Hi folks! Kenny Wisdom here, writing another Standard deck spotlight article on behalf of UNDNTD. I hope you've been having as much fun reading them as I've had writing them! My schedule's pretty up-in-the-air for the next few weeks, so I figured I might as well make this one count. Today, let's talk about a deck I've played quite a bit, but we haven't gotten around to writing about yet: Blacephalon (sm10-32). (Or Cracephalon, or Welder Toolbox, or…*shudders* Tempozard—whatever suits you.)
Like the Pikachu & Zekrom-GX deck I wrote about a few weeks ago, Blacephalon (sm10-32) decks have existed in one form or another for quite some time. They've definitely changed form over the years, which we'll dive a little deeper into later, but at the end of the day the overall game plan has more or less stayed the same: abuse Welder (sm10-189) and powerful Fire type Pokémon to do a lot of damage very quickly.
There are a number of different ways you can build the deck, but for this article, we'll focus on the most recent online tournament winning list. These picks hail from the GGToor Chill TCG Cup $2k that took place on the weekend of February 21st.
4 Jirachi (sm9-99)
2 Cramorant V (swsh1-155)
2 Blacephalon (sm10-32)
2 Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20)
2 Dedenne-GX (sm10-57)
1 Crobat V (swsh3-104)
1 Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117)
1 Mewtwo (sm10-75)
1 Oricorio-GX (sm12-95)
4 Welder (sm10-189)
1 Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154)
4 Switch (swsh1-183)
4 Fire Crystal (sm10-173)
4 Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165)
4 Quick Ball (swsh1-179)
2 Cherish Ball (sm11-191)
1 Great Catcher (sm12-192)
1 Pokégear 3.0 (swsh1-174)
1 Reset Stamp (sm11-206)
4 Giant Hearth (sm11-197)
14 Fire Energy (base4-126)
This decklist more or less matches the current standard, though there are a few cards that stand out—we'll talk about those as we go over the entirety of the decklist. Here's something important to note if you're considering building a Blacephalon (sm10-32) deck for the first time, or if you're even just trying to understand the counts in this specific list: the specific engines in this deck don't leave you a whole lot of wiggle room for techs. Being reliant on cards like Fire Crystal (sm10-173) means that you're reliant on cards like Jirachi (sm9-99), which means that you're very interested in high counts of cards like Switch (swsh1-183) and Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165). With Welder (sm10-189) as the main focus of your deck, you're going to want to play a bunch of Fire Energy (base4-126), etc.
We'll get into the nitty gritty of the decklist in a moment, but first, I hope the list and short description above provide a framework for why the deck is built as it is in the macro sense. As I described earlier, a Blacephalon deck is traditionally all about finding your copies of Welder (sm10-189) early and often to "cheat" on Energy a bit and take quick KOs. You can do this in a number of ways, and the specific attackers in each era of the decklist represent what exactly you need to be attacking in the metagame.
It may seem like I've oversimplified the concept, and I don't mean to imply that the deck is simple to play or understand, but the basic, high level game plan is more or less as straightforward as that. Now that you have the general concept in mind, let's add some context, and hopefully fully flesh out why Blacephalon (sm10-32) operates as it does by taking a deep dive into the decklist.
Although not as popular as it once was due to format rotation and metagame shifts, Jirachi (sm9-99) remains an all-star in all builds of Blacephalon (sm10-32). As I spoke about earlier, you are very reliant on finding certain Trainer cards at specific times in the game, and no single card in Standard does that better than Jirachi (sm9-99). Cards like Switch (swsh1-183) and Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) allow you to use multiple Stellar Wish activations on those turns that you need to dig super deep into your deck to find the winning combination of cards. I have seen lists in the past that have experimented with 3 Jirachi (sm9-99), but I'd would stick with the tried and true maximum consistency choice of 4.
2 Cramorant V
Cramorant V (swsh1-155) is an extremely important piece of this deck for its Spit Shot attack. While the damage output to cost ratio isn't exactly there, especially considering Spit Shot asks you to discard so many Energy, that's one of the major issues Welder (sm10-189) helps with. If you've been following the Standard format as of late you've probably seen the discussion around the Arceus & Dialga & Palkia-GX (sm12-156) deck using two Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) back to back to win the game. While Spit Shot and Welder (sm10-189) don't exactly combine into Altered Creation-GX, sometimes the strategy can feel similar as you take 4 or more prizes by KOing Dedenne GXs and Crobat Vs on the opponent's bench. Beak Catch is a strong attack in its own right, and I've definitely used it to set myself up in a dire situation, but I've found I usually don't have enough time to truly make it count, especially with so many copies of Marnie running around the format.
Onward to the namesake of the deck, and a card that has frustrated many a Standard player for seasons now: Blacephalon (sm10-32)! As you can see, current lists are much more focused on being a kind of toolbox deck with multiple different Pokémon that can attack from different angles, which is why we're only playing with 2 copies of Blacephalon (sm10-32) here. Without cards like Fiery Flint (sm75-60) in the format, it's just not possible to have huge Fireball Circus attacks turn after turn.
That being said, Blacephalon (sm10-32) is still a single prize attacker that can do essentially infinite damage under the right circumstances. It asks a lot of you, but there's no other way to unlock that raw damage potential. Importantly, requiring a Welder (sm10-189) + a critical mass of Fire Energy (base4-126) in your hand is one of the many reasons Jirachi (sm9-99) is so good in the deck, as it can find you Welder (sm10-189), Fire Crystal (sm10-173), or whatever else you need to shape your hand to set up an explosive attack.
