I use Dragon Shield, KMC and Ultra-Pro.

The reviews and forums don't seem to have a consensus on the question, "Which brand is the best?"

But have there been any quality control tests that show statistically one brand is more reliable than the others?


I have not seen any independent quality assurance tests comparing the various sleeves, and I sincerely doubt there is a comprehensive one to be found. It's probably not economical for anyone involved, since QA comparisons like that can be quite expensive.

From anecdotal evidence at my local shop, which has ~80 player FNMs every week, most players seem to agree agree that:

  • KMC sleeves (matte or normal) are generally the most durable.
  • Dragon Shield will start split during shuffling.
  • Ultra-Pro Pro-Matte will become dirty fairly quickly.

These are the three most popular sleeve types at the shop.

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    I've had Ultra-Pros split on me like crazy. – Alex P Jun 26 '12 at 14:50
  • That's the problem with anecdotal evidence: I have a totally different experience. I agree Ultra-Pro get dirty quick, but never have I split a Dragon Shield. Their problem, for me, is the fact they start "arching". Durability wise I think they are the best. – rahzark Jun 26 '12 at 16:20
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    Strangely, I've never had any trouble with anecdotal evidence! – The Chaz 2.0 Jun 28 '12 at 15:51
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    Wow, talk about mixed experiences. I have never been able to split a dragon shield, but they get dirty and stuck VERY quickly, while ultra pro (-matte) never get dirty but split all the time. KMC in my experience get sticky. I end up using ultra pro because splitting is way less annoying than dirty/sticky cards. Could be I just have sweaty hands, but its interesting to me that everyone has such different experiences. – Trying Jun 23 '14 at 3:52
  • There is a YouTuber youtube.com/channel/UC7-hR5EfgpM6oHfiGDkxfMA who compares different brands by doing different tests with them, pretty good source IMO – LionC Jun 24 '14 at 17:10

I'll share my experience on sleeving matter.

  1. KMC : I use the black matte KMC. And, It's thick, so if you are a double-sleever guy (like me), don't choose it, since it would be super thick, and hard to shuffle. But, easiness in shuffling is subjective, so, if you wanna try, go for it. Anyway, it's unarguably durable and really smooth to shuffle though (0 break record so far).
  2. Ultra pro : The first "serious" sleeve I use (the rugged-back one). And it's frustratingly breaking apart a lot. BUT, I think they improving their sleeve quality later on, so, when I try it several years later (looking for cheap sleeve for my edh), it's surprisingly durable. So then, when I buy them later (the non-glare one) for my modern deck, it turns out really good and the most "fit" generally for double sleeving. I love it very much. (10-ish break record the old one, 0 out of +-200 for the new one)
  3. Dragon shield : I never use them (don't quite like the color selection). But, one of my friend (old player) use it, and I dislike it since it doesn't have a rugged back (harder to shuffle for me) -never try to find the rugged back one. But it seems a good amount of player satisfied with it, so, it may be decent too.

Conclusion :

While the sleeve quality is important, but your sleeve durability also greatly affected by your shuffling technique. So, if you shuffle correctly (i guess), then at least ultra-pro (I specifically recommend the non-glare one) is decent enough. not to mention it's somewhat cheaper than KMC.

I personally loves ultra pro, since I am able to double sleeve it without being too thick. There's a non-glare variant too, which is I use to double sleeve my modern deck. So far, my subjective rating for Ultra-Pro is 9/10, and KMC is 8/10 (mainly for being too thick to double sleeve.

Hope that helps.

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  • I was under the impression that any more than just single-sleeved was not allowed in most competitive play. – Persnicketous Dec 22 '14 at 9:55
  • @Urdungo hmm. No it's not. I always double sleeve during my modern format days. – Moses Aprico Dec 22 '14 at 11:18

I haven't seen any QC tests but I have been using both over the past year. I have every color of Dragon Shields (except Brown and Pink) and I have only had an issue with 1 set (some tearing on about 10 sleeves). I double sleeve my cards using Perfect Fits on the inside and I riffle shuffle. that puts a ton of stress on the sleeves

Ultra Pros are good, not as thick as Dragon Shields, but I haven't had an issue with them. However, I've seen many of an opponent tear an Ultra Pro midgame.

I always put it to my friends this way... In the lifetime of a box of sleeves you can buy one box of Dragon Shields or 3 boxes of something else.

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  • Is it still easy to see through the double sleeve? – Atav32 Jun 26 '12 at 14:44
  • @BBz At most, they are just a bit more reflective than single-sleeving. – Alex P Jun 26 '12 at 14:49

My family own and manage a game store, and we have been into MTG and many other card games since their inception. We like KMCs the best all around, though some prefer Dragon Shields' color selection and price.

I believe Ultra-Pro sleeves have been gradually declining in quality. I have seen too many packs with QC issues (incorrect cuts or gluing, etc). They are the smoothest to shuffle, but show wear the first time they're shuffled, especially non-Pro-Mattes. For a Commander deck I invariably choose Dragon Shields (100ct). For a 60-card deck, it's always KMCs (Only available in 80ct). Most of our customers (especially the more experienced) miss the old days of Ultra-Pro, and end up doing as we do.

BCWs are excellent sleeves when you can find them. Plainer and less color selection, but very affordable and durable. I like them better than Dragon Shields but not as good as KMCs. They're the best 'inexpensive' sleeves by miles.

This all depends on the pricing of your shop, of course.

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I use Ultra-Pro. I've never had a problem with them. Been using them for about 5 months now. Now I don't like playing without them. It feels weird when the edges aren't stabbing me in the hand every few seconds. :D

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    This answer doesn't contain any information about "quality control tests that show statistically one brand is more reliable than the others", which is what the question asked for. – Rainbolt Mar 19 '15 at 16:37

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