41

The Seeker is key to winning a game of Quidditch. If your team doesn't have a Seeker and the opposing team does, then the opposing team can only ever lose by surrendering. Unless there's a huge skill difference between the two playing teams, this is as good as an automatic win. It follows that if you have a strategy that can remove the opposing Seeker from the game for a long period of time, you should use it. In other words, if you can foul the opposing Seeker without significant losses, you should.

Put simply, my problem is that the books appear to show this outrageous tactic as being perfectly legal. For example, chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has Wood outright recommend it:

HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN!” Wood roared as Harry swerved to avoid a collision. “KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!

and chapter 11 of Philosopher's Stone as good as proves that a player can't be removed from the game as a consequence of fouling. Indeed, the punishment in this case was just a free shot at the goal posts.

Madam Hooch spoke angrily to Flint and then ordered a free shot at the goal posts for Gryffindor. But in all the confusion, of course, the Golden Snitch had disappeared from sight again.

Down in the stands, Dean Thomas was yelling, “Send him off, ref! Red card!”

“What are you talking about, Dean?” said Ron.

“Red card!” said Dean furiously. “In football you get shown the red card and you’re out of the game!”

“But this isn’t football, Dean,” Ron reminded him.

Hagrid, however, was on Dean’s side.

“They oughta change the rules. Flint coulda knocked Harry outta the air.”

Finally, chapter 15 of Prisoner has an extremely dirty game of Quidditch played, but the only punishments that I can see are more free shots at the goals. For example:

That will do!” shrieked Madam Hooch, zooming between them. “Penalty shot to Gryffindor for an unprovoked attack on their Chaser! Penalty shot to Slytherin for deliberate damage to their Chaser!

and

Bole hit Alicia with his club and tried to say he’d thought she was a Bludger. George Weasley elbowed Bole in the face in retaliation. Madam Hooch awarded both teams penalties, and Wood pulled off another spectacular save, making the score forty-ten to Gryffindor.

and

YOU DO NOT ATTACK THE KEEPER UNLESS THE QUAFFLE IS WITHIN THE SCORING AREA!” she shrieked at Bole and Derrick. “Gryffindor penalty!”

are the only punishments that I can find, despite this being obviously deliberate damage. So why not foul the Seeker as much as possible?

In summary: Fouling the opposing Seeker is as good as an automatic win and the worst punishment for fouling another player seems to be a free shot at your team's goal posts. If both of these are anywhere near true, why isn't fouling the opposing Seeker a tactic that is used regularly in Quidditch? Personally, I'd start every game by clobbering the other team's Seeker.

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  • 15
    "If your team doesn't have a Seeker and the opposing team does, then the opposing team can only ever lose by surrendering." The seeker is not the only way to win. Sure, getting ahead by 16 goals is difficult, but we saw Ireland do just that at the World Cup. Jun 13 '20 at 5:40
  • 8
    I just imagine both teams chasing each other's seekers to injure them instead of playing. That would be a whole new attraction for the audience :D
    – Shana Tar
    Jun 13 '20 at 9:18
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    How is this opinion-based? Questions about game tactics (in a game as extensively described as Quidditch) seem perfectly well on-topic here.
    – Valorum
    Jun 13 '20 at 9:28
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    @ArcanistLupus The Seeker is not the only way to win, but they are the only way to end the game. That's why I made the comment about skill gaps in my first paragraph.
    – J. Mini
    Jun 13 '20 at 11:59
  • 11
    Are you saying Quidditch rules have flaws? Preposterous! ;-) Jun 14 '20 at 8:25
52

It is a tactic commonly used in Quidditch.

As mentioned in Quidditch through the Ages, attacking the opposing team’s Seeker is a common tactic. Due to their important role in determining the score, Seekers are the players most fouled by members of the opposing team, and typically receive the worst injuries. Further confirmation of this is that the first rule in one guide for Beaters is to take out the opposing team’s Seeker.

The Seeker

Usually the lightest and fastest fliers, Seekers need both a sharp eye and the ability to fly one- or no-handed. Given their immense importance in the overall outcome of the match, for the capture of the Snitch so often snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, Seekers are most likely to be fouled by members of the opposition. Indeed, while there is considerable glamour attached to the position of Seeker, for they are traditionally the best fliers on the pitch, they are usually the players who receive the worst injuries. ‘Take out the Seeker’ is the first rule in Brutus Scrimgeour’s The Beaters' Bible.”
- Quidditch Through the Ages

So yes, attacking the other team’s Seeker is indeed a common tactic in Quidditch. As for why it is not seen more in Hogwarts Quidditch, presumably this is because there it is played by mostly underage wizards, and the teachers are more likely to impose stricter penalties on players who attempt violent tactics.

