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Zach Lesage

The Blacephalon Bible - My LAIC Report

Zach goes over his Top Eight run at LAIC and shows his updated Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel deck

11/20/2018 by Zach Lesage

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What’s up 60 Cards readers? I am back from São Paulo and I want to scream to the world how happy I am with my weekend! After playing through 15 rounds of Pokémon, I was able to make Top Eight at the Latin American International Championships and firmly secure my Top 16 placement in North America.

My article today isn’t going to be all gloating, it will have pieces of triumph, humble defeat, and showcase why Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  is here to stay. With Roanoke Regionals and League Cups around the corner, there is no better time to pick up a new deck, so let’s get started here:

The Tournament

After landing in São Paulo on Wednesday, I decided that I was too tired to complete any testing and that it would be best for me to have a relaxing day. Part of the issue with many International Championships is that they are in locations that are far away which means that you will have to change multiple time zones in order to participate. I know my body and if I push myself to it’s limits, I will eventually just collapse, play poorly, or have massive mood swings. My plan worked perfectly and I felt refreshed heading into Thursday when I met up with some of my friends to play test with. I tested vs Hampus Eriksson, Jit Min, and Rukan Shao, Frank Percic, and Austin Ellis were there on Facebook Messenger to help me along the way. After some hours of testing, I ended up settling on the following list:

While I did updated my article with this exact list before the LAIC, I do want to go over some explanations in more detail. I decided that since this was an International Championships, that I would try to make my deck as perfect as possible and have outs to as many situations that I possible could. I think I nearly achieved this and the list of people who helped me is way too long to thank. Starting with Poipole (FLI; 55) , I truly believe this is the better one because you can instantly do 10 damage because of Poison and that can make a world of a difference. You see, Pokémon like Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  now only need to take four Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  to get OHKOd with Mind Blown with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  and that can change the pace of a game. The other Poipole (LT; 107) , has a similar action, because you can know where your Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  is, but you might be costing yourself a turn by doing that. While I might have some future back and forth on which one to choose, it likely won’t matter at all because you don’t really want to attack with Poipole (FLI; 55)  if you don’t have to. It’s one of those things where if you find your self in a certain situation, which one will pull you out more times than the other. 

Moving onto the next card that I switched, I went from playing three copies of Lysandre Labs (FLI; 111)  to playing two copies of Ultra Space (FLI; 115) . The biggest reason for this change was the inclusion of Choice Helmet (LT; 169)  (more on that later), because Lysandre Labs (FLI; 111)  would shut it down as a Pokémon Tool. The Lysandre Labs (FLI; 111)  may find its way back into the list, but I can’t complain with how I did against the match ups I originally included it for. I originally wanted to use Lysandre Labs (FLI; 111)  to get around the copies of Spell Tag (LT; 190)  in Malamar (FLI; 51)  / Giratina (LT; 97)  / Tapu Koko (BW; 31) , but I was able to go 2 / 1 against the deck in the tournament overall. There were a few times that I would have been nice to shut off my opponents Counter Gain (LT; 170)  or Choice Band (GRI; 121) , but those situations were so few and far between that I didn’t miss it too much. Ultra Space (FLI; 115)  allowed my deck to pick up the consistency that was necessary to be successful and to give me an edge against the field at LAIC. When you are playing a GX deck, you need a Stadium Card to get around Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) , so it’s all about bumping it out of play, the rest is just a bonus.

Sophocles (SLG; 65)  is a bit of a weird choice for this deck with Sightseer (LT; 189)  being printed, but it worked magically throughout the entire tournament. The thing with Sightseer (LT; 189) , it is likely a better card overall, but it compresses your hand to draw more cards. While this originally sounds good, I have found it forceful when I have to decide between discarding Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  and Guzma (BUS; 115)  or getting rid of other valuable cards in the process. Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) allowed me to almost always discard Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  while keeping a large hand that was filled with Beast Ring (FLI; 102) , Guzma (BUS; 115) , and other Supporter Cards. This was especially helpful in Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  mirror where it seemed like the player who played down the most Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  in the game usually was crowned the winner. There were times where I was debating to switch to playing TV Reporter (CLS; 149)  to give me more flexibility when choosing what to discard, but Sophocles (SLG; 65)  gave me the most outs to having more dominating turns.

