I may earn a commission for purchases made through links on this page, but I always stand by my opinion and recommendations.
One of the coolest things about card tricks is that you really don’t need much to get started.
Just a deck of cards is all you need, most of the time!
But when it comes to choosing cards for card magic, not every deck is created equal.
A crappy deck from the dollar store might be fine for playing cards with your friends, but it won’t look nice or handle well for sleight of hand.
So what do I like to use when I perform?
From my experience, the best playing cards for magic are:
- Bicycle Archangels
- Bicycle Dragon Backs
- Theory11 White Artisans
- Theory11 Monarchs
- Bicycle Rider Backs
There’s really no objective best deck of cards, but these are the ones I like to use, personally, and I’ll explain why below!
These are one of my favorites, and have become a go-to deck for me.
The style and design, modeled after the artwork of Michaelangelo, really suits my personal vibe. The back design is really gorgeous, and you get a pretty cool Ace of Spades in this deck, as well.
The red cards are your typical bright, cherry red, but the face cards have a nice hint of shiny gold to them that I really like.
Beyond that, these are pretty easy to get. I see them at Walgreens all the time, and they cost about the same as a normal pack of Bicycle Cards.
The handling is solid, though they might be a little stiff before you break them in properly.
Bicycle Dragon Backs
Another one of my top go-tos! I alternate between the Archangels and my red Dragon Backs pretty frequently.
The design is obviously really cool, with the dual dragons circling the back of the card along with the dotted border.
Other than that, there’s nothing too special about these. The red cards are a darker, almost maroon red. And the face cards use a pale yellow or dull gold type of color for accent.
The downside of the design is that you just get your standard, boring Bicycle Ace of Spades in this pack. And while I love the red Dragon Backs, the blue ones use blue instead of black for spades and clubs, which I think is hideous.
(But the multiple color choices make this great for color changing card tricks.)
I mostly use the Dragon Backs because they handle really well and hold up well after a lot of use.
Theory11 White Artisans
The high-end Theory11 cards are absolutely gorgeous and have amazing craftsmanship, probably none moreso than the White Artisans.
The white and gold design on these is classy as hell, and you won’t be disappointed by the face, either.
The reds are rich and dark, the golds shiny, and the Ace of Spades is a wonder to behold.
But it’s the handling that really makes these cards high-end. The thin border and thin card-stock, along with a perfect finish, makes these handle like a dream. You’ll seriously love just sitting and playing with them.
They’re also a fantastic choice for card magic and card tricks because they come with a double backer, which can have some cool applications!
The only downside is that these are a little expensive and you may not want to wear them into the ground. But if you do use them, they’re an absolute joy to work with.
Everything that’s true about the Artisans is also true about the Monarchs.
This is a high-end deck of playing cards designed for magicians, and it shows.
(It’s also great for cardistry — check out my other favorite cards for cardistry here.)
The design is a little less luxurious and flashy here. While still gorgeous, these look a little more like a deck of cards you might find laying around someone’s house.
(Of course, both the Monarchs and the Artisans come with stunning, high-quality tuck boxes.)
You also get a double backer in this deck, and probably my favorite Ace of Spades from any deck I own.
Pick up a deck of these and try them out, you’ll come to absolutely love handling them.
Bicycle Rider Backs
You can’t have a list like this without including the original, the Bicycle Rider Back playing cards.
There are a lot of advantages to just using standard Bikes for your card trick performances.
For starters, they’re cheap and easy to get, but are still pretty high-quality. They’re definitely better than Aviators, Hoyles, and other bargain bin brands.
But another good thing about Bikes is that people recognize them, and it really just seems like you’re doing impossible stuff with a normal deck of cards (which you are).
All the decks above are normal and can be examined, but something about Bicycles helps get people’s guard down. It’s like doing magic with coins or napkins or other ordinary objects.
(Another thing to consider is that most trick decks are made in the style of standard Bicycle cards. Something to keep in mind for deck switching.)
The downside is that Bicycle cards aren’t particularly beautiful, and they can sometimes be a little hit or miss with quality (printed askew, poor finish, etc.) The new tuck box also often has a big FREE APP label that totally ruins the design.
But if you’re on a budget and just want to use normal cards for your magic, you can’t go wrong with Bikes.
How to choose your cards for magic
Like I said at the beginning, there’s really no “best” here.
It all comes down to your personal style.
I picked the ones above because they look cool or handle well in my experience.
But you might think the Archangels are hideous, or that the White Artisans are too thin or slippery for your taste.
Collecting and testing out different decks is fun, so I encourage you to experiment with that! And if you’re not sure, just go with Bicycles — everyone knows what a deck of Bikes looks like and no one will question whether you’re using a trick deck.
Some things to consider:
- How does it handle? Try getting your double lift and performing some false shuffles how does it feel?
- What does it look like? Do you think it looks cool, or does the deck have some fun design features your audience might like?
- Does it come with cool extras like a duplicate card or a double backer?
So there you have it, my favorite decks for card magic.
Most of the time, I use the Archangels and Rider Backs, but I definitely see a lot of merit to just using standard Bikes.
If you use anything like the Invisible Deck, you’ll want people to be used to seeing you use a normal deck of cards.
But there’s no wrong answer here! Experiment yourself to find out what you like.
What are your favourite cards for doing card tricks? Comment below!
Hope this helps!