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    "the teachers are more likely to impose stricter penalties on players who attempt violent tactics." - I struggle to believe that. The several quotes that I gave in my question show that the worst punishment that I could find were free shots at goal posts. Regardless, that Quidditch Through the Ages quote is golden.
    – J. Mini
    Jun 13 '20 at 12:10
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    @J.Mini: I imagine the examples you quote are at the upper limit of what would be tolerated. They may not be able to send someone off during a game, but these are students. They can be banned from playing Quidditch altogether if they consistently endanger one another.
    – Kevin
    Jun 13 '20 at 21:52
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    It should further be noted that Seekers rarely interact with the rest of the players on the field, need completely different positioning, are very focused at watching the environment around them - they're overall in a very good position to avoid the others. Attacking them when an opportunity presents itself is a great idea; but diverting your players away from the game to take a shot at the fastest, most nimble flyers on the field? You're probably not going to catch them anyway, and in the meantime, your opposition gets considerable advantage in the actual game.
    – Luaan
    Jun 15 '20 at 8:18
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    It would be important to make the distinction between fouling as a tactic and as a strategy. As I read the question, it would be more about strategic use. Jun 15 '20 at 10:26
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    Given that there's two players on each team whose sole job is to hit balls at the opposition, I don't know that they'd be too worried about violent tactics :) Jun 15 '20 at 12:15
14

Fouling people is hard. Specifically, you're trying to fly up next to someone and swing at (or run into) them without getting knocked off your own broom or having it forced out of position. And, you're trying to do it while keeping track of a dozen other players swirling around you in three dimensions, the positions of the other balls and hoops, and of course where the ground is. That's a lot to keep track of. For players who are already not that great at flying or playing (they're still learning, and most of them probably won't ever be professional-level), an ill-timed attack could leave them worse off than the opposition.

It's one thing for Wood to tell Harry to attack a rival Seeker: Harry's a flying prodigy, and he already has to keep track of the other Seeker as part of his role anyway. It's less of an imposition for him to try an attack, and if the other Seeker is close to winning anyway there's not much else he should be doing. On the other hand, if other players are simply attacking the Seeker at random times, there's a good chance that they wouldn't be successful, that they might put themselves in a worse spot, and that they would worsen the team's overall performance by not playing their position for that moment.

2
  • I could agree, but the Slytherin vs Gryffindor match in Prisoner of Azkaban showed a lot of success in fouling players.
    – J. Mini
    Jun 13 '20 at 17:21
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    I don't think the idea was for Harry to knock her off the broom as a primary tactic either - just that if she was in the way, to plough on through to get to the Snitch.
    – Michael
    Jun 13 '20 at 22:29
8

The disadvantages outweigh the advantages

Continuously clobbering the opposing Seeker isn't worth it - if you clobber him continuously you might be banned (Quidditch bans exist after all ). This would be a large blow to the team. Perhaps if you seriously injure the seeker you might be in detention.

So continuously clobbering the seeker isn't worth it.

What's more, other players have their own IMPORTANT roles to play (eg - beaters = bludgers), so you might be putting your team at risk of being defeated eventually. Let's say your chaser clobbers the other seeker, your team now has only 2 active chasers as opposed to the enemy's 3 so you might be outscored.

3
  • 7
    "Quidditch bans exist after all" - source? As for setting all of your chasers on the other Seeker, remember that you only have to cripple their ability to play once. Once you've done that, you're back to a normal game, albeit a free shot or two down.
    – J. Mini
    Jun 13 '20 at 12:05
  • J Mini you completely misunderstand me. Umbridge imposed a Quidditch ban on Harry, Fred and George in the fifth book. I didn't say you need to set all 3 chasers to chase the seeker either. Read Again my Answer Jun 13 '20 at 12:43
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    @TheMadHatter That was an arbitrary administration decision by the school that had nothing to do with conduct on the pitch. Nothing indicates there are any penalties beyond free shots at the goal. Also, why would clobbering the other seeker handicap your team more than the handicap of removing the opposing Seeker? Once the seeker is out, you are back to 3 active chasers. Jun 13 '20 at 14:49
2

Although fouling a Seeker may work, it usually won't take a Seeker out for the whole game unless there's more than a serious injury involved

The field Quidditch is usually played above is grass - probably intentionally so to avoid a hard deadly fall.

But this did remind me of a previous question in which Lockhart had tried to repair Harry's arm while he was on the grass field, having fallen off due to a cursed Bludger trying to unseat him for his own safety.

