Somewhere in your journey of card magic, you are eventually likely to come across the idea of memorized deck magic. This usually comes in the form of either Mnemonica or Aronson stack, (although there are different stacks that others use, these are just the two most common).
So you might be wondering if the Mnemonica stack is something that is worth learning and spending your time on. I’d like to talk about that in this post, and help you to make a decision.
What is Mnemonica Stack?
In case you don’t know, Mnemonica Stack is a memorized deck order that was invented by the famous card magician Juan Tamariz. (See Mnemonica Stack Order by Juan Tamariz Guide for more)
Although it seems like a very random order of the cards, it was actually devised by Juan Tamariz, with a certain order that allows for a lot of different tricks. And also, the ability to get into the Mnemonica Stack order from a brand-new deck of cards. (Very difficult to do though)
Some of these tricks include dealing a certain poker hand that is asked for or spelling out card names and suits.
Should You Learn Mnemonica Stack?
Is the Mnemonica Stack something you should consider learning for your card magic? Well, it depends on your goals.
When I was a beginning magician, I liked the idea of the Mnemonica stack (or any memorized stack) for a number of reasons. First of all, it allows you to perform some very good card magic tricks, requiring very little sleight of hand. I think this was what drew me to the Mnemonica Stack initially.
Why is this? Well, most beginner card tricks, the ones involving either no, or minimal sleight of hand, can be very boring. A lot of them require either some kind of counting principle or tons of memorization for different steps of the trick. (For example, count down 12 cards, then flip one over, could down two cards, then do this, etc., etc.) So they feel slightly robotic.
Also, the spectator generally knows that you are just using some kind of mathematical principle or trickery in order to create the effect. Also, the final effect is generally not as good as more advanced card tricks that require sleight of hand. (Here are some of the best beginner and easy tricks and here are the Best Self Working Card Tricks for Beginners)
But, when you are starting out, learning sleight of hand can sometimes take a long time, or leave you nervous to perform in front of other people. So, the answer is usually trying to find tricks that use little or no sleight of hand when you first start out. (You can start learning the basics of card sleight of hand at Card Sleight of Hand Basics – Everything You Need to Know)
But, the cool thing about Mnemonica stack is that you can perform tricks that look much harder, or have a much greater magical effect, without having to do much very much card sleight of hand! I like to call Memorized Deck magic, “sleight of mind” instead!
This is because instead of using your hands to do sleight of hand, as in normal card magic, you are using your mind, and the memorized deck in order to perform the trick!
Granted, there are some magicians who have made careers off of memorized deck magic, and these guys use very advanced sleight of hand (Darwin Ortiz for example), but you can generally get by without much sleight of hand and still have an impressive trick, and do something that looks impossible!
Note: There is also another form of memorized deck magic that is also more advanced, and this uses the principle of knowing the location of every card in the deck, so you can control any card that you need to. Because of this, the spectator has the option of just naming a card, rather than selecting one. An advanced magician can locate the card secretly and control how he pleases, making the effect look even more impossible since a card was never drawn, as in almost 90% of all card magic tricks.
Another benefit of learning Mnemonica stack is that even if you are good at sleight of hand, there are certain tricks and effects that can only be performed with a memorized deck, and they are pretty amazing effects.
What got me started really wanting to learn a memorized deck, was watching Richard Osterlind perform some of his mentalism effects, in which he can know a card that a spectator is holding, without seeing the card. (You are looking at the next card in the deck, which tells you the chosen card). While Richard has his own deck stack that he made up, which has a mathematical formula in which you can figure out what the next card is, to me it’s just easier to learn the Mnemonica stack.
Then you also don’t have to worry about messing up when you are trying to figure out the next card in your head. (You could also do this type of effect with Si Stebbins stack since each card tells you what the next card is, but I wanted to learn Mnemonica in order to be able to do some of the other memorized deck effects.)
Another very powerful effect involving Mnemonica or a memorized deck is different variations of ACAAN (A card at any number). With this type of effect using a memorized deck, there is a version in which a spectator can name a card and a number, and have that card be at that number (although it takes a little bit of mental gymnastics to do! As well as some sleight of hand. You can see the full post on ACAAN for Mnemonica, Aronson, or a Mem Deck Stack here)
Summary of the benefits of Mnemonmica:
- Tricks can be performed with little or no sleight of hand
- Some of the effects with Mnemonica stack are very powerful
There are some drawbacks to Mnemonica that I’ve actually discovered in my use over the years. Here are some of the drawbacks of using the Mnemonica stack.
First of all, you have to have a deck that’s already set up, or pre-stacked in the Mnemonica order. What this means is you will have to have your own deck on you, and that deck will need to be set up ahead of time. You won’t be able to do impromptu tricks with any shuffled deck that your friend might hand you.
Second of all, you have to keep the deck in order. If one card gets out of place, it can ruin everything. This can be a little nerve-wracking, as you might wonder if all the cards are in the right order before beginning a trick. And if your card is out of order, it will probably mess up the entire trick.
This means you have to stack the deck perfectly with no mistakes, all 52 cards. You also cannot drop the cards or mishandle them, as this will ruin the stack.
It almost forces you to be very, very careful with your stack. I find this a little annoying.
Third, you can’t really do a lot of fancy moves with the cards, or flourishes. This is because you will probably disrupt the order of the cards, so it really limits how you can handle the cards. Because I like to fidget with cards and do flourishes and other types of moves, I don’t like having to handle a Mnemonica stack because I can’t do all of these things that I like to do.
Next, you are limited in the tricks that you can perform. Although the Mnemonica stack tricks can be very powerful, you are also limited to doing only Mnemonica stack tricks. This is because other card tricks will usually mess up the order of the cards. This is only ok if you are performing one final trick at the end of your set, so it doesn’t matter if your stack is ruined.
Finally, the spectators will not be able to shuffle the cards. This can make things seem a little unfair. Also, you will have trouble shuffling the cards, except for using any kind of false shuffle. You will also have to be very careful about spectators even just handling or holding the cards. (They might drop them or shuffle them)
Summary of the drawbacks of Mnemonica:
- Have to have a setup deck
- Not impromptu
- Have to keep the deck in order
- Have to be very careful not to displace any cards
- If even one card is out of order, it can ruin an entire trick
- Cannot do a lot of fancy moves or flourishes with the cards
- Limited to doing Mnemonica or memorized deck tricks
- Spectators cannot shuffle or really handle the cards
Is Mnemonica Better than other Stacks?
Mnemonica is not necessarily better than Aronson stack, or other stacks. Really, you are just limited to the tricks that are designed for each particular stack.
Comparing Mnemonica to Si Stebbins stack, it can be a better stack since the cards look like they are more randomly shuffled. (Rather than alternating red and black like in Si Stebbins)
Hopefully, you were able to see the benefits vs. the drawbacks of learning the Mnemonica stack. I personally liked it at first when I was more of a beginning magician, and used some of the effects with great success. I even developed some of my own tricks.
But as I got better with sleight of hand and handling cards, I didn’t like Mnemonica as much, due to some of the limitations I mentioned above.