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EndersGame
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*** BRING ON THE MAGIC WITH MURPHY'S! ***

Murphy's Law

Have you ever heard of Murphy's Law? It is typically stated as "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Did you just drop a slice of buttered toast? Murphy's Law says it will likely fall butter-side down. And that the chances of it making a mess on the carpet increase according to the cost of your carpet. Murphy's Law also explains things like why the other queue always moves faster; why uniforms only come in two sizes (too large and too small); and why nobody is listening except when you make a mistake (which will invariably be when everyone is listening).

There are many other laws that are all applications of Murphy's Law, like these:
Law of Mechanical Repair: After your hands become coated with grease, your nose will begin to itch and you'll have to go to the bathroom.
Law of Probability: The probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.
Law of Theatre Seating: At any event, the people whose seats are furthest from the aisle arrive last.
Law of Close Encounters: The probability of meeting someone you know increases dramatically when you are with someone you don't want to be seen with.
Law of Selective Gravitation: A dropped tool will land where it will do the most damage.

And then there are other related sub-laws, like these:
Finagle's Rider: Anything that can go wrong, will only go wrong at the worst possible moment.
Forsyth's Corollary: Just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, the roof will cave in.
Gumperson's Law: The probability of anything happening is in inverse ratio to its desirability.

And have you ever heard of Cole's Law? It's thinly sliced cabbage. (groan)

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Murphy's Magic

But I digress. Back to Murphy and his law. Because there's also a Mark Murphy (pictured below), and I'm certain he's not the person who invented Murphy's Law. But Mark did found Murphy's Magic, which has absolutely nothing to do with Murphy's Law, except for the fact that it shares the Murphy name. Now if the Murphy from Murphy's Law formed a company, it would have resulted in catastrophe long ago. Fortunately that's not happened with Mark Murphy, who has successfully been running Murphy's Magic for almost 20 years.

Mark founded Murphy's Magic in 1998, and it is strictly a wholesale magic dealer. That means: individuals can't purchase directly from Murphy's Magic, because they only sell in bulk quantities to authorized dealers. So if you see something on their site that you like, you can't purchase individual items directly from them, but need to ask your local magic dealer. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, because Murphy's Magic produces and sells an enormous range of magic products which they sell to magic dealers around the world, and they have a huge network of contacts in the retail industry. Their website is a terrific resource with tons of information about their products, which include all things magical: magic kits, magic tricks, card tricks, DVDs, books, gags & jokes, puzzles, juggling, playing cards, accessories, and more.

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Murphy's Playing Cards

But what really interests me is the fact that Murphy's Magic also produces their own playing cards. Jason Brumbalow is the director of New Product Development at Murphy's Magic, and under his leadership multiple decks of playing cards have been developed for Murphy's Magic. In fact Murphy's has created a range of more than half a dozen decks of specialty playing cards, and it's these that I'll be covering in this review.

All of these decks of playing cards are available from Murphy's Magic dealers, and since many retailers that sell magic or who specialize in custom playing cards often rely on Murphy's Magic for their products, this means that these decks should all be readily available from a variety of sources.

So let's just forget Murphy's Law for a moment, and instead show some of the successful playing card projects that Murphy's Magic has produced in the last few years. I'll be covering nine decks in total, which I've roughly categorized according to the amount of customization they have.

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*** COMPLETELY CUSTOMIZED DECKS ***

Sometimes decks of playing cards are only semi-customized. This is especially true of many decks produced by Ellusionist, which look glamorous when judging from the tuck box, but in reality the cards themselves are standard, except for customized card backs, Ace of Spades, and Jokers. While these decks can be useful for magicians, many of us who enjoy playing games with playing cards or who enjoy collecting them will prefer a deck of cards with a higher degree of customization.

In this section I want to cover three different decks created by Murphy's Magic which are fully customized, i.e. they also have customized court cards, and number cards that feature a completely new design. In all these cases, a great deal of thought has gone into producing these decks, with great attention paid to every little detail. In many respects, they are really works of art through and through!

