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  • Madison Hagler

Unanchored by Ryan Schlutz

This is Ryan Schlutz’s newest book, and it should be on every card performer’s bookshelf.


Listen, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ryan Schlutz is one of the most underrated creators out there. I don’t understand why he hasn’t become a superstar by now. He produces magic that anyone would love to do. It’s always easy, always fooling, always practical, and always entertaining. What could you possibly not like about that list? Every time I’ve ever seen him perform in person, he fools me badly. If you ask my wife who her favorite magician is, she will tell you it’s Ryan. I’ve never seen her fooled so badly as she was late at night in the lobby at Magifest three or four years ago.


This book is essentially the “best of” of his material. It includes his best routines from all of his DVDs, downloads, lectures, and books. The only thing it doesn’t include is any material from the False Anchors series since those were limited releases.


The book has a beautiful cloth cover that oozes quality. The collector's edition has blue painted page ed. It comes in a luxurious box with a magnetic clasp and two decks of “Unanchored” playing cards (one deck is gilded.)





The book is full of luscious full-page color photographs that make the book read almost like a magazine instead of a textbook.





The book contains 30 routines and 9 moves/concepts. Let’s dive into (no pun intended) what all is included.


Introduction - Short and sweet introduction to the contents of the book.


Close-up:

It Cuts Deep - A borrowed deck of cards is shuffled by a spectator and cut three times to arrive at three random cards. The performer is able to name all three cards despite having never touched the deck from beginning to end.


This is a self-working routine you can do FASDIU (From A Shuffled Deck In Use). It is easy as pie, but very difficult for anyone to backtrack. It is best performed with a borrowed deck because the routine plays so clean, people will think you’re using a marked deck. It isn’t a showstopper, but it’s a good routine to throw into the middle of a set.


Future Card - The spectator selects a prediction card which is placed aside sight unseen. The deck is split into two halves and shuffled thoroughly by the performer and spectator. The spectator chooses a card from the magician’s pile and the magician chooses a card from the spectator’s pile. The suit of one card is used and the value of the other card is used to create a new card. Amazingly, this is the card that was placed aside at the very beginning.


This is a hard-hitting and fooling routine that will leave everyone scratching their heads. This is the first routine in the book using Ryan’s box switch idea, but it isn’t necessary to the effect if you’d rather just have a prediction card instead of having the spectator choose the prediction card. There is a slight setup required, but if you’re skilled at culling, you can get into it rather easily on an off beat. My favorite aspect of this routine is the shuffling sequence which really and truly feels like there’s no way the performer could have any control over a single card. The principles at play here cancel each other out making it fooling and almost impossible to reconstruct.


No Hassle Hof - The performer removes the aces and sets them aside. The spectator selects five or six cards from the deck, thinks of one of them, shuffles them, and then shuffles the six cards into the deck. They hold the Aces faceup between their hands and imagine sending the color and suit of their card to the Aces. After a moment, amazingly, one Ace has reversed itself in their hands. It matches the suit of their card. When they turn over the facedown Ace, it is actually now their thought of card.


My favorite thing about this routine is the addition to the classic force which can be applied to other routines. This addition allows you to have a spectator remove several cards and just think of one of them. This may not seem like much, but it makes the force invisible, and it makes the selection process feel very different than most card tricks. The Hofzinser plot works well with this force, but the handling for the Hofzinser aspect of the routine is pretty straight forward, and in my opinion, the cards have to come back to the deck at an inopportune moment to gain the most impact.


Decon 2 - The spectator thinks of a card and the performer reveals it.


That’s a pretty basic description, I know. Essentially, the spectator constructs a random card based on how many cards they randomly remove from the deck and you are able to reveal it. There are two possible reveals for the trick. The first is that you “remove the joker” but when they later turn the “joker” over, it is actually their thought-of-card, or you can name their card directly with no fishing whatsoever. There’s a really clever thing Ryan has added into the routine which is a big reason the reveal is so clean. It’s a very easy trick to get into at a moment’s notice.


Shuffles Therapy - The spectator shuffles a deck, selects a card, loses it back into the deck, and shuffles the deck in a totally chaotic way with the performer. The performer is able to find their card and and tell them what it is without ever looking at the face of a single card.


This can be performed FASDIU. This routine has always been one of my favorite tricks of Ryan’s. I have probably used it over a hundred times since I first learned it. In fact, I often open my card set with it. There is a ton of interaction between the performer and the spectator and the effect is fooling not just for laymen, but magicians as well. It is one of my favorites to perform. I don’t know if it reads as good on paper as it is in real life, but I highly encourage you to try it out, when you perform it once, you’ll be hooked. It feels completely impossible to everyone watching.


