A Review of Ultimate Guard Katana, Vigilant, Inked, and TitanShield Sleeves for Magic The Gathering


When it comes to card sleeves for Magic the Gathering, Pokemon and other standard size trading card games, determining which product you take can oftentimes be a hard choice to make. Many different companies make many different kinds of card sleeves. In this video I will offer a detailed analysis and review of four of these brands. Vigilant card sleeve designer sleeves Titanshield card sleeves, Inked Gaming Art sleeves and the brand new Ultimate Guard Katana sleeves. Oh, but with so many choices some are better than others, sometimes by a lot. Let’s take a look. Let us begin with Vigilant sleeves. If you are looking for sleeves with bright vibrant colors and designs, a fantastic shuffle feel and durability to last without splitting, then wow, are these sleeves not for you. The Designer Series sleeves which are available in a variety of colors but all the same pattern are uniformly dull and faded. The fronts have a frosted matte finish, reminiscent of perhaps Legion Double Mattes, but unlike the far, far superior Legion Double Matts, these scuff and crinkle at the lightest touch. While sleeving my decks for testing I found many would get dents and dings along the front from just the act, the very act, of my taking them out of the packaging and putting a card in them. The slightest – and I cannot emphasize how lightly I am running my fingertip along these sleeves here. The slightest touch and they are marked forever. This alone places us in fail territory here, but wait, there’s more. Pros. So far in all my testing none of these have self combusted in flames. Something I was very worried about in my testing. Beyond that, nope. Cons. Dull colors, edges catch when shuffling, split very easily, frosted fronts scratch and scuff. A disaster and not something I would even pick up for just a quick draft. As I did so in my testing and they literally split on the first shuffle. Grade, fail. Inked Gaming, makers of high-quality custom play mats, dice bags and a wide variety of other accessories has returned once again to the sleeve game. Elderly viewers of this channel will remember that years ago I reviewed Inked Gaming’s custom art sleeves. I’ll not recap that review here, but if you wish to watch it, I will link it in this video’s description. Well, since that time Inked Gaming has now offered popular artworks using a new formula and these new designs are actually made out of house. So first off this means custom sleeves aren’t available in this style. Which I find odd to begin with is that is kind of the premise of Inked products Even if you buy someone else’s design you are getting custom print work and it is work done in-house, in the USA and almost always with excellence. Contracting and out of house overseas factory for limited artwork options seems a little out of step with the rest of the company and out-of-step is right. Take for example these dog-e… doggy sleeves. Cute certainly and having a stream of sparkles is flashy but in looking closely at the patterns, it appears as though streaking, whether intentional or unintentional, varies from sleeve to sleeve meaning they’re not exactly uniform. And I’m not exactly sure that streak is supposed to be there But even if it is and even if my aging eyes are just failing me on the quality of the print work and yeah Hey these special masterpiece Lotus sleeves Which feature artwork from my friend Ishton who, full disclaimer, has designed work for Tolarian Community College before, I mean obviously I love his style and his work and that’s why it pains me to have these sleeves peel away due to the fact that they are made using the now very antiquated technique of multiple layers of artwork and they split very easily so if you do use these sleeves, make sure to use covers. I of course have reviewed the best brands of outer sleeves and I will link that video in the description. Double sleeving with these is also a hassle, as the sleeves appear to be too tight to easily take a card in an inner sleeve. The inner gets pushed off just about every time. Not sometimes but literally each and every card I try and double sleeve. And it’s only with extreme effort and professional jiggering that you can get an inner sleeved card inside. Shuffle feel is rather nice, actually. Except, there’s something that feels a little off. It isn’t the shuffle of the cards But as I try to tap them into a neat little pile, Oh, whoa they’re uneven! Now, I can only buy and test so many packages of these, and it is always possible I got some bad packs I will disclose that I purchased a total of six packages of sleeves from different sources. Three different artworks between them and of these six five had miscut sleeves. Pros. Beautiful artwork by talented artists, and 10% of all sales go back to those artists in the form of a commission. But beyond that not much. Cons. Miscut lengths are frequent, artwork easily peels off, they split very easily as well. Potential ink and coloring issues in printing and difficulty if not near impossibility for double sleeving. So is this another failing grade or a D-minus? That’s not the question you want your professor asking of your work either way. And the difference in that half grade point is not really dramatic, but I will go with D-minus, simply because unlike the Vigilant’s sleeves, I was able to make it through a draft without these splitting, but only just. Next up are the Titanshield sleeves. These card protection sleeves are some of the thickest sleeves