We Need to Talk about the Trace Charm


This is a hard post to write.

As most of you know, I’m the editor-in-chief of this website. For over a year now, I’ve worked closely with employees of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Along with a few other community leaders, I serve as a liaison between the Wizards Unite team and Wizards Unite players.


This looks like two major actions:

  1. I share official Wizards Unite news with the community
  2. I provide community feedback to the HPWU team

But sometimes, this responsibility means I need to write an article like this, which is frankly critical of everyone.

The Trace Charm Fiasco

A quick recap of everything that’s happened with the Trace Charm. First, we all assumed that Proficiency was bugged, since players continued to receive just 2 Fragments for each returned Foundable. Lola, an HPWU employee, confirmed Proficiency was bugged.

But then she found out that Proficiency was actually working as intended, and the error was in the text descriptions of the Proficiency nodes.

Players were frustrated, but not overly so. We didn’t really lose anything since the Trace Charm continued to work the same. Some players even admitted that the Trace Charm would be too overpowered if players received a greater number of Fragments for each returned Foundable.

But last week, Wizards Unite completely nerfed the Trace Charm, while calling it a bug fix to Efficacy. Well, eventually they called it a bug fix. Even the communication on the Trace Charm nerf was confusing, to the point that I thought the bug fix itself was bugged!

A screen recording of the Trace Charm in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite after a recent bug update. It no longer works as well as before. Is this a new bug, or has the Trace Charm been nerfed?

Posted by Witches Unite on Thursday, September 3, 2020

The reaction from fans has been… rabid, to say the least. And understandably so.

All of us LOVE the Trace Charm. In the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve returned SO many rare Foundables, I’ve earned lots of Field Guides and Ministry Manuals, and I’ve leveled up a few times…

And that’s the problem.

The Trace Charm was Overpowered

A few days after SOS Training dropped, two of the WizHub writers had a friendly and spirited debate in our private Discord channel about the Trace Charm. Was it overpowered? One argued yes, the other no.

I didn’t feel like jumping in, but I did ask my husband what he thought. He has more of a gaming background than I do, so I valued his opinion on this question. He laughed and said the Trace Charm was way overpowered, and it was only a matter of time until Niantic/Warner Bros. nerfed it.

Well, he was at least right about that.

But I personally didn’t care that it was overpowered. I’m not an intense grinder–that’s not fun for me. The Trace Charm made grinding fun again. I had a reason to use Baruffio’s Brain Elixir regularly, to use Tonic for Trace Detection daily.

My first Dark Detector party using the Trace Charm was one of the best days all summer in playing Wizards Unite daily.

I’m not the only player who rediscovered the joy of grinding. All Wizards Unite content creators started devising entire game strategies around the Trace Charm. All of our event guides shared Trace Charm tips. When we all put together suggestions of how to spend Defense Against the Dark Arts Books, the overall consensus was to invest in Trace Charm nodes.

Was it overpowered?


Did it bring a new level of excitement back to the game?


The nerfed Trace Charm is just meh. It’s better than nothing, but it’s no longer game-changing. It’s no longer exciting.

Lost Resources

Yes, players are upset that the Trace Charm is no longer an epic skill. However, they are also upset after spending precious resources on SOS Training nodes. Many players used their first Defense Against the Dark Arts Books to improve their Trace Charm. Others have spent Restricted Section Books on Trace Charm nodes.

Right now, there’s not a reset button or an undo option. Those resources are all lost, spent on skills that players no longer prioritize.

I just tweeted out a poll, though. Would you be interested in a reset button? Would that help you feel better about the Trace Charm nerf?

Communication Needs to Improve

The HPWU team have not effectively communicated for awhile now. Niantic is notoriously bad about communication (see: Pokémon GO), but overall, Wizards Unite seemed to fair better with WB Games on board.

This has not been the case regarding SOS Training.

First, the HPWU team let us all think that Proficiency was bugged, and it would actually get better. Nope, it was working as intended.

Then the HPWU team let us all think Efficacy was working as intended. Nope, it was bugged, and the bug fix made it worse.

Players would not be as upset about the Trace Charm nerf if we had known early on that the cool benefits were just temporary.

Wizards Unite needs a dedicated Community Manager. Lola, Elfie, and Godric are all doing their best in trying to take over for Fazes, but they all have other job responsibilities too.

(BTW, I am willing and able to be the Wizards Unite Community Manager. I would need to step down from WizHub, but I would essentially be doing much of the same work, only I would actually get paid for it).

Players Need to be Nicer

The irony is that I’m opening myself up for more hate by sharing this opinion.

I am 100% frustrated that the Trace Charm got nerfed. I am 100% frustrated that official communication has been lacking–and that’s from the perspective of someone who talks directly to the official HPWU team on a regular basis.

But some of the player comments in the last few days have been unnecessarily cruel. I receive a lot of them myself from players who think that WizHub social media platforms are official.

As a sensitive person, I get weighed down eventually even by constructive criticism, especially when it’s a high quantity.

(Shoutout to all the wonderful people who say nice things on my Witches Unite Twitter. Y’all keep me going).

Then there’s the hate. Even knowing that hateful comments aren’t directed at me or the work I do for WizHub, the sheer number of them sent to WizHub gets me down. It sucks to read a constant stream of negativity, even knowing players intend to direct their mean comments to Niantic and WB Games.

I imagine this emotional toll is way worse for the actual HPWU employees.

The next time you decide to criticize Wizards Unite, please do not curse, and do not insult the individual people who work on the game. You can express your frustration without being a jerk.

