This is an excellent teaching DVD (or video download) lasting 80 minutes [the same price for either format.] (N.B. If you want the physical DVD, there are very few left in stock, so snap one up before they all go. Presumably the download will still be available for a very long time.) I have given a detailed review in the hope that it will help you to decide if this will suit you.
Woody Aragon is a personable, easy going, disarmingly charming man with an endearing smiling. He teaches a very well designed series of six effects that are clever but doable. If you want to see Woody in action perfroming similar effects in his smooth and engaging style, Vanishing Inc. offers a free download called Woody Aragon: The Show (Not to be confused with the DVD of the same name costing £26.40 that has the explantion for the tricks in the free performance video. You need to go to the Free Download section to get the free performance video.)
Woody is a very good teacher. However, Spanish is his first language and he sometimes speaks quite quickly. This requires extra concentration on your part and I occasionally missed words, phrases or even whole sentences (though nothing crucial as far as learning the magic.) I think you will soon 'tune in' to his accent anyway.
The key idea with this DVD is that Woody Aragon shows how to quickly set up on the fly a partial memorised deck using a borrowed or shuffled deck. The six effects taught make a lovely, organic, multi-phase routine lasting about 12 minutes. But you could use most of the effects separately or in smaller sets. The effects could also be performed with a prepared deck, but the first effect he teaches gives you an opportunity to get an unprepared deck in the required order in a very innocent manner.
In the first 22 minutes of the video, you are taught the following:
- how to get a small number of memorised cards into position quickly while appearing just to be performing an opening 'matching pairs' trick. (For those uncomfortable with a Faro shuffle, Woody shows an alternative method that involves an 'innocent' demonstration of a card cheat's deal that looks just like a demo of a bottom deal.)
- Woody spends quite a long time helping you to memorise the position number of 10 cards in his own, unique stack. This might be potentially confusing if you are still mastering Mnemonica or the Aronson stack. Also, although the peg images he uses (and which appear on screen) are O.K., I did not find them as memorable as Rick Lax's Mnemonica Trainer pegs. Interestingly, the more ridiculous is the connection between a picture, a card suit/value and its position in the stack, the easier it is to remember. So for example, Woody’s peg for one card involves a cow and the periodic table number for Calcium! As a former teacher of Chemistry and Biology,, that was the easiest to remember! For those purchasing the DVD and who are relying on Woody's images, it would have been helpful to have had a PDF of the images included in the purchase. I couldn't get a screenshot of the images when playing the DVD on my computer. If you buy the download instead of the DVD you show be able to take a screen shot whenever Woody displays one of the images and paste it into a document for revision purposes.
In the next section of the DVD, from 23 minutes to 28 minutes, Woody does his own school teacher act and gives you an exam, testing your memory of the 10 cards! He does so in an amusing manner, but this does seem as if you are paying for an unnecessary filler. On the other hand, the images can't have been too bad because I got 10/10 without even trying! So I suppose the point of this five minute episode is to quickly get you ready to be able to master the effects he is about to teach and to give you the confidence to master the principle. If you bought the DVD blind as I did, you might otherwise have given up by now. But it is definitely worth the effort to learn what Woody teaches so well. He starts by saying that this is much easier to do than mastering a full memdeck. And he is right. It is MUCH easier. Woody also gives some extra tips for memorising stack positions of cards (although I have personally never found these methods helpful. It does rather depend on your prefered learning style.)
At the 28 minute point in the DVD you get a twelve minute, studio performance of six effects in a very workable multi-phase routine using a borrowed deck (with Andy Gladwin as spectator.) Here is a summary of the effects:
Four Card Prediction. (Woody cleverly uses this effect as a means to set up his partial stack.) The spectator cuts the deck and follows a simple, natural procedure to select two cards. The value of the cards match two cards the magician has previously laid face doen on the table as a prediction.
Weighing the cards. (A standard effect with a memdeck or marked memdeck but it seems all the more impossible with a borrowed, shuffled deck.) The spectator cuts a packet from the deck and the magician is able to ‘weigh’ the cards in his hand and discern the exact number of cards in the packet. (Wearing a Superman tee-shirt, Woody explains that he is not counting - he is using his superpower!)
Name any card. The magician shuffles the deck and asks the spectator to name any card. Having briefly spread the deck face up, the magician demonstrates his memory skill by counting to any card the spectator names. This can be repeated with other named cards.
Memory Demonstration. As a further memorization demonstration, the magician shuffles the deck again, memorizes the new order and, while he looks away, gets the specataor to remove any card and put it back in a different position. At first it looks as if the magician is on the wrong track, but then he names the card correctly and points out its position in the deck before the spectator moved it. A double memory miracle!
A.C.A.A.N. The spectator choses a number and selects two neighbouring cards from a second, shuffled deck. The first deck is placed in the tuck box from which the second deck was taken. The spectator narrows down the choice to just one of these selected cards. The magician reintroduces the tuck box containing the first, borrowed deck. The spectator takes the deck out of the case and counts down to the number he chose. The next card matches the card he selected from the oither deck.
Instant Poker. After the spectator has shuffled the deck, the magician demonstrates how to cheat at poker. He deals four piles of cards, three for imaginary poker players and one for himself. The three ’spectator’s' receive good hands that would encourage them to make large bets, but the magician gets the winning hand.
The remaining 40 minutes of the DVD consist of Woody Aragon’s careful and methodical explanation of these six effects with many interesting comments and insights into the psychology or routining.
If you like working with memdecks and would like to be able to perform a series of impromtu miracles with a borrowed deck, this would make an excellent purchase. There is another DVD in this teaching series that I have already mention called the Show. It is the same price as this one and I think consists of a series of effcets performed with Woody Aragon’s full stack. (Some of the effects appear to be duplicated in this DVD.) I haven't seen the other DVD but I would recommend Instant Memozied Deck as a good starting point. If you want to invest on both DVDs/downloads, you can make a significant saving by purchasing the Memeorized Deck Set from Vanishing Inc.