Hello, everyone. Iím Jeff Hodgkinson, AKA the Pojo card-of-the-day reviewer known as Aardvark.† Yeah, Iím the one whoís always passing out the lowest ratings. Although giving you all my opinions on which cards are worth playing should be a help to you in playing the game, it leaves out an important process Ė just how do you go about building a deck? Well, boys and girls, pull up a chair. Iím going to show you.
Iíll explain the deck concept, show you how I worked out my first build, talk a little about how it played in actual games, and show you the tuning I did to the deck to try to cover up its weaknesses and highlight its strengths. In its current state, the deck is a little rough around the edges. With the start of the new soccer season, my attention has shifted to that, cutting back on my time to fine-tune this. But Iíll talk enough about the deck that you should get a good idea of how it works and where to go with it, if you want to.
Now, this is not a tier Ėone deck.† Such decks come only in four types, in my opinion: creature decks with splashes of blue and red, Potion Class Disaster decks, red-based lesson denial decks, and blue/yellow spell decks. Iíve done them all. Theyíre all quite good. But the local denizens were getting annoyed with these lethal and boring deck types. They wanted me to back off on the power a bit, so that they could at least have a chance at winning every now and then. Fair enough.
First, I tried to be different by making a green/blue items deck, led by Draco. This turned out to be way stronger than I would have guessed, and the locals werenít amused. OK. I have to come up with an idea that is much more aberrant. Fortunately, my card review ďjobĒ provided the idea. One of the cards we were asked to review was a neat location named Forbidden Corridor. As I sat down to write my review, I kept coming up with interesting ideas that interacted with it. This was a cool card! One card that combos well with it is one of my all time favorite Harry Potter cards Ė Hannah Abbott. I can only recall seeing her played against me twice in my entire HP career (not counting decks that I designed). Sheís a fixture in my decks, however. She has the one-time-only ability to trade any two cards in my hand for any two non-healing cards in my discard pile. But her uniqueness restriction meant that I always had to confine myself to putting just one of her in my decks. Thatís just not enough for someone who has a Hannah fixation like I do. My sons will tell you that I can be quite nauseating talking about how great she is. It must be the pigtails.
My review mentions the ďcore cardsĒ for my deck idea. Ron Weasley is the starter, and the deck presumably carries four copies each of Hannah, Forbidden Corridor, Lost Notes, Picking on Neville, Griphook, and Professor Quirrell.† So how does this deck work? Ron allows me to play character cards for half price. That is, one action, instead of two. This deck will be jam-packed with characters, many of which are unique. Usually, this means you shouldnít put more than one or two of any particular character in your deck. However, Forbidden Corridor will help us weasel (thanks, Ron) out of that. It requires each player to discard a card of his or hers in play at the beginning of his or her turn.† Now we can get rid of our unique characters so that we can play more of them. But why would we want to get rid of our characters? Well, because many of the best ones are one-use characters. You play them, you use them, but then they stay in play, blocking you from playing more of them. How frustrating! But now, with the Corridor out, we can use our precious Hannah (getting her ďsisterĒ out of the discard pile, and one other card), wave her a fond farewell at the start of our next turn, and then play her sister and use that one to get the original back. The other action in our turn will usually be devoted to playing that ďotherĒ card we grabbed when we last used Hannah. Got it?
The Forbidden Corridor not only helps us get rid of our own unwanted characters, it also stymies our opponent, as they are forced to discard cards in play. They are left with the unenviable choice of discarding a threat card or a development card, such as a lesson. If they choose to discard the latter, their development will stall, as they will inevitably draw cards they can no longer play, due to lack of lessons. Thus their hand will fill up, allowing us to kill them with another core card in our deck Ė Griphook. He makes a player discard their hand and draw that many cards. Heís one of only two characters that can be used to kill an opponent. The other one, Crabbe&Goyle, doesnít fit well into the deck concept. But Grippy fits great, and heís a goblin, so heís fun.
The Forbidden Corridor goes away if either player has no lessons at the end of their turn. Hopefully, if youíve reduced your opponent to no lessons, it will take them time to recover. After being cleared out, they usually spend the next turn playing two lessons. Thatís a good time for you to lay down another Corridor. You want to keep your opponent clamped down tight, and your deck works best when the Corridor is sweeping away your used characters, so donít be merciful. Savvy players will note that the deck is going to need some card drawing mechanism that doesnít require actions. Otherwise, youíll draw one card a turn and play two until you run out. The other thing to note about the core concept is that your Corridor can only get rid of one character a turn, and often youíd like to have more than that go away. Frequently, your opponent will be surprised by this deck and not know how to play against it. They could easily make a mistake like playing Picking on Neville against you. If they are so foolish as to do this, discard two used characters instead of whatever it was they were targeting. Make sure you thank them sweetly for their assistance. Theyíll probably only make that mistake once.
