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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Deck the Halls » » Pictorial Review: Playing cards to treasure from Lotrek (Part 2) (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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*** OATH PLAYING CARDS BY LOTREK ***

Playing cards to treasure (Part 2)

Deck of the Year 2017

In the previous installment of this review series about the Oath Playing Cards by Greek designer Lotrek, I mentoined that his "Golden Oath" deck just received the distinction of winning the 52 Plus Joker's "Deck of the Year" award for 2017. 52 Plus Joker is the American Playing Card Collector's Club, and the winners of their 2017 Diamond Awards for Deck of the Year and Artist of the Year were just announced at their annual convention held in Erlanger, Kentucky from 12-14 October 2017. These are prestigious awards, and considering how many new custom decks of playing cards are produced every year, even being nominated for one of these awards is a great honour. To win Deck of the Year 2017, Lotrek's "Golden Oath" oath had to beat some other terrific nominees, including Apothecary by Alexander Chin, Pagan Blue Edition by Uusi, Silver Arrows by Jackson Robinson, and Vitreous by Adrian Valenzuela.

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What's unique about this amazing deck is that it doesn't have any ink on it, because it uses foil for all the artwork, including the tuck box, card backs, and card faces. Stunning decks like these are the culmination of Lotrek's own evolution as a designer. After his initial two decks that he was commissioned to make for RSVP Magic (Timeless and Butterfly), Lotrek began publishing decks under his own label Half Moon Playing Cards. Various versions of his decks VeneXiana (2013) and Grotesque (2014) followed, and this enabled him to perfect his own techniques and develope his style. He began his "Treasure Series" with Icons (2016), and this represents beautiful projects that are produced under his own supervision from start to finish. Since 2017 these have appeared under his new label, Oath Playing Cards. In this second installment of my feature review series on Lotrek, I'll be covering these more recent decks from Lotrek, including his award-winning Golden Oath.

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*** THE TREASURE SERIES ***

Icons (2016)

After the success of the VenXiana Gold project, Lotrek continued to explore the possibilities and beauty of decks with foil, and this led to the creation of the first ever deck with both gold and silver stamped foil on all the card backs: Icons Playing Cards. Shown here is the Sacred Edition, which has an amazing and intricate tuck case that was stamped on two-sided colored `metallic' stock.

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This is considered to be the first of Lotrek's "Treasure Series", which represents decks that he produces entirely himself, and under his own personal supervision, from design to printing, production, and packaging.

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This luxurious deck is inspired by Byzantine art, and particularly captures something of Eastern Orthodox art and its love for flat panel paintings depicting saints, angels, and other religious images.

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It turned out to be an extremely lavish deck worthy of being considered a piece of art in its own right!

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The indices were inspired by Byzantine Scripture, and letters from the Greek alphabet were used where possible. The number cards featured split pips with metallic gold inks, employing a style reminiscent of the DKNG's Red Wheel deck.

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Liturgy (2016)

Another deck in the Treasure series was the beautiful Liturgy deck shown here. This deck also pays tribute to the Byzantine painting technique, and is also influenced by Byzantine religious art and illuminated liturgical manuscripts. It was printed on 2-color (bronze/black) stock, and a green and a red edition were produced.

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A Treasure edition was produced with double foil on the card backs, with a small print run of only 120 copies.

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Not surprisingly, given the scarcity of this deck, it is extremely prized by collectors, and commands high prices on the secondary market.

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Golden Oath (2017)

The Golden Oath deck (2017) was the award winning Deck of the Year honoured by 52 Plus Joker, and was lauded for its innovative design that relied exclusively on foil, with no ink on the cards or the tuck box.

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Considered to be an industry first, Lotrek describes it as follows: "The first deck ever printed exclusively with foil: Gold, Silver and red for the face cards and Gold with Red for the back. Not a single drop of ink was used. Golden Oath's production was a tremendous technical challenge but the amount of detail achieved was stunning and the deck was sold out in just a couple of days."

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The lavish gold, silver, and red foil really does look magnificent against the black canvas of the cards!

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It won't come as a surprise to anyone that this deck was expensive to produce, and it wasn't cheap to buy, orginally selling for around US$95. But that's because it looks absolutely stunning in every respect, especially the court cards and the card backs.

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Sanctus (2017)

Lotrek's love affair with Byzantine art continued with the beautiful Sanctus deck (2017), which is another deck of luxury playing cards, now under the new label Oath Playing Cards. This was released in mid-2017, and employs new techniques based on those used previously with the Liturgy Treasure deck. The stunning Sanctus deck features a lavish tuck box with solid gold foil (both matte and shiny foil was used) and embossing, with black foil lettering providing a classy touch.

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The remarkable court cards have haloed figures that look like they've stepped directly off the walls of a medieval cathedral onto the faces of these playing cards, with gold foil used for the haloes to create an even more dramatic effect.

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The overall style continues the liturgical trend that was already evident in the Icons and Liturgy decks, with rich metallic inks used for the rectangular gold borders to give a Byzantine style flat panel shape to each and every card. The use of white opaque ink and foil on the card faces ensures a very rich look.

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The card backs have a unique full bleed design, which makes use of two sparkling foils against the background of a metallic bronze stock. A Byzantine style cross is central to the simple yet beautiful and luxurious design, and the use of a second colour foil accentuates the design featured in the center of the card backs.

