Experts' corner

Zach Lesage

Sizzling Hot: Fire is Insane

Check out Zach's hot takes from Madison behind the paywall!

06/07/2019 by Zach Lesage

Back from Madison

What’s up 60 Cards readers, it’s me Zach, and I am back home after a lengthy drive from Madison. I was able to place 17th at that event with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52) / Persian GX (UBO; 149) v and I also gained valuable insight on our new Unbroken Bonds metagame. In this article I am going over three of the best Fire-type decks, Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149) , and Blacephalon (UBO; 32)  / Salazzle (UBO; 31) ), and sell you on the idea that those are the three best decks right now. In Madison we saw similar variants of these decks battle it out in the finals, with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  winning, but where does the metagame move from here? 

You will find out below after the paywall, so let’s dive in!

Where the Metagame Places 

You might have seen Ian Robb win with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  in Madison against Azul Griego’s Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  with the thought that the metagame has been solved right there. While my personal testing shows that both of those decks are at the top of the metagame, we need to look into more stats to determine what we can expect going forward. The season is coming to a close with a handful of foreign events, the Origins Special Event, and the North American Interantional Championship so we need to find the absolute best decks. That’s where I am here to help. The three biggest factors that I want to look at are metagame trends, the top performing decks in this metagame, and the search of the best lists. In this article I will touch on these in a varying order, but my intentions are for the best read possible for all of you.

Looking at the two top performing lists from Madison, I would personally like to touch base on the Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  list that won. While I am happy that the deck won, the better list ended up coming 17th place. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but my inclusion of Persian GX (UBO; 149)  in the deck is absolutely metagame breaking. From testing Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  extensively since my Top Eight performance at the Latin American International Championships, I have been dubbed ‘The BLOWNs God’. While the nickname is more of a meme, my 1400+ CP with the deck can credit to my massive amount of experience with the deck. The deck has always lacked a mid game approach to gather copies of Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  when you needed them and the best way to get them out was either holding them in your hand or using a Supporter like Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140)  to naturally draw into them. The Persian GX (UBO; 149)  allows you search out ANY two cards when your opponent Knocks Out a GX Pokemon which means that you can get ANY two cards that you need. Maybe you don’t have a Supporter in your hand, you can grab an Erika's Hospitality (TM; 140)  to pop off. Maybe you just need a Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  or two to get a Knock Out on an opposing Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) , just grab them. I have even gone as far to grab a Welder and a Fire Energy to attack with Persian GX (UBO; 149) . Getting back to Robb’s list, his is an older version of my deck that I played at League Cups in the Unbroken Bonds format. While Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  was great, like allowing me to win the Collinsville Regional Championships level of great, it doesn’t seem like a solid inclusion based on our current metagame.

Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  was included in my earlier lists because Zapdos (TM; 40)  / Jirachi (TM; 99)  decks were running rampant, but they aren’t nearly as well positioned right now. Additionally, Zapdos (TM; 40)  decks don’t need to purely abuse Jirachi (TM; 99)  as a consistency crutch because more lists are also including a Zebstrika (TM; 45)  line. With all of that in mind, the Alolan Muk (SUM; 58)  just doesn’t cut it as much as it used to be a staple. In one of my games at Madison, I played against one of the greatest players in the game, Michael Pramawat, and the Persian GX (UBO; 149)  was one of the only reasons why I was able to win. He quickly realized its importance in game one, where he Knocked Out the Persian GX (UBO; 149) , because he didn’t want to give me access to my deck after a Knock Out. Throughout the series, I played down the Persian GX (UBO; 149)  after he was forced to Knock Out a Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  which allowed me to take control of the game. If my findings are correct, we can determine that if Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  sets up, it will win against Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  the majority of the time. I would like to go on further by saying that if Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  sets up, it wins against the majority of decks in the metagame. I will talk more about the metagame in just a moment, but I do want to touch on Griego’s Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  for a moment. 

