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Topic: Draven Reviews: Smoke & Mirrors v.4
Message: Posted by: William Draven (Jun 11, 2010 10:57AM)

Product: Smoke & Mirrors v.4
Artist: Dan & Dave Buck
Producers: The D&D Playing Card Company
Link: http://www.exomagic.net/index.php/smoke-and-mirrors-v-4-by-dan-and-dave.html
Retail Price: $5.95 USD
Notes: This is a Side by Side Comparison using a Blue Rider backed Bicycle deck by the US Playing Card Company, which by many magician's opinion is considered the standard for playing cards.

It's a controversial issue that's been debated around magician's circles for some time now. Is there such a thing as a perfect deck, or are we just buying a repackaged product dressed up to look a little bit different than our last deck we purchased? Who really knows? I will say that the fad of collectable custom deck designs in the past couple of years has certainly sparked a greater need for card deck reviews. Now, I myself, am no card expert. I know enough to get done what I need to do on stage, and that's 'bout it. I can't juggle the cards in the same way as some of these more fancy XCM guys can either. But what I can do is give you my good old honest opinion on a deck of cards coming from the middle ground view point of your average card worker who doesn't need all the bells and whistles. There are plenty of other people out there doing card reviews who are far more qualified to tell you how a deck feels in the inverted zero space anti gravity slip hold than I.

I'm going to perform this review in a side-by-side fashion. Meaning, I'm going to open, examine, and compare the reviewed product next to a deck of bicycle rider back playing cards, to which I consider to be the standard of playing cards for the working magician. My review scores will be contingent on the new product's ability to hold up to, and out perform my trusted riders in many areas ranging from looks, to feel, to fluidity of movement, and even pricing. With that being said, lets begin.

The First Impression: The green colored Smoke & Mirror deck is certainly a visual difference to my blue backed riders. The S&M deck looks older, not by age per say, but it just feels like it came out of a more classy era of time. When held up to the riders, the S&M deck also appears to be slightly smaller, perhaps even thinner, but the difference is nearly unnoticeable. The decks feel to weight about the same. The back of the S&M cards have a simplistic design with a double “D” pattern in the center. No doubt for Dan and Dave. Frankly, this almost immediately makes me want to roll my eyes. I know it's your product, and the box even has “Dan and Dave illustrated by Si Scott” on the side. I think using your initials as the center back design is a bit too self referential, but hey I'd probably trip a little on my own ego too if I owned my own playing card company. There are no obvious signs of any gaffing on the deck box. One thing I should note about this deck is that its printed on completely recycled paper, so I'm excited about it being eco-friendly!

The Open: I was told by someone recently that only the first run of the S&M version 4's had a deck seal across the top of the cards. I almost feel bad breaking the seal on mine. Oh well, I buy cards for their functionality, not collectiblity. The first card I see when I open the deck is the Joker. I love the elegant design of the dual magician with top hat and cane, I hate the D's in the corners. Again, I feel it's a bit too self referential. When I perform with a deck of playing cards I don't want to feel like I'm using someone else product. Maybe if I design a Draven's deck, and then put my name and W:D all over the cards I'll feel a bit different about it, but for now I'm not impressed. The deck comes with one double backed playing card, a product placement card advertising Dan and Dave's website, and for the rest of the deck it's in New Deck Order. The cards feel like they have a softer stock to them. They certainly fan smoother. The rider backs feel sharper, or harder. They're a bit stiffer too. Both decks though cut and shuffle with comparable ease. Another thing about these cards that I like is that they look different than normal Bicycle playing cards without screaming “custom” deck. Which in laymen terms translates to “gimmicked deck”. These cards just look classy without looking gaffed.

Wear and Tear: I've been using the deck for about a week now, and while the cards seem to be holding up well, even with a card clip, the box seems to be getting beat up faster than my standard bike deck. I don't know if this is a byproduct of the recycled paper these cards are made from, or if the card box stock is just generally weaker, the fact that the box becomes an eye sore all too quick is a distress for me, since presentation is everything. The cards themselves since they are made from a softer stock take crimps really well. Easier than my bikes, but they also hold onto those same crimps too well. Once crimped it's hard to get the card to release it. My bikes seem to handle this better. The smoke and mirrors seem to take marks on the back of the cards with just about as much ease as my normal bikes. The cards over all handle and hold up pretty good compared to my bikes with general use. The cards continue to fan as well as they did when I first got them, and I see no signs of the cards performing more poorly during riffles, shuffles, cuts, and flourishes now as when I first removed them from the deck. I will note that because of the softer stock, I prefer to fan, and flourish with the smoke and mirrors deck because it does feel like it's easier to perform these moves. Bikes feel heaver and clunkier.

Overall Impression: I liked the way the deck feels, I'm a huge supporter of the recycled paper idea, and the metallic ink really brings a vintage quality to the deck that just makes the deck look good. While I think the double “D” design and the D's on the jokers are a bit too self referential, I guess if you're in the right position to have your own deck of cards printed you have the right to stroke your ego a little with it. I just would rather my performance be focused on what I'm doing, rather than whose deck of cards I'm doing it with. I'm not a huge fan of custom decks, I vary rarely ever use anything other than bikes or tally's, but this deck is finding its way into a soft spot in my heart. I'll probably use it until its dead, and maybe I'll buy another one after that.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Product Look & Feel, Performance Quality and Over all Quality.

Product Quality: 7
The product scores double points in this category for not only being a good product, at an affordable price, but it's also Eco-friendly because it's printed on recycled paper!

Product Look & Feel: 6
These cards look great, but I'm not crazy about the double D design and the D's on the jokers. As stated before I think it's a bit too self referential. However outside of that, the cards look great! The metallic ink really adds a unique quality that helps give the cards a gentlemanly, vintage, classy feel.

Performance Quality: 8
The cards I feel out performed my bikes that I was comparing them against. They fan easier, cut better, and feel lighter. I don't like how easy the box gets destroyed though, and I had a difficult time getting the cards to release their crimps.

Over All Quality: 7
It's easy to see why this deck of cards sold out completely in the first week they were released. They're a good deck. I'd recommend them to anyone who is interested in using something other than their normal bikes.