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Who is the greatest wizard ever? A bracket-busting tournament

The ultimate wizard showdown.


David Britton

Internet Culture

Across the universe, in countless dimensions, exist beings of mysterious and limitless power. Some fight for evil, some for good. Where do they come from? What do they want? And most importantly—who would win in a fight? The only way to find out is to have the wizards duke it out.

That’s exactly what we’ve done here.

Methodology: I construct a meticulous bracket, pairing wizards of all walks with appropriate sparring partners. The 16 titans of industry battle in a March Madness-esque bracket of magic. Also this is subjective and fictional.

Internet Archive Book Images/Flickr (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed

Hold on to your pointy hats kids, it’s time for the ultimate wizard showdown. 

Sweet 16

Gandalf vs. Aleister Crowley

Aleister Crowley was a real guy, which you think would be an advantage, but in the world of magic that’s the last thing you want to be.

Gandalf was basically tasked by angels to combat evil, and Crowley was once described as the “wickedest man in all of England” (just for reference that’s also where Motörhead is from). Yup, do as he wilt, Crowley doesn’t stand a chance. Plus he’s the guy who started spelling magick with that unnecessary “k.”

Winner: Gandalf

Merlin vs. Dr. Strange

Merlin is probably the best known and oldest wizard in literary history. His origins are still debated in scholarly circles. (Ooh, mysterious! Big wizard points!) It’s rumored he knew the future because he lived life backward, which means he got to see The Sword In the Stone in theaters and think, “Hmm… that will be interesting.”

That having been said, Dr. Strange should not be counted out. In the Marvel universe he’s charged with protecting Earth from all magical and spiritual attacks. Once he even fought the Living Tribunal who is basically the Marvel version of God only with better abs.

But in the end he’s never been able to maintain his own monthly comic, and constantly has to team up with guys like the Hulk to keep his readership numbers afloat. All that might change when Benedict Cumberbatch plays him in the upcoming film, but until then the advantage goes to Merlin, or Myrddin, or Merlinus, or Merdinus, or whatever he’s going by nowadays.

Winner: Merlin

Jafar vs. Rincewind

Jafar at his most powerful is terrifying. A giant cobra whose best friend is a flying Gilbert Godfrey? Horrifying!

There seems to be no possible way for Rincewind to get out of this one. But if you’ve ever read any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series you know escaping the impossible is that guy’s whole deal. I have no idea how, but he wins.

Winner: Rincewind

Melisandre vs. the Ice King

“Wait, girls can’t be wizards!” is what some of you are thinking. Well that’s exactly the kind of patriarchal crap the Ice King would probably say right before getting his ass handed to him.

What is it Melisandre is immune to? That’s right, the cold. And what’s the Ice King’s biggest weakness? Oh yeah, beautiful women.

Winner: Melisandre

Dumbledore vs. Harry Potter

Why Harry and Dumbledore? Why not Dumbledore vs. Voldemort, or Harry vs. Malfoy? Because we’ve seen that. Harry versus his mentor and hero? Now that’s a wizard battle worth the price of admission.

Harry has youth and speed on his side, plus he’s already won a wizard tournament. On the other hand, Dumbledore has more experience and power… but will always sacrifice himself for his students.

Winner: Harry Potter

Wiz Khalifa vs. the Washington Wizards

Tough one. They’ve both been kind of on fire the last two years. Khalifa can’t stop being nominated for Grammys, but he also can’t seem to win one. The NBA‘s Wizards made it to the playoffs the past two years but can’t get past the Eastern Conference semifinals. Too close to call… but wait… Michael Jordan’s coming out of retirement?! He’s coming off the bench! The fans are going nuts! Ladies and gentlemen there’s magic in the arena.

Oh wait Jordan blew out his knee again.

Winner: Wiz Khalifa

Gargamel vs. the Wizard of Id

Sure, the Wizard of Id is often inept. He’s lazy, henpecked, cowardly, and works for a fink, but he’s still better than Gargamel. In nine seasons Gargamel couldn’t manage to hold on to a single smurf for more than like two seconds. Gargamel couldn’t beat Setup Wizard. Gargamel couldn’t beat Cheese Wiz. Gargamel couldn’t beat Barbara Walters saying the word “lizard.”

