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REF4M by Blake Vogt :: Review

Blake Vogt hits the ground running with his debut release at Theory11, REF4M. REF4M is an impromptu, ungimmicked, signed torn and restored effect. The vast amount of thinking, time, and effort Blake put into this effect is evident in both the construction and execution of the trick. There is one downside; the fact that it’s absolutely necessary to tear the card back up at the conclusion of the trick. I don’t think this should stop anyone from performing REF4M though as there are ways to routine it in or otherwise make it seem natural. I’ll get more into that towards the end of this review, but for now let’s start at the beginning.

Method: One word comes to mind… creative. The way the effect is set-up just shows Blake’s creativity. For those of you who know Benjamin Ear’s Thought of Card to Pocket this is the same type of method. Not in sleights or moves but in thinking. This isn’t a magician fooler or some crazy, of-the-wall gimmick. It’s a real, audience tested, worker. REF4M is built from the ground up with the spectator in mind. What really sets it apart from other Torn and Restored effects is it’s simplicity. You can do this on the spot, with any card, anytime. No set up whatsoever. After practicing this and getting the moves to be second-nature, think about how powerful of a trick you have ready to go at any second.

Angles: Blake says this can be performed completely surrounded, which is 100% true. They even shoot footage from behind during the trailer. So no complaints here.

Teaching: I don’t think Theory11 has sold a video with sub-par teaching. Blake explains each fold, tear, restoration, and move thoroughly and clearly. And from multiple angles. At the end of the teaching portion there is an over-the-shoulder walk through, followed by a another walk through from the front. This makes it easy to know what both you and your spectators should be seeing at any given point during REF4M.

Difficulty: The method behind this effect is unique and fresh. As such, you (most likely) haven’t been practicing anything like this. REF4M isn’t inherently difficult or complex but learning a totally different type of method takes time. After a bit of practice it becomes more and more natural. So REF4M isn’t hard, just different.

Overall: I’ve never been a fan of most torn and restored plots for one reason, the extras: gimmicks, duplicates, and the like. Why have something incriminating right where all the heat is at? REF4M, for me, takes torn and restored to the next level. It’s a cleaned up, practical version. This is an effect that will work and will play big out in the real world. Not only that, but each piece of the effect is motivated. There aren’t any suspicious moves or switches. This is how it would look if you really did tear a card up and restore it. Also, being impromptu, it’s ready to go at any time. This is huge for me. If you’re at a friends who has an old deck of cards then you’re ready to go. It’s organic magic.

As I mentioned before, the only downside is the fact that you have to tear the restored card up in the end. The spectators don’t get a chance to examine the card in full at the end. But, you can always routine this into your act and make it an asset rather than a liability. Blake suggests explaining to the spectators that this situation is impossible, so it must be torn back up. Some users over on the Theory11 forums have come up with some great ideas as well. One other hook I was tossing around is treating the whole effect like a story. Explain how you once saw a great magaician tear a card up, restore each piece one-bye-one, and put the whole thing back together. You go through the corresponding sections of the trick while saying your patter, and at the end give a line like “But, he never told me how it works.” or “To this day, I’m still not quite as good as he was.” and tear the card up.

Images taken from video.

Posted: May 10th, 2011
at 9:37pm by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards,Downloads,Reviews

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Theory11 Sentinels :: Review Part 2

This is the second piece to my review for Sentinels by Theory11. The point of the second part of my reviews is to talk about how the deck is once it’s broken in and used in live performances. I’ve been working, using, and performing with these playing cards since Theory 11 released them, so if you have any other questions don’t hesitate to ask.

The Sentinels break in quickly and then have a nice, soft feel to them. Springs and shuffles are great after the deck has been worked with. But, at the same time, the cards still have a little pop to them. They’re not too flimsy, but just soft enough. Being durable, soft and great for all kinds of spreads and cascades are what make this deck a great investment. However, if handled for extended periods of time they tend to clump up. This issue increases the more often they are used. If you let them sit & breathe over night they feel much better. This clumping issue isn’t any better or worse than any other used deck though.

Sentinels have a great back and face design, but in performances I’ve noticed that these interesting shapes can distract the spectator. Some laymen have accused them of being “trick cards” while others have focused more on the cards then the actual performance. This may not be a problem for you guys, depending on how you present your magic. Incorporating the shapes and symbols of the design creatively in a performance could greatly enhance the effect, so it’s up to you how to use them.

