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Character Study for Jinzo, Trap Destroyer

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Let’s not beat around the bush, Jinzo, Trap Destroyer is a pain to play against. When you’re building a new team, you cannot prepare for everything. There have to be some characters or combos you just say, “Well, I’ll have to grind out a win if I run in to that.” But if that ‘something’ you don’t have an answer for is Jinzo, your team is not viable. You either need to be using Jinzo, or have a specific contingency plan for facing Jinzo. If your current local meta does not have Jinzo in the mix, and you plan on competing at WKO Regionals, Nationals, or Worlds, I suggest you start playtesting and practicing on how to deal with him.

I know some of you are saying, “But Randy, Jinzo wasn’t even in the top 10 cards used at PDC events. How can you say it’s so strong?”

Well, I’ve got some numbers of my own. Let’s take a look back in time. When Yu-Gi-Oh Dice Masters came out, it was the third released set, after Avengers vs X-Men and Uncanny X-Men. So, there were only 53 action cards released (36 basic actions, 17 other actions). Also, there were 51 different global abilities (71 different cards with globals, but 20 of those were repeated on multiple cards).

First, let’s look at actions. Power Bolt was a default staple at the time of Yu-Gi-Oh’s release. Smash was decent targeted removal. Ring of Magnetism, Action Attraction was finding its way on to control teams. I think common and uncommon Cerebro were both very problematic (though under-utilized). For a large majority, there were not many competitive teams that relied on purchasing and using action dice. When Jinzo was released, the fact that he forced you to lose life to play actions was a small part of his ability, because building a team that relied on action dice was just not viable at that stage in the game’s life.

Globals, however, were a very big deal. Uncanny X-Men saw the dawn of Professor X and Iceman, Too Cool For Words. Using Iceman to get bolts, then spending those bolts on the Enrage global or rare Slifer the Sky Dragon were very popular ideas. Distraction was an immediate go-to with early mask control teams, as well as Mister Fantastic’s global. Globals were all the rage in terms of getting your team going early, controlling the mid game, or setting up your kill shot. However, with Professor X’s global in its infancy, and no other reliable forms of ramp, it was much more rare in those days to see a player rolling more than 7 or 8 dice. Rolling less dice likely means spending less on globals.

Keep in mind that the competitive scene was full of Johnny Storm, Formerly Weapon Ten, Tsarina, and Gobby. All of those characters were inexpensive and had killer character abilities. None of them needed the help of any globals available at that time to be effective. It’s also worth mentioning that Yu-Gi-Oh was the first Dice Masters set to begin development. There were no other sets to gauge Jinzo’s potential strength against at the time. But as I said, with the speed and power through character abilities that defined the early AvX meta, there was still very little information that could have tipped us off to how powerful Jinzo would become.

Let’s fast forward to today. Over one year after the release of Yu-Gi-Oh Dice Masters.

First, action dice. There are so many cards and strategies that revolve around various actions now: rare Lantern Ring, Vicious Struggle, Batmobile, Polymorph, common Prismatic Spray, uncommon Magic Helmet, Big Entrance, Talisman of Ultimate Evil, and the upcoming common Batcave. Not to mention all the fringe strategies that people can concoct using less popular action dice. (I will make my Fireball team competitive one day!) So many action dice teams have become more feasible with the Red Dragon global ability, along with characters that can help expedite those action dice to the prep area, like various versions of Elf Wizard or the rare Baron Zemo. Seeing Jinzo across the table throws up definite red flags to those teams. If you plan on playing 5-8 action dice during the game, you can’t just expect to muscle through the life lost to Jinzo, and come out the other side victorious. It won’t happen.

Globals have become even more important. Common ones like Professor X and Distraction are still popular and easy prey for Jinzo teams, but now Red Dragon, Resurrection, Human Paladin, Parallax, Mera, Ring, and so many more are prime candidates to inch you closer to death with Jinzo in play. Because of the variability of globals, Jinzo’s usefulness is highly versatile. Jinzo can come out as early as the third turn in most cases. This can throw a wrench in to your ramping up to your big purchase. Even if you’re resorting to using characters with swarm to stockpile energy, if you use a global like Anger Issues to increase the attack power of an unblocked character, Jinzo can shut that down in a heartbeat. There’s a near-infinite combo that uses Johnny Storm and rare Agent Venom that deals direct damage to your opponent. But it requires using a ton of globals to increase Agent Venom’s defense. That’s just not viable while Jinzo is active.

With every set that comes out, there will only be more globals and actions that a team can be built around. So with every set, Jinzo can help counter that many more teams. While there are ways to work around Jinzo, such as using a character that can blank his text, capture him, or simply remove him from the field, it’s still difficult. Because any anti-Jinzo measurement you put on your team, your opponent could easily put another layer of protection around Jinzo. You bring Hulk, Jade Giant to KO Jinzo, and your opponent brings rare Dwarf Wizard to blank Hulk’s text. You bring Constantine Hellblazer to make sure Dwarf Wizard’s “when fielded” ability doesn’t trigger, and your opponent brings Zombie Magneto to make Constantine lose his ability. Keep in mind, Jinzo teams don’t need a convoluted win condition. They will either A.) Force you in to dwindling your own life away, two at a time, so that they only need a few characters to get through for the win, or B.) Likely outnumber you because they can keep up ramp uninhibited, purchasing more/stronger characters to win the numbers game.

