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Red Dead Redemption 2 - Review Thread
Game InformationGame Title: Red Dead Redemption 2
Genre: Western, action-adventure, third-person shooter, first-person shooter, open-world
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Media: Trailer 1
Trailer 2 | Trailer 3
Official Gameplay Video | Gameplay Video Part 2
Developer: Rockstar Studios Info (All R\ studios in unison)*
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Price: Standard - $59.99 USD (micro-transactions when the Online update hits)
Special Edition - $79.99 USD Contents
Ultimate Edition - $99.99 USD Contents
Release Date: October 26th, 2018
More Info: /reddeadredemption| Wikipedia Page
OpenCritic - 97 [Cross-Platform] Current Score Distribution
MetaCritic - 97 [PS4]
MetaCritic - 97 [XB1]
Rootin' dootin'-ly arbitrary list of past installments in the Red Dead series -
|Entry||Score Platform, Year, # of Critics|
|Red Dead Revolver||76 XB, 2004, 61 critics|
|Red Dead Redemption||95 X360, 2010, 96 critics|
|Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare||87 X360, 2010, 49 critics|
|Entry||Score Platform, Year, # of Critics|
|God of War (2018)||94 PS4, 2018, 118 critics|
|Celeste||92 Switch, 2018, 36 critics|
|Forza Horizon 4||92 XB1, 2018, 82 critics|
|Monster Hunter: World||90 PS4, 2018, 93 critics|
|Into the Breach||90 PC, 2018, 56 critics|
|Dead Cells||90 Switch, 2018, 34 critics|
|Marvel's Spider-Man||87 PS4, 2018, 111 critics|
|Entry||Score Platform, Year, # of Critics|
|The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild||97 Switch, 2017, 109 critics|
|Super Mario Odyssey||97 Switch, 2017, 104 critics|
|Website/Author||Aggregates' Score ~ Critic's Score||Quote||Platform|
|Eurogamer - Martin Robinson||Recommended ~ Recommended||An astounding open world unlikely to be rivalled until well into the next gen, saddled by a throughline from the last generation.||PS4|
|Polygon - Chris Plante||Unscored ~ Unscored||Partial Map Spoilers Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the weirdest, most ambitious and confounding big-budget games of this decade||XB1|
|Kotaku - Kirk Hamilton||Unscored ~ Unscored||This game has heart; the kind of heart that is difficult to pin down but impossible to deny. It is a wonderful story about terrible people, and a vivacious, tremendously sad tribute to nature itself. There is so much beauty and joy in this expensive, exhausting thing. Somehow that makes it even more perfect—a breathtaking eulogy for a ruined world, created by, about, and for a society that ruined it.||PS4|
|VG247 - Kirk McKeand||Unscored ~ Unscored||Red Dead Redemption 2 is a brave prequel that isn't afraid of taking risks. It is innovative, surprising, stunning, dramatic, and generous – a highlight of this generation and a benchmark for other open world games to aspire to.||PS4|
|The Hollywood Reporter - Patrick Shanley||Unscored ~ Unscored||Every nuance of the game, from plot to game design, elevates the entire medium of gaming to levels that have until this point only been made in empty pre-launch promises. What Rockstar has delivered in Red Dead Redemption 2 is not just the best game of the year, but the best game of the decade. It does not set a new bar, but rather signals a changing of the guard, a new future for video games, as everything that comes after will be launching in a post-Red Dead Redemption 2 world.|
|IGN Italy - Gianluca Loggia - Italian||100 ~ 10 / 10||One of the best open world games ever, with the single best story ever written for a videogame.||PS4|
|The Digital Fix - Stephen Hudson||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 takes everything that made the first so spectacular and elevates it to a new level. It boasts an enthralling story, coupled with rock solid gameplay, and is perhaps one of the best games ever made.||PS4|
|GameZone - Cade Onder||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 feels like Rockstar's new GTA 3 as in it takes massive leaps towards a new era of open-world gaming the likes of which have never been seen or at the very least executed to this level of quality courtesy of the borderline photorealistic graphics and remarkable game design.||PS4|
|TrueAchievements - Dave Horobin||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||Red Dead Redemption 2's vast, detailed and stunningly beautiful open world sits as the perfect backdrop for its compelling and well-paced story filled with epic set pieces. With deeper gameplay mechanics, a larger cast of diverse and interesting characters to meet, and a wealth of content from side objectives to mini-games, RDR2 is a shining example of what makes Rockstar's games so special.||XB1|
|ZTGD - Ken McKown||100 ~ 10 / 10||I wish there was more I could say about the game. There is so much to discuss, but that would take away from the experience. Avoid spoilers, avoid videos of this game, just buy it, play it, and fall in love with this world the same way I did.||XB1|
|God is a Geek - Chris White||100 ~ 10 / 10||There was never any doubt that Red Dead Redemption 2 was going to be good, but this is something special. A masterpiece that many will be talking about for decades to come.||PS4|