Overall: The Sentinels held up great. Both the box and the cards are in surprisingly good condition after months of frequent use and handling. If you still haven’t tried them yourself or don’t buy custom cards often, they’re a good investment. After performing with them I’ve found they don’t really suit my style but I can definitely see the potential to make use of the symbolism in the deck. It’d be interesting to see a performance with this. So, Sentinels are a high-quality deck with staying power.

Posted: April 30th, 2011
at 11:07am by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards,Reviews

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Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review

This is my review for the new Bicycle Artist’s Edition deck of cards, the Bicycle Gargoyles. These were designed by Lance T. Miller in conjunction with Diavoli.

NOTE: When you purchase these from Lance’s site you can have him sign the deck free of charge. Also Lance has an independent project in the works that will see life after enough of the Gargoyles have been sold so be sure to pick some up! He’s a very talented artist and I’m excited to see what he has next for us. One other thing I want to mention is that this is not Diavoli’s art work. Diavoli had a lot to do with bringing the deck to market but the artwork itself is hand drawn by Lance, not Steve Rooks (who designed the Bicycle Tattoo, Alchemist, and Phoenix decks).

Feel: The Gargoyles are a breath of fresh air. They handle great, at the level of Smoke and Mirrors. There’s no clumpy feeling after an hour or two of extensive use like most decks. The Gargoyles are nice and smooth but still have enough of a grip to perform sleights with ease.

The reason they feel like this is their new finish. A lot of people out there just assume it’s regular ol’ air cushion finish; this is not the case. This deck sports whats the USPCC is calling the “Magic Finish.” This finish was designed specifically for magicians and cardists. It’s meant to help the deck fan smoother and last longer. The higher quality level has been noticeable in the short time I’ve handled them. The Gargoyles are also printed on a Q1 sheet fed press. Q1 is the highest possible quality when printing playing cards and the only way to (currently) utilize the “Magic Finish” is on a sheet fed press.

Design: The Gargoyles have a look that you would only see in an Artist’s deck. The back design is laden with Gothic themed artwork and two large, impressive gargoyles. The entire back is colored in a gray scale except for the piercing red eyes of said gargoyles. This was a great addition as they’re eye-catching sitting in the midst of blacks and grays. There’s also a skull in each corner with smoke drifting out of the mouth blending into the rest of the design.

These cards definitely have a unique appearance; you can tell Lance put a lot of time and effort into this deck. Furthermore, there’s a sort of story behind the deck’s theme that’s explained on one of the cards included with the deck. I’ve already got some cool presentation ideas with these. This back design, the Jokers, and the Ace of Spades are all hand drawn works.

Court Cards: The court cards are my favorite part of this deck. They only use three colors: white, black, and metallic silver. When I say metallic I mean metallic, these cards shine. You don’t have to try and get the right lighting for these, they’re extremely reflective. The bright silver ink and solid black ink contrast beautifully. When I first read about the design I was curious to see if the red cards were noticeably different. The small pip on the index of each card is the standard Bicycle Red, making them easy to tell apart from the black cards. I do wonder how a deep red would look added in the court card design though.

Spot Cards: All of the cards use the same silver metallic ink, making them very eye-catching. Like I said, this metallic is extremely reflective and bright. I’ve actually had multiple family members say “Oh I like that metallic better than the other ones, it’s a lot easier to see.” in reference to the Bicycle Titaniums. You can look at this from either perspective though, as some people would say the showy faces are too distracting. That’s up to you guys to decide, but I love the look.

Ace of Spades: The Spade in the middle of the Ace is Lance’s logo (which you can see at the top of his site). Instead of the Spade itself being the focus of the artwork it is a part of the artwork. The fine details are surrounding the spade making it a small piece of the whole. This is a fairly unseen idea and I like how it came out.

Jokers: The Jokers follow the theme of the Gargoyles with shiny metallic ink and sharp red eyes. Again these are hand drawn artwork by Lance. I like the small touch of putting the word Joker at the long side of the J. I’m not so sure about the “style” of these Jokers though… compared to the back design these Gargoyles look like a more child-friendly version, or almost cartoonish.

