05/28/2020 by Kenny Wisdom
Hey everyone! Kenny Wisdom here again after a five-year hiatus from 60Cards! I've been gone for a long time, and I'm excited to be back. Going forward, I will be bringing you a mix of competitive and historical/community-based content a couple of times a month, as schedules permit. I've wanted to get back to writing regularly again for quite a while now, and the stars have finally aligned. I can't thank Mark Dizon enough for being receptive to my wants and welcoming me in as a part of the team. Like with everything else I do, I'm hoping I can bring high-quality content from a unique perspective. Because my writing topics will sometimes be about other issues than tournament results and decklists, please feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter @kwisdumb with what topics you'd like to see covered. For today though, we'll be talking about the deck I'm playing for the upcoming Limitless Qualifier tournament: Baby Blowns!
As a quick aside: I'm re-engaging with Pokemon in a significant way starting right now. For the past few years, I've been heavily focused on commentary, but haven't quite had the time and passion for fully dedicating myself to playing or writing about Pokemon. With all live tournaments being canceled, I realized that I still have a deep need to be connected with Pokemon, so I've jumped back in feet first. I play every single day, I've recently started streaming (kwisdumb on Twitch), and of course, I'm bringing you all written content as well! I'll, of course, still be commentating on every event that I can. While I can't say what exactly the future will hold for me as far as playing in live tournaments (once we get those back!) again, I will say that I'm genuinely more energized and passionate about Pokemon than I've ever been so that you may see gunning for my invite in 2021. Nothing is set in stone, but I do know one thing about the future: I'm looking forward to it.
With that out of the way, onto the topic at hand! I first decided to relearn Standard just as Rebel Clash was releasing, and the deck that immediately drew my attention was Blacephalon UNB. The deck has changed a little bit since I first started tinkering with it (and as you'll see, my Q3 and Q4 lists are a few cards different), but here is a shortlist of what I like about Blacephalon inherently as an archetype:
1. Winning a prize exchange has always been an essential part of Pokemon, and that's never been more true than right now, as we have not one but two different kinds of Pokemon that give up three prizes upon being KO'd. As a general rule, my first thoughts when exploring a new format always revolve around ways to maximize the prize trade in your favor. Blacephalon plays few two prize Pokemon, no three prize attackers, and generally only puts a multi-prize Pokemon in the active spot if it's going to guarantee a favorable prize exchange.
2. OHKO ability. The axis that a lot of single prize attacker decks tend to fail on is their ability to find one-hit knockout. Typically this isn't a huge deal, as you're often still in a position to win the prize trade with two or sometimes even three-hit knockouts. Always, the ability for a single prize attacker deck to consistently find OHKOs on two or three prize Pokemon is enormous, especially when some amount of those decks have their ways to manipulate the prize exchange (Altered Creation GX, for example).
3. It's challenging to play. I know that some of you are reading this and rolling your eyes as Blacephalon has a reputation for being a clunky "all-in" sort of deck. That reputation is partially warranted; There are times when you need an extraordinary amount of things to go right to have an acceptable turn, and there are games where your hands just don't cooperate with you. With that being said, a lot of the fun I have playing Blacephalon is trying to figure out how to properly sequence my plays to maximize my chances of finding the pieces I need to secure a KO every turn. I am far from perfect at it, which makes it all the more enticing and exciting to play.
Even with all of this being said, I wouldn't play Blacephalon if it weren't a top tier deck. Although my main focus of any competitive endeavor is learning (maybe another article for down the road!), I am also profoundly interested in winning. In the weeks leading up to Q3 and finally, in the event itself, Blacephalon proved that it was a worthy contender, taking home a fifth-place finish. Due to the resurgence of PikaRom, Blacephalon was far from the talk of the tournament. Still, it's a significant player in the format, and I believe it is even better positioned going into Q4. Before we get into that, I must share the decklists I'm 90% sure I'll be playing this weekend:
- 1x Blacephalon GX
- 3x Blacephalon
- 1x Cramorant V
- 1x Victini Prism Star
- 1x Dedenne GX
- 4x Jirachi
- 1x Zacian V
- 1x Mewtwo
- 1x Oricorio
- 4x Fire Crystal
- 4x Welder
- 4x Quick Ball
- 4x Fiery Flint
- 3x Switch
- 1x Adventure Bag
- 1x Ordinary Rod
- 1x Heat Factory PRISM STAR (SM8)
- 1x Ultra Space
- 1x Beast Bringer
- 1x Escape Board
- 1x Lucky Egg
- 2x Energy Retrieval
- 1x Great catcher
- 4x Scoop Up Net
- 13x Fire Energy
At this point in the format, I'm going to assume that you know what the cards do and the general strategy of the deck (although I will gladly answer any questions anyone has, of course!), but I do want to spend some time talking about the card choices. First, though, I'd like to contextualize all of this information by talking about my philosophy behind the deck:
I believe that the core strength of Blacephalon is mostly based on what I like to call Plan A. Plan A is a tactic for winning the game in which you KO a three prize attacker with Blacephalon UNB, and then snipe a Dedenne with Cramorant V, and finally take your last prize by using Burst GX. If before the game even begins, you focus all of your decisions on trying to execute Plan A, you will be able to win using three attacks, reasonably low amount of resources (you only have to Welder twice!), and as little as three turns. In my mind, if things go right, you should always be preparing to win via Plan A.
