Experts' corner

Daniel Altavilla

That Blown...Expanded Blacephalon Shenanigans

Danny extensively covers his Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel list for the Expanded format.

12/07/2018 by Daniel Altavilla

Hey there 60cards readers, so we have had a couple of Standard events and a new set release since Portland Regionals, and all things considered, Expanded was left in a really awkward spot. It seemed Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Seismitoad EX (FRF; 20) / Lusamine (CIN; 96) , Primal Groudon EX (PRC; 86) / Wobbuffet (PHF; 36) /Lusamine and Archie's Ace in the Hole (PRC; 124) / Blastoise (BC; 31) were the best plays for the event. Trevenant (XY; 55) would be a part of this list but I think it mostly gets destroyed by the other tier 1 decks so even though it has insane tier 2 matchups it has to deal with  Giratina (BW; 184) , which is an easy inclusion at League Cups, and it must get around tier 1, which is very unrealistic for the deck. Groudon can spam  Pokémon Center Lady (FLF; 93) every two turns, Control uses Plumeria (BUS; 120) every other turn and Quakings you into oblivion, Archie's doesn't need items as much past turn one and uses heavy attackers that require Basic Energy.

Control was the best deck as it beats most decks outright in an unsuspecting format, and Groudon is favored versus Control even if slightly. Archie's has a closer control matchup, but destroys the rest of the format pretty handily, spare Garbodor (BKP; 57) -based decks, because of how ridiculously consistent and fast the deck is. This sets a clear line between the actual meta and the other decks available in Expanded to the point that I'm thinking Archie's, Zoro/Toad or Groudon are the only old decks capable of consistently winning events now. Groudon, requiring Tropical Beaches, cannot be played very heavily, which always leaves it in the fringe deck category; but the deck is so good right now that in the right hands it is very difficult to lose with it.

As for the other decks, players will take their pick on what they are most comfortable with and run it at Cups. I think Stoise is the most likely choice out of these though because it is so fun and so explosive. Hitting the Archie never loses it's flare and the deck wins so convincingly a lot of the time. Losing Hex Maniac and Ghetsis made the deck top tier, and it is very difficult to counter right now so it should be around for a while.



I expect control to be the least played of the bunch because it is such a boring and linear lock deck and people shy away from lock decks in fear of misplaying or excessively tying. I disagree with that because of how strong control is, but other decks pick up wins quicker and with less stress, so I can't blame anybody who doesn't want to play control.

That is the fate of Expanded currently, and Lost Thunder has shaken things up slightly by adding  Blacephalon GX (SM8) (JP; null) as a viable archetype and giving us  Faba (LT; 173) shenanigans in most decks to counter quad-double colorless energy decks like Night March, Vespiquen (ANO; 10) , or Zoroark/ Exeggcute (PF; 4) . We also have  Electropower (LT; 232) to try with  Eelektrik (NVI; 40) and in Night March, Larvitar (LT; 115) could be pretty good with  Crobat (PHF; 33) or Seismitoad, and  Giratina (LT; 97) is a strong 1-or 2-of in Zoroark variants, to effectively Plus Power two Pokémon at once.

If you remember my last article, it was all about Zebstrika (LT; 82) , and this one was supposed to be as well, but Zebstrika is so bad after my Expanded testing that I wouldn’t feel comfortable making an article about it and misleading readers. So instead I’m just going to run over a very strong list from my testing to help out! I’ve chosen Blacephalon-GX/ Naganadel (SM8) (JP; null) because I feel this deck is insane in Expanded right now, boasting pretty strong matchups against most of the format and being pretty simple to play while still rewarding good play heavily. 

Table of contents



 Clowning Around in Anaheim 


Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel is probably the strongest deck in the Standard format right now. With two Marshadow (SLG; 45) and 3 Energy Switch (FRF; 89) , you up your matchup percentage against so many decks, with your only real autoloss being to Granbull or Naganadel/Quagsire. In Expanded we gain a ton of different options to mess with, like  Volcanion EX (STS; 26) and Blacksmith (FLF; 88) . My list uses a couple different options that aren’t very popular but I feel they are sort of necessary for this format. The really cool thing about Blacephalon-GX that is carried over from Standard is how fast the deck wins games. You Burst GX straight away, and follow that up with a big attack. From here, you will lose your first Blacephalon, but you'll be at 3 prizes. This lets you have a Turning Point turn and with an ideal board of only non-GX Pokémon; you will be able to reach 1 or 2 Prizes and then still have a second Beast Ring turn following this one. Against one prize decks you can use your Beast Ring on the Turning Point turn to have 2 more follow up attackers, against GX decks you might want to hold the Ring for next turn, bench a Clown-GX, then close out the game. That was literally a 4-5 turn game, max. It’s pretty hard to dead draw with the deck, too, and sometimes Let Loose will slow your opponent down enough that your own dead draws still give you enough time. I’ll go further into some explanations with my full list.




