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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Chris Hage of Phronesis Playing Cards


Creating a new routine and need some ideas? or looking for a fun way to engage the audience? Maybe to give an old routine a fresh start? Phronesis Playing Cards can help you generate ideas and create new magic.

Just launched on Kickstarter, Phronesis is the result of several years of brainstorming and collaboration with some of the finest magicians, artists, and creators in magic. The result is a deck that’s both unique and functional. The deck is designed to help magicians generate ideas, create cool original magic, and have fun while doing it.


Also available during the Kickstarter campaign is the Classic Edition of Phronesis, designed specifically for the workers. The deck comes with custom marked back and standard faces for everyday use. Included are a custom Ace of Spades, Custom Joker, and a Double Backer.

Before the launch of the campaign, we had a quick chat with Chris about his design background, inspiration, and design process behind Phronesis playing cards.

For those of us who don’t know, tell us a little about yourself?
In my free time I’m a designer, builder and magic creator. That means when I get home from work, I spend a couple of hours at night designing decks, practicing magic and tinkering with new magic props. I really got into designing and writing following an eight-year run as a restaurant magician. After that run ended, I took a step back to reassess what I was giving back to the magic community. Since then, I’ve published a few magic effects (it's so easy these days so I don’t hang my hat on that), written three booklets on magic, and produced one deck of cards to date- TRICS Paisley.

I’m also a member of Sleight Club in Charlotte, NC. We like to say that we’re the Carolinas premier group of magic thinkers, performers, and creators in our region (we’re a modest bunch.). With this group of great people, I help run the TRICS magic convention, which just celebrated its ten-year anniversary. Also, with the help of Sleight Club, I’ve produced two magic shows benefiting local children in need, the last show being in 2017. Kardify readers can keep up to date on our next charity show. We hope to have our next show in the coming year.


Can you describe Phronesis Cards? and why you passionate about it? 
The Phronesis project is the result of several years of brainstorming and collaboration to design a deck that’s both functional and beautiful. The result is a set of cards designed to help magicians generate ideas, create cool original magic, and have fun while doing it. The idea started several years ago after leaving a Sleight Club gathering where we had just finished working on a routine for a new member and I couldn’t help but think how awesome it was to go from a half-baked idea, to something original and strong. This is not an unusual experience at Sleight Club either. There’s a method that is often used that combines both philosophical questions about the performer’s style, or the motivation of the performer, with a brainstorming session on methods, props, and the structure of a routine. The result after several iterations are strong routines that fit the magician. So, I’m passionate about the Phronesis project because it captures the essence of that experience and makes it accessible to anyone.


Talk to us a bit about going from the first draft to the final version. How did you get to this finished product?
Let’s just say the first draft was rough. I shared the first iteration with some good friends in Orlando. I call them the Orlando Trio (Josh Arroyo, Christian Magill, and Ryan Schlutz). This is as much their deck as it is mine. They really provided excellent insights, recommendations, and ideas to make this deck what it is. Those three guys saw the first deck design and really helped take this to the next level.

The original concept centered around the quotes and the aesthetics of the deck. Then I think it was Ryan who suggested the Fitzkee categories of magic and designing tricks around those. That was the first breakthrough. So, I went through several iterations of extra cards that included various categories of effects, but it just didn’t feel complete. Then in the Fall of 2018 it dawned on me that I could have illustrations on each card that depict the categories (plot, style, effect, prop). EUREKA!


The Ideation Edition has all the cool artwork and quotes, but that’s only one version of the deck. Everyone who has seen the prototypes has asked for a worker’s deck. One they can use every day. So, the Classic Edition is also part of the project and includes what you’d expect in a worker’s deck. It includes two matching Jokers, custom Ace of Spades, a double backer, and a double backer with a missing center circle. That’s so you can magically remove the circle if you want.

What was your most brilliant breakthrough when designing the deck?
I have to say the marking system is pretty ingenious. Both the Ideation Edition and the Classic Edition are marked. You can instantly know suit, value, color, Aronson stack number, Mnemonica stack number, and the orientation of the deck because of the subtle one-way design.

Another cool thing built into the deck, and one I haven’t talked about publicly, is a secret scavenger hunt built into the Ideation deck. There are clues built into the deck that lead you to the solution of a puzzle. It’s like an escape room built into the deck. I’ve only told one other person how it works. But I’ve told no one the final puzzle outcome. That’ll remain a mystery for now. The plan is to reveal portions of the scavenger hunt and the various puzzles that need to be solved later this year. But in order to solve the puzzles, you must have an Ideation deck.


We first noticed Phronesis on Instagram. What do you think of the playing card community in terms of the feedback and support that you’ve been getting so far on the social media platform?
Instagram has been great! There have been so many positive comments and support from magicians and artists around the world. I’ve reached out to several people individually through social media to get advice on Kickstarter and deck artwork and everyone has been willing to share and support the project. It’s been amazing! The one person who has really given a ton of his time and talents to the project is Kevin Reylek. Kevin has been engaged in the custom deck world for over a decade and has been involved with the production of over 50 different designs and sales of over 1 million decks! He’s offered so much sound advice about Instagram, Kickstarter, and deck manufacturing it’s really been incredible. But in general, social media has unquestionably given me the best opportunity to share the project more widely.


With so many playing card projects competing for funding, why should potential backers choose your deck?
You’re right, there are so many new decks out on Kickstarter, why this one? I debated that very question and concluded that this project (the two decks together) offer something that’s not on the market in any of the other decks. You’ve got some decks that are produced for the amazing artwork, some produced especially for cardistry with very modern back designs, but there’s nothing on the market built specifically for magicians to help them create new and original routines. The Ideation Edition is that unique product. Combine that with the Classic Edition marked deck, and you’ve got a killer arsenal for creativity and strong magic.

Finally, what are your favorite playing cards? 
My all-time favorite deck is the Tally-Ho Circle Back. You can see a lot of that influence in the Phronesis deck. But lately, I’ve really been collecting decks that have great tucks. Most of the time I don’t even open the tucks to see the cards anymore. Because I know how much work it takes to design and produce a deck of cards, I try to support as many new Kickstarter decks as I can and especially ones with great tucks and clean/classic back designs.

Thank you for your time, Chris and all the best! 


At the time of writing, Phronesis is only 36% funded with 28 days to go. If you like what you've read here and want to support Chris, you can find it on Kickstarter Here! Pledge starts at $10, the deck will be printed by Cartamundi and tuck box letter-pressed by Clove St Press.

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Kickstarter: 7 Questions with Chris Hage of Phronesis Playing Cards Reviewed by Ivan on 3/29/2019 Rating: 5

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