All you need to know about playmats

I’ve Come to Game: An Introduction to Card Gaming Accessories. An overview of materials needed to protect your cards best.

Part 3: Playmats

Today we’re going to talk about one of the most creative and unique accessories in the trading card game world: playmats.

Unlike sleeves and deck boxes, which offer a limited amount of customizability, playmats truly know no bounds. I’ve seen players purchase all-white playmats to write notes on to themselves to remember during games: notes like, “Play Slower!” or “Pay Attention!” Others spend hundreds of dollars on championship mats, while others still battle it out for the chance to win a unique design. The more artistic amongst us express their artistic spirit by creating their own scenes, or show team pride with a custom mat with their store or team logo.

Before we go further into the different kinds of playmats available, let’s talk about their purpose.

I’d argue that playmats serve three main functions. First and foremost, playmats are pragmatic. Cards are played on all kinds of surfaces, from asphalt to the back seats of cars, to trunk hoods and train tables, to school desks and card shop white tables. Playmats provide a safe surface upon which to slide your cards without having to worry about the condition of your make-shift gaming field. Playmats have rubber bottoms to stop sliding and satin tops, designed with sleeves in mind for easy movement. In this way, playmats provide a final layer of protection to your cards.

The second function of a playmat is to show your status in the gaming community. When I played card games competitively, playmats were only awarded to first and second place of regional tournaments, often with over 500 or 1000 players. If you busted out one of those mats at your local shop, your opponent knew you were a serious opponent, and they were likely in deep doo-doo. Winning championship playmats is part of the fun of card gaming. It shows that you are competitive, that you know what you’re doing, and that you’ve proven it on a grand stage. Of course, some players purchase playmats they didn’t win; just because your opponent has a rare mat doesn’t mean they won it. But you feel that quickening in your pulse? That’s because he or she might have won it. You’re going to have a tough game ahead!

Let’s take a look at the two major styles and what they offer.

  1. Plastic Deck Boxes

Most players start with a thin plastic deck box. I like to think of these as the old stand-bys; decent at the job, but not particularly great. I have plastic deck boxes from fifteen years ago, but they’re almost all cracked, whitening, and scratched. Very few make it more than a few months at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Most don’t open anymore due to use of the velcro lid. Even so, these deck boxes get the job done. Prices range from $1.99 – $9.99, and you really get what you pay for. Most plastic deck boxes can hold up to 80 sleeved standard-sized cards. Beware: if the lid is velcro based, don’t shake the box too much as the lid is prone to open and spill your cards out.

The Dragon Shield Deck Shells have taken the plastic deck box concept and innovated it. Deck shells easily fit up to 100 sleeved cards or 75 double sleeved cards, come with a divider for organizational purposes, a generous field on top to write on, and a unique hinged lid to keep your cards from falling out. You can easily shake these things and your cards won’t come crashing out; I tried it.

The Deck Shells come in green, red, blue, black, and white, are new to the market in 2017, and carry on the quality Dragon Shield sleeves are known for. You can’t go wrong with a deck shell.

Thirdly, playmats serve as important mementos from your card gaming trials and tribulations. The rarest playmats have the dates and event name emblazoned on them, serving as a permanent reminder of when and how you won it. My favorite playmats are the ones that remind me of a great road trip, an epic game, or a memorable city.

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The 2009 Yu-Gi-Oh! national championship mat, for example, is one of my favorites. It was the last major Yu-Gi-Oh! event I participated in, and every time I see it, it reminds me of playing against my teammates in the later matches. While it’s never fun to play against a friend, I treasure the memories it conjures almost eight years later.

Until next time, thanks for reading and go out there and find your favorite mat!

-Ian Spiegel-Blum

Ian Spiegel Blum

Ian Spiegel-Blum

Ian Spiegel-Blum has worked in the game industry for ten years, first as the manager of a local game and comic shop, then as an independent online retailer, Director of Operations for The Spoils Trading Card Game, and most recently a consultant to start-up game companies. He has seen the game industry from the inside and out and is excited to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of card slingers.

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