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Deck Reviews! / Playing cards the Arts
« Last post by Jokercards on March 26, 2017, 07:50:30 AM »
Anna Lobanova about her new deck: These cards are dedicated to different arts, which are devided into four groups according to the four suits and each card represents one particular kind of art. I used my own classification because neither of the classic scheme suited the case. For example I combined literature and theatre in the suit of spades because both of them relate to verbal arts. I also brought together architecture and sculpture in the suit of diamonds as they both are dimensional art forms. Fine art is represented by the suit of hearts. Along with painting and graphic I also decided to introduce engraving, because this is the technique in which the illustrations for this deck are made. And finally, the clubs represent music, embodied by a trio of composer, singer and musician. For the aces I depicted still lifes with attributes of different arts. The rest of the cards are also illustrated. I chose different themed subjects for each suit: architectural elements and ornaments, musical instruments,  botanical motifs and human faces. Wild card is represented by Muse.
Illustrations are made with linocut: the image is cut out with special tools on linoleum then the paint is applied on the surface and a print is made. This deck is made only in two colors: red and black, but each suit has its own tone and saturation.
In this work, I tried to depict different arts as funny interesting characters and I hope that I have managed to show you my vision of the card world of arts.
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Thank...yeah someone else mentioned the WW1 clothing on another site I was trying to find info. Hopefully I'll find someone that has some info on the deck!
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A Cellar of Fine Vintages / POTTER & POTTER AUCTION
« Last post by TheBadJoker on March 25, 2017, 06:22:33 PM »
Well, it's that time of year again! Potter & Potter spring Playing Card & Gambling Auction featuring the playing card collection of Bob & Rhonda Hawes.

Continental Playing Card Co. “Funny Spot.” New York, ca. 1905. 52 + J + EC. Very good-. Some cards creased and many with scrapes, the 2H being by far the worst. The pips have humorous faces and there is a humorous saying or motto on every card. The extra card has a blue back while the other 53 cards have a red back. Very rare. Remember bidding starts at 1/2 the low price which in this case is $1,750. Hoch.T13.

$3,500/4,500
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I too feel the deck is American. It may be slightly later than you think because the man seated might be dressed in World War I clothing. Never seen the deck but definitely cool.
25
Introduce Yourself / Creative guy from the Netherlands
« Last post by Nova on March 25, 2017, 04:53:48 PM »
Hi all,
Just wanted to introduce myself. I am Nova from the Netherlands and general a creative guy / designer. I do 3d design at a professional level and graphic design as a hobbyist. I always wanted to write a comic book but it just seemed too much work so then I decided to customize a set of playing cards. And came on this forum and many other interesting forums.

I already saw some great work coming by. So my purpose is to post some of my own designs and hope for some professional  / knowledgable feedback. And I want to become a small collector, my budget and space however are limited so I will maintain a very strict selection in which decks I will support or purchase - I feel most attracted to design decks like for example the CMYK deck.

Below is an example of a deck I am workin on currently (please keep in mind this is more or less a hobby project, I do not intend to run a kickstarter or anything, at most produce 20 or 25 decks for some friends or something. (I mention this disclaimer because I think the work is not as pretty as some of the decks I saw in the design section).

It's a comic themed deck (all of my projects will), with Manga style. I am very curious to your comments.


If the project is worked out some more I will maybe create a seperate topic for it.

Best Regards,
Nova
26
Playing Card Plethora / Re: Marquis Playing Cards - coming soon!
« Last post by bhong on March 25, 2017, 01:09:20 PM »
Hi everyone!

So quick short update: Marquis Playing Cards is now live!

But I wanted to share some images from the project. I wanted to create two completely unique court sets for this project where one is a re-design of traditional court cards in my style while another is an illustrated court sets. One of the coolest thing about the project is that Sherman (of Carat Card Cases) and me have been developing this idea to have a fully engraved on all panel Carat Card Case. It's something we had thought up of during Dynasty, but it was too late for me to use it for the project as the project was funded and in post-production already.






27
This review is part of a three part series of pictorial reviews about the Virtuoso deck of playing cards:
Virtuoso - 1. Introducing the group, their deck, and their art-form
Virtuoso - 2. The world's first ever deck created just for cardistry
Virtuoso - 3. The evolution of the world's best cardistry deck


VIRTUOSO & THE VIRTUOSO SS16 DECK

In an earlier review, I introduced the art of cardistry, and introduced Virtuoso, also known as The Virts, a group of expert cardists from Singapore that was formed in 2009.  With their videos, they inspired many to take up cardistry, which is the art of card flourishing.  But what began as a hobby, eventually turned into a business, as The Virts created the Virtuoso deck, a deck of playing cards designed specifically for cardistry.  With its eye-catching design and visual aesthetics that were optimized for cardistry, it proved to be a big success.

