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Magic: the Gathering Card Sleeves Review


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. BCW Double Matte
  3. Channel Fireball Sleeves
  4. Dex Protection Hyper Mat
  5. Dragon Shield
  6. HCD Sleeves
  7. KMC Sleeves
  8. Legion Sleeves
  9. Max Protection
  10. Monster Protectors: Monster Sleeves
  11. Player's Choice Japanese Card Sleeves
  12. StarCityGames Sleeves
  13. Ultimate Guard 
  14. Ultra Pro
  15. Summary
  16. Awards
  17. Tiers

Introduction

When it comes to Magic accessories, sleeves are probably the most important. Without protection, normal play will degrade a card's condition over time. Sleeves provide some safety by taking the brunt of the beating. 

The problem is, sleeves are confusing. There are so many different types of sleeves that it's almost impossible to know which ones to buy. That's why I spent hours shuffling, testing, and researching various sleeves, all so you can know which ones to buy and which ones to avoid. 

I should start by making it clear that there really isn't a lot separating many of these sleeves. There are a few standouts, a few to avoid, and a bunch in the middle. Regardless, I've tried to rank them the best I can, and I hope the information is helpful. We'll get to the sleeves in a minute, but first let's briefly talk about some definitions. 

Definitions

  • There are three basic types of sleeves, broken down by their finish. First, we have gloss sleeves, which have untextured, shiny backs (sometimes featuring art) and very clear fronts. Second, we have matte sleeves. Matte is a non-gloss finish. Sometimes, these sleeves have slightly less clear fronts and somewhat textured backs. Finally, we have double matte sleeves, which have the most textured backs. Even after testing all of these sleeves, the difference between single and double matte isn't always clear. It is pretty easy to tell gloss from matte if you are looking for it. 
  • Art sleeves are any sleeves featuring artwork on the back. Most often, these sleeves have a gloss finish. 
  • Feel is a subjective criterion, which refers to how the cards feel while you are shuffling. Do they slide smoothly across each other? Do they seem too big or small? A high ranking means I enjoy shuffling with the sleeves, and a low ranking means they have some sort of issue that makes shuffling less enjoyable. 
  • Durability was tested by shuffling each sleeve for 30 minutes and seeing how they held up to this wear and tear. I wanted to somehow equate this to a number of rounds in a tournament, but there is such a huge variation between formats (and even between decks) that I gave up. 
  • Rip test is pretty self explanatory. How hard is it to rip the sleeve in half? Amazingly, there is huge variation here. Most sleeves rip extremely easily or somewhat easily, but a few are almost impossible to rip.  

With these definitions in mind, let's talk about the sleeves. At the end of the article, we'll hand out some awards and present a big chart with all of the sleeves side by side. 

BCW Double Matte

BCW Double Matte

At only $2.40 for a package of 50 sleeves, BCW Double Matte is as cheap as it gets. They come in 10 solid colors, offering ample choices for the consumer.

Clearly the best aspect of BCW Double Matte Sleeves is the price. You can sleeve a 100-card Commander deck for less than $5, which is absolutely insane. While they shuffle fine and glide over each other fairly easily, I don't like the BCW Double Mattes' feel. They seem thin and almost papery. Despite failing the rip test miserably, their durability is about average for an inexpensive sleeve. After 30 minutes of continuous shuffling, there was some corner damage, but most of the sleeves were still in good condition. Unfortunately, the cards tend to ride up in the sleeve during shuffling, to the point where some cards end up sticking out from the top. All in all, a decent sleeve for a very reasonable price.

Price: $2.40.

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 2/10.

Overall Grade: 4.5/10.

Purchase BCW Double Matte sleeves from Amazon.com

Channel Fireball Sleeves

Inexpensive at only $3 per pack, Channel Fireball sleeves are good budget options and the best way to show your support for Luis Scott-Vargas, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Josh Utter-Leyton, and all the other pros on Team Channel Fireball.

Channel Fireball Sleeves

Channel Fireball sleeves, the official sleeves of Team Channel Fireball, come in one design only: glossy black with the Channel Fireball logo on the back. If you are a big fan of Channel Fireball, these sleeves offer an easy way to show your allegiance. They do so in a fashionable way, since the sleeves look pretty sharp. The good news about Channel Fireball sleeves is that they are fairly inexpensive, at $2.99 per pack of 50. Plus, their website offers bundles, allowing you to get the sleeves even cheaper. If you buy 10 packs, they are only $1.99 each! As for the sleeves themselves, they are functional but not exciting. My biggest complaint is that the glossy black backs end up looking dirty quickly. Durability-wise, these sleeves are middle of the pack. After 30 minutes of shuffling, maybe half of the sleeves showed some corner bending. Perhaps 25% were bent to the point where they could be considered "marked." Part of the issue is that the back of the sleeve is composed of a black outer layer (where you'll find the Channel Fireball logo) and a white inner layer. As a result, when the corners bend up, you end up seeing white, which is very noticeable when the bend is significant. Feel-wise they are average—not a joy to shuffle like some premium sleeves but passable. All in all, Channel Fireball sleeves are a fine budget option and are great for repping Team Channel Fireball. If you're looking to get the best sleeves available, there are better options on the market. 