|Telegraph - Tom Hoggins||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||As you move around the country and the gang's predicament shifts, the complexion of both game and narrative can change to a startling degree. It is nothing if not carefully considered.|
|Game Debate - Jon Sutton||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 isn't just a great game. It's a game that sets an impossibly high new bar for how open-worlds can be handled. Its depiction of late 19th-century America feels both historically accurate yet abundantly open-ended, slow-paced and yet alive, grim and yet majestic. It makes the original Red Dead Redemption feel like a warm-up, the doodles on the page before the real thing has come to life.||PS4|
|AusGamers - Steve Farrelly||100 ~ 10 / 10||Rockstar, my dusty old hat is off to you. You've made this old videogame cowboy a very happy camper.||XB1|
|GameSpew - Richard Seagrave||100 ~ 10 / 10||The years spent shaping Red Dead Redemption 2 into what it is has been worth it.||XB1|
|Digital Chumps - Nathaniel Stevens||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is the perfect gaming experience, and what you were hoping for in the next iteration of the series. It has a rich story, deep gameplay, unrivaled visuals, and plenty of plains to explore.||PS4|
|PlayStation LifeStyle - Chandler Wood||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 redefines the open world genre.||PS4|
|Game Revolution - Jason Faulkner||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||The astounding thing about RDR 2 is that there's not only a staggering amount of story, side quests, and places to explore but that it's all high quality and doesn't feel tacked on.|
|IGN - Luke Reilly||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game of rare quality; a meticulously polished open world ode to the outlaw era.||PS4, XB1|
|Windows Central - Asher Madan||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||Despite some minor issues like stuttering in interiors, awkward camera angles in smaller houses, or the relatively slow start to story the campaign — Red Dead Redemption 2 simply overrides its small perceptible flaws with what is nothing short of a truly spectacular experience. Simply put, it is one of the best games ever made, setting a new standard for open world titles going forward.||XB1|
|Areajugones - Álvaro Giménez - Spanish||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is, without a shred of doubt, a new masterpiece brought to us by Rockstar. The new entry by the company has managed to achieve excellence in gameplay, storytelling and technical aspects. In the end, Rockstar has been successful in pushing the franchise to its limits in order to create one of the most complete games of all time.||PS4|
|Guardian - Keza MacDonald||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||Total immersion in an astonishingly lifelike world – whether you're outgunning rivals or skinning animals – makes this outlaw adventure a landmark game|
|DualShockers - Ryan Meitzler||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 may just signal the dawn of a new era for open-world games, and it's an experience that I have no doubt players will be investing tens (if not hundreds) of hours into its immense, deep world and completing its story full of action, suspense, and deeply investing character moments.||PS4|
|Easy Allies - Brandon Jones||100 ~ 10 / 10||Rockstar achieves a new level of open world immersion in the second chapter of their wild west epic. Big choices lead to surprising consequences, and lots of customization options generate an attachment to your surroundings. Incredible visuals and spontaneous events create a beautiful, breathing world to explore. Written||PS4|
|Press Start - Brodie Gibbons||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is a triumph in world-building, character craft and downright skulduggery. Being bad has never felt so good as Rockstar toe the realism line while still keeping their sharp, trademark tongue in cheek. It's the keen attention to detail where Rockstar succeeds and this outlaw prequel comfortably outperforms their best works and in time, I believe, will be regarded as a once in a generation game.|
|Stevivor - Luke Lawrie||100 ~ 10 / 10||Rockstar Games has created a living, breathing world that I am absolutely invested in.||PS4|
|Twinfinite - Ed McGlone||100 ~ 5 / 5||Red Dead Redemption 2 has certainly benefited from Rockstar allocating almost a whole generation's worth of development time to perfect what they wanted to accomplish. The result is a game that is easily one of the best games this year, and this console generation, but that's not all. It should eventually go down as one of the greatest games ever made.||PS4|
|Gameblog - Gianni Molinaro - French||100 ~ 10 / 10||There's a new sheriff in the open-world action game genre in town. Red Dead Redemption 2 is sure ambitious but it succeeds everywhere he travels : exploration, gunfights, stealth, main quest, characters, side quests, customization, acting, hunting, fishing... Name one element, it delivers. And it sure looks like one of the best looking games ever seen and has many secrets yet to be discovered. And so it can be considered as a masterpiece, an extraordinary, legendary game that we will talk about with sincere admiration for ages.||PS4|