That being said, we know that things do not always go right. Sometimes your opponent isn't playing three prize attackers, sometimes they don't have Dedenne, and some amount of the time, you will prize crucial pieces or struggle to find the cards you need in time. The great thing about Blacephalon, and part of the reason why it's more complicated than just constantly jamming Plan A and praying, is because you have options even when things don't go your way. Is your opponent not playing three prizers? You should still win the prize exchange versus GX and V decks. Does your opponent not have a Cramorant target? You can likely win the game by setting up another KO on a Tag Team, then. You have a ton of different options at any given time and are capable of doing truly absurd amounts of damage out of nowhere.
The last piece of strategy advice I want to give is to say that, in conversing with other players and watching them play, we seem to have one significant difference in our playstyles with the deck. On average, I am much more patient and willing to wait a turn if it means conserving resources. By and large, you will be trading favorably on prizes, and most of the time, the KOs aren't going to evade you. Only passing instead of committing a Dedenne to the board or using a bunch of Scoop Up Nets to reset Jirachi or whatever is a play I make often. I obviously can't claim to be 100% right, but this strategy has served me well.
Onto the actual decklist! Most of these cards are pretty standard counts, as the core of Welder, Fire Crystal, Fiery Flint, Quick Ball, and Scoop Up Net doesn't leave a lot of room for innovation. Still, there are a few things I want to touch on:
Victini Prism Star vs. Victini V
I have tested extensively with Victini Prism Star (and have registered it for online tournaments) and think that it is the clear choice over its two prize counterparts. Victini Prism Star can get you out of tight situations by giving you access to your Energy cards in the late game, while also giving up only one prize and being able to OHKO commonly played two prize Pokemon. Additionally, a well-timed Infinity or two can be a potent tool versus Cincinno Mill. I think Victini V is a powerful card that could have some application going forward, but for the metagame I expect, I'd be on Victini Prism Star 100% of the time.
1 Beast Bringer
After PikaRom's domination last weekend (in which I sadly did not come equipped with a Beast Bringer), I think Beast Bringer is a must-have. Remember all those paragraphs I spent waxing poetic about prize trades and plans? Beast Bringer pushes that to the next level and makes the game versus GX decks that much easier. This is a card that I'm sure will be in and out of the deck as time goes on, but this weekend I wouldn't be caught dead without one.
0 Boss's Orders
I won't lie; this one hurts. This kind of effect is perhaps inherently the strongest in the game, and it's strange to be playing a deck that doesn't have access to it. However, at this point in my preparation, I think it's the best call. If the deck could play 61 cards, this would likely be it, but with Beast Bringer forcing the addition of Adventure Bag, there's simply no room without cutting vital consistency cards. Please note that this does make your Cincinno match up significantly worse, so if you expect that to be a major player, I will try to find room somewhere.
I think Blacephalon is heavily favored versus both PikaRom and MewMew variants, which I expect to be the top two non-mirror decks in Qualifier 4. You're also quite good versus ADP, Firebox, and Dragapult. It's for these reasons that I'm nearly 100% set on playing Blacephalon this weekend. Just have the hope to draw reasonable hands and go second in the mirror.
I appreciate everyone who took the time out of their day to read this article! If you enjoyed it, please consider following me on Twitch (twitch.tv/kwisdumb), twitter (@kwisdumb), or leaving a tip below. Thank you so much, and I'll see you soon.
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