Most decks feature predominance of creatures, spells, and to a lesser extent, items. The core of this deck features one location and a bunch of characters. Thatís strange. Many decks arenít going to be well prepared to face this. Also, many players will get flustered and make mistakes, not knowing how to stop you. Youíll need all the help you can get, as youíre going to have trouble staying alive long enough to get the win. Professor Quirrell is your main man for disrupting your opponent. He bounces back all creatures and items to their ownerís hand. We wonít have any creatures, and weíll try to keep the number of items to a minimum, so this will hopefully hurt them much more than us. Do you see the synergy with Griphook? You bounce with Quirrell, and then follow with Griphook. Ouch.
Weíll probably need some search cards to get the elements of our combo, meaning the deck will have blue in it. Forbidden Corridor is red, so we need that color too. Our starter, Ron Weasley, doesnít provide us with a color, so the deckís consistency will be a concern. We might be able to add a third color, but four is definitely pressing our luck. If we are concerned that Griphook canít get the job done by himself, we could supplement him with adventure damage, or use such cards to assist in filling up our opponentís hand. Weíll also need supplemental control. Picking on Neville is an obvious choice. We could also assist the lesson denial of the Corridor with cards like Lost Notes.† Another possibility is to come up with alternative cards for dumping our used characters if we have problems getting Forbidden Corridor out. Those are the things we will be looking for when we make a first pass of candidate cards for our deck.
Before I get to that step, let me back up a bit. How did I come up with the idea for this deck to begin with? Well, as I said, in this case it came from thinking about a single card and what would work in combination with it. A favorite ploy of mine is to try to turn a cardís weakness into a strength. Forbidden Corridor has the weakness of forcing you to discard cards along with your opponent. After thinking about it, I came up with a way of turning that drawback into an advantage. Now, if you are having trouble coming up with ideas of your own, you can always start reading the Pojo card reviews or visit one of our chat boards.† This particular deck idea leans heavily on rare cards. All characters are rare cards. But there are some deck ideas that are quite interesting that are based primarily on commons and uncommons. But not this one. If you want to try out this idea without first spending a lot of money, I suggest you participate in the Harry Potter Apprentice league, which you can find on Pojoís website. That on-line game will allow you to make your deck from any Harry Potter card in the game. If you like how it plays, you can then try to trade for and buy the cards that compose a deck like this.
We are now ready to make up a list of candidate cards for our deck. For doing this, Iíve printed out a spoiler list of every set in the Harry Potter game. These spoilers can be found off of Pojoís website (arenít we helpful?). My own personal experience is that it is easier to work off of spoiler sheets rather than looking through the actual cards. To speed the process along, we wonít look at creatures or locations. You can only have one location in play at a time, and our deck is committed to using the Corridor. We want to place extra emphasis on characters, as our starter letís us play them for half cost. When composing your candidate list, itís best not to be too judgmental early. Instead, try to be inclusive and then weed out on your second pass. Donít be surprised if you leave off a card the first time around that becomes more obvious when youíre in the tuning stage. That happens. So here we go.
Hannah, Forbidden Corridor, Ron Weasley, Griphook, Quirrell, Lost Notes, Pick-Neville
Photo Album (An item, which is bad)
The Famous Harry Potter (Only works if you have 4 or less cards in hand)
Help get rid of our characters:
Vanishing Referee (Cheap, being only 4 lessons, but forces us into yellow)
Dumbledoreís Watch (Expensive, at 9 lessons, but intriguing)
Mid-Air Collision (10 lessons and yellow, but also an alternate win condition)
Good Nightís Sleep (10 lessons. Bleah. Not promising.)
Chocolate Frogs (Cheap, but only gets wizards and witches, not all characters)
Alohomora (4 lessons, gets locations or adventures)
Gringottís Vault Key (6 lessons, and gets everything)
The Fat Lady (Iím really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one)
Through the Arch (No spells for you!)