|GamesRadar+ - David Meikleham||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||One of the top three open-worlds of all time, and the best game Rockstar has ever made. An all-time Old West masterpiece.||XB1|
|COGconnected - Garrett Drake||100 ~ 100 / 100||Whether I'm hunting a legendary animal, participating in a story mission, playing a game of poker, or just exploring the world I've absolutely adored every moment I've spent with the game.||PS4|
|Digital Trends - Steven Petite||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||'Red Dead Redemption 2' is unrivaled in design, gameplay, and storytelling.|
|Push Square - Robert Ramsey||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar's best game, and it's gripping from start to finish.||PS4|
|We Got This Covered - Ethan Willard||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||Red Dead Redemption 2 is an immense, breathtaking experience that will be treasured for years to come.||PS4|
|PlayStation Universe - Jack McCaskill||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 not only lives up to expectations, but it smashes them and feels like the missing half of a story we never knew was incomplete. Improving on its predecessor in every way that counts, it also reignites interest in its landmark prequel, enhancing the overall experience to an epic scale and giving gamers an odyssey quite unlike any other.||PS4|
|Game Informer - Matt Bertz||100 ~ 10 / 10||Rockstar has once again created a game that redefines the open-world experience. Red Dead Redemption II is a triumph that every gamer should experience for themselves||PS4|
|Attack of the Fanboy - William Schwartz||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||With Red Dead Redemption 2 Rockstar Games has set the bar so high that other games of this nature seem infinitesimally lesser because of its existence.||XB1|
|GamingTrend - Ron Burke||100 ~ 100 / 100||Red Dead Redemption 2 raises the bar for sandbox adventure games. It's organic in a way almost unseen in any genre, creating an authentic open world that is as cohesive as it is compelling. This title will set the bar for action adventure games for years to come.||XB1|
|TheSixthAxis - Adrian Burrows||100 ~ 10 / 10||The hype being created for Red Dead Redemption 2 and the expectations of the passionate fan-base made a part of me believe that Rockstar Games could never deliver on all of their many promises. They did, and then some. From the feeling of a realistic living world they've created to the emotional bonds you build, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the video game experience of this generation.||PS4|
|IGN Spain - Gustavo Maeso - Spanish||100 ~ 10 / 10||A titanic videogame, a masterpiece that, like everything, will have passionate lovers and other players who do not get too caught up. Everything also depends on thematic genres and preferences. Maybe not everyone likes the stories of 'Indians and cowboys'. But this interactive universe created by Rockstar tells a story fantastically constructed and allows us to live a unique adventure. And for that reason, we believe that this production touches excellence. And for that, it takes the first 10 in the history of IGN Spain. Good trip, cowboys!||PS4|
|Generación Xbox - Adrian Fuentes Berna - Spanish||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 offers an unprecedented level of interaction with NPCs. Its level of detail and brilliant way of telling Arthur Morgan's story in a completely open adventure make the Rockstar game a masterpiece.||XB1|
|Gaming Nexus - Nicholas Leon||100 ~ 10 / 10||An astounding triumph that will certainly stand above the pack this season, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a unique game about unique people. The writing, visuals, and gameplay combine to make an absolute standout of a title, one that has been well worth the wait.||PS4|
|Gamersky - 不倒翁蜀黍 - Chinese||100 ~ 10 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is the game that I would like to keep playing for years. The wild west is marvelous and full of interesting events. The story is both solid and attractive. What's more, The interactive system makes a great progress and you can interact with nearly everyone in various ways, and it feels really real. RDR2 definitely will be one of the greatest video games of all time.||PS4|
|Digital Spy - Laurence Mozafari||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||There is just so much in Red Dead Redemption 2. After countless hours with the game, there's still so many side-quests, collectibles and mysteries to discover. The world might not be Rockstar's biggest, but it certainly feels like its deepest. It feels rich, you're constantly side-tracked with new adventures, as they've truly crafted a world that you want to get lost in, to spend time in and just absorb. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an absolute undisputed classic and a legend in the making, plus with Red Dead Online on the horizon, it looks like our adventures in the wild west are just beginning.||PS4|