Price: $3 per 50, $6 per 100. 

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 2/10.

Overall: 5/10. 

Purchase Channel Fireball sleeves from ChannelFireball.com

Dex Protection Hyper Mat

Dex Protection Hyper Mat

While limited to only one finish and color (black), at only $5.95 for a package of 100, Dex Protection Hyper Mat sleeves are among the least expensive sleeves on the market, making them a solid value play. 

While most sleeves have multiple colors and designs or different finishes, Dex Protection makes exactly one sleeve: the Hyper Mat. While this choice might seem strange, the good news is that the sleeve is actually quite impressive for its price. At only $5.95 for 100, the Dex Protection Hyper Mats are about as cheap as it gets to sleeve a deck. They also offer some benefits over other inexpensive sleeves, like durability. After 30 minutes of continuous shuffling, less than 10% of the Dex Protection Hyper Mats had noticeable corner bending, which is great for an inexpensive sleeve. Better yet, the solid black color tends to hide minor imperfections. While the sleeves didn't hold up all that well to the rip test, they are durable for the price. Oddly, the sleeves are slightly bigger than most other sleeves (1 mm bigger), which leaves the Hyper Mat feeling a little bit baggy. The added size also leaves a bit of extra plastic along the top, which tends to get dirty. Despite their slightly-larger-than-average size, they feel very nice while shuffling, other than the fact that the sleeve edges tend to get caught on each other more than I would like. Overall, Dex Protection Hyper Mats are a great deal for their price. 

Price: $5.49.

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 6/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 2/10.

Overall: 6.5/10.

Purchase Dex Protection Hyper Mat on Amazon.com

Dragon Shield

Arcane Tinmen offers two types of sleeves (original, matte) in a variety of colors. Dragon Shields are a bit pricey but are renowned for their durability.

Dragon Shield Sleeves

Dragon Shield Sleeves

Let's start with the good news. Dragon Shields are incredibly durable—perhaps the most durable sleeve on the market. There are pictures floating around on the Internet of people jamming something like 100 cards into one sleeve. They hold up to 30 minutes of shuffling without a problem, and pretty much every sleeve still looks brand new. They are almost impossible to rip. As far as the amount of play you'll get from a sleeve, Dragon Shields are unmatched.  The trouble is that Dragon Shields have some odd production issues. They fit cards nicely... usually. There are some complaints that the size of sleeves varies from box to box. It's something I would expect from low-end sleeves but not from premium sleeves. I swear that my package of 100 contained 50 that were one shade of orange and 50 that were a slightly different shade of orange. I've heard similar stories from other players. Getting a 100-pack of sleeves and (potentially) not being able to sleeve an entire deck is troubling. All in all, the sleeves are great, but when you pay $10.99 for a package of sleeves, you don't want to worry that you might get a "bad" box. 

Update: Since originally writing this review, I've run some into issues with durability with different batches. In my most recent pack of pink sleeves, the sleeves are splitting like crazy (losing 1015 sleeves over 12 rounds of Magic). It's hard to say whether this was a bad batch or if it's the new norm, but quality control looks to be an issue with Dragon Shields. If you have experience with recent batches of Dragon Shields, please share below in the comments!

Price: $10.99.

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 9/10. 

Durability: 10/10 * possible durability issues depending on production run

Rip Test: 10/10.

Overall: 8.5 (downgraded a bit for variance). 

Purchase Dragon Shield Sleeves from Amazon.com

Dragon Shield Matte Sleeves

Dragon Shield Matte Sleeves

Dragon Shield Mattes are Arcane Tinmen's answer to KMC Hyper Mattes, which are often touted as the best shuffling sleeves. And these sleeves deliver. Silky-smooth shuffling. The downside is they come with the Dragon Shield price tag, but that's the cost of smooth shuffling and durability. The one downside is they are tight. I was able to double sleeve with them, but others have reported problems. I haven't seen any production issues similar to the original Dragon Shield sleeves, but it's hard to say with such a limited sample size.

Price: $10.99.

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 9/10. 

Durability: 10/10. 

Rip Test: 10/10.

Overall: 8.5

Purchase Dragon Shield Sleeves from Amazon.com

HCD Sleeves

Offering six different art designs and three solid color designs for $4.99 (art) or $5.49 (solid color) per 50, HCD sleeves give players another option for attractive, aesthetically pleasing sleeves.

