(Note: My friend, Steve, is a very skilled Absolute Zero player, so anything added in italics below indicates his additional thoughts on this…which will help to make this guide even better!)
Back in March you, the readers, voted on who I would talk strategy for next, and the votes rolled in for the frozen man himself, Absolute Zero. And after three months of tinkering with him far more than I wanted to, I have to confess that I still don’t feel like I can contribute a high-level analysis of how to effectively pilot his deck. However, for those who are wanting some clear direction on where to even begin with him, this might be a great benefit for you! Because wow, it took a lot of plays to start to feel like I was getting his deck to work efficiently enough to function!
The four versions of Absolute Zero
Standard version Absolute Zero – 29 HP, Power: Thermodynamics – Absolute Zero deals himself either 1 Cold Damage or 1 Fire Damage.
I know what you’re thinking. I thought the same thing, too, when I first pulled this guy out. What? His power is to hit himself? Yep. The key here isn’t apparent until you find some of his cards in the deck that synergize with this, allowing him to deal damage to non-hero targets or to heal himself via this baseline damage. Is it situational? Absolutely. Does it make no sense to do sometimes? You betcha. Can it be a good and worthwhile power? You’d better believe it. And that, in a nutshell, sums up Absolute Zero: he needs the right combos of cards to really shine.
Termi-Nation version Absolute Zero – 25 HP, Power: Violent Shivers – Until the end of your next turn, increase all Damage dealt to and by Absolute Zero by 2.
Hey AZ, you aren’t helping your own cause, here! 25 health isn’t that hot, and making it so you’re taking 2 more damage for a full round can be beyond dangerous. Yet there are some serious benefits, once again, that can be found in running this version. That boosted damage is N-I-C-E when you need it, and it works especially well when you’re dropping Ice damage on yourself in order to heal that much health instead. Or when you want to spike some serious damage onto the enemy(s) out there. I wouldn’t say this is his best version, but I do think it is a step up from the vanilla Absolute Zero in terms of feeling like it is useful.
Freedom Five version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Pilot Light – Absolute Zero deals himself 2 Fire damage. If he takes damage this way, search your Deck for an Ongoing Card and put it into play. Shuffle your deck.
This is the version of Absolute Zero that really starts to feel like there is some utility to that base power outside of situational plays. Again he deals himself damage, something you should be expecting by now. But in exchange he’s digging into the deck to pull out cards and put them into play. This is the AZ that can get set up a little faster with those essential cards, making him far less dependent upon good draws. They still help, for sure, but this version is great to run because he feels more efficient than the other versions. There is a sense of control that comes from this power, and it is equally nice to be able to reset quickly if you get an unlucky wipe of ongoings.
Freedom Six version Absolute Zero – 28 HP, Power: Elemental Wrath – Absolute Zero deals 1 non-Hero target 2 Cold damage.
It feels like this version is out of place. Almost like the developers kept hearing complaints about the difficulty in using Absolute Zero and so they catered with a base form that has a power that deals damage to something other than himself. It was the form I gravitated toward early when running his deck, and with good reason. This is definitely the best one when learning how to use this deck, but I don’t think it is the best version of Absolute Zero. I’d say it is better than the base version, but worse than the other two overall as you get more familiar with the cards in his deck and how best to employ them.
Obviously, with no way to mulligan a bad hand an the restriction of drawing 4 cards, there are limited ways to affect this. You’re at the mercy of the card draw. However, these are the cards that get me excited when I see them to open play and why they are great this early in the game.
This card is nice because it helps you to start digging. It isn’t his best digging card, but it is going to get more of your deck into the hand and has a chance of pulling non-Module cards that you need to get set up. I wish it was a One Shot instead of an Ongoing, but it is still nice to get it out there early so you can turn it into more cards in your hand.
(Glacial structure is a card a lot of people wish was a one shot, but the way it’s written, it speeds him up by two turns. normally, in order to draw two cards you have to skip a full turn. glacial structure allows him to more or less either A.) skip a turn to draw 4 cards (play GS, use GS power, draw at end) or B.) use a potentially wasted card play to set up for a later power use that would be wasted to allow for flexibility to draw cards. it also works for Fueled Freeze Fodder.)
Onboard Module Installation
This one is one of the most likely cards to see in the hand, as there are 4 of them in the deck. It is an excellent card because it includes drawing a card, searching for a Module card, and then playing a card. Talk about efficiency! Unfortunately there are only two different modules this can pull out, but they are both excellent cards to get onto the board as quickly as possible.
