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Cipher Deck Review

Official Review

October 10th, 2016 5:14pm
Reviewed by Dr. J. M. Ayala de Cedoz
This deck has a LOT of possibilities! Just imagine taking some standard card plots and performing them with numbers instead of playing cards...

First things first: The quality of this deck is pretty darn good for what it is, which is a print-on-demand deck. It is not quite USPCC/Bicycle quality but it does spread very nicely, it fans easily/cleanly, the cards are sturdy and while they are paper/linoid cards, when you square the deck up the edges almost have a plastic feel to them. The cards do riffle shuffle fine but to try and Faro Shuffle them is a challenge because of the way the edges are. The colors (there are only two: black and blue) are nice and deep. The deck is numbered from 1 to 52 in the style of playing cards: the numbers appear in the index corners and in large font in the middle of the card. There are a couple of extra cards included with this deck, including numbers larger than 52, a double facer and a double back card.

With the deck you get a link to a YouTube video with a password so as far as I can tell, it is not downloadable. Once you enter the password you also get access to a PDF of some of the routines taught on the video as well as some additional ideas and effects.
The video instructions were nicely shot; the audio, video and lighting quality were very good and the video is just about an 1 hour and 42 mins. long.

Now for the ad copy. I have got some major issues with it: 1) The first thing is that the ad copy says there is a "PDF of 8 Routines by Mark Elsdon". Unless I missed a second PDF, this is not the case because there are only 7 effects in the included PDF. 2) It says "3 or more bonus routines". Again, unless I missed something they only give you two bonus ideas in the YouTube video and there are no "bonus effects" in the PDF. 3) "100 hours of video instructions". Absoulute not. 100 MINUTES yes, not hours. Again, if I am missing something I do not know and while this may have been a mistake, it is hard to tell given the other issues with the ad copy. 4) "Secret area to share everything Cipher". I assume they are talking about a secret forum for owners to share ideas, but after looking exhaustively all over the website, I could not find a single thing that even hints at such a forum.

The video trailer contradicts the written ad copy in stating that there are indeed 'over 100 minutes of instruction and 3 bonus effects'. As far as I can tell, the ad trailer is accurate, but it only contains snippets of some of the effects, not a complete performance of any of them.

The PDF is another issue all its own. While it is nicely put together, there are a number of spelling and syntax errors that could cause confusion for some people. For the most part (like 97% or better) the effects are easy enough to learn exactly as they are written, but I had to read one particular part of an effect literally over 10 times before I realized there was a missing letter in a word, which once I figured that out, it made so much more sense. All of these errors could have been fixed simply by using the spell check and proof-reading.

The video instructions opens with the background on the development of the deck and how it came about, which is then followed by explaining the very easy marking system. How easy is this marking system to learn/read? Very - before I even opened the PDF or watched any of the video, simply by opening the deck and examining it, I was able to figure it out almost instantly because to me it was obvious. Do not get me wrong - it is clever and well-hidden, but pretty obvious if you look at it. It is based on an item that is used by the world many, many times every day. This is followed by a performance of the first effect, then the explanation. The video follows this format for each effect, except the bonus ideas. During the explanations you are also verbally given the crediting for that effect. There was one that they could not think of for the Out of This World plot which failed to make it into the PDF but by the time to reached the outro at the end of the video, they mentioned it there. The teaching was good but there are some parts where it may be easier for you to follow with the props in-hand. Two of the effects use additional items which must be purchased; James Anthony pitched items produced by Magic World (why not?) but in all fairness, you do not have to use their products. To clarify, one of the effects is "Phoenix Page" which, to do the entire effect as taught requires you to purchase any two books with under 1,000 pages that you want to use. The other uses a common mentalism tool of which there are many types and manufacterers, any of which can be used here.

Earlier I mentioned that this deck comes with a few extra cards, one of them having a number bigger than 52, one being a double facer (for example: 42 on one side and 17 on the other) and a double-backer. Most people are familiar with the two gaffs mentioned here, but they are usually associated with playing cards and are only sometimes seen used in ESP decks. The only thing they show you how to use is the double backer and they only show its use in one effect. In fact, the effect that uses the double backer is in the video and the PDF, but the PDF does not mention using the double backed card. It would have been nice to see multiple ideas for each, especially for those performers who have no idea what to do with them or how to use them.

One of the effects, The Calculation Sensation, uses a particular property of the built-in calculator app on your iPhone. It can also be set up on the fly on a borrowed iPhone if you remember the numbers you are using for that effect. They said that it will work on an Android phone in the video but the PDF says that some Android users may need to buy a certain type of calculator app for it to work most of which are very inexpensive. Just something that I wanted to point out for what is a clever use of a cell phone app.

One thing to point out about using this product, and which James Anthony also mentions, is not to do any fancy flourishes, fancy shuffles or "superior sleights" with this deck. Pure mentalists would suggest handling/treating an ESP deck the same way for the same reasons: It is meant to be a utility device and not something you will do a Four-Card Production with.

Overall this is a great product with literally no limit to the possibilities. Aside from the issues in the ad copy (which if I find any further videos and/or resources as they are named in the ad copy, I will post an edit here), this is a pretty solid product. Because the ad copy is not really all that accurate and the somewhat sloppy spelling and syntax issues in the PDF, I feel like I want to dock it more than one star but not by more than 1.5 stars.

SUGGESTION BOX: I have not broken this deck in as far as Faro Shuffling goes, but if that can be done so it does Faro easily, you could use this deck as a Faro calculator (see Revolutionary Card Technique by Ed Marlo, published by Magic Inc. in Chicago), a use which is not mentioned in the video or the PDF. Simon Aronson also has some great effects in his latest book, Art Decko, using a number deck that he sells, but they can also be done with the Cipher deck.

Available at your favorite Murphy’s Magic dealer

Product info for Cipher Deck

Author: James Anthony
Average Rating:  (2)
Retail Price: $34.95
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Manufacturer's Description:


The Cipher Deck is a utility device like no other... It's simplicity is astonishing and yet delivers such powerful reactions that everyone whether magicians or mentalists should own one and master the routines.

There is truly something for everyone with this deck.


We performed a whole night with just these number cards and the reactions we received were even greater than we had expected... "this is a super powerful and practical utility device"
- Mark Elsdon

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