I have recently been sent three new decks which all have a somewhat ‘alternative’ feel so thought it was time to briefly review them and consider the options for any Halloween gigs you might have coming up…

Bicycle Tattoo, Phoenix and Alchemist X decks

So first the new decks. They are limited edition Bicycle decks produced by Diavoli Productions (see below for UK buying options).

The Phoenix deck is a rather elegant gold-backed design – featuring, as its name suggests, a pair of phoenixes. Don’t confuse this with the Phoenix Deck Project which Card-Shark.de are involved with – this is a different, limited edition deck.

The gold colour (or metallic copper as they would have it!) is picked up on the various features of the court cards (see photo for example) and also on the flamboyant winged ace of spades. The joker features a double headed phoenix with the suits on its wings, and a subtle fan effect in the background (also on the ace of spades) which recalls the background of the Karnival Ryujin.

Bicycle Phoenix deck faces

A couple of extra cards are included – a ‘falling 3 of clubs’ and a ‘half and half split card’. I don’t know why these particular cards have been chosen – to me a double back or a blank face or something like that would have been more useful, but there it is. The card case flaps feature a 7C reveal, and the bar code a 3S reveal. Does anyone ever use these? Card stock is usual high quality USPCC ‘Bicycle’ stock and handles extremely well.

Both the Phoenix Deck and the Alchemist X deck have been designed by Stephen Rooks. Whilst I know why he wants to have his name on the box, it slightly smacks to me of ‘magic cards’ – which is never a good thing for the spectator. But then, they probably won’t be handling the box much. However, I notice his name isn’t included on the Tattoo deck which is another of his.

The original Alchemist deck sold out, and I’m sure the new Alchemist X one will too. This time we have a black and gold back design covered in suitably mystical symbols, with a number of subtle one-way features built in. The faces are also black with red and white ink for the suits and additional gold trim on the court cards. Words slightly fail me as I try to describe the joker – so just have a look at the picture. The Ace of Spades is more obviously a skull, but I wonder why the words ‘The Alchemist’ needed to be added to the face? I suppose we do see that on an ordinary Bicycle deck too.

Bicycle Alchemist X deck faces

The extra cards here are a ‘blank’ card – but with a large white ‘fingerprint’ on it, and a double-backer. These seem more useful than those with the Phoenix deck. The tuck-case reveals are 6/9S on the flaps and 6S on the bar code. I wonder why they didn’t chose a different value for the bar code reveal? This one has to be high on the list for a suitable Halloween Deck, and as ever they handle well.

Bicycle Alchemist X deck special cards

I can’t quite decide what I think about the Tattoo deck. The back design includes skulls, flames and a modified ‘Ying/Yang’ design. It definitely sets out to be a bit hard (as its name suggests it is tattoo style imagery), but for me the colours of the cards almost make it childish. Each suit has its own colour – Clubs are blue, Hearts are yellow, Spades are pink and Diamonds are green. The Ace of Spades is colourful and bold whilst the Joker picks up the skull/cross theme.

Bicycle Tattoo deck faces

The extra cards here are a two-way 6/4C and an advertising card for Stephen Rooks. The tuck-case flaps reveal 5C and the bard code 3S. I’m not the target market for this deck by any means, and I know nothing about the world of tattoos. So this might be the best thing since sliced bread if that’s you, but they were my least favourite deck of the trio.

Bicycle Tattoo, Phoenix and Alechemist X decks

Of these three, I reckon the Alchemist X might be the most suitable for Halloween. For a more sophisticated setting the Phoenix might work, and in certain places the Tattoo would be ok.

Bicycle Karnival deck

I would also consider either of the original Karnival Decks (the Karnival or the Karnival Midnight) – the later decks are a bit more ‘gangster’ than Halloween.

Tragic Royalty Bicycle Playing Cards USPCC

There is also the USPCC marketed Tragic Royalty deck (with luminescent ink) which would be great if you had a setting with UV light.

Where and how much?

Magic Nevin have all the Stephen Rooks decks (including the original Alchemist deck) at £6.99. The Karnivals are all available at £4.99 a deck, as is the Tragic Royalty Deck.

Cards 4 Magic have the Phoenix and Alchemist Decks at £6.50 (or miniature versions for £5.50)

MA Pro magic have the cheapest price on Tragic Royalty at only £3.70. They also stock another Halloween alternative, the Alchemy deck at £4.99. Not to be confused with the Alechemist deck, I’ve not seen them in person yet, but they have more of a gothic feel. Here’s a picture:

Bicycle Alchemy Deck

Or, you can always try winning one in our competition

Have a magical, Bicycle card filled Halloween!

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