Looking at Choice Helmet (LT; 169) , most players would assume that I ran out of ideas for cards in my deck, but you need to look at this card like a reverse Choice Band (GRI; 121) . It was quite often the difference between my opponent using Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  to get an OHKO on my Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  and that is really saying something! In order for a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  to get an OHKO on a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  with a Choice Helmet (LT; 169)  attached, they would need to have a full Bench, a Choice Band (GRI; 121) , a Professor Kukui (SUM; 128) , a Devoured Field (CIN; 93) , and a Field Blower (GRI; 125) . That sounds like an impossible combination of cards to gather and it worked that way at the LAIC for me. Most of the time, my opponents would read Choice Helmet (LT; 169) , and proceed to play out their turn knowing that they weren’t prepared for that card to be played at all. Similarly, in Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  mirror, it requires them to Lost Zone one more Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  to get the OHKO on your Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) . Overall, this card was a welcomed addition to the deck and I think it still has some merit going forward.

Now that all of those specific card changes have reviewed from my last article, I am sure you are curious to how my day played out. There were 680 Masters at LAIC and the best players from the world were flown out to this prestigious event. I felt slightly lonely being the only Canadian Master at the event, but I had plenty of friends to support me throughout the weekend.


R1: WIN vs. Werick Santos [BR] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  /  Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)

R2: LOSS vs. Eduardo Storto [BR] with Malamar (FLI; 51)  / Giratina (LT; 97)  /  Tapu Koko (BW; 31)

R3: WIN vs. Raul Tavares [BR] with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  /  Naganadel (LT; 108)

R4: WIN vs. Vinicius Gomes [BR] with Malamar (FLI; 51)  / Giratina (LT; 97)  /  Tapu Koko (BW; 31)

R5: WIN vs. Hampus Eriksson [SE] with  Sylveon GX (GRI; 92)

R6: LOSS vs. Victor Freitas [BR] with Granbull (LT; 138)  /  Magcargo (CLS; 24)

R7: WIN vs. André Porto [BR] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  /  Magcargo (CLS; 24)

R8: WIN vs. Jhonattan Nascimento [BR] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  /  Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)

R9: ID vs. Benjamin Ferrel [CL] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  /  Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132)

After my Swiss Rounds, I felt honoured to make Day Two at another International Championships because these tournaments are difficult to play in. They feature the best players, they are in exotic locations, and they have some amazing prizes for doing so well. I was relieved to have completed my personal goal of obtaining Championship Points from this event to get a stipend for the Oceania International Championships, but my fight did not end there, I was ready! I wanted to go as far as possible the next day so I went to bed early and relaxed as much as possible.


R10: WIN vs. Antonio Vitor Jardim [BR] with  Malamar (FLI; 51) / Giratina (LT; 97) / Tapu Koko (BW; 31)

R11: WIN vs. Caio Navarro [BR] with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  /  Naganadel (LT; 108)

R12: WIN vs. Gabriel Massaroth [BR]  with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24)  /  Weavile (UPR; 74)

R13: WIN vs. Clifton Goh [SG] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132)  /  Decidueye GX (SUM; 12)

R14: ID vs. Fabrizio Bellucci [AR] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Decidueye GX (SUM; 12)  

I don’t know how else to explain it, but I felt relief. To many players, I am seen as a top plauyer, but I have felt cursed for years. Before this event, I hadn’t made Top Eight at an event for two years, but I have now squashed that curse. It sucked going into Top Eight realizing that there were many poor match ups surrounding me, but I was beyond ecstatic about my success in this tournament.


TOP8: LOSS vs. Daniel Altavilla [US] with Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  /  Magcargo (CLS; 24)

So you win some and you lose some, I don’t have any negative feelings about this loss because it allowed my friend and Dead Draw Gaming teammate, Daniel Altavilla, to win the entire event. I went into this tournament hoping for a Top 128 finish to receive Championship Points for an Oceania stipend, but I ended up growing as a player. I earned plenty of amazing prizes, I have received messages from many people who have supported me, and I have further cemented myself as a top contender in this game! I knew that the match up was poor before hand, I gave it my best shot, and the result is what I expected. After playing this match out, I decided that Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24)  would likely be a popular deck at Roanoke Regionals which meant that I would have to learn to beat it. After sleeping in until 11AM the next day, I wanted to test my brains out to come up with the perfect list for the expected metagame going forward...

