This tourney report is hideously long, but hopefully youíll find it worth reading. First, some background. Iím not really a Harry Potter player. I have not read any of the books, and havenít even seen the movie (sacrilege!). However, my two sons, Daniel and David (ages 10 and 8), are big fans, as are my brotherís two kids who are the same age. My brother Greg Hodgkinson, who makes occasional contributions to POJOís website, runs the Harry Potter league in our local Wizards of the Coast(WOTC) store in Columbia Mall. Being a long-time Magic: The Gathering player, it wasnít hard for me to read the HP spoiler lists and figure out what cards/strategies were likely to have more success. I created my sonís first two decks from two starter sets and a few extra booster packs. I subsequently kept buying cards and improving their decks over time and coaching them on how to play the game in general and their decks specifically. As both decks were creature-based, and our local store seemed to have predominantly spell-based decks, I created a third creatureless deck to help them practice. I eventually tuned this deck to be almost as good as the two primary decks.

 

I continued to sit on the sidelines until my brother mentioned the free Diagon Alley Pre-release tourney weekend, where free boosters and promo cards would be given out to winners/participants. Sounds good to me! I love free stuff. We played in 3 events, two on Saturday the 23rd and one on Sunday April 7th. Iíll summarize the first two and give an in-depth report on the third one.

 

We started play at the local WOTC store where my brother helps out.Greg had to run the show, so the Hodgkinson clan made up only 5 of the 19 people present. I came in second place, tied with three others at 5-1.My 10 year old nephew Neil was the only kid placing in the top two positions. The store was gracious enough to add in their own boosters to make sure that all participants received at least two packs of cards. None of the folks who went 5-1 played the 6-0 winner(Brian)!Still, everyone went away happy!

 

On to the next tourney.We had an hour to get to the location and eat.This tourney was held at another WOTC store in the nearby Arundel Mills Mall. This time, using the same creatureless deck as before, I had the best overall record, at 9-1. But I did not win!My brother, who was playing a deck that I literally built for him between the two tourneys, ended up beating me out for first despite four losses. He simply played faster, and had more games. The third store, DugoutZone in Eldersburg, was not able to schedule the tourney that"correct" weekend. Instead, they delayed their tourney a few weeks so they could advertise it. This store gave every participant a free Promo card, but only gave out the free packs to the top four winners: 20 for first,8 for second, 4 for third, and 2 for fourth. All three stores had a different prize structure.

 

Here is the report for that last Diagon Alley tourney held on April 7th at the DugoutZone.

Unfortunately, my two boys had a conflict with attending this tourney, so only four of us made the journey to play in this tourney. We arrived at the tourney to find there were 8 other players besides us. The organizers chose to have five preliminary rounds with randomly chosen partners, with the four best records to move on to the medal round single elimination portion. However, two players came half an hour late, and the organizers decided to squeeze them in anyway. So the format was changed to six preliminary rounds, followed by the top five players advancing to the medal round. Instead of throwing out preliminary wins, they now switched to keeping track of all wins/losses throughout the tourney.

 

All told, there were 10 players outside of my family: three adults, two older kids, and five young kids. A quick glance around and I see trouble on the horizon. Whereas our store rarely has anyone running McGonagall as a main character, this place was filled with them. Even some of the kiddies were running her. Thatís bad. I also came to find out that the vast majority of the decks were creature-based, including those of the toughest players, the adults. This isnít good, as Iíve been tuning our decks to play in a more spell-based environment.

 

So we play. Hereís the deck that Amanda played:

 

Professor McGonagall (starting character)

 

10 Potion Lessons

13 Creature Lessons

2 Cage

4 Vicious Wolf

4 Cunning Fox

4 Cobra Lily

2 Quintaped

2 Kelpie

2 Guard Dog

2 Mountain Troll

1 Hedwig

4 Steelclaws

4 Diffindo

4 Bruisewort Balm

2 Burning Bitterroot Balm

 

Amanda had only a day to practice with the deck. Her inexperience and some bad luck led to a 3-3 record, causing her to miss the cut for the next round.Predictably, that round of five players included four adults and my nephew Neil(because of the odd number in the medal round, the sixth place finisher{an adult} played in the medal round too). Neil played this deck:

 

Madam Hooch (starting character)

 

25 Potion Lessons

1 Nimbus 2000

4 Pulling Up

4 Fouled

4 Cobbing

4 Ouch

1 Hufflepuff Match

2 In The Stands

1 Professor Quirrell

2 Butterfly Weed Balm

4 Bruisewort Balm

1 Weakness Potion

2 Dogbreath Potion

2 Malevolent Mixture

3 Draught Of Living Death

 

He came in 4th, edging out my brother. Here is the deck that I played:

 

Professor McGonagall (starting character)

 

13 Charm Lessons

11 Creature Lessons

3 Dragon Heart Wand

4 Stream of Flames

1 Halloween Feast

4 4 Privet Drive

4 Diffindo

4 Lost Notes

2 Picking On Neville

2 Lapifors

2 Transfiguration Test

1 Hannah Abbott

1 Trevor

2 Guard Dog

4 Mountain Troll

1 Black Dragon

1 Hedwig

 

In the first round, I played a kid (Matthew) with McGonagall. He looked scared to death at having to play an adult right away. He got so nervous that he forgot to use his characterís ability when I put down a Privet on him. I rolled him quite easily. Thankfully, he made it through the game without passing out.

