giving them a hug that is just the right amount of tight.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/KMC-Sleeves-Perfect-Sized-Black/dp/B07DJ7FCK9

The Choice of the Commander Dragon Shield orange matte sleeves

On this one, we will be utilising the Dragon Shield mattes once again. One of the many things that they are useful for is building Commander decks, which is one of the reasons why I suggest them in general. They are rather diverse in terms of what they are excellent for.

Since the required minimum for a Commander deck is 100 cards rather than the 60 cards required for a Standard deck, you may expect to be working with a somewhat larger deck while playing Commander. Therefore, you should look for a nice sleeve that offers all the aforementioned benefits in addition to being as thin as is practically feasible. Although it may not seem to be significant, even a fraction of a millimetre can add up to a significant amount over time. After all, you need to ensure that your deck box has sufficient space for all of your cards.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Shield-Standard-Sleeves-Individual/dp/B07KGMXTQV

You Must Be Late! Get these Dragon Shield sleeves in a matte yellow finish.

Dragon Shield sleeves come highly recommended and seem to be the most extensively used (don’t quote me on that since the internet may lie), and the matte finish is the clear winner in this category.

The general consensus among reviewers is that the Dragon Shield matte sleeves do not cloud or rip, that they function well for double-sleeving (albeit they aren’t the finest in that regard), that they shuffle quite well, and that they have a pleasant overall feel to them. However, because of their higher price, they are not always the greatest choice for those who are working with little financial resources.

It goes without saying that not everyone will agree with each and every one of these points, but the same can be said of any product. These are the opinions and experiences that are most often discussed in relation to the Dragon Shields, therefore I’d suggest that you can probably put your money on them. However, you need make sure to get the matte sleeves. I’ve previously gone over the reasons why glossy is often not a good idea, but just in case you missed, they tend to be sticky.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Shield-Standard-Sleeves-Display/dp/B07KY7BVK9

Cut for Cube KMC green hyper matte sleeves

KMC’s hyper matte sleeves are the greatest option to go with if we are talking about an extremely huge quantity of cards, as when we are talking about Cube. They are not inferior in quality despite being sold in larger quantities, and the price per unit is comparable to that of their Perfect Size counterparts. They are very long-lasting and have an excellent fit, particularly when worn with a second sleeve.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Hyper-Matte-Sleeves-80-Pack-Green/dp/B00KARCQMI

Rare Find for the Collector

If you’re searching for lovely sleeves that complement your overall style, I really have a few recommendations for you that vary depending on what it is that you’re trying to achieve.

Ultra Pro art sleeves

Are you looking for official Magic: The Gathering imagery to put on your sleeves? Get you some Ultra Pro art sleeves. They are not too pricey, are of rather decent quality, and there is a wide selection of official graphics for you to choose from. They do not have a limitless number of alternatives, and it is possible that you will not be able to discover what you are searching for if it is a certain card picture; but, there is a wide variety of art from which to choose.

On the other hand, Legion art sleeves are your best option if you want visually beautiful sleeves that include artwork that is not associated with Magic: The Gathering. They provide a wide variety of art that might be charming, comical, or just plain gorgeous to select from, and they won’t put a strain on your finances in the process.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/Ultra-Pro-Alternate-Godzilla-Standard/dp/B08GBTJWGW/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=ultra+pro+art+sleeves&qid=1656320384&sr=8-1

Last but not least, if your objective is to amass a collection of sleeves themselves, you should focus on acquiring limited edition sleeves. There is not necessarily a single brand or location to look for these, and prices can vary quite a bit from time to time. The majority of record labels will sometimes release limited edition art sleeves, and the decision as to which ones to purchase should be based not only on the artwork that you want to add to your collection but also on the record labels whose prices you are willing to pay.

Custom Sleeves

YourPlaymat customised sleeve options

Our last destination, bespoke sleeves, may provide some unexpected challenges. Because printing sleeves is neither simple nor inexpensive, the number of businesses that provide this service is quite limited. Those that do exist tend to be rather pricey, and there is a possibility that their quality is not up to grade in an effort to keep their manufacturing costs as low as possible.

Having said that, I’m not going to simply leave you in such a precarious position like that. YourPlaymat provides customised sleeves, and these sleeves have received positive feedback despite the fact that they are somewhat pricey. There are also a tonne of photographs, many of which have a magnificent appearance.

In the event that you do decide to have an unique sleeve, however, you may wish to double-sleeve the records. The artwork on custom sleeves is often printed on top of the back of the card, making it susceptible to peeling off. This is the typical issue that arises when using custom sleeves. YourPlaymat does note in the description of the custom sleeve that the art on their custom sleeves does not peel, which leads one to believe that they are producing sleeves of a better quality than you would typically anticipate from custom ones.

Pledge of Unity illustration created by Chris Rallis including the phrase “Slip That Sleeve Off”

Chris Rallis is responsible for the illustration of the Pledge of Unity. And that is all the information I have for you! It is my sincere hope that you will find this guide helpful in determining which Magic: The Gathering cards and sets are the most suitable additions to your collection. What kind of experiences have you had with the various suggested sleeves that I listed? Do the points I’ve summarised make sense to you, or did your experience vary from what I described? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

As is customary, please accept my gratitude for the help you have provided. I’m sorry if I seem like a broken record, but the only reason I keep saying the same thing is because it’s the truth. Your support, in whatever shape it may take — whether it be reading, commenting on, or sharing our blog entries; making use of our draught simulator, Arena Tutor; or supporting us via Patreon – is always and forever much appreciated. Observe how I manipulated you there *nudgenudgewinkwink*

Given all that is happening in the globe right now, I really do hope that you are all safe and that it continues to be that way. I hope that everything goes well for you and your community. Take care of yourself!

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