When wizards are dueling, if they both know how to cast the Killing Curse, then what is the meaning of one being more powerful than the other?

Specifically, we are repeatedly told how powerful Voldemort is. What exactly does this mean? Except for his Horcruxes, he should be no more advantaged in a duel.

PS: This question is not a duplicate. Its essence is that being able to cast a killing curse is the epitome of magical power in duels, and so Voldemort should not have become anybody special.

  • How is this any different than two sports teams playing one another, or two boxers fighting...etc? Both know their sport and are skilled at it, so what makes one better than the other? Experience, talent, a little luck...not sure you'll get a better answer than that.
    – Mykewlname
    Apr 24, 2018 at 20:05
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    I think one of the OPs mistakes is to interpret "power" entirely in terms of dueling ability. Apr 24, 2018 at 21:56
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    This question is 90% about why the Killing Curse isn't the be-all and end-all of dueling, which is what the Q linked by Harry Johnston is also about and which at least two answers on the other question address.
    – Adamant
    Aug 4, 2019 at 20:42
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    The problem with the supposed duplicate is that it asks why not everyone can cast Avada Kedavra - not why one wizard's AK may be more powerful than another's. Some people cannot cast it, but clearly some can. The question here concerns itself only with those who can. In other words: what makes Voldemort more powerful than some other wizard also able to cast Avada Kedavra?
    – Misha R
    Aug 4, 2019 at 21:20
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    @Adamant: The question only mentions the Killing Curse as point of reference at the very beginning, and then starts to ask the actual question about a wizard's power. The answers in the linked question doesn't talk about that at all. The question being asked here is completely different than the answers being linked and do not make sense in context with each other. The original duplicate link in the question's history seems to be a much better fit. I'd suggest fixing this because I wanted to know the answer, and was simply confused until I looked at this question's history.
    – Ellesedil
    Sep 13, 2019 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


There are several things that determine a wizard's ability. Since you specified duels, here are a few factors that would make one wizard superior to another in a duel:

  • Repertoire. When Harry fought Draco Malfoy in The Half-Blood Prince, he used a spell he'd just learned: Sectumsempra. Draco didn't know what it did (though to be fair, neither did Harry), which made it harder to defend against.

  • Reflexes. During the same Harry/Draco fight, one of Draco's spells "missed Harry by inches." This shows that it's possible to dodge some spells simply by not being in their path.

  • Willpower. Some spells, like the Killing Curse, require a certain force of will to make them work-- you have to want to kill your opponent. Voldemort clearly has this, most others likely don't.

  • Training. This is a bit of a catch-all, but we have plenty of examples that show what being good at magic means. Spells can go insufficiently right (Harry's first attempts at a Patronus in The Prisoner of Azkaban are little more than puffs of white smoke) or flat-out wrong (Neville transplants his own ears onto a cactus in The Goblet of Fire). One wizard's spells could simply overpower another's.

  • Bonus: Reputation. There are also instances of someone gaining a reputation as a skilled witch or wizard without much evidence to support it. Everyone "knows" Gilderoy Lockhart is a great wizard, despite being completely incompetent at everything but a Memory Charm. Everyone "knows" Sirius Black is extremely dangerous, despite being nobody special in terms of magical skill. While Voldemort is shown to be a powerful wizard by any objective measure, it's also possible his reputation exceeds his actual skill.

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    The question is that it seems being able to cast a killing curse is the epitome of magical power in duels; Reflexes and the like are just physical attributes.
    – HappyFace
    Apr 24, 2018 at 22:47

POS has the best answer to this question, though its universe is not the same as canon. In POS, people can’t just keep casting spells. Most people will get completely exhausted if they cast two killing spells in a row, or keep holding up a Protego (especially in the face of attacks). I think canon is plain dumb in regards to magical power.

  • You can believe the Harry Potter canon to be dumb - but it is the Harry Potter universe, and it depends entirely on internal logic or a specific comment by the author. Either it's a plot hole, or that there may be an answer in it. Either way, non-canon fiction cannot by definition provide an answer to why something works within the canon universe.
    – Misha R
    Aug 5, 2019 at 4:12
  • @MishaR Yeah, I’m saying it’s a big gaping plot hole that is filled pretty well in fanon.
    – HappyFace
    Aug 5, 2019 at 4:46
  • Well, whether it is filled in by fan fiction is not relevant to the question of how this works within the canon universe. As for it being a plot hole, I think it's more constructive to say that you don't know the answer. Which is why you have asked the question in the first place, so that is the assumption by default. If you like, you can express that opinion within the question, although you won't surprise anyone by finding yet another plot hole in Harry Potter. It just doesn't work well as an answer.
    – Misha R
    Aug 5, 2019 at 4:53
  • @MishaR I’ve asked this questions ages ago. And I haven’t got a canon answer. Which strongly implies there isn’t one. And true, finding a plot hole in HP is almost as easy as finding patterns in clouds.
    – HappyFace
    Aug 5, 2019 at 4:59
  • If there is no answer, then there is no answer. Sometimes questions don't have answers because there is none :) That said, I wouldn't hold it too much against the Harry Potter universe. Its target audience is primarily kids, and its main goal is to be enjoyable. I don't think it's especially useful to treat it as an Isaac Asimov series.
    – Misha R
    Aug 5, 2019 at 5:01

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