I have developed friendships with many players, and my friends have politely–and passionately!–expressed their negative feelings about the Trace Charm nerf.

Please remember that real people read your feedback. Choose your words with intention.

Final Thoughts

I know this was very different than what I normally write. My last major opinion piece was after the sponsored Fortress controversy a year ago.

I thought it was important to present multiple perspectives on the Trace Charm discussion.

Also, just because I collaborate with the HPWU team doesn’t mean I won’t be critical (politely) when I disagree with their decisions. I hope this opinion piece demonstrates that.

Let me know your thoughts! Connect with me and the rest of the WizHub team here in the comments or on our social media platforms.

I will be on vacation this week (I’m supposed to be on vacation now, but I’m writing an op-ed instead), so if it takes awhile for your comment to be moderated on the website, that’s why. I usually moderate comments 2-3 times per day, but I will only check them once daily this week.

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Todd Allis
Todd Allis(@toddallis)
1 year ago

Thanks for writing this, and for all you do for the community! I agree that the Trace Charm was fun and helpful, and now it’s less so.

Alexander Nickolov
Alexander Nickolov(@alexandernickolov)
1 year ago

I have a concrete proposal how to resolve both issues with the Trace charm that’s somewhere between the totally overpowered initial version and the very disappointing mess they left us with at the moment. It should hopefully address the concerns of both game balance and player expectations base don the description text. First, correct the Proficiency effect to increase the number of fragments only on the original trace, not the extra traces. E.g. for example at proficiency level 6 one gets 7 fragments of the original trace (1 + Proficiency level). The extra traces may still get two fragments per… Read more »

J A(@ja)
1 year ago

Very nicely written. I had also thought the severity of the charm spawns could be reasonably tuned with some sort of +- distribution from the target. The idea that the bonus fragments only apply to the original is also a great idea that may give it a good balance that seems logical.
The only other thought I had, given that now the bonus is the family xp from the spawns, the extras should probably be heavily/exclusively of the same family as the target. Random low quality spawns just makes no sense.

Jeri Taira
Jeri Taira(@jeritaira)
1 year ago

Well written and well expressed Brita. Thank you for taking the time to address these issues and for being so thorough. I truly appreciate your encouragement for us to be kind in expressing our frustrations.

I pray you have a refreshing vacation. Blessings to you. ~ HarmonyBells

Stephen Cerruti
Stephen Cerruti(@stephencerruti)
1 year ago

Thank you for putting down these thoughts so clearly. I too believed from very early on that the trace charm was so overpowered that it had to be wrong. The SOS training was supposed to be about choices and even in it’s nerfed form the trace charm is clearly better than the other two charms. I think you let Niantic off a little too easy regarding the quality of releases. From major errors like this, Knight Bus issues that lock people out of the game to embarrassing UI bugs that should never happen like Madame Malkin. If Niantic has to… Read more »

Robert Klasson
Robert Klasson(@robertklasson)
1 year ago

At first, I thought thought the trace charm was a nice addition, and only getting a refill once a day I didn’t even consider it overpowered. Even when I got far enough down the skill tree to get a chance of refilling more than once a day, I thought it fine since it didn’t proc that often. Then I happened upon a maxed out dark detector inn and it got me enough rare traces to basically constantly get new trace charms almost as fast as I could use them. That’s overpowered. Since the bug fix, I don’t think I’ve gotten… Read more »

1 year ago

Brita – you are doing a great job. I completely agree with all the thoughts in this article. I am shocked to know that people send negative comments. They should really be banned, I know it comes with additional admin.

Coming back to Trace charm, additional traces were such a good incentive. I was wondering why it was not working as before and assumed it’s a temporary bug. I am surprised that NIantic did it on purpose. Hope they revert their own nerf!!

Phil Newmark
Phil Newmark(@philnewmark)
1 year ago

You make some very good points, specifically Trace Charm really did make the game more fun. I don’t think anyone wants to grind out these extreme book numbers they are asking for the new skill trees, it wasn’t fun in the class tree either and Niantic stepped up and gave us other options for getting spell books to ease the burden. But I think the problem here is deeper in the sense that some of us play the game casually and want to stay relevant compared to our peers in the game but at the same time there are hardcore… Read more »

Robert Snyder
Robert Snyder(@robertsnyder)
1 year ago

I have another opinion as to how the trace charm could still be more useful than what it is now, a mini Tonic for Trace Detection. What if the charm when applied to a foundable, returned other foundables from the same page. It would give a reason to use a trace charm on a common foundable if you recalled what else was on its page and you needed other foundables on it. Too strong? Even traces from the same family would be useful to resolve those “return N family points” tasks that frequently come up in events. I believe either… Read more »

Melissa Oswald
Melissa Oswald(@melissaoswald)
1 year ago

Thank you for writing this. And I’m sorry for any negativity you experienced. I think you’re awesome!! I knew the Trace Charm was too powerful, so I’m not surprised they changed it, but I agree that the communication could have been MUCH better.

1 year ago

I won’t be doing a reset, I’ve done a lot of lessons, too much to redo. Good ideas to fix it in this thread. I prefer things to be geared towards the casual gamers. I don’t like having to spend lots of time and potions to get events done. It is great that hard and rare things are offered, however it isn’t fun to have them required. IE last community day required a lot of potions. The problem with requiring potions, is the ingredients don’t come up often. With requiring lots of house points, you have to slog through it… Read more »

David Mark
David Mark(@satyaprakash)
1 year ago

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1 year ago

Has anyone else experienced that the additional foundables from the trace charm sometimes disappear after collecting 1.