Winner: The Wizard of Id

Mr. Wizard vs. the Wizard of Oz

OK so both these dudes are kind of just posing as wizards. Although in the case of Mr. Wizard I suppose it could just be his last name. Maybe his ancestors were actual wizards? You know, like when people are named Smith because their great-great-great-grandfather was a blacksmith? Oh and maybe he has latent wizard powers he doesn’t even know about. Then one night somebody tries to mug him and zap! Bam! Pow! Sploosh! (Like if they’re near water, and the bad guy falls in). Hooray for Mr. Wizard.

What does the Wizard of Oz have? A hot-air balloon he’s not even good at flying.

Winner: Mr. Wizard

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Elite Eight

Gandalf vs. Merlin

When I was kid I was sure these two were the same guy, and given the time-traveling aspect and the fact that they both have more names than Ol’ Dirty Bastard, I still think it’s a possibility.

Still, it would be quite the battle. In the end though, Gandalf has that same Dumbledore thing where he likes to sacrifice himself, whereas Merlin was often portrayed as a greedy, conniving, d-bag. If there’s one thing we learned from Spaceballs (sorry for mixing sci-fi with fantasy) it’s that evil will always triumph over good because good is dumb. So Merlin wins… then Gandalf gets resurrected again and kicks his ass.

Winner: Gandalf

Rincewind vs. Melisandre

The first thing Rincewind would probably do in this situation is to introduce himself, then stare off into the distance in the hope that the distance had something helpful to add. This is the kind of thing Rincewind tends to do. No doubt Mel would be confused for a second, but then she’d just call for a stake and some rope. When in doubt, go with what you know. Of course, right as they start the fire it would rain. Rincewind would tilt his head back and laugh. Later the coroner will call it “drowning by stupidity.”

His middle name might be “Luck,” but his first name is “Bad.”  

Winner: Melisandre

Harry Potter vs. Wiz Khalifa

This battle is really going to capture that key 18-to-24 demographic. Ad space will sell for roughly twice what it cost for the Super Bowl. Speaking of, this battle is brought to you by Sprite, Trojan, and thinking your blog is a legitimate news source.

Khalifa just had his second No. 1 hit with “See You Again,” whereas Daniel Radcliffe’s latest movie role involved playing a dog walker in Amy Schumer’Trainwreck. Two legends in training at the peak of their game.

But they don’t call him the Boy Who Lived for nothing. Harry Potter blasts Khalifa with an “Avada Kedavra” killing curse—and this tournament takes a disturbing turn.

Winner: Harry Potter

Mr. Wizard vs. The Wizard of Id

Science versus magic. It’s basically Bill Nye versus Ken Hamm all over again. Who is Hamm you ask? Exactly.

Winner: Mr. Wizard

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Final Four

Gandalf vs. Melisandre

I’m not sure how many times Gandalf can pull that whole resurrection trick, and Mel’s been on a hot streak lately. The old guy really has his work cut out for him.

Melisandre knows that Gandalf is no slouch, so she’s going straight to her “giving birth to the monster from Lost” bit. But if Gandalf can keep a fire demon from coming out of a cave, you better believe he can keep a smokey Stannis Baratheon from passing through a birth canal.

Winner: Gandalf

Harry Potter vs. Mr. Wizard

Mr. Wizard went off the air in 1972, more than a decade before our young master Potter was saved from He Who Must Not Be Named. (His name is Voldemort.) Harry’s never even heard of this guy. Plus he’s a muggle. H.P. is going into this fight with zero respect. Besides he just beat Dumbledore! What threat could this geezer possibly pose?

Turns out a guy who can make a volcano from common household items and cook a hotdog with a nine-volt battery is not to be fucked with. Never underestimate your enemies, Harry.

Winner: Mr. Wizard

Renée Krulich/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The ‘Ship

Gandalf vs. Mr. Wizard

By mutual decision the final battle will take place at Waverly Place, which both sides agree is neutral territory. All the wizards who didn’t die in the previous rounds show up with their friends and family. Tensions are high.