Updated Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel Deck

So after testing the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) / Magcargo (CLS; 24)  against Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  over and over again until I realized that the deck needs to play two Energy Switch (CLS; 129) . The Energy Switch prevents Plumeria (BUS; 120)  / Crushing Hammer (SUM; 115)  from keeping you out of games and there are a few other utility uses for them too. I have found in mirror that it allows you to bounce back into games without Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  sometimes or it can allow you to retreat random Pokémon like Marshadow (SLG; 45)  out of nowhere. I could ramble on for another few paragraphs, but it is much more interesting to look at my updated list:

Yeah, I know it is sad to see Choice Helmet (LT; 169)  go, but Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  is just BUSTED! I really think that this above list should be the golden standard for a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  deck because it is super consistent. If you were looking for a little bit more spice, I do have a handful of techs that I have been considering that I will mention here:

One Alolan Muk and one Ditto PRISM STAR

In order to make space for the Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  and Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) , I would cut a Poipole (FLI; 55)  and either a Cynthia (UPR; 119) , Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  or Fire Energy (GEN; 76) . The Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  is a strong choice because it can shut off pesky Pokémon such as Giratina (LT; 97)  and Oranguru (SUM; 113)  to help out some of the decks poor match ups.

It doesn’t really help out against the bigger decks in the format, but if you look at my losses, Granbull (LT; 138)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24) , and Malamar (FLI; 51)  / Giratina (LT; 97)  / Tapu Koko (BW; 31) , it would have been quite useful. This card is on my list to experiment with and I truly feel like it could be included in my list for Roanoke.

One Alolan Ninetales-GX, one Alolan Vulpix, and one Ditto PRISM STAR

In order to make space for the Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132) , Alolan Vulpix (GRI; 21)  and Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) , I would cut a Poipole (FLI; 55)  and two of the following: Cynthia (UPR; 119) , Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  or Fire Energy (GEN; 76) . So while I was playing through Day One of Swiss at LAIC, I thought that Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132)  would be an interesting addition to the deck to search out  Beast Ring (FLI; 102) . I don’t want to say that this would push the Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  mirror in our favour, but I want to explore that as a potential edge in that match up. It could also grab cute cards like Mysterious Treasure (FLI; 113)  to nab a Marshadow (SLG; 45)  or maybe even an Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  in a pinch. 

One Electrode-GX and one Ditto PRISM STAR

In order to make space for the Electrode GX (CLS; 48)  and Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) , I would cut a Poipole (FLI; 55)  and either a Cynthia (UPR; 119) , Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  or Fire Energy (GEN; 76) . This is the spiciest pick of them all and Therefore Electrode GX (CLS; 48)  has the least amount of chance to be played in my deck. This card has a dual purpose with Extra Energy Bomb, you can power up your Naganadel (LT; 108)  in play and you can activate Beast Ring (FLI; 102) . This isn’t helpful in the Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  mirror, but it is quite useful against Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24)

With all of these potential changes, you should be able to make Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  your own deck by adding in some flare. For me, I am more of a consistency freak and will likely be playing the above updated list as is, but you never know when I will want to spice it up. With Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  being a newer deck, I will go over some of the match ups that you can expect to see in Roanoke.

Popular Match Ups

With decks like Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo dominating LAIC, you might be wondering how to approach some of the more popular match ups heading into Roanoke. Well, I will be providing as much information as I can on each match up based on my experiences from LAIC.

Zoroark-GX / Magcargo

After adding in Energy Switch to the deck, Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  has earned a favourable match up over Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24) . Your game plan in this match up is to use Burst GX in the early game, Mind Blown on a single Prize Card Pokemon like Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154) , and to Knock Out two GX Pokemon. They will likely send you into an infinite Oranguru (UPR; 114) , Counter Catcher (CIN; 91) , Plumeria (BUS; 120)  loop to keep your Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  out of play, but there is a plan to get around that.

You need to save a Guzma (BUS; 115)  on your hand, hold onto an Energy Switch (CLS; 129) , and eventually top deck a Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  to bring up one fo their Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) . You should be able to bank enough Energy on Naganadel (LT; 108)  to make sure that you can get the five Fire Energy (GEN; 76)  Knock Out on Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) . If you repeat this Guzma (BUS; 115)  / Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  tactic again, you will win the game before they run you out of resources.

Zoroark-GX / Decidueye-GX / Alolan Ninetales-GX

This match up hovers between slightly favourable and even, but it truly depends on the coin flip to see how close this match up gets. If they go first, use Professor Elm's Lecture (LT; 188) , and get out Alolan Vulpix (GRI; 21) , Rowlet (SUM; 9) , and Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154)  you are going to be in for a rocky game. If you go first, use Marshadow (SLG; 45)  on your first turn, and then play a Lillie (UPR; 125)  for eight, you are in business. Similar to the Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24)  match up, you usually want to use Burst GX early and follow it up with a Mind Blown on a single Prize Card Pokémon. Once you get into the thick of the game, you want to prepare yourself to take back-to-back double Prize Card Knock Outs so you can either have enough Energy in play or try to focus on Knocking Out Decidueye GX (SUM; 12) . The one truck that you have to worry about is that Alolan Ninetales GX (LT; 132)  can snipe around your field and potentially put you into a position where you can’t use Beast Ring (FLI; 102)

Zoroark-GX / Lycanroc-GX

This is actually one of the most favourable match ups for Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108) because Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74)  can’t keep up. It doesn’t matter if they use Dangerous Rogue GX or if they get a big OHKO with Riotous Beating, they just can’t keep up. Similar to most match ups, you want to steal a Prize Card early with Burst GX and follow it up by Knocking Out either a Zoroark GX (SLG; 53) or a single Prize Card Pokémon.

