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In simple terms, cardistry is the art of manipulating a deck of cards to create impressive visual effects.
A lot of cardistry requires you to perform many different card cuts, pivots, and other flourishes to create these stunning visuals for the spectators.
Having complete control over your deck is crucial to doing what you want with your cards, and having the correct deck of cards geared for cardistry is one of the best ways to ensure you have the right tools for the job.
Although you can perform flourishes with any deck (and your personal favorite comes down to your own tates), some decks of cards are better than others when it comes to performing cardistry.
The best decks of cards for cardistry are:
- Bicycle Standards
- Tally Ho No. 9
- Orbit V7
- MJM IZO
- Pulse Cardistry
- Jerry’s Nugget
Let’s take a close look at each and what makes them so good for cardistry practice and performance.
What to Look for in a Card Deck for Cardistry
When you are looking for playing cards to use for cardistry, three key components will either make or break the deck of cards.
These three components are the:
- Card’s Finish
- Card’s Stock
- Card’s Design
These three things will be the most critical parts of the card that will allow you to smoothly fan out the cards and perform flourishes seamlessly with an impressive visual image.
I have an in-depth article about each part of a standard playing card, but I will briefly go over what to look out for now.
The Card’s Finish
Your card’s finish is an essential part of the playing card, and this is the part you do not want to ignore.
The card’s finish will determine how easy the cards will slide across each other and allow you to fan out the deck—a completely smooth deck of cards will start to stick together and be difficult to manipulate.
It is highly recommended if you are serious about cardistry to purchase a deck of cards with an air-cushioned finish.
An air-cushioned deck sounds fancy, but this is standard in most quality playing cards like Bicycle and higher-end like Virtuoso cards.
An air-cushioned finish gives the face of the card tiny bumps with air pockets that let the cards smoothly flow.
The Card’s Stock
What the card itself is made from is a crucial element to determine the durability of the cards.
If you are working with a flimsy paper card stock used in a low-quality deck of cards, one wrong move and you will bend the card entirely in half during an elaborate card flourish.
Most decks used by experts for cardistry are thicker paper material or plastic to give them better handling. A thicker card won’t lose its shape quickly and has a longer lifespan before you need to replace it.
However, some cardicians like a thinner (but still high quality) stock.
Experiment with both to find your own preference.
The Card’s Design
This part of your cardistry deck will have to do a lot with your personal preferences.
You can choose which card backs best fit your style and what you envision for your performances.
Many decks geared directly for cardistry will have back designs that flow together when you fan out the deck for an incredible visual.
Best Cardistry Decks for Beginners
When you first start to perform cardistry, there is no avoiding bending the cards or dropping them on the floor while you are in the process of learning new flourishes.
Starting with an inexpensive yet durable deck is the right choice as a beginner.
Below are the three best playing card decks for beginners looking to dip their toes into the world of cardistry.
1. Standard Bicycle Playing Cards
The iconic Bicycle brand playing cards have become the brand that pops up in everyone’s mind when they think of playing cards. Bicycle cards have an air-cushioned finish, so they will slide across each other smoothly and not stick together.
These cards are the perfect starting point for any cardist, and some of the overall best cards for cardistry, because of their durability and are the standard size and weight of most playing cards. You won’t have to worry about damaging these cards because they are relatively inexpensive.
Along with their standard red and blue colored card backs, Bicycle has a HUGE variety of different card styles and colors that you can choose to match your preferences.
2. Tally Ho No.9 Playing Cards
Similar to the Bicycle-brand cards, Tally Ho’s are another staple in the world of playing cards and are an excellent value for their price.
With their classic circle-back design, these cards have been used by beginner cardists for years to develop their skill set.
One of the main differentiating factors between Bicycle and Tally Ho is the finish on the Tally Ho cards. The cards have a Linoid finish, making the cards more durable and giving them more life before they start to wear down.
The Tally Ho cards are an excellent choice for smooth card fanning, and they have a certain springiness in their paper stock that is usually found in higher-end cardistry decks.
3. Monarch Playing Cards by theory11
Now we’re starting to get more serious!
Once you have got a feel for cardistry, you can start to invest in higher-end playing cards that will give you an edge with their handling and durability.
