The Mnemonica stack was made famous by well-known magician Juan Tamariz. Tamariz was known for his extraordinary card magic, and a lot of this card magic involved using his Mnemonica stack order. It’s now extremely well known in the magic community and is considered by magicians to be one of the best memorized decks, if not the best memorized deck order.
Let’s jump in and see why you might want to learn and use Mnemonica, as well strategies and ways to learn the stack, and then how to find tricks and resources that will accompany this stack.
What is a Stacked Deck of Cards?
A stacked deck of cards is one that has been set up with a certain order ahead of time. With some stacks such as Mnemonica, it is great because it does not appear to be in a particular order. It does seem like a shuffled and random order when looked at.
What is the Mnemonica Stack?
Mnemonica was devised by the great magician Juan Tamariz, and is a particular order to have the entire deck of cards in. And, it’s an order that you have already memorized, and know the location of every card at any time. If you’ve been into magic for any time, you probably will have heard of memorized deck magic, as a form of card magic.
Mnemonica is probably the most well known stack in the magic community and the most popular. The other well known memorized deck stack is Aronson stack, by the magician Simon Aronson. It’s usually argued as to which one is superior, and usually magicians will choose to learn one or the other. It’s hard to say which is better as each has their own unique attributes. But these are the two most well known.
Mnemonica was not invented by using an entirely random order of cards. Tamariz actually had a reason for the stack he chose. There are many tricks that he teaches in his Mnemonica stack book that use the properties of the stack. For example, there are poker dealing tricks, where a spectator can ask for a certain hand and it can be dealt (with some limitations). These are all dependent on the stack and the stack properties and were created by Juan in order to perform certain effects.
Also, the stack can be gotten into from new deck order. But, it takes a tremendous amount of skill to do so. Yet, it is possible based on the properties of the stack.
Why Learn Mnemonica?
Although its well known with magicians, most lay people will not know what a memorized stack is.
The reason to learn Mnemonica or memorize any stack, is that you will know the location of every card in the deck. This means that every card can now become a key card, instead of just one card as in beginner key card tricks. So, any card can tell you what is next. Or, you can know the location of any card that is named, or placed back and shuffled a certain way.
If you are skillful enough, this means that you can locate any card in the deck and control it to the top or wherever you might like, without a card being chosen. A spectator can just name a card, which is a completely free choice and seems very fair. Plus, it seems there is no way you could control a card, since it was never even seen or touched. It could be anywhere in the deck.
Also, you can know the card without it having to be seen or glimpsed. That can be useful if that is the type of magic you like to do. You can also know how far down a card is in the deck for tricks such as ACAAN.
Mnemonica can be very good to learn as a beginner. The reason for this is there are some memorized deck tricks that can be done which require less sleight of hand than other magic tricks. I like to say it’s “sleight of mind”. Now, there are ways that you can apply advanced sleight of hand to the Mnemonica stack for some amazing tricks and routines, much like Tamriz did. But there are also tricks you can still do requiring only a little to no sleight of hand if you know Mnemonica stack.
When working with the stack as a beginner, you could choose not to do any shuffling of the cards, or you could just do some simple single cuts and still retain the order, or allow the spectator to do single cuts. You can also do some easier and more basic sleight of hand by doing some false cuts that would still retain the order of the deck.
There are some magicians who have made a career out of using Mnemonica or another stack just like Tamriz has. Darwin Ortiz is one example of a close-up card magician who used a lot of memorized stack work. Michael Close was a well known walk around performer who almost always did memorized deck work. Both of these were advanced magicians and did very elaborate sleight of hand, performing full deck false shuffles that were amazingly deceptive.
Full deck false shuffles are usually the hardest and require a lot of sleight of hand practice to perform smoothly. But these magicians were very skilled and could make a memorized deck look like an absolute miracle of effects. But as a beginner you can still do memorized deck work just using easier and more basic sleight of hand and ignoring full deck false shuffling until you become much more advanced.
Also, as was mentioned, Mnemonica is not the only stack you can work with. Many famous card magicians also had their own stack they created and used. Dani DaOrtiz has his own stacks that he has invented and used, mostly based on Si Stebbins stack. Woody Aragon is a famous card magician who worked a lot with Mnemonica stack in his earlier career, being a Spanish card magician and a student of Tamariz, but he eventually came up with his own stacks that he uses. Patrick Redford is another younger magician, who has invented his own stack.
