Which Rider-Waite deck should one choose?
Universal Waite Tarot is a spectacular alternative to the classic RWS deck.
I really love Rider-Waite-Smith decks with original old images (eg Centennial Edition). But at some point, I decided to buy a modern version of this deck with vibrant colors and positive spirit. The choice was between the Radiant Rider-Waite and the Universal Waite Tarot, produced by the U.S. Games Systems. In the first one, I liked the colors and smoothness of the lines, but people's faces are drawn a little differently from Pamela Colman Smith's. The second deck looks more like the original, but not "radiant" enough.
The Radiant Wise Spirit deck from the Italian publisher Lo Scarabeo also caught my eye. The colors look very original on it, but I did not like the thick and rough lines of the drawing.
Radiant Wise Spirit - Radiant Rider-Waite - Universal Waite / Photo: "Free Spirit" YouTube channel.
I watched some helpful YouTube videos and read reviews and comparisons of these decks, but I was still undecided. Then I asked the opinion of people in Facebook groups and on specialized Tarot forums. Facebook preferences were roughly equal. Some people liked the bright colors of the Radiant, others preferred the soft and “cozy” Universal deck drawing. Those who sell Tarot cards noted that the Universal deck is sold more often.
Tarot experts on the forums were more judgemental. Almost nobody liked the Radiant deck, it was considered crude and inauthentic. Indeed, when you look at the faces of the characters on this deck, you see completely different people, not the ones you are used to see in the drawings of Pamela Colman Smith. They have a different facial expressions and a different characters. And on the Universal deck, the lines correspond very precisely to the classic pattern. This was a defining moment for me.
I also liked that the numbers and names of the cards in this deck are written exactly as on the originals. While keeping bonds with the old version, this deck looks vibrant and modern. But at the same time, her colors are not too rough and acidic.
This is the merit of the American artist and illustrator Mary Hanson-Roberts - it was she who performed the work of the colorist of this deck. She used colored pencils to achieve such delicate shades and a handmade effect.
Mary Hanson-Roberts is also known as the author of two of her own Tarot decks: the Hanson-Roberts Tarot Deck and the Whimsical Tarot Deck.
So, I decided on Universal Waite Tarot. This deck has an in a tin version - it is a cute iron box that is very convenient to carry around. The cards are smaller and look even more picturesque.