|Giant Bomb - Alex Navarro||100 ~ 5 / 5 stars||This is what it ultimately comes down to with Red Dead Redemption 2. It is an incredible achievement in open world gaming, an intricate machine that disguises its machinery better than just about anything else that's come before. In addition to its lengthy and engrossing campaign, it delivers moments of emergent storytelling more compelling than anything I can ever remember playing.||PS4|
|Hobby Consolas - David Martinez - Spanish||99 ~ 99 / 100||Rockstar delivers a masterpiece in every aspect. Its organic and evolving open world, characters, storyline and gameplay mechanics made us feel "free men". Red Dead Redemption 2 also brings the best technical elements of this generation.||PS4|
|GameCrate - Quibian Salazar-Moreno||98 ~ 9.75 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is what we all expected and then some. The game delivers on the fantasy of living as an outlaw in the old west, and may be one of the best open-world games ever made. It's certainly Rockstar Games' best game.||XB1|
|Wccftech - Alessio Palumbo||97 ~ 9.7 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 may not be perfect, but its minor shortcomings are like tiny blemishes on a stunningly beautiful face. In a way, they only serve as a reminder of how this world isn't made for perfection. Every single aspect of the game will put you into the very shoes of an outlaw roaming America with his gang as they try to escape the law long enough to make the money needed to disappear for good. It's an epic, memorable and engrossing tale which also elevates the open world genre to new heights with the brand new interaction system, a cast of memorable characters and a ton of high-quality content to play for a long time.||XB1|
|MMORPG.com - William Murphy||97 ~ 9.7 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 may very well be one of the most in-depth simulations of life we've ever seen. It manages to do all the things survival games have been trying to do while making them interesting and not invasive. It gives players a real sense of playing their role through the honor system and the character skill progression by actions your character performs. And above all, in truest Rockstar fashion, it's one of the best stories in gaming, and Arthur Morgan quickly becomes an even more lovable character than I expected. RDR2's start is slow, measured, but as the layers begin to unfold and the scope of the game's sandbox is known, you see just how impressive it all really is. This is easily a top candidate for one of the greatest open world RPGs of all time.||PS4|
|GamePro - Tobias Veltin - German||96 ~ 96 / 100||What a ride! Red Dead Redemption 2 is the next Rockstar-Masterpiece and the best game in this console-generation so far.||PS4|
|Critical Hit - Darryn Bonthuys||95 ~ 9.5 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is a story of endings and new beginnings, of the birth of legends and the consequences that come with creating a myth. It's all wrapped up in an immaculate presentation, told over dozens of hours and adventures that leads to an inevitable conclusion: Red Dead Redemption 2 raises the bar for the sandbox genre and stands tall as the definitive western game of this or any other generation.||PS4|
|CGMagazine - Brendan Frye||95 ~ 9.5 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is the best game Rockstar Games has ever made, as it deftly combines one of the richest open worlds ever made with one of the most compelling stories of this generation.||PS4|
|Gameplanet - Chris Brown||95 ~ 9.5 / 10||Despite stumbling at the very beginning Red Dead Redemption 2 cements Rockstar Games' place at the very top of the games industry. It's been eight years and well worth the wait.||PS4|
|Destructoid - Chris Carter||95 ~ 9.5 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is the epitome of ambition and like most things Rockstar, will meet the expectations associated with it. With all of the advancements since the last Red Dead and everything they've learned from Grand Theft Auto V under their belt, the series is in a better place, able to provide a more natural and less gamey world to explore.||PS4|
|Xbox Achievements - Richard Walker||95 ~ 95 / 100||A stunning, elegiac western that features some of Rockstar's best writing to date, Red Dead Redemption 2 is also the studio's finest open-world to date, handcrafted with real, tangible care and attention, defying the boundaries of what a video game can be. Arthur Morgan will also inhabit a special place in your heart, as a likeable, relatable rogue striving to find his way in the world. Good ol' Arthur.||XB1|
|GameSpot - Kallie Plagge||90 ~ 9 / 10||RDR 2 succeeds as both a prequel to Red Dead Redemption and a story in its own right, and though it can take some patience, your effort is well worth it.||PS4|
|Daily Dot - Joseph Knoop||90 ~ 4.5 / 5||We suspect it will still stand among Rockstar's greatest games, but perhaps not its greatest saga.||PS4|
|Gamers Heroes - Johnny Hurricane||90 ~ 9 / 10||Surprising absolutely no one, Red Dead Redemption 2 is easily a game of the year contender, if not the winner. Rockstar Games knocks it out of the park once again, and we are eagerly awaiting Red Dead Online.||PS4|
|VideoGamer - Colm Ahern||90 ~ 9 / 10||Few worlds are as well-realised as the one Rockstar has created for Red Dead Redemption 2. Thanks to some wonderful scripting and stellar performances, the characters you randomly meet in the wild are captured as well as the ones you spend most of your days around camp. How do you follow Red Dead Redemption? You make Red Dead Redemption 2.||XB1|