 

Next up is one of the adults, Brian. He has McGonagall. He looks nervous too.He knows who I am. He was the one who came to ďourĒ WOTC store and went 6-0 to win that previous tourney. My brother says heís this storeís top gun. Brian wins the die roll and starts to play a deck that looks a lot like mine. The differences are that his deck is "lighter" and carries quite a few more creatures and less control type cards. He gets off to a fast start by playing low cost creatures. I try to kill them as quickly as I can, and also target his creature lessons to slow the rush.He errs in discarding his last creature lesson to play out a River Troll to keep the pressure on. I promptly Steam of Flames it and start to lay down fatties. He kills my Guard Dog, but a Mountain Troll soon shows up, followed by his twin brother. Brianís hands are visibly shaking now, but he holds it together, drawing into a Steelclaws that decks me the turn before my creatures would have decked him. That initial die roll in his favor ended up being crucial. Oh well.Itís only a preliminary round.

 

The third round features another adult, Dana. She has McGonagall. She plays first, getting out a Mrs. Norris. I look at the card in disbelief, furrowing my brow. She sees my perplexed expression and explains that it helps her to play knowing what her opponent has in his hand. So I lay down my hand, and she cringes a bit. She now knows what the freight train looks like that is going to run her over. One word of advice to anyone considering Norris: Donít. It doesnít really help you win, and if the other player has something they donít want you to see, itís easy to slaughter this one-health creature. Anyway, I stifled her development with lesson destruction, then lay down the fat, and win easily. She ends up in 6th place.

 

Next up is the other adult in the tourney, Ed. He has McGonagall too. Am I sounding like a broken record yet? This is the guy who winds up in 3rd place at the end. I finally win a die roll for once, and develop quickly. On turn three I put down a Dragon Heart Wand followed by a Mountain Troll. His eyes bug out at such a large creature hitting the table so fast. The troll then proceeds to hit him repeatedly, along with his brethren. He gets pummeled, as much of his removal is meant for smaller creatures.

 

In the 5th round, the curse of McGonagall finally ends. My young opponent (didnít catch the name) is playing the old Hermione. I win another die roll, get a Privet in my opening hand, and play it down on the first turn. The kid smiles and says that it wonít hurt him, since his deck is nothing but lessons and creatures. What? I never heard of such a kind of deck. It certainly looked unusual. He had too many lessons, and I had no problem killing his guys as fast as he played them. He couldnít do much about my guys, however.

 

In round six, I faced one of the older kids. Yeah! Heís not playing McGonagall either! Instead, he is running the old Draco. This was the longest game of the day for me. He wins the die roll and plays a first turn Troll In The Bathroom. I make a face and have McGonagall make it go away. Two turns later he follows up with In The Stands. Ack! Bad for me. To solve it, I need to discard four creatures, and my deck only contains 8 such cards. On the plus side, my deck does have four Diffindos. Also on the plus side, I get out a Privet Drive, which completely stuffs him. He eventually solves it, only to face another the very next turn. I have no problem killing his few creatures he gets out, so the game slides into a stall of drawing. At long last, I get down Hannah Abbott. I draw my 3rd creature the following turn, and then use her to get a 4th from the graveyard, and my Halloween Feast. I discard all four to solve the adventure and then cast the Feast to get them all back. I then proceed to steamroller him. A very long game, but I was never in danger.

 

On to the medal round! Itís a rematch with Dana. Do you know that look someone has when they know theyíre going to lose before you even start? She had it. I showed no mercy, clobbering her in the same breathless fashion as before.Next, I finally face a fellow family member, my brother Greg.He has a good deck, but he is not used to it and he drew poorly to boot. So I gave him Das Boot. He looked resigned to his fate around turn 6. Next up is Ed again. He looks determined to beat me. It doesnít matter. Itís a replay of our first game, as an early Dragon Heart Wand leads to a troll. The next turn there are twins. Can you say three?Trolls look better in threes.He croaks one with an Incarcifors, but I replace it with a Black Dragon. He gulps. Two turns later he is quite done. Sometimes this deck is really the hammer.

 

So now I get to face the top guy again, right? Wrong. They end the tourney right then and award Brian first place. They reasoned he was undefeated and had played me once. Iím disappointed in that decision, in that there is a 12 pack difference between first and second. However, it does keep going my streak of always finishing in second with one loss. Lets give a Bronx cheer for that, shall we?

 

Afterwards, I talk with Brian and we compare decks. He said that he received helpful advice from two POJO denizens: Snuffles and MadEye, and had worked on his deck via Apprentice. Here is his deck listing:

 

Professor McGonagall (starting character)

 

11 Creature Lessons

10 Charm Lessons

1 Lapifors

3 Lost Notes

4 Steelclaws

2 Picking On Neville

4 Borrowed Wand

2 Halloween Feast

4 Stream Of Flames

4 Boa Constrictor

4 Cunning Fox

4 Vicious Wolf

4 Doxy

1 River Troll

1 Scabbers

1 Black Dragon

 

This is a fine deck, although I donít believe the last three creatures belong for various reasons. As for our decks, some of the card choices were based on the limited extent of our collection. We also wanted the decks to be good but also very different from one another. Thanks to everyone who played in and helped run these events.We all had a great time and met a lot of cool folks.

 

Jeff Hodgkinson (Columbia, Maryland)