My Twitter followers got early whispers of this but it’s time for a card sleeve showdown!
Back in October I began growing tired of my usual card sleeves; Ultra Pro Mattes. They were cheap and did their job but they were not opaque as well as being prone to splitting. After doing some research into the trading card game world (TCG) I found this useful series by this amazing guy:
Tolarian Community College and The Professor is an amazing channel. I don’t play Magic the Gathering or Pokemon but all his videos are informative, helpful and honest. He’s just a joy to listen to with truly great production values and his honest reviews are something I try to always achieve.
Going off of his video, I narrowed down my choices to Ultra Pro Eclipse and Dragon Shield Mattes. The former was picked due to my good experience with Ultra Pro in the past whereas Dragon Shields have just been overwhelmingly recommended by nearly everyone I know. These sleeves also had the following factors which I deemed necessary as card sleeves for myself which are:
- They need to be matte
- They need to be durable
- They need to be value for money
With the criteria met it was time for some thorough testing! Firstly I bought packs of Ultra Pro Eclipse (100) green sleeves as well as Dragon Shield matte gold sleeves so I could use each for my power and objective decks respectively.
To fully test them I’d also be using them for a period of 2 months including a Grand Clash, store tournaments and multiple club gaming nights.So, what was the verdict? After the time period I came to the following conclusions.
Ultra Pro Eclipse (100)
- Smooth backing that was fully opaque
- Slim yet tough
- Very nice to shuffle
- After 2 or so weeks, lost their nice shuffle effect due to acclamation of dirt despite being kept clean as possible
- Some sleeves began to bend in the corners but not too severely
- The clear plastic is slightly frosted which I don’t mind but some people will dislike
- Limited colour choice
- Pick the 100 packs over the 80 packs
I really wanted to end up loving these but the problem was the loss of the nice shuffle effect. For the first 2 weeks they were amazing and then began to “stick” while also becoming more of a pain to shuffle. Nothing too big but just enough to be an annoyance.
There was also a slight bending effect on the corners but that was due to deck storage. Generally the cards kept safe, fully opaque backs and easy to store in card sleeve sheets for cataloguing/storing.
After the shuffling effect, the limited colour palette does become a bit of handicap when compared to other brands but this is a new range. Also don’t pick the 80 sleeve pack. The 100s are the new refined versions of the Eclipse sleeves which can cause confusion as the only 2 factors separating both packs at face value is how many sleeves they contain.
Dragon Shield Matte
- Thick and tough
- Consistent nice shuffle effect
- Very nice and useful packaging
- Clear plastic fronts
- Wide colour choice
- Very thick, looks almost like 2 cards in 1 when sleeved
- Tough sharp corners
- Only some colours are fully opaque
Dragon shields, boy did they live up to their reputation. While being just a tad bigger than the Ultra Pros these sleeves were tough, bright, consistently good shuffle effect and also fully opaque (at least with the gold colour).
While opacity isn’t a huge issue generally, I prefer playing with my cards so that I can’t see the backing at all to ensure that I’m always going to have a fair time with opponents. Brighter coloured dragon shield card sleeves are partially see-through so can be a deal breaker for those who want fully opaque backgrounds like the Ultra Pro Eclipse offer. However darker coloured Dragon Shield mattes are fully opaque.
The thickness of the sleeves is their greatest strength and downside. Your decks look huge and can be difficult to store due to the rigid tankiness of these sleeves. Your cards will be protected but the tough corners may scratch/damage softer surfaces like card portfolios and playing mats. Still that’s not a huge drawback for me, you just have to be careful.
The pros, however, are just so good. A HUGE selection of colours to pick from. Gold, green, slate, pink, black, purple, teal, silver, yellow, the list goes on. If you have a particular colour you’re after, Dragon Shield probably make a sleeve for it.
Not only that but the packaging is just amazing. You get 100 sleeves in a nice card box with an illustrated dragon as well as small box of narrative text. It also includes a space at the top to write your name and name of the deck so that it can function as a deck box as well! The packaging was just so good that I had to mention it compared to Ultra Pro’s cheap but functional packaging. Honestly Dragon shields are just such a high quality product overall.
So what’s the winner? Personally, I decided to go full hog with Dragon Shield. While both products cost the same, Dragon Shield won out on consistency, quality and vibrancy. Ultra Pro Eclipse were great for 2 weeks or so but then just lost their amazing shuffle effect. It’s still a high quality product but I sided with dragons in the end.
As a small warning, don’t use the Games Workshop deck boxes with Dragon Shield sleeves. These boxes are fine for normal sleeves like the Eclipses but Dragon Shield ones are slightly large and started to wear down slightly due to the tight fit in the deck box. I haven’t had this issue with other branded deck boxes bit it’s something to keep in mind.
If you’re after either of these products I recommend buying them from your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS). You can pick them up while down for some games! If you’re after stylish and tough card protection, both products can’t be beat. Not even by crits.