For card gamers, sleeves may secretly be one of the most expensive parts of consistent play, especially if you’re the type who takes pride in shuffling up a newly sleeved deck. There’s just something about that first tournament or first commander night with your new sleeves, you know? They’re super shiny, extremely slippery, and so, so smooth and nice.
We have a lot of players on Team Inked who love the feeling they get from playing with a newly sleeved deck. After using some of the best sleeves on the market, we’ve become passionate aficionados in our own regard. This passion has led us to be rather picky and selective about the specific sleeves that we feature on our site.
As always, we put our customers at the forefront of everything we do, which is why we want them to know exactly what they can expect when they buy from us. That’s why we decided to craft a series of in-depth reviews that highlight the different types and brands of sleeves we offer, one of which is Ultimate Guard’s Katana Sleeves.
So, without for ado, let’s get to the fun stuff!
Overall, I give Ultimate Guard’s Katana sleeves a solid 9/10. I would inch closer to 10/10 if they were matte backed and were easier to double-sleeve with top-down perfect fits.
How do I justify this rating? Well, let’s just say that I’ve had some significant first-hand experience, which we’ll get into in a little bit later. For now, let’s stick to my first impressions of the sleeves and what stood out to me.
- Good quality – the sleeves look and feel great. You could use them in multiple events.
- Easy shuffling – they feel like the original Dragon Shield sleeves (smooth back) but with no sizing inconsistencies and fewer issues with dirt and dust buildup on the backs of the sleeves.
- Slick handling – since they aren’t matte sleeves, if you have them double-sleeved, they have a propensity to slip and slide in the first few rounds of play.
- Difficult to double sleeve – double sleeving seems to be a challenge with top-down perfect fit sleeves. I would advise to either single sleeve with these or use sideloading perfect fit sleeves when double sleeving.
- Durability – some of the best durability I have seen in a sleeve since Dragon Shield: Matte sleeves. Highly recommended for long tournaments, for a cube, or for your commander decks.
There’s also the matter of players having to constantly stock up on sleeves. So, what’s the deal with that? Well, there are a variety of reasons for this, but here are a few of the most important reasons:
- The corners start to bend and wear out.
- The backs of the sleeves start to hold dust and dirt, many times due to the dirt from your hands and the playing surface that you use.
- Sleeves will begin to “split” at the seams where they have been plastic welded.
- Many times, if a sideboard is being used, your main deck cards see lots of wear, where your sideboard cards still feel new. This is cause for concern due to “marked cards” (being able to identify the card in your deck just by looking at the back of the sleeve for inconsistencies).
- For sleeves with images, the images will begin to pull away from the sleeve, causing many sleeves to be unusable after that.
MY FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE WITH KATANA SLEEVES
Keeping these strengths and weaknesses in mind, I set out to draw my own conclusion by using a fresh batch of Katana sleeves at my next event. It was an MCQ (Mythic Championship Qualifier) in Eugene, Oregon. The night before the event I went down and bought a batch of fresh Perfect Fit sleeves (Ultra Pro) mostly because I had a few foils in my deck and it’s always a great idea to double sleeve your deck in competitive REL events – especially when you have random foils throughout (to prevent a potential marked cards warning or disqualification).
I sleeved my 75-card black/green adventure deck up in the perfect fits, then proceeded to start inserting the perfect fitted cards into my Katana sleeves. First thing I noticed – It was VERY difficult to double sleeve with these Katana sleeves. They are very tight on your cards even without the inner perfect fit sleeve. With a perfect fit, it took me a couple tries to make sure that the inner sleeve didn’t get pushed out of the Katana sleeve causing a little plastic bubble at the top of the sleeves. Overall, it took me probably double the time to fully double sleeve my 75-card deck than normal. I would strongly suggest using sideloading perfect fit sleeves when using Katana sleeves as your outer sleeve.
I played five rounds the next day and the sleeves held up very well. No bends on the corners, still very smooth with little to no dirt buildup (partially because I used a clean playmat! I know a place you can buy the best playmats ever! 😉)
After the tournament, I unsleeved my deck and realized that I could probably use these in another competitive REL event. Not much, if any issues with wear and tear.
The next weekend, I single sleeved my zero-foil standard deck (UR Flash) in the same Katana sleeves and played 15 main event MagicFest bo3 rounds with the deck and the same sleeves. In previous large tournaments, I have occasionally had to change my sleeves overnight because they were unusable from a competitive player’s perspective after nine rounds on a Saturday. This time I did not have to do that. Not having to worry about re-sleeving my deck for a day two is a HUGE plus.
After 20 rounds of competitive, continuous REL play, I was fairly impressed with how these sleeves held up. I even made it a point to check the corners of each sleeve as well. After a thorough examination, I noticed ZERO splits and little to no corner wear, which is another HUGE check in the plus column. And this is what leads me to my 9/10 rating for the Ultimate Guards Katana Sleeves!
All in all, I highly recommend these sleeves!
Feel free to learn more about the other sleeve types and brands we carry in this Overview blog post!
See you on the battlefield,