Today I’m excited to talk about one of the coolest Magic perks I got to walk away with during my time at Wizards: exclusive Black Lotus sleeves. Here’s the story, as best as I know it…
What are Black Lotus sleeves?
It’s important to distinguish the Black Lotus sleeves I’m talking about with the ones that exist in the general marketplace. Official licensees have created Magic sleeves using Black Lotus art, but the specific sleeves exclusive to Wizards’ employees are a literal Black Lotus Magic card image printed on the back of the sleeve. They look like this:
The visual effect of using these sleeves is pretty neat: you appear to be playing a deck made entirely of Black Lotuses. For any fan of Magic, that’s bling on an ultimate level, and owing to their nature of being difficult to find they are a pretty unique way to style out your favorite stack of cardboard.
Where do Black Lotus sleeves come from?
I don’t know the full story behind where these sleeves originated. The legend was that someone had produced them illegally, they were confiscated, some executive thought they were neat, and they were provided to Magic R&D/Studio X members to use on decks. I don’t know how true that story is, though it’s certainly credible: many, many, many passionate Magic players/fans don’t understand how IP law works meaning it’s totally within the wheelhouse of someone to produce a sleeve using corporate-owned IP (like the Magic card face and Black Lotus art), and if you wind up confiscating perfectly usable sleeves, mise well save a few bucks on sleeves you’d have to pay for out of your office supply budget anyway by giving them to the team that uses them most frequently during day-to-day work.
In any case, during my time working in Magic R&D we were regularly sleeving our decks with these sleeves. In my day I must have sleeved dozens of decks with them, either throwing them away after an afternoon of play or using them as ‘spacers’ to separate cards in my collection by putting a “worthless” card in them and putting them in five-row boxes to split cards alphabetically, by set, color, or even rarity. As best as I can recall there are two varieties: the white bordered kind, which features a white card border on the front and back of the sleeve, and a metallic silver version which has a metallic border on the back of the sleeve. The metallic version was rarer in my experience. Here’s a side by side:
The Culture Shock of Re-entering the “Real World”
I spent 15 years, give or take, working for Wizards and my time making Magic cards was at the beginning of that career. When you work “in the bubble,” you stay connected to the game often through the avenues relevant to the work you’re doing, plus whatever you’re passionate about in your free time. That meant I had no idea these sleeves were hard to come by or even sought after by Magic collectors because Magic accessories weren’t my passion or work area. In retrospect, it makes total sense the sleeves are popular. After all, they look pretty cool, they’re hard to come by, and they feature a Black Lotus. Working for Wizards for so long, however, means finding that out when you leave is a bit analogous to retiring from Wrigley’s gum, tossing a gum wrapper aside and having a Wrigley’s fan say, “Hey, are you going to use that? Can I buy it from you?”
All that to say as a result of my thriftiness in re-using sleeves from decks to organize my collection, I have a host of these sleeves that I’m now making available for sale. I’m still not sure how many I have, but I’ll add new stock as I go through my storage of Magic cards and find them. Buy them now:
Shop for white Black Lotus sleeves here.
Shop for metallic silver Black Lotus sleeves here.