Deck Building - Back to the Basics
by Steve Vander Ark
The Harry Potter Lexicon
Okay, I had to admit it. I was losing. A lot. Mostly to my ten-year-old
son. The more I fiddled with my decks--adding this and that, trying to
get the most powerful stuff I could find included somehow--the more of a
mess I had. And I wasn't winning. That's when I started thinking it
through and I realized that I was spending way too much time with a hand
full of cards I couldn't use because I didn't have enough lessons. I was
pinning all my hopes on things like Midair Collisions and Bulgeye
Potions and losing far too many games. I ended up wasting actions by
drawing cards (which is really just the same as damage!) while I waited
for the chance to make the Really Big Play. 
So I decided to make a deck where that would almost never happen. I
figure that if I could do some damage with just about every action, I
would have a pretty good chance of winning. I created a deck has no
cards that require more than four lessons to play--that's the key. I
chose Flitwick for the starting character so I automatically had a
Charms lesson going in. Then with just one or two more lessons on the
table, I was in business. I have played this deck against every other
deck I have and won every single time except once, sometimes with barely
a speck of damage to myself. Here it is:
Creature/Charms Low and Fast Deck
Starting character: Flitwick
14 Care of Magical Creatures
Charms spells:
3 Wingardium Leviosa
2 Flipendo
1 Baubillious
4 Magical Mishap
2 Freeze
4 Toe Biter
4 Rope Bind
4 Vermillious
Care of Magical Creatures spells:
1 Fluffy Falls Asleep
4 Surly Hound
3 Boa Constrictor
2 Curious Raven
2 Forest Troll
1 Trevor
1 Norbert
1 Scottish Stag
1 Screech Owl
1 Streeler
1 Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them
1 Standard Book of Spells
1 Borrowed Wand
2 Unusual Pets
The books allow me to pull three cards if I need to, which can be
helpful sometimes. I could adjust a few things here and there, like add
another Boa Constrictor, but funky creatures like Streeler are just fun
to play, and this game is supposed to be fun, after all. My first
go-around, I included Hagrid and the Stranger cards, but they aren't
really necessary, since I always seem to have a few more creatures in my
hand, so why waste a spell pulling the ones that get discarded. I'd
rather cause some more damage. At one time I had a couple of Accios as
well, since 14 lessons is very low, but I never really had any trouble
getting lessons out, since I only needed three to do anything my hand
would have in it (with Flitwick covering the fourth). It's not hard to
get three of them down, and I usually have more like five or six through
the whole game, when you consider the wand and a book or two.
This deck is great fun to play! By the time the other guy is defeated, I
typically have four or five creatures in play and a handful of stuff I
just didn't have time to use! And with the exception of waiting to play
a Troll or Norbert for the first couple of rounds, I just never have to
stare at a card in my hand that I wish I could play. Instead, I end up
choosing from multiple options at my disposal for each action!
Once I had built this deck, I was surprised at how easily it defeated
some of my other decks, the decks I had thought so powerful. So I built
ANOTHER one, also with a 4-power maximum, but this time tried to do it
with Charms/Creatures and POTIONS. Now that was a challenge, since
Potions so often need enough lessons to discard for the spell to take
effect. I couldn't do with only 14 lessons in that one, but I did put a
deck together. My son and I play-tested the two against each other and
each time it was almost a tie. That potions deck is also a lot of fun to
play, but it requires a bit more strategy to play effectively, since
Potions lessons bleed away quite quickly sometimes. If there were ever a
hand that needed a Potions Dungeon card, this is it, but I don't have
one (yet). 
This type of deck isn't the ultimate killer deck by any means, although
it will win a lot more than you might expect from it's lowly pedigree.
Against "stronger" decks, even ones with three Bulgeye Potions or
massive Quidditch power in them, the "low and fast" decks fare extremely
well. However, the real value of building a deck like this, card by
card, is what you learn along the way: balance. That's what was missing
from my previous decks, and what's missing from a lot of people's decks.
All those high-powered cards are pretty darned exciting. I know, I have
a very nice collection of them. There sit my Moonseeds and my Bulgeyes,
my Winged Keys and my Midair Collisions, and there's more to come. I
don't even own any of those particularly nasty cards from the Adventures
at Hogwarts set, but I will, you just wait. What about them? Well, it's
just about time to start pulling them in. But slowly. I've learned a
thing or two about deck building now, and I know better than to just
toss those into the mix without careful thought. I'm going to take my
time and start adding slightly stronger cards, one by one, and watching
how the balance changes.
And I'm not even done with creating my lower level decks. I just
finished a "low and fast" transfiguration-creatures deck (maximum power
needed of five on this one) and there are more possibilities still to
come. I'm going to pool my low-power cards and see what other
interesting things can be accomplished this way. What can I do with
lower-level Quidditch cards? What items will give me the most punch for
limited lessons? How can I get lessons back most effectively for
Potions? What characters will be the most helpful for a "low and fast"
deck? How do you defend against some of the nastier adventures out there?
Good questions. I think I'll break out my spoiler lists and spread my
cards out on the kitchen table and see what I can come up with. It's an
excellent way to really understand how deck building works: taking it
slow and building a "low and fast" deck, step by step.
Deck Building - Back to the Basics
by Steve Vander Ark
The Harry Potter Lexicon