Argothian Treehouse
Andy Van Zandt



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Argothian Treehouse

with Andy Van Zandt

Nothing Up My Sleeves

I remember, at one of my first tournaments (not sanctioned, because there
wasn't a DCI at the time), I saw a player shuffling cards in the old loose
plastic sleeves that you store sports cards in.  I laughed at him, but not
because I didn't understand wanting to protect the value of his cards
(having gone through a baseball card phase of my own at one point),  more
because it looked goofy and I just didn't think there was enough of a
secondary market to justify it.  But nowadays,  everyone plays with sleeves,
all the time.  And I still don't really care for it.

Now, I do understand that there is a thriving secondary market (duh),  and
protecting your cards is important.  But I still don't like sleeving my
cards (when I can get away with it) for a couple of reasons.  First,  I just
prefer shuffling normal sized cards the normal way.  There's more
satisfaction in the quick buzz of a riffle shuffle than there is with
sleeves, especially since you're usually doing a side shuffle with them. 
Second, I don't like the stigma that players put on unsleeved cards.  Yes,
cards scuff, yes they can be marked easily,  but I guarantee if I wanted to
cheat,  I can adequately mark my sleeves, even over the course of a game 
(if you know me at all though,  you know I don't cheat, period).

Another thing that really irks me about sleeves is when people are forced to
re-sleeve simply for scuffed or worn sleeves.  I've seen it done, and I
argue it every time, because it's absurd.  If there's no pattern or
markings, and no intent to cheat, then it doesn't matter how beat up the
sleeves OR the cards themselves are.  You can play three games with sleeves
and they'll be "scuffed".  You'd think it was WotC themselves making the
sleeves, for the amount they force us to buy.  I think we should have the
option of simply de-sleeving, and then if we have what would be deemed as
"marked" cards, provided proxies by the tournament organizer.  And on the
subject of forced to buy,  the sleeve situation at PT Houston was
unacceptable.  Vendors were not allowed to sell sleeves, at all.  Only the
Ultra-Pro stand could peddle them.  Which means (if any of you are familiar
with Ultra-Pro sleeves) you could only buy bad sleeves.  They had some
japanese sleeves too, thank goodness.

Ultra-Pro, in the beginning, was a good company.  And the only one.  You
could, of course, buy the sleeves like the ones I mentioned at the beginning
of this article, but they were loose and not rigid enough, and not opaque. 
And while they put out a variety of card holders, most which went from
concept to creation without testing the functionality first,  their sleeves
were a mainstay.  And I could be wrong,  but I think this conceit over their
monopoly contributed to a degradation in the quality of their sleeves over
time.  This is especially evident in the new metallic ones, that not only
leave their color on your hands, but after about 20 games the metallic stuff
starts rubbing off completely, leaving small clear spots on the sleeves.

At this point, if I'm in a position where I'm forced to buy ultra-pro
sleeves, I feel like I'm tossing away 8 bucks for one-time use sleeves.  And
that's not acceptable, especially when not only are you occasionally forced
to re-sleeve your deck, but you also are forced to buy from the ultra-pro
stand.  It almost makes me want to buy stock in Arcane Tin Men, if I could. 
They put out Dragon Shields,  which I will swear by.  I played my tog deck
through 5 or 6 days worth of tournaments, plus playtesting sessions, on one
box of black Dragon Shields.  No splits, and while they may be worn, they're
still playable.

And despite my unfavorable disposition towards ultra-pro products at this
point, they did manage to do a couple of things right-  one of which is
their new 2 dollar plastic logo deckboxes.  They're durable, they don't
easily break at the seams, they are the correct price (while I do like the
Ray Field boxes, and to a lesser extent the new plastic ones with the magic
pictures on them,  they are by and large easier to break and way more
expensive than they should be.),  and they're simple,  which means ultra-pro
managed not to mess them up.  In basic colors with the ultra-pro logo on
them, I'm thinking of buying like, 10 of them before they realize they
actually did something right and discontinue them.  While I did like the old
cardboard and velcro boxes, and appreciate the extra art,  I'm a big fan of
getting a long lasting and functional product for a low cost.  If I could
just buy Dragon shields in those plastic ultra-pro boxes, I'd be one happy

So yeah, here's hoping either Ultra-Pro gets its act together and makes good
sleeves again, or Arcane tin men starts putting out similar rugged plastic
boxes full of their sleeves.  And here's hoping that people get a clue and
stop forcing people to resleeve when it's not necessary.  And please please
don't let ultra-pro monopolize the sleeve market at major events again. 
That's just not cool.  A last remark, one thing that is a bonus to me in
limited tournaments is I get to play without sleeves, since all the cards
are, of course, brand new and "unmarked".  If you have any questions or
comments about sleeves, card products, or my article(s), feel free to send
me an email.

You can reach Andy at:

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