The wording of the feat Deadly Dealer is as follows:

You can throw a card as though it were a dart, with the same damage, range, and other features. You must use the Arcane Strike feat when throwing a card in this way, or else the card lacks the magical force and precision to deal lethal damage. A card is destroyed when thrown in this way.

Harrow cards are treated as masterwork weapons when thrown using this feat, but are still destroyed after they are thrown. A harrow deck can no longer be used as a fortune-telling device after even a single card is thrown.

A spellcaster with this feat can enhance a deck of cards as though it were a ranged weapon with 54 pieces of ammunition. This enhancement functions only when used in tandem with this feat, and has no affect on any other way the cards might be used.

Only a character who possesses this feat can use an enhanced deck of cards; she must still use the Arcane Strike feat to activate the cards' enhancement. (Emphasis Mine)

The Card Caster Magus archetype's modified Arcane Focus Pool states:

A card caster's arcane pool can be used to augment only ranged weapons. At 5th level, a card caster can use his arcane pool to add the following weapon special abilities to ranged weapons: brilliant energy, distance, flaming, flaming burst, frost, icy burst, returning, seeking, shock, shocking burst, and speed. He can use his arcane pool to augment an entire harrow deck as if it were ammunition. All cards from a deck enhanced with a special ability, such as flaming, must share the same bonus. This ability modifies arcane pool. (Emphasis Mine)

Obviously, the ability allows you to augment ranged weapons other than Harrow Cards, but what happens when you use returning on a Harrow Card? Does the property make it so it no longer breaks when destroyed, as long as the card is imbued with the returning property, or does the "specific trumps general" nature of "Cards are destroyed when thrown" trumps the general of "thrown objects return when enhanced"?


3 Answers 3


It's unclear per rules as written.

The Returning property is meant to be used on thrown weapons, and those are not normally destroyed upon use. Ammunition do have a 50% chance to be destroyed upon missing an attack, and 100% chance when they hit an attack.

Returning says:

A returning weapon flies through the air back to the creature that threw it.

So, it's safe to say that, as long as the cards miss, they will safely fly back to the attacker.

But if the attack hits, the card should be destroyed and can no longer be reusable, but they will also fly back to you (destroyed).


It's common belief that you can use Mending to repair arrows and shurikens that are destroyed after use. However, from a rules as written view this will not work as the cards are destroyed (not broken) upon use. However, it also says that it can repair destroyed magic items (at 0 hp or less), so it makes no sense that mending shouldn't be able to also repair destroyed non-magical items.

As a magus, you should have access to mending and your GM should allow you to spend 10 minutes per card repairing them when on your downtime or when camping.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer. Marking this as correct as it not only answers the question, but also provides the scenario where the ability is useful that I hadn't thought of (missed throws). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 2:35

The cards are destroyed.

The returning property is the following:

This special ability can only be placed on a weapon that can be thrown. A returning weapon flies through the air back to the creature that threw it. It returns to the thrower just before the creature's next turn (and is therefore ready to use again in that turn). Catching a returning weapon when it comes back is a free action. If the character can't catch it, or if the character has moved since throwing it, the weapon drops to the ground in the square from which it was thrown.

Nothing here makes the card not being destroyed. The small pieces of torn paper could maybe return to you, but the card would still be destroyed.



The cards actually become returning and do not get destroyed when they come back and can be used again. However, the cards keep the enhancement for only 1 minute per level, as the spell returning weapon states.

All the other enhancements the magus can give the cards are permanent weapon augmentations, so they presumably stay on the deck of cards and therefore, on individual cards until the card is destroyed, which is when the spell effect ends;

One could argue that they have to be activated - most of those abilities are not permanently on, but must be activated by some trigger that is usually determined when the enchantment is made - just as the card is thrown, or become active automatically when it is thrown.

The returning SPELL that is referenced here, however, is a temporary spell effect:

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Target one weapon that can be thrown

Duration 1 minute/level

Saving Throw Will negates (harmless, object);

Spell Resistance yes >(harmless, object)


For the duration of the spell, the target weapon acts as if it had the returning weapon special ability.

This spell can be used as the prerequisite for the returning weapon special ability.

(emphasis mine) as you can see, this spell is NOT the returning weapon special ability, it is the prerequisite, a spell that needs to be made permanent with enchant weapon. Thus, the cards are only TEMPORARILY given this ability; Once the spell ends, they return to normal and are destroyed on hit, unless the Magus remembers to reimbue them with this spell when the time duration runs out. This basically limits this effect to one encounter per Arcane pool point, whereas the other enchantments stay until they are used up, unless you are very high level and encounters happen more or less back to back. (You'd need to be 20th level for a duration of 20 minutes... It rarely happens to have two or more encounters within that time frame.)

Also, as an aside, if I were DM, I'd rule that the cards are still destroyed if the character cannot catch them when they return, but that might be up to debate.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it's the returning special ability and not the spell that is referenced here. Don't trust the links on the pfsrd, then often misguide you. You learn to know that when you join the club of those familiar with this website. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2016 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is quite possible that I have overlooked this - I was following the hyperlinks provided by the OP. I did not have my Pathfinder Rulebooks at the time; I may edit my answer as soon as I have access to my official rulebooks again. \$\endgroup\$
    – khaoliang
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 9:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, PFSRD is weird like that. I was bothered by the returning link going to returning weapon spell instead of the special weapon ability. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 3, 2016 at 2:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ it basically is the same, actually, it's just that the spell is not permanent, and imbues the weapon with that special ability temporarily. if you want to make it permanent, the rules for crafting magical weapons has an in-depth explanation on how to make these spell effects stay on a weapon. \$\endgroup\$
    – khaoliang
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 7:46

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