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== FOX TARGETS ==

The Fox Targets Playing Cards exude sophistication and class from the moment you take off the shrink wrap. It has a matt forest green tuck box, with a very stylish design on the front, the vertical series of stripes dominating the overall look.

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The back of the tuck box has a ornate illustration in which the Fox Targets monogram is central, consisting of a letter F, with an arrow through the middle to indicate a T.

Various symbols on the corners generate interest, like a campfire, arrows, ax, and tent, while the overall picture suggests an outdoors scene, which is no surprise given that this deck was inspired by a love for nature, and the rugged beauty of the great outdoors. Much of the artwork is camping oriented, and pictures the golden hour when the sun sets, which is the one time foxes can become visible hunting targets.

But there's also deeper meaning behind the symbols, and the designer has explained that the fire represents the fire needed in one's heart, the tent represents the need for us to build a structure and home; everything is carefully thought out.

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The ad copy says, "True beauty is natural and elusive, much like the fox ... All that glitters is not gold. True beauty is just knowing where to look." Small details, like ornamentation on the tuck flaps, especially the foxes on the upper flap, all confirm an initial impression of quality, without needing to resort to bling like gold foil accents.

The artwork was illustrated by card artist Lance Miller, under the direction of Jason Bumbalow - both well known names for those well acquainted with the world of playing card design. Lance's interest and involvement in magic began in childhood, and in later years he chose to go into the world of art design for the magic industry. The collaboration and idea for this particular deck began when Jason found a vintage hunting target from the 1920s that had a fox pictured on it. This led to the idea of using concentric circles like the one inside the fox on the tuck box, and the design style used for the court card figures' hair.

Once the deck is in your hands, everything about it looks and feels professional and classy.

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The card backs are a soft green grey that doesn't overstate itself, and there is a mirrored design that incorporates the Fox Targets monogram. I love this look. It's common to see decks with horizontal or vertical stripes, but to just have a partial stripe to the border gives the impression of a badge or medal of honour, and adds to the style.

The Ace of Spades, a signature card for most decks, has a beautiful design which encloses a tiny fox within the spade pip, and is surrounded by the campfire and axe logo in a stylish black and white figure.

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The colour of the face cards is slightly off-white, matching the borders on the backs, to give the entire look an environmentally friendly touch.

The court cards are line drawings, black in the case of the spades and clubs, and two tones of red in the case of the hearts and diamonds. These feature illustrations of native Americans, many in ceremonial war dress, and armed with hatches and arrows.

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Lance Miller has poured hours of work into designing these images, with each court card involving on average an incredible 25 hours of time to illustrate - and that's before the process of digital remastering even begins! This means that over 250 hours have gone into the illustration process alone, while a card back typically involves over 80 hours. The designs involved countless iterations and designs in order to produce the beauty you see here. According to Lance, an entire deck like this takes more than 400 hours of work! And there is certainly a lot of detail - e.g. the Queen of Hearts has a nod to the Run deck's Joker at her top left shoulder.

The number cards are absolutely exquisite in every way. To begin with, the pips are completely custom, and I especially love the unusual fire-like shape given to the diamonds. The spade pips are influenced by the same shape. They were hand-drawn by Lance Miller, and then digitized - so they are like no others that exist!

All the pips are placed on the cards in a customized orientation that adds to the custom feel and a sophisticated look. The indices use a very thin font that confirms the look of elegance.

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To complete the deck, we have two matching Jokers, with our friend the fox again featuring prominently.

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This deck was printed in Taiwan by Expert Playing Card Company, in their crushed stock. The tuck box calls it "Slipstream Finish", but it feels identical to EPCC's Classic Finish. It handles superbly, and the edges have a outstandingly clean cut, superior to USPCC decks. USPCC was originally intended to be the publisher, so I'm glad that the change was made, even if it was last minute.

