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Something for Everyone

I've previously written a couple of reviews about playing cards from Legends Playing Card Company (here and here), where I stated that I considered them to be an industry leader, capable of producing playing cards on par with big name producer United States Playing Card Company (USPCC). Since then, I've had the opportunity to try a lot of different decks of playing cards, from both USPCC and Legends Playing Cards, and I've had to adjust my conclusions somewhat. Legends PCC is not on par with USPCC - but considerably better!

The man behind Legends Playing Cards is Hong Kong magician Lawrence Sullivan. Lawrence is more than just a magician, a businessman, and producer of playing cards. He's also a perfectionist, this pursuit for perfection lies at the heart of his success with Legends Playing Cards. His relentless passion for producing the absolute highest standards in every respect accounts for playing cards that are the very best you'll see, starting from amazing looking tuck boxes, to the quality of the playing cards themselves. In this series of reviews, I'm covering another half a dozen great decks from Legends, along with some of their accessories, to show that they truly have something for everything. I hope others will enjoy these great decks as much as I do!


*** STYLE: For the Connoisseur ***

The decks featured previously are more curiosities for collectors, although certainly the Soundboards deck is entirely usable as well. But at times we might be looking for something stylish and classy that we can use for playing card games. And certainly the custom playing card industry has produced some very original and stylish decks, bursting with character and energy, while still having somewhat of a traditional or more serious look. In this section I'll feature a couple of such stylish and classy decks that Legends has produced.

Tough Luck

Sam Schuna is the creator of Tough Luck Playing Cards, which he first made as something special to surprise his family with for their annual week-long card playing sessions while on holidays in the woods.


The tuck box is constructed from a very unusual material that gives this deck a very unique feel immediately from the outset. The texture of the box has been described as having a "tree bark" style, and that's indeed how it both looks and feels! Once again Legends demonstrates their ability to create novel and innovative tuck boxes of high quality!

The artwork features some classic images from the world of playing cards in the traditional playing card colours of red, black and white, while also have a very custom look.


The card-backs continue the simple red and white colour scheme, which serves to emphasize the intricate lines and details that include pip shapes from all four suits, as well as other features that incorporate a royal crown and various linked lines, for a very classic look and feel.

The number cards are fairly standard, although they have elegant and customized pips and indices. All four Aces are highly stylized, featuring elaborate custom designs and text banners wrapped around oversized pips. Meanwhile a unicycling jester adds some exhuberance to the Joker.


The real center piece of this deck, however, are the magnificent court cards, which make an immediate impression with the size and grandeur of their artwork.


These have full-bleed artwork that goes right to the very edge of the cards, making them stand out prominently from the other cards in the deck.


This effect looks truly stunning, and they are filled with rich details to explore and admire!


But all this beautiful artwork does come at somewhat of a cost, and it's an issue with most decks that have full-bleed artwork, i.e. the edges can sometimes be discerned and recognized when face down. In addition, the special inks used on these particular cards can transfer onto your fingers and onto the edges of the cards.


Obviously these aren't fatal flaws, and to compensate for this disadvantage, Legends has released this at an especially attractive and lower-than-normal price-point. So if you do find the artwork and style of this classy deck attractive, it can be a great deck to pick up for a relatively low price.

Teliad Alfrin

Tolkien's literary genius has had a huge impact on defining the staples of fantasy genre, and its his influence that also shapes the artwork of the Teliad decks, which have been given Evlvish names. Teliad means "playing" in Elvish. The three decks of Teliad playing cards have as their setting a classic and Tolkienesque fantasy world inhabited by humans, dwarves, orcs, and elves

Each of the three decks takes a unique approach to depicting the fantasy world:
- Teliad Heren (meaning "fortune" or "fate") is the earthly deck, representing nature, life, and harmony.
- Teliad Dur (meaning "obscure" or "dark") is the evil deck, representing darkness, and corruption.
- Teliad Alfrin (meaning "immortal") is the heavenly deck, representing timeless, eternal life.

It is the Teliad Alfrin Playing Cards deck that I'm featuring here. This is the limited edition of the Teliad series, and has some particularly noteworthy and special features that help make it stand out.


First of all, the tuck case of the Alfrin deck has a dragon-scale look and feel, and has been printed with stylish emerald green foil. High quality paper sourced from Italian paper manufacturing leader Fedrigoni, which some have called "the Ferrari of paper", was used for these unique tuck cases. The result is a scaly texture that is great to touch and feel by rub your fingers over it. If ever there was a reptile-like tuck box, this is it!

The card backs continue the dragon-scale theme of the tuck box, with green dragons adorning the reverse of the cards. In keeping with the immortal theme, these have been printed with gold and silver ink in the limited edition Alfrin deck. To achieve a very unique look, the ink has been printed in two layers, with a metallic ink as a base layer, on top of which there is a CMYK print, for an amazing result.


