Hello, everyone, as you know, we at CG are HUGE on bling and protecting your collection. Personally, I see “bling” as not just the cards you use, but what you use it with. MTG is a huge mental game and striking at your opponents with a certain swagger and confidence before the game even starts can be surprisingly helpful in playing with their heads, especially in commander where you can fake it to make it. As such, I have personally been collecting a wide range of deck boxes from Ultra Pro Satin Towers, to GEM Special Edition boxes limited to less than 700 units. Despite all this, I do acknowledge this isn’t for everyone, and thought it would be helpful to do a full comprehensive review of deck boxes and brands to help people weigh the pros and cons of the accessories available to them so they can play in style. These are in no particular order and I will discuss what I daily drive when we get to them.
Starting with Ultra Pro’s PRO 100+ line of deck boxes, while the prices for these are extremely agreeable with them being as low as $3.40 depending on the art, you do get what you pay for. While having access to officially licensed MTG art and art from other games and media, at their core, these boxes are the definition of budget with the print rubbing off extremely easily and offering little protection for the deck at hand, often even scratching your sleeves with extended use.
I would personally never recommend these boxes for any deck above a budget pauper list while Ultra Pro has their other offerings of significantly better quality.
In stark contrast to the Pro 100+, the Ultra Pro Satin Tower and Satin Cube are of significantly better quality while still being a budget friendly option for those with tighter wallets. Thick plastic walls with what holds up as a very comfortable satin finish allows for adequate protection for Commander decks while still being nice to hold and handle on even a daily basis. Stickers, vinyl, and even adhesive magnets stick extremely well to the satin surface so this is also a nice box if you want to customize your box with some DIY aesthetics. Interior bottom dice tray on the Satin Tower, while not being the biggest, can still hold a nice amount of 16mm or 14mm dice and/or things like an Apple Air Tag to ensure you can find the box if you are as forgetful as I am. For those who care about mass deck storage, the Satin Cube is one of the more compact offerings on this review that you cannot go wrong with for long-term holds.
Personally, these are my recommendations to newer players who don’t care about blinging out their decks, or just want to sticker bomb the living hell out of a box.
As Ultra Pro’s most premium offering, the Alcove does hit a nice sweet spot between design and accessibility. At anywhere from $16 USD for some of the more plain options to $30+ USD for some of the larger options with different textures, these boxes provide a nice and accessible way for someone to really show off the love for their decks. The only real notable downside I’ve ever had with these boxes is an inconsistency in the quality of stitching and glue, even the magnets hold well for a box at this price point. While the Alcove is still one of the cheaper options out of the premium decks in this review, what it lacks in unique features or durability, it makes up for with their accessibility and officially licensed art used in a way that is difficult to wear out if it isn’t outright daily use.
Honestly, I cannot say that the Ultra Pro Alcove has any real downsides for anyone looking to purchase one for semi-regular commander use. As long as you take decent care of the box, it will last you a long time. I would personally recommend these to anyone looking for a good box for their double-sleeved decks and are just trying to show off without being too flashy.
While online, the Ultimate Guard Boulders can range in cost from $13 USD to about $21 USD, there is good reason for this variance. These boxes are absolute tanks, plain and simple. Different colors will attract more attention, so I recommend picking these up from your LGS, as I have been able to find some at stores for as low as $7 USD. Now, to get into the actual box, it is a simple cube-style box to hold a 100-card double sleeved deck and exactly nothing else, don’t even think about using sealable or thick inner sleeves. The main appeal to this box is in its durability and difficulty to accidentally force open. To put this in perspective, when I was at my heaviest (265 lbs) I jumped on one of these to prove a point. Although I slipped off the box and it went flying, denting my friend’s drywall, the box sustained little more than a crack while I sustained a broken ring finger from the fall. A direct competitor to the Ultra Pro Satin Cube, the satin texture for this box is known for peeling after some use, compromising the feel and aesthetics of the box. Despite this, the sheer durability and compactness of the box wins my favor for more premium decks that want as much protection as possible, while still being compatible with a wide range of mass deck storage solutions.