But there's also a mysterious puzzle built into the deck. In an interview, Lance Miller revealed the following: "I won’t be upset if people don’t figure it out right away or ever for that matter. I wanted to create something that would last throughout time; that people might pick up 25 years from now and still be trying to solve. There are clues buried throughout all of the artwork and the entire deck itself is the puzzle. I almost hope no one ever solves it and that it brings many years of adventure to those endeavor to work on it."

The promo video for the deck ends with a shot of the Ace of Spades and the voice-over: "All you have to do, is know where to look." Is that where the hunt begins? Perhaps.

Lance gave a couple of other clues in a video here where he discussed the Fox Targets deck, where he said something to this effect: ""Every single card has a story. Every story makes a greater story. I want to challenge you to see if anyone catches it. I gave so many clues, and it's not about me or any individual in particular. But it's about the deck, and the entire deck is a family - I will give you that!"

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This is a set of playing cards that feels simultaneously outdoorsy, adventurous, and yet exceedingly practical, full of elegance, and sophistication. I'm a man who loves hiking and the outdoors, so this is really a deck that speaks to me, with a raw beauty and even a hidden secret waiting to be discovered. The Fox Targets do indeed confirm that you don't need flashy or gold to be truly beautiful!

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To see more, check out the official video trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6Em7_MEn1g


== RUN ==

Take the money and run! "After the score, there's only one thing to do: RUN!"

The theme of Run Playing Cards embraces a love for poker, and evokes the idea of surviving a competitive gambling context, coming out on top, and then heading for the exit and making a fast-getaway. You'll especially need to run after performing a hustle or fleecing someone with some gambling tricks!

Under the direction of well-known producer Jason Brumalow, and illustrated by Chris Yoon, this deck is intended to convey something of the energy of a dynamic lifestyle where there is constant motion and activity. It is deliberately designed to capture a sense of something raw and rebellious - but you wouldn't know it initially from the polished presentation of the box.

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My version of this deck came in a well-presented hardened black external case that consists of two halves, and offers additional protection to the tuck box itself. It has gold lettering on the front and the side of this external box, reminding us of the deck's theme: "After the score, there's only one thing to do." A solid protective box like this is not very common with decks, and not only does it protect your tuck box and playing cards, but it also fits with the Run theme, where an energetic lifestyle requires taking additional measures to ensure safety and protect. Only the original print-run comes with this hard case, so if there are future printings, they will be without the additional case.

Once you open this baby, you get access to the tuck box itself - and wow, is it ever pretty and stylish!

Three versions of this deck were produced, and what I'm reviewing and showing here is the one that had the largest production, namely the Standard Edition (Green and Gold). A Heat Edition (Crimson and Chrome) is also available, as is a Bankroll Edition (not available to the general market, but only via special promotions). With the Standard Edition, the matt look of the forest green tuck box provides a beautiful background for the stylish gold foil and embossing to really shine.

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It's a very stylish pattern that has a diagonal stripe wrapping vertically around the box, creating an infinite loop. One side of the box has a ornate dollar shaped design incorporated into the vertical stripe, a theme that the card backs will pick up, while the other side of the box has a golden Ace of Spades. A light tiled pattern completes the look, and if you notice carefully this incorporates tiny spade and diamond pips along with tiny gems to make up the design; these gems representing the treasure that motivates a gambler and risk-taker at heart.

Initial positive impressions of the tuck box continue when we observe something else unique about it: a side loading design. Yes, this is a deck that defies the usual conventions in many ways - and yet it remains very polished. Even the flap has embossing and gold lettering, and opening up the tuck reveals hidden secrets, with a website at murphysmagic.com that promises more: "Learn a gambling routine with your included gaffed cards". I checked it out, and sure enough, it offers two videos for routines that use the two gaffs included with the deck, and both these videos can be either streamed or downloaded.

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The card backs repeat the design already introduced on the tuck box, with a bold diagonal stripe in which a dollar symbol is prominent, as part of a very ornate and bordered design. The diagonal stripe has its roots in the image of a race-track, and along with the rest of the deck is intended to convey something about motion and dynamics. The colours remind me of banknotes and greenbacks - which is no coincidence!

