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.
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.
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.
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 Like most decks Theory 11 sells there are no oranges or yellows; those have been replaced by deeper colors.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So here are the ratings:
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
Comments: 1 comment
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