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“Looks can be deceiving”

Looks can be deceiving. Last night is an excellent case in point. 

I had built a couple of new decks last week. One was a Quidditch/Charms deck, the other was Transfiguration/Creatures. Both of them used some of my newer cards and I was eager to try them out. I’m not the deck building expert that some of the other folks around here are, of course. Just read Aardvark's latest article and you’ll see what I mean. But I think I’m starting to get the hang of choosing the right cards to make a decent deck. And I did have those newer cards that I wanted to put into action.

When I say newer cards, I’m not just talking about Adventures at Hogwarts or Chamber of Secrets cards. For me, newer cards are any cards that I just got, no matter what set they’re from. Lately, I’ve found older-series boosters for a buck each at KayBee in the mall, so my “newer cards” are from the Quidditch series. I finally got a hold of a “Nimbus 2000” and a “Slytherin Match,” for example. 

I have bought a few packs of the Adventures at Hogwarts series, too. That gave me “Fang,” which I really wanted to put into a deck, and little goodies like “Alohomora” and “Knut.” There are some really great cards in that series. (Okay, there are some weird ones too, and maybe one of these days I’ll write a column about them. “Weird Cards That I Just Don’t Know What The Heck To Do With,” or something like that.) But there are some really excellent cards, and I wanted to use them.

So like I said, I’d built these two new decks. The Quidditch/Charms deck used the yellow cards to do damage. Quidditch Spells build so nicely as you gain lesson power, and most of them have additional nastiness built in besides damage. Take “Ouch!” as an example. Not only do you do 5 damage, which is very respectable for a 5-power card, but you also force your opponent to discard a card from their hand. I love that. So this hand has “Ouch!”, “Bludger Bop,” “Fouled!”, and things like that, and also has a couple of “Spiral Dive”s and “Sloth Grip”s just to keep things interesting. 

The Charms cards are there to let you pull cards out of your deck and out of the discard pile. I put in “Start of Term Feast,” “Christmas Feast,” and a couple of “Alohomora”s. I also put a couple of matches in there, a “Bludger” (just one because I only have one), and a couple of brooms. I also included “Quidditch Pitch” and “Wand Shop.” “Hooch” is my starter. 

My other deck was built around four “Steel Claw”s. I love that card. I don’t ever put more than two spell types in a deck, so that meant that I had to have Transfiguration along with my Creatures. No problem, since I can start with “McGonagall” and only have Care of Magical Creatures Lessons. Very neat and easy to work with. 

I chose a nice selection of Creatures, including “Tawny Owl,” “Black Bat” (because I love doing instant damage like that!), “Guard Dog,” “Doxie,” “Mountain Troll,” “Norbert,” and of course “Fang.” All told, there are sixteen Creatures in the deck, at a wide range of power levels. 

I also included a couple of “Dog Bite”s and “Swarm”s to pack in a little extra damage. Besides “Steel Claw,” for Transfiguration I included “Scribblifors,” “Switching Spell,” and “Picking on Neville” to control the game a little bit. I’m a real fan of Items, especially with my favorite Potions deck, so any deck I build includes some Item control in it, since my decks always play each other.

Besides the starter, I tossed in my “Hagrid” card. I figured that since my focus was big bad Creatures, having “Hagrid” to boost their power would be a good thing. I also included a couple of Adventures: “Through the Arch” (because it’s just the best darn Adventure out there, as far as I’m concerned), and “Candy Cart,” because it’s…well, it’s just bizarre. 

Of course I included a Location too, and the only one that really fit was “Hagrid’s Hut.” What a great card that is for Creature decks! When you have to discard a Lesson or two to play a Creature, instead of losing those Lessons entirely you just put them back in your hand! (“Potions Dungeon” works like that too for those ever-disappearing Potions Lessons, and when I get my hands on that card, you know it’s going to be in my Potions deck.) So I definitely wanted “Hagrid’s Hut.”

Okay, those were my decks. Last night, my son and I tested them out. I thought they seemed pretty evenly matched. And like I said going in, looks can be deceiving.