Wrongly Convicted - A card is selected and lost in the deck. The performer raises the deck to eye level with the faces of the cards facing the spectator and outjogs 5 or 6 cards that he believes could be the selection (little does the performer know, he fails to outjog the selected card.) These cards are removed and handed to the spectator. The spectator cuts this small packet of cards. Surprisingly, the spectator has cut to their card even though it wasn’t in the packet to begin with!


This is another routine that can be performed FASDIU. I had the pleasure of having Ryan perform this on me before I ever read it, and it fooled me badly. Ryan is a beast when it comes to constructing fooling routines. He always has creative methods which make it seem impossible for a card to be controlled in any way, shape, or form, and then when you least expect it, the card you chose is staring you in the face. This is one of those routines. It has the classic “magician in trouble” plot but in a way that the spectator will genuinely believe you’ve messed up all the way up to the moment they see they have cut to their card.


Fraternal Bond - Three prediction cards are removed. Three cards are selected. They match the three predictions.


This can be performed FASDIU This is a pretty straightforward use of the Schlitz Switch. It’s a very linear routine, and not fooling in the typical Schlutz way, but the move is a versatile way to switch a small packet of cards.


Schlity Poker - The spectator selects a poker hand with the deck facedown. They then choose the performer’s poker hand with the deck face up (choosing random cards to ensure the performer loses.) Both hands are spread. The spectator selected a Full House. The performer’s cards are spread; they are now a royal flush!


This routine requires a small set up. Once again it uses the Schlutz Switch. There are a couple of really nice convincers in here, but it’s not the type of routine that excites me too much because it’s all based around using the Schlitz Switch twice.


Knocked Subconscious - A card is selected. A random number of cards from the middle of the deck is dribbled onto their card, and the spectator and shuffles their card amongst the packet. The performer begins dealing through the packet one card at a time eventually stopping on one card–it is their selected card.


This is another huge fooler. This is one of those routines you could pull out at a magic convention and fool the whole room with. It uses a little known and rarely used method in a very modern way making it feel like one of the cleanest card locations ever. It can be performed FASDIU after you’ve done some necessary preparation to a few cards in your deck. Ryan tips how he currently performs this, and I think his current method (which is only briefly mentioned) is the way to go.


Rotating Credit - The performer gathers a whole stack of “wallet cards” from the spectators–business cards, credit cards, drivers license, etc. The performer send a prediction as a text to someone in the group. The wallet cards are mixed faceup and facedown with the spectator deciding when to turn cards over and when to leave them as they are. Despite the randomness, the prediction perfectly states the condition of the wallet cards.


This is Simon Aronson’s Shuffle-Bored effect done with credit cards. It is a different method than the original Aronson routine, but the effect plays the same. You use credit cards instead of playing cards, but you get the exact same style of revelation. First the number of “wallet cards” that will be faceup, then how many of them will be which type of “wallet card”, then precisely what name brand of “wallet card” it will be, and the kicker revelation of a supposed mistake being correct. It’s a very unique routine that can be done with a large group, but I don’t see myself performing it. It’s a little tricky to wrap your mind around as well; it’s not impossible, but it requires some thinking in the moment to ensure the success of the prediction.


Degrees of Boredom - Twelve random cards are removed from the deck. They are mixed faceup and facedown with the spectator deciding which cards to turn over. After they make all the choices, they shuffle the cards even further turning cards over in the process. Once the cards are squared, the spectator gets one last decision about if they want to leave the packet as it is or flip it over one last time. Despite all of the freedom, the performer reveals he has predicted everything about the condition of the packet.


Another FASDIU routine. This uses the same method as Rotating Credit, but it is done with playing cards instead of “wallet cards.” The fact that it is done with playing cards gives you a few more subtleties and even allows for the spectator to make one last decision which changes everything. Similar to the other routine, this requires some quick thinking in the moment to get the cards ready to match the prediction, but it gets easier the more you play with it. I prefer this routine to the previous one only because of the additional subtleties at play.


Four Shadowed - The spectator and the magician fairly remove a card and hide it. The performer hides his card in the card box; the spectator hides his card in his pocket. The performer begins dealing through the deck; the spectator calls step whenever he wants. The next card is shown to be a Four. The stack that has already been dealt through is picked up and four cards are counted from the top. The fourth card is another Four. Finally, the cards hidden at the beginning are revealed; they are the final two Fours.