3 Blacephalon-GX

In Standard, this deck runs 4 of the busted Clown, but Expanded has Seismitoad-EX, which makes me scared to start the Clown. You have Blacksmith to make up for needing an attach-retreat on any of your other Starters, which are all 1-energy retreaters, plus you need more room in Expanded for cards like  VS Seeker (PHF; 109)

3-3 Naganadel LOT

The 3-3 line is also a bit thinner than the Standard lists, but I feel Naganadel is less necessary in heavy quantities in Expanded. The one-prize Expanded decks have utility EX/GXs that you can potentially even out the Prize trade by KOing, and Garbodor is running rampant, so we still run Naganadel but allow for 2 slots elsewhere. 

1 Tapu Lele-GX

Tapu Lele-GX is still a wonderful option for any deck, especially one with seven turn-one outs to searching it, that also includes seven 1-of Supporters. I like having the option, but dislike having to play a second GX down to use it. 

2 Marshadow SHL

Shadow is in here to disrupt, and pairs really well with Silent Lab. I think if you Let Loose into a  Silent Lab (PRC; 140) and a Supporter, you will usually just win that game because your opponent has to run disgustingly hot to answer that combo, and even if they have an answer, it may not give them a strong-enough board state to deal with your  Beast Ring (FLI; 102) deck. Shadow is also good to help dig a little harder, I like using it over Tapu Lele turn one if my hand doesn’t have a Supporter in hopes to avoid the 2nd GX, and then still have Lele as an extra out if my hand allows it. 

3 Professor Sycamore

Professor Sycamore (BKP; 107) is fine for the deck. You don’t need 4 as badly anymore because Item Lock decks aren’t capable of locking from turn one anymore, but you still want a thicker number for late game N recovery and just to have the option to hard draw a Supporter. Sycamore is a huge boon for the deck allowing you to always have a strong option to not only thin, but to discard Fire Energies.

1 N

You want a copy of  N-supporter (DE; 96) in the deck no matter what, but you don’t need to go overboard with a 2nd copy because you will more than likely be using a different supporter a lot of the time. It’s rare for this deck to have a hand it wants to N away, but N/Silent Lab is extremely good late game and wins games. 

1 Guzma/1 Lysandre

We want Guzma (BUS; 115) to be able to switch our active sometimes for the option, but Lysandre (FLF; 104) is better situationally to save us an energy. The 1/1 split is better than going 1 way or the other for me, but if you wanted 2 of the same for consistency I would probably just go with Lysandre as you have Blacksmith to make up for hard retreats and you usually will control your bench.

1 Blacksmith

This is most likely the biggest boon for the deck out of Expanded. We can use Blacksmith to set up a Blacephalon-GX in one turn and that means we don’t even need Beast Ring a lot of the time! Blacksmith is so synergetic with the deck that you want at least the one copy, but I rely on Naganadel often enough that I want to keep Beast Rings over heavy Smith. VS Seeker is fine and a lot of Item Lock decks have limited options against Naganadel or Bursting Burn anyways.


1 Colress

  Colress (PS; 118) is going to be really good most of the time to greedy draw because we will have 4 or 5 Pokémon on bench, and even if we are controlling our bench, our opponent may be placing Basics down as liberally as 8 at a time so we are often compensated for sitting around 2-3 bench. This is also usually a stronger option than N to fill up your hand without discarding it. 

1 Faba

Faba is insanely good in this deck because against Garbodor decks you still have the option to spam Faba while Charging Up and it lets you sandbag with non-GX Pokémon against quad DCE decks until you Faba them 4 times and win. We have enough counter stadiums that we don’t need Blowers, and we don’t want the extra Items to draw against Garb. 