Drawbacks & Limitations of Mnemonica
Just like most anything in magic, Mnemonica has its pros, but it also has its cons. Let’s look at what some of those cons are that I’ve found.
First, with any kind of stacked deck work, you are in a position where you need to have the deck stacked in a particular order before you can do any trick. If you use your own deck and you know you are going to perform, then that’s fine since you can have your deck preset into Mnemonica stack order before presenting.
But, if you are at a friend’s house, or someone wants you to perform with their deck, then you are out of luck. So, you are forced to carry your own deck with you if you are going places. And you won’t be able to do impromptu tricks with a borrowed shuffled deck.
Second, you have to worry about the cards always being in the right order. That is, if even one card is out of order, it can ruin the entire stack and mess up your effect. So, did you remember to set the cards in the right order? Also, what if one card falls out or even multiple cards? Which can happen when handling a deck. Also, did the spectator put the card back in the exact same spot if they selected a card?
Because of the fact that the order of the cards must be maintained, it makes it impossible to do card flourishes or anything that might risk the cards falling or getting out of order. I personally like sleight of hand and also card flourishes and cardistry. With a Mnemonica stack, you don’t really have the freedom to play with cards. You can’t just do card springs and revolution cuts and card manipulation without worrying about messing up the order.
The only way you will be able to do this is with a deck switch.
Third, you have to worry about forgetting the location of cards or hesitating. Even if you don’t completely forget, you may have hesitation when you are trying to recall the number of a certain card. There are some stacks such as Si Stebbins in which you don’t have to memorize the location of every card, but with Mnemonica, you do. If you know the deck and the card numbers cold and well, this shouldn’t be a problem. But, if you aren’t perfect, there may be a card named in which you forget where it is, or what number it’s connected to.
Fourth, the spectator cannot shuffle or examine the cards. Also, you may not want the spectator to even handle the cards. If they drop cards, which can be common with lay people who aren’t used to handling cards, the stack is destroyed.
Fifth, you are limited to the card tricks you can do, unless you are willing to destroy the stack. And once it’s destroyed, you won’t be able to do any Mnemonica tricks for the rest of that show (unless you bring another deck in).
What I mean is that you won’t be able to do any normal card tricks in which the spectator picks a card, the deck is shuffled, the card is found, etc. Although you potentially could, you will be severely limited, because most card tricks will destroy the stack.
How to Learn Mnemonica Stack
There are numerous ways to learn the Mnemonica stack order. Let’s look at some of them.
Juan Tamariz in his Mnemonica book, offers a solution that he gives to all his students. You will need to have the book to know his exact method, but it involves writing, a Mnemonica stack song and other techniques to solidify the order in the mind.
The way I learned it was initially through brute force memorization. But I had a little help though a free app on the Android phone at the time, a Mnemonica Stack Trainer. I don’t know what the status or availability of these apps are now, but you may be able to find one that you can at least pay a small amount for. I remember at the time, there were also apps available that you pay for.
I started out learning this order by breaking the card deck down into fourths, and memorizing the stack, 1/4 of the deck at a time.
What did that mean? I started by only allowing the app to show me the first 13 cards of the stack, and I went through those repeatedly in a random order until I knew them fairly well. Then I added the next 13 cards, so that I was working with the first 26 cards of the deck.
Once I felt comfortable with that, I moved up to the first 39 cards of the deck, and then to all 52.
It was around this time though that I discovered another method that I was curious to explore. I was reading a book by another famous card magician Harry Lorayne, but not on magic, but on memorization. Harry Lorayne, even though he was a great card magician, he was also well known for his work on memorization and the power of the mind. Things like having a brain like a calculator and being able to memorize an entire room full of names.
Harry Lorayne had a system that you can read about in his book How to Develop a Super Power Memory, which was a Peg Memory System or Mnemonic Peg System. Basically, it was a way of assigning letters of the alphabet to numbers. So, every number can be converted into a simple word. And at the same time, he had a system for memorizing an entire deck of shuffled cards. This involved having a picture or object that is associated with every card in the deck, based on its suit and number. And you will have memorized what each word is for each card in the deck.
