The Importance of Sleeve Upkeep
You are playing at an event. You have just finished round four, and your table has been selected for a random deck check. You hand your deck over, certain that everything is fine. To your surprise, when you sit down for your round five match, the judge comes back with your deck and informs you that you have to completely re-sleeve your deck before you can start your game.
This situation is well known to many players and can be quite annoying. When you choose your sleeves for an event, you want to play sleeves that not only protects your cards but also are able to last throughout the entire event. However, the situation could have been much worse. You could have gotten a game loss for marked cards, or even worse, be disqualified. Assuming that you have a clear conscience, it is very unfortunate that this happens.
Sleeves come in many colors, sizes, and texture, and regardless of your choice of sleeves, you do not want to be in a situation where you unintentionally get a penalty for a marked card situation. You are therefore helping yourself a lot by choosing sleeves, which are less prone to tears, bends, discoloration, and so forth. However, it is, of course, an unreasonable expectation to demand that all sleeves be mint condition all the time. All sleeves are subject to wear and tear and often some sleeves would require replacement during a tournament. Not only can you see it as maintenance for your cards, but it also helps in building trust between you and your opponent during gameplay. It might surprise you, but there are people who actually play with broken sleeves without replacing them! Not only could you risk that your cards will get damaged during play, but it might also come across a bit shady, and you could risk a penalty for a marked card situation.
When you sit down for a game, and you notice that your opponent has sleeves with noticeable imperfections, I would not only keep an extra eye on my opponent, but I would also suggest them to replace their sleeves. In some cases, I might even call a judge if the sleeves are in particularly bad shape. As recent as the last tournament I played, I had to call a judge over, because the sleeves of my opponent were in so bad condition, that it not only made his deck difficult to shuffle but also easy to distinguish between different cards in his deck.
Why is this so important? Firstly, I find that there are in general not enough awareness on the matter. Too many people play with sleeves with noticeable imperfections and run the risk of not only having to completely re-sleeve their deck after a deck check but also getting a penalty in the process. Secondly, it sends a good signal for playing with sleeves that are in good order and calling it out if one of your sleeves needs replacement due to an imperfection. Lastly, while I like to believe the best in people, there are still players out there who would try to gain an advantage by marking their sleeves. So while playing against an opponent notice and you notice that one of your opponent’s sleeves has any noticeable imperfections, it a good idea to call it out as soon as possible, and get that sleeve replaced. This does not mean that just because you find one or more imperfections on your opponent’s sleeves, that they are trying to take advantage of it, it is meant as a safety for both you and your opponent that none of you receive any unfortunate penalties.
So for your next event, help yourself, and try to always look through your sleeves after every round and to some extent when you are shuffling during the game. You then have a better chance to catch sleeves that have any noticeable imperfections that could in the worst case, result in a penalty.
Steffen Eriksen, Team 8 bit planet.
The author recommends
I’m Steffen Eriksen and I’ve spent the last 13 years of my life being involved in Pokémon TCG, mostly as a competitive player, but also as a judge, organizer and league leader. I feel fortunate for being able to spend my time doing what I love to do. I get to play the game at an international level, travel to a lot of different places, seeing parts of the world I otherwise never would have seen.