This is Ramon Rioboo’s “One in the Side Pocket” routine using Ryan’s box switch to clean up the weakest point in Ramon’s routine. It’s a deceptive routine with many nice moments, but it is a little more “buttoned up” than most of Ryan’s routines.


Pulse Detection - A card is peeked and the deck is shuffled by the spectator. The performer reads their pulse. After struggling, he removes four cards which could be their selection. Just when the spectator is convinced the performer was WAY off the mark, they get a nice surprise that they won’t see coming.


Another super fun routine FASDIU. This uses Ryan’s excellent “Pivotal Peek,” but what’s really great here is the way Ryan has built the reveal of the card to come as a complete and total surprise. There’s a lot happening psychologically here which convinces the spectator’s that the performer is way off the mark. As soon as the selection is revealed, the spectator will know they’ve been played and will laugh at the fact that you “got them” so good, but what’s so great is that you “get them” so good due to their own brain fooling them. You don’t have to do any acting or convincing at all; their brain incorrectly interprets the data and convinces itself of the results. It’s a fun idea that can be added into any peek or force of your choosing.


The Keeper - A card is peeked at and the spectator shuffled the deck. The performer outjogs four cards he believes could be the selected card. (Unbeknownst to him, none of the cards are the selected card.) The performer asks the spectator three questions eliminating a card after every answer. When the last card is revealed, it is the spectator’s card!


Another FASDIU routine. This is a very similar effect to “Wrongly Convicted” from above. The biggest difference is that this version is all done in the performer’s hands rather than the spectator’s. The addition of the three questions lets you build more interaction with the spectator, and again, when they see their card, they will be very shocked.


Treasure Hunt - The spectator is handed a card to hold on to. They peek at a card in the deck and then put the card they are holding faceup into the deck. Somehow, they’ve managed to find their peeked-at card.


This is a “jazz magic” style routine that is performed FASDIU. It’s sort of like “the trick that cannot be explained” but with a much more surefire method. Essentially, you are setting the stage so that the outcome will always be a desirable outcome. Again, this is not a showstopper routine, and the effect is weaker than the idea behind the method, but it is still interesting nonetheless.


Lesson in Gravity - A three phase sandwich routine that gets more and more impossible.

This routine requires a gimmick, but the gimmick is what allows the routine to build in impossibility. The gimmick also allows for some very clean displays which would be impossible without it. I like the structure of the routine, but I don’t see myself using it.


Symmetrical Matching - A modern update to the classic, “Will the Cards Match” routine. 5 mates are introduced and mixed thoroughly by the performer and spectator. The spectator makes every choice yet somehow, all of the mates match at the end.


This is a really clever update to the classic Larry Becker effect, “Will the Cards Match.” Here Ryan has added a ton of subtleties which allows the spectator to take a much bigger part in mixing the cards. Most importantly, Ryan has eliminated the need to spell any words with the cards (if you’re familiar with the original, you’ll know what I mean) instead, he uses a logical progression of “moves.” This is one of those routines that feels completely impossible, and even when you try it with the cards in your hand, you’ll be amazed that it works. I really like this one.


Needs a Name - The spectator removes a small packet of cards from the deck, remembers one, and then loses the packet into the deck. The performer is still able to immediately find the card. This is an impromptu miracle.


This is one heck of a FASDIU routine! It can be done with a borrowed deck, and it is incredibly fooling. The selection process is especially disarming. The revelation happens via “pulse reading” but you can use this selection process and reveal the card however you want. I love this.


When in Doubt, Read a Palm - A palm reading card is introduced and a comedic palm reading is given. The spectator selects a card and it is lost in the deck. Another spectator is able to find the first spectators card, and as a kicker, the palm reading card is turned over to reveal the same card they chose.


The Unanchored Decks come with the required Palm Reading card for this routine. There are two great additions to the under-the-spread cull force here. One of them completely eliminates the awkward squaring of the cards that typically has to happen after a spectator has touched a card. This one subtlety is worth its weight in gold, and I will forever be using it if I do an under-the-spread cull force. The routine itself is lighthearted an opens the door for fun interactions with the spectator, but I think the real value here is in the force tips.


Split Decision - A card is freely selected and lost in the deck. The spectator shuffles and cuts the deck to ensure their card couldn’t possibly be controlled. The performer is able to whittle the deck down until only one card remains: the selected card.


