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“Lookin' For Adventure”

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

Many people consider McGonagall to be the best starting card in the game. For one thing, she gives a Transfiguration power going in, but probably the biggest reason for her popularity is that she automatically discards the first Adventure played against her. It's hard to underestimate the power of that. In fact, it's so powerful that at one time people were starting to leave Adventures out of their decks because of her.

That was then; this is now. The Harry Potter Card Game is changing all the time as new series are released. Cards which were once considered broken-4 Privet Drive comes to mind-are now old hat, even unused, as new cards enter the mix. Way back when McGonagall was everyone's starter, Adventures were costly things. In effect, they cost four Actions to play. You spent two Actions getting one down on the table, only to see it sacrificed so that you could play another one later, spending ANOTHER two Actions.

But nowadays there are many excellent starters. Hooch provides Quidditch power (and a broom in your hand to boot!). Draco Malfoy Slytherin is the king of the Item decks. The new Sprout card, providing Care of Magical Creatures power and a boost to plant cards, offers some interesting possibilities. McGonagall is still a great starter, sure, but she's not going to be in every deck you meet.

And so Adventures are back.

As well they should be, since Adventures have the potential to be incredibly nasty. I'm sure all of us have found our games utterly frozen under the effect of a well-placed Adventure that we just couldn't solve. We've had to throw out a perfectly nice hand of cards or skip Actions for a few rounds to get rid of one. They're disruptive even if they're not ruining your whole game. Adventures have a way of diverting your attention away from your strategies and costing you cards and Actions until they're neutralized.

But all Adventures are not created equal. What should you look for in an Adventure? What makes one worth putting in your deck when another one that seems very similar is not? Here's a run-down of the attributes of Adventures with an idea of what to look for as you're building your decks.

First of all, each Adventure has an effect. These range from preventing or restricting the other player's choices to doing damage every turn, just like a Creature. The exact effect you want will depend on the strategy of your deck. If the effect is too specific, however, you may find that the Adventure isn't helpful in many situations. For example, Stoat Sandwiches only stops your opponent from playing Healing cards. Since there are Adventures which block ALL spell cards, not just Healing ones, why not use them instead? Another example of an Adventure which can be too specific is In The Stands, which stops your opponent from playing Creature cards. Many decks don't use Creatures, in which case this card would be of no help at all.

Secondly, each Adventure tells your opponent how to go about solving it. In some cases, they must take damage. I like these kind, although considering the fact that I used up two Actions to play the Adventure, I expect the amount of damage to be noticeable. The seven damage required to solve Voldemort Revealed, for example, can dig a nice little hole in anyone's deck. 4 Privet Drive removes six cards from the opponent's hand, which is also nice, especially if they didn't have six cards to start with and had to draw to get it. Candy Cart is a real winner when it comes to damage: ten cards discarded. Now that's not bad for two Actions.

Of course, you don't play an Adventure just for the hit your opponent takes to solve it. If all you are after is damage, there are better ways to spend two Actions getting it. The primary goal of an Adventure card is the effect. But that doesn't mean you want solving the Adventure to be too easy. An Adventure solved by your opponent discarding their hand can be exactly that: too easy.

Think about it. What is a hand, anyway? It's not a set number of cards. Sometimes it's a lot, sometimes it's a little. So unless the effect of an Adventure is so oppressive that your opponent has no choice but the solve it immediately, they'll just spend a turn or two playing whatever they can and not drawing anything extra, then tossing what's left. I've seen people continue play with a Hut On The Rock against them for several turns, each time discarding something more or less inconsequential, and playing spells and locations to empty their hand, then solve the Adventure by discarding only three cards. Big honking deal.

And what I really hated about that is that the reward nailed ME!

The last thing on an Adventure card is the Opponent's Reward, you see, and this is critical. If an Adventure ends up costing you cards, you'd better be dead sure it's worth it. Hut On The Rock, when solved by my opponent, is going to hit me for five cards. In the example from play I mentioned above, that five cards of damage actually hurt me more than him. And I spent two Actions playing it in the first place! Believe me, whenever I possibly can, I avoid cards with an Opponent's Reward aiming damage back at me. There are much better rewards to grant them. If instead they get to draw a couple of cards, that's just fine. Drawn cards whittle down a person's deck just as surely as damage does.

So does this mean a card like Hut on the Rock is unusable? No, not entirely. I do like the effect of forcing your opponent to discard a card from play every turn. Just make sure you play it smart. Wait until your opponent has built up quite a few cards in his hand before slapping it down, for one thing. And if you combine it with some other cards, it can really be interesting. If you precede it with a Dobby's Help, for example, you can stuff their hand, forcing them to discard more. If you happen to have a Draco's Trick handy, you can turn the damage back on them as well. Think about how much damage that triple combination could cause: ten from Dobby's Help, five from Draco's Trick, whatever they already had in their hands, and maybe a few they had to toss out from their cards in play. Not too shabby if you have the right cards in your hand and don't mind spending four Actions on it. Would you build your hand around it? Not likely. And once you take away the helper cards, Hut On The Rock isn't all that great.

What are the truly great or interesting Adventures? Check out this list of some of my favorites:

4 Privet Drive
This is an excellent, all-purpose Adventure from the Basic set. Let's face it: having to discard six cards from your hand is tough. You are going to be tossing cards you really don't want to lose, there's no doubt about it. It's not like you can't play anything while you're under the crunch of this card, of course, but you just can't ignore 4 Privet Drive for long. Some people have switched to other Spell-blocking Adventures like Through the Arch, but I still like to use the good old 4 Privet Drive in my decks.

Meet the Centaurs
This is a weird one, and I only recommend it if you can play it with a Draco's Trick. The result is that your poor opponent plays the entire rest of the game with their hand face up.

Unusual Pets
I really like this one, although yes, it is Creature specific. Actually, Unusual Pets functions as a Creature itself, doing a very impressive 4 damage at the start of each of your turns. Your opponent just can't ignore something like that, but they'll have to discard two of their Creatures to make it go away. Play it when they only have one Creature out and they'll have to waste an action playing a Creature just to discard it. I know, I know, I said that Adventures which target only one type of card aren't very good. But since I seem to face Creatures decks a lot, I feel pretty safe putting this one in.

Diagon Alley
This is another one they'll have to solve before too long, and to do so they'll need to skip Actions. Never underestimate the advantage you can get from your opponent skipping Actions. The reward, drawing any number of additional cards, has almost the same effect as damage, depleting their deck.

Candy Cart
Oh, I do hate this one. I put two of them in a deck that my son really likes to play, and I have been whupped upside the head with it any number of times. I usually don't mind the first or second draw-three-dump-three deal, since I can improve my hand a little. But very quickly I'm losing more than I'm gaining and I have no choice but to pay the ten cards to solve it. Candy Cart is a nasty, foul card. I wish I had more of them…

There are so many more Adventures. By all means check out the Card of the Day listings to read about them. You can learn a LOT from the Card of the Day pages. And of course, there are also cards besides McGonagall which help you deal with Adventures. We'll take a look at some of them next time.

Steve Vander Ark
The Harry Potter Lexicon

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