The most recent version of the deck is the Virtuoso Spring/Summer 2016 deck, commonly referred to as the Virtuoso SS16. But in fact this deck has undergone a process of systematic revision and careful improvement since the launch version of 2013, and is currently in its fourth incarnation.  All the previous decks have already been sold out long ago and are out of production.  In this review, I will share with you a short overview of the decks that have preceeded the one that is currently on the market, to give some sense of the history and development that brings us to today.




THE VIRTUOSO LAUNCH EDITION 2013 DECK (SS13)



The first version of the deck was launched in 2013. It featured the cardistry-optimized graphic design that has remained over the years.



The number cards were fairly standard on the faces, but the court cards were quite stylized.



The striking patterns and lines made it ideal for cardistry, and so was the simple colour scheme using black and red.



Here's an example of one of the custom court cards, with sleek diagonal lines, in keeping with the style of the rest of the deck.



This edition is long out of print, and I noticed that copies on eBay typically list for anything from US$120 to US$200.




THE VIRTUOSO SUMMER SPRING 2014 DECK (SS14)



The 2014 version saw a colour change, with orange and blue being the focus.



Here, featuring the Virtuoso SS14 deck, is The Virts "Card Flourishes" video, with some very cool moves!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv-IA1OyCj8

Once again, the striking colour combination made this deck ideal for cardistry.



Due to the graphic design of the card backs, it also looks great when fanned.



Blue was used instead of black pips, to give a greater unity of colour during flourishes.




THE VIRTUOSO SUMMER SPRING 2015 DECK (SS15)



The SS15 Virtuoso was released for the Spring/Summer of 2015.



Here, featuring the Virtuoso SS15 deck, is The Virts stunning "Air Time" video, that is one of their best ever.  This was filmed with a slow motion camera to really highlight the cardistry.  Featured in this video are Virtuoso's Huron Low, Kevin Ho and Daren Yeow, and there's a list of all the individual moves here.  Definitely check out this clip!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWq5n_8mrfU

To give an indication of the demand and popularity of the product by this point, the first print run of these sold out in a record 9 hours flat!



The non-standard arrangement of the pips is very evident in this next shot.



You can still get them on eBay, but expect to pay around US$50.



Here we can see one of the court cards.



The Virts made a second video featuring the Virtuoso SS15 deck, entitled "Versus".  It features seamless transitions between the SS15 and a Bicycle deck, while demonstrating some slick cardistry moves - it's a brilliant video that will give you a good idea of how much of art form this can be.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctn4H-bTPMU


THE VIRTUOSO SUMMER SPRING 2016 DECK (SS16)



This is the current deck, which is the primary focus of this review.



Here's another video of cardistry highlights performed by The Virts, entitled "Liquid Paper", this time featuring the Virtuoso SS16 deck:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0KSaqiv5C0

A noticeable change is the absence of borders on both the front and back of the cards.



This gives the cards more of a continuous feel when spread, and minimizes any distracting elements.



THE VIRTUOSO 2017 DECK? (SS17)

No deck has been officially announced yet for 2017, but the publisher has indicated that they are working on a new edition, to be released in the second half of this year.  I look forward to seeing what The Virts come up with this time!




CONCLUSION

I've had a lot of fun learning about cardistry in the process of reviewing the current version of the Virtuoso deck.  It's amazing how silky smooth it makes ordinary cardistry moves look, even for a novice right out of the box.  Even fairly common techniques like a card spread and a fan looked absolutely stunning!  I have been completely blown away by how much of an impact this deck makes on standard manipulation that you see card handlers do regularly, because it increases how impressive they look by tenfold.  The colours look fantastic as well.  Even though I came in with high expectations from the pictures and videos I'd seen in advance, the real thing turned out to be even way more impressive than I thought it would be.

The Virts have already inspired many people to take up a new hobby with their cardistry videos.  Now with the creation of their own deck, they've inspired even more people to explore and develop this new art-form.  With a proven track-record that reflects success and improvement for several years running, they are definitely the leader in this field.  And because this is a company birthed from people passionate about the art and who are skilled performers themselves, we can be confident that these guys know what is needed in a good cardistry deck.