HCD Art Sleeves

HCD Supplies Art Sleeves

The first thing I noticed about HCD sleeves is that they are small—like, really, really small. While single-sleeved cards barely fit, when I tried to double sleeve, the inside sleeve was literally poking out the top of the outer sleeve. Even more problematic, getting a double-sleeved card into the HCD Perfect Fits is really hard. I bent a couple of cards trying because I had to push so hard to get them in. As such, if you are looking to double sleeve, I would avoid HCD. Assuming you are single-sleeving, the sleeves actually work pretty well. While their subject matter is more sci-fi or steampunk, the art is on par with the StarCityGames sleeves. They held up well to 30 minutes of shuffling with minimal wear, and they slide over each other nicely. They are also among the more difficult sleeves to rip, which is another plus. In sum, if you are fine with single-sleeving and you really like the art design, HCD seems like a perfectly reasonable and durable option. Just don't use them for double-sleeving. 

Price: $4.50.

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 7/10. 

Rip Test: 8/10.

Overall: 7.5/10. 

Purchase HCD Supplies Art Sleeves from Amazon.com

HCD Solid-Color Sleeves

HCD Supplies Matte

At only $5.49 per hundred, HCD solid-color sleeves are as cheap as it gets. Unfortunately, the cheapness shows. I got several sleeves in my package of 100 that were open on both the top and the bottom. When I went to insert a card, they slid right out the bottom of the sleeve. While coming 100 to a pack means you do get extras, if you bought a package expecting to have just enough to sleeve a Commander deck, you would end up disappointed. Otherwise, the sleeves are fairly typical. The fact that I can't trust that I'll get 100 usable sleeves means I can't recommend buying the HCD solid-color sleeves. 

Price: $5.49.

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 4/10. 

Durability: 0/10. 

Rip Test: 2/10.

Overall: 2/10.

Purchase HCD Supplies Matte Sleeves from Amazon.com

 

KMC Sleeves

Costing between $5 and $7 for a package of 80, KMC Card Barrier sleeves are among the least expensive for sleeving a constructed deck. They come in three different finishes and 12 different colors. 

KMC Card Barrier Super Series (non-matte)

KMC Card Barrier Super Series

The KMC Card Barrier non-matte sleeves feature a glossy, textureless back and a crystal-clear front. They feel great when shuffling, sliding over each other smoothly in a way that is typical of more expensive sleeves like Dragon Shields or Pro Slayers. The first thing I noticed about all KMC sleeves is that they are big—significantly taller than Dragon Shields and other premium sleeves. The large size causes a couple of problems. First, it leaves access room in the corners, which end up bending while being shuffled. After 30 minutes of shuffling, 37% of the sleeves showed significant corner bending, some to the point of needing to be replaced. They also don't hold up particularly well to the rip test. The good news is that the sleeves look great and feel amazing, which is atypical of inexpensive sleeves. 

Price: $5.00–$7.00. 

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 7/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 3/10.

Overall: 5.5/10. 

Purchase KMC Card Barrier Super Series from Amazon.com

KMC Card Barrier Mat

KMC Card Barrier Mat

The big difference between the Mat and non-matte KMC sleeves is found on the back. The Mat version has just the slightest bit of texture, and unlike some other matte sleeves, the fronts of the KMC sleeves are still quite clear. Shuffling with the Mat sleeves is a joy, on par with the most expensive premium sleeves. For some reason, it seems like the corners of the Mat sleeves held up better than the non-mattes. However, the size of the sleeve causes it to bend along the top where you put the cards into the sleeve. All in all, I like the KMC Card Barrier Mats slightly better than the non-mattes, just because they shuffle more easily. 

Price: $5.00–$7.00. 

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 7/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 3/10.

Overall: 6.5/10. 

Purchase KMC Card Barrier Matte from Amazon.com

KMC Hyper Matte

KMC Card Barrier Hyper Matte

Just like the difference between non-matte and mattes, the main difference between KMC's Mat and Hyper Mat sleeves is that the back of the Hyper Mat is even more textured. The front may be slightly cloudier, but it still looks sharp. Otherwise, I don't have much else to say. The sleeves are too big, which leads to damage on the corners and along the top, and also causes air to get stuck inside underneath the cards. They feel pretty nice, but I still think the Mats shuffle a bit better. All in all, if you are trying to figure out which KMC sleeve to buy, the decision comes down to whether you like glossy, slightly textured, or heavily textured backs. I consider the entire KMC group to be fine middle-of-the-pack options, since they are among the least expensive to sleeve a constructed deck. They just rank behind the premium sleeves in design and durability. 

Price: $5.00–$7.00.

Per Pack: 50

Feel: 7/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 3/10.

Overall: 5.5/10. 

Purchase KMC Card Barrier Hyper Matte on Amazon.com

 

Legion Sleeves

The foremost supplier of art sleeves, with over 50 designs currently in print. Come in double matte and standard finishes. Legion is also the manufacturer of sleeves for some big-name vendors like StarCityGames. 

