In Harry Potter, all of the magic-user-to-magic-user combat is split up into single combat, like here:

Duels between one person and more than one opponent exist, such as Granger, Lovegood, and Weasley vs. Lestrange, but all three students focus on firing their own attacks at Lestrange and not cooperating in their attack or defense. One of them could use the Shield Charm (probably Granger, because she is the strongest), while the others focused on attacking Lestrange.

Another example of the possibility of the usage of group tactics is this: What if, in the Battle of Hogwarts, the Death Eaters were to have some of their number distract the main body of defenders, while the rest focus their Avada Kedavra fire on one person, making it impossible for them to dodge for too long and killing them (relatively quickly). After an enemy combatant was killed, then the main force would move on to the next, until the enemy force was destroyed.

Even simple tactics, like volley-firing spells at a group of enemies could stun, incapacitate, or even kill (in the case of Avada Kedavra) large parts of the enemy force, giving the attackers an advantage in the combat and possibly securing a victory over a larger force.

Is there some sort of stigma against small-unit tactics in wizarding duels? If not, then why has no one thought of them or used them? I believe it would give a great advantage to those who used said tactics, much like the Romans prioritized fighting as one unit, while the barbarian enemies they faced liked to duel one-on-one, and history tells that those who fought as a unit destroyed their opponents.

  • 1
    Why did you post the same video twice?
    – CHEESE
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:55
  • 2
    Your second video is a mash-up of crappy clips from all over the place. A better example would be Harry and Sirius fighting side-by-side. Also, they had cooperation in the Battle of Seven Potters Jan 31, 2017 at 17:03
  • 12
    Because wizards are not rational. They are used to accomplish aims using magic, not using tactics.
    – Oriol
    Feb 1, 2017 at 7:31
  • 4
    If you want to look at a rational version of Harry Potter Check out hpmor.com It's well worth the read even if for a fanfic it is bloody long.
    – DRF
    Feb 1, 2017 at 10:53
  • 7
    Also of note I think is that hpmor gives a sort of reverse reason why J.K. Rowling didn't have her characters act rationally. Since if they did most of the books couldn't exist. In other words if you want the books she wrote or ones fairly similar you can't have the characters act rationally.
    – DRF
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:25

7 Answers 7


For the most part they are not trained fighters.

Most are students, teachers or parents.

The Death Eaters don't seem to be organised that way either, they seem to be individuals with their own objectives & ways of dealing with things. They never struck me as team players, more likely to stab you in the back than defend it.

The only group that might have some kind of training in that respect are the Aurors given their job is to deal with dark magic users.

Given enough time Dumbledore's army may have eventually come up with some tactics similar to you describe, but in the relatively short period of time they had they only really had a chance to learn useful spells, not how to use them in groups to complement each other.

  • 23
    @cheese but tactics might exist in the wider world, the window we have in this world shows people that are not very likely to be trained in the use of these tactics. Jan 31, 2017 at 17:03
  • 16
    Or maybe J.K. Rowling just didn't think it through that deeply.
    – kingsfoil
    Jan 31, 2017 at 20:05
  • 10
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Yes, but in real combat, you only get to learn those lessons if you survive.
    – Dale M
    Feb 1, 2017 at 1:02
  • 16
    @CountDooku when you go into a warzone the first time, the idea that tactics are good will quickly be discarded in favor of "trying not to die". What seems like a good idea outside of combat usually doesn't take into account the craziness and adrenaline of actual combat unless you specifically trained for it.
    – Erik
    Feb 1, 2017 at 7:36
  • 14
    No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.
    – Weckar E.
    Feb 1, 2017 at 12:53

Some level of tactics are used.

In the Goblet of Fire, Aurors Apparate all around Harry, Ron, and Hermione and all use stunning spells in their direction. Since such a maneuver would clearly need to be planned I would call this a tactic.

Also, not quite wizard-on-wizard combat, but the dragon tamers in Goblet of fire coordinate their Stunning spells to bring down a very unhappy dragon.

Outside of that, @CearonO'Flynn's answer is quite reasonable in that most combatants seen in the books are simply not trained for organized combat. The Aurors are probably the closest to a military in the magical world of Britain.

  • 10
    Also, in The Battle of Hogwarts, they DID use tactics, at least in the books. They separate into groups of fighters, many head for the tallests towers, so that they can release spells from on high on unsuspecting death eaters. They also use Herbology to unleash tentacula from the battlements, which holds down enemies while other wizards can stun them. The only time they break down is when they are all forced into the great hall. Feb 1, 2017 at 19:33
  • 4
    I always thought this was a bad tactic. If the target disapparates before being hit, you end up having a team of unconscious aurors.
    – Zachary F
    Feb 2, 2017 at 18:54
  • @ZacharyF Have an odd number of Aurors in the circle, and aim straight across at the gap opposite you? Feb 25, 2019 at 15:22

These people are not soldiers

Small unit tactics take months to learn and years to master and they are highly dependent on individual discipline under fire, a chain of command and competent leadership. All of these are lacking among students, civil servants, teachers and homemakers.

