Review of Sleeves
Here's a review on Ultra-Pro sleeves versus DragonShield and other brands. Many people have asked which are better, or which I prefer, so I decided to just write a full review. Remember, I am a pretty serious Magic: The Gathering player and I am also a store owner, so I am giving this review of the following items with about as open a mind that I can and being completely honest.
My impressions of the two companies:
First off, I have to say that I have totally unimpressed with the representatives of Ultra-Pro. My first encounter was a while back, when I was inquiring about a particular item that they carried. They were VERY difficult to get information out of for some reason. This was back before I had a store. I just wanted to get the information to pass it along to the local owner at the time so he could get it. My next major encounter was at GenCon 2001. Their representatives, one was male and one was female, were EXTREMELY rude. I walked up to them and requested about 20 of each type of sleeve. This is back when they were promo'ing the new line (which was originally supposed to be out by November). I was gonna use them as bag stuffers and give aways with our big tournaments. They refused. Then the lady thought she was going to be cute and mumble something in Spanish to the gentleman. Unannounced to her, I am from South Texas and know some Spanish. Needless to say I was not happy. I later came by and saw two kids played with decks fully sleeved in this new product. Again, I was not happy, especially when everyone else was giving out demo product. Then last week I see a thread on the list to an Ultra-Pro site geared for retailers, yet we all have trouble using it. Highly unimpressive.
So far, the representatives from Dragonshield have been good, but I haven't had major encounters with them. I have just had a few e-mail exchanges here and I have been pleased. Everyone also seems to echo this sentiment and sing their praises.
Ultra-Pro makes sleeves in Black, Red, Green (almost black), Blue, Clear, White, Brown (bronze), Sapphire Glow (shiny deep blue), Shiny Lime Green, Silver (that is too shiny), Gold and Maroon (called Something Ice?). They do seem to have production line problems. Some sleeves are cut too short. Some sleeves separate easy along the edges. Some of their sleeves break open on the bottom edge. Their boxes can hold a sleeved deck, but not the sideboard. These are ordered on a store level at 10 packs per box. The new styles are sold ins set of 15 and come 50 sleeves to a pack.
Dragonshield comes in Blue, Green, Gold, Silver, Black, White, and Clear. Dragonshield brand sleeves are a little longer on the top. They tend to have a softer feel also. Their boxes hold both a deck and sideboard (75 cards) sleeved. I rarely hear of miscuts on their products. These can be ordered individually by the box.
Stock levels on both products stay fairly high.
General performance tests:
This is what people really want to know about. The funny thing is that I have recently gone over this with various judges. The biggest complaint from judges are Ultra-Pro sleeves. Ultra-Pro sleeves first of all tend to be harder, which can be good or bad depending on your shuffling style. However, this "hardness" does result in two major problems. The first is that while you are sleeving a deck, you can accidentally put a dimple in the back of the sleeve. The general technique used it to use your thumb along with either your fore finger or middle finger to slide the top of the sleeve open. This sometimes results in a dent being put in the back of the sleeve. The next major problem it produces is easier marking. More often than not, when players have been called for marked sleeves, they have been Ultra-Pro sleeves. The softness of DragonShield prevents this from happening. I shuffle lots during a tournament day and I was using a Japanese brand at Grand Prix Houston. The judges in the last round of the first day told me that mine were "flawless." Those were the exact words of the judges. I even have witnesses. All this while I am still shuffling my deck and my opponent is being told to replace some sleeves.
Overall, I think the quality of Ultra-Pro sleeves has gone downhill. Over the years their production quality seems to have dropped. Recently, mostly in the last year, DragonShield has become a major player. Also, Japanese brand sleeves are slowly popping up everywhere. Unfortunately, I have to say that I would recommend even a Japanese brand of sleeve over Ultra-Pro. As an interesting side note though, Ultra-Pro sleeves last longer over all. They might get banged up and ugly, but they do seem to last a really long time.
Ultra-Pro is the only company making none sleeve products. They have binders (some even with sippers and straps), card carrying cases, pages, etc. The competition does not. However, the competition is making waves about getting some new products out this year. If this is the case, my store might stop carrying Ultra-Pro all together. Who knows?
I personally don't use Ultra-Pro products on any of my tournament decks. Those all get DragonShield or a Japanese brand sleeve put on them. I might use Ultra-Pro sleeves to store cards and for playtesting, but that's it. I have been recommending anything to customers other than Ultra-Pro as of late.
Honestly, if I could, I just might take up a sponsorship with DragonShield. :)
On a scale of 1 to 10, here are the final ratings:
Ultra-Pro Sleeves : 6.1
DragonShield Sleeves: 9.1
Japanese Brand Sleeves: 9.0
This seems to be the way that many judges and players of many different games feel about their products.
Anyway, until next time.
The Game Closet