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KMC Hyper Phoenix Sleeves - Is this KMC's chance at a rebirth?

Written by Jon

5 minute read

KMC are a long standing institution for many TCG fans, with their inner and outer sleeves leading the market for years. After a period of decline following the wide-spread adoption of other accessory brands, KMC are back with a revamped range of products. With the Hyper Mat sleeves falling short of the mark, will the more premium Hyper Phoenix sleeves be an opportunity to rise again from the ashes, or is the fire going out for good?

What are KMC Hyper Phoenix sleeves?

The KM Corporation first created the Phoenix sleeves in 2021 as their ‘highest clarity and durability’ card sleeves. Made in Japan and quality assured in North America, these sleeves boast ‘smooth shuffling’, ‘KMC’s unique compression sealing technology’ and being their ‘most durable sleeve ever’. Significant claims for us to test! 


The Phoenix sleeves are 120 microns thick on the front side and 140 microns thick on the back side, making them one of the thickest outer sleeves out there - only equalled by the Dragon Shield Matte sleeves. The Hyper Phoenix sleeves are currently only available in a standard card game size of 66mm x 92mm.

Image of KMC

KMC focused their marketing on the durability of the Hyper Phoenix sleeves.

How well do they shuffle?

While shuffle-feel can be very subjective and down to personal preference, we do our best to describe how a sleeve feels like to shuffle with, and highlight any clear issues there may be.


That being said, the Hyper Phoenix sleeves are smooth to shuffle with, helped along by the slightly textured backs that add just enough friction for easy handling. The biggest pain point (literally) is in the sharp corners which can be quite uncomfortable. Not sharp enough to do your hands any real damage, but painful enough to get a wince or two when caught at a bad angle.


All in all, we would still give the KMC Phoenix sleeves a strong 8/10 for shuffle-feel.

How strong are the Hyper Phoenix's seams?

To test the strength of the seams, we start with a classic stretch test where we simply pull on both sides of the sleeves to gauge how easy or difficult it is to split the seams. After many destroyed sleeves, we can say that the KMC Hyper Phoenix sleeves performed well above average in this test, requiring a lot of effort to split.


Our next test of the seams is to deliberately catch both top corners of the sleeve with an inner sleeved card - much like you would when double-sleeving a deck. In this test we found that the right hand seam of the sleeve is much weaker than the left hand seam. While it's not uncommon for a sleeve to have a consistently weaker side, we feel that even the weak side here is strong enough to not split unless caught with some force. 


Overall, it's another above average performance, and another 8/10.

How durable are the KMC Hyper Phoenix sleeves?

For our first durability test, we double-sleeve 50 cards in KMC Perfect Size inners and KMC Hyper Phoenix sleeves and then do 1000 rough shuffles. Our shuffling technique for this test is designed to cause increased collisions and simulate a prolonged period of use in a short space of time.  

The sleeves after 1000 rough shuffles.

The Phoenix sleeves before and after 1000 rough shuffles. Before (left) and After (right).

It does not take long for the KMC Phoenix sleeves to start to show signs of wear, and after 300 shuffles we get our first 2 splits. What follows is a consistent amount of splitting, ending in 18 of the 50 sleeves with some sort of split by the end. This is one of the worst results we have seen in the 1000-shuffle test and only beaten to the bottom spot by KMC’s other sleeves - the Hyper Mats. 


Our second test for durability is to see how easy it is to mark the backs of the sleeves. This is a simple matter of trying to scratch the sleeve with our nails to see how prominently any damage is shown. In this instance, the textured backs do a great job of hiding any scuffs and scratches - up there with the Ultimate Guard Katanas and KMC Hyper Mats in terms of resistance to scratching.

Image of the scratched back and split seam.

The Hyper Phoenix sleeve backs are tough to mark but the right hand seam is a weak point.

Overall, it's wildly contrasting results from the 1000-shuffle test and the scratch test. On balance, we feel like you will get a lot of use out of the Phoenix sleeves before the splitting becomes an issue, and there should be few problems at all with regular, gentle shuffling. We give a respectable 7/10 for durability.

Are they good for double-sleeving?

To see how good the KMC Phoenix sleeves are for double-sleeving, we combined them with 7 different inner sleeves, resulting in 700 double-sleeving attempts. For each of the 700 attempts, we consider a fit as good when the inner sleeved card slides effortlessly into the outer sleeve with no issues. We consider a fit as bad if the card slips out of the inner sleeve when being inserted into the outer sleeve.


Outstandingly, the KMC Phoenix sleeves had 0/700 bad fits, scoring a perfect 10/10 in our scale. 


To see how this compares with other outer sleeves, you can find more detailed information in our Ultimate Double-sleeving Guide.

How clear are the sleeve fronts?

To make sure the Hyper Phoenix’s sleeve fronts are as clear as KMC claims, we put a foil card half-way into the sleeve to see if there is any dulling of the shine. A lovely foil gleams back at us and shows no sign of degradation at all, a perfect 10/10 for clarity.

Image showing the clarity of the Phoenix sleeves.

The high clarity fronts will have no trouble displaying foils in all their glory.

Are the backs opaque?

We test opacity similar to how we test for clarity - by inserting a card halfway into the sleeve, facing backwards, to see if anything can be read or seen through the sleeve back. Unfortunately, we are able to distinguish the outline of some text and the ghost of an image through the sleeves, similar to the translucency issue of the Dragon Shield Matte sleeves. The issue will likely be exacerbated in lighter colours, and remedied in darker colours. While this can be fixed with a smoke-backed inner sleeve, we would expect a sleeve claiming to be fully opaque to be just that. A disappointing 5/10 for opacity. 

How much do the KMC Hyper Phoenix sleeves cost?

The Hyper Phoenix sleeves can be bought directly from KMC at a price of $12.99 in the US. If you are in the UK or Europe like we are, it may be difficult finding these on sale at all due to poor availability through distribution channels. 

Closing thoughts

KMC made some bold claims about their Hyper Phoenix sleeves and, for the most part, they are justified. The shuffle-feel is good, the fronts are high clarity, they are reasonably durable, and exceptional at double-sleeving.


The main area of concern is, of course, the opacity of the backs. For casual players, it is a non-issue as it would be very difficult to discern any information from the little you can see through the sleeve, but for serious players competing under the strictest rules, this could well be the deal breaker.


Shuffle Feel


Seam Strength














Overall, KMC's Hyper Phoenix sleeves are a significant improvement over the cheaper Hyper Mat sleeves, and on par with other top sleeves on the market - better in some areas and worse in others. One major weakness of the KMC range is the lack of colour options compared to Dragon Shield, Ultra Pro, Gamegenic, and Ultimate Guard.


Furthermore, we really hope KMC can increase availability in the UK/EU but, if you are in America or Japan, we wouldn't hesitate to recommend giving these Phoenix sleeves a try. With opinions on sleeves differing from person to person and batch to batch, these may be just what you are looking for.


If you're still unsure then you can see how the Hyper Phoenix sleeves compare with other sleeves we have reviewed, side-by-side, at our Sleeve Comparison Tool.

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