Box: The Box has the Gargoyle back design on the back like usual, but there’s a new feature that looks amazing. The front has a wrap-around design that flows over on to the sides, top, and bottom of the card box. This is the first deck I’ve seen extend the artwork onto different sides, and I hope we see it more often. It gives the box style and definition. There’s also silver metallic accents in various places adding to the overall look. One other new thing they did with this deck is the QR code. There’s one on the bottom of the box that, when you read it with a barcode scanner app, takes you directly to a page on Lance’s website explaining the story behind the deck.

So here are the ratings:
Feel- 9.5/10
Design- 9/10
Overall- 9.25/10

Lance made a great debut into the world of custom playing cards. The Bicycle Gargoyle deck has all of the things a great pack of cards needs. They handle better than most other custom cards out there, they have a truly one-of-a-kind design, and a host of performance possibilities. But don’t just take my word for it, get your hands on a few. I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

Posted: April 17th, 2011
at 1:11am by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards,Reviews

Comments: 2 comments



 

2 Responses to 'Bicycle Gargoyles by Lance T. Miller :: Review'

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  1. Great review of a great deck. I bought two! Both are autographed, and one is to remain unopened. They are everything you described, and any art lover, gamer, magician, or collector would be proud to have this deck. I would, however, add that my opinion of the jovial joker is more accepting. I appreciate the fact that the joker’s persona takes on a more light-hearted contrast to an otherwise dark (yet shiny, as you mentioned, lol) and intense theme, such as one who might be considered a “joker” would have. Perhaps it was included as a reminder as to the importance of looking on the bright side especially when surrounded by darkness. Who knows? The story could certainly take on a life of its own and grow into something very cool. Personally, I’d like to see this turn into a series.

    Bryan Lewis

    17 Apr 11 at 1:17 pm


     

  2. Hey there Bryan,
    I never thought of it like that. The Joker would have a sort of playful, light-hearted feel to it. That’s definitely a neat way of looking at things. It just caught me off guard when I saw the foreboding gargoyles on the backs and then comical jokers. It does give nice contrast though…

    Robin Carey

    Robin Carey

    18 Apr 11 at 6:44 am


     


 

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Bee [red] Stingers by Theory11 :: Review

This is the first section to my review for one of the latest decks released by Theory11, Bee [red] Stingers. You can find these at Theory 11 or on Dan and Dave’s site. I write each of my reviews in two sections; the first one when first 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.

Feel: The new edition of Stingers does not disappoint. The stock used for these is wonderful. The Aristocrat has a great snap to it while still being flexible. If you snap your cards a lot like I do you’ll love the noise they make. The stock also makes them extremely durable. I have a deck of Black Stingers that have been without a box for over a year and a half. They are basically my practice deck, I use them constantly; they get dropped, put on the floor, lost, you name it. Yet after all this for over a year they still fan, spread, and handle like new. Most other decks of cards go bad after a few months of normal use. Stingers not only last, but come out feeling great after extensive handling way past what other cards can take. That’s what I call durability. The only issue I’ve had so far is some clumping. To be clear, this is with the out-of-the-box Red Stingers. Clumping could only be a problem because the cards aren’t broken in so I’ll definitely touch on that more in the second piece of this review.

Box

Design: Stingers have a one-of-a-kind back design. Mixing the diamond style back with a fade-out to the borders makes for an eye-catching look. Make it in red and you’ve got yourself one smooth looking deck. Putting the style of the original Stingers together with a darker shade of red was a great, but overdue, idea. Now that we’ve got them though, fun color-changing effects like the Chicago Opener.

Court Cards

Court Cards: The Red Bee Stinger deck’s court cards are devoid of any clashing oranges or bright blues. In their place are shades of black, gray, and red. The color scheme complements the backs nicely, giving the Stingers a stunning overall look.

Spot Cards

Spot Cards: The spot cards have the standard look and layout of Bee and Bicycle decks of playing cards. The only notable difference is the deeper red which matches the rest of the deck. There seemed to be a trend of making smaller pips for a while, but I’m glad the pips on these and the Titaniums are normal sized.

Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades, Jokers, and Box: I’ll take the same approach as I did in my Bicycle Titanium Edition review and talk about all three of these at once. The Ace of Spades and Jokers are standard Bee cards with no alterations. The box is also the same as most bee decks, the difference being that the Stinger design is on the back. As you can see in the pictures it’s the same box as the original Stingers, just in red. One little thing I noticed was that the box has small silver metallic accents on almost every side. These little finishing touches and details are one of the many details that separates Theory11 from the competition.