1 Teammates

This is my favorite card in the deck. We often turn into a solo-Naga against non-Gxs, leading with a t1 Burst GX, them ideally whiffing the t2 KO, then we get a 2nd Prize, it is 4-4, and we start attacking with a board of only Nagas.  Teammates (PRC; 141) allows you to keep up in board state in these situations, but that isn’t even it – you can Teammates for double Beast Ring on Ring turn, Teammates for Silent Lab/Marshadow, or just simply grab any of multiple disgusting 2-card combos. The card has way more value than it would in other Beast Ring decks so it is a huge plus for the broken Clown. 

4 VS Seeker

We want the option to VS Seeker back all of our many 1-of Supporters, so maxing out this count is vital to our tool box of options. If Trev ends up being too big you might want to lower this count by 1 in favor of any of the other niche Supporters. 

4 Ultra Ball/3 Mysterious Treasure

While having 4-4 would be wonderful here, we are okay with 4-3 because we have less of a reliance on Naganadel. I cut a 1-1 Naganadel from the Standard lists already so cutting the Ultra Spaces and a Treasure seemed like the most I could do without just completely ruining the deck. 

2 Muscle Band

Muscle Band (XY; 121) is insane, and I don’t see anybody playing it yet for some reason. You literally get to use up one less Energy on most Basics, Zoroark-GX, Trevenant and Trevenant BREAK, Oranguru ULP, Tapu Lele-GX… the list is massive and it is just better than Choice Band and has enough value that we want a 2 of to hit it early. We don’t need 3-4 because we Burst a lot turn one meaning turn 2-3 we have had enough time to draw into one, and Dowsing is an option if we end up needing another. It also allows Naga to hit an ohko on Buzzwole-GX and anything with 180 hp, or even 210 if we have Beast attached! Seriously such a good card. 

3 Beast Ring

Three is a fine number to have because we still have enough to safely have an explosive late game when considering the Blacksmith option and we can Teammates for 2 so we aren’t too pressured to draw into them. Beast Ring is still really good for Nag because you can’t Blacksmith to it so having 3 opens up options. 

4 Silent Lab

I love Lab in here because it is your best bet for beating Archie’s and it can be useful in so many situations in Expanded. If you Let Loose into Silent Lab/Supporter turn one, you often just have too much early pressure and disruption going on at the same time, making your deck oppressive twofold. This is one of those decks where you can just FEEL Silent Lab being very strong because of only 2 Abilities that we usually just use before Lab anyways and the power it has against Draw in Expanded mixed with the 5-turn clock Blacephalon puts most decks on is just absolutely too oppressive. What makes this argument even stronger is that a lot of Expanded decks sacrifice hard Supporters for VS Seekers and Shaymin-EX, so Let Loose is way easier to make stick in Expanded. This is true for us as well, but you can sometimes discard a draw Supporter with the Ball card you use to find Marshadow. This also makes it so that you can save your Supporter until after you Let Loose, which usually gives you better odds to hit a Silent Lab. 

1 Heat Factory <*>

Heat Factory PRISM STAR (SM8) (JP; null) is very strong in this deck, and it is kind of like a deck-specific Ace Spec. While I like the Scorched Earth option, Heat Factory is just good enough on its own in Standard and we thin our deck out more than we did because of Sycamore discarding compared to Cynthia’s shuffle draw. Scorched Earth adds consistency to the deck and likewise Silent Lab is so oppressive that it makes up for potential poor draw on your end. 

1 Beast Energy <*>/15 Fire

Fifteen Fire is absolutely enough with 3 Muscle Bands, and the 1  Beast Energy Prism Star (FLI; 117) is a necessary inclusion in this deck where all of our attackers are Ultra Beasts. 


 I have carefully deliberated this deck for a week or so, and my testing has yielded some pretty strong results. The Lab revelation is fairly new, but it has been insane so far. Now that we have the list in order, I’ll run over the matchups the best I can. The deck is pretty linear, though, so matchups don’t change very frequently. You are usually just putting your opponent on a 5-turn clock and the real skill comes from reaching this goal through different means, situationally. 

ZoroEggs – 55/45 – I want to say Zoroark usually gets destroyed by Let Loose/Silent Lab, but if your opponent runs well enough and the Faba plays have to happen, the matchup quickly becomes more difficult. Usually Zoroark can’t handle the prize trade, though; normally having a Tapu Lele-GX or Shaymin-EX on the bench in order to KO your first Clown, and they will usually whiff off of Let Loose/Silent Lab for at least a turn, which usually gives you enough time to win. 