Due to its origin and intent, it's true that the Virtuoso deck will always be a deck that primarily appeals to cardistry fans as its main target audience.  As a deck designed for their needs, it more than adequately serves its purpose, and has to be considered the top of the line product for that.  But even if you're not a cardistry expert, don't too quickly think that this deck isn't for you.  It's still a very accessible deck for anyone who is interested in basic cardistry, and wants to learn some elementary moves.   Even if you just enjoy doing a basic spread or fan, you will find that this deck turns them into art, and will inspire you to learn more.  Congratulations to The Virts - mission accomplished!


For more information about the SS16 Virtuoso deck featured in this review, and to be notified when the next version releases, visit Virtuoso's official website.

The Virts - http://thevirts.com

28
This review is part of a three part series of pictorial reviews about the Virtuoso deck of playing cards:
Virtuoso - 1. Introducing the group, their deck, and their art-form
Virtuoso - 2. The world's first ever deck created just for cardistry
Virtuoso - 3. The evolution of the world's best cardistry deck


THE VIRTUOSO SPRING/SUMMER 2016 DECK (SS16)

In an earlier review, I introduced the art of cardistry Virtuoso, also known as The Virts, a group of expert cardists from Singapore that was formed in 2009.  With their videos, they inspired many to take up cardistry, which is the art of card flourishing.  What began as a hobby, eventually turned into a business, as The Virts created the Virtuoso deck, a deck of playing cards designed specifically for cardistry.  With its eye-catching design and visual aesthetics that were optimized for cardistry, it proved to be a big success.

The Virtuoso Spring/Summer 2016 deck, commonly referred to as the Virtuoso SS16, is the company's current deck of playing cards.  In this review I'll show you what it looks like, and tell you what's so good about it.



So what's so special with this history-making deck?  Well it's the first in the world designed especially for the purpose of cardistry. That means that the Virtuoso company has given full attention to two main things in particular: aesthetic beauty, and handling/performance for cardistry.  Check out this video clip, which shows some highlights of the Virtuoso SS16 at its best, courtesy of The Virts, and judge for yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0KSaqiv5C0

But this deck has a whole lot more benefits besides those two, so let's just run through some of the things that make it so appealing and attractive, and that are unique about the Virtuoso deck.


1. CARDISTRY-OPTIMIZED VISUAL AESTHETICS

Since this is the first deck designed specifically for cardistry, it comes as no surprise that the deck has been intentionally designed to look visually stunning when flourishing cards in various patterns.  In other words, it makes any card flourish look instantly better, simply because it adds an immediate visual appeal due to the deck's design.  Every shape and line was derived from the geometric movements of cardistry, improving the aesthetic beauty of fans, cuts, twirls, displays, and cascades.  To use the company lingo: it features "Adaptive Aesthetics", which is a fancy way of saying that it has a functional back design that "adapts" to visually accentuate every card flourish.  Traditional decks aren't designed with card flourishing in mind, and have back designs that don't at all lend themselves to cardistry moves; those with intricate designs become a blur, those with small graphics become invisible, those with repeating patterns become become a confusing mess.

 The Virtuoso team began by breaking down card flourishes to their core movements and forms, and used what they learned to create a design that amplified those elements. As a result, the Adaptive Aesthetics of the Virtuoso deck is billed as a "versatile design architecture that gives appearance of swirling shapes, changing colors, and connecting patterns that makes everything you do look better than ever."  The latest version has improved this further, as the ad copy says: "The new edge-to-edge back design not only magnifies each shape for maximum visibility; it liberates the cards to seamlessly merge with one another to establish new forms.  The deeper lines further amplify every rotation, and accompanied with dashes of cadmium yellow, artfully wrap over to the faces to paint streaks of color when spread."  A three colour palette is used to maximize the visual impact.

All that sounds impressive, but is it true?  Well take a look at the pictures and videos, and judge for yourself.  The reality is that the deck does look stunning, and certainly the graphic designs and colours of the cards have a lot to do with that.  When fanned one way, the cards create a sweeping arc in one colour.  You only need to fan the cards the other way, and the deck changes colour, and the triangles and intersecting colours create an instantly different look.  The large shapes and long lines in different directions ensure that even the effect of small flourishes is amplified.  Cascading cards and springs are particularly stunning, creating a blur of colour and streaking lines.  When twirling cards, the rotations of spinning cards create a stroboscope effect, an effect that is heightened with the center circle in the design.

Before I held the deck in my hands, I knew in theory that it would improve the appearance of basic maneuvers, but I wasn't prepared for just how much it improves the look.  Both I and a cardistry friend of mine who is quite serious about cardistry were just blown away by how stunning it looks when you're moving the cards.  It's one thing to see photos of the cards being fanned or spread, but that really doesn't do justice to seeing the cards being spread on a table, or fanned in your hands.  The motion just enhances the fluidity of the colours, and brings the deck to life.  That's why you really need to watch some videos of this deck in action, to see what it can do.  And even though I'd seen some of these clips beforehand, it turned out way better in real life than I was ever expecting.  I'll say it already now: If you're into cardistry in any way at all, you need this deck.