This card is the one I will almost always dig for first of his two Module cards because it allows you to deal damage whenever he takes Fire Damage. There are plenty of ways for him to deal that damage to himself, but there are also ample situations that deal Fire Damage via Environment and Villain cards and those are the best situations when this is in play. “Oh, you want to burn me for 2 damage? Right back atcha, buddy, only this is going to be COLD.” Which gets even better if you can find…
This one is outstanding to play on the first turn because so much Cold Damage is in his arsenal. It pairs well with that Isothermic Transducer, allowing you to get even better on the exchange rate involved. I love that this card is simple and straightforward, something lacking often in Absolute Zero’s decks.
The beauty of this card comes from pairing it with Isothermic Transducer. It is much like Focused Aperture in helping offset to damage balance of taking damage vs. dealing it, but in a more useful way because it reduces the damage you take from Fire while increasing your Cold damage. Which, with the Isothermic Transducer, means you’ll take one less damage to still deal out the same amount you would have without this card. Since AZ has a relatively low health to begin with at times, anything to reduce that damage coming in is really helpful.
An overall tactic that I tend to employ with Absolute Zero is to get set up as fast as possible, which can be seen by the favoring of card draw, retaliatory damage, and boosted damage. If you can get Cryo + Aperture + Transducer on the board in the first 5 turns, you’ll be set to really drop the freeze on the villains as the game progresses. Without those cards, you can often feel like his deck is treading water, relying on One Shot cards to do a little damage and hoping to get a useful Power off from time to time.
This is where Absolute Zero can either start to shine (if the above combinations have been found) or really start to feel like he’s being pulled along by the other Heroes involved in the battle. Apart from seeking out the above combinations, here are a few of the cards that can be really good at this point:
Null-Point Calibration Unit
This card is nice because it helps to offset the damage Absolute Zero is soaking up (much by his own hand). There are a lot of ways for him to deal himself Cold damage, so you’re almost always going to be able to regain HP as needed when this is in play. It isn’t so much of an excellent early-game card, though, as you’re usually not hurting too bad for the HP. But you definitely want to get this out there before things get too far out of hand.
(I tend to dig for his null point faster than his isothermic, because the self healing can really help out in those opening moves, keeping him higher up.)
This card is fun. In some battles, you want to get this one out early because of the other card interactions out there. For instance, if you’re taking a lot of Fire Damage based on the matchup, you really want to get this into play so Absolute Zero can crank out the damage (which is hopefully reduced AND boosted with the above combos). This also works to use the Power on this card after hitting himself with a Frost-Bound Drain. I’ve gotten this card out too early and had it sit there for a long time without much benefit, which is why I think this is best to consider around the midpoint. If there is another card in your hand, it is usually better to play something else early unless you’re taking Fire Damage (from the Villain/Environment decks or just from your own powers)
There isn’t a bad time to play this card, but it isn’t one I dig for early. If I have it, the card is absolutely going out because pinging everything for 1 (or 2-3!) Cold damage without using a card play or power each turn is fantastic. But I find that midgame is where I usually have a board state that calls for this to be played because those decks are ramping up in power and getting more things into play. This only shifts into the early state if I am facing something, like Grand Warlord Voss, that drops a ton of things onto the board during setup.
Another great card that I don’t mind seeing early but don’t necessarily dig for. At first I didn’t understand the appeal of this card. But then I started to notice that a lot of Villain cards that come out activate the the end of their turn, meaning they hit you before you can react. This changes that dynamic, effectively allowing you a chance to take down the worst of what their deck throws at you before they get a chance to activate. This card is better than any healing card out there or damage mitigation card. This takes the teeth out of their deck and puts it into your control whether or not they’ll get a chance to smack you around or disrupt your board state. Pound-for-pound, this may be the best card in the deck for the team.
(Sub-Zero Atmosphere is a great card, but I would argue that it’s an early game card for one point that you did not cover: it makes all villian card end of turn effects happen at the beginning of the turn….ALL villian cards, including the villain character cards. A lot of villains have effects that happen based on things that are in play or were in play, and this can stall them out and slow them down, exactly what the card was intended for.)
Continuing the trend, this is another card I’m happy to see early but don’t really dig for it. Big baddie on the board that is going to take a long time to whittle down? This helps by dropping 2+ Cold Damage every time AZ starts his turn. Even better is plopping it onto the Villain, allowing you to always get progress on taking him down even while dealing with what the decks are throwing at you. There are a few matchups where you can’t, or don’t want to, hit the Villain early, but those are fringe cases and eventually this card becomes useful when getting played.
The mid-game Absolute Zero can be an absolute benefit to have on the team if he is set up properly. That Cold damage flows freely, smacking everything around and dropping damage when he takes Fire Damage himself. When everything is clicking, this deck feels like it could potentially solo some of the matchups out there and live to tell the tale, especially if he can drop some healing on himself as it becomes necessary. Unfortunately, he isn’t always set up perfectly and often I find myself having to deal myself Cold & Fire Damage without gaining any benefit of healing or bouncing back and doing extra damage to the threats on the board. Depending on what is happening during the game, cards like Modular Realignment can be absolutely critical here, and in other situations it can still be sitting in your hand the entire game and never getting used.
