It has been a while since we talked about the HPtcg. That isn’t to say it has been forgotten Wife and I still play it pretty regularly although recently our efforts have been focused on WoW and Lightseekers (more about that at another time). What better way to jump back in than getting a little mean and nasty with the buffoonish bullies from Hogwarts? Let’s dive into the list:
The Goon Squad
Professor Severus Snape
14 Care of Magical Creatures
2 Potions Test
4 Rope Bind
4 Bewitched Snowballs
4 Bundimun Ooze
4 Slytherin Serpent
4 Slytherin Common Room
4 Draco Malfoy
3 Marcus Flint
4 Guide to Household Pests
The deck has gone through several iterations in its short lifespan already. Since many readers are probably looking at it wondering what this pile of junk is supposed to do, allow me to illuminate the matter.
The Origin Story
Every good villain has a good origin story right? Well the major ones anyway, the lesser ones are just sometimes your average run-of-the-mill jerks. I’ve mentioned (many times) that when it comes to card games I love theme and when I floated the idea to wife about centering a deck on the bad guys from Harry Potter she got super excited. That led me to trying to find a home for all the jerks that pop up in the beloved series and here it is.
Conspicuously absent are Crabbe and Goyle. Believe me, I made every effort to try and include them. During the brainstorming phase they featured prominently, but that’s mostly because I was incorrectly remembering the card. In my head they had a much less severe cost for activation and I had all these delusions of grandeur which came tumbling down rather quickly once I reread the card. Since then they have sat on the sideline. Still, they are somewhere on the periphery waiting for a chance to get into the big show. Aside from missing out on those 2, the deck features every Slytherin card available to help power up the B tier bad guy HQ that is Slytherin Common Room
Slytherin Common Room
5 cost Potions Location
Before each player’s turn, he or she counts the number of Slytherin cards he or she has in play and does that much damage to his or her opponent.
The deck coalesced really out of 2 concepts. The goons aspect has already been touched on, just include as many of them as you can. The second was more abstract. I have been looking for sturdier win conditions than creatures. At present the last 2 Gencon events have been won by decks featuring Care of Magical Creatures. It only makes sense since those cards are recurring threats. As such I anticipate that there will be an evolution towards more removal centric decks, therefore to try and stay one step ahead I wanted to avoid leaning on creatures as the closer for any decks I built if at all possible.
That’s easier said than done, but enter the common room.
Location Location Location
This card type holds a unique place. It is simultaneously difficult and trivial to remove. Sure there are transfiguration cards such as Picking on Neville that can be multipurpose and pick off a location here or there, but they can be a deeply rooted thorn if you are ill-prepared to address them. On the flip side if you sport locations yourself it is as simple as plopping one on the table to ruin your opponent’s best laid plans. Overall though they often enable or assist a finisher rather than being one themselves. In this particular case the common room will close out a game itself if afforded the time.
That damage doesn’t come for free though, being a goon is apparently tougher than it looks. Starting with Snape allows the common room to immediately start ticking for 2 a turn but that isn’t really all that impressive. However when you add in the perennial nuisance that is Draco Malfoy and maybe some leaders of the green quidditch team it starts to add up. The original incarnations of this list as mentioned featured the dream being some number of Slytherin Serpents in play alongside 4 Slytherin characters to allow for a sizable amount of damage output each turn. Since Crab and Goyle got their detention slips, the troublemaking duties fall squarely on the shoulders of Draco and Marcus. These two rise to the occasion though since they can make life exceptionally difficult for your opponent.
Naturally the bad guys love taking away or breaking other people’s toys and both of these characters specialize in doing just that. Since your end game involves slowly draining your opponent’s deck away via common room triggers, you have to ensure that your opponent doesn’t spoil the fun. Draco actually provides a decent outlet as well for extraneous copies of cards. Characters generally don’t get removed so it is almost always safe to pitch extra copies of him, and obviously additional copies of Marcus that you happen to draw. From there you are free to shred your opponent’s hand of anything of value. All the while the common room’s venom slowly works its own magic. Like I said, I love theme.
Lights, Camera, Action
If you take a step back all those conditions are a big ask though. Characters require 2 actions to play, Draco forces you into assigning actions to him (he seems to always find a way to get something for himself), and the common room isn’t exactly a lightning quick closer so your opponent will have time to collect themselves if you let them. That’s where the Unicorns come in.
6 cost creature 6 health
To play this card, discard 1 of your [CoMC] Lessons from play. You get 1 more Action of each of your turns (including the turn you play Unicorn).
These magical beasts are something I try to squeeze into almost every deck. Having 3 actions per turn can feel like you are cheating which also seems to fit the general ethos of the goon squad. It can be clunky at times but you are going to have a FeelsGoodMan moment when you can play and activate Draco in the same turn, especially if you time it so your opponent was setting something up and you just ruin everything.
I can neither confirm nor deny whether that has happened. Multiple Times.
Speaking of ruining things, let’s talk about the spells for a moment. Creatures are everywhere, infesting everything at the moment. As such I felt that charms gave this deck the best chance. I had explored transfiguration but given the issue with constricted actions I felt that since charms had a lot of cards with the line “draw a card” it was the best way to go. At worst you can always aim those ropes and snowballs at your opponent’s face which is something Dobby’s Disappearance and Picking on Neville cannot do. The relatively cheap costs on the charms cards also let’s you keep things under control with minimal effort since the deck will struggle to play from behind. There aren’t super flashy plays that will allow you to recover from a huge deficit. I’m going to lump Guide to Household Pests in here, sure its an item, sure it can be considered a less, but the real purpose is to address all the little critters that run amok. Rounding out the removal suite is Bundimun Ooze which is one of my favorite cards. Your opponent can of course play around it, but every once in a while you’ll catch them for a ton of damage. I’d love to include some other way to remove items so you’re popping say Norbert and not a random book, but the deck is still a work in progress. At this point the emphasis on the early removal is necessary since there is such a perveance of aggressive creatures. They have to be expected or they will chew your face off.
Those needed slots may come from Potions Test though. This is one of the few ways you can try to recover if you fall behind. Granted it requires a whole lot of luck, but hey sometimes it happens! Personally, I am not a fan of the card but really I wanted to sleeve it up and see exactly how well it performed. So far it has been a deafening meh so it probably isn’t going to keep its spot much longer.
I Would Have Gotten Away With It Too…
Really the deck is still kind of a molten, misshapen, rock waiting to be molded into a masterpiece. There’s still work to be done but it is fun at the moment. Overall it feels close to something special but isn’t quite there just yet. There are times where you’ll feel unstoppable as you just demolish your opponent’s hand through discard and then ride your house’s gathering area to victory. There are others where you’ll fall behind and can’t claw back in. A delicate balance surrounds the sequencing and interweaving of threats and disruption. Since this deck is not very bursty you really need to ensure you can get your threats online quickly. However the counterpoint is that your primary win condition is simultaneously your weakest link. There are a ton of viable locations so you have to assume that your opponent is going to remove yours at some point. Your discard suite will certainly help with averting this disastrous scenario but sometimes the other person just topdecks and you’re stuck picking up the pieces. More testing will certainly help this build, but that’s all for now. Let us know what you think and check back in for more Random(‘s) Thoughts.