This is a very deceptive procedure that you can incorporate into many “select a card” routines. It allows the spectator to give the deck a riffle shuffle after their card has been added into the deck. It’s great. The revelation process is highly interactive and very fun. Essentially, you keep splitting the deck into two piles and every time you “track where they look” until you’re down to one card. Throughout the whole routine, you never see the face of a single card making it seem totally impossible.


Fish Sandwich - A deck of cards is split into two piles and the spectator hides two black kings face up in one of the piles. The performer is able to name which pile has the kings. The spectator then shuffles the two halves together (keeping the kings face up in the middle.) They then spread through the deck and remove the random cards they shuffled between the kings. The performer is able to divine multiple pieces of information about those cards ending with precisely naming the last card held.


This is a fascinating idea. It revolves around a simple move used in a completely novel way. There will be some fishing required here, and a bit of jazzing, but you are always guaranteed to end strongly by naming the exact card they end up with. If you enjoy jazz magic, or want to practice your fishing technique, this is a great routine to do it on.


We Do As We Do - The deck is shuffled and the performer and spectator choose a card and return them to the deck. The deck is divided up between the spectator and performer and it is further shuffled. The spectator and performer deal through their cards stopping whenever they want. Impossibly, the spectator finds the performer’s card and the performer finds the spectator’s card.


This requires a very small setup that is easy to get into with a simple cull which means you can go into this at any time you want. This is a great way to do the classic marked deck trick with a normal deck of cards. If you know “Diplopia” by Paul Vigil, this is a very similar effect, except this version does not require any clocking of the deck. In fact, it’s so easy, you can do it immediately after reading. It is a great routine to do with a borrowed deck, and there is hardly any compromise. Good stuff!


E.S. Location - A fooling way to get a key card.


I don’t want to say too much about this, but it requires you to do some searching for something with a very specific quality. Once you find it, you’ll have a very disarming way of obtaining a key card. What you do after that is up to you, but Ryan describes how you can even have them shuffle the deck and keep your key card in place.


Group:

Sense-Sational - Three spectators shuffle a deck. One spectator just thinks of a card and two spectators select a card. All of the cards are shuffled back in. All of this is done in a very random , fair, and care-free fashion. The performer is able to reveal the first selected card by removing it from the deck. He is able to find the second card without looking at the face of a single card, and he is able to reveal the thought of card.


This was one of the first tricks of Ryan’s that I ever saw on video and I was utterly clueless to the workings. If you google the name of this trick followed by Ryan’s name, you can find the video of this effect and get fooled as well. Each selection is found utilizing a unique method which makes it impossible to backtrack. The various methods used are all fooling by themself and when combined, it is straight poetry in my book. There is a set up required, but with strong culling abilities, you can set it up in one run through the deck. Big win here for me.


Magic Camp - Two spectator get some insight into magic moves. The spectators and performer shuffle the deck, remove a card, switch card with someone else, shuffle the card into their stack, change stacks with someone else, and yet they each find their selected card without any idea how they did it.


This is another very fooling routine that uses a similar setup to the previous one. When you read it, you may not get a good sense of how fooling it is, but I promise, if you try it out, you’ll see that there is so much going on that camouflages the rather simple methods at play. The combination of various principles have been woven together to create something truly engaging and impossible to backtrack.


Untouchables - This is a three phase routine with an Out of This World flair that is done from a completely shuffled deck of cards.


This is a fascinating routine. One spectator chooses red or black and the other spectators gets the remaining color. The first phase is that despite the spectators each shuffling half of the deck, they end up with the same number of cards that they are responsible for. The deck is then fairly riffle shuffled and they take some cards and go through them without looking and feel for which cards they think match their color. They are both 100% successful. Finally, they each choose a card from their color and, despite shuffling the cards, their selections end up in the opposite color packet. There are some clever things happening here (like the first phase setting up for the second) but I’m not a big fan of how the routine flows. I think each phase is less impressive than just a traditional OOTW routine.


Parlor:

Fame and Fortune - The audience chooses a celebrity, a location, and an activity and all of it has been predicted in a printed image.


This is Ryan’s opening routine from his parlor show. It is a fun, playful routine, but it isn’t my favorite. For me, the choices are too limited for it to create a long lasting impression. It’s a fine opener, but I think it works better as a callback throughout the show. So instead of doing it all as an opener, you build the first part of the image, then you do a few routines, then you build the next part of the image, do a few routines, and build the last part of the image. Then this because the penultimate reveal to your final moment in the show. This is very similar in working to a David Regal effect from many years ago, but this has the added visual element which was missing from Regal’s routine.