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

The Bee [red] Stingers are the combination of an already awesome deck of cards and good customer service. Theory11 listened to what we had to say about the black Stingers. They took this information and made all the changes possible, from stock to finish. The end result is a deck that’s not only visually appealing but handles like a dream. The Red Stingers are perfect for the card collector, the magician, or anyone who appreciates high-quality playing cards.

After a few months I’ll be writing the second piece to this review. It’ll cover feel after the deck has been completely broken in, and I’ll also talk about performance pros and cons.

Posted: April 11th, 2011
at 5:37pm by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards,Reviews

Comments: 4 comments



 

4 Responses to 'Bee [red] Stingers by Theory11 :: Review'

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  1. These look really awesome!

    Jevon

    17 Apr 11 at 11:52 pm


     

  2. Jevon,
    They’re great cards, they handle just as good as they look. Make sure you pick some up while you can!

    Robin Carey

    Robin Carey

    18 Apr 11 at 6:45 am


     

  3. I’m buying some tomorrow, I was unconvinced until I read this review. Thanks!

    Jevon

    21 Apr 11 at 3:22 pm


     

  4. Glad I could help! You won’t be disappointed.

    Robin Carey

    Robin Carey

    21 Apr 11 at 3:34 pm


     


 

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Bicycle Titanium Edition by Theory11 :: Review

This is the first section to my review for the latest deck released by Theory11, Bicycle Titanium. I write each of my reviews in two sections; the first one when first I get the deck and have worked with it a bit. Then I’ll write the second piece months later after the cards have been completely broken in as well as used in live performances.

Feel: Imagine Bicycles, but on steroids. They have the Air-Cushion finish but it definitely feels like improvements have been made. The cards fan and spread wonderfully out of the box, as expected by a custom deck. The impressive thing is that they still have this nice smooth, even feel to them even after an hour or two of use. Aerials are decent considering that the deck is still fairly new and slippery. The Titaniums are about the same thickness as a regular deck of Bicycles.

Bicycle Titaniums

Design: The design is one that people have come to know and love for over 125 years. Using the Rider Back design is a good idea too because spectators will be familiar with the deck, they’ve seen it a million times. The metallic is the best part though. Theory 11 did it just right; the metallic is noticeable enough to give the cards an elegant, distinct look but not so overboard that they’re distracting. It’s extremely hard to capture the metallic backs on camera as it’s a lighting thing but take my word for it, they look phenomenal. The red deck is closer to maroon while the blue deck looks silver in the right light.

Deck Boxes

Court Cards: Theory11 has always had the sense to get rid of the hideous orange that Bicycle throws in the court cards. The Titanium decks have shades of metallic gold and a bluish silver instead. Just like the backs, the metallic ink on the Court Cards is just right. When they catch the light it looks incredible. This design complements magic in a special way; the metallic is elegant and fleeting. It’s a hard thing to try and articulate but once you have them in your hands it’s obvious.

Court Cards

Spot Cards: The black spot cards are the standard Bicycle Rider back cards. The red ones, however, have the metallic ink. The maroon and reflective look contrasts with the black cards to give the deck a dynamic look. I’m glad they went with the metallic on the faces, it’s really what makes this deck look different. Titaniums will be awesome for any kind of red black separation effects.

Spot Cards

Ace of Spades, Jokers, and Box: I’m going to lump all three of these sections together because there’s not a whole lot new. The Ace of Spades and Jokers are exactly the same as any standard deck of Bicycles. One thing worth mentioning is that there’s no guarantee joker so they’re identical. I always hated that guarantee text when I was trying to use them as duplicates. The box is also the same as it’s common counterpart. The only difference being the shade of red and the metallic accents.

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

When Theory11 announced these playing cards I was a little skeptical, as I’m sure many of you were. There are so many things that could go wrong when using a metallic deck… especially printing it on the faces. I’m happy to say that Theory11 went above and beyond what I expected and completely disproved everything I was unsure about. The Bicycle Titanium deck is the first of it’s kind and I certainly hope it’s not the last. These cards feel superb and look elegant. I’m excited to see how spectators will perceive the aesthetic twist on such a classic back design. If you haven’t ordered any of these yet, what are you waiting for?

After a few months I’ll be writing the second piece to this review. It’ll cover feel after the deck has been completely broken in, and I’ll also talk about performance pros and cons.

Posted: April 9th, 2011
at 7:33pm by Robin Carey


Categories: Cards,Reviews

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