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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial review of Steve Minty's MUERTOS, OLYMPIA, and ANUBIS/OSIRIS playing cards (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

EndersGame
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INTRODUCING DESIGNER STEVE MINTY

Steve Minty is a traditionally educated illustrator and designer, who previously did branding and design for major sport stars and celebrities. He's even done scenic painting for theatre productions. But like many artists, his soul longed to be set free from these well-trodden pathways, and he was eager to find other opportunities to develop his creativity. So now he's doing freelance work of his own choosing, and making his own designs or projects. He's interested in a whole range of things, including photography (he's a creative and skilled amateur photographer) ... and playing cards.

I've seen some beautiful cards, but his decks stood out as being among the very best and most creative. He has produced several artistic decks of playing cards, including the Muertos series (inspired by the Mexican `Day of the Dead'), the Olympia series (inspired by Greek mythology), and the Anubis and Osiris decks (inspired by ancient Egypt), and is currently working on a deck inspired by Japanese culture called the HANA deck - it is currently in the process of being funded on Kickstarter (here), and is already funded by more than 200%.

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In this review, let's take a look at some of the other decks previously made by Steve, beginning with the Muertos decks.

MUERTOS DECKS (2014)

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The Muertos collection was created in 2014 and was one of Steve Minty's first deck designs. It was inspired by the Mexican holiday that celebrates life and death: Dia De Los Muertos, also known of the Day of the Dead.

Funding for this deck was raised on Kickstarter. To give you some idea of the popularity of this deck, and its enormous success, it had a goal of $13,000, but raised a staggering $159,706! Wow, that's incredible!

Muertos Night

Steve grew up in Los Angeles, which is where he was exposed to many cultures, including Mexican traditions, and that's how he first became intrigued by Dia De Los Muertos. He found its imagery and symbolism incredible beautiful, and despite the fact that it involved the sombre topic of death, it also had a lot of whimsy and playfulness; it is this combination of sorrow and laughter that he tried to capture and convey.

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He describes his goal in creating the imagery for the Muertos deck as "to honor the message that Dia De Los Muertos celebrates. From Aztec influences to José Posada’s works and even the Mexican-American Wars, I aimed to capture the social classes and implications that are set within the history of the culture."

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The aesthetics are classical and yet reflect something of the culture that the deck depicts. The number cards have pips that still exhibit some of the traditional symmetry, but feature an updated design aimed to feel fresh.

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While this deck has a somewhat macabre theme, in a remarkable way, Steve manages to depict The Day of the Dead in a beautiful way using just two colors - gold and black - to simultaneously capture the elements of celebration as well as of loss, a juxtaposition which is unusual and yet works.

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Other Muertos decks

Pictured above is the Muertos Night deck. Given the enormous success of the Muertos project, it is no surprise that several other similar decks were made available. So in addition to the Night deck that I own, which is the main deck in this collection, there are also the also four other Muerto decks which featured different coloured themes and back designs:

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- Muertos Mourning Gold deck (white/gold) - This features the same designs but with a lovely combination of white and gold colors.

- Muertos Love deck (blood red) - In Steve's own words, this deck is "based on the blood that runs in our veins. They say that Blood is thicker than water and so is the love of family. Dia De Los Muertos brings family closer together to honor the dead and I couldn't help but use that as my source of inspiration."

- Muertos Celebration deck (purple/pink) - Steve explains that this deck is "based on the vibrant fun decorations of Dia De Los Muertos. From Papel Picado to Flower decorations, I looked to them all as a source of inspiration."

- Muertos Sun deck (blue/orange) - According to Steve, this deck is "based on the gifts of Marigold and the sky. Also known as cempazuchitl, cempasuchil or zempasuchitl, Marigolds are used during Dia De Los Muertos so that your deceased loved ones can find their way back home."

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Featured as court card characters in the Muertos decks are: El Padre, La Hermana, and El Soldado (Spades); El Catrin, La Viuda, and El Bandito (Hearts); El Caudillo, La Bailarina, and El Vaquero (Clubs), El Azteca, La Catrina, and El Ranchero (Diamonds).

