Review: Four fun packet tricks from Big Blind Media

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Review: Four fun packet tricks from Big Blind Media

Postby EndersGame » Aug 12th, '20, 02:29



Let me start with a confession: I love packet tricks. Fortunately I know that I'm not the only one, and there's a long tradition in card magic that gives attention to effects that play big with just a small set of cards. Nick Trost was a master at it, and in recent times John Bannon has also devoted considerable attention to the genre that he likes to describe as "fractal magic". Others who have made good contributions in this area include Paul Hallas, author of Small But Deadly (2005) and Still Small, Still Deadly (2010).

There's something appealing about the minimalism and directness of a good packet trick, and how it can pack quite a punch despite its small size. Some of the world's best card tricks are packet tricks, including well-known ones like Color Monte (Jim Temple), B'Wave (Max Maven), Twisted Sisters (John Bannon), Ultimate 3 Card Monte (Michael Skinner), Wild Card (Frank Garcia), and Twisting the Aces (Dai Vernon).

While some packet tricks use standard playing cards, I also have a fondness for packet tricks that use novelty cards. Once again, Nick Trost has made some wonderful contributions here, with tricks like Bigfoot and The Unknown Card.

The good news is that there are some delightful packet tricks on today's market courtesy of imaginative contemporary creators. Here are four fun packet tricks I recently picked up from Big Blind Media. They have quite a range of packet tricks in their catalogue, but I'm quite fussy about what I get and usually do some careful research before deciding what to order. I'm very pleased with the four selections I made, and they are all excellent, and well worth considering. And of course BBM is a great UK-based company, so folks here at talkmagic.co.uk should know the great stuff that their own are producing!

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Buzz Kill (John Bannon)

Background: John Bannon needs little introduction to most people familiar with modern card magic. He's had a prolific output with his self-working and sleight-light approach to card magic, which often focuses on clever psychology rather than complicated moves and sleights. Some of the finest examples of his packet tricks are Twisted Sisters, Duplicity, Strangers Gallery, and The Royal Scam, all of which can be highly recommended. His DVDs Fractalicious and Bullet Party both come with custom gaff cards, and are also excellent places to begin.

Overview: With Buzz Kill, Bannon offers us a more light-hearted brand of card magic. This is immediately obvious once we see the custom cards, which feature amusing novelty artwork with a pesky fly that needs squashing. This trick comes with the nine custom cards you'll need to pull off this small miracle, and like the other packet tricks covered here, they're the usual Bicycle quality cards. You can also see the official video trailer here, and a performance of the Buzz Kill routine by John Bannon himself here.

Effect: This effect starts with you showing your spectator four cards, each with just the fly pictured on them. Then you show four blank cards (the "fly-paper"), putting these on each of the fly cards. Then comes the first surprise: you show that the flies have vanished from their cards. And then comes an amazing final twist: the four fly-paper cards now each have a squashed fly on them!

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Impressions:

Buzz Kill is very fun to perform, with an instantly engaging and familiar novelty theme. It has the advantage that you can get people involved by having them slap the cards - especially children will enjoy this. Fortunately it's not that difficult to do, and if Mr Elmsley is your friend, you'll have no issues in learning how to do this, with the help of the video instructions (18 minutes) you access via the online link provided with your purchase.

As part of the video tutorial, an alternative `fractal' routine that ends examinable is also taught, along with a more difficult `oil-and-water' style routine. But even the basic routine is very visual, and has a great surprise with the ending. It's a fine example of the mileage you can get from a small number of cards, courtesy of the clever thinking of John Bannon.

Performance video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vu2z2VhlOCM

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Nothing But The Truth (Cameron Francis)

Background: Cameron Francis has a background in acting as well as in card magic. His output is quite prolific, with many DVDs on card magic to his credit, as well as releases of numerous individual effects. He brings a somewhat quirky and larger-than-life style to his card magic, which I find amusing and entertaining. But he's not just a funny man, he's also clever, and when he applies his mind to packet tricks, it's worth paying attention to see what he's come up with.

Overview: A case can be made that Nothing But The Truth is Cameron Francis' very best packet trick. It's a great self-working effect that comes with five fully custom cards and a great lie-detecting theme that gives a lot of scope for interaction with your spectator.

Effect: After your spectator selects a card, you demonstrate your Lie Detector machine, which consists of some very specially printed cards. You proceed to ask your spectator a series of questions about the colour and identity of their chosen card, and each time your remarkable Lie Detector reveals the word TRUTH or LIE correctly, depending on their answer. As a completely unexpected twist, you turn over all the cards from your Lie Detector itself, and they turn out to be duplicates of their selected card!

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Impressions:

The fact that this trick is basically self-working (courtesy of the Olram Subtlety) gives it immediate appeal, because it puts it within the reach of practically anyone, including amateurs performing for friends and family. The main premise is a good one, and the concept of a lie detector time-tested favourite in card magic. But it's the final kicker that especially has the potential to surprise and amaze.