Freelance artist Federico Bollo is a great fan of Tolkien's work, and he's the one who came up with the concept and artwork for these decks. He worked closely with others from the Passione Playing Card team, which hails from Italy and is known for creating art projects with a distinctly Italian touch.

All the court cards have a classic style of fantasy artwork, with the Clubs suit picturing the Elves.


The Hearts represent Humans, and the Diamonds the Dwarves.


Unlike the Heren deck, the Alfrin deck pictures the heavenly version of Teliad, and thus for the Spades it pictures Knights of Rohan rather than Orcs.


One of the unique elements of this deck's design is the highly stylized and coloured indices. The style of the font used for the card values has been inspired by Medieval runes, creating a look that fits well with the fantasy theme. As for the pips, theses are also heavily customized, which is particularly evident in the oversized and ornate Aces. In the case of Spades and Clubs the pips are a metallic silver colour, while the Hearts and Diamonds are a burgundy red. On cards with a center pip, this is in a yellow/gold that matches the corners of the cards, to add even further customization and class.

The Jokers are also completely customized, featuring an Ent-like creature, and a human wizard.


Produced by Italian company Passione Playing Cards, and printed by Legends Playing Cards in their Classic finish, the Teliad decks are the beautiful result of a unique collaboration.


So what is it that makes Legends Playing Cards stand out, and why am I convinced that their decks of playing cards aren't just a match for industry giant United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), but significantly better? Here are some reasons and conclusions:

Legendary tuck boxes: For Legends, a tuck box is your first experience with a deck of playing cards, and so Lawrence is constantly stretching the boundaries of what is possible, and experimenting with new technologies and ideas to make them the most classy and beautiful that they can be. For him, foil accents and embossing are just the beginning of this quest for elegance, innovation, and creativity. Much more is possible, and his decks prove it: Die-cut windows that reveal part of the deck (e.g. the Sharps deck); Embroidered touches (e.g. the Persian deck); Synthetic materials that are water-proof and tear-proof (e.g. the Cadenza deck); Textures that feel like bark or reptile scales (e.g. the Tough Luck and Teliad Alfrin decks); Creative designs (e.g. the walkman-like Soundboards deck). Clearly Legends doesn't just have the ability to produce a run-of-the-mill tuck box. These are incredibly outstanding tuck boxes that look beautiful, and stand out far above the average and the ordinary.

Legendary printing: If you come from a standard department store or corner store deck, USPCC decks like Bicycle are going to seem very impressive due to their superior quality and handling. There's no doubt about the fact that USPCC makes a quality product. But as I've sampled a large range of USPCC custom decks, I'm more and more starting to notice recurring weaknesses as well, particularly with their printing registration. On numerous occasions, the borders of USPCC-produced decks aren't printed consistently and evenly. It's just a small thing, to be sure, but it takes away from a perfect look, especially when the borders are narrow to begin with. And once you notice it, you can't help but notice it every time you use that deck. I've never experienced this issue yet with a single deck from Legends. Their printing registration is always right on, and this means that they can produce playing cards with consistently narrow borders if desired, and the result will always come out beautiful. Narrow borders are quickly going to look ugly if the printing is only slightly off, but that's never been the case with all these decks and many more I've seen so far from Legends.

Legendary finishes: One thing I really appreciate about Legends is that they offer a range of different finishes. Newcomers to the world of playing cards might wonder what USPCC means with a "linen finish", "cambric finish", or "linoid finish". Well quite honestly, these are identical. While these terms had their origin with different materials used for printing many years ago, the modern production process has been standardized. USPCC continues to use these terms because each of them is associated with a specific brand like Bicycle, Bee, and Tally Ho respectively, but in reality they are all embossed air-cushion style finishes and are actually identical. The Classic Finish from Legends is an embossed finish that looks and performs similarly to this air-cushion style finish from Bicycle. But Legends also offers other choices, including their Diamond Finish, which is less papery and slightly smoother, but is also snappier and longer lasting. Then there's their Elite Finish, which has a softer feel and a different embossing pattern. In recent times Legends has been experimenting with other finishes as well, such as their Emerald Finish (also known as the JN Finish, a reference to the legendary Jerry's Nuggets), which uses stock around 0.1mm thinner than the Diamond finish but with a similar texture, and is said to handle somewhat similarly to the legendary icon of playing cards. Hopefully in a follow-up article I can give more information based on further experience with the new JN Finish, and also with the new Stud Finish that Legends is currently experimenting with. But all their current finishes are excellent, and it means that creators of custom playing cards have some real choice, all of which are quality. Represented in the review above are decks with the two most popular finishes, i.e. the Classic finish (Soundboards, Teliad Alfrin, Sharps), and the Diamond Finish (Glitch 2.0, Tough Luck, Cadenza).


