Released on October 24, 2012, The Sultan Republic Playing Cards are probably the most intriguing playing cards on the market given their historical design and "deep" (look hard) meaning.
Before we get started, here are some details about the deck from Ellusionist's website:
Over 8 months in the making, lead designer Mike Clarke spent countless hours finessing the design of everything from the curlicues on the box flap to the muted red lines of the herringboned hearts, delivering the perfect balance of form and function throughout.
Printed on the finest stock the US Playing Card company has to offer, the pulp fibers have been specially compressed to offer the utmost in durability whilst achieving a thinner card with a pleasing snap. Layered with Ellusionist's own Performance Coating finish, the Sultan Republic is quite possibly the best deck we have ever made.
The website goes on to quote USPCC claiming it was probably the toughest card deck they ever made. Considering this was also said about Infinity, it seems Ellusionist loves to challenge USPCC. That is a good thing or it could be good marketing.
Name: Sultan Republic
Release Date: October 24, 2012
Stock: Bee Casino grade stock
Finish: Performance Coating/Magic Finish
Colors: Black, metallic silver, white, dark red, grey
The Sultan Republic Playing Cards have a classy and elegant design that takes elements from Middle Eastern and Egyptian art/symbols. In fact, the deck was inspired by magic's mysterious roots. Without digressing, the symbols all have historical references that add to the deck's complexity.
The tuck case (as seen up above) is an embossed silver and black work of art that begs to be kept locked up for fear of being damaged. The inside of the tuck case has a black matte finish that is inscribed with "Join The Sultan Republic" under the top flap and a design on the inside cover that has a special message from Ellusionist.
"Most secrets are just below the surface -- but sometimes, you need to dig a little deeper."
The deck comes with the standard 52 cards, two Jokers plus an ad card (with hidden message!!!) and a double back for all you magicians. Despite what you think about the hidden message, I think it is very cool that Ellusionist made use of the ad card that goes above and beyond its normal uses. Instead of putting it to the side, we sit and try to decipher the meaning (unless we already read a spoiler somewhere on the web). It makes the cards much more than a box of cards. For that I salute Ellusionist. Note: Ellusionist released a series of photos that depict symbols in the sand on their Facebook page to be used with the ad card to figure out the hidden message.
The backs are duel-directional and move away from the metallic inks that are used on the tuck case. The colors are flat white and black with a circular back design similar to the Theory 11 Rebels. Similar colors and shapes are used but the Sultan Republic deck is more subtle.
The Jokers, face cards and pips are all custom. The Joker's are repeated and feature a coat of arms/shield-like design. The Ace of Spades fits consistently in with the overall design by utilizing silhouetted feathers to make the shape of the spade.
The custom pips feature subtle line work within the pips themselves that add a layer of depth to the face and numbered cards. Surprisingly, the face cards still use a traditional King, Queen and Jack (with subtle changes for consistency) similar to a standard deck of cards. Since this is the Sultan deck, I thought the face cards would have more of an ancient Sultan or Pharaoh-like look to them. This is not a problem but it is just not what I expected.
The one downfall I have with this deck is the dark reds used for the heart and diamond cards. It is extremely deep in color that sometimes you have to take a second look to make sure of the actual color. The first time I played with this deck I thought the cards were all black until I got a closer look. Notice below in the photo the red used for the pips and K is very deep. I do not normally mind deep reds but there needs to be a point where you say enough is enough. This deck should have used a lighter red in this case.
Performance wise the Sultan Republic is flawless. Although printed on the already durable Bee Casino Grade Stock, the Sultan Republic stock went through an extra process in order to add extra durability. The Performance Coating finish is standard for all Ellusionist decks that create brilliant fans and dream-like handling. Speaking only for performance, these are the cards for a Magician's magician.
Notes on the Sultan Republic deck:
- A hidden message is tied to this deck.
- Apparently, these will not be reprinted and they are currently out-of-stock on Ellusionist's website.
- Feature embossed tuck case with metallic silver inks.
- Totally custom design down to the pips
- Added durability.
Final Assessment: This is definitely a deck for collector's and magicians. The design goes deep into the roots of magic and sparks many questions one might have about the craft and tradition of cardistry. Although custom, the design is not in your face but that is a good thing. Often times when a magician is using a custom deck, a spectator might be quick to point out "Trick deck" but with this simple design it might be rare that a spectator questions you. They may, however, ask you where you buy your decks.