At $13 USD or greater, I still recommend these boxes as these would sooner cause a fatality before the deck inside is actually compromised. At anything $10 USD or under, there is no reason to NOT get this deck box, it is the standard that I compare other boxes to.
Ultimate Guard’s more premium options have options for their “XenoSkin” and “ChromiaSkin” exterior material, the UG Sidewinder is no exception. The main appeal to these boxes are the side-loaded nature of the box, while having a nice and durable exterior texture. While not a personal fan of the smoother “ChromiaSkin” variants, the color change is a nice appeal that will almost never truly be shown off, ultimately making it a party trick. Despite its more premium price and microfiber interior, the box is still extremely basic with little additional features to really make it stand out from the crowd when Ultra Pro and GameGenic have similar, more enticing offerings, with very similar quality control.
Brutal honesty here, I would only ever recommend the Sidewinder to those who are already using other Ultimate Guard products for their mass deck storage, and even then there are some compatibility issues. Otherwise, if you like the gimmick of the texture or color changing skin, then have at it. I don’t see myself using these in the future again now that I have a much more varied collection of boxes.
Despite how popular they are, I have not used an Ultimate Guard Flip’n’Tray style box, so I feel it would be unfair and dishonest of me to even attempt to review a product I have had little exposure to, although GameGenic has very similar offerings, in the GameGenic Watchtower, that I also have not used too much. I would look to other reviewers to gather opinions on these products
While the Dragon Shield Nest 100 looks to be “just another cube-style box”, it does provide some nice quality of life features that may actually justify its price in the US. The microfiber material is extremely soft and doesn’t scuff easily, while the “Dragon Skin” exterior provides a nice grippy surface to hold and open the box. The textured exterior becomes more prominent when you realize how strong the magnets for these boxes are, along with the fact that the box needs to be opened in a specific way unless you want to struggle. The big downside of these boxes, the main reason why I do not use them anymore, is the sleeve compatibility. Despite being made by what is arguably one of the kings of TCG sleeves, Dragon Shield’s Nest 100 cannot hold a deck that is double-sleeved with Dragon Shield’s own line of sealable inner sleeves with their standard sleeves. While compatibility with a different brand is one thing, the lack of compatibility with one’s own ecosystem of TCG accessories is a big thumbs down from me. Otherwise the box is on the better half of mediocre, although not quite enough to justify the price point.
I would only really recommend these boxes over an Ultimate Guard Boulder or a Satin Cube if you can secure them for $18 USD or less, otherwise you are better off with the other mentioned options.
How else do I put it? GameGenic’s Sideloaded option in the Sidekick 100+ is better in almost every way compared to the Ultimate Guard Sidewinder. Removable magnetic top flap allows for easier access to cards, exterior texture is similarly grippy, with a similarly nice microfiber interior, at about $5 USD less. Another edge this box has over the Ultimate Guard Sidewinder is better compatibility with thick inner sleeves, like KMC Perfect Hards or Dragon Shield Sealable Inners. The only real downside I can say is the exterior surface is a pain to clean if you get grease on it or some sauce, but that is a minor issue shared with every single box that has a non-plastic exterior on this list.
For those who want a nice quality side-loaded deck box, the GameGenic Sidekick is one of the best options in terms of both price and accessibility.
Where do I start? This box is used to assert dominance. The box is a large chunk of machined aluminum and its heft can be felt when you slam it on the table. The satin finish on the box holds well for a long time (3 years, minor scuffs) and this monster of a box can easily hold over 100 double-sleeved cards in sealable inners. The strong magnets on each end make the box a bit unwieldly to open, but once you adjust to it, it becomes quite easy to take a lid off. The bottom bay is less of a dice tray and more like just dice storage because of how there is no tray at comes off, just another lid similar to the lid on the top of the box. This box is a blunt weapon, and the tankiness of the aluminum means nothing will happen to your cards. The two major appeals of this box to me are quite simple: 1) Compatibility with thick inner sleeves and even triple-sleeved decks with high durability to protect your most precious cardboard and 2) Air holes in the bottom bay of the box promotes use of desiccant packs to keep the box dehydrated, preventing foil curl.
