Can you solve the wizard standoff riddle? - Dan Finkel | Summary and Q&A

May 22, 2018
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Can you solve the wizard standoff riddle? - Dan Finkel


Choose the Bannekar wand, miss on purpose, and strategize to maximize winning chances in a magical duel.

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Key Insights

  • 🤔 Strategic thinking trumps sheer power in magical duels.
  • 🤩 Manipulating opponents' actions can be key to success.
  • ☠️ Success rates of wands play a crucial role in duel outcomes.
  • ✊ Sacrificing immediate power for long-term strategy is effective.
  • 💄 Understanding probabilities is essential for making optimal choices.
  • 🥺 Balancing risk and reward leads to favorable results.
  • ❓ Unconventional tactics can outsmart powerful opponents.


You’ve been chosen as a champion to represent your wizarding house in a deadly duel against two rival magic schools. Your opponents are fearsome. From the Newt-niz school, a powerful sorcerer wields a wand that can turn people into fish, but his spell only works 70% of the time. And from the Leib-ton school, an even more powerful enchantress wield... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Which wand should you choose for the magical duel?

The best choice is the Bannekar wand, as intentionally missing your first attempt strategically increases your odds of winning against the opponents.

Q: What strategy should you employ to win the duel?

By using the Bannekar wand and purposely missing, you can manipulate the opponent's actions and increase your chances of winning at different stages of the duel.

Q: How do the success rates of the different wands factor into the duel strategy?

The Bannekar's 60% success rate, when combined with strategic misses, provides a calculated advantage over the opponents with higher success rate wands.

Q: What are the potential outcomes if you choose the Noether 9000 wand?

Picking the Noether 9000 wand may seem powerful, but it can make you a prime target and reduce your overall odds of winning due to the opponents' strategies.


In a deadly duel against two rival magic schools, you must choose a wand and a strategy that will maximize your chances of winning. The Newt-niz sorcerer can turn people into fish 70% of the time, while the Leib-ton enchantress can turn people into statues 90% of the time. By analyzing the probabilities and considering the actions of your opponents, it is determined that taking the weakest wand, the Bannekar, and intentionally missing, provides the highest likelihood of victory.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the characteristics of the wands presented to you?

The three options for wands are the Bannekar, Gaussian, and Noether 9000. The Bannekar binds one target with vines and has an effectiveness of 60% of the time. The Gaussian turns one target into a tree and has a success rate of 80%. The Noether 9000 banishes one target to a distant mountaintop and has a perfect 100% success rate.

Q: Why would choosing the Noether 9000 as the first wand seem like a logical choice?

Choosing the Noether 9000 initially may seem like the logical choice as it is the most powerful wand with a 100% success rate. With this wand, you would have a high chance of incapacitating your opponents.

Q: What is the drawback of choosing the Noether 9000?

While the Noether 9000 is powerful, it also makes you the primary target for the other two magicians. This puts you at a higher risk of being struck down by the remaining wizard, which is a concerning disadvantage.

Q: What is the disadvantage of using the Gaussian wand?

The Gaussian wand, with an 80% success rate, may appear to be a better choice as it allows you to avoid becoming a target until the enchantress is incapacitated. However, if you successfully transform either opponent, you would likely be immediately turned into either a fish or a statue.

Q: What strategy is employed to maximize the chances of winning the duel?

The optimal strategy involves taking the weakest wand, the Bannekar, and intentionally missing on purpose. By doing so, the sorcerer will be compelled to target the enchantress to avoid being turned into a statue. This gives you a 60% chance of winning against the sorcerer, and if he fails, you still have a 60% chance of winning against the enchantress.

Q: Why is it better to take the Bannekar and miss on purpose?

By taking the Bannekar and purposely missing, you signal to the sorcerer that he will be targeted by the enchantress. This forces him to try to turn her into a fish to avoid being turned into stone. If successful, you would have a 60% chance of winning the duel at the start of the next round. If the sorcerer fails, there is a high likelihood of him being turned into stone, giving you an additional 60% chance of winning against the enchantress.

Q: What is the potential downside of the chosen strategy?

There is a slim 3% chance that all participants will be turned into cats if everyone is still standing at the end of the first round. However, when considering the probabilities and outcomes, this chosen strategy will provide better than even odds of winning the duel.

Q: How does the probability of winning compare across different strategies?

The analysis reveals that the best strategy is to purposely miss with the Bannekar wand. This strategy provides the highest probability of winning the duel, even though it may initially seem counterintuitive. It proves that sometimes sacrificing a strong advantage can lead to a better outcome.

Q: What is the main takeaway from this analysis?

The key takeaway is that sometimes the best approach to take in a strategic game is to sacrifice an initial advantage in order to increase the overall probability of success. In this case, intentionally missing with the weakest wand increases the chances of winning the duel. It highlights the importance of careful analysis and considering the actions of opponents in decision-making processes.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • You must select a wand from three options with varying success rates to compete in a deadly magical duel.

  • By analyzing the probabilities of each opponent's actions, you can strategically decide to maximize your chances of winning.

  • The Bannekar wand with intentional misses offers the best odds of victory in the duel scenario.

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