2. OTHER VISUAL DETAILS

But the desire to create a pleasing aesthetic for cardistry went beyond making a deck look beautiful in the middle of card flourishes.  It had to look good even when it wasn't being used for card flourishes too, and had to be a beautiful stand-alone item starting with the tuck-box.  So a lot of thinking went into other aspects of the design you see here.  While the SS16 edition is the fourth model of the Virtuoso deck, already with the launch edition of 2013 much attention went to other small visual details like the following, which are still present in the most recent version:

- The tuck box had a wrap around design inspired by the cards themselves, and placing multiple tuck cases together creates a larger display.
- The Ace was created by tracing out the intersecting lines of the back design, the resulting Ace of Spades being beautifully geometric in shape as a result.
- The faces were illustrated by Morby Lin, one of Singapore's top illustrators, using many straight lines to stay congruent with the back design.
- The suits were given its own theme, providing a modern take on the classic French designs.
- The indices were condensed for more visual fanning.
- The court-cards were depicted in a minimalist fashion and without borders to enhance a continous visual effect during flourishes, or with thinner borders than normal to improve the look of fans.
- The pips on the card face are arranged in geometric rather than standard patterns in order to enhance the look with connecting patterns during cardistry

Wow - talk about attention to detail!




3. ONGOING REFINEMENT

While the core concept of the Virtuoso deck remains the same, the company remains committed to improving its product.  As a result, each time a new version was produced (and the SS16 is the fourth one), small refinements have been added.  The most obvious changes are to the colour scheme, but there are other less obvious changes that nonetheless improve the overall look.

In 2015, the SS15 deck added a "Long Edge" color configuration, with the aim of taking the "Adaptive Aesthetics" to the next level.

In 2016, the SS16 deck added "deeper strobe lines for amplified rotations, and a back design that wraps around to the faces to create streaks of colour when spread".  Removing the borders and creating an edge-to-edge design is certainly a noticeable improvement - I love that this means there are no distractions during fans and other maneuvers, and all the focus is on the colours.  So by making small changes from year to year, the company keeps trying to make an already good deck even better.  From what I've seen of the SS16 deck, it is the best yet in terms of graphic design, which is the result of the benefit of experience and refinement over time.




4. HANDLING PERFORMANCE

The handling and quality of the cards has been optimized for cardistry.  Cardists are very fussy about their decks.  They need cards to be just the right thickness, have just the right weight, and just the right amount of friction to spread easily. To achieve this, the Virtuoso team have used a finish preferred by card flourishers.  They've also ensured a  balanced weight and feel, so that the deck fans with great control, splits into clean packets when cutting, has the right thickness for control, ensures that packets stay together when flying in the air, and has the optimal resistance for performing cuts and springs.  The USPC's casino-grade Q1 standard is used to ensure that the deck clumps less.   Although the precise specifications are a closely guarded secret, unlike some other cardistry decks on the market, the Virtuoso deck is NOT just a regular Bicycle deck with a different look, but has a carefully chosen set of specifications that make it optimal for cardistry.  See, much more goes into making a good cardistry deck than most of us realize!
 
To the average person these kinds of details won't make much difference, but to the serious cardist, it can make all the difference between successfully pulling off a fancy or difficult move, or completely failing that move.  Those who do a lot of cardistry have a great deal of positives to say about the handling and performance of the Virtuoso deck.  I have a friend who is an accomplished magician and also has been developing his cardistry skills in recent months, and he just loves the handling of this deck.  Unlike some other decks, it didn't need to be broken in, but performed beautifully right out of the box.  According to him, he could noticed immediately the excellent quality of the deck, and how it indeed had optimal characteristics for cardistry.




5. DURABILITY

I can't say too much about the durability, because I haven't had these cards long enough to comment decisively on it.  However the Virtuoso team has themselves stated that they wanted to make a deck that didn't just handle well, but was durable as well.  For the average person, it's hard to imagine wearing out a deck of cards.  Certainly if you're just playing Hearts or Spades, and doing the occasional shuffling, it will be quite a while before the cards start showing wear.  But if you're doing springing, dribbling cards, and more advanced moves involving packets, flying cards and more, on a consistent basis, the cards will quickly start to take a beating if they're of inferior quality.