With Griego and his testing group coming to the same conclusion as each other, we can assume that they agree that Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  is a fantastic choice heading into any event. That is a pretty basic statement though, we did see Kian Amini win the Santa Clara Regionals with the deck and Pablo Meza was able to win São Paulo Regionals with the deck. From looking at the stats available to the public after Madison Regionals, it has been proven that the Jirachi (TM; 99)  version of Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  is a better play than the Green's Exploration (UBO; 175)  version of the deck. Looking deeper into Griego’s list, I did find some additions of cards that I don’t necessarily agree with and cards that aren’t on trend for the current metagame. Looking at the results from Madison, Vileplume (BUS; 6)  decks were no where to be found at the top tables because players were expected to tech against them with decks such as Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) . Griego went as far to include an Arcanine (UBO; 22)  in his deck to try and beat this matchup. Going into Madison, I decided that if I were going to play Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) , that I would not try and counter Vileplume (BUS; 6)  because I predicted it would see a decline. I used this same methodology to tell one of the players that I drove to the event with, Draydon Davis, that Vileplume (BUS; 6)  would not be a great play for the event. It works both ways. The other glaring omission from their deck was playing Choice Band (GRI; 121)  and Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) . While they may have added in additional consistency cards to their deck, they did lack Knock Out potential when it came to facing mirror matches. Both of those cards are staples in the deck if you face a mirror match and it has left me wondering how they were able to finesse their way around that matchup. I still really like the concept of their list, but the best thing to do in Pokémon is push the metagame forward to always ride the top of the metagame food chain.

Getting back on track, we can look at the metagame as a whole via public resources so I will showcase the metagame as is to give you a better idea of what decks to expect at your next events. Looking at the Limitless data page for major events in North America in the Unbroken Bonds format, here is what we can see in terms of the decks that are doing the best:

Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)

Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  /  Slowking (LT; 55)

Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)

Zapdos (TM; 40)

Vileplume (BUS; 6)  / Lucario & Melmetal GX (UBO; 120)  /  Hoopa (SLG; 55)

Shedinja (LT; 95)  / Zebstrika (TM; 45)  /  Oranguru (UPR; 114)

Weezing (UBO; 74)  /  Spell Tag (LT; 190)

Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  /  Naganadel (LT; 108)

Spell Tag (LT; 190)  /  Naganadel (LT; 108)

Blacephalon (UBO; 32)  /  Wishful Baton (BUS; 128)

The events that we have looked at include both Santa Clara and Madison, but our current metagame is hostile towards a few of the deck already. Both Vileplume (BUS; 6)  based decks and Shedinja (LT; 95)  based decks have seen counters floating around Madison which means that they are not on trend to do well going forward. When I looked at the decks around me at Madison, I saw decks running higher counts of Field Blower (GRI; 125)  to deal with Shedinja (LT; 95)  and Stealthy Hood (UBO; 186)  techs to deal with Vileplume (BUS; 6) . Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  / Slowking (LT; 55)  has taken a spot as a counter deck to the current format, but my biggest issue with the deck is that it doesn’t necessarily setup well or actually counter the current format. With Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  decks opting for a thicker line of Eevee & Snorlax GX (TM; 120) , the matchup looks worse and worse every passing day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  decks adding in Fighting-type Pokémon, such as Buzzwole (FLI; 77)  and Lycanroc GX (GRI; 74) , to deal with the presence of Eevee & Snorlax GX (TM; 120)  in the metagame. If you are looking for CP at your next major event, I honestly recommend that you stay away from Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  / Slowking (LT; 55)  due to its natural inconsistencies. Most of the other decks seem to be either counters to popular decks, such as Spell Tag (LT; 190)  / Naganadel (LT; 108)  being a counter to Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20) , or they are more neutral picks in the metagame. The most interesting inclusions on this list, Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  and Weezing (UBO; 74)  / Spell Tag (LT; 190) , are weird because they seem to sometimes hold up with the metagame, but I think it’s a case of better players doing well with them. Looking into it specifically, I don’t think that Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  would have done well in the hands of a lesser experienced player than Will Jenkins. This is a similar situation with myself and Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  throughout the season. I am arguably the most known player to run the deck and I have seen success with the deck throughout the entire season. If other players such as Caleb Gedemer were to play the same deck as me, I am sure the deck would see more success. That being said, I think that decks like Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33)  and Weezing (UBO; 74)  / Spell Tag (LT; 190)  do well because the players playing them are generally more experienced players. If you are experienced in either of those decks, go ahead and play them but if you aren’t, I would recommend one of the Fire-type decks in the above list of decks.

The last deck that is in our metagame is Blacephalon (UBO; 32)  / Wishful Baton (BUS; 128)  and this is the Fire-type deck that has seen the least amount of love in our format. My personal stance on it is that it is the Fire-type counter to the two big Fire-type decks, Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  and Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108) , because it can hit for big numbers. It has often been touted as an inconsistent deck, but my inclusion of Salazzle (UBO; 31)  in the deck has definitely changed my own opinion on how consistency the deck works. A testament to this is that my current list, who was piloted by Michele Babin, was able to go 5-2-2 at Madison. She was one of two players who played my list at the event and she placed 88th. While this isn’t a juicy Top Four performance or a Championship win, it is a solid placement with an otherwise inconsistent deck. There were a few circumstances of players making Day Two with Blacephalon (UBO; 32)  / Wishful Baton (BUS; 128) , but I have found flaws in all of their lists. If you are looking to beat the two big decks from Madison, Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  and Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108) , be sure to keep this deck at the top of your priorities. 

