I've been a member of the "playing card community" for a few years now - circa 2019 if my memory serves. I've seen hype over decks before, I've seen decks sell out faster than I could complete my PayPal login, I've seen decks that don't draw much attention and sit without sale -- but never until the Art of Play mystery deck sale of 2020 have I seen the craze over a deck like If an Octopus Could Palm v2.
This deck wasn't for direct purchase, to get one you had to buy a mystery deck ($12) and if you were lucky enough, you would get one. I'm not going to lie, I was excited at the chance of getting one myself - but this was my first "mystery deck" purchase from any supplier so I was more eager to unwrap everything. In fairness, I didn't own any of the decks that were released as mystery decks so they all would have been great. But, IAOCP was the first deck I unwrapped so I was pretty thrilled!
And then, I didn't get another. In total, I picked up 12 decks - a few dupes, but not of these. I use my cards, so I hit up the aftermarkets like eBay and holy crap … these decks were going for between $200 and $300! And guess what, they still are today! I really, really weighed the choice of selling the deck versus opening it. It's just a deck of cards - I'm going to open it, use it for a few days, and then toss it. I could sell it for hundreds1 and then buy that many more regular decks... or, I could be one of the only people that actually open the thing and use it. Well, we know which one I chose =]
The Tuck Case
I love the tuck case on this deck. The color of the box, the artwork, it all just vibes really well with me. The cutout on the back is really cool too - I feel that it just "works" with the back design. However, after removing the cellophane it does feel a little not-strong -- especially if you're one that would toss the ad cards (this deck doesn't have any, but if you're not using the extra cards why keep them in the box?). If you're using the deck, I would recommend a card clip or a protective case though so that you don't inadvertently destroy the box by carrying it around.
The design itself is just "scratches," or lines, that run all across the back. There isn't really much of a pattern to it but there is darker areas in the design itself which lend to a recognizable one-way design.
I'm a person who leans towards minimalism a bit (at least, when it comes to decks of playing cards). NOCs, wow - love them. Virts, not bad at all. Scribbles all of the back of a card -- if you were to describe this deck to me without showing me a photo, I'd laugh and pass on it immediately. But no, somehow this back design was pulled off nicely. I wouldn't say this is a design I'd see at a game table, nor would it be flashy for cardistry, but overall this is a display deck design.
I... so, the faces... they... I mean. Yeah. You remember the hype over this deck? Or, the still-existing hype over this deck? Well, the design really ends with the tuck and the back design. The faces are your standard Bicycle style faces. No custom courts, no unique pips, and even the Ace of Spades is a little on the muted side. $300 for a deck with standard faces?! Yeah, no thanks.
Ah, but do let me back up just a little. The color of the pips is different, slightly. The blacks are black, but the reds are a toned-down color. Almost pastel. For the courts, if you're familiar with standard Bicycle colors, the normal blue color on the border and the court's wardrobe is changed with a pastel green. It's not really that appealing of a color, but it vibes with the tamed-down red I guess.
There's also a double-backer and a blank-face card, your standard custom-deck add-ons. There are also non-identical Jokers, if you could call them that. One is with the same design as the front of the deck, the other is just the Dan & Dave logo. I was actually really excited to see a cool Ace of Spades and custom Jokers at the very least - kind of disappointed by the lackluster reveal there.
Stock and Handling
Now, as you can tell, I've opened mine. If I were to guess, I would say it's thin-crush stock. It feels thin, but also a little stiff. They handle quite nicely but did need to be broken in for a few minutes (nowhere near as stiff as a fresh pack of bikes).
I couldn't find a published "details" page for this deck itself so I reached out to Art of Play to get more info about the card stock and finish is. They wrote back and the news is neat. So, we know that they're printed by USPCC but what's cool is that they're printed on a proprietary crushed stock with the same finish -- and all decks by Art of Play are like this! Now I won't need to guess for future AoP decks =]
Here's the kicker though -- I was trying to do a few flourishes like Hubble and MAKITSU, but the cards just didn't slide very well. If I could describe it as anything, it was as if the backs are roughed just a tiny bit. And this is on the first day with the deck too. Fanning the deck was fine and smooth though, so it wasn't that bad.
It's not a bad deck overall. It's a decent finish, the back design and the tuck are really nice. As a person who uses their cards, I definitely wouldn't spend the after-market cost on this deck. As a collector, it's still insanely overpriced but hey, who am I to judge what others would value a deck of cards at.
Art of Play is including them in this year's Mystery Deck lottery too and at $12 a pop, it would be worth it. If you get one, of course.
1 As a moral note, one of the biggest things that prevented me from selling the deck was just that - a sense of morality. I really can't justify selling a deck of cards to someone for that much money - even if it was a standard eBay bid and the participants bid "what they were willing to bid" … it's just, not right. That's why I won't buy those ridiculously overpriced aftermarket decks even though I really want one. I feel like it's a scam and not worth it; people buy bricks and bricks of limited-release decks just to resell them. But, let's be fair, playing cards isn't the only commodity that this happens with =[