You could then combine both of these techniques together if you wanted to learn a stack such as Mnemonica, and be able to call cards without forgetting them. Basically, the way it would look like, is this.
If the following doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry. I’m just giving a brief overview. I’m trying to explain what is explained in an entire book in only a couple of paragraphs.
So, the word associated with the number one is the word “tie”. This is because if you know the system, the consonant that is always represented by the number 1 is the letter T. So T by itself is closely related to the word for tie, which has no other consonants in it. You could also choose something which represents the number 1 or looks like the number 1 to you instead. It’s purely your choice. For example, you could use the word “pen”, since a pen looks like the number 1. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you have words that you remember and can recall.
Then you have to connect that word to the word that is related to the card you are trying to memorize. In the case of the number 1 in the Mnemonica stack, that would be the 4 of Clubs since that is the card at the 1st position in the stack. In Harry Lorayne’s system, for me the 4 of Clubs is related to the word “core”. At that point you want to exercise another memorization technique, which is to make an outlandish image in your mind to help you remember what you are trying to remember. So, I could remember something like the image of a tie wrapped around and being worn by an apple core.
So you need to do this for all 52 cards of the deck, and then you will have an image with two objects linked together for each card. Then you can almost always link the card of the deck to its location number, by thinking of one of the images and remembering the other image. So for the 4 of Hearts, the word connected to it for me is a “hen”. And the location of the 4H in the Mnemonica stack is the second position. The number two for me is represented by a pair of pants. (In Harry’s system, the number 2 is actually represented by “Noah”, but I associate it with pants based on what I learned from Sal Piacente and his memorization work).
If I see the word “hen” in my mind, then I have an image of a hen wearing some pants. Or if I am presented with the word “pants” first, I see a hen pecking a pair of pants. So, if I need to know what card is at position number 2, or if I need to know at what position the 4H is located, I can figure either answer out.
So, yeah, that method is a little bit confusing. And, it can also cause you to hesitate when you are trying to convert things in your mind and remember images. Probably, the best way to memorize Mnemonica is to just have a direct link between the name of the card and the number. So, if you see the number 2, your mind immediately thinks of the 4 of Hearts with no hesitation. And if you see the 4 of Hearts, your mind immediately just thinks of the number 2, for its location.
There is another system of memorization that involves what are called memory palaces. You have to memorize a system for yourself in which you have a unique location connected to every number from 1 to 52. Then you connect each card to each location in your mind. For example, the location for the number 1 might be your bed, since that’s where you wake up first in the morning. And you might find four clubs in your bed. The second location might be your bedroom, since next you will get out of bed. The third location might be your bathroom, where you go next in your day.
To me, this would start to get very complicated as you get to higher and higher numbers. This strategy is usually used by memory experts who will memorize a deck of cards rapidly.
You really want to be able to just think of the number immediately when thinking of the card, and the card immediately when thinking of the number. You want to have a direct link between the two without having to think of images in your mind first. That’s the best way for performance, since you will need to recall this information rapidly.
I believe maybe a system such as Tamariz teaches in his book might be the best. Or, possibly a system in which you write the number on the back of each card in sharpie, and you practice with this deck as much as possible. Keep doing this until you can associate each card with each number effortlessly. Another thing I have thought of to do, is any time you see a number throughout the day, try to associate it with the corresponding card in your mind. Even just looking at the minute hand of a watch can always give you a number to test yourself and practice with.
Other Methods to Learn Mnemonica
There are also some products in the magic community that you can buy which are designed to help you learn Mnemonica stack order. There is a book that was released a little over a year or so ago, called The Memory Arts Book. The premise is similar to what I was talking about before, except that each page of the book gives you an artistic image created by the authors. These images all link a card and a number together in the image they’ve created. They also teach a system to memorize a shuffled deck of cards.
They claim to be able to learn half the Mnemonica stack in 15 minutes or less. They also say their system enables you to learn both Mnemonica and Aronson stack, if you are ambitious enough to learn both.