|Metro GameCentral - GameCentral||90 ~ 9 / 10||An incredible technical achievement and a hugely accomplished Western epic that, despite a few minor flaws, represents Rockstar Games' most engaging and ambitious work so far.||PS4|
|Cubed3 - Tomas Barry||90 ~ 9 / 10||While no single element of Red Dead Redemption 2 is revolutionary, due to its ambitious scope, it's greater than the sum of its parts. Few single-player experiences excel simultaneously at telling a deep and poignant story, whilst also providing the player with such a huge extent of freedom and possibility.||PS4|
|Shacknews - Bill Lavoy||90 ~ 9 / 10||Whether I'm chasing the thrill of a daring train robbery, or the serenity of a solo camping trip, Red Dead Redemption 2 is an open-world game I will return to time and time again.||PS4|
|Forbes - Dave Thier||90 ~ 9 / 10||If you have the time and the inclination, buy Red Dead Redemption 2. It's a great game. It's an impressive game. Just know what you're getting into, and do your best to make it through the story to what's on the other side. This review is now nearly 3000 words long, and not nearly long enough for one of the greatest and most vexing games I've played in years.||PS4|
|Worth Playing - Cody Medellin||90 ~ 9 / 10||Red Dead Redemption II is exactly the kind of game you'd expect from Rockstar.||PS4|
|USgamer - Mike Williams||90 ~ 4.5 / 5 stars||Eight years after the masterpiece that was Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games is taking a second shot. New protagonist Arthur Morgan gets a better supporting cast, an absolutely beautiful open world with more visual variety, and a ton of things to kill or collect. There's some occasional tedium in travel, and a few bugs and annoyances, but nothing that prevents Red Dead Redemption 2 from being an excellent game.||PS4|
|Hardcore Gamer - Adam Beck||90 ~ 4.5 / 5||With around fifty hours to complete the main campaign, and even more if you do all of the other side activities, a game such as Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t come around this often. All I can say is wow.||PS4|
|Video Chums - A.J. Maciejewski||88 ~ 8.8 / 10||Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gorgeous and enormous open world game that you can easily get immersed in while the hours tick away.||PS4|
|New Game Network - Alex Varankou||82 ~ 82 / 100||Red Dead Redemption 2 is an enjoyable sequel that builds on the foundation of its predecessor, with much to do and plenty to see, all wrapped up in some of the best visuals you've ever seen on a console. With great characters and satisfying action, it's a Wild West worth exploring.||XB1|
|Slant Magazine - Steven Scaife||70 ~ 3.5 / 5 stars||Red Dead Redemption 2's evocative, often beautiful sense of place exists insofar as it is still convenient to the player, which harms some of the desperation and hardship the game means to convey.||PS4|
edit - avoid comment sections for any review that isn't a 10/10, unless you like to live dangerously or be Ken M
7 Top Marked Decks
MARKED DECK BASICSsubmitted by EndersGame_Reviewer to playingcards
What is a marked deck? Shh, don't tell anybody. But it's true that magicians and mentalists sometimes use marked decks. A marked deck is a deck with secret marks on the back of the card, that allow you to identify the value and suit on the opposite side, just by looking at the card back.
How does a marked deck work? There are two main types of marked decks that you'll commonly find being produced commercially: reader systems and coded systems. Marked decks with reader systems are what you'd expect: hidden somewhere in the back design, if you know where to look, it will say what the card is. For example, 7S would mean 7 of Spades. With these decks, your job is simply to "read" the back of the card, and you can immediately identify it. Marked decks with coded systems rely on using other codes or clues to indicate the value and suit of the cards. For example a clock face disguised on the card back might have a dot in the place corresponding to the number of the card.
How can you identify a marked deck? A quick way to see if a deck is a marked deck is to "take it to the movies", or give it "the riffle test". This involves flipping through the entire deck quickly with your thumb or finger, and watching the card backs closely to see if there are any changes in the design that appear while doing this. Depending on the marking system used, some marked decks will be more obvious than others.
When should you use a marked deck? Now that you know about marked decks, don't think that all card magic relies on a "marked deck" or some other "trick deck". Far from it! By far the majority of card tricks are done with an ordinary deck - any deck. Most card magic relies on sheer sleight of hand, skill in handling cards, and a good dose of misdirection and showmanship. But just like a mechanic will have a toolbox with different tools, so there are occasions where a marked deck is exactly the tool that a magician will need. It can certainly be used to perform `miracles' that you simply cannot accomplish with an ordinary deck.