As for the instructions: my copy came with a physical DVD, consisting of a little over 15 minutes of footage all up (plus some extras like an interview). These also include some advanced handlings (think: Elmsley) for those looking for more. But the heart of strong magic is that it needs to be entertaining, and being able to interact with your spectators with a lie detector test is a time-tested plot that is a proven success, and that's really what this about, along with the unexpected final revelation.

Performance video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z3tJdDhsa0

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Mixed Perception (Cameron Francis)

Overview: Also from Cameron Francis is Mixed Perception. Unlike the above routines, this doesn't rely on cards with novelty artwork, but uses cards that are apparently pulled from a regular deck. It comes with half a dozen custom gaff cards. You can see the official video trailer here.

Effect: Six cards are removed from a deck and made into a packet, from which your spectator selects one. Three of the cards in the packet are turned face-up and three face-down, and the first surprise comes when you then fan the packet to show that now the only face-up card is the spectator's selected card. Even more surprisingly, when this card is turned over, it's shown to come from a different deck (you can switch in a card from an alternative if you prefer). As a final twist, the other five cards are all turned up, and are all revealed to be completely blank on the other side!

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Impressions:

Besides some written instructions, you also get access to a digital download with a video tutorial that's a little over 15 minutes long. The moves involved with this trick require a little more card handling skill than the previous two packet tricks (no Elmsley Count though!), but the payoff can be worth it. Even so, the difficulty level is at most intermediate, so it's still well within the reach of most people who already have some experience with card magic.

The strength of this trick is that it has three separate climaxes, each stronger than the last. Together, these three phases produce a series of increasing surprises, giving the trick a pleasant sense of narrative. From the perspective of the spectator, everything seems completely legit. Obviously it doesn't end clean, but as long as you can manage your audience to prevent them trying to examine the cards, you're set to produce a small miracle.

Performance video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD_GSAE4Rwg

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Nitrate - Backwards B'Wave (Cameron Francis)

Overview: Can you tell that I like Cameron Francis' work? Nitrate - Backwards B'Wave is the third packet trick I'm featuring here that Cameron created. This self-contained trick uses just four cards, and is described as "Backwards B'Wave". B'Wave is of course a reference to the classic packet trick from Max Maven, and it's one of my all-time personal favourites given how clever and easy it is. For me personally it's easily the packet trick that I've performed the most over the years, so the "backwards B'Wave" tag-line immediately had my attention and interest.

Effect: You show a packet of four cards, and have your spectator mentally select one of the Kings. The first revelation happens when you show that all the cards are blank except for the one King they have selected. With the selected King face-down on your spectator's hand, you make a magical gesture and it turns blank. As a final and even more surprising twist, the other three blank cards are now revealed and shown to have turned into the other three Kings!

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Impressions:

The start of this trick will look immediately familiar if you know how to perform B'Wave. But from here the trick heads in a different direction. Unlike B'Wave you can show the complete face of the selected King. The next two magical moments then increase the magical impact. First the King turns blank, and then finally there's the most surprising moment of all when the three blank cards turn into the other three kings. As such this trick follows a good narrative with three phases of increasing strength.

B'Wave is typically presented as a mentalism effect, whereas Cameron approaches this as a magic effect, so it does have a different feel despite some similarities in plot. Like B'Wave, it is a self-contained trick that you can carry around, and although it is not examinable, it has an easy reset. Besides the brief written instructions that come with the trick, you also get access to a 16 minute video download. This covers more than one count, but knowing just one of them is really all you need. Much like B'Wave, it packs a lot into something that requires very little. While this won't replace B'Wave for me, it's nice to have another option, and it has its own appeal due to the ways in which it is different.

Performance video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DdAMEVgf6A

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Recommendation

All four of these packet tricks are excellent. The first two rely on novelty cards, whereas the other two fall more into the realm of traditional card magic, where your spectator can remain blissfully ignorant that they are anything other than "regular" playing cards. As far as I can tell the cards themselves match the quality of USPCC-printed playing cards which you'd have in a regular Bicycle deck.

I especially like the fact that these packet tricks are well-constructed. In each case there's a mini-plot, usually with a series of phases, each building on the last, and producing an even stronger and more impossible magical moment. That is the sign of well designed magic, and is something I really appreciate.

I'd have a tough time picking my favourite, although I'm especially partial to Nothing But the Truth, given the high level of interaction it offers with your spectators. For a novelty effect, Buzz Kill would be my top pick. Of the last two effects, which fall more into the realm of traditional magic from the perspective of the spectator, I especially like Nitrate, given the punch that it packs with two powerful moments of cards magically changing in an impossible way.

As always the production quality of the instructional videos from Big Blind Media is excellent. They know their target market, and produce high quality videos that feature the best in visuals and sound. These guys really know what it takes for magic to be commercial and successful. With these fun packet tricks, they've again produced the goods, and give us everything we need in order to create a big impact with just a small number of cards.

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Want to learn more? Visit the publisher, check their social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube), or visit their product pages:
Buzz Kill (John Bannon)
Nothing But The Truth (Cameron Francis)
Mixed Perception (Cameron Francis)
Nitrate - Backwards B'Wave (Cameron Francis)

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