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Mana Playing Cards

In my previous article (link) I have covered Erik Mana's series of three stunning decks, entitled Mana Playing Cards. This series consisted of three decks, No. 1: Silver Oracle (2011), No. 2: Zinfandel & Indigo (2013), and No. 3: Sybil (2014).

Erik works as professional magician and mentalist in Canada, and has even produced three TV specials in the country of his birth, the Philippines. With his professional interest in magic, it's no surprise that his decks are both practical as well as classy. They have been designed to be quality products that are worthy of the magic and cardistry community, and that's exactly what they are.

However in addition to his own Mana Playing Card series, Erik has also created some other decks of custom playing cards, namely the Verve series (2012), and the Buskers series (2015). It's these playing cards that are the subject of this follow-up installment article.



In between his work on the Mana Playing Cards, Erik has also been involved in creating two other projects, the first of which was the Verve series. This was produced in 2012 by House of Playing Cards, in three different colours, with the names: Elan Rouge, Brio Blue and Shine Yellow. Only 5000 of the red and blue versions were produced, and 2000 of the yellow versions.

The name Verve is a deliberate choice, because it means "having vigor, spirit, or enthusiasm."


Verve Elan Rouge

In designing this deck, Erik was inspired by the plush leather interior of luxury sports cars. He wanted to create a deck that would be at home in this environment: simple and elegant, yet exuding richness and quality.


In order to evoke a premium feel that would comfortable in a luxury sports car or high-stakes poker game, he went for a striking leather-look on the card backs, as seen here with cards from the Elan Rouge version.


The Joker features a striking sport-like striped design that is in harmony with the overall concept of this deck.


The court cards also feature the maroon colour that dominates this deck, and have a zinfandel/gold colour scheme that is reminiscent of the Mana No. 2 Zinfandel deck.


Verve Brio Blue

Meanwhile the Brio Blue deck features an elegant blue look, once again with an elegant sports-car style striped design for the Jokers shown here.


This emphasis on blue is also evident in the court cards, with gold and blue being the chief colours.


Verve Shine Yellow

Finally, here's a quick look at the Shine Yellow version of the Verve deck, which was produced in the most limited numbers, with just 2000 produced.


Once again the court cards look incredibly classy. The artwork is unchanged, but the red/gold of the Elan Rouge and blue/gold of the Brio Blue has now turned into a silver/gold, with black being a staple colour for each.


The Verve decks were produced by USPCC on their Bee Casino cardstock, with their usual Magic Finish, to ensure durability and smooth handling.


Busking has a long history, and it was also part of Erik's personal history, when he started out as a young magician. He met some amazing performers during summer festivals, and admired how they were masters of their craft, whether music, dance, painting, drama, magic, comedy, acrobatics or juggling. The Buskers deck was created in 2015 in honour of these artists, with their diverse talents and abilities, and in tribute to the happiness they bring audiences around the world.

The two versions of this deck are the Buskers Original Vintage (beige) and the Buskers Exclusive (black), which was a limited edition of only 1000 decks.


Buskers Original Vintage

The Buskers Original deck has a vintage design, with a nostalgic look. It was the first of Erik's designs that used a borderless back design, which is a simple hypnotic pattern that will appeal to many.


The court cards are hand drawn, and each represents a type of busker (e.g. magician, juggler, musician, mime, contortionist, etc).

Pictured here are The Escapist, The Divine, and The Conjuror.


The cards all have exquisite line decorations running down the sides of the cards.


The Joker figure incorporates a handy Three of Hearts reveal.


Over-sized and stylish pips are the order of the day for all our busking Aces, with the Ace of Spades being the natural leader.


This bonus diptych that comes with the deck captures the idea of how buskers perform their art "For the love".


Buskers Exclusive

The Exclusive Deck differs from the Original Vintage deck in that it has card-backs with a black design.

It also features some different artwork on the cards, such as a unique Ace of Spades.


Both decks were produced by the Expert Playing Company in their Master finish.


What do I think?

Innovation: In his range of Mana Playing Cards, Erik Mana has certainly been pushing the boundaries of his designs, with new ideas being incorporated in each successive incarnation of his deck. Each deck in this series has something special about it, beginning with the original Silver Oracle deck that has card-backs with a striking 3D effect. The Zinfandel and Indigo decks that followed both incorporate a secret code that needs to be solved by a series of clues and puzzles. Finally, the stunning Sybil deck has a unique cigarette style tuck box.

Magic: Erik is first and foremost a magician, and it's obvious that his playing cards are especially targeted towards practicing magicians. They are very elegant and functional, without too many distractions, to ensure that they are ideal for card magic or card games. In addition, good handling is important to him, and so he's opted for industry leaders like USPCC and EPCC to produce his decks. There are also small touches that show the influence and utility of magic, such as cards featuring "reveals" that magicians will be able to make use of, while the marking system that is subtly incorporated into the design of the Zinfandel and Indigo decks can especially be useful for card magic.

Fulfilment: With some of his decks, the fulfilment has gone quite smoothly as best as I can tell. However the unique designs of other decks has in some cases meant a reliance on numerous parties to work together to produce a project. Especially in the case of the Sybil deck, with its unusual tuck box design, these demanding requirements created extensive delays, and undoubtedly caused Erik a lot of stress that he would have liked to have avoided. As a result, there have been problems with the fulfilment of some of these projects. Right now the secondary market is the best source for these decks.

Style: All of Erik Mana's deck designs feature a very elegant and classy look, that will be right at home in the hands of a magician, on a poker table, or in a game of Cribbage. These are decks that aren't just for collectors to look at, but for magicians or gamers to use. Erik's original purpose in creating the Mana Playing Cards brand was closely linked to his own need for good decks of cards to use in performing magic, and this requirement has ensured that his playing cards are very practical and functional, and that the creativity of the designs never comes at the expense of clarity.

Quality: The initial decks for Mana Playing Cards were produced by industry leader United States Playing Card Company. With his final decks, however, Erik switched to Expert Playing Card Company (EPCC) for the printing of the cards. I'm a big fan of EPCC, and think their decks are in many respects at least the equal of USPCC cards, particularly in terms of the cut and durability. The handling of the Diamond/Master finish can take some getting used to if you only have experience with Bicycle style decks, but it is very durable, and feels thinner and stiffer than a regular deck, with a pleasant snap. The Damask/Classic finish is probably closer in feel and handling to a typical Bicycle deck, but there are those who prefer the Diamond/Master finish, and it is certainly a high quality product.



I love the cards I've seen from Erik Mana so far, his Mana Playing Cards series easily being the highlight. They are high quality cards that have a very beautiful design, especially on the card backs, while also being very practical and functional for card games or magic. Even though he has taken a break from creating new custom designs after the challenges he faced in fulfilling some of his last projects, I for one am hoping that he will come back from those disappointments with the wisdom and experience needed to continue to produce quality decks that match the calibre that he has published so far.

Meanwhile it remains true that Erik Mana has made some stylish contributions to the custom playing card market, and even though these may not all be the easiest decks to get hold of, they remain beautiful decks of quality playing cards that any magician or card player will enjoy having in their hands!


Want to learn more?
Erik Mana:
Mana Playing Cards:

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