Legion Sleeves

Legion sleeves are interesting for two reasons. First, they are the main supplier of various art sleeves and humorous sleeves like the "Bad Beets" sleeves featuring a picture of a beet. By my count, they have at least 50 different designs for order, ranging from solid-color finishes to tons of different art and joke sleeves. The second interesting aspect of Legion is that they make sleeves for other companies, like StarCityGames. As far as asthetics, Legion is unparalleled in the Magic sleeve world. 

The problem is the sleeves themselves are middle of the pack. After 30 minutes of shuffling, 30% of the sleeves had corner damage, to the point where I would not consider them tournament legal. Even among the remaining 70%, they showed little white spots on the bottom corners. They rip without too much effort. The double matte finish also makes shuffling a bit grindy. Instead of sliding easily over each other, you have to exert some force to pile shuffle. If the top item on your sleeve checklist is aesthetics, Legions sleeves are the way to go. Otherwise, there are probably better options on the table, especially when you consider the price. 

Price: $5.00.

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 3/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 4/10.

Overall: 5/10.

 

Purchase Legion Sleeves on Amazon.com
 

Max Protection

Offering 27 different art designs, including a series of flags of different countries and 10 different solid-color designs for $3.99 (art) or $1.99 (solid color) per pack of 50, Max Protection are the cheapest art sleeves on the market. 

Max Protection Shuffle Tech Sleeves

Max Protection Shuffle Tech Sleeves

Let's start off with the good about Shuffle Tech sleeves. You get 100 of them, along with 100 perfect-fit sleeves and a deck box for only $10.50. You can easily spend that amount on just 100 sleeves, so price-wise, the Shuffle Tech Premium Pack bundle is about as cheap as it gets. The problem is all of the products in the bundle, with the exception of the Perfect Fit sleeves, are among the worst in their class. The deck box was rated horribly in our $5 and Under Deck Box Review, and the sleeves are no different. After 30 minutes of shuffling, the sleeves were beat. Plus, the design choice is odd. The backs are flat white but actually contain two layers. What ends up happening is the outer white layer peels away from the inner layer, which leaves the card in a clear sleeve. It's almost like they took a bunch of clear sleeves and just glued a white back onto them. As far as durability, these sleeves might be the worst I reviewed. Shuffling with Shuffle Tech sleeves isn't much better. The cards grip each other too tightly, and you have to force them together, which no doubt plays a role in how quickly they break down. It is true that they are incredibly hard to rip. This happens because instead of ripping, the sleeves stretch and the back layer peels off; that isn't really a good thing either. Basically, there's very little I like about these sleeves, other than the fact they are dirt cheap. Even this positive is deceiving because they break down much faster than other sleeves. Don't be fooled by the premium pack.

Price: $10.50 for 100 as part of premium pack with 100 perfect-fit sleeves and deck box.

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 2/10. 

Durability: 1/10. 

Rip Test: 5/10.

Overall: 2/10. 

Purchase Max Protection Shuffle Tech Premium Pack on Amazon.com

Max Protection Art Sleeves

Max Protection Art Sleeves

I should make it clear right away that not all Max Protection sleeves are as horrible as the Shuffle Techs. Max Protection's Art Sleeves are rather nice. The art itself looks good, equal to StarCityGames and Legions, with plenty of different options available, ranging from a series of flags to various fantasy-themed art. The finish is smooth and glossy, but unlike other art sleeves, they shuffle nicely and the cards feel good in the hand. Durability-wise, they are middle of the pack. Thirty minutes of continuous shuffling caused corner bending on about one-third of the sleeves. If you like the artwork, I have no problem recommending Max Protection Art Sleeves since they are serviceable and fairly costed. 

Price: $3.99.

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 4/10.

Overall: 5.5/10. 

Purchase Max Protection Art Sleeves on Amazon.com

Max Protection Solid-Color Sleeves

Max Protection Color Sleeves

Max Protection Solid-Color Sleeves are the cheapest sleeves I reviewed. At only $1.99 for a pack of 50, you can sleeve an entire Commander deck for only $4. In all honesty, I couldn't find any difference between the Max Protection Art Sleeves and the Solid-Color Sleeves. They feel the same, they shuffle the same, and they are equally durable. I'm pretty sure they are the same exact sleeve, except one has art on the back. 

Price: $1.99.

Per Pack: 50

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 4/10. 

Rip Test: 4/10.

Overall: 5.5/10. 

 

Purchase Max Protection Standard Gaming Sleeves on Amazon.com

Monster Protectors: Monster Sleeves

Monster Sleeves are advertised as "premium" sleeves. They come in six different colors, in three different finishes (gloss, flat matte, and super matte). The only art option is with or without the Monster logo. They retail for between $3.95 and $4.49, depending on the options chosen, and come 50 to a pack. Their website states they come 60 to a pack, which is slightly confusing. 

