Magic-Con 2012 Playing Cards :: Review

As you all know, this weekend is the weekend ofMagic-Con. Here Dan and Dave are selling the 2012 Magic-Con Commemorative Playing Cards. They also sold a batch on their website on the 12th which sold out in less than thirty minutes. This deck is their second installment in the Magic-Con series, and here’s how they feel.

NOTE: I’m currently selling some of these here on eBay. I have more for sale so feel free to contact me if you’re interested.

Feel: In the description of the deck D&D say the Magic-Con 2012 deck is printed “using our trademark stock and finish”, which means these feel very similar to the last three versions of Smoke and Mirrors. They also handle a lot like last year’s MC deck. The deck is quite a bit softer out of the box than most custom decks. The time-span you can use these without them clumping or having them handle substantially worse is fairly long. I’ve been using them all day throughout the sessions and they feel the same as when I took them out of the box this morning. The faro out of the box is awful on one side and okay on the other, but breaking them in a bit fixing this completely. All in all this deck is just as high-quality as you’d come to expect from Dan & Dave.

Design: This year’s deck design is a huge improvement from last year. The colors go together great and create an interesting look, and the Magic-Con star in the middle almost looks 3D. All of the different shapes on the back look similar to the pieces of the star in the center, but form their own image at the same time. There’s also a couple subtle one-way designs incorporated, which is always a plus.

Court Cards: At first glance the face cards seem black and white, but when you look closer you can see that there are purples and grays mixed into the faces in the same shapes as the back design. These shapes are much more pronounced on the queens. Also, there’s no blue, thin border around the picture of the face cards like in most decks; I think it looks a lot better this way. Dan and Dave found a way to simplify the court cards without sacrificing any details or quality.

Spot Cards: I was surprised to see these when I first opened the deck. Instead of black and red, the spot cards are shades of dark purple and dark pink — the same colors from the back and box designs. This sounds like it would look odd, but they fit the theme of the deck perfectly and aren’t too bright or obnoxious. The pips are all normal sized as well.

Ace of Spades: Just as with the court cards, I thought the Ace was just solid black when I first looked through, like last year’s deck. However the Ace of Spades has the same polygonal color pattern as the court cards do, which both come form the back design. I’m glad they kept the extra large pip in the middle, but I feel like the pattern would look better a bit brighter. It’s a little difficult to see.

Box: The box sports the same color and design schemes as the back of the cards, which wraps around the entire thing. On the sides and top it has all the details of the convention like the web address, the date, the location, and the description. Again this is a big step forward from the bland tuck-case we saw on last years deck.

So here are the ratings:
Feel- 9/10
Design- 9/10
Overall- 9/10

The 2012 Magic-Con deck is definitely worth buying. The back design looks fantastic and the deck itself has a very distinct image. The purple and pink colors in place of the red and black are a nice change of pace from all the other custom decks being released. And the borderless face cards are a great idea. This deck handles great, looks just as good, and is a small piece of magic history. If you get a chance to pick a few up I highly recommend it. That being said, it’s not the best deck for walk-around magic as the colors and box would look quite strange to a spectator. I wouldn’t recommend these for regular magic but as someone who loves & collects playing cards, they’re definitely worth getting. I apologize for this review being a little shorter than my other ones, as I’m writing it at Magic-Con. If you have anymore questions about the deck feel free to ask in a comment!

Posted: April 13th, 2012
at 11:49pm by Robin Carey


Categories: Uncategorized

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High End by Blake Vogt :: Review

Blake Vogt recently put out a new effect on The Wire called High End. It’s a Twisting Aces routine with a big kicker ending of the aces turning into another four of a kind, which the spectator named in the beginning of the trick. I’m sure most of you have seen this routine before but Blake brings a fresh, usable variation to the table. Let’s get into the review.

High End

Method: I always enjoy seeing Blake’s ideas because of the new approach he brings to old effects. Similar to REF4M, High End isn’t some ground-breaking sleight of hand but a workable, useful real-life effect that will actually get put into your repertoire instead of being tossed in “the drawer”. High End uses quite a few moves but they’re all motivated throughout the trick. When I first watched the explanation I felt a little overwhelmed by all the sleights but after running through it two or three times I didn’t even have to think about it; as the majority of the sleights are ones that everyone has learned. It’ll just take a few tries to string them together smoothly. Also, the set-up is almost nothing and, as long as you can do a cull, you should be able to do this one impromptu.

