Murphy's Magic & Playing Cards

Murphy's Magic is a wholesale magic dealer that was formed by Mark Murphy in 1998. They have an enormous range of magic products which they sell in bulk quantities to magic dealers around the world, and they have a huge network of contacts in the retail industry. Their website is a terrific resource with tons of information about their products, which include all things magical: magic kits, magic tricks, card tricks, DVDs, books, gags & jokes, puzzles, juggling, playing cards, accessories, and more.

But given my love for playing card games, performing card magic, and collecting card decks, what really interests me is the fact that Murphy's Magic also produces their own playing cards. They have developed and produced multiple decks of playing cards over the years. In this article, I'll be covering two of their newest releases, both of which are available from Murphy's Magic dealers and retailers that sell magic supplies or custom playing cards. Introducing: the Truth and Lies series of playing cards, and the Murphy's Magic Signature NOC deck of playing cards!


Truth & Lies Playing Cards

This release of Truth and Lies Playing Cards from Murphy’s Magic is a collection of six decks: three Lies Decks and three Truth Decks.

These playing cards are made to represent the dual nature of deception and honesty, as is evident already from the names. Magicians especially will appreciate the importance of the old adage "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." Deception is at the heart of magic, because it is what illusion is all about. In magic, we need to create a narrative so that what did not actually happen looks very much like it did. The truth and lies decks explore this duality that is inherit to magic. In the words of the publisher: "Truth and Lies Playing Cards represents the dual nature of deception and honesty. They are two sides of the same coin, both interwoven deeply within every magic trick. A parade of ornate lies are what spectators are driven to see, while the bare and unembellished truth is ignored and often hidden in plain sight."

These cards were designed by Bobby Haiqalsyah and Lance Miller, with the idea from Jason Brumbalow to remind you of the Lies we share, the Truths we bury, and the duality of both. Each of the six decks has a different phrase related to this theme in beautiful blind embossing on the tuck case. Aside from this external difference, the cards themselves within the three Lies decks are identical, and those in the Truth decks also match each other, while the Lies and Truth decks are quite different from one another.

Each box features the name of the deck (Truth or Lies) on the front of the tuck case, and is in different colour schemes for each deck, the Truth being mainly a dark navy blue and the Lies deck a white and elegant gold. These colour schemes fit with the back designs of each deck. The two back designs are the same style and artwork, featuring a bordered design with some intricate diamonds and designs, but the Lies deck has a white back design with gold coloured design, while the Truth deck is a black back with light blue shapes.

The tuck cases are exquisitely designed, the intricate designs creating appealing boxes that look wonderful as a partnership, because they have been designed to pair together perfectly when placed next to each other, with the two circles entwining from one box to another, as can be seen partially below.

These are also side-loading tuck cases, which means that they open from the side rather than the top. It's not something common, but is not unheard of, and is a nice touch that immediately helps makes these decks more unique and different than other decks of cards.

You can see the official video trailer for the deck here:

The Lies deck

Let's start by taking a look at the Lies deck, which has a white theme (white lies anyone?).

The different phrases in blind embossing on the Lies tuck cases are:
- Nothing Is Real
- The First Casualty Is Truth
- There Is No Beauty In Truth

This embossing to create the phrases really enhances the tuck boxes and adds something unique to them, which is great.

The back of the cards has ornate artwork that picks up the diamond inspired design that appears on the tuck box.

The court cards of the decks are redesigned from standard courts, and maintain their standard look so are very usable, but feature better looking colours to make them more aesthetically appealing, using mainly a black and gold colour in the Lies deck.

The pips of these cards have all been intricately designed with various whorls and lines to create an elegant looking effect, which is very nice.

For both decks the spades and clubs are black, while the hearts and diamonds are gold for the Lies deck, fitting in with its respective back designs. The indices are clear and easy to identify, making it suitable for games or card magic if desired.

Each deck has its own custom Ace of Spades, and the Lies Ace of Spades features an intricate design in gold with the name of the decks "Lies" below it, also the phrase “Nothing Is Real”, which is also embossed on one of the tuck boxes.

Each deck contains two Jokers, which are both identical which is handy for some magic effects. The Lies Joker pictures a demon type figure uncovering his face from a mask.

Each deck also comes with two extra gaff cards, a blank card and a double backer in each deck. This allows for some great magic effects, and is always great to have in a deck of cards.

The Truth deck

And here's the companion Truth deck.