The Ace of Spades should also look very familiar - it also echoes what we've seen before on the tuck box, along with a reprise of the deck's thematic one-liner, this time in print below the over-sized pip.

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One of my favourite aspects of this deck are the court cards. For all four suits, they have a traditionally inspired design, but using an unusual and simple colour scheme of a pale yellow accompanied with a blue-grey, creating a very striking and original look. The colours, I suspect, have been inspired by the colour of money: banknotes and coins, gold and silver.

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The pips on all the cards have diagonal lines running through them, to match the sense of diagonal conveyed on the card backs, thus creating a unified and overall impression of diagonal lines on both sides of the cards. They also have a very thin yellow outline around them.

On the number cards, the pips are considerably smaller in size than on the court cards, and the arrangement of the pips also is custom to this deck.

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Notice how the colour of the traditionally red suits departs from the usual, with an orange that complements the blue/grey and yellow found elsewhere in the deck. As we have said all along, this deck doesn't follow the usual well trodden pathways of the expected, but likes to be rebellious.

The Jokers include a subtle and clever 6 of Spades reveal that magicians will love, and picks up the classic theme of a sword stabbing a heart, found also in miniature on the card-backs, and which historically represents treachery - the thematic connection for this deck being obvious.

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The indices use a square-like font that is reminiscent of a type face you'd see on a computer. Somewhat surprisingly, the indices on the traditionally black suited cards is indeed black, and doesn't quite match the lighter blue grey of the pips on the middle of the card. More rebellion!

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One other interesting thing about this deck is the banner style arrangement of lines below the indices, running down the sides of the cards. This also enhances the impression of movement, which is related to the deck's "run" theme.

In many ways this is really a deck that magicians will appreciate, and two gaffed cards that are included will be welcome weapons in the hand of magicians. These gaffs are especially well-suited for performing Skinner's Ultimate 3 Card Monte routine or other 3 Card Monte effects, like the one taught at the video link provided with the deck, which features teaching from Jason Brumalow and Chris Huang. The 3 Card Monte routine provided is a 13 minute video, while the Tantalizer routine is just over 10 minutes, and is based on an improved version of an effect found in Royal Road to Card Magic. The gaffs are very versatile, and in the hand of a magician, they can be used along with this deck to produce apparent miracles, including transpositions, sandwiches, and monte effects. The choice of gaffs also fits well with the gambling and risk taking motif.

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The Run deck was in development for over a year, and if you're interested in learning more about the design, check out the video here in which producer Jason Brumalow explains all the thinking that went into the small elements of design.

It was printed by USPCC in their standard air cushion finish for quality performance. So bring this along to the table and get playing. "Let your chips fall where they may, but know where the exits are, because after the score, there's only one thing to do..... " RUN!

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To get a sense of the intended thematic flavour, see the official video trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4HejliUyRY


== REVOLUTION ==

Wow. This deck is easily one of my favourites that has been produced by Murphy's Magic: Revolution Playing Cards.

The provocative video trailer for this set of playing cards has images featuring information and technology, accompanied with the following voice-over: "Information is the new weapon. The most dangerous is also the most hidden. They collect your data. They record your every move. They use it to keep you predictable, keep you profitable. But I have information of my own. And they're just as vulnerable. If you're reading this, you're a part of their system, you're a piece of their property. The bets they make are at your expense. What if the key was at your fingertips? What if you could bring them down for good? What if you could start a revolution?"

This revolutionary concept is embodied in quotation from Thomas Jefferson that appears several times throughout the deck, including on the tuck case: "When injustice becomes law, revolution becomes duty".

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But there are two types of revolution symbolized here. First of all, the systematic collection of digital information represents a technological revolution that is presently taking place in our world; one that will be accomplished without angry mobs, and will be over before we even realize it.

