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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Black Spider & Black Scorpion decks (Magic Makers) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Reviewer EndersGame
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Magic Makers

Under the helm of Rob Stiff, and located in South Dakota, Magic Makers is a magic wholesaler specialize in all kinds of magic related products, like magic tricks, decks of playing cards, instructional videos, pranks and novelty items, and more. Their products are stocked by magic retailers around the world, and are readily available to the mass market via sites like Amazon, often at a very reasonable price.

But in this review, I'm especially interested in the decks of playing cards that Magic Makers produce, besides the regular and full range of trick decks that you'd expect from a magic wholesaler. They have produced a number of colored Bicycle decks, as well as some other interesting specialty decks, including the Black Spider and Black Scorpion decks, the Faded decks, and the Tetra deck. Each of these typically comes with gaff cards plus links to free video tutorials about performing routines with them, so they'll especially be of interest to magicians. But they'll also appeal to the average person who enjoys playing card games, and just wants to enjoy an unusual-looking or attention-getting deck of playing cards that handles well and is of a good long-lasting quality.

Owner Rob Stiff brings something interesting to the business world of magic, because he also has experience and expertise in cinematography. He has produced for Magic Makers some of the most lavish and well-produced video trailers for magic effects that you'll ever see, many that look highly professional and are like miniature movie shorts! See a collection of these impressive videos here. So let's check out some of the specialty playing cards that Rob Stiff and Magic Makers have produced!



The Black Spider and Black Scorpion decks take up where the Black Reversed Back deck left off, by adding new colors and twists on the proven formula of a striking black deck.


The Deck

The Black Spider Deck will in many ways remind you of the Black Reversed Back deck.


The card backs have the standard rider-back design in reversed black, just like what we've seen previously already.


The face cards also use traditional artwork with white and red pips to contrast with the black background.

There's one exception to the expected look - instead of a center pip, the Ace of Spades has a Spider image that we'll be seeing more of in just a moment.


The court cards however are quite different, with red borders, and a color scheme that emphasizes red and blue instead of the red and yellow of the Black Reversed Back deck.


Magic Extras

The biggest feature of this deck are the Spider cards. In addition to the 52 regular cards (which includes the above-mentioned custom Ace of Spades with a Spider image), there's a custom Joker which also has the Spider image, plus a double backer with an Ace of Spades on both sides (one with the Spider, one without). There's also a standard Ace of Clubs (white backed), which has a standard looking rider-back design on the card-back but is half-red and half-blue.

These Spider cards will be of great interest to magicians. A fairly basic routine with a simple force is provided, but most magicians will especially enjoy the more fun and powerful trick called "The Black Widow", which creates the illusion of the spiders appearing. Note that the level of difficulty for performing this would be intermediate rather than beginner.


Somewhat strangely, the link for the instruction page for this deck only has printed explanation for how to use the gaffs, and no video is included. There's also no instructions given for using the red/blue Ace of Clubs gaff card, although magicians can probably think of ways to use a card like this with a regular deck.


You can take a look at the Black Spider deck in the official video trailer here.



The Deck

The Black Scorpion Deck takes the idea of the Black Reversed Back deck to the next level again.


Once again, we have card backs just like the Black Reversed Back deck, but the white is replaced with yellow. That's because this is basically a two-toned deck that uses just yellow and white besides of course the inky black. The distinction between traditionally black and red suits is clear enough with the use of yellow and black on the face cards.

One thing different about the court cards is the use of some blue. So they still have a royal look that doesn't appeal minimalistic, and yet this fits within the color theme used in the rest of the deck. The colors are very vibrant, and really "pop" against the jet black background.


Similar to the Black Spider deck, the Black Scorpion also has a unique Ace of Spades, which now features a bright yellow Scorpion image of a center pip.

Magic Extras

Already mentioned is the custom Joker with the Scorpion that is part of the 52 cards you'd expect in a regular deck. But besides this you also get four other special cards. Firstly there are three gaffs that utilize the Scorpion: a custom Joker featuring the Scorpion, and two more Ace of Spades, each featuring a Scorpion holding a playing card, the first being a red backed card, the second being an Ace of Diamond. Naturally these are used for a magic routine, called "The Scorpion Card Grabber" (aka "Scavenging Scorpion"), which offers a fun way to reveal the spectator's selection of the Ace of Diamonds. This does require the use of a couple of elementary card sleights, and won't be suitable for a complete beginner.


The final gaff card is a unique card that does double duty as a 6 of Diamonds and a 9 of Clubs, and is used for a short comic prediction effect.

Just as with the Black Spider deck, all the instructions are written, and there are no video tutorials.

To see more of this deck, check out the two official video trailers here and here.



What do I think?

