Villain Focus – Zola

Zola is the fourth villain in The Rise of Red Skull campaign expansion and is considered by some to be the most difficult.  With Retaliate on all of his stages and minions that can be enhanced to monstrous levels, Zola is a tough fight!  In this article we are going to take a look at all of his cards and see what exactly makes him that way.

MC Zola 2 & 3

In total he has 30 Hit Points, which is the lowest in the game.  Not scary so far, eh?  He has 2 Scheme and 2 Attack on stage 2, going up to 3 Scheme on stage 3.  Again, not really out the ordinary.

As mentioned in the intro, Zola has Retaliate 1 throughout all of his stages.  This is going to greatly reduce the effectiveness of your allies that like to attack, as attacking Zola would deal them one damage from Retaliate in addition to their usual consequential damage.  It will also cause your hero to suffer extra points of damage (particularly for things like Black Widow’s Dance of Death).  Retaliate is a subtly powerful effect, and in this instance will probably cause you to need to return to alter-ego form more often than you’d like to.

Zola’s stage 2 makes you search for the Test Subjects side scheme and put it into play.  While this side scheme is easy enough to remove, having only two threat per player, it’s when defeated effect will put a minion into play from the encounter deck.  If you don’t have the ability to deal with that minion straight away, you might be better off leaving the side scheme in play for now, but then you’ll get an extra encounter card…basically it’s a great side scheme as it forces an interesting choice.

Zola’s stage 3 makes you reveal a minion.  You do get to choose which minion that is, so you can always choose the one that will hurt you the least at that time, but the minion is revealed rather than just put into play, so it WILL get its when revealed effects.  As far as abilities go for changing from stage 2 to 3, this isn’t the worst one around, but will require you to have a plan for the emerging minion.

MC Island of Dr. Zola

Zola has two stages for the main scheme and the first one is The Island of Dr Zola.  During setup you have to find the Hydra Prison side scheme and put it into play, as well as an Ultimate Bio-Servant for each player.

Hydra Prison’s effectiveness really depends on how good your hero’s ally is.  Losing initial access to the likes of Black Cat, Shuri, Winter Soldier, or Wong would be quite annoying, whereas allies like Red Dagger or War Machine you’d be a lot less fussed about.  Hulk aka Billy No-Mates, is the hero that comes out best here as he doesn’t have an ally to lose!  He’s got to take wins where he can get them.

Ultimate Bio-Servant appears relatively inoffensive, but needs to be dealt with reasonably swiftly, as the scenario has lots of minion upgrades and its Attack gets increased for each attachment on it.

Back to the main scheme, you put one test counter on it each round and when there are three or more test counters you discard from the top of the deck until a minion is revealed, then remove three test counters.  There are cards in the encounter deck that interact with test counters (including adding more!), so the influx of extra minions is regular.  This definitely gives you a sense of urgency to take Zola down!

MC The Mad Doctor

The Mad Doctor is the second stage of the main scheme.  When it is revealed you must search for a minion and reveal it (same as with Zola’s stage 3).  It then has the same test counter mechanic as The Island of Dr Zola.  This stage is basically more of the same but with the dangling threat of game loss hanging over you.  It does have a slighter larger threat threshold though, with 8 per player rather than 6.

We mentioned this guy above and here he is in all his ‘glory’.  There are four copies of this in Zola’s encounter deck and with 4 Hit Point and Toughness, they are reasonably awkward to get rid of.  They also get +1 Attack for each attachment on them, and as you’ll see later on in this article, the attachments are nasty.

The boost ability, giving Zola a tough status card, is going to be annoying as you’ll probably have to use another attack to remove it, triggering Zola’s Retaliate again.

There are three copies of Zola’s Mutate in the encounter deck and they come out swinging.  When these are revealed you discard cards from the top of the encounter deck until a Tech attachment is revealed and then attach it to them.  All of the Tech attachments in Zola’s cards give the attached minion +2 Hit Points, meaning that Zola’s Mutate will begin with 7, as well as possibly having Guard or Retaliate 1.  We’ve still got one more minion to talk about, but I think it’s safe to say that these guys are the ones that you’ll enjoy seeing the least.

The boost ability greatly increases the chance that you’ll draw Zola’s Mutate as an encounter card or minion revealed from the top of the deck, making it difficult to avoid these guys over the course of a game.

There are three copies of Berserk Mutate in Zola’s encounter cards and it’s the one with the lowest Hit Points.  To make up for that, they have Quickstrike.  Even with that ability, these will probably be the minion that you choose to bring into play as they are the easiest to remove.  However, Quickstrike means that they’ll deal at least two damage before being removed (as long as you are in Hero form when they are revealed), making them not always worse than Ultimate Bio-Servant.

The boost ability is actually very good, as it accelerates how quickly another minion is put into play via the main scheme, and potentially also boosts Zola a lot.  Probably worth having Target Acquired in your deck.