Absolute Zero’s Closers
The majority of his deck could be siphoned into this section, as there aren’t really many cards that are only good end-game like what Fanatic had in her deck. However, there are some cards that become better with time given the right board states and setups. Here’s a few that I find can be really fun and useful as the battle is grinding to its bitter end.
Imagine a turn where every non-Hero card in play takes 8 damage. Sounds great, right? If you already have Cold Snap + Cryo Chamber + Focused Aperture in play then your opening turn drops 3 onto them all. In comes a Fueled Freeze, forcing you to destroy up to 3 Ongoing cards (anyone’s, not just his) to deal that much damage to all non-Hero targets. And it is Cold Damage, which means it gets boosted by 2. Dropping that damage will wipe out a lot of most boards, freeing you up to hit that Villain hard to close the game. It isn’t as effective of a board wipe as some other cards, but dropping that damage late while pruning some of the less-useful Ongoing cards can be a real benefit. I find that, too often, the early game and even mid-game are not great times to remove your cards. But when the Villain is on the ropes, this can help speed up the end of a battle.
(As for fueled freeze, you talk about needing to destroy ongoings, but you make it seem like FF requires you to destroy hero ongoings, but it’s great for taking out villian ongoings too.)
Again, assuming a perfect combo world here (which AZ absolutely depends upon), this card is nice. Hit something for 4 Cold Damage. Blast yourself for a reduced-to-1 Fire Damage. Drop another 3 Cold on something else. Heal yourself for 3 Cold Damage. Hit yourself for a reduced-to-0 Fire Damage. Net gain of 2 HP, dropping of 7 damage onto the board somewhere. This card is okay without this combo. It becomes really good if all the cards are in place.
This is as close to a finisher card as he has in the deck, and it 100% depends on your HP being high enough. He needs to survive the X Fire Damage dropping onto himself in order to really make this an effective card. With the double boost, this already is throwing out 9 damage. He hits himself for 8 Fire Damage (because it would be reduced by 1) and then drops 10 Cold on something else out there. But that is just getting started. If Cold Snap is in play you might have thrown down 3 damage on every non-Hero card in play. So add more to that Fire damage coming onto AZ (let’s pretend there were only 3 targets). Now he’s done 3 + 3 to everything out there (18 Cold Damage), taking 17 Fire, and then dropping 19 Cold onto one target. That’s 25 damage he can drop on that Villain in the perfect situation, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of using a One Shot prior to activating this. Can you count on pulling this insanity off? Of course not. But if it does work out, he can make really short work of the Villain and bring the game to a quick close.
(his different ongoings are affected by his different base power cards. thermal shockwave plays a HELL of a lot differently if he’s Termi-Nation vs F6. I tend to use Thermal Shockwave as an opender or midgame, as the consistent damage and healing it’s capable of gets to ludicris levels very quickly)
Overall, Absolute Zero can be an absolute beast if he’s got all of the right cards out on the board and in his hand. More often than not, he’s going to perform somewhere in between okay and great. But if you can get the cards to go the right way, he’ll be nearly impossible to kill and can drop all sorts of damage out there. If he’s getting close to death, then he can use the bound on Isothermic Transducer to hit himself with the Cold Damage just to keep afloat until the right things come along (assuming that Null-Point Calibration Unit is in play…). The fact that I had to add that (assuming…) part in there sums up AZ in a nutshell. His situational nature is what makes him feel really challenging to pilot as a deck because you won’t often have that ideal setup. Usually you’re running with a portion of it up-and-running and doing what you can while watching other decks hit their optimal point faster. But if he does get that board to fill out perfectly, there are few characters I’ve played that can drop the damage as fast as he can from round to round.
I feel like there are three fun pairings for him out of the base set. I like having him and Fanatic together because, as a duo, they can drop 40-50 on that villain late in the game when it all works out correctly. That is enough to salvage even the worst of situations and either win it, or at least give a shred of hope back to the heroes. I like him with Legacy because of the straight boost to power that Legacy often throws out there. He can use and abuse that with the frequent pinging with Cold damage that flows from him. And the most interesting pairing might be Ra, who could hit AZ with Fire Damage to have AZ bounce out an even higher Cold Damage attack. I wouldn’t use that often, but if AZ has the health to spare (or you really need the extra damage out there), this could be a fun tactic to employ. It also helps to work around invulnerabilities, such as when facing Omnitron, because you can shift the type of damage being done.
Instead of a ton of Heroes to vote on, here are three I’m looking to get some more plays in. Which of them would YOU like to see a small writeup about? Leave me a comment below and let me know.