Monster Protectors Gloss

Monster Protectors Gloss

In my opinion, the gloss finish is the worst of Monster's offerings. First, they came out of the package with these weird scratch marks down one side of the sleeves. While these scratches are barely visible from the top, from the side they look beat up, which is disappointing for brand new sleeves. Second, while they feel fine in the hand, the Flat Mattes offered by Monster feel better. The gloss finish sticks a little and makes shuffling less enjoyable. Finally, all Monster sleeves have a problem with the cards riding up, sometimes even poking out the top of the sleeves. The issue is especially problematic when single-sleeving, but the fit is still loose enough that it happens to double-sleeved cards as well. After the cards ride up, there is some empty space in the bottom corners, which leads to corner bending. I shuffled these sleeves for 30 minutes, and by the time I was done, 75% of the sleeves had significant corner bending, to the point that they would not be tournament legal. I believe this deficiency is a design mistake, more than simply a lack of quality. The sleeves hold up well to the rip test and seem to be made of fairly high-quality material, but when you are paying premium prices, you want your sleeves to last. The fact that the Monster Protectors: Gloss broke down so quickly is disappointing. 

Price: $4.50.

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 2/10. 

Rip Test: 6/10.

Overall: 3.5/10.

Purchase Monster Protectors: Gloss from Amazon.com

Monster Protectors: Flat Matte

Monster Protectors: Flat Matte

The Monster Protector Flat Matte sleeves suffer from the same problem as the Gloss. The cards ride far up in the sleeves, and the bottom corners get damaged in short order. In fact, after 30 minutes of shuffling, 80% of the sleeves showed significant damage. Oddly, while the sleeves are solid color, you can still see the cards through the back of sleeves. This transparency is strange, since it is not true of the Monster Protector Gloss. However, there are two things I really like about the Monster Protector Flat Matte sleeve. First, while they don't quite crack tier one as far as how nice they feel to shuffle, they are better than average and solidly in the second tier. They glide over each other smoothly and feel good in the hand. Second, they do work well for double sleeving. It's a breeze to get double-sleeved cards in and out of the Monster Flat Mattes. 

Price: $4.00–$4.50. 

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 2/10. 

Rip Test: 6/10.

Overall: 3.5/10.

Purchase Monster Protectors: Flat Matte from Amazon.com

 

Player's Choice Japanese Card Sleeves

Player's Choice Japanese sleeves come in 15 different colors and two finishes. At $5 per 50, they are among the most expensive sleeves, but they have the durability and feel to justify their premium price tag.

Player's Choice Card Sleeves

After shuffling and testing over 30 different brands of sleeves, I have to admit that these Player's Choice Japanese Card Sleeves were the biggest surprise. While Google tells me they are made for Yugioh, they are slightly larger than the Pro Slayers and the same size as Monster Protector sleeves. They will work just fine for Magic. Better yet, they are near the top of the list in almost every category. After 30 minutes of continuous shuffling, every single sleeve was still in great shape. The front is super clear but doesn't have the problem with dirt and grime along the top like the Pro Slayers. Perhaps best of all, they feel amazing to shuffle. While they have untextured backs and a gloss finish, the sleeves slide over each other easily. The only downside is the cards tend to ride up in the sleeves, but not as much as they do in Monster Protectors. The fit is tight when double sleeving, and sometimes you have to force the cards a bit to get them in. That said, once you get double-sleeved cards in, they stay firmly in place and don't move around when shuffling. These sleeves are clearly in the top tier and one of my favorites out of the entire group. 

Price: $5.

Per Pack: 60.

Feel: 10/10. 

Durability: 8/10. 

Rip Test: 6/10.

Overall: 8.5/10.

Purchase Player's Choice Sleeves from Amazon.com

 

StarCityGames Sleeves

Priced at $7.99 for 80 sleeves, StarCityGames sleeves offer the perfect way to rep your favorite Magic vendor, while also offering some unique designs such as the creature collection and Grand Prix special editions. 

Legion Sleeves

StarCityGames Art Sleeves

Clearly the best thing about the StarCityGames Art Sleeves are their designs. There is no doubt that StarCityGames goes out of their way to hire good artists to make fun and cool-looking sleeves. Their "creature collection" is cute and funny, while their Grand Prix Special Edition Exclusives boast artwork from some of Magic's top artists. While Legions has made a name for itself by making tons of different humorous art sleeves, StarCityGames instead takes the slow-but-steady approach. They have far fewer designs, but every single one is top notch as far as artwork goes. The sleeves themselves offer a nice glossy finish and come 80 to a package—the perfect number for a constructed deck. However, I noticed a couple of problems. First, the fronts of the sleeves tend to scratch fairly easily, which diminishes their crystal-clear look. Second, they only hold up moderately well to shuffling. They do feel fairly nice in the hand but not great. All in all, the StarCityGames Art Sleeves are a fine deal, assuming you really want the artwork. If you are indifferent about the look of the sleeves, there are better options available. 

Price: $7.99.

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 3/10.

Overall: 6.5/10 (bonus point for the sweet designs). 