From reports I've read, these cards do go the distance.   If you're interested in taking a sneak look at the factory where they are made, there's a cool video here that shows some clips of the US Playing Card Company’s manufacturing facility, including some cardistry moves here.




6. TUTORIALS

When you order decks directly from the publisher (here), there are packages available that give you access to various different video tutorials that teach you how to do different flourishes and moves.  Some tutorials and trailers for these tutorials can be found on the official youtube channel, thevirts.  This will be very welcome to the aspiring cardist.  The first thing any newcomer to this art will want to do is watch some videos that teach you how to do these cool moves, and these tutorials will allow you to do just that.

First of all, if you are a complete beginner, you can start with some of Virtuoso's free tutorials here: http://home.thevirts.com/category/learn/tutorials/

There are two ways to get the current `paid' tutorial video packages that Virtuoso has available:
1. You can receive selected packages for free as bonus gifts that are bundled with purchases of more than one deck.
2. You can purchase selected packages as "add ons" whenever you purchase a deck.
While they are revamping the website, you can also just email the company via the website, and arrange to purchase the tutorials only.

Currently available for purchase (or as free bonus gifts, depending on how many decks you buy) are the following six tutorials:



The six packages that make up the entire "Summer Special Cardistry Collection" also have promo videos demonstrating what they look like:

- 7 Second Pirouette (video)
- Rubix opener (video)
- Strobe (video)
- Flicker Shot (video)
- Perfect Faro & Cascade (video)
- Squeeze (not available separately)
 



7. LIMITED SEASONAL SUPPLY

The Virtuoso team has decided to opt for a business model revolving around each deck being a seasonal product, that is only available while supplies last, and that will never be produced again.  Each version of the deck has used a three colour palette, made up of different colours.  So that means they'll be coming out with a new model later this year, and I'm told that they're planning to produce a new version in the latter part of 2017.  Previous models were quickly sold out, and often go for high prices online.

This does mean that availability can be a challenge.  When I first visited the Virtuoso website and ordered my deck, it was available for sale.  Since then, however, they've sold out, and now you need to add your name to their list to be notified of when the next version comes out.  Fortunately there are other retailers that stock this deck (although I think then you won't get the video tutorials bundled with it).  Previous editions are available on eBay, but the prices quickly start to sky-rocket as availability becomes limited.  So get it while you can!




8. DESIGNED FOR CARDISTRY

Sure, you could use this as a regular deck, to play poker or card games.  It certainly looks cool and different, and the artwork is unusual, eye-catching, and attractive.  But this is the only deck specifically designed for cardistry.  That doesn't mean that it will automatically make you an expert at card flourishing.  While the quality and style of this deck have no equal, the reality is that nothing will improve your cardistry more than simple and regular practice.  But having a deck that improves the looks of your moves will not only make you appear more slick, but will also serve as a strong motivating factor, and incentive to work on your moves and develop your skill.  There's nothing like having good tools to work with, and this is the best there is.

That also doesn't mean it's the only deck that can be used for cardistry.  There are also other options to choose from.  There's the minimalist Fontaine playing cards by Zach Mueller, which are also popular with cardistry fans.  Zach has been promoting them highly in his own cardistry videos, and has also been able to get them into other videos and even a film.  While it's great to see him becoming successful, his cards are actually produced by US Playing Cards Company and feature the same handling quality as many other decks, unlike the Virtuoso deck which is uniquely made for cardistry.  Zach's decks also don't at all have the colourful aesthetics or sleek geometrics of the Virtuoso deck, but then again there are those who like the minimalism of his style.  Also popular are the Smoke and Mirrors playing cards series by Dan & Dave, which look classy and also are minimalistic.  But when it comes to a deck exclusively designed for cardistry, and with both the looks and handling qualities to match, the Virtuoso deck stands alone and unrivalled.  Little wonder it continues to be the choice of may top Cardists around the world, due to its aesthetics, handling, and durability.




9. ACCLAIM

There's no doubt that people who enjoy cardistry like the Virtuoso deck.  Here are some testimonials and praise:

