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Software engineer and long-time dabbler in mathematics; 11th in the Putnams forever ago but I've long since atrophied.


Nov
19
comment For Scrabble, Is there a most common phonies list anywhere?
I would argue that the reason it's 'neglected' is because it plays a relatively miniscule part of most Scrabble games - for various reasons, phonies just aren't a major part of most club play. That's not to say that they don't show up from time to time, but I would only start worrying about phonies after you have, e.g., not just all the twos but all of their extensions to threes pretty well in-hand.
Nov
19
comment Phage the Untouchable as a Commander?
In Black, there's always Withering Boon available to counter her too...
Nov
15
comment What chance do I have of my foil being a rare or mythic?
Thinking about it, the ratio of foil mythics to foil rares essentially has to be the same as the ratio of regular mythics to regular rares, because the sheet layout is identical - there's just a 'rares and mythics' sheet, in regular and foil versions, and whenever a rare/mythic is needed a card from this sheet is slotted in.
Nov
12
awarded  Yearling
Nov
4
comment Where can I practice MTG draft online and actually play against my opponents for free?
At the risk of offering an unpopular opinion, this question is effectively asking 'is there a way for me to pirate the draft experience?' - whether you're a fan of their choice or not, Wizards has chosen to make the draft experience a 'pay' one. While there aren't great online options for it (there are some, but not great ones), you could always cube live if you want the draft experience without the draft costs...
Nov
4
comment Why do the opposing sides of a D20 generally add up to 21
This explains the scattershot distribution, but it's orthogonal to the specific 'opposites add up to N+1' question; you could easily put 11-20 on one hemisphere and 1-10 on the other and still satisfy the opposites adding constraint (in fact, a lot of older spindowns do this).
Nov
1
comment How do cards like Brainstorm affect the probability of drawing an out?
Magic addendum to this answer: these calculations are correct for Brainstorm and Preordain where the net effect is 'dig just one card deeper' (in the case of Preordain, by bottoming the two that you put back and then drawing blind), but Ponder is a little more complicated since you get two chances to hit (because of the shuffle effect), but with slightly different probabilities. It doesn't affect these calculations by much more than an epsilon, though.
Oct
29
comment Are some MTG sets statistically more likely to yield more valuable cards?
Actually, mathematically there's no added complication to be had - since each uncommon is still equally likely, the 'decrease' in EV from not being able to have e.g. multiple Wastelands in a pack is precisely made up for by an 'increase' in EV from not being able to have multiple Excavators. You can still just take (average price of an uncommon) x (number of uncommons).
Oct
28
answered Why did devotion decks dominate PT Theros?
Oct
28
comment Why did devotion decks dominate PT Theros?
I'll have a better answer later, but I'll offer my short answer in a comment: Nykthos, Shrine To Nix is the most powerful thing you can be doing in the format at the moment - mana accelerants have always been among the most powerful things - and the 'cost' for doing that powerful thing is the devotion to devotion.
Oct
24
comment In bridge, what opening bid(s) should be made with a high card point in “no man's land”?
Can you be specific about the hand? While the general question isn't a bad one, a question of 'How do I bid hand X?' is IMHO likely to generate much better answers.
Oct
22
comment What's the most efficient way of determine individual card values for my collection?
Note that your link for 'expensive commons and uncommons' is very much online-specific; OTOH, there's a very similar article for offline play (the prices are slightly out of date but still fairly close) at starcitygames.com/php/news/print.php?Article=25391 , sorted by set.
Oct
21
comment How does Blood Scrivener work if I “draw 2 cards”?
(Also also, I was skeptical that you would lose another life for the second card draw of Divination, but this is correct: "120.6a An effect that replaces a card draw is applied even if no cards could be drawn because there are no cards in the affected player's library. ". But this only happens if there were zero cards in your library, not just less than two; if there were one, you'd draw it and then the Blood Scrivener replacement ability wouldn't kick in for the second Divination draw.)
Oct
21
comment How does Blood Scrivener work if I “draw 2 cards”?
Also, important to note: Blood Scrivener's replacement effect also effectively reads 'Draw one card. Draw one card.' What keeps it from recursing forever is Rule 614.5: "A replacement effect doesn't invoke itself repeatedly; it gets only one opportunity to affect an event or any modified events that may replace it."
Oct
18
answered Cribbage Scoring Difficulties
Oct
18
comment How do SBAs interact with the sacrifice of a creature enchanted with Gift of Immortality?
@Circeus That's fair; the two things I will note (on the broad, not directly to your question) are that (1) there's one very relevant piece of graveyard hate in Standard, namely Scavenging Ooze, which prevents the creature from coming back in the first place - and (2) even without that hate, right now a recurrent effect on the order of 'reanimate a Brindle Boar once per turn' is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the format; the things people are doing are just Bigger than that. (But the technical question here is a fine one and I don't want to sell it short.)
Oct
18
comment How do SBAs interact with the sacrifice of a creature enchanted with Gift of Immortality?
@Circeus Out of curiosity, why do you feel 'that's the relevant part for Standard'? Can you describe a specific situation you're concerned about that you believe the provided answer and comments aren't covering?
Sep
17
comment Cheating with foils and card orientation
With regard to unsleeved cards facing the wrong way, keep in mind that you are also allowed (at all levels, explicitly) to shuffle your opponent's deck before each game; whenever I notice that some cards are facing different directions in my opponent's deck I just do a couple of iterations of a bridge-shuffle, turning half the cards the opposite way before melding the two piles together. While this has the disadvantage of letting 'real' cheaters get away with it in future, it also handles the issue in an efficient and non-confrontational way.
Sep
12
comment Can Trait Doctoring be used to change words like “nonblack”?
More importantly (and perhaps relevantly), the only targeting restriction on Trait Doctoring is that it target a permanent (and the restriction on Sleight of mind is that it target a spell, thus a spell on the stack); you can cheerfully Trait Doctor a Nessian Courser ( gatherer.wizards.com/pages/Card/… ) and change all instances of 'red' to 'blue' even though there are no such instances!
Sep
12
comment Can Trait Doctoring be used to change words like “nonblack”?
Wesley: yes, you could; if the target is illegal when the spell tries to resolve (and this includes e.g. being red when the spell says 'non-red'), then it will be countered on resolution.