When should you not use a marked deck? Don't even think about using a marked deck for card games, especially when playing for money! Here's a word of warning to the wise: a social game gets ruined if you're cheating, and you'll only spoil the experience for yourself and others. It's even worse to do so in a gambling game, because it's really a form of stealing - and eventually it will catch up with you and you'll get caught. But for card magic, it's totally a legitimate tool, because conjuring is all about creating an illusion, and the spectator knows that you are using hidden secrets to accomplish this. Moreover a marked deck won't work miracles on its own - you still need to come up with tricks that are entertaining to watch. Simply staring at the back of a card and telling someone what the card is doesn't make for interesting watching. On the other hand a well-presented card trick is all about being entertaining, and your audience never needs to have any idea that you're using a secret weapon to accomplish your magic.
What can you do with a marked deck? To get an idea of what you can do with a marked deck, check out this video where magician Jay Sankey shows a very simple routine you can do. He also explains how you can make your own marked deck with a standard Bicycle rider back deck.
What marked deck should I get? You can certainly make your own marked deck, as Jay Sankey explains. But the good news is that there are some fantastic marked decks on the market. The explosion of the custom playing card market over the last decade also means that over the last number of years some excellent marked decks have been produced. You need to decide whether you want a deck with a reader marking system or a coded marking system. You also need to decide on the style of deck that suits your needs, since some people will want a deck that looks very discrete, and as much as possible like an ordinary Bicycle riderback deck, while others will want a deck that looks more classy, luxurious, or even creative. Much of this comes down to personal preference, and you'll have to combine that with whether the marking system is right for you.
Which marked decks are covered in this article? In this article I'm only covering marked decks with reader systems, and I'll cover some marked decks with coded systems in a separate article. For someone who has never used a marked deck before, one that uses a reader system will be the easiest to use, and is the best place to start. Even so this is by no means a complete list of all marked decks that use reader systems, since new marked decks and new ideas are coming out all the time. There are many other great candidates that could be considered top marked decks, so I won't pretend that this is a definitive list of the all-time top marked decks. But I will cover some top ones, which are some of my own favourites and which I have personal experience with. An important criteria was also that they had to be decks available for purchase, so I've excluded any marked decks that you can't easily get.
KEEPERS V2 RED
The Keepers deck was produced by Ellusionist and is available in several colours, including blue and green. Not all of them are marked decks, but the Keepers v2 Red deck certainly is.
The concept of this deck was inspired by the idea of a lighthouse keeper, which also accounts for the lighthouse design on the card backs.
The card faces immediately give the suggestion that everything is normal, with the usual artwork we've come to expect in a traditional deck. The number cards and pips are all standard.
But there are small exceptions, the main one being a custom Ace of Spades, which features an oversized Spade pip adorned with artwork to match the lighthouse theme of the deck. In addition there are two original Jokers, plus some minor adjustments to the artwork of the Jack and Queen of Clubs.
The artwork on the card backs was created with the goal of producing a design that would have the potential to be as classic as Bicycle rider backs. Geared to please the worker magician, the design is elegant but effective, depicting the lighthouse that our keeper inhabits.
And of course within the design lies our hidden secret. It's very easy to read, and not likely to stand up to close scrutiny, but this makes it ideal for being able to read quickly and easily. As an extra bonus this deck also comes with a duplicate Queen of Hearts.
MARKED MAIDEN BACK
The Marked Maiden Back deck looks like an ordinary Bicycle deck using the popular Maiden back design, which is a slight variation from the rider-backs.
Unlike many other marked decks, the markings are very easy to read, so you don't have to strain to figure them out or decipher them. Many consider it the best modern marked deck for exactly that reason.
One thing I really like about the Marked Maiden Back is that it looks completely like a regular deck, so it doesn't draw attention to itself. But perhaps more importantly, the markings are very easy to read, so you don't have to strain to figure them out or decipher them. There's no real code or system to learn - they say what they are. You wouldn't want a spectator studying the backs though, because they are somewhat obvious, so I wouldn't give these out to inspect.
Having two online videos that explain how these decks work and how to get the most out of them is also very handy. With teaching from Jon Armstrong and Rick Lax, these also provide some good ideas for tricks you can do with these and other marked decks.
From big magic brand Ellusionist comes their Blue Cohort deck, which is a companion to their Red Cohort deck.
Both are of these are marked decks, and employ the same design and marking system on the card backs. The only difference between them is the colour and the thickness of the cards.
The card faces have a somewhat standard look to them, but because this is a Cartamundi produced decks, they are more similar to the style of Cartamundi's Copag decks than to the traditional Bicycle courts. The marking system is well integrated into the design and quite cleverly hidden, so you will have to look quite closely to read it.
