Last updated on August 5, 2020
Tablet of the Guilds | Illustration by Nic Klein
If you’ve ever played a game of Magic on a tabletop with either sleeved or unsleeved cards (#blasphemy), you’ve experienced the tendency for cards to stick to the table. This, in turn, causes frustration in handling the cards or, worst case, can even damage them. Playmats prevent any such disaster from happening as well as providing amazing looking art to place your cards on.
Over the years, the playing field of playmats has exploded into a huge business with many sizes, materials, and prints available for you to get your hands on. With it, there have been quite a few companies that offer their own variety of playmats as well. All-in-all, enough incentive to provide you with some quality insight into what’s available out there and what to look out for when you’re thinking of getting one (or multiple) playmats for yourself, your friend, or your playgroup.
The Best Playmat Overall
The best, and biggest, seller of playmats has got to be Ultra Pro. They’re the official owners of the Magic playmats license. If you’re looking to get some sweet card art on your playmat, it’s almost guaranteed Ultra Pro has got you covered.
Next to that, they offer an overall great product that is both good quality and reasonably priced. A playmat will set you back around $20. In return, you get a mat that has high-grade art, has a refined feel to it, and will last years and years. If they get dirty, no problem, just pop them in the washer with some detergent and they’re good-as-new. Just make sure to avoid any bleach.
Well, that about covers the article. Bye!
Just kidding. If you thought it all ended here, you’ve been fooled. There’s a lot more to discuss. As I mentioned, the world of playmats is pretty extensive, so get ready to leave it all on the mat.
MTG Playmat Sizes
There’s a great variety of playmat sizes available which is sure to cover any need you may have for them. But with respect to the ‘classic’ playmat sizes for MTG, there are two that you can expect to find most often:
- 24” x 14” (61cm x 35cm) for 1 player
- 24” x 24” (61cm x 61cm) for 2 players
With sizes ranging all the way from 16” x 10” (40cm x 25cm) to 96” x 30” (240cm x 76cm) and a lot of in between, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
The best websites to look for custom sizes that I’ve found are:
All of them are, in my opinion, great choices to order a custom playmat. All you have to do is find the size you want and see which of these sites offers what you seek. Ultra Pro doesn’t necessarily offer the choice of picking your own image, but if you want a sweet tabletop-sized playmat, they offer a couple of really amazing looking ones. All the others offer you the chance to choose your own image as well as different sizes.
One of the most important things to look out for is what size your image is. If you’re thinking of ordering a bigger size, make sure the image you want to put on there has a high enough pixel count. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a big mat with a blurry, pixelated image. Both a shame for the money you’ve spent and the non-pretty mat that’s now collecting dust.
Here are a couple more examples of what you can put on your custom mats. Of course, get as creative as you want. Go for your favorite anime or manga, maybe your favorite gaming character, or favorite painter! You can draw your own, go very abstract, or extremely detailed. Nothing is out of bounds, as long as the pixel count is appropriate for the size you want to order.
I’ve shown you different sizes, examples of awesome images you can put on your playmat, and discussed the best overall choice. But what about quality? Are there things you can look out for before purchasing your mats to see if the quality is up to par? The answer is “yes,” and you can read all about it right now.
Characteristics of good playmats are mats that have a great feel, don’t wear quickly, and have a well-printed image. If they use recycled, environmentally-friendly, or sustainable materials, it’s even better. The quality can most often only be verified once you’ve got the playmat in your hands and have used it for a time. This may not always help you when deciding from an online vendor, as we all so often do nowadays.
The best thing to look for are brands that have a proven track record in quality mats, like Ultra Pro or Inked Gaming. Sites that have good customer reviews that show the product and offer commentary are also good signs. A combination of all of the these is usually what you’ll find when you’re looking at good quality playmats.
Basically, it comes down to transparency. When a brand or website is very open about what it is they do and aren’t afraid to show satisfied (or dissatisfied) customers it’s pretty clear that they stand behind their product. They’re not afraid to show you that what they’re selling is good quality, and they have the customers to back it up.
Things to look out for as bad signs are sites that are vague or unclear about their processes or what they do. Sometimes you can even see that the images they use are of low quality, or the mats look shabby or thin. Or that the entire site just doesn’t have the feel of quality.
Not everybody has the time to create a sleek looking site, sure, so I’m not saying that this factor alone is proof of bad quality. But when this is combined with overall vagueness, unclear info, and weird payment steps that don’t offer security, I’d stay well away.
Categories and Brands
Unfortunately, there are sites out there that will try anything to get your hard-earned cash and selling MTG playmats is no exception. Stay to sites that are transparent, have a proven track-record, and show you their customers and you should have a mat that lasts a long time and looks great.
There are different categories when it comes to price, quality, and luxury. All the brands I’ve mentioned so far are perfectly okay to get your hands on, but even here there is a distinction that can be made. That’s why I’ve put together a list that puts them into three categories.
Hopefully this’ll help you make a better decision to get exactly what it is you’re looking for, or what your budget allows. You can have a proper mat for as little as $13.99, or you could go all the way up to $100 for an amazing looking leather playmat:
|Cheapest||Best Quality for the Price||Most Luxurious|
Cool Stuff Inc
|Etsy (yes, again)|
Not all of these are brands offer just playmats, many of them sell different gaming accessories. There aren’t too many actual playmat-specific brands, but here are a couple of producers of mats exclusively:
My favorite amongst these is still Ultra Pro. They’ve got the official license for Magic playmats and I like those mats a lot for both the prints and the quality. They’re also easy to get your hands on and can be found around the world in various stores and on a plethora of sites.
How to Clean Your Playmat
A playmat works best when it’s clean and doesn’t smell. By smell, I mean any substance spilled on it like a drink, food, sauce, or anything you might find at your kitchen or coffee table. Luckily, most playmats are very resilient when it comes to these things.
There are a variety of ways to clean up your mat. Make sure that you check any instructions that come with the mat you’ve purchased, or if the seller’s site lists the playmat’s wash instructions. Those should obviously come before any other washing instructions, but these are just some general guidelines:
- Use tepid water
- Put some soap/dish soap in water
- Rub clean with a sponge until clean
- Rinse with water
- Hang to dry
- Check to make sure it can handle machine washing
- Use short program, no warmer than 90 Fahrenheit
- Add detergent
- No bleach
- Hang to dry
With that, we’ve come to the end of this article. I hope you’re now well equipped to find the playmat you’re looking for and make a great choice that you’re happy with for a long time. For me, the overall best choice remains Ultra Pro (I’ll say it again!), but don’t let that deter you from doing your own research and finding something that fits with what you want. Oh, and did I mention that playmats could make an excellent gift for an MTG-loving friend? Now I did!
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