You should be at either three or four Prize Cards at this point and you will need to Knock Out two Pokémon regardless of whatever your opponent throws your way. At this point, it doesn’t matter if they are able to Knock Out a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  because you can easily use Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  to power up a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  and clear a path for you to win the game.

Blacephalon-GX / Naganadel 

This is actually the most ridiculous match up because it will involve someone using Bursting Burn, someone using Burst GX and usually a player will miss their turn of Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  due to variance. I have played the mirror match about 20 times now and I still haven’t figured out a great game plan beyond using Bursting Burn to slow them down, but that only works if I am behind. The best advice that I can give you is to take bountiful leaps in this match up by racing to four Prize Cards first. If you win that race and follow it up with Beast Ring (FLI; 102) , you should have a solid chance at winning overall!

Granbull / Magcargo

Granbull (LT; 138)  / Magcargo (CLS; 24)  is definitely a match up where you would love to have Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  / Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154)  in your deck because it will definitely give you an edge by shutting off Oranguru (SUM; 113) . If your opponent is unable to use Oranguru (SUM; 113) , they won’t be able to draw the top card of their deck that has been stacked by Magcargo (CLS; 24) , and they won’t be able to max damage out with All In on Granbull.

If you don’t have Alolan Muk (SUM; 58) , try to out pace your opponent by using Burst GX early and focus on Knocking Out their Magcargo (CLS; 24)  as early as possible. Alternatively, if your opponent struggles to get out Snubbull (LT; 137) , you can Knock Out those Pokémon to isolate their Granbull (LT; 138) . This match up is rough because they can chain Diantha (FLI; 105) , use All In with Choice Band (GRI; 121) , and Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143)  can really add up. 

Malamar / Giratina / Tapu Koko

Malamar (FLI; 51)  / Giratina (LT; 97)  / Tapu Koko (BW; 31) is a deck that I am surprised that I went two and one against at LAIC, but crazier things have been accomplished. My key to success was to focus on Knocking Out Malamar (FLI; 51)  as soon as possible to stop our opponent from powering up Giratina (LT; 97)  over and over again. Once I have received my mileage out of Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  (drawing two Prize Cards), I attack with Naganadel (LT; 108)  against their Psychic weak Pokémon. Some key things to remember is that Tapu Lele suffers from a Psychic-hype Weakness, Beast Energy Prism Star (FLI; 117)  allows Turning Point to OHKO a Tapu Koko (BW; 31) , and Turning Point can OHKO a Giratina (LT; 97)  if you have three Prize Cards remaining. This deck does play Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143)  so make sure that you are mindful of your counter Stadium Cards and benching of your GX Pokemon.

See Ya in Roanoke

That’s a warp for today! I will still be releasing an article on Friday that goes over my play for Roanoke and speaking about Roanoke, I am excited. I am leaving tomorrow to go to the tournament with friends and I can’t wait to play in another major event. Oh, just to give everyone an update on my journey, I am now ranked fifth in North America, I feel like I made it! I will be booking my flight to Melbourne, Australia soon and I am glad to go back to one of my favourite countries in the world.

With the quarter being reset for Roanoke, I will be pushing hard to do the best that I can possibly do going forward. I will also be working on producing the highest level of content going forward on a consistent basis as I work on a strategic plan to make 60 Cards a better website. During this time of rejuvenation, I welcome any and all feedback that will help see the site succeed. The immediate goals of the site are to streamline regular content, release it on a continuous basis, and provide more articles for the same value. These are hefty goals, but I will be working long hours to make sure I can keep the value of my word. 

If you are looking to find out what’s going on in the world of Zach Lesage, here is the linking for all of my current Social Media / business projects.


Twitter: zlesage_pokemon

Coaching: message me on Facebook

YouTube: Team DDG


Twitch: TBA


Until next time,

Zach Lesage


#PlayPokemon #Pokemon #60Cards #PokeAcademy #DeadDrawGaming

[+33] okko


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