But what if we could use the same tools of information to defy this modern revolution? Efforts by the WikiLeaks projects and Edward Snowden come to mind as contemporary examples. This deck, produced by Jason Brumbalow with artist Abraham Garcia, is a homage to the defiance of this second type of revolution.

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My love for this deck begins with the tuck box. When you first hold it in your hand, it looks rather plain: red, with three solid white stripes. By the way, remember those three stripes (or triple bar) - we're going to be seeing a lot of them, because this is the deck's signature icon! The plain red looks non-descript and ordinary - until you take a close look and tilt it in the light, when you notice that it features an intricate design (and even words!) that has been applied with a glossy UV spot varnishing in the same colour!

This is a very neat hidden revelation effect, that really looks impressive. The images and phrases (e.g. "be the change you want to see in the world" and "better to die on your feet than to live on your knees") give suggestions that hint of the revolution theme within.

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The card backs have thin borders - ideal for cardistry - that have been printed consistently and beautifully throughout the deck. This deck was printed in Taiwan by Expert Playing Cards, and in my opinion that means it has a quality that surpasses USPCC produced decks - the cut is cleaner, and the printing registration is crisper and more accurate, and that's why the borders on the cards are perfect.

The colour of the backs is a rich red, with the simple three bar design in white prominent. This triple bar icon has several different context-dependent meanings, and it's not immediately obvious which one is the intended one, because it's used in mathematics, philosophy, science, and technology, but in entirely different ways. I was able to ask the designer about this, and he explained that it is a throwback to a binary operation, but also has the same philosophical roots as the Triforce symbol (familiar to some from the Legend of Zelda game), known as the Mitsuuroko which means "three scales", and represents Power, Wisdom, and Courage. Here that concept is combined with the digital information Revolution theme of the binary three bars, and is a visual statement that emphasizes elements necessary in taking a defiant stand against something.

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Our perusal of the face cards begins with a very polished and intriguing Ace of Spades, featuring the curious eye symbol that is sometimes associated with the new world order conspiracy and rule of the elite. I is against this kind of rule and all-seeing eye that the revolution of this deck is envisaged. This card also introduces the two main colours of the deck: black and a very deep almost burnt red.

The bursting lines that emerge from the Ace also are evident in the court cards. These are my favourite cards in the deck, and have a haunting and intriguing beauty and refinement.

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Many of the cards have characters with elements that protrude outside the carefully framed borders. Clearly, this is a deck that isn't about staying within the lines, but about stepping outside when necessary, in order to effect change.

Notice also how the deck's main motif, the three bars, features in the centre of each court card as a belt buckle style ornament.

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The Jokers build in a nice reveal, with the "Semi Free" on one Joker transposing into "Queen Hearts" on the other. They repeat the deck's thematic motif taken from Thomas Jefferson, while the security camera artwork reflects the idea where law has become repression.

The pips do a fine job of combining burgundy red and black in a clever way. Alll the pips have the deck's flagship 3-bar icon in their center in the opposite colour, which is also used for the outline of the pips. So the black pips are tinged with red and have the 3-bar icon in red; while the red pips are tinged with black and have the 3-bar icon in black.

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The pips are also quite refined and delicate, with a custom arrangement. On the indices they are accompanied with a square shaped font for an altogether intriguing look.

Each suit also has its own style of lines as a background image, reminiscent of the lines we saw bursting from the Ace of Spades. But each suit has adapts this in its own style. For example with Diamonds, these are styled as lightning bolts, with Hearts they are single lines, and with Clubs they are straight lines alternating with dotted lines.

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To see more, check out the official video trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32SIwrqk_Nw


*** CONCLUSIONS ***

WHAT DO I THINK?

Gamer friendly: Some decks of custom playing cards are geared very much to collectors, and end up being consigned to collect dust on a shelf, or to remain in shrink-wrap in a drawer. That's not the case with the decks from Murphy's Magic. It's clear from the outset that these are decks of playing cards that are designed to be used, whether in the hands of a cardist or magician, or a gamer playing poker or some other card game. In most cases, these decks not only look beautiful, but are also very functional, and the degree of customization is not such that they won't be recognizable or playable by the average person.