At $40 USD at MSRP, and $65 on Amazon (do not buy these from Amazon), this is the premium option for premium protection. Humidity control options alongside a tank-like exterior to surpass the Ultimate Guard Boulder means that, while you wont buy a lot of these, they will ensure the protection of your most valuable decks.
My very first deck box, I still hold this in relatively high regard. At $35 USD it is a competitively priced dual deck box that can hold thick inner sleeves well in each compartment, and is even compatible with Top Loaders, as they can be tucked between the deck compartment and the token compartment. The vinyl dragon skin exterior is nice and grippy, and due to the way the decks flip out of the box itself, it is very difficult to accidentally open the box. The pull-out token compartment is nice as well to help keep them separated from the decks themselves. Despite these upsides, the interior of the box is a lint magnet and the exterior can be a bit sensitive at high heat, due to being made of vinyl instead of a more durable plastic.
While I would normally recommend this box, it is better for people who have only 2 decks they truly carry around all the time, as this box is fairly bulky. I’m not saying “only have 2 decks” but rather, if you are like me, where I always have Breya and Nymris, and then other decks come along depending on the mood, then this is a good option.
Before I can continue on with the designer brands of deck boxes that I love and collect, I feel like I should place a responsible disclaimer here:
While I have been able to secure almost every box I wanted from GEM and ManaMoon (Angewomon, Ladydevimon, and Ariza), accessibility for these products is extremely limited.
They function off of a Group Buy model, where you pay to reserve a copy for yourself before they go into production. Once final volume and purchases have been made, they then go into production, meaning time between purchase and receiving the product can take forever. All that, and these Group Buys may still only have limited availability (Sell out within 1-2 hours), and once they end, that is it, those designs will most likely never get re-released. As such, the secondary market for these designer boxes is extremely toxic and filled with scalping on both eBay and various collector Discord channels.
Would I recommend these? Hell yes, both of these brands are great. These are my daily drivers, but I cannot condone the practice of Group Buys for people who aren’t into the hardcore collecting hobby.
If you want your box now, I would shy away from ManaMoon and GEM, but if you are willing to wait months for beautiful art that you can play with and show off, then you’re gonna have to fight me for a box, as I’m already too far gone into this rabbit hole, just like Custom Keyboards.
Continuing with designer deck boxes, we have the GEM Dektech. The main appeal to these boxes are their unique designs by various artists. With a flip open top both the interior and exterior combine to flaunt gorgeous designs with the vinyl interiors. You bring these to the table to be a talking point. Holding 160 double sleeved cards in thick inner sleeves, this can carry much more than just your commander deck, along with a flip out dice tray that can safely hold up to 18mm dice, although I wouldn’t recommend anything bigger than 16mm so you can actually have a decent amount in it. Newer boxes from the DekTech line also come with a single on-theme plastic card divider, good for splitting sideboards. Despite my love for these boxes, they are not without their faults. Quality control on older boxes were something to be desired, although this is improving with GEM’s newer releases. Due to the internal art and vinyl interior, they scuff extremely easily and caution is to be had when stacking deck boxes in bags, as the pressure can cause the box to scuff itself when sealed. I feel this has been handled better by Manamoon with their microfiber suede interiors. Other than that, their bulk leaves much to be desired as you’d need a duffel bag or a board game bag to bring around more than just 2 or 3 decks in these.
GEM KLRZ, the little brother of GEM DekTech, follow a very similar design and improves upon them. Better quality control, more compact design that can still hold a thick double-sleeved 100 cards, and a microfiber suede interior that doesn’t scuff. Despite that, these are still some wide cube-style boxes with a dice tray, so they are still a bit bulky. As someone who has the KLRZ Legendary boxes, the interior art still shows up brilliantly printed on the suede to create some real talking pieces that wont damage with time.
