Bringing Back Blowns — A Look at Blacephalon in Standard
Hello Pokemon players! Welcome back to PokeBeach and another article from yours truly. I covered some dominant decks in the Standard format last month, so feel free to check those out if you haven’t already. The Players Cup II allowed the metagame to advance quite a bit, moving away from a world where Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX was completely dominant. Some newer contenders, such as Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, along with some old contenders such as Eternatus VMAX allowed for a nice mix of decks to see play. That being said, I am going to add to that mix by covering another older deck that needed some new tricks, Blacephalon! Similarly to Pikachu and Zekrom-GX, it was a deck that got swept under the rug when the rotation occurred while some of the more exciting decks stole the spotlight. Blacephalon has been seeing more play recently and getting a bit more respect, which I think is absolutely warranted for how strong of a deck it really is. It is as powerful as before and has some strong matchups, plus I have a twist on it that I believe makes it a better deck and more fun to play. This article is going to be a detailed look at Blacephalon, then I will wrap things up with some general Pokemon notes. I was going to say that I hope you’re a fan of Blacephalon, but I would rather convert some non-believers into fans!
This is a deck that has been mentioned often in my article, be it for good or bad reasons. But I have not written about the deck itself. That is because it has not achieved great results, though it has been seeing an uptick lately. I do think the deck is underrated and has been since the rotation. After the rotation, I was confident this was going to be one of the best decks in the game because it only lost Heat Factory Prism Star and Fiery Flint. While those cards greatly benefited the deck, I was confident it would be able to operate without them. Additionally, other decks were losing cards as well and the matchups seemed to line up favorably. However, some things ended up working out for the deck while other things have worked against it. The loss of Fiery Flint hurt much more than expected, other decks have been operating fine with the new card pool, and Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX has truly turned into a beast of a deck. Previously, the matchup was seemingly favored for Blacephalon, but that is not exactly the case anymore. I would say that the matchup is very close when using the list below, but there are cards I have included to try to improve that matchup. I have tried my very best to minimize the issues that this deck has had thus far, which I will discuss more of later. For now, let’s take a look at the actual deck list.
This deck list is a little different than some of the others as it includes Beast Bringer and Judge Whistle. Beast Bringer is a weird card because it will not get value in every matchup or even in every game where it has the opportunity to get value. However, it is extremely strong against Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX, and is greatly beneficial if you can pull it off in a majority of other matchups. You use Beast Bringer to take a KO on a Tag Team Pokemon-GX, netting you four Prize cards, then finish off the game with another Blacephalon or Cramorant V. Sure, it won’t get value against decks like Eternatus VMAX, but that is a matchup you are already favored to win either way.
As for Judge Whistle, it is additional draw power that is good throughout the game, plus it thins out your deck for late game purposes. It is great for extra reach in the early game, especially when looking for Welder or Beast Bringer. It provides extra protection against Marnie and it can thin out your deck for when you are looking for Welder in the late game. Speaking of finding Welder, Judge Whistle has great synergy with Mewtwo, which will put Welder on top of your deck to draw with Judge Whistle. Otherwise, you have to use Jirachi‘s Stellar Wish Ability to find the Welder, which means less reach for the turn and a poor use of resources overall. After using Judge Whistle to grab the Welder, draw three cards with Welder then use Stellar Wish for an extra reach into your deck. This whole process makes you much more likely to find what you need for the turn overall. These two additions to an already great deck makes it a whole lot stronger, as they fix some of the issues it had previously. Other than that, the deck operates as a normal Blacephalon deck does, trying to OHKO everything and win the Prize trade.
I went over two of the more interesting inclusions pretty extensively, but there is plenty more to talk about! I will go over some of the less exciting cards and discuss how even the smallest things can have an impact on a game.
In the past, some decks played a lower count of Jirachi, as extras were deemed as a waste of space. In this deck though, starting with Jirachi and getting two into play is pretty important. Stellar Wish is a great way to dig through your deck for that missing piece you need for the KO. With Switch and Scoop Up Net, having two in play can mean quite a few Stellar Wishes in any given situation. This can mean finding several Trainer cards such as Fire Crystal or Energy Retrieval, which is all you need after using a Welder.
This is another card that people have skimped on in the past, choosing to play three because you won’t use all of them. I find this to be a big mistake, as you need to find a Blacephalon to Welder to right away. Having four makes this more likely and finding it without using Quick Ball is nice because you can grab a different Basic Pokemon you need. Having four Blacephalon is an overall consistency boost.