* "I am thoroughly convinced that the Adaptive Aesthetics design is a game-changer in the world of flourishing… It allows every move to reach its full potential, taking the geometrical natures of moves and expanding them. If you’re into flourishing at all, get this deck." – Ian Chandler
* "This deck will get your skills noticed... I think the Virtuoso deck design is the best design out there – it helps and improves almost any flourish you will do, it transforms them into something effortless, elegant and precise. This deck will change the look of your flourishes drastically, it might be made for cardistry but it will make your flourishes look like magic." – Tobias Levin
* "Opening up the first deck and watching the back design come to life, was truly an incredible experience – even simple stuff began to look awesome." – Oliver Søgård
* "I filmed a video with it almost immediately after I opened it up… and almost EVERY ONE commented on not just the flourishes, but the cards themselves! Everyone seems to love em! C’mon, how often do you see people commenting on a flourishing video about the CARDS?" – Shua Millman
* "The Virtuoso Deck is my single favorite deck I have ever handled. Not only the Adaptive Aesthetics design, but the feel is perfect. I am so glad you guys made this breakthrough in flourishing." – Conor O’Kane
* "This deck actually makes card flourishes even easier. Since the stock is super thin and extremely durable, every cut and aerial gets executed with complete perfection." – Arsh Shah
* "Smooth like butter. Elegant enough to use in nice places, cool enough to use with celebrities." - Scott Perry
* "As a magician who is a closet flourisher,  I think having a deck designed for flourishes gives the art a legitimacy.  It is a “brand” for cardistry. A calling card for anyone interested in the art.  What I love about the Virtuoso deck is the reason it was created.It expands on a already massive market of playing cards by offering something more than a beautiful design. Function. When I pick one up I immediately want to practice." - Tony Chang
* "Why is the Virts deck so good for cardists? As far as the handling is concerned, it is nothing short of a performer deck: the fans are very smooth, the packets stay well together for aerials and most of all, it is so durable that it stays in the perfect conditions for flourishing longer than you could think. For the design part, everything the Virts say about the adaptive aesthetics is actually true especially for my style of flourishing. My advice for any cardist is to get this deck and make the most out of it." - Anthony Chanut

You can read more testimonials here.




CONCLUSION

I've had a lot of fun learning about cardistry in the process of reviewing this deck.  And because I have a friend who is into cardistry, he's had a lot of fun putting this deck through it's paces, while I've had the pleasure of watching him and getting his insights on how the deck handled and looked.  Within five minutes of pulling the deck out of the box and trying some of his cardistry moves, he confidently declared: "This is my new favourite deck!"  And he was serious.  It was amazing to see how silky smooth his moves looked.  Even fairly common techniques like a card spread and a fan looked absolutely stunning!  We were completely blown away by how much of an impact the deck made on standard manipulation that you see card handlers do regularly - this really increased how impressive they looked by tenfold.  Card spins looked absolutely amazing due to the design of the card.  And the colours look fantastic!  We came in with high expectations from the pictures and videos we'd seen in advance, but the real thing turned out to be even way more impressive than we thought it would be.

The Virts have already inspired many people to take up a new hobby with their cardistry videos.  Now with the creation of their own deck, they've inspired even more people to explore and develop this new art-form.  With a proven track-record that reflects success and improvement for several years running, they are definitely the leader in this field.  And because this is a company birthed from people passionate about the art and who are skilled performers themselves, we can be confident that these guys know what is needed in a good cardistry deck.



Due to its origin and intent, it's true that the Virtuoso deck will always be a deck that primarily appeals to cardistry fans as its main target audience.  As a deck designed for their needs, it more than adequately serves its purpose, and has to be considered the top of the line product for that.  Yet fortunately it's not a product that is outside the reach of the rest of us, and it's still a very accessible deck for anyone who is interested in basic cardistry, and wants to learn some elementary moves.   If you are at all into cardistry, or even just enjoy doing a basic spread or fan, then you really need this deck - it will make moves like that seem like art.

But this deck can always be used in the same way as any deck: for playing card games.  While decks do have their alternate uses, we can always fall back to what they were intended in the first place: games.  So regardless of whether or not you're ever going to become an expert at card flourishing, this is still a deck you might want to pick up.  At the very least it will be a good talking point.  At worst, you can always use it to play Hearts!

For more information about the SS16 Virtuoso deck featured in this review, and to be notified when the next version releases, visit Virtuoso's official website.

The Virts - http://thevirts.com

29
This review is part of a three part series of pictorial reviews about the Virtuoso deck of playing cards:
Virtuoso - 1. Introducing the group, their deck, and their art-form
Virtuoso - 2. The world's first ever deck created just for cardistry
Virtuoso - 3. The evolution of the world's best cardistry deck


ALTERNATIVE USES FOR PLAYING CARDS

Now we all know what a standard 52 card deck of playing cards is for right?  The obvious answer is: to play traditional card games like Bridge, Hearts, Spades, and Euchre.   Or perhaps some more modern games.  But actually there's a whole lot more you can do with a deck of cards besides playing card games.  Check my list here for some good ideas: Alternative Uses for a Deck of Playing Cards

Among others, here are some of the possibilities you'll find there:
- cardistry
- magic tricks
- house of cards
- constructed polyhedrons
- artwork
- bookmarks
- card throwing
- bike noise-maker
- costumes



Now you probably recognized most items on that list.  Magic?  Entertaining.  Card throwing?  Sounds fun.  Artwork?  Great idea!  But wait ... "Cardistry"?  What is that?  Have you even heard of "cardistry" before?  Before getting into the special Virtuoso cardistry deck of playing cards that I'm reviewing, let me explain what cardistry is all about!