With all of those gigantic walls of text pulling you in one direction or another, I guess it is time for me to state my opinion on where the metagame will end up. It is obvious that Reshiram and Charizard GX (UBO; 20)  will be a front runner in this format and I am sure there are going to be players who will try and copy Robb’s success with Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Naganadel (LT; 108) . I wouldn’t be surprised to see players copying my 17th place list of Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  more than Robb’s because of my extensive testing and the exciting inclusion of Persian GX (UBO; 149) . It has been seen at a few Regionals now, but Water-type decks, such as Spell Tag (LT; 190)  / Naganadel (LT; 108) and Zoroark GX (SLG; 53)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149)  / Slowking (LT; 55) , can’t keep up with the onslaught of Fire-type decks in the metagame. Looking at the available counters, I truly believe that Blacephalon (UBO; 32)  / Salazzle (UBO; 31)  is the best counter to the big Fire-type decks in the format. We might see some different stall decks come out to play, such as Florges (FLI; 86)  / Ribombee (LT; 146)  / Donphan (LT; 112)  / Unown (LT; 91) , but we can’t predict what players will actually bring to any event. Keep your eyes and ears peeled on Social Media to follow any upcoming trends and get yourself as prepared as possible for your upcoming events. Let’s look into some of my updated lists for the decks that I like the most in this format.

Reshiram & Charizard-GX Updated

You have heard me hype this deck up, it is one for he best decks in the game, and it is coming off another amazing performance at Madison. I’m sure you already understand how the deck works so let’s jump into the list.

Like I said, this deck is basically where Griego left off because I added in two copies of Choice Band (GRI; 121)  and a copy of Shrine of Punishment (CLS; 143) . Both of these cards are meant to improve the mirror match so give it a whirl. 

Blacephalon-GX / Persian-GX Updated 

I have gone on and on about this deck, but this past article that I wrote should sum up my thoughts on the deck perfectly. Here is the link to the article: Blacephalon-GX article. If you read that article, you should understand how the deck works to a much higher level. Let’s jump into my list.

There aren’t many changes that I made since Madison, but I like the inclusion of Pokégear 3.0 (UBO; 182)  in this deck to make it more consistent overall. While I liked having Tapu Lele GX (GRI; 60)  in my deck for Madison, I found it at times to clump my Bench up when I needed to get out a Ditto Prism Star (LT; 154)  or Meowth (BUS; 101)  to guarantee my Persian GX (UBO; 149)  strategy. The only card that I am considering cutting form this list at this point is Energy Switch (CLS; 129)  for a Mew (UBO; 76)  to get around Pikachu & Zekrom GX (TM; 33) . With the deck including Welder (UBO; 189) , I have found less of a need for Energy Switch (CLS; 129) , but its usefulness comes up from time to time.

Blacephalon / Salazzle Updated 

I have given my opinion on this deck, it seems to do well against the other big Fire-type decks in our metagame, and it has a similar matchup spread as Blacephalon GX (LT; 52)  / Persian GX (UBO; 149) . I like how this deck is mainly based around Single Prize Card attackers which means that it can put up a fight against any deck. Let’s check out the list.

I think this might be the exact list that I posted in my last article, but that should prove how strong I think it is in the current metagame. I might consider cutting Counter Catcher (CIN; 91)  for another Beast Ring (FLI; 102)  because I always wanted a second Beast Ring (FLI; 102) , but I will need to test that more this weekend. This list is my current top pick for the Origins Special Event so you might get an update article from me next week.

Columbus Bound

That is a wrap for today. To update you on where I am at, I am sitting at 1700+ CP right now, I am hard locked for a Day Two invite to the World Championships, and I have hit my full Best Finish Limit (BFL) of eight Regional Championships this season. If you don’t understand how a BFL works, it basically takes your best performances at Regionals into account. I will be attending the Origins Special Event and I will be going to the 2019 North American International Championships. This season has been a super exciting year for me in terms of Pokémon, life, and growth as a person. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me and I hope that you are all there for the ride! If you want to see more of my journey, follow me on my social media:

Twitch: zlesagepokemon

Twitter: zlesagepokemon

Facebook: Zach Lesage

I also have open slots for coaching so if you are interested, please reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.


Zach Lesage

[+20] okko


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