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A physical Balatro deck exists, and now I want one for myself

Indie game developer Xalavier Nelson shows off a physical Balatro deck for the hit roguelike deck building card game given as a GDC present.

Balatro physical deck of cards - A polychrome throwback Joker in the roguelike deckbuilder based on poker and big two.

A physical Balatro deck exists, and I’m definitely not feeling jealous. It’s been a close four-horse race with Helldivers 2, Last Epoch, and Like A Dragon Infinite Wealth, but the roguelike deckbuilder that’s ‘Slay the Spire but with poker’ from solo developer ‘LocalThunk’ currently sits as my most-played game of 2024. Now, another indie developer shares “what may be the coolest thing that happened to me at GDC” with the reveal of a special gift from the card game’s publisher Playstack Games.

In a year of big surprise hits, Balatro has to be one of the most impressive. The indie game has sold over a million copies, far surpassing the initial expectations of its developer, who is currently working on a balance update. Now, Xalavier Nelson, developer on games including Hypnospace Outlaw and Skatebird, as well as founder of El Paso Elsewhere maker Strange Scaffold, shares a glimpse at a limited-edition physical Balatro deck he was gifted at GDC.

“Y’all out here in 2024 playing Balatro on your Steam Decks, I’m out here in 3034 playing Balatro with a real deck,” Nelson says in a video posted to TikTok and X (Twitter). “This is one of ten physical Balatro decks that currently exists in the world, and they gave it to me for some reason,” he laughs.

@writnelson #balatro #gaming #viral ♬ original sound – Xalavier Nelson Jr

The deck comes in a package with the melting red and blue tie dye of the Balatro menus, while the cards themselves feature the purple, gold, and black design of the Magic Deck. Sadly, you don’t get all 150 jokers – instead, there are two, bearing the designs of the green-haired Chaos the Clown (the card that grants you free rerolls) and the game’s base Joker that acts as your chatty companion.

The remaining cards are a standard 52-card deck, although they do feature nice pixelated designs in line with the game. They look to be just the standard red and black designs, too; sorry to players who prefer the fancy ‘high contrast’ look. There’s also a rather sinister-looking faceless Jack.

Suffice to say that I’m very jealous about this. While I’d certainly love a complete Joker collection, the reality is that actual Balatro would be a very difficult if not impossible game to play in a physical form. Having a special deck of playing cards to commemorate my love of it, however, is something that I can absolutely get behind. If LocalThunk and Playstack decide to make this publicly available, you can be sure that I’ll be first in line.

If you’re still wondering what the Balatro Blank Voucher does, we’ve got your answer. We’ve also dealt out a winning hand full of the best card games on PC in 2024.

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