Purchase Creature Collection Sleeves on StarCityGames.com

StarCityGames Double Matte

StarCityGames Double Matte

The StarCityGames Double Matte series is a plain, solid-color design with several different colors to choose from. They have a textured back and a slightly-less-clear front. While they shuffle smoothly, their corners are even more susceptible to damage than the StarCityGames Art Sleeves. After just 30 minutes of shuffling, nearly half of the sleeves had some corner damage, some to the point of being illegal for tournament use. The good news is that the fronts are much less likely to scratch, perhaps because of the double-matte finish. However, the biggest problem I have with the StarCityGames Double Matte Series is their look and price. They cost nearly as much as the creature collection, which look amazing, but the double matte series are bland and unattractive. While I can see the justification for buying the art sleeves just because they look so good, if you are going to pay $7.49 to sleeve a deck with plain matte sleeves, there are better options available. Overall, I give the art sleeves a thumbs up if you like the design, but apart from the convenience of ordering from StarCityGames, I don't really see a reason to buy the StarCityGames Double Mattes.

Price: $7.49.

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 5/10. 

Durability: 4/10. 

Rip Test: 6/10.

Overall: 5/10. 

 

Purchase StarCityGames Double Matte from StarCityGames.com

Ultimate Guard 

With over 15 different solid colors, and coming 80 sleeves to a pack for only $5.49, Ultimate Guard sleeves are one of the the best budget options for new players. 

Ultimate Guard Supreme

Ultimate Guard Supreme

One thing I really like about Ultimate Guard sleeves is that they come in packages of 80, which is enough to sleeve a constructed deck and sideboard, while keeping a few extras for breakage. At only $5.49, Ultimate Guard sleeves are among the cheapest on the market when it comes to the cost of sleeving a constructed deck.  Maybe the most impressive part of the Ultimate Guard offering is that they hold up well to 30 minutes of continuous shuffling. As far as looks, I would put them in the middle of the pack: acceptable but not exciting. The colors are solid enough that you can't see the card through the back of the sleeve, which is a good thing. Finally, with only a single sleeve, the Supreme sleeves are fairly loose fitting, and air tends to get trapped under the card because of the space. 

Price: $5.49. 

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 4/10. 

Durability: 7/10. 

Rip Test: 4/10.

Overall: 6/10. 

Purchase Ultimate Guard Supreme on Amazon.com

Ultimate Guard Supreme Matte

Ultimate Guard Supreme Matte

Everything I said about the Ultimate Guard Supreme sleeves holds true about the Supreme Matte as well. They held up better to the shuffle test and seem like a fairly good budget option for sleeving. With Ultimate Guard sleeves, should you go with matte or non-matte? There are two things to consider in answering that question. As I mentioned in the intro, the non-matte sleeves have a less cloudy front, so the cards look crisper. However, I like the matte sleeves for shuffling. The cards feel better in the hand and glide over each other more easily. That said, the Supreme Mattes are definitely middle of the pack in terms of feel. I would lean towards the Supreme Mattes because the feel of a sleeve is more important to me than having a clear front, but you should base your choice on whatever criteria are more important to you.

Price: $5.49. 

Per Pack: 80.

Feel: 4/10. 

Durability: 7/10. 

Rip Test: 4/10.

Overall: 6/10. 

Purchase Ultimate Guard Supreme Matte on Amazon.com

 

Ultra Pro

The official sleeve of Magic: the Gathering, Ultra Pro sleeves come in many different styles, colors, and price ranges. 

Ultra Pro Pro Slayer

Ultra Pro Pro Slayer

Pro Slayers are Ultra Pro's premium sleeve. One of the things I like about the Pro Slayers is that they come in packages of 100. I've never understood why anyone would sell sleeves in packages of 50, meaning you need to buy two packages to sleeve one 75-card constructed deck. The price point of $10 is comparable to other "premium" sleeves, although they are a bit more expensive than some. That said, you are getting a lot more for your money. Probably the best aspect of the Pro Slayers is that after 30 minutes of continuous shuffling, every single sleeve was still tournament legal and most did not show any wear at all. This result is refreshing, and I would rank the Pro Slayers among the most durable sleeves for shuffling. On the other hand, the Pro Slayers fail the rip test miserably. They are so bad, in fact, that some of them ripped before I even tried to pull them apart. So, while the sleeves hold up well to shuffling, misshuffling (catching an edge in the open part of the sleeve) is likely to destroy the sleeve with ease. The sleeves fit single-sleeved cards nicely and double-sleeved cards even better. Getting cards in and out of the sleeves is fairly easy. As far as aesthetics, the sleeves look nice. The packaging is higher quality than most, reinforcing the idea that Pro Slayers are premium sleeves. One last note: the fronts of these sleeves are super clear, but they tend to get dirty easily. Fingerprints show when sleeving and unsleeving, taking away from the sleeve's ultra-clear finish. All in all, one of the upper-tier sleeves but not without its share of problems. 