Magician friendly: For the same reason, these decks are superb to use for magic. This is particularly the case with some of the decks, which have been created with the magician in mind, as is evident from the additional cards that are included. Perhaps the best example is the Run deck, which comes with two gaff cards, and a secret URL that has two free video downloads of tutorials teaching you two great routines you can use the gaffs for. Having said that, this is certainly by no means a magician-only deck, because the theme and look of the deck will work equally well for your weekly poker night!

Range of customization: One thing I appreciate about the decks in the Murphy's Magic range is the diverse styles, and varied degree of customization. If you want a deck with faces that look very close to a standard Bicycle deck, and just a different card back, there's a deck for you: Magician Anonymous. On the other hand, if you're looking for something where everything has been customized, including the look and orientation of the pips on the number cards, the court cards, and every other aspect, there are decks for you: Fox Targets, Run, and Revolution.

Thoughtful design: In the case of the highly customized decks in particular, it is incredible how much thought has gone into the design. This is particularly the case with the Fox Targets, Run, and Revolution decks, which are probably my personal favourites from all of the above decks for this reason. I love the fact that not only are these completely customized, but that the designers have carefully considered all aspects of the design, and that there's an incredible amount of symbols and icons and stories that have been incorporated wherever possible. This makes these decks full of meaning and significance, and I enjoy exploring and admiring this.

Printing: Most of these decks have been printed by USPCC, makers of the reputable Bicycle brand. USPCC does an excellent job in producing quality cards, and the printing registration is usually good, with an air cushion style embossing and magic finish that handles beautifully. I noticed that in several instances of the above decks that the sizes of the borders weren't always consistent and even, one side at times being slightly wider than the other side. Admittedly, most people will never notice this! But this happens more often with USPCC-produced cards, although fortunately it's not common. But in my experience this issue happens even less often with decks printed in Taiwan, such as those by Expert Playing Cards, which also offer a cleaner and neater `diamond cut'. Both the Fox Targets and Revolution decks were printed by Expert Playing Cards, and the printing quality and cut of these in particular is outstanding.

Professional: One thing I'm really impressed with is the polished marketing that Murphy's uses to promote these decks. Murphy's Magic has to be a front-line industry leader in this regard, producing very impressive video trailers for their in-house decks. Typically these are about 2 minutes long, and feature amazing cinematography, visuals, along with appropriate music and voice-overs. These videos are really slick, and do a great job of conveying the flavour and theme of a deck, as well as showing what the deck looks like in action.

Lectures: Having a deck of cards is just the beginning - you also need things to do with it. Almost everyone will have use for a lovely deck of playing cards to play games with. But if you do enjoy tinkering with magic or want to expand your horizons, definitely check out the At The Table lectures.

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RECOMMENDATION

So are the decks of playing cards from Murphy's Magic for you? While some of their decks will especially have appeal to cardists (e.g. Memento Mori), for most of us, these are ideal and quality decks that are perfect to use for playing card games, or if you're a magician, for doing card tricks. You can also choose the amount of customization that you prefer.

So if you're looking for cards that are high quality in terms of looks and handling, the decks from Murphy's Magic definitely fit the bill. Even Murphy's Law couldn't stop me from being a happy customer!

Want to learn more? Murphy's Magic: www.murphysmagic.com

The decks reviewed in this revie series are all available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic retailer.

Here are direct links for all the decks featured in this review series:
- Fox Targets: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=59119
- Run: https://www.murphysmagic.com/Product.aspx?id=53842
- Revolution: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=58533
- Memento Mori: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=57265
- Memento Mori Blue: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=59438
- Darkfall: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=56651
- Mandalas: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=58314
- At the Table: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=54437
- Magician Anonymous: https://www.murphysmagic.com/Product.aspx?id=55788
- At The Table Experience: www.murphysmagic.com/atthetable/

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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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