Back in May 2011 artist Russell Kercheval released his first Kickstarter project titled “Brimstone – Metallic Gold Accented Card Deck”. Almost a month later, the project was successfully funded by an impressive 419% and, thus, the Bicycle branded Brimstone playing cards were a reality! Distribution of the deck was undertaken by Circle City Card Co. (also distributing the Quicksilver and the Americana decks, created by Kercheval too)
“Straight from the fiery pits comes BRIMSTONE playing cards! Sulfur in the air has tainted and twisted the deck into darkness.
At first glance Brimstone Playing Cards look like a black version of any other deck. Upon closer inspection you will see the beauty of the design. The back art no longer features cherubs riding bicycles but demons. The court cards are now red fiends with a penchant for gold. The alchemist symbol for brimstone/sulfur is ornately infused with the Ace of Spades to give this deck a completely unique style. Pull these cards out in front of friends and strangers and they won’t be able to keep their hands off of it!”
This was how the Brimstone deck was originally introduced to all the playing card enthusiasts by the artist.
As soon as you get the completely custom designed box in your hands you immediately notice black and red to be the prevailing colors. The front of the box features the Bicycle logo on top, with Brimstone written at the bottom in some “old English” font and with a big, bold, impressive spade pip taking up most of the space in the middle. The spade pip is surrounded by a yellowish “mist” and it incorporates the alchemy symbol of brimstone / sulfur. The overall design and coloring projects an “eery” and “spooky” impression / feeling and serves as “heads-up” to what’s to be found inside the box.
One side of the box states “Magic Finish – Made in the USA”, whereas the other side “USPCC – Erlanger, KY”.
The bottom of the box features a 3-of-Clubs barcode reveal and the top a Q-of-Hearts reveal.
The back of the box depicts the back side of the cards. At first glance, one spots the two familiar circular areas where the Bicycle Angels are found on any Rider Back deck, but that’s where the similarities end. The background is black. The “Bicycle Angels” have been replaced by the themed sign of the deck, which features the brimstone (sulfur) alchemy sign and bat-like wings… Extremely cool looking! The rest of the area is taken up by a red, flame-like pattern running all around the back, leaving space for the black borders. One thing is for sure… there is a lot of ink packed at the back of the cards!
Now, let’s move on to the cards themselves…
– Standard 52 Poker Playing Cards
– Two Joker Cards (One with Gaff Reveal)
– Two Gaff Cards (‘Double Backed’ and ‘Falling Diamonds’)
– Metallic Gold Ink on Every Card
Diamonds and Hearts have red pips, whereas Clubs and Spades have (amazing) gold colored pips. The black / gold contrast of those cards resembles closely Ellusionist’s infamous Gold Arcane deck. Other than the colors, pips and numbers are Bicycle standard.
The Ace-of-Spades features the big, awesome spade pip found on the front of the box, with the brimstone alchemy sign and surrounded by gold shadow. At the top of the card there is “Bicycle” printed and at the bottom “The U.S. Playing Card Co.”
The Jokers are red dancing skeletons with gold colored teeth and bat wings. One of them has a 3-of-Clubs reveal.
Apart from the usual “double backer” card, the “Falling Diamonds” gaff card is quite unusual. It looks as if all pips from the card have fallen to its bottom, leaving their marks to where their normal place was. As with all gaff cards, those are great for magic tricks.
Finally the court cards… Simply awesome! Each royalty features a different skeleton / demon face. Apart from the faces, their design is Bicycle standard, but with gold and red colors over black background. Creepy and awesome…
The Brimstone playing cards deck has been printed on Bicycle Q1 paper, with “Magic Finish”. In my opinion the cards feel a bit “thin”, but not (in any way) flimsy. Their handling is very good. They riffle shuffle, table spread, fan (both directions; primary and secondary), cut and spring with ease. Faro shuffles are performed very easily too, thanks to the combination of stock with the magic finish.
On the downside… Well, it is a black deck… That means “chipping”. Brimstone deck is no exception to the rule. Using a couple of those decks myself for magic tricks, I found that chipping became an issue no matter how much I tried to “protect” the cards. Moreover, the amount of ink used on the cards made them a bit clumpy after a while. Not excessively, but still the deterioration of performance – especially in fanning – was there.
Conclusion / Verdict
Having used the deck for a while I can definitely say it is still one my favorites. Design-wise Brimstone playing cards feature one of the best and coolest court card designs I have seen. The choice of coloring is impeccable too. Yes, they suffer from the usual “black deck symptoms”, but their overall appearance and performance will definitely satisfy you.
Needless to say that Brimstone playing cards have already been Sold-Out and are never to be printed again beyond the 2,500 decks produced in their initial run. There are only Uncut Sheets still available at Circle City Card Co. website. This (and only this…) fact makes them one of the hottest collectible decks out there. If you get a chance, I definitely recommend you grab a deck or two.
Overall, Brimstone playing cards is definitely a “must-have” deck, especially for magicians and collectors…