Price: $9.95 per 100. 

Per Pack: 100.

Feel: 9/10. 

Durability: 8/10. 

Rip Test: 2/10.

Overall: 7.5/10

Purchase Ultra Pro Pro Slayer on Amazon.com

Ultra Pro Deck Protector Art Sleeves

Ultra Pro Art Sleeves

There are three major benefits of the Ultra Pro Art Sleeves. First, they are cheap compared to most other art sleeves, at only $3.99 per pack of 50. Second, since Ultra Pro makes sleeves for a ton of different games, there are many different designs available. They all seem to be officially licensed by their respective companies. Options include official art from Mario, Relic Knights, Force of Will, Pathfinder, Yugioh, Megaman, and many others. Third, the sleeves are fairly durable. While 30 minutes of shuffling caused some corner damage, most of it was minor, with about 20% of the sleeves bent to the point where I would worry about playing them in a tournament. While 20% might sound like a lot, it is actually a fairly good failure rate for low-end (price-wise) sleeves. On the other hand, I don't really like how the sleeves shuffle. Instead of sliding smoothly across each other, they sort of grind into each other. They also rip fairly easily, leaving a question mark about durability. All in all, the Ultra Pro Deck Protector Art Sleeves have some appeal, mostly because there are so many art options. They are relatively durable for their price, but they are not premium sleeves by any measure. 

Price: $3.99. 

Per Pack: 50.

Feel: 3/10. 

Durability: 6/10. 

Rip Test: 3/10.

Overall: 4/10.

Purchase Ultra Pro Art Sleeves from Amazon.com

Ultra Pro Deck Protector Standard Solid Color

Offering 16 different colors and priced at $2.99 for a package of 50 or $4.99 for a package of 100, the Ultra Pro Standard Solid-Color sleeves are among the least expensive sleeves on the market. Unlike the Art Sleeves, which have a glossy, untextured back, the Standard Solid-Color sleeves have a bit of texture, which makes shuffling easier. The downside is they have a loose baggy feeling that is often present in inexpensive sleeves. Air tends to get trapped when you sleeve cards. They also score lower in durability than art sleeves, possibly because of the looseness, which makes it easier to damage the corners while shuffling. After 30 minutes of shuffling, about half of the sleeves had noticeable bending. They do work well for double sleeving, and the looseness is less of an issue when there's an inner sleeve taking up some of the extra space. Overall, a solid budget option.

Price: $2.99 (for 50), $4.99 (for 100). 

Per Pack: 50 or 100.

Feel: 4/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 1/10.

Overall: 4/10. 

Purchase Ultra Pro Deck Protector Standard

Ultra Pro Deck Protector Pro-Matte

Ultra Pro Pro-Matte

Apart from a less clear, non-glare front and a slightly more transparent back (you can see parts of the card through the sleeve), it's really difficult to tell the difference between the Ultra Pro Standard Solid Color and the Ultra Pro Pro Mattes. They feel almost exactly the same when shuffling and seem to break down at a similar rate. As such, you are basically paying an extra penny per sleeve for the matte, non-glare finish. Apart from this, the Standard and Pro Mattes score similarly.

Price: $3.49 (for 50), $5.99 (for 100). 

Per Pack: 50 or 100.

Feel: 4/10. 

Durability: 5/10. 

Rip Test: 1/10.

Overall: 5/10. 

