Ever gotten you're 14 card hand and 6 battle card-wide board sent back to your deck by a cheap knock off Future Trunks and an infuriatingly innocent looking blue boy? Did you want to cry your eyes out afterward? This happened to me when the Chain Attack Trunks -> Zen-Oh the Plain God combo first came out and I had no idea how to play around it. One of my saltiest losses ever was back in set 3, after Mecha received his errata, and I began playing one of my favorite decks to ever exist-Kid Goku Veggies. Knowing what I know now, I remember that I played the match up so wrong. And, no longer having Cold Bloodlust to rely on, I got punished big time for my lack of match up knowledge. But then, I learned how to play around it more effectively! So now I'm writing to share that information with you if you're new to the game and looking to learn; today's article is going to examine what the Chain-Zen-Oh combo does well, what it's weak to, and how to combat this combo more efficiently!
How does Chain-Zen-Oh Function?
Chain-Zen-Oh is a blue/red color combo that allows the user to essentially reset the game state back to almost equal advantage in terms of both players' card economy (the total number of cards both players have between their hand and board). I say almost equal advantage because once the Zen-Oh resolves, both players will have 5 cards in hand, but the Chain-Zen-Oh player will have their blue boy on the board. And while he doesn't have any other effects while he remains on the board, he is a 15k beater that the opponent will then use to pressure you through your now clear board. Usually, unless they need to dig for their combo pieces, the turn the Chain-Zen-Oh player plans to resolve this combo, they will not attack with their leader until after they resolve their combo, so that they will draw up to 6. Then, if you're life is at 4 or below, you may combo out of the leader and/or Zen-Oh swing, swinging the card parity even further between you and the opponent. Combine all of this with the Pan, Krillin, Hirudegarn, or Broly leader, and a Chain-Zen-Oh combo can become as much as a plus +6 for the person who resolved it. This combo can either be used to make the opponent go incredibly minus in card advantage after purposely giving the opponent a big hand by going aggro on their life, or used as a means of catching back up in a game that you were probably meant to lose. That type of power makes this combo borderline broken in my book, but Chain-Zen-Oh is not overrunning today's meta game; its actually much more of a fringe rogue deck, but still powerful enough to warrant knowing how to play against.
In some previous formats, Chain-Zen-oh was the format, and was widely considered a degenerate combo that ruled the meta game. I think back to the ARG Invitational in Philly over the summer, where I chose to play Red/Blue SS3, and then faced Red/Blue SS3 Chain-Zen-Oh mirror matches for 7 out of 9 rounds. More recently, though, Chain-Zen-Oh has been referred to as a "necessary evil" in order to keep other strong strategies that either gain tons of hand advantage or go wide on the board in check. Chain-Zen-Oh strategies have landed themselves in the role of the "Ultimate Nullifier" in the Dragon Ball Super Card Game, meaning that it is really the only strategy that has the ability to answer ANYTHING IN THE GAME and reset the game to an "equal" state. That pretty much outlines the role of Chain-Zen-Oh in the format; it keeps pretty much every strategy in check, especially those that gain tons of advantage, and can severely punish players who are unaware of how to play around the combo.
What Are Chain-Zen-Oh's Strengths?
Remember how I mentioned that this combo can answer (I cannot stress this enough) ANYTHING IN THE GAME? The strategy's ability to do that gives it at least a 50/50 match up against almost all decks in the game. There are not many match ups that are unfavorable for Chain-Zen-Oh, and many match ups are actually highly favorable for this strategy. This may not seem like a crazy strength in comparison to the Android and Janemba strategies that I've written about, but think about it this way. To have almost zero unfavorable match ups, and many favorable match ups, makes the Chain-Zen-oh strategy a very consistent pick to take to a premier event, and a very scary strategy to face no matter what deck you're playing. So, for that reason, Chain-Zen-Oh is referred to as the "50/50" deck in DBS.
Where Chain-Zen-Oh also shines is in what's called the "post Zen-Oh" state of the game. These decks are often built to take advantage of the opponent after Zen-Oh'ing them. The leaders that people often play this strategy with (mentioned above) help do that, but the main deck offenders are Foreseeing Hit and Burst Attack Gohan. Hit allows you to chip at the opponent's already minimal advantage post Zen-Oh while gaining perfect knowledge of what plays they have access to and how much they can actually defend against. Gohan allows you to make a huge tempo swing and begin out-advantaging the opponent post Zen-Oh. These post Zen-Oh plays are some of the deck's main strengths, allowing it to snowball into victory after they resolve Zen-Oh.
What are Chain-Zen-Oh's Weaknesses?
Fret not, because this deck does have weaknesses. Being a combo deck, it can lose to itself in situations where it cannot draw the Chain Attack or the Zen-Oh. Also, while the Chain-Zen-Oh player is praying to their little blue god that the opponent bricks post Zen-Oh, it is very possible that they brick and draw garbage post Zen-Oh as well. That's another reason this deck is pretty much 50/50 across the board; while it can answer everything in the game, it can also lose to the very variance it tries to impose on the opponent. This strategy will also struggle against Aggro decks, especially those that can kill on turns 2-3, granted the ban list may make this much less frequent than it once was during Storm or Super Shenron format. The reason for this, besides the strategy not being allotted enough time to pull off its combo, transitions us into the strategy you should use to more effectively play around the Chain-Zen-Oh combo!
How to Combat Chain-Zen-Oh
Once you've identified that your opponent is playing a Chain-Zen-Oh strategy, your mind should shift focus to a main concept-the value of the Chain Zen-Oh play. Simply put, there are certain game states that make a Chain-Zen-Oh play high value, and certain game states that make them low value for the opponent. You're goal is to make the Chain-Zen-Oh play as low in value as possible for your opponent. I'll list examples of high and low value opportunities for your opponent to Chain-Zen-Oh you below.
- You have +2 or more cards in hand than your opponent
- You have +2 or more battle cards in play than your opponent (especially if they have no board)
- Your opponent has multiple battle cards to put pressure on you at the start of their turn. If those cards are able to deal damage and fill your hand, it is very likely you will get Chain Zen-Oh 'd to wipe away the advantage you just gained from your life
- You're opponent has 5 or more life while you have 4 or less life (the bigger the life disparity the higher value it is for the opponent)
- You and your opponent have similar hand sizes
- You and your opponent have a similar number of battle cards on board
- You have been able to put sufficient pressure on the opponent, filling their hand so that they don't want to reset themselves to just 5 cards in hand
- You have been able to defend your life so that you do not get Chain-Zen-Oh'd at 3 or less life
- You have 5 or more life while your opponent has 4 or less life
The Conservative Play You Should Make
You want to make sure you are meeting the Low Value objectives so that your opponent will receive little to no benefit from resolving Chain-Zen-Oh against you. This way, even if they drop the Foreseeing Hit post Zen-Oh, you can afford to take the damage from Hit, and pick up 2 new cards to play with. This can be hard to manage, especially if your opponent is dropping battle cards to pressure you with. But, if you can manage to clear the opponent's board while not dropping too low in life, your opponent's Chain Zen-Oh play will be of little value, and you won't get blown out by it.
Cards That Counter Chain Zen-Oh
- Cold Bloodlust and Preemptive Strike - Prevent the play from happening in the first place
- Scientist Fu - This and similar cheap plus cards to refuel your hand after getting Chain Zen-Oh'd
- Foreseeing Hit - Rip the Chain-Zen-Oh combo out of their hand
Thanks for reading everyone! Let me know if you found this helpful, and let me know what match ups you want to read about next!