There is another book called Mnemonica For Everybody by Geoff Williams. He claims to have learned the Mnemonica stack in an hour, in a fun way that he can always recall. He says that it uses the Peg Memory system he learned by Harry Anderson, so it may be closely related to what I was using and discussing earlier.
Another product by Rick Lax and Penguin Magic is called the Mnemonica Trainer and it uses something similar to what I used and was describing earlier. It’s the technique of vivid imagery and crazy pictures. I think he basically goes through and gives you all the different images to memorize. It gets pretty high reviews, but most of Rick’s stuff does on Penguin, so that’s not too surprising.
Mnemonica Miracles is the DVD set that Juan put out to teach over 20 routines using Mnemonica, as well as giving tips and other insights. I don’t know how this compares to the book, but it might be preferable, in order to see everything performed and explained in real time. I don’t know if he covers the same material and basics in depth as he does the book. But if you already have the book and you really want to become a Mnemonica expert, this might be the way to go.
How Do I Get Into the Mnemonica Stack?
You will probably have to lay all the cards out and arrange them into the proper order, which is one of the slight drawbacks of Mnemonica. It just takes a little bit of time to do.
If you are super advanced, there is a way to get into Mnemonica from a new deck using faro shuffles over at Magical Apparatus. Also, I believe that Juan teaches this or another method in his book.
Mnemonica Deck Order
This is easily found on the internet and is not a big secret, so this is not revealing anything. The real secret is not in the actual order of the deck, as you could memorize any order of cards, the secret is in the tricks which go with the Mnemonica deck order. These are found mostly in Juan’s book and DVDs. The Mnemonica deck order is:
- 4C – Four of Clubs
- 2H – Two of Hearts
- 7D – Seven of Diamonds
- 3C – Three of Clubs
- 4H – Four of Hearths
- 6D – Six of Diamonds
- AS – Ace of Spades
- 5H – Five of Hearts
- 9S – Nine of Spades
- 2S – Two of Spades
- QH – Queen of Hearts
- 3D – Three of Diamonds
- QC – Queen of Clubs
- 8H – Eight of Hearts
- 6S – Six of Spades
- 5S – Five of Spades
- 9H – Nine of Hearts
- KC – King of Clubs
- 2D – Two of Diamonds
- JH – Jack of Hearts
- 3S – Three of Spades
- 8S – Eight of Spades
- 6H – Six of Hearts
- 10C – Ten of Clubs
- 5D – Five of Diamonds
- KD – Kind of Diamonds
- 2C – Two of Clubs
- 3H – Three of Hearts
- 8D – Eight of Diamonds
- 5C – Five of Clubs
- KS – King of Spades
- JD – Jack of Diamonds
- 8C – Eight of Clubs
- 10S – Ten of Spades
- KH – King of Hearts
- JC – Jack of Clubs
- 7S – Seven of Spades
- 10H – Ten of Hearts
- AD – Ace of Diamonds
- 4S – Four of Spades
- 7H – Seven of Hearts
- 4D – Four of Diamonds
- AC – Ace of Clubs
- 9C – Nine of clubs
- JS – Jack of Spades
- QD – Queen of Diamonds
- 7C- Seven of Clubs
- QS – Queen of Spades
- 10D – Ten of Diamonds
- 6C – Six of Clubs
- AH – Ace of Hearts
- 9D – Nine of Diamonds
The best resource for specific Mnemonica tricks will probably be Juan Tamariz’s Mnemonica book or DVD set. These are the tricks that really are specific to Mnemonica only, and utilize the stack for certain effects.
There are some magicians who do work on memorized decks, and have tricks which are not specific to Mnemonica, but can be used if you know Mnemonica. Darwin Ortiz does work on memorized decks and is very good. Michael Close also does a lot of work on memorized decks and is an absolute authority. Although he uses Aronson stack, I think most if not all is still applicable to Mnemonica. I believe Boris Wild also has some memorized deck work in his Penguin Live lecture, if I remember correctly.
If you are creative enough, once you memorize Mnemonica or any stack like I did, you can probably come up with your own tricks or ways to use the stack for tricks you already know. One popular way of using the deck is to locate a named card, rather than have a card chosen. Since you know the location of each card, it’s a matter of finding and controlling the card using different methods. Juan teaches this as well as Michael Close.