If you are into MTG, Pokemon, or Yu-Gi-Oh, you are probably somewhat interested in card sleeves. Whether you’ve been sleeving cards for years or you’re picking up your first pack, you may have realized just how many options are available. This is because sleeves, figuratively and literally, are not one size fits all products. So, which sleeves are right for you will depend on what you want out of them. However, regardless of which game you play or what your needs are, some sleeves are strictly better than others. So, let’s look at the best card sleeves for MTG and Pokemon.
Ultra Pro Eclipse and Ultimate Guard Katana standard sleeves both have exceptional quality. Both products excel in all of the areas players need them to. Including, being thick and durable and having a great seal with both single and double sleeving. As well as, being very easy to double-sleeve with, without issue. Both have matte backs that give an amazingly clean shuffle feel and full opacity for all colors. Neither product really has any downside and is top-of-the-line for MTG and Pokemon players.
While the products listed above are my top picks overall, there is far more to consider about card protectors. Let’s take a look at why you need them at all, and if double sleeving is necessary or overkill.
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What Makes A Sleeve Good?
There are several basic things that players should look for in the products they buy. First, is that they are durable enough that they will last and be worth your money. Some low-quality options will split apart after just a few games. This low quality makes them essentially unusable.
Second, is that they adequately protect your cards. Sleeves should be somewhat thick and strong. You want your sleeves to have a great seal at the top so that it keeps out dirt and grime effectively. However, some are so thick/ tight up top they can’t be used for double sleeving without issue. Great sleeves walk the line of protection and ease of use, perfectly.
Lastly, they need to have a good back. The back should be smooth enough to allow you to shuffle your cards with no friction or catching of corners. While ideally being completely opaque so that you can’t see the backs of your cards through the sleeve.
Opacity won’t be an issue for all players. However, for those who play in tournaments, it’s nice to pick up a pack of sleeves and rest assured that they are fully opaque regardless of color.
Best Card Sleeves
These are by no means the only sleeves on the market that are worth buying. There are lots of good sleeves. That said, this is a list of the best card sleeves. So, these sleeves do everything right and have no downsides to buying them. Without further ado, let’s look at the sleeves.
Ultra Pro Eclipse
In my experience, Ultra Pro Eclipse sleeves are the best overall brands. They check every box mentioned above. They are thick and strong, so they are very long-lasting. The snug seal protects even single-sleeved cards. However, they aren’t so tight that they are inconvenient to use with inner sleeves if you double up.
The shuffle is incredibly smooth and there is no friction or catching of corners with the eclipse. The inside of the back (the part your card back physically touches) is solid black. Thanks to this, all of the colors they offer are fully opaque. So, players can buy lighter yellow and turquoise sleeves with complete confidence.
The faces of the eclipse sleeves are dark enough that they reduce glare and make the cards easy to read. Although, they don’t have a stained or smoky look that diminishes card clarity or the quality of foils. Overall, I can’t think of any downsides to these sleeves. If you play mtg or pokemon, these sleeves will certainly cover all your bases.
Ultimate Guard Katana
The same things that make the eclipse sleeves stellar are what make these great as well. I don’t want to boast the same pros and lack of cons ad nauseam, but I will give a rundown. Katana sleeves by Ultimate Guard are thick sleeves, that you can count on to be durable. They have an amazing seal at the top that you can trust to protect your cards. While they are tight sleeves they still work well for double-sleeving cards without aggravation.
Just like the eclipses, the katanas come in a wide variety of colors that are all fully opaque. The fronts don’t reduce glare as much as the ultra pro sleeves do, but they give some great clarity to your cards. I don’t know that they have an edge on the eclipse sleeves, but they are certainly just as good. Both products do everything right in my opinion.
Dragon Shield Matte sleeves have the same quality as the sleeves mentioned above. Save for the fact that they are notoriously hard to double-sleeve with. They are tight enough that inner sleeves regularly slide off when pushed into the dragon shields. This doesn’t affect the quality of the protection once you are all sleeved up. However, anyone who has re-sleeved a card multiple times to get it done knows how annoying this can be. If you are single sleeving, you can get away with these with no problem.
If you are double sleeving though, I would go with one of the sleeves mentioned above just to save some time and energy. My only other qualm with them is that a lot of their lighter sleeves are somewhat transparent. Making them unsuitable for tournament play, without using special inner sleeves to make them opaque.
I can make a case for picking up dragon shield art matte sleeves though. If you are looking for sleeves with art on the back, you can’t do better than them. They have the same quality as regular dragon shields do overall. The art doesn’t peel or chip at all. This is because the art is printed in the same way as the pigment of the plain color sleeves. They are the only company to have true matte art backs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Card Sleeves For?
Let’s assume you are a new player and are not 100% sure what sleeves even are. Simply put,they are plastic pouches or sleeves, that your cards are put inside of. They are primarily for protecting your cards and keeping them from being damaged. They have clear fronts so that you can see your cards while you play.
Most of them have opaque backs. This is so there is no way to tell what card you will draw next while playing. This can be an issue if you play with double-faced cards. Or, if your cards have any type of imperfection that makes them identifiable. Like a small scratch in one corner, for example. Fully opaque sleeves allow worn cards to be used without the cards being considered “marked.”
For these reasons players playing in tournaments are required to have fully opaque sleeves.
Why Do You Use Card Sleeves?
There are several advantages to using sleeves. Above all, they are for protecting your cards from dirt, dust, and general wear. Once a card is inside a sleeve, the amount of contact it has with outside elements is greatly reduced. Secondly, they make it substantially easier to shuffle your cards without risking bending or rolling the corners. This is because the sleeves make the cards smoother and thus, reduce friction.