The different phrases on the Truth tuck cases are:
- I Never Believe Me
- Lies Are Convenient
- Lies Require Commitment

Once again this embossing really looks stunning, and the text highlights something about the nature of magic. To quote the publisher: "The embossed phrase illustrates that the distinction between truth and lies may not be as clear-cut as you'd think! ... Sometimes the truth is just the lie we tell ourselves, but sometimes true magic can be found in the lies we tell others."

The card backs use similar colours to the tuck box, and look very stylish when cutting and shuffling the cards.

The faces of the cards are basically identical, with only a few differences, mainly in the colours. In the case of the court cards, the Truth deck adds some pale blue to the colour palette, which complements the back design.

Another difference is with the colour of the pips used for traditionally red suits. Unlike the Lies deck, in the Truth deck these are pale blue instead of gold, again to fit with the back design.

What is somewhat unusual from normal is that all the pips are facing the same way - I'm not convinced this was the best design choice. But the whorls and shape of the pips especially looks great when doing twirls and spins with the cards.

The custom Ace of Spades in the Truth deck is composed of all phrases about Truth, while the Truth joker is made up of the word "Truth" and a phrase below it says "There is no beauty in truth".

The quality of this deck is slightly disappointing unfortunately. The tuck boxes are wonderful - certainly no issues there. But the card quality isn’t as high as some other decks, and they just don't handle as smoothly. Based on my personal experience with a lot of decks of cards, it is my educated guess that these cards have been printed by Noir Arts (NPCC), or by the same factory they use - the cards look and feel exactly the same. While NPCC does print decent quality cards, it doesn't quite match the high quality of USPCC, LPCC or EPCC.

These cards are very snappy, have a very smooth edge, but they don’t always fan the most evenly, and tend to clump a little after some use, although some decks do perform better than others. It's not that these decks are not worth using, but just don’t expect something that's high performance. For detailed thoughts on NPCC's card quality and extensive comments about how they compare with USPCC playing cards, see my article here.

These cards are great for collectors due to their brilliant design of the cards and tuck case, and they are truly great to look at and enjoy. They are especially usable for games due to their design, and some might find them suitable for card magic, but due to their quality their handling is not quite up to the high standards demanded by card flourishing or magic. Despite this, they are still great decks that can especially be enjoyed for playing card games, for a place of honour in a playing card collection or on a magician's shelf.


Murphy's Magic Signature NOC

The NOC series of decks has been produced since 2012, and is a series of cards defined by simplicity and elegance, which is the result of a minimalistic design. Now Murphy's Magic has been able to arrange a collaboration with House of Playing Cards to produce their very own Murphy's Magic Signature NOC deck. It is similar to version 3 of the regular NOCs, but what makes it different is that it integrates Murphy's signature colours into the design, and includes a stylish chevron pattern on the inside of the tuck box, as well as on the Ace pips and Joker.

The original NOC decks from Blue Crown have already gone through several different versions, and were made available in a range of different colours. They were originally created by magician Alex Pandrea, and the use of solid colours were deliberately intended to give magicians a simple stage to use in order to allow their performance to shine. The acronym stands for "Nothing, Only Colour", and this deck represents the polar opposite of the over-ornamentation present in some customized decks, which assault the viewer with an overdose of colour and detailed design. These decks are about keeping things simple, so that all the focus can be on the moves performed by the card flourisher, without distractions from an elaborate design.

Notice that the tuck box of the Murphy's Magic Signature NOC deck uses an unusual side-loading style, which was already introduced in the regular NOC V3 deck. On the outside it looks almost identical to a standard NOC deck, and just has the addition of the Murphy's logo on the bottom left as a reminder of who we have to thank for this deck.

The tuck box also offers a very pleasant surprise on the inside: full interior printing with a very bold and eye-catching chevron design. This is a returning theme in this deck, and is the work of designer Gordon Sutton.

Most of the NOC decks typically have a striking back design with a uniformly solid bar of vibrant colour and just a thin white border, with the idea being to put the emphasis on the card handling rather than the cards themselves, and this makes them a favourite for card flourishers. The design on the Murphy's Magic Signature NOC is the regal navy blue colour that you may recognize from Murphy's branding. They've also added a gold trim, and this thin border on the card-backs is another difference from the standard NOC decks.

Despite the minimalist design, the oversized pip on the Aces reprise the classy chevron pattern that we first saw on the interior of the tuck box. In this case they use combinations of navy/gold for the black suits, and orange/blue for the red suits. The red colour used for the diamonds and hearts is also a softer and almost pinkish red than a standard deck, to ensure a very familiar and yet warmer look.