Indeed, the Union army that marched on Bull Run/Manassas Junction didn't know how to march let alone fight:

McDowell had hoped to have his army at Centreville by 17 July, but the troops, unaccustomed to marching, moved in starts and stops. Along the route soldiers often broke ranks to wander off to pick apples or blackberries or to get water, regardless of the orders of their officers to remain in ranks.

Similarly, recent analysis of the Battle of the Somme (Bloody Victory, William Philpott, 2009) has attributed the massive British casualties, in part, to the inexperience and inability of Kitchener's volunteers to execute small unit tactics: by 1916 many of the small, elite BEF were dead or invalided and in any event, they were now a tiny fraction of the army, the majority of whom had been soldiers for less than 18 months.

  • 4
    I mean simpler tactics than those used in modern warfare, like volley-firing curses at a group of enemies instead of firing at will, focusing fire on one opponent until they are eliminated and moving on to the next enemy, to having one group of magic-users using Protegro or disrupting the enemy attackers, allowing their allies to have clear shots at their enemies, while enemy fire is deflected by the first group. These techniques do not seem too hard to implement and do not require much discipline, and in my opinion, would give a massive advantage to sides that used them. Feb 1, 2017 at 1:50
  • 3
    Other than Harry and the Aurors (and perhaps an instructor or two), I don't believe most of their side had ever even been in a real fight before. So you'd expect it to look more like a gang fight than a military operation.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 1, 2017 at 15:45
  • 1
    @T.E.D. Just because it's a gang fight doesn't mean it can't be well-coordinated. Just look at the Jets and the Sharks.
    – Ray
    Feb 2, 2017 at 4:05
  • 2
    @Ray the Jets and Sharks had the benefit of a choreographer
    – Dale M
    Feb 2, 2017 at 7:36
  • 2
    @CountDooku all of those "simple tactics" you describe are not that simple. The British built a large empire partly because their highly disciplined and well drilled soldiers could volley fire and the native armies they opposed couldn't. Also, being able to concentrate fire on a designated "high priority" target while ignoring incoming fire requires a) someone to do the designation b) a high level of discipline to not return fire or take cover.
    – Dale M
    Feb 3, 2017 at 0:03

Please note that while I have listened to the books many times, I did not read them many times, therefore I may misspell charms and spells.

There are a few things to note.

  1. A shield charm (such as Protego) is shown to create a barrier between two people. This is shown most clearly in the Deathly Hallows when Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, and when Ron returns. In these instances, two people are on one side of the shield and one on the other. It would appear that it is not like a two-way mirror where one can shoot a spell through one side while being protected from spell in the other direction. For this reason, casting a shield charm and fighting behind it would send spells ricocheting back at you!

  2. There is no mention of armies of wizards in the books. There is magical law enforcement, of which aurors are a part, but any mention of "armies" are mentioned as armies of inferi, or when Luna mentions that Fudge has an army of heliopaths. Whether this is a reason why there would not be tactics, I cannot say. The breakdown of enemies is plainly shown in a good vs. evil sense... Wizards fight dark wizards, and not, as such, British wizards vs. German wizards. There is also the fact of the limited number of wizards, and their variance in skills and powers. In The Goblet of Fire, there is a gathering of 100,000 wizards for the Quidditch World Cup. However, we can note that there are only 5 Gryffindor boys in Harry's year. If we extrapolate from that to suggest that there are roughly 5 boys and 5 girls in each house for each year, than we can state that there are roughly 40 wizards in each year at Hogwarts. This would not be the entire store of British wizards for each year, as it is stated by Lupin in The Deathly Hallows that attendance at Hogwarts is not compulsory, but almost all wizarding children go to Hogwarts (we can leave out that wizards seem to be live longer than muggles, and maintain their physical strength longer, for another time). Thus, with the limited number of wizards, and the general breakdown of wizards into good vs evil and not army vs army, tactics seem to have been developed to combat dark individuals rather than dark armies.

  3. There are, in fact, times within the book that Harry personally send spells at people who are fighting others...within the Battle of the Dept of Mysteries, and the Battle of Hogwarts.

  4. This last part is mostly conjecture, but I think that the nature of wizard fighting would seem to lend itself more to duels. Wars are not fought in open fields, like muggle wars of old, so flanking and pincer movements would not be available. However, diversionary tactics, I think, would be used frequently in wizard battles.