High End

Teaching: The walk-through is set at a good pace, keeping you interested but not leaving you behind. The explanation goes through each phase of the trick very thoroughly so you won’t have any questions at the end (it’s about 30 minutes long). There’s also a mirror below the cards during the entire teaching portion so you can see what’s going on underneath, which helps you keep track of everything while learning. One thing I really enjoyed was that Blake taught a few variations for different sections of the effect. Having options at various points during the trick makes it adaptable to a lot of situations and shows you how versatile it can really be.

High End

Angles: This is where I’m a little unsure about the effect. Without revealing anything, there are some portions where it can be extremely easy to flash. The angles are fairly sensitive on this one but still manageable. The more you actually perform this trick the more conscious of the angles you become. I would highly suggest doing this for another magician or family member until you can do so without flashing. Another good way to check your angles as well as to work on your patter is to record yourself from the angle a spectator would watch you. Then you can see each and every point you flash while hearing what your patter sounds like all together.

Difficulty: If you already know all of the sleights used in High End then it’s a pretty easy effect to get down, but if you’re learning some for the first time while watching the explanation then I would suggest you master that sleight before you try to put the whole trick together. The rhythm of the counts and displays in High End is very important as well as a little knacky. Just like with the angles you’ll understand how the the timing should feel once you actually perform it.

High End

Overall: I really enjoy performing this effect. It’s direct, the moves are motivated, and the kicker is a huge surprise, unlike a lot of “kickers” people usually tack on the end of an otherwise good trick. The way it’s structured and executed sets the spectator up to believe the last ace is the end of the entire trick. Since you didn’t use their named four of a kind the reactions during the aces turning over are mediocre at best and then out of nowhere, mentally and visually, that four of a kind they picked earlier suddenly appears. Nothing beats the gaping jaws and audible gasps at the end. From the very beginning it’s fun to do and has a lot of comical presentational possibilities to joke around with and involve the spectators. By the same token, I can’t really see High End fitting into a serious/somber magic show. Then again I don’t perform in a serious or somber way. It just seems like it would be difficult to work in the beginning bit of ignoring their selection for another four of a kind with a serious attitude.

The last thing I wanted to mention was the price; I feel like it’s a couple dollars overpriced. It is a great effect but I feel like $5 would have been much more appropriate than $7. That being said if you like the effect and can see yourself actually performing it then go for it, adding something like this to your routine is worth it. Check out the trailer for it and if you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment!

Images taken from video.

Posted: February 23rd, 2012
at 5:32pm by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards - Downloads - Reviews

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Monarchs Theory11 :: Review

This is the first section of my review for the latest deck released by Theory11, the Monarchs. You can find these at Theory 11. I write each of my reviews in two sections. The first one when I get the deck and have worked with it a bit, then I’ll write the second piece a while after the cards have been completely broken in as well as used in live performances.

Monarchs Box

Feel: The feel is where the Monarchs excel. This is where the hype comes from and where Theory 11 actually did raise the bar. They sport a Premium 909 Air Cushion Finish. You can feel a difference in the finish; the cards are noticeably smoother compared to Bee Stingers, Bicycle Titanium, etc. They feel absolutely fantastic. They day I got the Monarchs in the mail I worked with them for nearly two hours straight. When I fanned the cards after that much intensive use, there was no clumping in sight. The Monarch deck still spread and fanned just as good as it did out of the box. If I were to have any complaints it would be that at times they can be a bit too slippery, but I believe this is more because they’re new, not the finish itself.
In regard to thickness, the Monarch deck is about two cards thinner than a deck of Bee Stingers, but there’s no noticeable difference when handling them. The deck is also pretty resilient. It handles springs, waterfalls, under-pressure, etc. well and pops back to its normal shape with ease. Lastly with faros, the deck faros face down great but when you turn it face up it’s much more difficult to get them to weave properly. This is because of the way the deck is cut.

