Many of you who have read my indepth reviews may have an intuitive sence of my methods so you may want to skip past this section as the tables and charts may be pretty self explanitory to you.Mission Statement:
This buyers guide and the accompanying “In Depth” reviews that go along with it, are meant to give card magicians a good idea of how a particular deck of cards can be expected to handle. It is my hope to open peoples eyes to decks that they may have been overlooked by advertising hype, and judge how much hyped cards live up to their reputation. What this guide is not:
It is not the intention of this buyers guide to judge how well you will like a deck. Personal likes and dislikes will vary depending on how well you like the back design, what style of magic and flourishing you prefer, and sometimes even brand loyalties. I certainly have my own opinions on these topics and I happily share those in the in-depth reviews but I go to great effort to keeps those opinions out of the scores I give to various decks. This is also not intended to assess the worth of cards that are on the secondary market. Once a card becomes a “collectible” deck its value as a performance deck or a practice deck quickly becomes negligible compared to it’s monetary value. (Does anyone really think that a Jerry’s Nugget card is worth $250 based on it’s performance characteristics alone? )How to use this guide:
This guide tries to lay these cards out in a side by side comparison of handling characteristics. From there you can judge what characteristics you value the most and select a deck that seems to fit your taste. You can also examine how I have rated a deck that you know that you like and find other cards that handle in similar ways. For instance, a person who likes the feel of the Tally Ho stock may find that Bulldog Squeezers and T11 Propaganda decks also have very similar characteristics.Testing Methods:
I review each deck as I take it out of the box(OOB) and compare it to a few control decks of major brands that are never handled other than for comparisons. The primary control decks I use are, an OOB Bike 808, an OOB Bee Club Special, an OOB Tally-ho, and an OOB Ellusionist UV500 deck (currently using a ghost deck). Then, after each week of testing “abuse” I compare the test deck to another deck of the same brand and type that is kept in OOB condition. During a review I do my level best to put a deck through torture. I’m usually practicing techniques that are at or near my personal limits. This assures that cards will “accidentally” get dropped and crimped. I am not a stickler about washing my hands before each practice. The deck goes with me everywhere and I practice and perform with it at a whim regardless of circumstances. If a Bike 808 were to go through the same level of abuse as a test deck it would generally last a bit over a week in my hands. If a deck makes it to the end of a month I give it one final review and mention what condition it was in at the end of all this. Some decks are on their last legs at the end of the month and others are still charging on. Regardless, the longevity is not tested beyond a month. For you to estimate the longevity of a deck just imagine how long it takes you to wear out a Bike 808 deck(for me about a week) and multiply by the longevity score. Thus, if it takes you two weeks to trash an 808 then a deck that lasted me three weeks should last you 6 weeks. Naturally I give no guarantees on these dates(different decks deteriorate in different ways) and you might be pickier about the deterioration of some characteristics more than others.Interpreting my tables:Name:
Name of the deck.Company:
What Company prints the deck. United States Playing Card Company, the biggest card company in the world, is abbreviated as USPCC.ECO’s Grade
: E. Cooper Ostresh, That’s me. This is my personal ranking of a deck from 1-5 Stars. This grade is not intended to be taken as anything more than my own personal opinion. It does not necessarily follow the scores of the decks. Ie. By the numbers an Anglo Rug deck scores just about as well as a Piatnik Club, a four-star deck, yet I love the back design on the Anglos so much that I give it one of my five star ratings. A note about my five-star decks: At any given time there will only be 5 five-star decks. I have set a limit on myself to avoid being a reviewer that dolls out 5 stars every time I try out a deck I really like. None of the 5 star decks will be decks that are only found in the secondary market. If a five-star deck goes out of print and then sells out of stock from the primary retailers it shifts to “Immortal” Status. Once a deck becomes immortal it opens a spot for the best four star deck to get promoted. Handling Characteristics:
In the original reviews I use a 10 point scale for specific characteristics of the decks. I set as my average in those a 7(my educational biases shade my thinking in terms of a 7/10 being a C) and used the Bike 808 as the primary comparison deck. I’ll continue reviewing as such for the long term reviews but for this buyers guide I have turned it into a 5 point scale because it will be easier to interpret tables, if I choose to post any, and because in the original reviews I would stop using a deck if it reached a 5 or below in any one category. Thus a five point scale was sufficient. Longevity:
How long did it last me? See the testing methods section for suggestions on how to interpret this score for you. 1=1 week, 4=4 weeks(it made it to the end of a review but just barely), 5=4+weeks(the deck completed the month of a review and was still going strong at the end of the month.)