Trevenant – 80/20 – Trevenant is usually a poor matchup, but replacing Dimension Valley with Silent Lab every turn and then using N or Let Loose can eventually cause them to whiff which is going to put you into the win pretty easily. If you Lab turn 1, they can whiff their Brigette which is huge for them, and you can always Bursting Burn a Trevenant to cause them a 50/50 chance to be put behind a turn. I like to bench one Blacephalon and a Marshadow in this matchup, then start playing more things when I’m at 120 and playing Silent Lab/N to put the Trevenant player down to a three card hand with Ability lock. That move seals the deal a lot of the time.


Seismitoad-EX/Lusamine/Zoroark-GX – 80/20 - This matchup is much easier than Zoro/Eggs because they have such a sad Damage Output. Usually I stick to the 5-turn plan and the turn 1 Let Loose strategy and they just crumble under the pressure, but you can also poke Toad with Naganadel and they can’t Plumeria because you can Charging Up anyway. If all else fails, Faba 4 times is another win condition. You want to be careful with Blacksmith because you only get it once, but with Bursting Burn your opponent can’t remove Confusion and play Plumeria on the same turn, so you sometimes have a chance to get it back. A good player will try to Riotous Beating your Blacephalon once into N/Quaking Punch, but you punish this by going N/Lab/KO the Zoroark-GX all in one turn. They have to run hot to hit the Seismitoad play which counteracts you having to run hot out of N/Punch. 

Primal Groudon-EX/Wobb – 75/25 – This matchup is a wash. You don’t even need to Clown in the beginning, you just lead with Naganadel and Faba Tropical Beach whenever you can while using Turning Point to pressure Wobbs. You will set up all of your Naganadels in the time it takes Groudon to get going, you can fall back onto their Beach, and you can Let Loose/Faba Beach on an important turn to completely incapacitate them. If you don’t give them a Stadium, they will do 140 damage after you have used Faba 4 times, which means you can just go Mind Blown with a Band for 70, which pops Sash even after Pokémon Center Lady, into a big Mind Blown the turn after for as many turns as you need to win. I want to respect Groudon as it sometimes runs insanely hot, and I haven’t tested too much against it because I’m okay losing to it, so I think 75/25 is appropriate. 

Archie’s Ace in the Hole/Blastoise – 40/60 – I would call the matchup 50/50 but you don’t always get turn 1 Let Loose/Silent Lab so it is more of a 40/60. Usually when you get that combo, or even just a Lab, t1 after winning the flip, Blastoise just loses because they have fully cut Stadiums and cannot use any Abilities. Even if they get a perfect Archie’s hand anyways, it’s so hard to find Energies and other attackers under constant Lab/N, and once you have your Turning Point turn and N them, this is usually the turn the game is decided. Sometimes Stoise just draws so exceptionally well that there is nothing you can do though, and they will manually attach 3 times to Articuno sometimes after you flip enough tails from Chilling Sigh that they can get back into the game with a 3-prize turn. Not an amazing matchup but I am totally okay having an option to cheese the BDIF since everybody else will try so hard to counter it already. 

Based on this matchup section, I’d say Blacephalon is a pretty strong deck choice! It has very solid options and I thought this list out pretty hard. If Anaheim was tomorrow, I would either be playing this or Trevenant BREAK, as these are the two most oppressive decks I have right now. 



That’ll be the end of this article, I’m hoping this Blacephalon-GX sees a decent amount of play and I’m excited to see it evolve further. Blacephalon is a very interesting archetype because of the whole 5-turn clock thing, which a lot of Expanded decks are capable of, but not in a way so linear that also isn’t heavily affected by the disruption options. This deck is a wonderful best of-1 deck because you will often just knock your opponent out of contention on turn 1 with Let Loose/Lab, and even if you don’t, you have a wide array of strong matchups. I will more than likely run only this for all of my Expanded cups until the meta develops a bit more. As always, thanks so much for checking out my content, make sure to support Dead Draw Gaming and the Team DDG YouTube channel, and throw me a follow on Twitter @daxptcg for plenty of free competitive content and to see what I have going on! Until next time,


-       Danny Altavilla

[+27] okko


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