What's special about the blue deck is that it features the debut of the new slimline E7 stock from Cartamundi. You'll likely find this to be the thinnest deck you've ever used, and to me it feels even thinner than a standard Bicycle deck with USPCC's thin-crush stock. Admittedly, because these cards are so thin, they might not hold up to the exacting standards demanded by heavy usage, although that depends on the kind of moves you do. Magicians may find that sleights like double lifts or colour changes come with the increased risk of bending the cards, and some will find the E7 stock too thin. None of this is an issue with the red deck, however, so you might want to make your colour choice depending on your preferred card thickness.
But the cards of both decks handle very nicely, feeling super soft from the get-go, and they spring beautifully, while feeling snappy and durable. They also use the "true linen" embossing pattern common to many of Cartamundi's decks, so they don't have the look of the traditional air cushion style that you will find on most USPCC produced decks. As far as I can tell, this doesn't have much of an impact on the performance or handling, but just affects the look.
Another good thing about these Cartamundi decks is the excellent print registration. USPCC decks are known to often feature print registration errors, occasionally resulting in misaligned borders. Especially when a deck has been designed with relatively narrow borders, this can present a real problem, and more than a few buyers have been disappointed with a USPCC-produced deck for this reason alone. I've not noticed any such issues with Cartamundi decks, and even though the Cohort decks I have feature very narrow borders, the printing is spot on.
Produced in the United States by magic supplier Vanishing Inc Magic, the Dapper decks are geared to be a colourful deck for the stylish (= dapper!) magician.
The Dapper Decks are available in a choice of two different colours: navy blue or orange. Both decks look absolutely lovely, with attractive colours and patterns.
The tuck boxes feature a custom design with a spade shape that incorporates the unique pattern from the card backs.
I particularly love the vibrant colour and design of the card backs of this deck. The "Jerry's Nugget Orange" deck, with its fiery orange colour, is the most striking of the two. The companion "Navy Blue" deck is basically a matching and identical deck, except that the card-backs feature navy blue as the dominant colour.
I also really appreciate how the damask/paisley pattern from the card backs has been incorporated into a single pip on some of the number cards as well. This pattern has also been built into the over-sized Aces, with the Spades and Clubs using the colours of the blue deck, and the Hearts and Diamonds using the colours of the orange deck. Introducing the paisley design from the card backs onto the card faces in subtle ways like this really helps set this deck apart and adds style and character.
The court cards have designs that are along traditional lines with some custom elements, but they feature a colour scheme that matches the rest of the deck. The colour of the red pips is especially noteworthy, being slightly orange in colour, to complements the colour scheme of the overall design.
KING & LEGACY (GOLD EDITION)
King & Legacy Gold Edition deck was designed by Destino and presented by Julio Montoro, a magician, consultant, and creator from Spain.
The thematic concept this deck is intended to evoke is the ancient idea that when kings died, they left behind a legacy through which they lived on. Life is about creating memories and footprints, and these remain when we ourselves are no longer here. These playing cards are imagined to be the legacy of a departed king, and by opening the doors of this box we feel his presence even though he himself is absent.
The tuck box is presented with a soft white look, which features delicate lettering and patterns in metallic gold inks, plus embossed concentric circles that help make a strong first impression. The back of the box features the same design as the card backs, which we'll see in a moment, while a custom seal completes the overall presentation.
All the faces are heavily customized, especially the court cards, and that immediately makes this deck feel unique and special. The court cards are either all red or all black, and the minimalist colour scheme helps accentuate the styish artwork. The pips are also very stylized without being over-the-top, to ensure that the deck doesn't abandon all practicality.
I especially love the Aces, each of which has a single Giant pip inscribed with a labyrinth design that picks up some of the feel of the card backs. The Ace of Spades is particularly lush, with a rich metallic stripe of gold decorating the outskirts of the over-sized pip, along with a banner that reads "King & Legacy".
The card backs have an ornate and classy design that incorporates all kinds of icons and symbols into the design, and the more you look the more you will see, like music notes, eyes, flowers, and fish, in an overall pattern that looks like a labyrinth.
The secret markings are easy to read, and an additional card provided with the deck provides a complete key to the marking system. It will literally take you less than 30 seconds to learn and master, despite being well integrated into the pattern on opposite corners of the card backs, with a cursive font style assisting in their disguise.
The Orbit series from Chris "Orbit" Brown is extremely popular with card flourishers, in part because of the circle design on the card backs. So it may come as a surprise to see the Orbit v7 deck on this list. A marked deck?
Surprisingly, yes it is. The creator doesn't even market this as a marked deck, which I think is a mistake on their part. There's a real risk some people could buy this deck, thinking it is an ordinary deck that could be used for poker, card games, or magic, and it would be a real bummer to discover after the fact that it's marked. So I do wish the publisher had been more transparent about the fact that it is a marked deck, unlike the other Orbit decks, because buyers have the right to know what they're getting. But that's a minor complaint, because I do really like the deck.