I have the Muertos Night deck, which comes in an impressive black box with embossed gold foil printing. While the cards themselves don't have gold foil printing, it's certainly an unusual and creative deck that gets immediate attention, looks attractive, and handles well.

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OLYMPIA DECKS (2015)

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These two decks were produced by Steve Minty in 2015, and were based on a Greek mythology theme. I'm a sucker for anything to do with ancient Greek and Rome, so this was always going to be a hit with me! There is a white deck, and a blue Underworld deck, which is the one that I personally have.

Steve Minty describes his aim with these decks as "to capture the beauty of Greek sculptures in a new medium of playing cards while simultaneously updating it with a graphic twist." As a result, "Olympia blends the classical beauty of Greek Sculptures with the elegant and sleek lines of modern design."

This project involved two different decks:
- Olympia (white theme)
- Olympia Underworld (blue theme)

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These decks were inspired by the gods and heroes of ancient Greece. Like many of us, in his childhood Steve spent countless hours devouring their stories about love, betrayal, death, vengeance and the heroic deeds within Greek Mythology.

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Olympia

Pictured below as examples of the white cards from the Olympia deck are Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, Hera his wife and goddess of women and marriage, and Hermes the protector god.

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The Greek gods featured as court cards in the Olympia series are: Zeus, Hera, and Hermes (Spades); Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus (Hearts); Hades, Artemis, and Apollo (Clubs); Ares, Athena, and Dionysus (Diamonds); Hestia, Persophone, and Cerberus (Jokers). Shown here below is one of the jokers.

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Olympia Underworld

This is the deck that I own, and is similar to the regular Olympia deck in terms of artwork, but with a turquoise colour.

Most of the artwork is identical to the Olympia deck, but there are a few small changes to reflect the Underworld theme: The King of Spades and Queen of Spades are now Hades and Persephone respectively, reflecting how Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and became Queen of the Underworld; while the Jokers combine to picture Cerberus, the "hound of Hades". Depicted here is the Greek god Hades.

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I'm especially fond of the artwork and design on the backs of these Underworld cards, which looks fantastic.

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While not quite as successful as the Muertos series, the Olympia decks enjoyed good support, almost tripling the required level of funding on Kickstarter.

The style and colours of the two Olympia decks remind me somewhat of the Egyptian themed Anubis and Osiris decks featured next in this review. As good as these Olympia decks are, in my opinion Steve was able to build on the designs and colours of these decks, and in his later work produce something even more beautiful by applying what he'd learned to ancient Egypt.

ANUBIS & OSIRIS DECKS (2016)

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The following year, in 2016, Steve created the Anubis and Osiris decks, which were inspired by and depict ancient Egyptian culture.

They are absolutely spectacular, and the photos you see here really don't do justice to how impressive they look in real life. They look stunning, from the moment you first hold them in your hand, as I'm doing here:

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They are sealed with an impressive looking gold foil sticker.

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Both the box back and the card backs feature an embossed gold foil design which just sparkles in the light - I did my best to capture it in a photo here, but it looks even more beautiful than what you see here!

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Anubis

The cards of the Anubis have gold foil artwork on a black background. I own a copy of both of these decks, and quite frankly these two are my favourites of all the ones I own, because they just exude class, elegance, and quality!

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The court cards of the Anubis deck feature artwork that reflects the Egyptian era, and look luxurious and attractive. The artwork here was inspired by the Egyptian gods and kings of the past, and incorporates into the design elements from the classical Egyptian era and from the Egyptian revival.

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The court cards feature the following Egyptian gods: Amun, Mut, and Thoth (Spades); Osiris, Isis, and Khnum (Hearts); Anubis, Sekhmet, and Geb (Clubs); Ra, Hathor, and Horus (Diamonds).

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Printed on black cardstock with gold ink etchings, they are designed to be bold and opulent, just like the Egyptian gods/kings that inspired it.

Osiris

The Osiris deck is the counterpart to the Anubis deck. This deck has a similar style to the Anubis deck, but features a rich turquoise colour instead of black.

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The number cards on both decks have a minimalist style that still reflects the Egyptian theme.

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If you look carefully, you'll notice that three tones of blue are used on the card faces, making the details pop out even more than the Anubis deck. I'm a huge fan of the turquoise color used here!