Fanning: This score judges how smooth and even a deck fans. This score also relates to spreads and, to some extent, faro weave shuffles. Though some decks with good cutting processes may faro well but still be more difficult to shuffle. I also find that decks that fan better seem more precise for various shuffling techniques, such as riffle stacking, and tend to be better at various culls.Spring:
This is actually my shorthand for “Spring Energy” and not to be confused with the “spring flourish.” This category evaluates the overall stiffness and “pop” of a deck. A deck that is stiffer tends to store more energy . The harder it is to bend, the more it tends to snap back from a bend, the higher the spring energy. Dribble:
How smooth and easy does a deck dribble. This is a useful characteristic for some flourishes and some sleights. (Dribble force, Dribble shift, Anaconda Dribble)Crimp:
Short for Crimp hold and recovery. How well does a card hold a crimp when you want it to and how well can you bend out a crimp when you don’t want it. Decks with a high crimp score will tend to look better over the long haul whereas decks low in this stat will start looking “beat up” quicker. 1 Card Glide:
Short for single card glides. In its most basic this rates how easy it is to glide one card, and only one card, off from the deck. Obviously this is a rating for the “glide” move but many modern card sleights(that I won’t mention for fear of tipping methods) use the glide in some way or another.2+ Card Obfuscations
: This rates how easy it is to pass off two cards as one. Most commonly used in the DL, we all know that, in addition to the myriad of DL varieties, there are also several techniques that try to disguise two or more cards as one. Some of the techniques I use to evaluate: Diving Board Double, Hugard an Braue Push off Double, Derek Dingle Double, Floop move, Center Double, MC spread DL, Silver Surfer, and the Elmsley Count to name a few.
Avg. score W/O Spring:
This is an average of all the statistics minus the spring score. Spring was left out of the total average because I consider it a matter of taste. Some people like stiffer decks and some like softer decks. The decks with a higher spring score would thus get higher averages for a trait that is a matter of personal preference. Even with that kicked out I wouldn’t take to much stock in a decks average score. I’m a firm believer in sui generis( the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts) and think the true value of a deck can’t be reduced to a simple average but I include it for you math junkies who like to calculate.Achillies Heel:
Those of you who have read my In-depth reviews also know that I give a weekly update on the progress of the deck. That won’t happen in this consolidated review. Instead I’ll give one rating for each category. This rating indicates the deck at its peak(not average) performance and if a score is listed in red
that indicates the cards “Achilles Heel.” The Achillies heel represents the category that will likely give you the most trouble. Here is a good example.
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As you can see the Anglos and Fourniers both have the same Achilles heel. Their fan. The Anglos rate higher than the Fourniers because, at their peak, they perform better than the Fourniers in this area. This can be misleading. Overall the Fourniers have a fan that can be “broken in” so over the long haul they actually perform better than the Anglos. I leave it as is for consistency sake. To gain a full understanding you need to look at the whole run of numbers. For one, Fourniers will last a lot longer than Anglos, as represented in the longevity stat. The best way to evaluate it is to read through the in-depth reviews that I provide links to. How Big is it and What is on the Surface?
You will find two more items of information under the “Where to Buy” section of each card. First is the thickness of each deck. I measure the thickness of 52 cards(no jokers or ad cards) and give the measurement of that compared to a deck of Bike 808s(+ or – however many cards). People for various reasons might find thicker or thinner cards handle better for them.
I also mention the Surface of the card. There are four main types of card surfaces. Dimpled:
a series of dimples printed in the cards in even rows and columns. Dimpled Cambric:
Same dimples as above but the pattern resembles the hatch work pattern of a cambric linen. (by far the most popular surface used by USPCC)
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These are a series of very tiny dimples and they rarely have the same depth as what we are used to from USPCC cards. They almost have the look and feel of a smooth finish deck. Smooth Finish:
As stated, this is when no dimples are used on the surface of the card.