The Wrong Question

By Joshua Jay - Sunday, July 7, 2019

Here's a question I'm asked often: What deck of cards do you recommend? The question is symptomatic of the industry we find ourselves in. And I'd like to point out: this isn't the question new magicians should be asking.

I love playing cards, and like so many of us, I've fallen in love with their history and diversity. I'm now a deck collector, and I love all the lore that follows playing card collecting. But when new, young magicians ask me what deck they should be using, or what finish I suggest, I'm at a loss for what to say.

Here's what I wrote to a young magician yesterday. Perhaps you'll find it of use as well.

Dear Evan,

Thanks for your email and your question. You ask what deck I suggest you use at your next performance. I'll give you two answers.

I use Phoenix playing cards because they look unassuming, and I can get any gaffed deck or card made in this design within a week. Many of my favorite gaffed effects are in this brand, so I use it out of convenience. They're inexpensive, their marked decks are easy to read, and I support their maker, CardShark, because he's honest and ethical and hard-working.

That's the simple answer you asked for. But I'd like to give you a little more context than you asked for.

Asking what sort of deck to use at your first show is a little like asking Stephen King what kind of pencil he uses when he writes. It isn't the right question. If you're doing powerful magic in an effective way, any deck of cards will work, and no particular deck gives you any discernible advantage over another.

Here are the questions you should be most concerned with at your first show.

What's your opener? Have you tried every effect in your set for friends and family, to make sure you're comfortable? Do you have some backup material in case the venue has obstacles you didn't foresee? What will you do if there are children present and you have to modify your material? Does your set build, dramatically, so your magic gets better as you go?

These questions, and a dozen like them, require answers if you're going to give a great first show. I would focus on the answers to these questions before worrying about the brand of playing cards you use.

And, if it's of any help, I'd be willing to help you find the answers to these questions before your show. I'm out of town for the next few days, but can write back again after that. Good luck,

Joshua Jay

Common sense plays a role here. I wouldn't use a deck with confusing artwork or a design that would detract from the clarity of the magic.

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