Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

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Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

Unread postby EndersGame » Thu Nov 02, 2017 8:19 pm  

I'd like to hear some thoughts on the quality and handling of decks by NPCC (Noir Arts). I've come across a few isolated/sporadic comments on NPCC in various threads dealing with specific decks, but would like to see some feedback and discussion about their playing cards in one place.

Their reputation doesn't seem exactly stellar for some reason, but some have suggested they are improving over time. I recently received a number of NPCC decks and here are some tentative thoughts and first impressions of my own:
- tuck boxes: generally terrific (embossing, foil, and nice designs)
- card quality: no noticeable printing issues; registration seems good and enables consistent/thin borders; good use of metallic inks; white cards seem to look nicer than black cards
- card handling: embossed air-cushion style finish; cards a little clingy but fan/spread evenly once broken in; modern cut enables faro shuffles; different feel than other decks but seem to handle decently
- progress: decks from before mid-2015 seem sub-par, but decks produced in 2016 and 2017 all seem okay
Overall my initial impression is that the quality of the cards themselves seems at least on par with MPC, but perhaps that's just a first impression; I might upgrade or downgrade that conclusion over time.

I'd love to hear from others about your experiences with NPCC playing cards, and what you think about their quality and handling. There's been some extensive discussion previously about the quality/handling of USPCC and EPCC/LPCC produced decks (link) - how do NPCC cards compare with other printers like USPCC/LPCC/EPCC/MPC? Is their somewhat `negative' reputation deserved, and if so, why or why not? If you've ever owned or handled an NPCC deck, what did you think of it?
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Re: Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

Unread postby sinjin7 » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:06 pm  

I'm going to refer you to a post I made in the La Catrina Dead Edition thread back on October 13, 2016:

sinjin7 wrote:So let's talk about NPCC, since this is the printer that's relative to this discussion. I have no issues with their stock. Its stiff and of substantial enough thickness with decent snap, and they seem to exhibit good resistance to atmospheric variation (eg. humidity levels). Since they have not been around long enough, I can't speak as to the long-term durability of the stock, but based upon what I feel after handling their cards in the short term, I think they project to be fine. The quality of printing is good, with sharp definition and good color brightness and contrast. Where NPCC falls short is their finish. Fresh out of the box, they seem to have decent slip, but when you fan and spread the cards, they are inconsistent and somewhat clumpy. For whatever reasons, the calendaring (dimpling) pattern and chemical composition of the finish do not produce an even enough coefficient of friction for the cards to spread and fan in an exceptionally even and consistent manner required for more demanding manipulation of cards. Do NPCC decks handle well enough for regular card play? Sure, you can get though an evening of poker sufficiently. Would cardists consider NPCC decks as a first, or even second or third, option for cardistry? Probably not. To call NPCC one of the "crappiest" printers is overly harsh and inaccurate. But with all due respect, NPCC does not belong in the same class as the USPCC, or even EPCC/LPCC.


That was over a year ago. I have generally avoided NPCC decks until this year when I decided to give them another shot based on alleged improvements to their finish and got a half brick of Midgard decks. Here is my updated examination of NPCC decks.

STOCK: Still very good. They are almost as thick as a deck of Ohio-produced UV500 stock from E (which is considered among the very best stock for cardistry, or for any other purpose), which makes them about two cards thicker than a deck of standard Bicycle Rider Backs. The Midgard decks have a Modern cut, in other words they faro naturally from the backs to the faces of the cards. I prefer a Traditional cut so that you can do face-down table faros, but if you know what you're doing you should be able to faro either direction regardless of the cut, it's just a little easier to go with the cut instead of against. I didn't have any issues faroing in either direction. The stock still has very good stiffness and snap, so springs were excellent but the manipulated cards returned to their original shape fairly well, indicating good elastic deformation. No one should have any complaints about the stock.