Super Fair Card Trick - This truly is a super fair card trick. A card is selected and fairly shuffled into the deck by a spectator. The performer is blinded and gloved, yet still finds the selected card.


I enjoy how much entertainment value Ryan is able to get out of a “simple” pick a card trick. This really builds into a huge piece that fills the stage and creates a strong image that the spectators will remember. The method is also very fooling and allows for immense freedom. Cleverly, part of the presentational element added to “make it more difficult” is precisely what allows the trick to work at all. I love methods like this because it causes the spectators to not question the very thing they SHOULD question simply because they believe it is part of the presentation and not part of the method.


Life Hack Deck - Four cards are selected. Spectators select how the performer will find each card. The performer succeeds in finding the selected cards in the method chosen by the audience and each reveal is more shocking than the one before.


This is very similar to Mark Elsdon’s Ouroboros plot but created for parlor situations. The reveals do increase in shock factor, and each reveal sets up for the next reveal which is satisfying. Although this is in the parlor category, I’m not sure it’s the most appropriate routine for that setting. It would work better in a cocktail party type environment or even walk around.


Prediction Envelope - This is a utility envelope that allows a prediction to appear in a clear envelope that is taped to a piece of cardstock.


There isn’t much details on how to build this, but by looking at the photos and reading what’s there, you’ll be able to get the main idea. The best part about this system is that the cardstock that comes out is completely ungimmicked and so is the envelope attached to it. You can use it to load a playing card (as Ryan does) or use it for a confabulation routine. Theres a clever subtlety explained which can be used for other routines. It’s a force for a specific color (red or black) of your choosing.


Arsenal:

The Schlitz - This is a very easy switch of any touched cards into cards of your choosing.


This is an easy and casual switch of any number of touched cards with any other number of cards of your choosing. It’s simple and its effective, but it’s not something that is meant to be burned as you perform it.


Pivotal Peek - This is one of Ryan’s best known creations. It is a very clean card peek that happens at the perfect time. It’s also very easy to execute.


This is great. When I first learned this years ago, I wasn’t a big fan, but now, having used it, I can attest to its effectiveness–especially in one-on-one scenarios. It’s brilliant because you get the peek in real time at the exact same moment the spectator is peeking at the card. So as soon as the spectator has seen their card and looks to you to see if you’re going to do anything tricky, you already have your peek.


Mixing Procedure - This is a simple thing Ryan uses all the time. If you’ve ever seen him perform, odds are, you saw this move. It’s an easy but very effective way to mix certain cards while keeping other cards in place.


There’s not too much to say on this. It creates a sloppy shuffle appearance but allows you to keep control of certain cards.


Swing Cutting to Get a Break - This is a small idea to hide the fact that you are performing a swing cut.


Again, there’s not too much to say on this. It hides that you are cutting a deck so that you aren’t doing the dreaded swing cut right before riffle-forcing to the exact place you just cut the deck.


Box Switch - This is an elegant switch of a card in a card box. It is used in several routines in the book.


This is very easy and doesn’t require any special card box. You’ll be surprised at how effective such a simple idea is, but it looks so natural that people don’t question it. It takes a little practice to get the feel of it right, but once you have it, it’s dead easy.


Pencil-Dotted/Edge-Marked Card - This is one of the most powerful tools you can add to your deck.


Ryan is a pro at using this tool effectively. This little tool is why most of his magic is so fooling. Every deck I perform with now has this tool in it, thanks to Ryan. Believe me; you should put it in your deck as well. I can’t tell you how many times it has allowed me to perform miracles.


Crimp Control - This is a great control that is easy to do but very fooling.


The above description says it all. It allows you to genuinely riffle shuffle, and cut a deck of cards after a selection has been returned.


Punch Work - How to create a tactile marking


This tool is used in one of the routines of the book. It’s great to have this description of how to prepare it efficiently.


How to Print on Cards - A great guide to printing cards.


Again, the description above says it all. It’s a pretty basic description, but it tells you everything you need to know.


Visual Pocket Management - This is an easy way to keep track of your props.


This tool allows you to keep track of all the props you have on you at a performance. It’s a simple idea, but it could come in handy for those dealing with pocket management issues.


That completes the review of Unanchored. This book is an incredible value for what you receive. If you haven't heard of Ryan's work, this is the best of the best, and what better way to find out about him? If you know Ryan's work, then you have probably already purchased this and didn't even need this review because you know Ryan's quality of work! This will live on my bookshelf in a prominent place. It's gorgeous, it's packed full of practical material, and it's written by one of my favorite creators.

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