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With a funding goal of $20,000, unsurprisingly this project enjoyed huge support, with over $93,000 raised. As a result of this high level of funding, both decks were produced with metallic gold foil, which looks absolutely stunning on the background. I really can't say enough about how beautiful these two decks are!

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CONCLUSION

I'm extremely impressed with Steve Minty's playing cards for several reasons:

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I love the artwork: Everything about these cards is stunning, from the back designs to the artwork on each card. They really do look beautiful. In fact, they are probably the most beautiful decks of playing cards that I own. I have other decks that are truly unique (like the Pipmen decks by Ben Jones), and classy (like the Omnia/Dedalo decks by Giovanni Meroni), but in my mind the Steve Minty decks have to take the prize for being the most beautiful. I own four of his other decks, and these look just as amazing. I just love the way all the aesthetics come together in a wonderful package.

I love the themes: One things I love about all Steve Minty's decks is how has worked with different cultures and ideas (and even done some research in the process), and how he's found ways to reflect this in the themes. As a result, each deck has its own very distinct flavour, in reflecting either classical Japan, ancient Egypt, mythological Greece, or traditional Mexico. Going back to ancient times also gives you a sense that these playing cards are steeped in a long and rich tradition, and make one feel some connection with the past.

I love the variety: Even though there is superficial similarity between some his decks (e.g. both the Anubis deck and the Muertos Night decks rely on a black and gold colour scheme), all his decks have a unique flavour. This isn't just a reflection of Steve's creativity, but more importantly it reflects the fact that he has been drawing on the unique elements of different cultures, and this comes to fruition with decks that look quite different from each other. His new Japanese themed decks (the HANA luxury decks) offer nice variety from previous decks he's created.

I love the style: They just have a luxurious look and feel about them. The style and class is immediately evident just from looking at the box. Three of the four Steve Minty decks that I have have gold foil printing on the tuck boxes, and come with a gold seal. From the moment you first set your eyes on these deck boxes, they look stunning, especially when held up to the light. I was just blown away by them when I first saw them, because they look even more amazing in real life than they do on photos! This positive impression remains when you look through the cards. So his decks are typically very stylish and have a great deal of character and class.

I love the quality: Although one of the primary points of attraction with these cards is their visual appeal, they are made from good quality card stock, and handle and shuffle well. People who enjoy playing card games will appreciate the quality of the card-stock and printing. His most recent decks were printed by Expert Playing Card Company, and seem to be of an even higher quality than the earlier decks printed by US Playing Cards. I have given them to an accomplished magician to get his thoughts, and he said the cards handled amazingly well, very smooth, and he just loved them. The sense of quality and luxury begins with the tuck boxes, where there are tiny details on everything (even the flaps), and the cards on the inside match this high standard.

I love the playability: Despite the wonderful aesthetics, the numbers and suits are still clear enough that you can actually use them in a game, without the artwork getting in the way of game-play and functionality. While decks like these have value for collectors, in the end I don't own cards to look at them, but to play games with them, and these do that job nicely, while at the same time giving players something beautiful to look at during moments of down-time. My only concern is whether the red and black suits of the HANA Gold deck court cards need to be differentiated more clearly, but perhaps you'd quickly grow to recognize the difference in the shades of red used for this.

I love the service: When I received something from Steve, the decks were shipped very promptly, and in a package that included a box with soft padding inside, a business card and a Steve Minty sticker. So even the packing materials used shows top quality service and thoughtful attention to detail.

I own a lot of different decks of playing cards, but the Steve Minty decks are easily among the most beautiful decks I own, and arguably they are my most prized decks of playing cards. If you think they look good in the pictures you see here, just wait till you see them first-hand - they look even better. So if you'd like to add some delightful decks like these to your own collection, you're in luck: if you're interested in the Japanese themed HANA deck, you can check out the Kickstarter for these decks here, or if you are interested in getting some of the other decks, head over to Steve Minty's own website here.

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The HANA Playing Cards Kickstarter project ends on Saturday, March 18, 2017.
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BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame - click here to see all my pictorial reviews: => Magic Reviews <==> Playing Card Reviews <==> Board Game Reviews <==
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