We got off to a pretty good start. My son was playing the Quidditch deck and was a little unsure of the strategy. He used “Hooch” to pull out a “Comet 260” right off the bat, which made sense since the “Nimbus” would have had to sit in his hand for quite a while and the “Comet” could get into play almost immediately. But he hadn’t seen an “Alohomora” card before, and the “Knut” also gave him a pause. 

I worked on building up Lessons and surprisingly found myself with Creatures in my hand that I didn’t want to play. “Tawny Owl,” for example, isn’t much use until you’ve lost some cards into your discard pile. I also had a “Kelpie” in my hand, but since I was hoping to come out with bigger and nastier creatures soon, I chose to play Lessons and a book instead. Things were muddling along.

My son started hitting with Quidditch spells and I found myself losing cards here and there, but I was steadily building up my Lesson stash and before long I had a “Baby Dragon” out. Things were looking up. I wasn’t ready to fire off my “Steel Claw” with only one Creature out, so I saved it. He was a bit slow on the Lessons, but he had his “Comet” out to block a point of damage, so he wasn’t exactly ready to call it quits. That one point of damage saved each turn can really add up, if you think about it. But then I played “Hagrid.” I was starting to think I had him nailed.

He played an “Alohomora” card and wasn’t sure what to dig for. He decided on “Quidditch Pitch” and put it in play the next turn. My “Hagrid’s Hut” had fallen by the wayside, but I wasn’t overly concerned. After all, what’s a couple of points of damage when I was ready to play a “Mountain Troll.” 

I was starting to realize that I hadn’t put any Creature control in that Quidditch deck. And that’s when I started to feel sorry for him. Poor little guy. Creatures will just kill you, especially when they combine with “Hagrid” to do eleven damage every turn. I had him and he couldn’t do a thing about it. Clearly, I had built a deck that didn’t stand a chance against Creatures. He was going to lose bad.

That’s when he played his “Wand Shop.”

Even at that point, looks were deceiving me. His deck was severely depleted. I wasn’t even sure he could withstand one more turn with the damage my Creatures were going to do. My deck was fairly healthy yet—getting down there, sure, but not as far gone as his. I felt sorry for him, so much so that I almost didn’t play the “Through The Arch” Adventure that I had just drawn. But I did play it. His face fell. 

He couldn’t do anything. My Creatures destroyed him on my next turn. That’s when he explained. If I hadn’t played that Adventure, he would have slaughtered me. I hadn’t counted on that “Wand Shop.”

You see, his Lesson power had been at eight. He had had six Charms cards out, plus a Broom and “Madam Hooch.” But when that “Wand Shop” hit the table, those Charms Lessons had doubled. He then suddenly had a power of fourteen. FOURTEEN! And sure enough, he had a couple of “Midair Collision”s he’d been just waiting to play. I never saw it coming. He would have nailed me for twenty points of damage. Kaboom…

Looks can be deceiving. The only reason I got as far as I did against that deck was because it was his first time playing it and he hadn’t thought to “Alohomora” that “Wand Shop” into his hand earlier. Here I was, feeling sorry for him, when even with a few misplays, he was one turn away from utterly crushing me. 

My mid-game analysis of that Quidditch deck had been all wrong. No Creature control? True. But did it need it? I don’t think so. High-powered Quidditch cards are vicious things indeed, and the only thing that holds them at bay is the high cost in Lessons. “Wand Shop” made his hand deadly in one fell swoop.

Of course, a strategy based on a Location can be risky, since your opponent can always zap your Location with one if his own and throw your game plan out the window. But add a couple of “Alohomora” cards into the hand and make sure you’ve got three or four “Wand Shop”s and you’re going to be able to do just fine.

After all, it only takes one turn with your power level bumped up to fourteen and a handful of high level Quidditch cards to come out of nowhere and take the game. If you think about it, it’s kind of like catching the Snitch in a Quidditch match when you’re a hundred points down, winning when all seemed lost. Makes for a wonderfully exciting game!

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