Diagon Alley (Try to sucker them into drawing a lot of cards)
Pep Talk (Forces them to draw with an action. Reward: more drawing. But solving easy)
Hagrid Needs Help (Cuts their actions, and reward is draws. Solve is an alternate win)
Riding the Centaur (Stops creature damage. Bounces creatures. Reward is a draw)
Borrowed Wand (An item, but we donít want to wait to get to 6 lessons)
Comet 260 (An item that needs yellow, but provides a lesson and damage prevention)
Fouled (Cheap, but yellow. Slows them down and is alternate win condition)
Stream of Flames (Kill them critters and poke them in the eye)
Mice to Snuffleboxes (Bounce critters so Griphook can get them)
Spiral Dive (Yellow. Alternate win condition)
Sloth Grip (Yellow. Stall)
Jawbind Potion (Green. Slows them down and is alternate win condition)
Scribblifors (7 lessons, but bounces one thing and discards another)
Diffindo (8 lessons. Scribblifors seems to be a better fit)
Other character help:
McGonagall (A lesson with an adventure zapper attached)
Hooch (Can get a broom for quick lesson acceleration)
Flitwick (If desperate, I can get a search card)
Snape (A 7 point heal. This is worth it, even if I donít play green)
Pomfrey (A really big heal. A no-brainer)
Argus Filch (To dispose of annoying adventures. Frogs canít get him though)
Hermione (Not promising)
Hermione, Top Student (If we are short one or two colors, this gets them)
Fred and George (I donít have time to spend two actions to play an adventure)
Peeves (Technically, also a card drawer)
Hagrid (Bleah II)
Oliver Wood (Bleah III)
Thatís a fair number of choices! As for me, I would prefer to play a deck without resorting to proxies, so some of my choices will be limited by my card collection. I also promised the local crowd that my next deck would be substantially different from past ones. That means I canít dip too deeply into the lesson denial, as Iíve overused that before. So my first design decision is to stray away from lesson denial (other than the Forbidden Corridor), which means the deck will not contain Lost Notes. Much of the deck should be composed of characters, which have no lesson requirements. The most ďexpensiveĒ core card is Forbidden Corridor, which needs 6 lessons to get out. Iíd like to try to keep it that way, just in case my opponent is running a lesson denial deck. So my initial design will be limited to cards costing 6 or less.
All of my candidate adventures are great against specific deck types. Which one is best will depend a lot on whom I play. Unfortunately, I canít predict that. The best all-around card of the bunch, however, is Through the Arch. So Iím going to start with that, so I have something to stop spells. This deck is capable of keeping a Through the Arch active on the table, once I have all my set-up cards in play. To avoid paying two actions for those adventures, Iím going to need Fred&George. Pomfrey, Filch, and McGonagall all go in. They are no-brainers. For my 3rd color, yellow looks more promising at the moment, as I can add Hooch, Comet 260, Vanishing Referee, and perhaps Fouled. I put in Borrowed Wand to speed up the deck. Picking on Neville will provide spot removal of annoying cards. I donít like waiting until Iím down to just four cards to get draws, so Iíll choose Photo Album over Famous Harry. I have several choices on search cards. Iíll take a little of everything at first and see how it goes.
Thatís my plan. Hereís my first build:
4 Forbidden Corridor
4 Through the Arch
4 Picking on Neville
3 Borrowed Wand
2 Vanishing Referee
2 Photo Album
2 Chocolate Frogs
1 Gringottís Vault Key
1 Comet 260
Wow. This looks bad, doesnít it? Oh well, the locals should be happy. As I play games, Iím going to look for cards that I draw that Iím unhappy with, so I can see what elements of this design are most in need of replacement. So I come to Harry Potter league and play this deck for several hours. I win every game against players whose last name is not Hodgkinson. I donít fare nearly as well against my fellow family members, who are playing stronger decks. In one game, I face an old Draco, a horrible match up for me. It should be an auto-loss, as he can discard to keep his hand size down, and pick off my
Hannahs in hand to disrupt my cycling. But he doesnít figure this out. I make numerous observations about the deck design:
1) I need more search cards Ė add one
2) I have trouble getting my splash color to appear in the early game
3) Vanishing Referee just isnít working Ė drop them
4) My items are getting in the way of my Quirrells Ė try to lessen the item presence
5) I need more card drawing Ė add one
6) Griphook is only needed late, when everything is in place, so I donít need 4
7) Through the Arch is a major disappointment Ė try another adventure
8) I wish I had more healing
As Iím tossing the only yellow card in the deck, Iím free to try another color. Since Iím not happy with my spell defense card, Through the Arch, it makes sense to switch to green as my 3rd color, to gain access to Jawbind. Recursive Jawbinds become a (painfully slow) alternate win method against creatureless decks. Iíll try Pep Talk as my adventure of choice to try to fill up my opponentís hand faster. The Hooch gets replaced by Snape, which gives me more healing. The Comet 260 leaves for a lesson, cutting down on items. To aid getting whatever color lesson I need at the moment, Iíll try Hermione, Top Student. She replaces a Borrowed Wand, dropping the number of items in the deck again. But I have to add a Photo Album to increase my card drawing, so the number of items in the deck only declines by one. Iíll remove one adventure to make room for it.† That is what I would try during league play the following week. Or so I thought. At the last minute, I decide Iím not being experimental enough. I drop one Charms lesson for a Flitwick, and drop two Photo Albums for a Peeves and a Famous Harry Potter. This way, I can try out the other card drawing alternatives and reduce my reliance on items. So the real Version II becomes:
4 Forbidden Corridor
3 Pep Talk
4 Picking on Neville
2 Borrowed Wand
1 Photo Album
3 Chocolate Frogs
1 Gringottís Vault Key
1 Hermione, Top Student
1 The Famous Harry Potter
Once again, this deck beat all non-Hodgkinson competition. It clearly performed better, indicating that my changes were on the right track. In one game, I was able to crush a creatureless deck through recursive Jawbinds. That was fun. I wasnít thrilled to draw Peeves in any of my games, but the experiment in choosing The Famous Harry was a big success. I had earlier worried about only having a hand size of 4 or less, but it turned out that this wasnít really a problem. I had the bad luck to run into several Hermione decks, and was unable to keep them under control, but somehow eked out the win anyway. I played many games against my brother, who had a blue/yellow spell deck. I wanted to see how the deck fared against someone who was familiar with it. Gregís deck featured Wand Shop, Nimbus 2000, and Phoenix Feather Wand, amongst other things. Through Wand Shop, he kept managing to get out a wand and broom against me. He would discard his lessons to make my Forbidden Corridor go away, and still have enough learning on hand via the broom and wand to hit me with spells at all times. I decided that I needed a spot removal card to eliminate this problem. The obvious choice, Scribblifors, is more expensive than any other card in the deck, at seven lessons. The element of the deck that just wasnít working was the adventure portion. It was too clunky. I didnít want to spend two actions to get out an adventure, and my opponent usually put enough pressure on me that I didnít have time to use a Chocolate Frogs to get Fred&George first.
So I dumped the three Pep Talks and Fred&George, to make room for two Scribblifors, a lesson, and a 3rd Jawbind. Famous Harry replaces Peeves. I gave serious thought about taking out my one Photo Album for a 3rd Harry Potter, but left it in, just in case I faced a deck led by Harry Potter. Version III of the deck thus became:
4 Forbidden Corridor
4 Picking on Neville
3 Chocolate Frogs
2 Famous Harry
2 Borrowed Wand
1 Photo Album
1 Gringottís Vault Key
1 Hermione, Top Student
I played this deck the following week, and again it did better. Amusingly, I ran into another Ron Weasley deck, although it was very different than mine. Scribblifors was a nice addition. Iím still having trouble getting a Corridor when I want one, which is probably an indication that I need one more Key. Iím also continuing to have problems with Quirrell bouncing my items, even though only three are in the deck. I am convinced that the last Photo Album must go. Given that both Frogs and Keys can get Harry, it makes sense to swap the Album for the Key. Iím going to try to replace the two Borrowed Wands with lessons. Iíll need to watch to see if this slows down my development to an unacceptable level. Iím very tempted to find a way to make room for a second Pomfrey. There have been quite a few games against strong decks that I was able to stabilize the board and lock down my opponent, but I ran out of time before I could finish them. Given the nature of this deck, it isnít a concern to draw two Pomfreys.† But this deck is getting very tight. To put her in, Iíd have to take something else out, and nothing leaps to mind as being easy to sacrifice.
In looking at the current product, Iím rather disappointed with the reliance on spells. I had hoped I would develop a deck that was resistant to adventure attacks that tried to shut down spells. I found it was problematical that each of my candidate adventures were only effective against relatively narrow deck types. I pondered for a while the possibility of including one of each of several types of adventure, and an Alohomora or two to get the card that fit the best. But there simply wasnít enough space in the deck to do this, without the whole thing becoming inconsistent. On the other hand, this deck concept competed better than I expected, defeating most weak decks, and gaining a fair number of wins against the strong ones as well, even when my opponent knew my deck and how to beat it. This deck is very subtle, and thus complicated to play. You have to keep in mind little things. For example, when healing, always keep one copy of Hannah, Quirrell, and Jawbind in the discard pile. You have to know which character you should get when you draw an early Frogs, and the right one varies each game. If you are worried about discard attacks, keep your opponent under Jawbind, and make sure you always have Griphook out so they canít play one.
For anyone trying to extend this concept, I suggest a look at supplementing the lesson destruction sub theme. A heavier variant that tries to use Mid Air Collision as the kill card also appears promising.† Another path Iíd like to travel is including Dumbledore's Watch. My instinct tells me that ultimately such a path would morph the concept into a Watch deck, and not a Corridor deck. But you canít tell unless you try, so good luck with it.