The colour of the tuck box and card back immediately give some indication of the 80s feel that this version of the Orbit deck seeks to capture, with blue and pink. These colours also return on the card faces.
The style of the face cards has a somewhat standard look, but I appreciate the fact that there are some deviations in the usual font and artwork, to help give this deck a personality of its own, while still looking very familiar. At least three of the court cards are actually based on real people that the designer is close to. Two astronaut Jokers also inject some humor and colour to the faces.
Version 1 of this deck first appeared in 2015, and the Orbit decks have proven to be a big hit in the cardistry world. Thematically, the series is considered to be a tribute to space exploration, with the hint of some sci-fi. Many small touches in the artwork of the deck are inspired by different aspects of space travel or details from our planets. The card backs in some versions picture a rocket travelling around our space circle, but in Version 7 we instead see constellations of stars which surround around our pink epicenter as a beautiful star belt.
I have a few of the previous Orbit decks, and I can see that it was a good move to combine a retro look with a proven design, so Version 7 has what it takes to be a popular choice for cardistry. One only needs to look to the stars to find the marking system, and it's really quite ingenious. Once you know it, the markings will be very obvious to you, but I can see that they will completely escape the notice of all but the most observant. It's very clever and well done, and while perhaps not suitable for a professional card worker, it's certainly a marked deck you can have fun with.
Last but not least are the DMC Elites, and it could even be argued that I've saved the best in this category for last. The publisher brands this as an "optical system" due to the unorthodox style of the markings, but I still consider this a reader deck because you are still reading the suit and value, and there's no real system to learn.
As our gateway to the magic inside, the tuck box of the DMC Elites deck (Forest Green edition) is a matt finish in forest green, and is finished with gold foil touches for a classy look.
DMC represents the initials of English magician and card shark, Drummond Money-Coutts, who has been the subject of several TV magic specials. Money-Coutts has teamed up with magic creator Phil Smith to produce a series of decks called DMC Elites, and this is considered version 4. The formula that made previous DMC Elites decks so successful is continued, but for the first time the markings are now on all four corners, not just two.
Everything is relatively standard, besides a custom Ace of Spades and the stylish silhouette Jokers, one of which has a card reveal, so it's a great deck well-suited for professional use. Two ad cards cover a short introduction to the Elites decks, and instructions about the marking system.
What makes the DMC Elites so highly regarded is that these cards don't require you to squint in order to try to make out the semi-hidden or tiny markings. Instead, the marking system on these decks is in plain sight, and works best when viewed from a distance. And yet unless you know the key, it's completely undetectable.
Many in the world of magic consider these innovative decks to be the best in the business for exactly this reason. Even pros will struggle to find the markings unless they've been let in on the secret!
There's frequent debate about which marked decks on the market are best, and it's not something that I'm going to even attempt to answer, because this often depends on what your needs are, and in what setting you're using a marked deck in the first place. If you are choosing a deck marked with a reader system, you do want to be sure that your eyesight is good enough to easily pick up the markings, and that the text isn't too small, so that will be a big consideration.
If you're looking for a simple reader deck that won't draw attention to itself, your best bet is the Marked Maiden Back deck. The beauty of this deck lies in how ordinary it looks. Because it looks like a standard Bicycle deck, there's no reason for spectators to even think there is anything unusual about it. In contrast, a more customized deck does run the risk of drawing extra scrutiny or suspicion. My copy of the Marked Maiden Back deck also came with free access to two online videos from Jon Armstrong and Rick Lax, which provided some wonderful ideas for routines with marked cards, which was a real bonus.
Another good choice for workers is the Keepers v2 Red deck, due to the standard look of the face cards. The Red Cohort deck makes a good choice for similar reasons. Both of these decks are printed by Cartamundi, so they will handle slightly different than a Bicycle deck.
If you're looking for cards that can be easily read, even from a significant distance away, then the DMC Elites deck is a clear winner. Some reader decks have well disguised markings but you have to squint to read or interpret them, but there's no issue with that at all with the DMC Elites, because you can practically read them from across the room. The deck includes an instruction card that tells you all you need to know to read the markings, but there's also a terrific companion book available for separate purchase. Entitled Passport to Marked Decks, and by the creators of the deck, DMC and Phil Smith, this 32 page mini-book explains the deck along with instructions for nine different effects you can do with it.
What about decks with coded systems of markings? Look for more information about that in a follow-up article!
Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks here.