  • 8
    Don't attempt to extrapolate, JK Rowling is bad at math
    – Oriol
    Feb 1, 2017 at 0:03
  • Response to 1: No, I envisioned a scenario where one uses Protegro to guard the flank or rear of an offensive magic-user, or to help them prepare a spell while under protection, like a shield. Response to 4: What about concentrating fire? Such as if the Death Eaters lined up and each fired Avada Kedavra at one person until they died, and then moving on to the next person. Feb 1, 2017 at 0:07
  • @CountDooku Well, then the next person would fire back while the first person is killed? Feb 1, 2017 at 1:32
  • @Azor-Ahai But since the enemy were not Death Eaters and did care about using the Unforgivable Curses, they would not have fired an Avada Kedavra back at the Death Eaters, which would be deflected by one firing a Protegro while the others eliminate them with a volley of Avada Kedavra. Feb 1, 2017 at 1:43
  • 1
    We even see Aurors use diversionary tactics, in the beginning of book 7 where there are 7 Harries.
    – Sidney
    Feb 1, 2017 at 16:17

I know you accepted an answer, but I wanted to point out that this whole story happens in England, a nation of 53 million people. For reference, the Chicago metropolitan area of 53 million people. For contrast, the populations of Los Angeles Metro Area, Chicago Metro Area, and New York Metro Area are about 43 million people.

The wizarding community is a tiny percentage of this population, small enough to escape notice across the world. Extrapolating from the size of Hogwarts, there are perhaps 10 000 total wizards in England and 1 million across the world.

There are Aurors, which behave much like Police/Detectives/Special Forces, but other than that, its assumed that few wizards are battle trained and hardened. The Death Eaters are much like mafia, extremely dangerous and intimidating, but strike from the shadows.

Presumably, no one is really trained for large-scale pitched battles. They seem to know enough defense spells to stay alive in the world at large, but most fights seem to be one-on-one duels throughout the books. We see some evidence of husbands and wives fighting side by side, but all in all, most fights are not well coordinated. Presumably, with that few number of wizards scattered across England, they would opt for a more militia/home-brew style of defense.

There seemed to be a large number of dark creatures at the final battle, with the walls of Hogwarts working in the students' favor. Remember that something like only 1-2 thirds of the school fought, along with the Order of Phoenix, the teachers, and whoever else could be conjured up at a moment's notice.

So to answer the question, there are not that many wizards, and those who do fight are not well versed in battle tactics. The battle is also shown to be hectic, with different groups employing different strategies. If I recall correctly, the death eaters had practically won when Harry slipped off and caused a chain of events that killed Voldemort.


There are a couple of examples where tactics were used

  • The Battle of Hogwarts in Deathly Hallows

    But he broke off as Kingsley had stepped forward on the raised platform to address those who had remained behind.

    "We've only got half an half an hour until midnight, so we need to act fast. A battle plan has been agreed between the teachers of Hogwarts and the Order of the Phoenix. Professors Flitwick, Sprout, and McGonagall are going to take groups of fighters up to the three highest towers — Ravenclaw, Astronomy, and Gryffindor — where they'll have a good overview, excellent positions from which to work spells. Meanwhile Remus" — he indicated Lupin — "Arthur" - he pointed toward Mr. Weasley, sitting at the Gryffindor table — "and I will take groups into the grounds. We'll need somebody to organize defense of the entrances or the passageways into the school —"

    "Sounds like a job for us," called Fred, indicating himself and George, and Kingsley nodded his approval.

    "All right, leaders up here and we'll divide up the troops!"

  • The Battle at the Ministry in Order of the Phoenix

    Footsteps and shouts echoed from behind the door they had just sealed. Harry put his ear close to the door to listen and heard Lucius Malfoy roar: "Leave Nott, leave him, I say, the Dark Lord will not care for Nott's injuries as much as losing that prophecy — Jugson, come back here, we need to organize! We'll split into pairs and search, and don’t forget, be gentle with Potter until we've got the prophecy, you can kill the others if necessary — Bellatrix, Rodolphus, you take the left, Crabbe, Rabastan, go right — Jugson, Dolohov, the door straight ahead — Macnair and Avery, through here — Rookwood, over there — Mulciber, come with me!"


Most of the spells that Hogwarts students learn could be split into three categories in battle: defensive hexes for use Against the Dark Arts, such as Protego and Expelliarmus, charms that are useful both for the self (bubble head charm) and environment (Aguamenti), and some non-serious jinxes.

The Golden Trio are often quite creative with charms – even in their first year they used a troll's club against its owner. But against an army? Outside of serious curses (Sectumsempra, the Unforgivable curses), the only option is to use counter-hexes and hexes in a duel-like manner or use charms creatively, leaving the wizard casting them out in the open in concentration.

Advanced tactics are difficult to pull off in the heat of the moment, and most battles have few points of cover and very quick casting – imagine a gunfight in that situation and it's easy to see why the duel model is used so much. Good tactics will exist – say, use Aguamenti to knock a group of opponents off their feet, giving ample time to strike – but most students and teachers wouldn't be able to easily coordinate something as advanced as that.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.