There are three copies of Defensive Programming in Zola’s encounter cards.  It attaches to the minion with the most remaining Hit Points and doesn’t already have a Defensive Programming attached, giving them +2 Hit Points and Guard.  This is a potent enhancement, as it’ll make Zola’s minion have 5-7 Hit Points and Guard at least, and a beefy Guard minion will definitely slow down your plans.  This card could be particularly nasty if you are using a different module to the recommended one (Under Attack) and it has a high Hit Point minion in it (like Tombstone or MODOK).

There are two copies of Pain Inhibitors in Zola’s encounter cards.  Just like with Defensive Programming, it attaches to the minion with the highest remaining Hit Points without a copy of Pain Inhibitors.  It gives the attached minion +2 Hit Points and Retaliate 1.  So just in case you weren’t already fed up with Zola’s Retaliate, here’s some for his minions!

Depending on your deck, this could be not a big problem to deal with (most Aggression decks would be okay), but if you can’t defeat the minion with one or two attacks you’ll be taking damage back.  Added to all the other damage you’ll be taking means that flipping to alter-ego form is likely.

There are two copies of Neurological Implants among Zola’s encounter cards and just like the other Tech attachments, it attaches to the minion with the highest remaining Hit Points that doesn’t already have a copy of this attached.  Also like the others, it gives +2 Hit Points, but it also gives +2 to the minion’s Scheme and Attack!  This turns even relatively-weak Ultimate Bio-Servants into monsters.  It’s a brutal attachment that you’ll want to deal with as soon as you can (minions scheming for 3+ is not helpful!).

There are three copies of Mind Ray in Zola’s encounter cards and it’s going to be the source of a lot of defeats.  In you are in alter-ego form (probably recovering from all the retaliate damage and juiced-up minion attacks) it causes Zola to scheme (which he will have just done, thanks to you being in alter-ego) and then confuses you (so you have a harder time removing the threat he just added).  In you are in hero form he attacks you again (only two Attack, so not the most-threatening villain) and then stuns you.

The alter-ego ability on Mind Ray is much worse in my opinion, probably resulting in your defeat unless you managed to confuse Zola in your turn.  It’s so bad that I’d be tempted to do something I very rarely do, and that is to count how many copies of Mind Ray were already in the discard pile to see the probability of one showing up.  Mind Ray, great card!

There are two copies of Technological Enhancements in Zola’s encounter deck.  It has the new keyword, Incite, which can punish you if you’re playing too close to the edge.  The when revealed ability ramps up the test counters on the main scheme, bringing you one round closer to getting another minion.  The boost ability also places one test counter on the main scheme.  Overall I’d say that this was probably one of Zola’s weakest cards.

We covered this card in the setup part of The Island of Dr Zola, but its effectiveness really depends on how much you value your hero’s ally (or if they even have one).  If you were to look at this card in a positive light, it could be a way to find your ally quickly, as you can just clear the side scheme and then add the ally to your hand.  Ultimately, it doesn’t have any further negative effects, so it is possible to just ignore it.  That’s a route that James and I took in one of our Showdown articles.  That method also renders Masterplan slightly less effective as well (because there would always be a side scheme in play).

There are two copies of Test Subjects in Zola’s encounter deck and one of them starts in play via Zola’s stage 2 effect.  In my opinion, this is an example of a well-designed side scheme, as it makes you think about when to try and get rid of it.  If you leave it in play then you’ll be drawing an extra encounter card each round, but when you remove it you have to discard until you reveal a minion.  If you aren’t currently able to deal with that minion, that could cause a worse situation than having left the side scheme in play.  Good stuff!

There is only one copy of Zola’s Experiments and you’ll be thankful that there aren’t more!  This side scheme forces you to attach the topmost tech upgrade from the discard pile to any minions that enter play.  The game isn’t going to last very long if you let every minion come into play with extra upgrades, so this has to be a priority to remove.  Oh, and it also has a triple boost icon!


A familiar module from the core set, this was last seen as the recommended module for Ultron.  In my opinion, it’s an under-rated module, as it has some pretty nasty stuff.  Do you really want Zola having either of the attachments below?

MC Vibranium Armor & Concussion Blasters

The module also has two copies of Concussive Blast, so that when you’re defending with an ally on one Hit Point you can have that ally get defeated and have to face tank the attack anyway!  Yes, I have been defeated due to that exact scenario before.

I like the Under Attack module and it definitely does work well with Zola, but I wonder how nasty he’d be with something more minion-heavy like The Anachronauts?  Probably too nasty, but I’m someone who recently played 30 games in a row with Hulk, so I guess that I’m something of a masochist.


  • Zola has the lowest Hit Points total in the game, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.  With Retaliate 1 on all of his stages, he will make you suffer for diminishing his Hit Points.
  • Lots of minions that can receive lots of upgrades.  Heroes or decks that cannot deal with minions will really struggle here.
  • Probably favours a rush strategy, as Zola has low Hit Points and an endless swarm of minions spawning via the main schemes.

Zola is one of the hardest villains in the game to beat and is a great addition to the game from The Rise of Red Skull campaign expansion.  You are definitely going to want to tailor your deck(s) to beat him.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Villain Focus article.  I hope that you have enjoyed this summary of Zola and his cards.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s