Monarchs Back

Design: This is the only area of the Monarchs I’m unsure about. The back design is definitely unique, detailed, and eye-catching. That being said I don’t know if it suits me personally, but whether you like it or not is your own decision to make. There is a sword coming down from each end into the middle with snakes wrapping around in circles down the cards, and tree branched coming out on either side. The amount of effort the T11 team put into designing this deck is obvious. On the back near the center are ribbons that sport the word for “king” in Latin. The sides of the card say (roughly) “Out of two evils, the lesser is always chosen.” The gold ink on top of the dark blue back looks extremely elegant, but the release will be a different color.

Monarchs Court Cards

Court Cards: I love these. Like most decks Theory 11 sells there are no oranges or yellows; those have been replaced by deeper colors. Red, dark blue, white, and gold all adorn the faces of the Court Cards. These cards were the first to catch my eye when I opened the deck, and have now become my favorite face cards I’ve seen. There’s just enough color to make them pop, but not too much to seem gaudy or obnoxious.

Monarchs Spot Cards

Spot Cards: The Spot Cards also look just as we would expect from Theory 11. There are darker reds on all of the red cards. These are actually a few shades darker than Smoke and Mirrors v5 and the Red Stingers. Also, the pips are a bit smaller. Not thinner and squished looking like we saw on custom decks for a while, but just a bit shrunken from regular sized pips.

Monarchs Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades: The Ace is drawn in black and gold with a crown sitting in the middle. It’s a very ornate and beautiful Ace of Spades, but not overdone or distracting. The design of the crown is fantastic; honestly I would liked to have seen this design or more of this theme on the back. The usual “United States Playing Card Company” text is in gold and a bit more visually pleasing.

Monarchs Jokers

Jokers: The Jokers are an updated, cleaner version of Bicycle’s original Best Bower joker. These look great and are immediately recognizable to any magician or playing card enthusiast. They’re printed all in gold ink in the pre-release deck so it’ll be interesting to see the difference in the normal pack.

Monarchs Box

Box: Wow. Nearly every square centimeter on the tuck box is embossed with very reflective, gold metallic ink. The design of the box itself is wonderful too. The flap has “Cerca Trova” written on it which, as you all should know, means “seek and you shall find” in Italian. Also, across a ribbon covering three arrows, there’s the word “Excelsior” which can be translate as “higher”, “Upward”, or “farther”. I’m assuming this is in reference to the quality of the deck. The last point I want to touch on about the box is the paper it’s made with. The box is very sturdy and feels quite a bit thicker than other tuck boxes. You’ll notice it as soon as you hold the box; it just feels more solid. Jonathan Bayme has also said that it was made with imported, thicker paper.

Monarchs Box Back

So here are the ratings:
Feel- 9.5/10
Design- 8/10
Overall- 9/10

I’m giving the Monarchs deck a 9 out of 10 because the feel is simply incredible and they hold up great under extensive use. In my opinion, how a deck handles (Out of the box and hours, days, or weeks later) is the most important part of a high-quality deck, and the Monarchs surpass any expectations I had in that area. Like I said before, I’m not gun-ho about the back design but it still looks unique and interesting. If you’re wondering whether or not you should pick up a pack of Monarchs, stop wondering and go for it. The feel of the cards, the luxury of the box, and just all the work put into this deck have created one of the highest quality packs of playing cards yet. I’d like to see how Theory11 plans on topping the Monarchs.

Posted: November 11th, 2011
at 11:00am by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards - Reviews

Comments: 1 comment



More Magic News, con’t.

There are a couple pretty cool things that either developed since my last post or I didn’t mention before that are worth talking about. First off, Dan and Dave’s Fantastique Playing Cards, which goes on sale on October 31st. This is Dan & Dave’s newest custom deck and there’s a pretty awesome idea behind it. D&D have based the images in the deck off of old magic apparatus, which gives a sort of nostalgic look to the whole thinh. Also the back design appears to be a flip-book style image; when you riffle the cards you can see action happening on the back of the cards. You can watch it in the video on the page I previously linked to.

