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Review: Black Tiger Deck, Gaff Deck & Black Book

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Imagine a deck of high-quality Bicycle playing cards that has been completely reversed-the white areas are now black and the colors are white-and you have the striking Black Tiger Deck. And to complement the Black Tiger Deck, Ellusionist.com offers a comprehensive Gaff Deck with 56 gimmicked cards, as well as an accompanying book that describes and teaches effects with the deck. It’s a whole new world of entertaining, edgy and spooky card magic.
To start, the well made Black Tiger Deck cards look strikingly different. When you pull out these cards, spectators will definitely sit-up and take notice. While spectators may think that the deck is gimmicked when it’s not, there are ways to address this. And I feel that this is not a major problem.

In my personal experience I have had spectators shuffle and examine my absolutely ordinary red Bicycle playing cards, and after impressing them with an effect such as Ambitious Card, found that they occasionally ask where they can buy such a deck so they may perform the trick as well. Yes, spectators may suspect that a Black Deck is gimmicked when it’s not, but this suspicion is usually on their minds when we perform any card trick. In the end, I think that the visual impact of the black cards and the potential new themes that they offer far outweigh any suspicions on the part of spectators.

In The Cards

The Black Tiger Gaff Deck, which is sold separately, offers 56 custom cards for use in routines and effects. You’ll find here an assortment of double-faces, double-backs, different color backs, concept cards and blank faces and backs. There are cards for performing known effects that include: a three-and-a-half of clubs, various pip arrangements for card transformations, a 13 of spades and gaffs to perform Gary Ouellet’s “Dream of Aces” and Jim Pace’s “The Web.”

Some gaffs lend themselves to taking an established effect and giving it a different feel. This is certainly the case with “The Web” gaffs that feel creepier in black. Some, on the other hand, such as the three-and-a-half gag, are probably superfluous in black.

Most intriguing are the artistic cards. There’s a tiger on a four-of-spades as well as a slashed (as if by a tiger’s claws) four of spades. A death card depicts the Ace of Spades with a skull. And an impressive voodoo card and a king with a bloody sword are downright creepy. It’s fun to let your imagination run wild with these gaffs.

Little Black Book

To give you a running start, Ellusionist.com offers “Black Deck,” an excellent accompanying book that talks about ways to introduce the deck and overcome an audience’s suspicions and take care of the deck, and provides descriptions on the various gimmicked cards in the Gaff Deck.

The book provides a variety of well-conceived effects. Taking good advantage of the black deck’s edgy look, many involve themes of the occult and voodoo, as well as cold reading. Other effects are based on color changes to transform ordinary cards into Black Tiger cards, and there’s mind-reading work that relies on stacked decks.

The book is well written and illustrated and offers good suggested patter. There’s a wealth of information here and some solid effects. I think that most magicians who are interested in the Black Deck can find an effect or two that they can use.

The book does not provide background on the necessary sleights to perform the effects, but references Ellusionist products that teach the techniques. The book does tip a few sleights that include an Open Finger Change, Bob McAllister’s Bet-A-Dollar Color Change and Ed Marlo’s Standing Deck Switch. This book is not for beginners.

Black Tiger Decks cost a lot more than conventional Bicycle decks, but they have the potential to add a different, edgier feel to your card effects. If you’re looking for something different, and particularly if you like to perform creepy effects with cards, Ellusionist.com’s Black Tiger Deck and accompanying products are definitely worth checking out.

-Wayne N. Kawamoto

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