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Like some of its predecessors, the number cards of this deck have pips that are dual coloured, with the red/black beautifully off-set with a vivid gold. The indices have a style and shape that looks as if it has been transported across multiple centuries.

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With Sanctus, Lotrek has indeed created a beautiful follow-up to Icons, and even though the courts are quite similar to the Liturgy deck, there are enough differences (e.g. Ace of Spades, Jokers) to ensure this deck is a separate design.

Ambassadors (2017)

The latest offering from Lotrek is entitled Ambassadors.

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The Ambassadors Black deck and Ambassadors Red deck are printed on graphite metallic stock and red metallic stock respectively, both with gold foil on the backs. This is another luxurious foiled deck, and was listed for preorder at ucdecksales.com at the start of October, where it quickly sold out.

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*** CONCLUSIONS ***

What do I think?

Luxurious: Foil. Foil. And more foil. If you love foil, then these are definitely decks for you! From the tuck boxes to the cards themselves, there is foil everywhere! A case in point is the Golden Oath deck, which is been made exclusively with foil and without any ink whatsoever! From the moment you first hold a Lotrek deck in your hand, it has the look and feel of absolute luxury.

Progressive: There's no doubt that Lotrek has been on a real journey since he first immersed himself in the world of custom playing cards. The decks he is producing today look very different from the decks he started with in his RSVP Magic days. He's really developed his own style, and the evolution of his playing cards shows real refinement and enhancement, and this also mean that his most recent decks have the benefit of a lot of experimentation and development.

Innovative: While his initial decks were somewhat typical of custom playing cards, ever since he began working under his own label, Lotrek has shown a real willingness to experiment and to push existing boundaries, especially in the use of foil. Several of his decks were real "firsts", with multiple different foils used on the card backs, and then on the card fronts as well.

Self-produced: While originally relying on the expertise of others when he was first immersing himself in the world of custom playing cards, once he became comfortable in this new territory, Lotrek now oversees the entire production process himself from start to finish, to ensure that the outcome is exactly what he wants.

Byzantine: Many of Lotrek's recent decks show a real fondness for Byzantine art and a style familiar from Eastern Orthodox churches. This gives these decks a very classical feel, because they are indebted to material that brings to mind the images and icons of ancient liturgies and epic cathedrals.

Works of art: These decks are works of art in every respect. Lotrek tends to make several different editions of each deck, each with a very small print run, and this enables him to make different versions in varying colours and foils. He pours his passion and craftsmanship into each, and the result is that every Lotrek deck is a true treasure and work of art.

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Limited: Most of Lotrek's decks are produced in extremely low quantities, with only a few hundred produced. More often than not, they sell out almost immediately when they are released. This makes them highly desirable for collectors and buyers.

Valuable: It's not going to be a surprise that given the special technologies and processes required to make these cards, that they come with a much higher than usual price tag. The Sanctus deck, for example, currently sells here for $80. But Lotrek decks also do retain their value well, and it's not uncommon to see decks like these on the secondary market for much more than their original cost price.

Collectable: These aren't the kind of decks of playing cards you'll bust out to perform a magic trick, cardistry moves, or even a casual card game. Because of their sheer beauty, they are definitely most at home on the shelf of a collector - where they will often be considered a prized possession.

Award-winning: It was inevitable that Lotrek would be eventually receive recognition for his beautiful and luxurious creations. Having his Golden Oath deck named as 52 Plus Joker's Deck of the Year for 2017 is a great honour, and well deserved.

Handling: Handling is always going to be affected by a deck which has so much foil. For example, I have a Sanctus deck, and its cards do have a somewhat plastic feel, and the deck is much thicker than most. But even though decks like these have been designed primarily for collectors, nonetheless Lotrek has constantly tried to improve the formula of the coating. In my experience with the Sanctus deck, although there is still some clumping, the cards still do fan reasonably okay, and certainly handle better than a cheap department store type deck.

Availability: Lotrek no longer uses Kickstarter as he did when he first entered the world of playing card designs. Instead he prefers to work secretly on a deck, then announce it and take pre-orders through his website before publishing it. He now has a big enough fan base and followers to make this possible. But it also gives him the freedom and flexibility to work on a design unencumbered by the pressure of time or dealing with the marketing engine of crowd-funding. This frees him of restrictions, and gives him opportunity to innovate and experiment in his designs. To get these decks, your best bet is to follow Lotrek via social media on Facebook to get immediate notification of any decks that are announced for pre-order on his website, or to check his existing inventory here.

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Recommendation

It's hard to imagine decks that have a more lavish and luxurious classic look than the beautiful foil decks from Lotrek. These are beautiful playing cards of the highest calibre, and will be a delight and treasure to any discerning collector who can afford them.

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Links for where some of the decks featured in this review series can be purchased directly from Lotrek:
- Sanctus Playing Cards - Cost: $80
- VeneXiania White - Cost: $50
- VeneXiania Dark (Revealed Edition or Masked Edition) - Cost: $17

Want to learn more? Visit the publisher Oath Playing Cards:
- Oath Playing Cards website
- Oath Playing Cards webstore
- Oath Playing Cards on Facebook

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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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