As with any great trendsetter, there are bound to be cheap imitations. Enter: Wasp, Founding Avenger and Elf Thief, Paragon Emerald Enclave. Before we look at these pretenders, I want to highlight six things about Jinzo, so we have a set of standards to compare these other characters to. The first two are purchase cost and stats. That part will be easy to compare. But then I want to break down Jinzo’s ability in to four parts: it affects globals, it affects actions, opponent pays life, and it’s a while active ability. So, let’s start with the abilities. Check out this chart:

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First, you can easily see that Jinzo is the only of these three characters that make the opponent lose life when an action is played. That immediately give him a leg up against the others. But let’s keep looking. They all force the opponent to lose life in some way, but Wasp is the only one that forces a loss of one life opposed to two, and does it through damage, not life paid. This is ridiculous. There are so many cards that respond to damage and absolutely none that respond to paying/losing life. For one, there are ways to reduce damage, such as Iron Fist, or characters, like Captain America The First Avenger, that mitigate damage in unique ways. You may even find yourself with a Green Goliath or Jade Giant and welcome the single point of damage to trigger an ability. Wasp loses a lot of ground to Jinzo and Elf Thief right here. But now, let’s look at when the ability works. “While active” is easy to define: no matter how many of this character are in the field, apply this ability. Jinzo and Wasp are both “while active”. Get them in the field, reap the benefits, and continue to the next part of your plan. Elf Thief is interesting here though. His version of this ability, thus far has been identical to Jinzo sans affecting action dice, goes in to effect when he is fielded, until end of turn. “When fielded” abilities are attached to each of that character’s dice. So fielding multiple Elf Thief dice in a turn, would put the effect on the table for each of your fielded Elf Thief that turn. I’m not saying that “while active” is better than “when fielded”, or vice versa. But I am saying they are different, and each can have their advantages. So here is the one difference where one of these characters does something different from Jinzo, and it isn’t necessarily worse.

Now, costs and stats:
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So, we know that Wasp is a good deal less effective in every regard than Jinzo, and if you look at stats, they actually have the same fielding costs with Wasp at roughly one half the attack and defense for one half the purchase cost. Wasp’s role is different from Jinzo in that Wasp can apply some pressure and do a little damage early, but she is much easier to remove than Jinzo. She can be remved by action dice without triggering her ability, removed by less damage than it takes to remove Jinzo, or her damage can be simply avoided with Iron Fist or various Golems. Wasp can be useful because she has the Avenger affiliation and a nice global, but for character ability alone, she comes nowhere near the game changing ability of Jinzo.

Elf Thief is a different story. As I said above, he’s the same exact lockdown on opposing globals. He doesn’t include actions. But considering his ability is “when fielded” it is only in effect during your turn, when your opponent is unable to play actions. The purchase cost is less than Jinzo, but more than Wasp. And that seems reasonable based on the ability. Elf Thief has significantly lower stats than Jinzo, but that’s ok. His ability is “when fielded”, so making sure he gets knocked out to field again next turn is a very strategic move. And remember, multiple Elf Thieves could lay the effect down multiple times. Imagine looking your opponent down, saying, “and that’s my third Elf Thief fielded this turn, so any globals you want to use will cost you six life. I pass priority to you.” But you need a little luck on your side for him to keep coming up a character face every turn. And the single energy to field on every face is a consistent cost, but it is energy you must spend every turn to keep his oppressive ability going.

So, we’ve covered a lot. Jinzo has come such a long way from his beginnings over a year ago. He’s one of the best action dice deterrents out there and puts a harsh tax on globals. His stats give him some staying power in the field. As more competitive teams pop up that utilize new actions and globals, he becomes more useful as a tool against those potential teams as well. There have been attempts made to make his ability accessible in different ways on new characters. While some of them may find niche roles here and there, Jinzo is still a top tier card. From my perspective, he may even be the best single card in the game today.

Updated 03-15-2016 at 08:28 AM by Randy (charts)

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  1. TrueMisterSix's Avatar
    Hey man, great read. Can't disagree with any of your comments - Jinzo is a beast.

    Do you think the fact that Wasp is an Avenger affiliation influences the debate at all?
  2. agentj's Avatar
    Great information, insight, and write up. So glad you are still playing dm and writing articles. One day we will have to have a discussion about this game.

  3. Jwannabe's Avatar
    Since your regularly play against JT and his jinzo, what have you found as a good game plan? Or is that another article?

    I have found that it is a race to get your counter out, before jinzo hits the field or at least the following turn. As you mentioned though, the defensive layers keep coming with the constantine /Dwarf wizard wall the current favorite.

    Luckily most jinzo teams bring a decent counter with them in polymorph.