Review: Cipher Deck by James Anthony

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: John Teo”][vc_column_text]The word “cipher” brings to my mind a coded message or a secret way of writing.  Therefore, my first impression of this Cipher Deck is that it is a special marked deck of playing cards.

Actually, the word “cipher” also refers to an Arabic numeral.  So, this is a marked deck of number cards.

Number decks used to be manufactured by Piatnik.  They are now no longer available from them, or from any other sources.

Magicians, especially mentalists, use numbers in their acts.  A number deck is therefore an important accessory to them.  Cipher Deck offers not only number cards, but also the possibility of secretly knowing the value of each card by reading its back.  Imagine how valuable this is for mentalists.  It opens up new possibilities for performing mental effects.  Cipher Deck is a must-have for magicians and mentalists.  

The design of the faces of the cards is clean.  The numerals are bold and large, allowing them to be easily seen even when performing on a stage.  The numbers also appear in the indices on opposite corners of the card, like the indices of a playing card.

The back design of the cards is unique.  It allows the performer to quickly and secretly read the value of the card, yet it looks innocent to the unsuspecting spectators.  You also receive 3 additional cards.  There is a double-back card, a double-face card with the number 37 on one side and 24 on the other, and a card with the number 65.  These are additional munitions for the magician’s arsenal.

You also receive instructions on how to download a pdf booklet of 7 routines by Mark Elsdon, and 100 minutes of video instructions co-hosted by the creator himself, James Anthony.

The booklet by Mark Elsdon is a valuable compliment to the Cipher Deck.  By the way, the booklet contains 7, not 8 routines as stated in the descriptions of the product.  It gives a variety of different uses for the number cards:

  • The Phoenix Page – a book test in which the predicted page which a spectator sees a moment ago gets mysteriously torn out.
  • The Calculation Sensation – several number cards randomly selected become the actual total of a complex number multiplication arrived at using a calculator.
  • More Than A Total Prediction – a number deck is randomly mixed with some cards facing upwards and some facing downwards.  You can prediction the exact cards that end facing upwards.
  • Perfect Number Prediction – with 4 randomly chosen number cards, you give a personality reading of the assisting spectator, and you also predict the total of the 4 cards as well.
  • Book Page Word – you claim to memorise every line of a selected page of a book in less than 30 seconds.  A spectator chooses a line and you can instantly recall the first word of that line.
  • Out Of This Integer – an Out Of This World effect where a spectator unknowingly separates the deck into odd and even numbers, but there is an error of one card, which you already predicted in advance.
  • Call Me – randomly selected cards turn out to be your mobile phone number.

What is more valuable than these routines is that you get to learn the following principles which you can adopt to other effects:

  • A clever total force using the 9 single digit number cards.
  • The TOXIC calculator force.
  • The face-up face-down false shuffle.
  • Out-of-this-world separation principle.
  • Switching a block of cards.
  • Cold reading samples.

The video is almost 2 hours long and it does not contain a menu.  This makes maneuvering to reach a particular point in the video difficult.  The video is well produced.  It teaches 4 out of the 7 effects from the Mark Elsdon’s booklet.  They are The Phoenix Page, The Calculation Sensation, Perfect Number Prediction and Out Of This Integer.  In the last effect, an interesting variation based on UF Grant’s “Nu Out Of This World” is also discussed.

The video also teaches 2 bonus routines.  The first is an interesting memorized deck routine.  The second routine involves the prediction of a total of 3 random numbers mentally selected by 3 different spectators.

Four of the routines in the video are performed for a live audience in a bar setting.  You get to see the audience’s reactions to these effects.

As mentioned, the Cipher Deck is a must-have utility prop for magicians and mentalists.  The various magical principles that are taught in the video and written instructions that you can use for other effects make the value of your purchase of Cipher Deck priceless.


Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here!

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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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