I know a lot of tarot professionals. Some of them are also deck creators. For them, I bet it is easy to figure out which decks to use for professional readings. My peers, friends and students own and use a vast array of tarot decks.
I wear decks out at the rate of about five a year or so. I have been through numerous copies of Spiral Tarot, Robin Wood Tarot, Hanson Roberts Tarot, Universal Waite Tarot, Connelly Tarot and World Spirit Tarot.
Other decks I have used professionally include Morgan Greer, Aquarian, New Palladini, Pallidini, Tarot of a Moon Garden, Crowley Harris Thoth, Swiss IJJ, Dali Tarot, Motherpeace Round Tarot, Guilded Tarot, Enchanted Tarot, Sacred Rose Tarot, Golden Tarot, Nigel Jackson Tarot, Celtic Dragon Tarot, Hudes Tarot, Ancestral Path Tarot and Goddess Tarot.
I have a few decks that I love but don’t use for full readings. Tarot of Transformation is one I call “The Big Guns,” as in, “it’s time to bring in the big guns.” I will have the client pull just three cards from this deck to augment and clarify the reading.
I have a few decks I love, but don’t use because they don’t get a good response from clients. For instance, many clients were offended by the nude African men in Tarot of the Ages. Personally, I thought they were hot.
Many clients found Golden Tarot to be too somber, complaining that the cards “looked bad,” even when they were looking at positive cards like the Sun and the World.
I know it is time to get a new deck when clients start to say “Your cards look well-worn.” My younger professional friends find that reading with new decks decrease their credibility. I am afraid that reading with a grubby deck won’t go over so well, either.
Conversely, I know other professionals who have worked with the same deck for decades. All I can think is that they must shuffle very carefully, and they must not be very busy.
I guess reading style matters as well. If you only use ten cards in a reading, the cards probably last longer. Because I dialogue with the cards, I shuffle a lot, and pull a lot of cards.
My personal criterion for a professional reading deck includes reversible backs, which, sadly, one of my favorites, World Spirit, doesn’t have. I prefer a Waite structure, and I prefer Swords to be Air. I make an exception with Celtic Dragon, and a few others.
I like the cards to be pretty, and fully illustrated. However, if the illustrations are too detailed, or too specific, I feel meaning can actually be lost. I need room for intuition to work. I prefer the images not look too dire, if possible. The Waite Ten of Swords is sort of hard to handle, although it tells the story well.
I like to collect, and teach with, gimmicky decks, but I don’t like to read with them. Cats wearing clothes can stay on the shelf, thanks.
I am so grateful there are so many decks from which to choose, and so many ways to express the archetypes of tarot.
I have yet to find the quintessentially perfect deck for me. Perhaps I never will, but I will have fun trying!