To whet your appetite, check this video of cardistry highlights, which already has a couple of hundred thousand views due to its popularity:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njstvj2M0WA


CARDISTRY

Cardistry is "the performance art of card flourishing".  And yes, it's a real thing, and it even has a Wikipedia page on the subject here.

When card tricks became popular in the 19th century, magicians would often do simple card flourishes as a way of demonstrating their skills, to entertain, or to otherwise enhance a magic performance.  But cardistry itself is not magic.  Certainly many magicians are also very good at cardistry and flourishes, simply because using cards is part of their job, and so they like to play with them in new and interesting ways.  But true cardistry doesn't involve any magical manipulation, but is simply a display of skill.  So cardistry needs to be carefully distinguished from magic.  As a sign at an international cardistry convention made clear: "The first rule of Cardistry Con is: You do not talk about magic.  The second rule of Cardistry Con is: You do not talk about magic."

The word "cardistry" is a combination of the words "card" and "artistry".  So it's an activity that is about sheer skill and manual dexterity, in which a performer tries to create a beautiful display through the movement of individual playing cards or an entire deck.  Cardistry takes an ordinary object that we're all familiar with - a deck of playing cards - and turns it into an art-form.  And why art?  Because it lends itself to creativity, and it forces you to widen your usual perspective on a deck of cards, and do things with it that you previously have never even thought of, and things that you previously didn't consider were even possible.  A WIRED article calls it "card juggling".  So it's like juggling, but with playing cards.  Zach Mueller, who is a big name in this relatively new art-form, describes it as "kinda like yoyo tricks with cards."  Cardistry is about doing things like fanning and cutting cards in a creative way and with a high level of skill, thereby turning it into a performance art.  Instead of doing ordinary cuts and shuffles, expert cardists are able to do one-handed cuts, complicated shuffles, turnovers, tosses, and catches, in a way that is a beauty to watch.

Cardistry moves typically have unusual names that reflect their creator, origin, or appearance.  There's Kevin Ho's "Flurf", "Off the Hook", and "Racoon", Joey Burton's "Skater Cut", Huron Low's "Firefly" and "Flicker", Daren Yeow's "Rev 2 Twirl", Bone Ho's "Anaconda" and "Tornado Deck Split", Oliver Sogard's "Friffle", Dan Buck's "Vertigo", and many more.  Chris Kenner's two-handed "Sybil Cut" flourish, which uses five packets of cards, is a good example of a popular flourish that is the most well-known and recognized move among cardists, and is a common starting challenge that newbies try to take on.   But from there, there are all kinds of advanced maneuvers to learn.  For a two minute video by WIRED that introduces cardistry, see here.



In the last few years, cardistry has enjoyed a huge boom.  What was formerly described as "card flourishing", and considered to be an activity used as a filler in a magic performance, has now become its own separate art form.  The kinds of moves that are done have advanced significantly in complexity.  And yet anyone can give it a try, because the ingredients are simple: as long as you have a good deck of cards, you're ready to go, you can do it anywhere, and you're limited only by your imagination, creativity, and manual dexterity.  But you can also buy decks of playing cards that particularly lend themselves well to cardistry, and that's what this review is about.  The Virtuoso deck shown here is the world's first deck of playing cards specifically designed for cardistry, and has a real visual appeal when fanned and flourished.  Since cardistry is all about creating a visual impact, creating a playing cards that have carefully designed aesthetic qualities to maximize this appeal makes obvious sense.  Since its aim is to create visual appeal through the movement of playing cards, it's a brilliant concept to have a deck with aesthetics that will visually accent every card flourish, from spins, to cuts, to pivots, to fans.

As testimony of how big this new art-form is growing, you will find many performance videos and cardistry tutorials on the internet.  There are even international gatherings of top performers.  Over the last few years, a  Cardistry Con was organized as an international convention for cardistry enthusiasts - see the official videos here.  The next event is planned for July this year in Los Angeles.  Some of the big name attendees have included Dave & Dan Buck (creators of the biggest selling instructional DVDs on the subject, and a huge influence on the art), Zach Mueller (his collaboration video by Kuma Film has over two million views: see Hypnotic Cardistry Kid and also California Cardistry), and the Virtuoso team.  Social media and sites like youtube and instagram have really helped popularize and advance the art, because cardists can share their new moves and tutorials and videos with other enthusiasts around the world.

