Review – Card Tricks Are Fantastic by Mark Elsdon

I’m a lover of card tricks, I think that much is probably clear to all by now, but I’m particularly fond, when working for people, of card tricks that don’t use cards.

ESP cards, Tarot Cards, Rune Cards, Game Cards, Art Cards etc…

This is based on the fact that whilst a fair number of magicians exclusively use only card tricks, the reality is that most of them shouldn’t.  (With the possible exception of Simon Lovell, but then he’s a crazy bugger.  The cards just happen to be there!)

At some point during an all-card set, somebody is going to think (or say) ‘Do you only do cards’.  Where as, the few times I’ve presented 100% non-card material in a set, I’ve literally NEVER had anyone say ‘put down those morgan silver dollars and the thrashing badger; do you do any card tricks?’

So, the solution, aside from actually learning new material, is to apply all the same skills to card based items.  And you know what?  Given how transparent the ploy is, laypeople seem to fall for it.


Mark’s release interested me straight up – it’s a collection of 5 routines using a gorgeous set of SNAP cards.  This means there are no suits or values, but 4 sets of 13 pictures.

Also, they are not cheap, budget Snap cards.  They are limited edition, by an artist called David Shrigley, and I dig them.  Cartoony, arty, and silly in an adult way.  The actual stock is also good – fair enough, it’s not ‘air-cushioned’ like our favourite Bicycles, but they are a bit more hard-wearing, which can only be a good thing.

Nearly all of the tricks require some sleight of hand of varying description – I would say that anyone who thinks of themselves as a card magician would be fine.

TRICK 1 – A ‘Four of a Kind’ production, using three spectators, which is deceptive.  It touches on a presentational idea which I really, really like – using these cards for readings, in a geeky way.

TRICK 2 – Another ‘Four of A Kind’ production, along the lines of ‘Pre-Prefiguration’, where the spectator makes all the choices, and produces four of the same card… all predicted by the artist, David Shrigley, on Twitter.  Very cool trick, and nicely handled.

TRICK 3 – A very quirky presentation on this, and one that fits me (and therefore, other card trick loving geeks) nicely – you ‘cut high cards’ with your spectator, making up the rules as you go.  This results in them choosing four duplicate pictures, and you changing them all to suit your rules.  Incidentally, I found the trick worked just as well having the spectator chooses four random cards, rather than a set four of a kind… saves dead-time while you scan through the deck (especially as the cards are not easy to tell apart when spreading a full pack between your hands).  This is a winner.

TRICK 4 – This is a strange one; the four Reality Cat cards are lost in the face down deck, and visually appear face up on top.  It’s over in a heart-beat, and there’s a LOT of difficult to cover handling.  If you enjoy the effect and plot, I’d play with the method.  A KM move would eliminate 2 of the half passes, and other techniques such as the Braue Reversal etc could also be applied.

TRICK 5 – This is the first trick in the booklet to not use a set four of a kind, and to use the SNAP theme, which obviously makes sense with the cards.  It’s a do-as-I-do handling, and a decent one at that, which allows for several repeats.  Of course, each reveal is a chance to shout SNAP!  Good trick.

TRICK 6 – I haven’t had a chance to try this one out, but it’s a do-as-I-do variant of Vernon’s Variant (alliteration – BOSH!) and I can imagine it playing well if you are a very interactive kind of performer (or if you have more than two friends available at any one time, which is what ruled me out of trying it…)

Overall, the tricks are well thought out, and would just as easily work with a regular deck and Aces (or whatever).

I’d have liked to have seen more effects actually using SNAP as some kind of presentational ploy personally (double alliteration – BOOM!) but to be honest, sitting down with Mark’s ideas, some books and the deck itself and finding your own way is most enjoyable.

Price wise, this release is not cheap… it retails at £50.  The deck is collectable, and a limited edition work by a known artist, so that probably accounts for a pretty hefty amount of the RRP, but taking that into account, it’s still ‘high’.  But then, it is something special, there’s some nice tricks that come with it, and you can both create and find more in the literature that fit perfectly.  (For example, Fulves’ Gemini Twins and the John Bannon Poker Paradox routine are even more splendid with this deck).

So, with the forewarning that the release is NOT a cheap one, and a fairly detailed description of the types of effects you are getting and the skill level required, you have enough information to decide if it’s a worthwhile investment for you.  It’s not for everyone, granted, but I find myself loving the cards and tricks with them.


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