Legendary handling: Because of the embossing on the paper stock used by the above finishes, and a coating that Legends uses on the cards at the end of the production process, their playing cards handle beautifully. The embossing creates tiny dimples and air pockets between them, and means the entire surface of each card isn't in full contact with the next card. This makes sure that they slide smoothly and evenly over one another, and it's what makes them spread and fan consistently and beautifully, and also shuffle nicely. You don't want cards to have so much friction that they don't slide evenly, but you also don't want them so slippery that the deck won't stay in your hands without cards sliding all over the place. The qualities of the playing cards from Legends gets this balance just right.

Legendary durability: Playing cards wear. It's just a fact, and there's no getting around it. The longer you use a deck of playing cards, the more that you'll notice the edges starting to chip or get ragged, the colour can fade, and the handling can be affected. Eventually, the cards won't slide as smoothly and evenly anymore, and you'll especially notice how this affects the performance of fans and spreads. This is true for any deck of playing cards, although cheap cards will already have this issue straight from the box, after just a shuffle or two! But in my experience, Legends Playing Cards last a whole lot longer than other decks I've used, including those from USPCC. One of the best ways to test this is to use a deck with black cards. Black cards look stunning out of the box, but they are notorious for getting chipped edges, which reveal the white of the cardstock underneath (less noticeable with white cards, obviously). With USPCC printed decks I have, this has been a real problem with black cards, and as much as I love black decks, I know that they just won't go the distance for this reason. I'm pleased to say that I've noticed a real difference with black decks from Legends. Legends claims that their cards are more durable and long lasting, and you really do notice this with their black decks, such as the Pipmen Shadow edition, which has jet black cards, and yet doesn't show signs of chipping or wear quickly. The Diamond finish is especially durable and is an excellent choice for black decks like this, and will give superior results to a standard USPCC produced deck.

Legendary cut: When I first saw a picture about the difference in edges between USPCC cards and Legends cards, I thought it was an exaggeration. But folks, there really is a massive difference - ask anyone who has taken the time to compare them. Legends Playing Cards uses what they call a "diamond cut" to make the edge of their decks absolutely smooth. This process doesn't prevent the cards from doing weave shuffles like the faro, and yet the result is completely crisp, and the edge of a new deck feels like glass. Compare that to the edge of a deck from USPCC, and you'll instantly notice that it looks and feels rough. You don't even need to be a trained expert to see and feel the difference - my son can immediately tell the difference between a Legends and a USPCC deck with his eyes closed, just by feeling the edges of a deck, seriously! So straight from the box, there's an instant quality difference in the cut of the cards.

Legendary prices: I've not produced a deck of playing cards myself, so this isn't something I can comment on from first-hand experience. But I have had contact with a lot of creators of playing cards, and more than once I've read some frustration with the minimum order requirements that USPCC has, and how they calculate their costing. Effectively you need to budget on making more decks that you actually need, because there is a percentage error factor that is built in to their pricing. I don't know all the details, but I do know that because Legends is based in Taiwan, their Asian base of operations means that they can offer a superior product without needing to charge higher prices. In other words, Legends isn't a more expensive option, despite their quality.

Legendary accessories: If you're looking for accessories like a card clip, Legends also has you covered with that as well. These aren't typically cheap, but if you are looking for a quality product like a carbon card clip, you can expect to pay for it. But the quality is superb, it's long-lasting and functional, and it also looks fantastic. These would make great gifts for the serious card enthusiast, or even a useful accessory for the person who is constantly walking around with a deck in his pocket.



Now, as I said at the beginning, Legends Playing Card Company isn't paying me to write any of this. They have no idea that I'm going to write such high praise, and they certainly don't know about the enthusiastic conclusions I'm writing here. And when I first decided to do this feature article, it wasn't initially my intention to bring such high praise. But I couldn't help myself.

After spending a lot of time over the last number of months tinkering with decks from both Legends and from United States Playing Card Company (USPCC), and using them both for cardistry, card magic, and card games, the difference in quality is becoming more and more obvious to me. Sure, USPCC cards are good, and there's a reason why they are an industry giant. But they lack the passion and perfectionism that Lawrence Sullivan brings to the table at Legends Playing Cards. Lawrence also has the advantage that he has access to printing processes and technologies of a factory in Taiwan, whereas USPCC is an entirely American outfit.

I'll continue to appreciate USPCC produced cards, and if a designer of custom playing cards is using USPCC, that will give me an assurance of quality. But if I was to give advice to anyone considering producing a project of custom playing cards, I'd definitely suggest they consider Legends if they want the very best. [Legendary playing cards indeed!


Want to learn more?
Legends Playing Card Company:
Playing Card Online Store:

Direct links for the decks featured in this review series:
Novelty: For the Collector - Glitch 2.0 Playing Cards, Soundboards Playing Cards
Style: For the Connoisseur - Tough Luck Playing Cards, Teliad Alfrin Playing Cards
Secrets: For the Magician - Cadenza Playing Cards, Sharps Playing Cards
Accessories: For Everyone - Carbon Fiber Card Clip, Leather Tab Card Wallet

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