The court cards in this NOC deck feature the standard red/blue/yellow colour set of a traditional deck, which is in keeping with the overall minimalist and traditional look. However the blue used matches the navy blue of the card backs, and the red is the warmer pink-red used for the pips, to ensure a consistent look with the rest of the deck, and something that hits the right blend of being standard while yet offering small changes to ensure a fresh look. The remainder of the face cards look the same as an ordinary deck.

While there are slight adjustments to the colours employed by standard court cards, the highest degree of customization on the face cards is with the Aces and Jokers. The Jokers feature the chevron design, along with the Murphy's Magic navy blue and gold trim, which beautifully complements the card backs in a very stylish fashion.

There is one additional secret that this deck holds, which will give it a strong appeal to magicians. All the NOC decks come with their own subtle marking system, and the Murphy's Magic Signature NOC deck is no exception. The system used only marks the suit (not the value) in a wonderfully and well-disguised manner, which opens up some nice possibilities for magical effects. For example, you can use it to call cards as red or black, just by glancing at the card backs. Videos starring Alex Pandrea are freely available online which explain this marking system and teach a couple of routines with it. It's almost invisible, and one magician I showed it to took a while to figure it out even when he knew it was marked in some way.

As with the other NOC decks, the actual printing of the cards was done by Expert Playing Card Company in Taiwan, in collaboration with House of Playing Cards. It uses their Master finish (which is identical to the Diamond finish used by Legends Playing Card Company) which has thin but very snappy cards and is extremely durable and offers good handling. The cards are more durable and stiff than a typical USPCC type deck, and this combination of elements means that the cards are very snappy, and when sprung from one hand to another they create a pleasant sound due to this snap. These cards do require some wearing in due to their stiffness, but it is well worth it. They are embossed with a typical air cushion style texture, but individually they feel very smooth, almost like plastic, which is also noticeable in their snap. The cards can feel quite slippery, but they fan and spread consistently and easily.

This finish does take some getting used to, as it is quite different to a typical Bicycle deck due to its stiffness and smoothness, but many magicians and cardists love it, myself included. It rewards the newcomer willing to experiment with it, and the more one uses it, the more one comes to appreciate it. There's no doubt that this is a top-of-the-line finish, and that Expert Playing Card Company is an industry leader that produces cards of a quality that rivals that of USPCC. The result is a very durable and long lasting deck that handles beautifully, and also packets well for various cuts and other card flourishes.


What do I think?

Collectors and gamers: Murphy's Magic has something for everyone, and the Truth and Lies decks will especially appeal to collectors of playing cards or those who enjoy card games. Unfortunately the handling of these cards isn't quite consistent enough to live up to the exacting standards demanded for use in card flourishing or card magic. Even so, magicians will appreciate the thematic idea that these decks represent about the nature of illusion, and they will make a great collector's piece side-by-side on a shelf in the home of a magician. They're also very stylish, and are of a much higher quality than your standard department store deck of cards, so they'll be more than adequate for playing a game of poker or cards as well.

Magicians and cardists: If you're looking for something neat and clean to use for card magic or card flourishing, the Murphy's Magic Signature NOC deck will fit the bill just beautifully. The hidden secrets that have been invisibly disguised into the back design as a marking system that reveals the suit will especially be appreciated by magicians, who can use this in a variety of different ways. The card faces also have a standard and familiar look, which ensures that they can be used in magic routines without the distraction of over-customization. At the same time there's enough customization to ensure they look elegant and stylish, with the chevron style design that is present on the interior of the card box, the oversized Ace pips, and the Jokers, and a slight variation on the standard colour scheme. And cardists will be drawn to the simplicity of the NOC card backs, which in this case are decorated with an additional thin border in elegant gold. The superb quality of the card stock and finish produced by Expert Playing Card Company ensures that they will live up to the very highest demands put on them by magicians and cardists alike, without disappointing.


So are these decks of playing cards from Murphy's Magic for you? Once again Murphy's proves that they can produce something for everyone, and it's good to see more solid contributions to the custom playing card market with these two new releases. These decks meet different needs, but one thing that they share in common is that they are very affordable. The recommended retail price for both is only around US$8, making them significantly more inexpensive than your typical custom deck of playing cards, which tend to be in the range of $12-20.

Attractive and affordable - now that's a combination I like.

The decks reviewed above are all available at your favourite Murphy’s Magic retailer. Want to learn more? Murphy's Magic:

Here are direct links for the decks featured in this review:
Lies decks: Lies Require Commitment, I Never Believe Me, and Lies Are Convenient
Truth decks: Nothing Is Real, The First Casualty Is Truth, and There Is No Beauty in Truth
NOC deck: Murphy's Magic Signature NOC

BoardGameGeek reviewer

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