On the apparent eve of the release of the S&M 3rd ("Luxury) Editions, I was thinking about something interesting. As many of us are card men, and most of us if not all will have at least some history with a pack of playing cards, I wanted to talk about a subject that is very close to our hearts: our decks. Some of us use Bicycles. Some of us use the Ellusionist decks. Some of us use Vintages, Arrcos, Aladdins, etc., and the S&M and Arcanes are about to be released. Personally, my professional deck of choice are the Smoke and Mirror decks. I'll go into this later. When it comes to deck choice, there are probably two main factors, feel, and looks. I'm writing this to encourage magicians to consider a third: image. 1) Feel. Ok, obviously, we want cards that handle well, fair enough. Actually, I have a theory about this, which is that we make ourselves believe various cards handle better than others - but under test conditions, we could never distinguish one from another (obviously Aladdins are significantly different from Studs, but I challenge anyone to be able to tell, blindfolded, a deck of Ghosts from Masters from Black Ghosts from Guardians from Centurions from Smoke and Mirrors). I'm going to try this very thing in about two weeks hopefully, and I'll post the results. But as long as you have a fairly decently handling deck, you should be happy. Which means choice often depends on... 2) Looks. If a deck of cards looks cool, you're more likely to use them. If you like them, you'll use them. On the flip side, many professional magicians use Bikes just because the look is familiar. I've never bought into this argument, but suffice to say I've argued that elsewhere and no-one's ever rebutted me, so for now that stands. In any case, whichever way you turn, your deck choice will also be based on its looks. So why should deck choice be governed by anything more than this anyway? I mean, is essence, you want a deck that is nice to use, and looks good, right? That's fair enough. Well. Let's ignore feel for a moment. Let's assume that, whether or not Vipers fan better than Masters, or whatever deck you want to use, let's assume that these decks handle relatively the same - that they're all high quality decks, which they are, and don't significantly differ from deck to deck. That leaves us with looks. From the looks group, I'm going to ignore the ones who choose Bikes because they supposedly look normal, since they would not change their choice regardless. That leaves us with magicians who choose decks because "they look cool", or mysterious. That's fair enough. But this is my problem. Think about anyone who's "cool" in your life. I'm going to use some celebrities since I assume everyone will know these guys, rather than my uncle. Take George Clooney. For his age, the man looks pretty darn good. And whenever he appears on screen, he has this aura around him, this suave, elegant aura. Or take, for example, Ed Westwick, the guy who plays Chuck Bass in Gossip Girl. Not only do the girls swoon over him, but he's become something of a fashion sensation with certain guys too. Now, George and Ed, do they try to be cool? Do they wake up and think "Ok, now to look cool..." Do they do things because doing them makes them cool? No! Of course not! The bottom line is, if you try to do something "cool", then by default, you are not. If you have to think about looking "cool", or being "cool", or acting "cool", then by default, you are not cool. The people who really are "cool", don't do cool things - they do things, which other people then call "cool". The people who are really "cool", are just themselves. And other people call them "cool". Bear with me here. Now, say we choose a deck that looks cool. A deck is a tool for our magic. Why do we want a cool deck? Because a cool deck gives off a vibe. And this vibe will affect your performance. It affects how your spectators perceive you. I hope that now things become a little clearer. Choosing a deck simply that looks cool is not enough. If we want that to transfer to our performance, we have to think of looks within a different context: image. I believe that decks can change the spectator's perception of us, of our magic, if done thoughtfully and correctly. I mean, why else were Vodkas printed, except to market the brand? To infiltrate the spectator's thinking? Of course, we can get a bit more subtle than that. With the right thinking, we don't just look for a deck that looks cool. Actually, if we look for a "cool" deck, we only defeat ourselves. Instead we should look for something more detailed, more precise, than simply, cool. We look for an image. We analyse who we are as performers, we think about how to convey our persona, and however we want to convey our performance, and use this information to choose a deck. It is this image which we will aim to get the spectators to remember. My performance deck of choice is, as mentioned above, Smoke and Mirror. Why? Have a look here for a detailed description: Smoke and Mirror Thoughts The deck to me is the most elegant design available. It has an element of mystery, even of haute couture, of class and style, suaveness and artistic and creative, but most importantly, elegance. These are the things I strive to communicate through my performing persona - it is an essential part of who I am. If the spectators buy into who I am, then they buy into my performance. That means, in short, that they become friendlier, act more open, react better, pay/tip better, and are more likely to book me again. I could go on in detail about exactly how this happens, but for the sake of brevity, as my posts are often long, I won't. If anyone is interested, I can explain my opinion on these flow on effects. I'd like to think of myself as a fairly interesting, outgoing guy. It's not unusual to find me in a buttoned shirt and blazer. Who I am outside of magic/mentalism reinforces this as well. The bottom line is that your persona, and the mood of your performance, and your communication during your performance, and the substance of your communication, are all integral parts of your performance. These things will greatly amplify the effect of your performance. I'd even go so far as to say that without these things, you cannot create a good performance. And the choice of deck reinforces all these elements. The choice of deck has the potential to either support or contradict your persona. These elements can all be attributed to "image". Any decent mentalist will tell you that every aspect of your performance must be congruent with your persona. A mentalist would, ideally, not use props that don't look like they would carry. A mentalist whose persona was that of a medium would play the part - he would not perform using his state of the art blackberry. A psychologist persona would not use high tech equipment. So the deck of cards for a card magician should be no exception. A deck of cards will not create your persona for you. But, if it fits your persona, it is one extra thing that will reinforce it, and make your performance that much more convincing. If your performance is convincing, your spectators will become more involved, and, given a good performance, you will get better reactions. In other words, a deck of cards can simply work to reinforce and amplify your magic. Similarly, a deck of cards will not break your persona for you. But if it doesn't fit your persona, that's one more thing that helps to build skepticism. If you're talking about one thing, but your body language, your props, your performance say another, quite simply, it screams of an unprofessional performer, and can destroy your image. If your magic is not believable, you have no chance in seriously creating an impact on your audience beyond "Oh my God!" only to be forgotten into the depths of obscurity an hour later when they meet a cute guy on the dance floor after a few tequila shots. In other words, a deck of cards can work to degrade distract and reveal the deception of your magic, and weaken it. So please, please realise. If you are 15, and like wearing t-shirts and shorts while performing at the mall... You do not look mysterious. Nothing you say or do will make you look mysterious. Performing with a black ghost deck will not make you mysterious. So please, choose a deck that speaks for who you are. Even if you simply perform with an orange bicycle deck, because you're particularly outgoing and orange is your favourite colour. In other words, what does your deck say about you? Is it helping to take your magic to another level? Or are you the only person being fooled?