FINISH: A huge let-down in this area. Despite some claims out there about improvements in finish, the Midgard decks were every bit as bad a I remembered from a couple of years back. Fresh out of the box, this deck didn't fan, it clumped. Terribly. Spreads were only a little bit better. A closer examination of the calendaring pattern seems to reveal dimples that aren't deep enough to provide an adequate degree of slip between the cards. The two main problems with too shallow dimples is the cards aren't likely to be able to be broken in much further to completely even out and they won't hold powder well, thus eliminating two primary methods by which fanning performance could be improved. However, despite handling like crap, at least they don't feel overly plastic-y like some EPCC/LPCC decks. My criteria for good fanning is that every card in a fan should be precisely and evenly spaced from each other, and in a face-out one-handed fan, you should be able to see the index and suit in the corners of every single card in the fan. Even with considerable breaking in, the Midgard decks couldn't attain even this fundamental cardistry standard.

I'm not going to waste much time and space on tuck boxes or design or printing since none of these factors have any significant impact on handling. Any deck designer can contract with a 3rd party tuck box manufacturer and make them as blinged out as they want with embossing and foiling. The artwork on the Midgard decks are exceptional. The actual printing and colors are very good, and all the NPCC decks that I've ever had (granted, its only two: the Midgard decks and some deck with a lot of skulls from a couple of years ago that I can't even remember the name of) were perfectly registered.

Unfortunately, my opinion of NPCC hasn't been changed by the Midgard deck. The handling for cardistry purposes of NPCC decks is completely inadequate. Unless all you perform is exclusively packet cuts only, NPCC decks have no place in a cardist's arsenal.
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Re: Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

Unread postby EndersGame » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:10 pm  

That's a fantastic post, sinjin7! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I think your comments are very balanced and fair.

For the most part your sentiments mirror my own. In the decks I've tried so far, the clumping hasn't been nearly as bad as what you've experienced, but they definitely don't spread/fan quite as smoothly as USPCC or LPCC/EPCC decks. As you point out, perhaps improvements are necessary to their embossing and coating to get them on par with the top performers in the industry. There seems to be just a little too much friction for consistent fans and spreads, although I've been able to perform consistent and smooth faros and cascades without any real difficulty, and they work great for packet cuts and double lifts.

Overall, in terms of handling, they seem comparable to MPC produced decks. They're not optimal for card flourishing, but they seem fine for collectors, for playing card games, and perhaps some might find them adequate for performing card magic. As you point out, calling them a crappy printer is overly harsh and inaccurate - positive things can be said about the tuck boxes and artwork/colour, plus the card stock and printing registration/quality, and the main issue is with the finish/coating, which means they can't be recommended as ideal for cardistry.

Hopefully some other users will chip in with further input based on their experiences.
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Re: Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

Unread postby MagikFingerz » Thu Nov 09, 2017 8:22 am  

A point that may be somewhat moot, due to their typical choice of decks, but I think should still be mentioned is how handling and finish is impactful for magicians as well. Obviously it's more about personal taste than necessity compared to cardistry, but cards that glide more easily certainly makes for easier spreading of the cards (in a fan or otherwise) for the typical "pick a card" part of a routine, as well as fascilitate easier double lifts and the various types of false deals.

EndersGame wrote:the main issue is with the finish/coating, which means they can't be recommended as ideal for cardistry.


I'd also like to comment on this statement. Based on what I wrote above, I'd say this can be said about magic. But handling being as important to cardistry as it is, it's too much of an understatement to say that they "can't be recommended as ideal" for cardistry. Let's call a spade a spade, and say that NPCC, MPC and other similar or worse handling decks are "not suitable for cardistry", which is factually true.
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Re: Your thoughts on quality/handling of NPCC decks?

Unread postby EndersGame » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:08 pm  

I have just finished posting a seven-part series of reviews on decks from Noir Arts - links are below. I've written detailed thoughts about the card quality and handling of the NPCC decks in the final article, so look there to read my own finding and thoughts on this at length.

Ender's pictorial review series: Dark art and more from Europe's artistic Noir Arts playing cards (NPCC)

Part 1: Playful decks - Geistreiz, and Carnaval De Muertos Playing Cards
Part 2: Light/Darkness decks - Indictus, and Dominus Playing Cards
Part 3: Design Imperator decks - Chivalry, and Midgard Playing Cards
Part 4: History/Culture decks - Branle, and Nipponia Playing Cards
Part 5: Dark Art decks - Memento Mori, and Bone/Ebon Playing Cards
Part 6: Memorable decks - Chernobyl Memorial, and Animagique Playing Cards
Part 7: Wrap-up - Other Decks, and Final Conclusions
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