How do I Choose which Deck to Use?

 Decks (clockwise L-R):  The Wild Unknown  by Kim Krans, the  Smith-Waite Centennial Edition  by AE Waite and Pamela Colman Smith (US Games),  Small Spells Tarot  by Rachel Howe,  The Starchild Tarot  by Danielle Noel,  The Wooden Tarot  by Skullgarden,  The Fountain Tarot  by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, and Andi Todaro.

Decks (clockwise L-R): The Wild Unknown by Kim Krans, the Smith-Waite Centennial Edition by AE Waite and Pamela Colman Smith (US Games), Small Spells Tarot by Rachel Howe, The Starchild Tarot by Danielle Noel, The Wooden Tarot by Skullgarden, The Fountain Tarot by Jonathan Saiz, Jason Gruhl, and Andi Todaro.

One of the most frequent questions I get, whether I'm doing online or offline readings, is about deck choice. Clients, especially those outside the tarot community who don't know about the plethora of artwork and independently produced decks, typically go to a tarot reading expecting a classic like the Rider Waite-Smith. So when they're presented with cards that don't have a "scary Devil" or esoteric symbolism that may appear sinister or super mysterious, they're instantly intrigued. Repeat clients are also very curious about the decks I use because I tend to pull different sets from my collection each time I read for them.

Off the bat, there is no actual science to this.

I'm sure other readers have a very specific way of tuning into which deck to use depending on the season, or which part of the wheel of the year they're on… but I go by intuition, for the most part. And this is probably not very useful information to those who want to figure out what to pack in their tarot toolkit, so here's my attempt at breaking things down.

1. Target the Concern. For e-mail readings most especially, I ask clients what their major concern is and what their specific questions are. If concerns are mostly centered on love, I try to pick a deck that I feel works well with relationships—for new love, I like going with something dreamy like The Starchild Tarot or the Divina Tarot; or for big and heavy romantic dilemmas, I tend to turn to something a little more hard-hitting like The Zombie Tarot. Career-centric concerns would be great with The Sacred Creators Oracle, while someone who needs tough love and straightforward advice are great for decks like the Small Spells Tarot and Spirit Speak.

2. Inspect the Environment. When you're doing an in-person reading (or a full-on tarot event), the type of venue you're doing the reading in can help you figure out which deck to bring. When I was traveling in Singapore last year and wasn't sure about where I would be doing readings (at a hotel? at a hawker's centre? [yum, btw]), I took the Golden Thread Tarot with me because its plastic card stock would be perfect to wipe down in case things got a little grimy. When I'm off to the beach though, I always carry Dame Darcy's Mermaid Tarot with me because I don't think any other deck captures surf, sun and sand better than a mermaid deck.

 Decks (clockwise L-R):  Vessel Oracle  by Spirit Speak,  Cards of Chaos  by Aya Rosen,  Iris Oracle  by Spirit Speak,  Sacred Creators Oracle  by Chris-Anne Donnely,  Rebel Deck  by Shannon Gomez,  Ceccoli Oracle  by Nicoletta Ceccoli (Lo Scarabeo).

Decks (clockwise L-R): Vessel Oracle by Spirit Speak, Cards of Chaos by Aya Rosen, Iris Oracle by Spirit Speak, Sacred Creators Oracle by Chris-Anne Donnely, Rebel Deck by Shannon Gomez, Ceccoli Oracle by Nicoletta Ceccoli (Lo Scarabeo).

3. Work with Pairs. If you've been following the blog for a while, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of deck pairings, especially between tarot and oracle. My readings are mostly tarot, but I like sprinkling a bit of oracle to wrap things up, underscore certain points, or clarify anything that comes up muggy or murky. My oracle deck of choice largely depends on which tarot deck I pick—and this may not sound like the most meaningful method, but it's largely an aesthetic thing for me. If it looks good together, it'll work 99.9% of the time!

4. Go with your Old Faithfuls. We all have our personal preferences when it comes to cards. Chances are, those top favorite decks work because for whatever reason, you've been able to strike a connection with them. The more connected you are to a certain deck, artist, or creator, the more seamless and flawless your readings for others can be.

 Deck:  The Illest Tarot  by Kristi Prokopiak

Deck: The Illest Tarot by Kristi Prokopiak

5. Don't Force It. That said, there can be some favorites that will work well for personal readings but just won't cut it for readings with others. I never really considered this until I found my current deck unicorn, The Illest Tarot. I can't explain it and it's a little off-putting because I know that a lot of my friends (hello, fellow Gen X-ers) would love to get their readings done with these cards, but so far, it's just been one of those decks that I use everyday for me, but not for others.

I did bring them once, by special request, but decided after that one time to leave them for myself. :P I don't think this is a hard and fast rule for my Illest deck—things are always bound to change, but for now, I'm keeping it for my own exclusive use.


I hope these tips have been helpful for those navigating their own collections and how to use their decks for others. If you've got any questions or other suggestions, I'd love to hear from you! Comment below and let's start talking. :)