“Fantastique is a beautiful new deck of playing cards inspired by the apparatus of magic‘s gold age and the automatons of Robert-Houdin. Join us this Halloween and witness these marvelous cards come to life.” – Dan and Dave

One other notable thing about the Fantastique deck is that pictures of it have been leaked. Somehow there were two eBay auctions claiming to be selling these decks (even though they haven;t been released yet) and there were never before seen pictures. These are the pictures I’ve included in this post; you can see each of the different cards in the deck as well as the box. I’m not sure how this person got a hold of the pictures or the deck, but if anyone has any more information on the leak please let me know.

For anyone interested in Vertigo, Rick Lax just posted a new video with a few advanced applications of the trick. These look great! The ideas here are good but once you own the effect watching this video really does help you to think of more applications and how many different things you can do with Vertigo. Rick said to keep in mind that these handlings are not included in the DVD; only the basic one is. But once you learn the effect you will understand how everything in the video is done. Also this stuff really is advanced, meaning it will take a lot of practice. Rick said himself that the moves here are difficult, and he usually just performs the standard routine. I have to say it looks worth it though, I love the card box spinning on the deck.

Lastly there’s a big update in regard to the Monarch deck! Jonathan Bayme has said there will be a prerelease on Halloween. Theory 11 is selling 111 decks of Monarchs on the 31st on a first come first serve basis. They’re also shifting their releases to 11 A.M. in order to make them more accessible to more people. There haven’t been any clear details on how to access this prerelease or any specifics of how it works, so keep your eyes open for more information. There has been a ridiculous amount of hype for these cards (moreso than the usual Theory11 hype) across the board. Even Daniel Madison posted on twitter,

“Without a doubt the most impressive deck I’ve ever seen. Absolute Madness. #monarchs #theory11.”

Posted: October 29th, 2011
at 2:38pm by Robin Carey


Categories: General Artifice - Videos

Comments: No comments



A Little More Magic News

There’s been a lot of countdowns, hype, teasers, and new products lately with a lot of cool things being released and many more to come. One of the biggest changes right now is Dan and Dave’s site. Their website got a complete face-lift and reorganization. It was shut down for a few days last week but it was worth the wait. The new version looks much better; it’s simple and clean. The forums for the site are still down until November 25th.

Dan & Dave

Dan and Dave released a few products with the launch but arguably the coolest thing was the Academy. There are videos, articles, biographies all there for free. The media section contains a ton of videos explaining beginner grips, moves, and flourishes. If you’re just starting out in magic/cardistry this is a fantastic resource. Also worth looking at if you’re more advanced but brushed over some of those moves. I would have loved to have something like this when I started out. The articles section has a collection of great pieces written by well-known magicians. Go through the titles and see if there’s something that interests you; it’s all quality material. The last section here has biographies on a lot of the top magicians. Very cool to look at but not quite as useful as the other two… hopefully we see more of a development of this in the future.

Another notable new item on their site is a cardistry video of some of the best Scandinavian flourishers, shot and edited by Allan Hagen. I don’t think I need to say much about this video, as it speaks for itself. Incredibly inspirational.


“Shot at the Magic Weekend 2011 conference in Lund, Sweden, CORRIDOR brings seven of Scandinavia’s best card artists together in one performance video.

Credits are in the video.

Enjoy!”

Theory11 has a new project coming up; they’re releasing a deck on 11/11/11 by the name of Monarchs. You can read more on what’s been said so far in a thread Jonathan Bayme started about the deck and about their holiday event this year. There are a few pictures of the deck hidden as links on single characters in the T11 staff’s posts. The first two were fairly blurry and unrevealing, but the last two were clear shots of the inside flap and the side of the box.

Also for those of you who haven’t seen, Theory 11 just put out the effect Vertigo by Rick Lax. You can watch the trailer and read my review to see find out more.

Last on our agenda is the latest release from The Blue Crown, Fourfit. This is an extremely visual TNR. What makes it interesting is that you can show both sides of the card after every phase, and hand the card out at the end of the trick. Definitely worth checking out if you like Torn and Restored.

Posted: October 27th, 2011
at 6:21pm by Robin Carey


Categories: General Artifice - Videos

Comments: No comments



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