One Crobat V and One Dedenne-GX
These are two support Pokemon that straight up draw you cards without much of a requirement or huge drawback. I say it like that because the deck has utility Pokemon that can draw you cards in the right situation – more on that later. These draw support Pokemon both have their time to shine in the right situation, especially in a deck like this where the cards you have in your hand are absolutely crucial. Crobat V allows you to draw a bunch of cards while maintaining the state of your current hand, meaning you can hold on to Fire Energy or ways to retrieve Fire Energy to set up a KO. In situations where your hand is undesirable or too clogged for Crobat V, you can throw it all away for six new cards with Dedenne-GX. Since you can use Stellar Wish, Judge Whistle, and Welder afterwards, you generally get to see a ton of your deck.
One Zacian V and One Oricorio-GX
These are the aforementioned additional utility Pokemon that can draw you cards. Zacian V is one that only gets used in some games, much less than any of the other draw Pokemon. On the first turn or any turn where you can’t attack, ending your turn with its Intrepid Sword Ability is the best possible maneuver. On the first turn especially when going first, this has no drawback since you aren’t doing anything else anyway. Later in the game, you are indirectly hurt because it means you missed a huge turn of attacking. On turns like this, drawing three cards is a very small consolation Prize as you missed an opportunity to KO something. This is fine against slower decks like Eternatus VMAX, where you have a little bit of extra time to take your six Prize cards, but against Arceus and Dialga and Palkia-GX you will lose. Marnie can disrupt you after any given Intrepid Sword, meaning you can lose the little value you gained. Past turn 1, I try to avoid using Zacian V’s Intrepid Sword, especially against decks with Marnie. Oricorio-GX will hit the field in a majority of games, as it draws you three cards after your opponent takes a KO, giving you extra resources to work with on the following turn. On top of that, Oricorio-GX is great protection against Marnie because they either let you draw the extra three cards after they use Marnie, or they have to use Boss's Orders on the Oricorio-GX instead of using Marnie.
One Cramorant V
This is an easy way to finish up the game without having to setup another Blacephalon KO, which is not always the easiest thing to do. Cramorant V can snipe a Dedenne-GX and most other Bench-sitting Pokemon to finish off the game. Not a whole lot to say about this, as it is an efficient attacker when you can’t use Blacephalon.
I talked about the synergy Judge Whistle has with this card already, which I think improves this inclusion substantially. But there is a whole lot more to this addition! For starters, it can grab you a Welder for turn when used in conjunction with Stellar Wish. It is not as ideal as the Judge Whistle route, but things will not always go smoothly. This means easy access to Welder, as you would otherwise be digging for one of your few copies of Welder every turn of the game. Additionally, Mewtwo can be used at the end of your turn to set you up for next turn, as you would then draw the Welder. Doing this in situations where a Marnie play would possibly hurt you is very beneficial, as it means you will at least have a Welder after the Marnie. Scoop Up Net allows plays like this to happen multiple times if needed, so it is very easy to get value out of Mewtwo in any given game.
Four Fire Crystal and Two Energy Retrieval
These are the forms of Energy recovery this deck has to offer, which is more than the deck used to have. It needs a lot of Energy recovery because it must be able to find these key Trainer cards after the first KO. It will never use every Energy recovery card — these many copies are only to boost consistency. Having Trainer cards that net you more Energy cards than one Fire Energy would provide are great for multiple reasons. They can be found with Stellar Wish plus they let you do more with less overall, which is a great thing for a deck with such a demanding hand requirement.
Two Giant Hearth
This is probably a decision that will confuse people, as this count is relatively low. The “normal” count for this deck would be three or four copies, but I think that two is actually the correct amount for where the metagame is right now. Chaotic Swell has seen a large increase in popularity, meaning it is hard to get value out of Giant Hearth in some matchups. Sure, you can include Marshadow, but you might not get a whole lot of value and it takes up more space in this deck. I think there are better cards to include such as Judge Whistle or Beast Bringer, which increase your overall efficiency. In matchups that don’t have Chaotic Swell, these two copies will give you value, and you have plenty of Fire Energy as well as other ways to grab Fire Energy.
Sixteen Fire Energy
This goes hand in hand with Fire Crystal and Energy Retrieval, as having a lot of these in your hand at the end of the turn is absolutely crucial. You need so many because you don’t really have a great way to search them directly at the start of the game, outside the low count of Giant Hearth. After that, you want to find them consistently so there isn’t a diminishing returns effect that you see with a lot of generic consistency cards.
This concludes the public portion of this article.
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