Compared to GEM, ManaMoon offers a wider range of box styles that are more compact than GEM Dektech, and are more like a skinnier, longer GEM KLRZ. This thinner profile means more can be carried around in the same space, which is a really nice upside. On top of that, different designs come with different materials, although microfiber suede is the consistent interior amongst them, which is great for preserving art and protecting cards. PU Vegan Leather and Full Grain leather both feel great to hold and don’t seem to scuff easily. While I have yet to have experience with the vertical boxes, as they haven’t arrived yet, the horizonal boxes have detachable dice trays that are held on with very strong magnets that give me no room to doubt their ability to hold together, and the inclusion of on-theme leather card dividers is very appreciated for keeping sideboards and/or commanders split from the decks.
Despite these upsides, the boxes are VERY tight on space. While they hold 100+ single sleeved cards fine and can hold 100 double-sleeved cards in normal perfect fits very snugly, they can’t comfortably hold decks double-sleeved in thicker inner sleeves, as it feels like you have to force the last few cards in, which can be extremely uncomfortable. This is a case where just a few millimeters of space makes all the difference, and sadly makes me not want to use these for my favorite decks, where the designs match perfectly with the themes I run. Instead I use these boxes for my single sleeved projects where I’m still experimenting and making changes regularly.
If it weren’t for the size constraint, these would be my favorite boxes hands down.
Maybe the above options don’t meet your fancy, and you want something truly unique and truly yours. There are plenty of ways to create your own deck boxes that you can fully customize, from 3D printing and woodworking, to machining your own 3D models. For all of these options you’ll probably see many sellers on Etsy or eBay who will sell their services to make these boxes for you. As someone who has 3D printed my own boxes and purchased wooden boxes online, the process takes a lot of time, and can be expensive if you commission one from outside, so I will leave some words of warning.
One: Avoid Gear-Based 3D models for printing and woodworking. While these seem cool in theory, often as the gear mechanism closes and lowers your box, the top flaps will catch the corners of your sleeves, damaging your cards. The tolerances to these boxes are really tight, and you’re better off spending the money from buying the filament in just buying an Ultimate Guard Boulder.
Two: Ensure tolerances are tightly followed. Too tight and a box will get stuck closed and you risk breaking the box and/or your deck. Too loose and you can expect your cards to spill all over the bottom of your bag.
Three: Ensure your box closes properly and stays closed. This is somewhat of an echo of the above point, but magnets and/or latches are your best friend. Neodymium magnets and hook style latches are super cheap on Amazon and can ensure your boxes stay properly sealed. You will see Etsy sellers use these or extremely tight tolerances on a groove and tongue to help keep the box sealed.
Four: Do a lot of research and ask questions. Check Etsy reviews, look at different designs, and ask questions to others who are familiar with your method of creation. Making your own deck box is expensive, best not to waste money making mistakes.
As it stands, I would say GEM KLRZ and GEM DekTech are tied with ManaMoon horizontal boxes for my preferred boxes for decks in my collection, as I am a showoff and I enjoy flaunting these when I play. I always store my extra commander precons in Ultimate Guard Boulders as they are just the gold standard for cube-style boxes and best-in-class for long-term mass storage.
All-in-all, despite my own preferences, I still believe that all the above boxes have their use-cases and different individuals that they will appeal to. Some people just want to save a buck and have something that will protect their decks now, and for as cheap as possible; others, like me, don’t mind waiting months to collect on a box with a unique design; then there are others who only care about the ultimate protection for their most valuable decks.
When it comes down to it, this article is simply my opinions and recommendations based off of my experiences. Take the time to figure out what you want as a player and how much you are willing to spend on it. Don’t take this as the penultimate opinion, and look up other reviews and do your own research and ask around your LGS to see what other people daily drive.
Jesus Garcia is the co-founder of Conviction Gaming and co-host of the Brewin’ With Conviction podcast. He has been playing MTG since 2016 and is an avid EDH player with a crippling addiction to pretty things.
You can find more of Jesus’s content by following on Twitter @Hispanic!attheD5.