So as a performance art, the art of cardistry has really grown and developed over the years.  And at the front lines of this development, is Virtuoso.




VIRTUOSO

Many popular magicians are well known for their ability with cardistry, including big names in the world of card magic like Lee Asher, Lennart Green, and Paul Harris.  But in the world of cardistry, one of the biggest and most well-known names is Virtuoso, commonly referred to as "The Virts".  Virtuoso, or "The Virts", is a team from Singapore that has now grown to seven in number. Huron Low and Kevin Ho are the co-founders; also on the team are Daren Yeow, Joshua Tan, and Jeremy Tan; more recently two team members, Joyce Lee and Roland Lim, were added as they expanded.  When they started together in 2005, Huron and Kevin were just doing cardistry as a hobby, and in 2009 they formed "The Virts" as a group.

These guys are good. Really good.  So good that one of their three person cardistry videos from 2012 went viral, attracting the attention of the Discovery Channel, which went on to feature them in a clip here.  Entitled "Test Room", the original video now has over half a million views.  Today, their youtube channel thevirts has almost 90,000 subscribers.  Around the time of the 2015 Cardistry Con, Discovery Channel followed them around and made a 25 minute documentary on the art of cardistry and The Virts in particular - that video can be viewed here.  There's also a great 5 minute interview with the team here, which gives some insights into how they got from their humble beginnings to where they are today. 

Their videos alone have inspired many to take up cardistry.  But Virtuoso's success also inspired the team to embark on their own venture, by creating a deck of cards designed exclusively for cardistry.  And so in  2012 they turned pro, and embarked on a quest to produce a special deck of cards that would please card flourishers around the world.  It was quite a risk, since the playing card market was already well established, and geared mainly towards magicians and card collectors.  Would it really be feasible to create the first and only deck designed for the art of card flourishing?  Was there really a market for this kind of niche-like deck?  The typical trend in recent years has been to create decks that add exotic features like gold foil and ink, whereas the Virtuoso deck was stripped down of all such bling, and was deliberately designed to be much more minimalist.  Yet the response to the first Virtuoso deck was overwhelming, even beyond what Virtuoso had ever imagined.  What's more, the Virtuoso deck has played a big role in advancing the art of cardistry much further than 2012, where it was still somewhat in its infancy, and not yet even known as "cardistry".  A big factor in this growth has been the Virtuoso deck.  Card flourishers speak very highly of it, and newcomers to the art are finding themselves inspired by its eye-catching design, and so the cardistry community is steadily growing as the word gets out.

So what makes Virtuoso unique is not only their mad skills at cardistry, but also the company they have created, the first in the world to focus exclusively on cardistry, and to produce a produce a deck of playing cards designed purely for card flourishing.  It's grown from their own love for the art, and remarkably there has been enough demand for them to turn it into a successful business.  As one of the team says, with a sense of ongoing gratitude and amazement, "I shuffle cards for a living."




THE VIRTUOSO SPRING/SUMMER 2016 DECK (SS16)

The Virtuoso Spring/Summer 2016 deck, commonly referred to as the Virtuoso SS2016, is the company's current deck of playing cards.



So what's so special with this history-making deck?  Well it's the first in the world designed especially for the purpose of cardistry. That means that the Virtuoso company has given full attention to two main things in particular: aesthetic beauty, and handling/performance for cardistry.  But this deck has a whole lot more benefits besides those two, and in my next review, I'll explain just what it is about this deck that makes it so appealing and attractive, and what is unique about the amazing Virtuoso deck.


CONCLUSION

I've had a lot of fun learning about cardistry in the process of reviewing the Virtuoso deck.  The Virts have already inspired many people to take up a new hobby with their cardistry videos.  Now with the creation of their own deck, they've inspired even more people to explore and develop this new art-form.  With a proven track-record that reflects success and improvement for several years running, they are definitely the leader in this field.  And because this is a company birthed from people passionate about the art and who are skilled performers themselves, we can be confident that these guys know what is needed in a good cardistry deck. More on that in my next article, where I run through just what is so good about the Virtuoso deck.



For more information about the SS16 Virtuoso deck featured in this review, and to be notified when the next version releases, visit Virtuoso's official website.

The Virts - http://thevirts.com

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These are nice reviews, thanks for contributing!
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