As a result, your cards can be shuffled by pressing half of the deck into the other half. Allowing you to essentially do a “riffle” style shuffle, that is effective and timely. As opposed to dealing your cards out into piles, which can be time-consuming.
Or simply mixing the cards around and not having your deck truly randomized. The ease of shuffling that comes with sleeves can save a lot of time over the course of a game. This is especially true when players must shuffle their cards multiple times per game.
What Are Card Sleeves Made Of?
Sleeves are usually made from acid-free, non-PVC polypropylene plastic. Polypropylene plastic is used for several reasons. Some of the most significant properties of polypropylene are:
- It’s readily available and inexpensive.
- It’s very resistant to absorbing moisture. For example, the natural oil from your hands.
- Polypropylene retains its shape after a lot of bending, and/or flexing.
- It also has a toughness that allows it to stretch without breaking.
What Size Are Card Sleeves?
After some inspection, you may have realized that sleeves come in a few different sizes. This is because not all trading/collectible cards are the same size. Which size you need will depend on which cards you are planning on sleeving up.
Standard sleeves are 2.5 by 3.5 inches (63 by 88 millimeters) in size. Most you see in stores will be this standard size. “Standard” in this sense refers to American-based trading card games. This also includes most sports cards. However, there are a few exceptions to this. Products for Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, and most other trading/collectible cards are all 2.5 by 3.5 inches.
Japanese card games usually have slightly smaller cards. This includes games like Yu-Gi-Oh and Cardfight Vanguard. However, Pokemon cards are standard-sized, because they were originally licensed to wizards of the coast. These smaller cards will need 2.25 by 3.5 inches (60.5 by 87.5 millimeters) sleeves.
Where Can I Buy Card Sleeves?
Many brands are widely available online from places like TCG player, Amazon, and eBay. This includes Ultra Pro Eclipse and Ultimate Guard Katana sleeves. Online shopping for sleeves is a great option if you want a specific color of sleeves. Or sleeves with a particular art on the back. There are even websites where players can have custom art sleeves made.
In addition to online shopping, many common brands can be found at your local retail stores. Ultra Pro and Dragon Shield sleeves are quite easy to find at Walmart and Target. However, most don’t carry less common brands or brands that come from Japan or Europe. Still, some stores do carry great selections of sleeves. Including regular outer sleeves, perfect fits, or inner sleeves and sleeves with art on them.
Another great place to buy is your local game store. I feel that brick-and-mortar LGSs fall somewhere between the two options mentioned above. They should have a more complete selection of brands and colors available than Walmart would.
Secondly, they have employees who are more likely to be knowledgeable about sleeve sizes and quality. This is a major help if you have some questions, you need to be answered before buying. Lastly, you don’t have to pay to ship or wait on sleeves to arrive.
What Are The Types Of Card Sleeves?
When you see products referred to as “gloss” and “matte”, they are generally referring to the face of the sleeve (the clear side) as opposed to the back. Gloss sleeves provide a clear, shiny display of the card. Matte is also clear but it’s less reflective. As a result, sleeves with glossy faces are more likely to have a glare. Especially if you take a picture of a card in the sleeve.
The backs of cards often have a glossy or matte back as well. Again, this only refers to the finish and thus, the reflectiveness of the plastic. Sleeves can have a textured back regardless of if they are glossy or matte. The term “double matte” refers to the front and the back of the sleeving being matte.
The downside of glossy sleeves is that they tend to stick together more while shuffling. The downside of matte sleeves is that they can reduce the vibrance of card art. Especially cards with darker-colored art and foils.
How Do You Clean Card Sleeves?
Have you ever noticed that your sleeved cards aren’t shuffling as well as they used to? This is due to a buildup of dust and skin cells on them as you handle them. There are a few methods floating around to remove some of this debris.
The first method is by far the safest method, as well as the most effective. So, it is my recommended method if you are going to clean your sleeves.
You will need a soft, clean piece of cotton fabric and a bottle of 70% rubbing alcohol. Go with 70% because lower percentages take longer to dry. While stronger percentages could damage your sleeves.
Apply the alcohol to your cloth and gently wipe the front and back of each sleeve. The alcohol dries quickly, so there is no risk of getting your cards wet. Additionally, it’s a pretty quick task since you don’t have to take the cards out.
This method only requires a spare toothbrush. You simply take the brush and clean the front and back. While this method is pretty safe, if you use a soft-bristle toothbrush, it’s less effective. The toothbrush seems to move dirt around more so than pick it up.
How Do You Double-Sleeve Cards?
Related: How To Double-Sleeve Cards
Double sleeving is a way to further protect your cards. It eliminates the opening at the top of the sleeve. This seals your cards completely from dirt, dust, and even liquid. Double sleeving isn’t hard, but the katana and eclipse sleeves make it a pleasure to double up.
To double sleeve, you will need a pack of regular sleeves and a pack of “perfect fit” or inner sleeves. These are smaller and fit inside regular sleeves. First, insert your card into the perfect-fit sleeve upside down, so the opening is at the bottom of the card. Afterward, turn the card right side up and insert it into the standard sleeve. The opening of the inner sleeve will now be at the bottom of the outer sleeve.
Most products these days have many options available to choose from, with some being bad; most being good and a few being great. Card sleeves are no exception to this. Ultra pro eclipse and ultimate guard katana sleeves easily fall into the great category. If you need sleeves for mtg or pokemon, they have you covered. So, the next time you find yourself looking for sleeves do your cards a favor and pick up one of these products. Then, get out there and play some games.