“Stand back,” said Lockhart, who was rolling up his jade-green sleeves. “No — don’t —” said Harry weakly, but Lockhart was twirling his wand and a second later had directed it straight at Harry’s arm. A strange and unpleasant sensation started at Harry’s shoulder and spread all the way down to his fingertips. It felt as though his arm was being deflated. He didn’t dare look at what was happening. He had shut his eyes, his face turned away from his arm, but his worst fears were realized as the people above him gasped and Colin Creevey began clicking away madly. His arm didn’t hurt anymore — nor did it feel remotely like an arm. “Ah,” said Lockhart. “Yes. Well, that can sometimes happen. But the point is, the bones are no longer broken. That’s the thing to bear in mind. So, Harry, just toddle up to the hospital wing — ah, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, would you escort him? — and Madam Pomfrey will be able to — er — tidy you up a bit.” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, chapter 10

In that scenario, had Lockhart succeeded and restored Harry's arm, he would have been able to successfully return to the field, and continue seeking.

Given that an injury like that could have been healed on the spot, and there's spells for repairing glasses (As I recall, that came up in Prisoner of Azkaban, though I don't have the source on me for that), it would seem that, had they fouled a Seeker, they would only have a shorter amount of time to capitalize on the fact that the Seeker is down and out due to a foul.

There are additional cases like the Dementors who despair-knocked Harry unconscious, and he had fairly immediate removal from the field as a result of that, but the situations allowing for that are relatively rare (I don't suspect it's explicitly stated in the rules, but bringing your own Dementor to a Quidditch match is probably not allowed), so the range of injuries you can inflict where a Seeker would be out of the match and them not being potentially deathly injured as a result of the foul are likely to be rather rare. Once you get into the potentially deadly fouls, you run into other problems, so how much you actually can get from fouling a Seeker is limited, and probably best to be tactically used.

But even with leaving the opponent's Seeker on the field, there are advantages to letting them stay.

So aside from having to use specific levels of force to get a foul that might not give you a definitive edge, there are reasons you may actually want the enemy's Seeker to be around.

1.) To have an additional pair of eyes.

In quite a few of the Quidditch matches with Harry as Gryffindor Seeker, either Harry or the opposing Seeker spends some of the match tailing the other Seeker - the main benefit of tailing the opponent Seeker is that, if the enemy Seeker responds to something you haven't caught yet, you can effectively use their actions as an indicator that the Snitch is actually somewhere you aren't looking.

This admittedly can be exploited by your opponent's Seeker if they're catching on to you doing that, but that means you're able to get a better advantage to search for the Snitch yourself while they're busying keeping track of you - and you don't have to foul or harm them to reduce their effectiveness.

2.) The other team has to keep some vision on their seeker.

Having the Bludgers be a threat and not an actioned threat means that they can come up multiple times during a match, and the other team spends their time being on the defense. That gives your Chasers a potential free lead more than your Seeker being the only one on the field for a time.

3.) By keeping their Seeker around, the long-term benefit of knowing their tells will be useful in later matches.

If you manage to foul and take out their Seeker for one match, and that Seeker is still out by the next match, the other team is hopefully going to have a replacement Seeker for those cases when they can - to avoid a situation like the last match Gryffindor had in the Philosopher's Stone, when Harry was knocked out by the task he had done outside of Quidditch.

What that means is you'd be trading a known Seeker that you can watch and learn their tells to combat them trying to feint you in 1.), and also get a better feel of control of the Snitch lookout. If they have to get a new Seeker, they're an unknown threat, and you could end up with a Harry-esque replacement instead in later matches.

In short, while you can try and foul a Seeker to get an immediate advantage, that advantage is likely to be limited and have a very short window of effectiveness.

1

If I might be so bold as to propose another angle: while it does happen, dedicating effort to defeating a Seeker may largely be a problem of retaliatory effect.

There is possibly a level of moral high-ground maintained by both teams by at least attempting to provide the appearance of damage to Seekers being accidental or otherwise unintended. I'd propose that it's for much the same reason that it's generally a bad play in real human conflicts to intentionally target the opposing force's clearly marked medics: Yes, it could cause you to gain a significant advantage by weakening the other team's position, but there is an even chance it will result in the other team using the same strategy against you, which may result in an even less advantageous position for you (of your own Seeker going missing).

After all, the Seeker doesn't meaningfully contribute to the game in general, aside from providing a sort of sudden-death finish to the match. Essentially, the match clock is the Snitch. As a result, no Seekers mean the game must be played to submission, potentially taking days (a la cricket).

If you couple all of that with Shana Tar's comment on the question, the audience is here to see a rough conflation of aerial rugby/soccer, not a team capture-the-flag game. Your overall popularity is likely to at least shift if you continually end up in protracted, days-long matches after offing a player on the opposing team.

Lastly, I'm not clear on if there are any rules that would bar re-admission of a downed player, but fouling the Seeker as a strategy in a professional game is as likely to result in them being out of play for hours at most, as a professional team would surely have potions, tinctures, and medical witches or wizards to revive and restore the Seeker as well as either magic to repair the broom (if it took damage) or more likely, spares.

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