The Monarch playing cards by theory11 are classics with incredible handling and timeless design.
It is one of the best selling decks available (and one of the best decks of cards for magic, as well), and for a good reason.
The color on both the front and back are vibrant and have a classy appearance that has been showcased in the blockbuster movies “Now You See Me” and “Now You See Me 2.”
The design isn’t over-the-top and won’t gather much praise from spectators, but these cards will let you properly showcase your skills with their easy handling.
Best Cardistry Decks for More Experienced Cardists
After you have spent enough time perfecting your craft, it is time to start investing in higher-quality playing card decks.
These card decks have a more vibrant back design that will stun audiences, and the quality of the cards gives them a longer lifespan.
4. Virtuoso Playing Cards
When most experienced cardists talk about playing card decks, one brand always seems to be brought up the most for being the best for cardistry—Virtuoso’s.
These playing cards’ quality and handling are unmatched with a fantastic back design that looks great for cardistry.
These cards will be more expensive than a standard deck of playing cards, and unfortunately– have become harder to find in recent years.
The latest edition produced in 2017 is still available on Amazon currently, but are only in a limited amount until they are all sold out.
5. Orbit V7 Playing Cards
The Orbit V7 playing cards bring back an 80’s vibe with Orbit’s seventh installment of their playing card deck.
With a minimalist retro and space-inspired design on the back, you have an incredible deck that looks great when you perform various flourishes.
These cards are made from high-quality paper stock with an air-cushioned finish to create easier handling. Orbit V7’s will fan out and handle like a dream the second they are pulled out of their box.
Give them a try. You won’t regret it.
6. MJM IZO Playing Cards
Designed by Felix Ha, these playing cards feature a custom-designed back that is perfect for cardistry.
IZO playing cards are the perfect upgrade for those looking to take their cardistry to the next level and invest in one of these impressive decks.
These cards have only been produced in a limited quantity of 2,500 and won’t be reprinted, so it’s a good idea to pick them up before they are gone for good.
7. Fournier Plastic Spanish Playing Cards
You won’t commonly hear this one when discussing cardistry decks, but the Fournier-brand playing cards deserve a spot on this list.
They are perfectly broken-in and hold together while you are performing card cuts incredibly well.
These cards have a unique feeling that is not common in other decks, making their handling unmatched.
While these cards don’t have many unique qualities or eye-catching back designs, their easy handling makes them unique.
8. Pulse Cardistry Touch Playing Cards
Unlike all of the other playing cards mentioned on this list, the Pulse Cardistry Touch playing cards only have one purpose…cardistry.
These cards do not have any values on their faces and are only for the sole purpose of performing cardistry and flourishes.
With the cards’ faces having no values, the faces can be incorporated into the cardistry visual effects on both sides of the card. The cards are produced with premium crushed cardstock and modern design.
These cards are produced in only a quantity of 2,500, so they can be hard to come by, but Amazon usually has a few in-stock available.
9. Jerry’s Nugget Playing Cards
These cards are based on the famous casino located in Las Vegas, Nevada, who first printed them back in 1970.
The original playing cards have become a collector’s item in recent years, with some of the vintage card decks selling for upwards of $500.
The high price is because of the limited printing, and the finish on the original cards now can’t be replicated because of environmental reasons.
In 2019, the Jerry’s Nugget licensing was purchased, and they have started to print these playing card decks again.
These cards feature a uniform back design, and only one side is embossed with a cotton roller to give it a vintage feeling. The handling is excellent, and you can cleanly perform flourishes with the premium finish on the cards.
Whether you’re a beginner-level cardist just learning the ropes or an expert who can cleanly perform any flourish they want, you’ll never stop geeking out over new types of decks of cards, styles, and designs.
You can start with the bare basics and use a Bicycle deck found just about anywhere, or you can use a more specialized playing card deck like Virtuoso that is designed just for cardistry.
If you haven’t found your preferences just yet, the most important part is just to get started. You will develop your own cardistry style the more you practice and learn.
Before you go, check out more of my favorite playing card guides like:
- Trick decks every magician should own
- The different types of cards in a deck
- Bordered vs borderless cards explained
Hope this helps!