Gandalf stands in the middle of the room nervously blowing smoke rings up toward the ceiling. Mr. Wizard enters looking confident… too confident. “Well met” begins Gandalf, thinking it’s best to stay professional, but before he can say anything more his opponent reaches into his pocket and disappears.  

“This cannot be!” cries Gandalf. “The one true ring was destroyed by Frodo in the fires of Mount Doom.”

“Wrong,” answers a voice that seems to come from everywhere at once, “It was merely melted in molten rock. The atomic structure remained intact. Since it was already in liquid form one only would need to apply an electric current to a large sample to cause the metallic elements to separate from the lighter, carbon-based molecules. Then it’s a simple matter of…”

Gandalf feels his eyes growing heavy, his chin begins to fall to his chest. Quickly his head snaps up. “Fool!” he yells, “Did you think to thwart me with a novice-level sleep spell? What’s next? Magic Missile? Save that shit for those stupid kids you claim to teach!”

Suddenly Mr. Wizard reappears. A ring clatters to the floor and rolls under a couch where it will remain hidden for a thousand years, until the time that will be known as the “Rise of the Cleaning Lady.” He looks pissed.

“Never bring up the children” he growls. “Now we solve this the old-fashioned way.”

Gandalf stares at him confused, “What do mean?”

But in a flash he’s hit. Gandalf stumbles, his nose dripping blood.

“You hit me!” he says. 

Mr. Wizard swings again and again, the kind of precise blows that could only come from a man well-versed in the art of physics. Gandalf dodges each one like a man half his age. Although that still would make him 7,000 years old. To be honest, the whole battle is like watching turtles fighting in corn syrup.

Inevitably, Mr. Wizard over-extends one punch. The opening Gandalf has been looking for! He merely places his staff between the old man’s legs and watches him fall to the floor.  “Yield!” he commands. “This tournament has reached its end!”

Mr. Wizard turns his bloodied and bruised face to meet the eyes of his foe. “Yes,” he whispers, “it has. You never should have agreed to fight me on a carpet.”

With that he reaches out a single finger and a bolt of static electricity leaps into Gandalf’s body, paralyzing him. As he crumples to the ground, Mr. Wizard rises and addresses the startled assembly of magic men and women.

“Now you all see that magic is no match for science! Science has taken us to the bottom of the deepest ocean and to the tops of the highest mountains. Even to the moon itself! It is with science that we enrich our minds and our lives! It is with science that we thwart our enemies and comfort our friends! It is with science that we—” 

A resounding crack splits the air.  

People have just enough time to see the old scientist’s eyes cross as he falls. Gandalf stands over him, staff resting on his shoulder.

“But how?” hisses Severus Snape from the audience.

“I won this from your boss in our fantasy quidditch league,” he says, tossing a shiny rock across the room.

Snape opens his hand and stares in disbelief. “The Sorcerer’s Stone! Albus, you said this was destroyed!”

From his painting in the corner Dumbledore coughs nervously and gives a noncommittal shrug.

Gandalf wins. Or does he? 

Gandalf begins shrinking—smaller and smaller he becomes. His beard retreats into his face, his face retreats into shadow until all that’s left are two yellow glowing eyes. His robes change from white to a bright, cartoonish red—a black letter “o” appearing on the chest. Pointed blue ears sprout from under his hat. He hovers there, staring at the dumbstruck crowd.

A slow clap starts from the back. As one, the assembled wizards turn to see He-Man standing behind them. “Well done, Orko,” he laughs. “I think you’re almost ready to take on Skeletor.”

The silence that fills the room is finally broken by an infuriated Aleister Crowley: “I was taken out in the first round by Orko?!”

Melisandre starts to chuckle. Soon everyone, including Crowley himself, is howling with laughter. Someone suggests ordering Chinese. The night devolves into drunken karaoke and people summoning demons to ask if they have Prince Albert in a can. This doesn’t really make sense, but everyone finds it hilarious anyway.

One thing they all agree on—next year they’ll do something safer. Like a pinball tournament.

Champion: Orko

Photo via Ruaraidh Gillies/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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