MTG Gift Guide: Binders

Nick Wolf • November 24, 2023

When Magic was in its beginning stages, concepts like protecting your cards weren't as prevalent as they are now. Look back at videos of people playing Magic in the mid-90s and you'll see many different players; from the burgeoning professional scene to casual cafeteria tables in middle school, all of them slinging spells without any form of protection for their cards. 

That's not the case today. From sleeves to deck boxes, looking to keep your Magic cards safe is a good habit to have. But what about the cards you're not actively using? What if you're heading to your Local Game Store (LGS) for an event, and want to bring along some cards you'd like to put up as trade fodder?

That's where binders come in. Like other forms of card protection on the market, there are dozens of styles of binder, several brands in the binder market, and of course, there's personal preference to keep in mind. But if you're looking for a few recommendations for binders, you've come to the right place.

Table of Contents:

Best Quality

Ultra Pro - Mythic Edition 12 Pocket Zipper PRO-Binder

In terms of sheer quality, it doesn't get much better than the Ultra Pro Mythic Edition 12-Pocket Zipper PRO-Binder. While the price is high enough that it'll take some expensive cards kept safe within to justify the purchase, the Mythic Edition binders are the Rolex of binders for a reason. Bound in a leatherette material and large enough to hold 480 sleeved standard-sized cards (a size that includes Magic, The Pokemon TCG, Flesh & Blood and Lorcana), these binders are the envy of everyone at the Local Game Store when they're pulled free from your backpack - especially when they see the Mythic Orange planeswalker insignia stitched into the cover.

This binder also features a few nuts-and-bolts additions over more budget-conscious options that set it apart. Each card slot contains a low-friction, black web backing that allows for ease of loading and unloading, as well as a high-quality zipper closure and side-loading card slots to ensure that when a valuable card is stored within, it's not going anywhere. 

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Best Bargain

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Gone are the days when you had to settle for a three-ring binder and loose plastic sheets to store cards. Three-ring binders are notorious for causing dents in the innermost columns of the cards within, so for serious collectors, they aren't even considered an option.

Luckily, there are cost-conscious alternatives to the dreaded three-ring binder, and none are better than the Ultra Pro 9-Pocket Eclipse PRO-Binder. The little sibling to the mammoth Mythic Edition, these binders might be smaller (holding 360 cards instead of 480) and made of less "premium" material, but there's still plenty to like, especially the price. 

Like the Mythic Edition, they feature that patented Ultra Pro black web material in its pages as well as side-loading slots, but in lieu of a zipper closure, the Eclipse binders offer an elastic strap. Even still, the elastic is known to hold up even after hundreds of uses opening and closing the binder. 

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Best Value

Arcane Tinmen ATM39371 Dragon Shield 360 Card Codex Binder, Blood Red

If you're looking to save a few dollars but still want something with a little style, the Dragon Shield Card Codex 360 might fit the bill. The "specially reinforced" Dragon Skin cover can take some real punishment and look good doing it, and the space for 360 cards within means that this particular binder can be your go-to for those trips to the LGS. The Codex also features side-loading pocket pages and an elastic strap enclosure, and setting it apart from the competition, a special label enclosure on the spine for accurate archiving. 

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Best Big Binder

Card Codex 576 - Forest Green

Like its smaller cousin in the previous entry, the Dragon Shield Card Codex 576 features the same reinforced Dragon Skin cover, the side-loading pockets and the elastic strap closure.

The main difference, of course, is the Codex 576 is big. Like, really big. As you could probably surmise, the Codex 576 can hold 576 cards, spread through 24 pages featuring 24 sideloading pockets on each page (back and front). While the price puts this binder ahead of many others in terms of its impact on a budget, it's also one of the biggest binders on the market, so if you're looking to safely haul a significant chunk of your collection from place to place, there are few options better. 

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Best Small Binder

Ultimate Guard - Zipfolio XenoSkin 160 - 4-Pocket - Black

Sometimes, it's just not practical to haul around a binder with 500+ cards. If the strain on your shoulder isn't an indication (576 Magic cards weighs roughly 2 lbs., plus the weight of the binder itself, which doesn't sound like a lot until you're at a MagicCon on your feet for eight hours straight), the tedium of flipping through dozens of pages to find the one card you're looking for might be too much in the moment. 

Luckily, there are binders for just that scenario, and the best one out there is the Ultimate Guard Zipfolio 160 8-Pocket XenoSkin. 

While it's only big enough to hold 160 Magic cards, that number is just right for situations where you're looking to keep only a handful of cards safe from the dangers of the outside world. And Ultimate Guard's trademarked XenoSkin material is certainly good at that, especially when paired with the zipper enclosure.

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Best Off-Brand Option

If you're looking for something that fits into that sweet-spot of value and quality, and you're willing to look outside the more common (and more trusted) names in card protection, here's your best bet.

The Fabmaker PU 9-Pocket Binder does exactly what you'd expect. Featuring nearly a dozen color options, the Fabmaker contains a padded, ultra-rigid cover that can withstand plenty of wear-and-tear coupled with an elastic strap closure. The binder holds 360 cards in side-loading padded sheets that keep their contents snug and prevent jostling - exactly what you'd hope for when entrusting your valuable cards to a binder. And while it may not be recommended on the tin, the pockets are strong enough to hold multiple cards in each pocket if needed.

For its price, the Fabmaker does indeed offer considerable value.

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Binding One's Time

Like the cards they're built to protect, much of the value of a particular binder is in the Magic player's preference. While some are definitely better than others, most binders are close enough in quality and price that only the real outliers make waves, for better or worse. And what we've talked about here fall into that "better" category.

Which binder is your go-to to protect your trades? Which would you recommend to a new player starting out? Let us know below.