Gamer friendly: While custom decks can be very beautiful, it can happen that the degree of customization is such that the unusual aesthetics and design is a big distraction that hampers the playability and function of the cards, or makes the suits hard to distinguish. It can also happen that a custom deck has a polished and unique beauty that makes it a shame to risk having it damaged by wear and tear, and as a result it sits safely on the shelf of a collector - never to be used. The decks featured in this review have enough customization to make them interesting, and yet they have a classic look that makes them very much familiar to anyone who has experience with traditional cards. In other words, they're standard enough to be very playable for games, while still unique enough to stand out.

Magician friendly: At the same time, these decks are excellent choices for magicians, for similar reasons. Magicians don't want to be using something that looks so radically different from a normal deck that it screams "trick deck", or that the spectators are so distracted by the design of the cards themselves that the magic effect itself needs to compete for attention. These specialty decks get that balance just right. At one time it was common for magicians to stick to Bicycle decks, so as to avoid any suspicion, but we are now moving into a new era where a saturated market of crowdfunded custom playing cards has makes it more normal for magicians to be using custom decks of playing cards, and non-standard decks can also be used for magic without arousing suspicion. These decks still retain the Bicycle connection and design, and yet offer a fresh and colourful look that makes them eye-catching. These decks also come with gaff cards and video instructions for routines that magicians will really appreciate, so they have added extras that make them ideal for those with an interest in magic, even if you are just an amateur.

Instructional materials: One thing I really do appreciate these decks is that they not only come with some gaff cards, but they also give you written instructions for performing tricks with them. Better yet, they also include a secret link to video tutorials online that teach you how to perform some magic with the deck, and especially with the gaff cards included. For an experienced magician, these tricks might seem fairly basic. But for the person with relatively limited experience in the world of magic, they are fantastic, and will allow you to perform some real miracles. They aren't very difficult, and the instructions are easy to follow, and the card tricks themselves can be learned without any real difficulty. I only wish that videos were provided with every deck - for example, the Black Spider and Black Scorpion decks strangely only have printed instructions.

Bicycle brand: The Bicycle brand and rider-back design is instantly recognizable, and is a classic and reputed design. This gives these decks an immediate credibility and recognition factor. Even people who haven't seen these colored versions before will make the connection to the standard Bicycle deck, and this will make them quickly feel at home with these decks, despite the ways in which they differ from what they might be used to. The Bicycle brand also gives these products an element of official respectability - you get an immediate sense that they are something authentic, and not merely a home-made deck that someone has printed themselves.

Bicycle quality: The decks themselves have been manufactured and printed by the United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), an industry leader in the world of playing cards. That means that the quality of the printing and the cards themselves is excellent. Informed creators of playing cards will inevitably want to choose a reliable publisher, and USPCC is known to be one of the very best. Like other USPCC produced decks, these have durable cardstock, clear printing, and are a quality product. One challenge with full bleed black cards is that they can show signs of wear more quickly than white cards, but that's an issue with all black decks that isn't unique to these; and fortunately there are ways to deal with this (for example, see the Black Deck Book from Ellusionist for some good suggestions).

Handling: USPCC produced playing cards are known to be of very good quality in terms of handling, and it is a big reason why many magicians and card flourishers will only use Bicycle branded cards. They have the usual air cushion style embossing, plus a protective coating that makes them last longer, and handle nicely. As a result, the cards have just the right amount of friction so that they shuffle nicely, and spread and fan consistently and evenly. Magicians, cardists, and gamers alike will find these more than satisfactory, and certainly much better than the cheap and inferior decks typically found in department or corner stores.

Inexpensive: A deck of customized playing cards typically costs around $15 these days. Obviously the above decks don't have the same degree of customization as a more artistic deck, but this is also reflected in the lower price. Typically you can find the above decks online for around $5-10 each, which is very affordable for a quality deck of playing cards, especially if it includes extra gaff cards that can be used by magicians.

Availability: Because Magic Makers is a large wholesaler, their products are readily available from a range of websites and online retailers, including big names like Amazon. That means that if you see some cards here that you want to get for yourself, they're not going to be hard to get hold of.



So are the decks of playing cards from Magic Makers for you? These aren't glamorous works of art, like some custom playing cards today are. But they have just the right amount of customization to make them stand out and turn heads at the table, while at the same time they are familiar enough to be ideal for use in playing traditional card games, or in the hands of a magician. The extras that come with these decks will make them especially attractive to magicians, professional or amateur. But you certainly don't have to be interested in magic to enjoy these decks - they're great on their own as vibrant show-case decks that will stand out as memorable playing pieces for everyone who sees them.

So grab yourself a deck, and start making some magic of your own - whether performing some card tricks, or just playing some great card games with these!

Want to learn more? Magic Makers:

Here are direct links for all the decks featured in this review series:
- Black Reversed Back: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Orange Reversed Back: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Black Spider: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Black Scorpion: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Faded Blue: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Faded Red: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon
- Tetra 4 Way: Visit publisher page or purchase on Amazon

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