Purchase Ultra Pro Pro-Matte on Amazon.com

Summary

Sleeve Summary
Sleeve Price Per Pack Number in Pack Price to Sleeve Constructed Deck Price to Sleeve Commander Deck Feel Durability Rip Test Overall Grade Purchase Link
BCW Double Matte $2.40 50 $4.80 $4.80 5 6 2 4.5 Purchase
Dex Protection Hyper Mat $5.49 100 $5.49 $5.49 6 6 2 6.5 Purchase
Monster Protectors: Gloss $4.50 50 $9.00 $9.00 5 2 6 3.5 Purchase
Monster Protectors: Flat Matte $4.50 50 $9.00 $9.00 5 2 6 3.5 Purchase
Ultra Pro Pro Slayer $9.95 100 $9.95 $9.95 9 8 2 7.5 Purchase
Ultra Pro Deck Protector Art $3.99 50 $7.98 $7.98 3 6 3 4 Purchase
Ultra Pro Deck Protector Solid Color $2.99 (50), $4.99 (100) 50/100 $4.99 $4.99 4 5 1 4 Purchase
Ultra Pro Pro Matte $3.49 (50), $5.99 (100) 50/100 $5.99 $5.99 4 5 1 5 Purchase
Player's Choice Japanese Card Sleeves $5.00 60 $10.00 $10.00 10 8 6 8.5 Purchase
Channel Fireball $2.99 (cheaper in bulk) 50 $5.98 $5.98 5 5 2 5 Purchase
Max Protection Shuffle Tech $10.99 (in premium pack) 100 $10.99 $10.99 2 1 5 2 Purchase
Max Protection Art Sleeves $3.99 50 $7.98 $7.98 5 6 4 5.5 Purchase
Ultimate Guard Supreme $5.49 80 $5.49 $10.98 4 7 4 6 Purchase
Ultimate Guard Supreme Matte $5.49 80 $5.49 $10.98 4 7 4 6 Purchase
Legion Sleeves $5.00 50 $10.00 $10.00 3 6 4 5 Purchase
KMC Card Barrier Super Series $5.00–$7.00 80 $5–$7.00 $10.00–$14.00 7 5 3 5.5 Purchase
KMC Card Barrier Mat $5.00–$7.00 80 $5–$7.00  $10.00–$14.00 7 6 3 6.5 Purchase
KMC Hyper Matte $5.00–$7.00 80 $5–$7.00 $10.00–$14.00 7 5 3 5.5 Purchase
StarCityGames Art Sleeves $7.99 80 $7.99 $15.98 5 5 3 6.5 Purchase
StarCityGames Double Matte $7.49 80 $7.49 $14.98 5 4 6 5 Purchase
HCD Art Sleeves $4.50 50 $9.00 $9.00 7 8 7 7.5 Purchase
HCD Solid Color $5.49 100 $5.49 $5.49 4 0 2 2 Purchase
Dragon Shield Sleeves $10.99 100 $10.99 $10.99 9 10 10 8.5 Purchase
Dragon Shield Matte $10.99 100 $10.99 $10.99 9 10 10 8.5 Purchase

Awards

  • Best in Class: Dragon Shield (original and matte) and Player's Choice card sleeves. Assuming you get a box without any production issues, Dragon Shield takes the cake because they are amazingly durable. I was also very impressed with Player's Choice Japanese Card Sleeves. They are, in my opinion, the nicest sleeves to shuffle, and their durability is top tier. The only place where they rank far behind Dragon Shield is the rip test. While you pay a premium for either of these sleeves, they are worth the money. 
  • Best Art (non-licensed): StarCityGames Art Sleeves and Legion Art Sleeves. Here, we have another tie. StarCityGames gets bonus points for the art itself; their creature collection is just so cute and funny. Legion offers a ton of options. Chances are you'll find something that tickles your fancy. While I found the feel of the StarCityGames sleeves to be slightly better (which is odd, because they are both made by Legion), Legion sleeves are a bit cheaper. 
  • Best Art (licensed): Ultra Pro Art Sleeves. If you want sleeves featuring official Magic: the Gathering art, Ultra Pro is your one and only option. They also get bonus points for being inexpensive compared to other art sleeves. It will cost you $16 to sleeve a constructed deck with StarCityGames Art Sleeves, $10 to sleeve a constructed deck with Legion art sleeves, and only $8 to sleeve a constructed deck with Ultra Pro. While you won't find the cute designs offered by StarCityGames or the funny designs offered by Legion, if you are looking for Mario, Megaman, Cardfight Vanguard, or Relic Knights, Ultra Pro is the place to go.
  • Best Art Sleeve (but only for single sleeving): HCD Art Sleeves. HCD Art Sleeves are more durable and nicer to shuffle than any of the other options. The problem is their art designs are relatively limited, and personally, I like the designs from other companies better. If you like one of HCD's designs, they are clearly the way to go because the quality is unmatched among art sleeves. Just remember: these sleeves DO NOT work well for double sleeving.
  • For the Love of God, Please Don't Buy Me: Max Protection Shuffle Tech and HCD Solid Color. Shuffle Tech sleeves are the lowest rated sleeves of the bunch. They shuffle poorly and get destroyed easily. HCD Solid Color seems like a reasonable budget sleeve, but I can't recommend buying them because several came out of the package unusable. 
  • Best Budget Option: BCW Double Matte and Channel Fireball Sleeves. While neither of these sleeves are amazing, both are perfectly playable and their price is amazing. With BCW Double Matte, you get 100 sleeves for $4.80. Channel Fireball is even cheaper if you buy ten or more packages at once, as the price drops all the way down to $3.98 per 100. 
  • Overpriced: StarCityGames Double Matte. While I understand paying a premium for StarCityGames Art Sleeves, I have no idea why someone would pay more for StarCityGames Double Matte. There really isn't much difference between the various double-matte sleeves as far as quality or feel, so it makes sense to me to buy the least expensive option available. The value just isn't there. 
  • Best Value: Dex Protection Hyper Mat. Coming in just above the lowest priced options at $5.49 per 100, Dex Protection Hyper Mat offers a ton of value as far as feel and durability. While there are several sleeves that are better, most cost about twice as much as the Dex Protection Hyper Mats. 

Tiers

Conclusion

Aside from a few outliers, all sleeves are all pretty close in quality. If a certain brand of sleeves shuffle really well for you, or if you really like the art, I would not hesitate to grab them. Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 


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