on the market at 140 microns – at least according to the company. I don’t have the ability to measure in microns. Sorry, it’s amateur hour here. But I can confirm that they offer reinforced edges, clear fronts and are sold in a value pack of 150 sleeves. Titanshield sleeves appear to only come in black and clear, so if you’re looking for a variety of colors and options these aren’t for you. But the black ones are indeed fully opaque for tournament play. And if you happen to be looking for a sleeve that is highly, highly unlikely to split, these may be it. Despite being one of the thickest sleeves on the market, the Titanshield sleeves are actually rather loose when it comes to holding your standard sized cards, not detrimentally so of course, but noticeably. This does of course have the upside of making double sleeving and easy task, but single sleevers may feel there is not a tight enough seal at the top to keep dust and dirt and particles out. This looseness may be in part by design as the Titanshield strategy appears to be a more universal approach. Promoting their sleeves for board games and card games alike. One size doesn’t fit all though and while the sleeves are indeed thick, That universal appeal means that they’re also slightly wider and longer, which I feel is the cause of their added looseness. Shuffle feel is hindered by the fact that once again the edges on these catch. So even though the backs are a nice matte, that has a smooth surface, the edges are going to be catching on each other. I don’t even think I have to hold these up to the microphone in order for you to hear. Now, unlike the other sleeves these held up very well in playtesting and in a stretch test they were extremely durable. So even though the edges catch during shuffling, I never found that to be an issue leading to a split of sleeves and that these sleeves don’t really split. Ouch. Whoo, there we go. I got one. Pros. One of the thickest sleeves on the market, very durable, unlikely to split, clear front results in vibrant card colors and fully opaque for tournament play. Cons. Somewhat of a loose seal, sleeves catch on edges when shuffling, a very poor shuffle feel is what results from this, and the lack of colors. Grade. They do the job but aside from their thickness, have not much in terms of added benefits. I’ll give these a solid C for satisfactory and add a plus for the value of 150 sleeves for what most companies charge for a 100. They get the job done, but even with 150 sleeves per pack There’s better options. Next, we have the much anticipated Katana line from Ultimate Guard. “Protect your cards like a samurai would!” boasts Ultimate Guard in its marketing of these, but much to my disappointment they are just plastic sleeves and not an actual curved blade from the Kofun era of roughly 300 to 538 AD. That now fully disclosed, are there still positives? Yes, actually quite a lot. The katana sleeves are thick with a matte backing clear front. They are smooth and sleek and shuffle feel is absolutely fantastic. Reminiscent to me in many ways of the golden era of KMC Hyper Mattes. Katana sleeves come in a wide variety of colors and are also completely opaque, so get white sleeves or a lovely light turquoise, fear not for your preferred shade of color when using these in competitive play. Clear fronts allow for vibrant colors. These have an excellent seal on single or double sleeved Guards. Double sleeping is fairly easy, although as I sleeve-dub a few EDH decks I did have one or two moments where a perfect fit slid a little off. But on the whole, compared to say Dragon Shield Matts, double sleeving is a breeze. Shuffle feel is like butter. It is fantastic! This feels like there is no friction, No catching of edges. Listen. *The sound of two butterflies blowing kisses at each other* Is that picking up on camera? It’s the sound of two butterflies blowing kisses at each other. Beautiful shuffle feel Extremely tough. I did not have any split on me in all of my testing. And the stretch test confirms: These are unlikely to come apart at the seams. So, again, stretch test is not everything but I would also report that in my weeks I believe I play tested with these heavily for five six weeks. I have yet to have a single one split on me. Pros. Thick durable sleeves, amazing shuffle feel, multiple colors and those colors are all repeat all fully opaque for tournament play. Clear front results in vibrant card colors and as for cons, honestly I’m struggling here. The most I can come up with is that in sleeving up several hundred of these, I had maybe two instances where the card nudged out and I had to give it another go. Can I be a hard-ass and use that to justify an A-minus? No. Not even as a hard-ass could I conscionably give these anything less than a solid A. Fantastic and all-around excellent new option for those looking to use only the very best sleeves on the market. They may not be a curved Japanese sword from 300 AD, but they are the next best thing. I hope very much this video has been of some help to you. You can help me out over at Patreon.com by becoming a patron alum of the channel. Patreon is one of the most important ways that Tolarian Community College keeps going and growing strong, and I’d love so very much to hit our next funding goal. If you think this channel and these videos have merit and you can afford to do so, consider becoming a patron alum over at patreon, today. And this program was made possible thanks to a sponsorship from Card Kingdom as well as the patreon support of viewers such as you. So, thank you.