2 Reshiram & Charizard-GX
In my opinion, the inclusion of Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20) is what separates the current build of Blacephalon (sm10-32) from those in the past, and is the strongest indication that the deck is truly more of a Welder/Fire Type toolbox than it has been in the past. We're willing to accept that it gives up three prizes and is energy hungry (even for this deck!) because it leads to a few specific play patterns that are really important to us:
Firstly, it is the best way in our deck to get through the Decidueye and Obstagoon deck that Tate wrote about a while ago. As long as you've got the extra Energy for Double Blaze, it'll go right through the Goon and take a KO. The importance of having this kind of direct out to DeciGoons is going to be heavily metagame dependent, but it's a nice little bonus, and something to keep in mind if nothing else.
Secondly, the combination of Double Blaze into Flare Strike is one of the easiest ways we have to win the game. It doesn't require discarding Energy, or having a critical mass in hand, or anything like that. There are tons of games that are won on the back of starting ReshiZard, attaching, playing Welder (sm10-189) using Double Blaze, and then the next turn attaching and using Flare Strike. That should be 4 prizes by itself, meaning all you need to do is set up a big Blacephalon (sm10-32) or Cramorant KO to seal the game!
Personally, I love the Reshiram & Charizard-GX (sm10-20) in this deck, and 2 feels about the right number.
Support Pokémon - Dedenne GX, Crobat V, Mewtwo, Oricorio-GX, Galarian Zigzagoon
Ah, Dedenne-GX (sm10-57) and Crobat V (swsh3-104). You're likely used to them by now—they're the strongest draw Pokémon in the game and almost every deck in Standard runs some amount of them. There's a little bit of tension in the Blacephalon (sm10-32) deck between not wanting to have too many easy-to-KO bench sitters, and also sometimes needing to dig super deep into our deck and make some risky choices. I like where most of the community has landed on a 2/1 split.
Mewtwo (sm10-75) is a little more interesting, as it provides us two functions: Put a Welder (sm10-189) back on top of our deck, or put a Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) back on top of our deck. We have way moreWelder (sm10-189) than Boss, but we rely on Welder (sm10-189) way more than we do Boss, so what ends up getting put back with Mewtwo (sm10-75) in an average game is just going to depend on the order in which the cards have been drawn. Importantly, Mewtwo (sm10-75) is a single prize Pokémon, so it can be replayed with Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) for multiple activations over the course of a game.
Oricorio-GX's inclusion is a testament to how many cards we need to see over an average game. It is yet another relatively low-HP bench sitter that isn't always turned on, but with how much we're investing in our Pokémon and our attacks, being able to refuel after a knockout is just too important to not include. If you ever find yourself building a version of Blacephalon (sm10-32) that is running fewer copies of Blacephalon (sm10-32) itself or other single prize attackers, it's possible you may want to cut the Oricorio-GX (sm12-95). Why? Well, fewer KOs will be happening over the course of the game. That said, I think the one copy is great for the current builds.
Galarian Zigzagoon (swsh1-117) in combination with Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165) can fix our math in times where we need to do just a little more damage to take a KO, or even in some cases where we can set up multiple KOs in one turn. It's strength is going to largely depend on the metagame, but in a deck with 4 Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165), it's almost free to include the little guy.
I feel like in describing the rest of the cards in the list, I've kind of already explained why Welder (sm10-189) is so good. It allows us to cheat on Energy, attack early, and rebuild quickly. It can sometimes be frustrating to play against, because unlike most Supporters, it asks you to have a couple of Energy in hand, but the advantage it provides cannot be understated. Decks such as this one would not exist if Welder (sm10-189) were not legal in the format.
1 Boss's Orders
Without context, the single Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) may seem a little strange, but after you have a more well-rounded view of the deck, it makes a lot of sense. Firstly, we're relying on Welder (sm10-189) on a lot of turns, meaning we won't always be able to play Boss and have an attack set up. Second, most of our attacks are doing enough damage to actually take KOs on the Pokémon our opponent might have in the Active Spot. Third, Cramorant V (swsh1-155) gives us an out to sniping, so moving Pokémon around the board actually isn't as important to us as it is to some other decks. Lastly, we have Mewtwo (sm10-75) to recur the single copy, theoretically multiple times, if we find ourselves in a board state reliant on it. Boss is an incredibly powerful card—maybe the actual strongest effect in the history of Pokémon TCG—but this is a good example of where we want to deviate from the norm because of the specific construction of our deck.
Consistency Cards (Switch, Scoop Up Net, Quick Ball, Cherish Ball, Giant Hearth, Fire Crystal)
These cards are what I consider to more or less be the "Welder/Jirachi package" as they are all cards that maximize your Jirachi (sm9-99) activations like Switch (swsh1-183) or Scoop Up Net (swsh2-165), provide consistency which is boosted by Jirachi (sm9-99) like Quick Ball (swsh1-179) and Cherish Ball (sm11-191), or are just part of the cost of playing with Welder/Fire Energy (base4-126) like Giant Hearth (sm11-197) and Fire Crystal (sm10-173). I would try to maximize on all of these cards as often as possible, with the exception of Cherish Ball (sm11-191) unless the deck becomes much more flush with cards it can find.
1 Pokégear 3.0
This is also a consistency card, acting as a fifth copy of Welder (sm10-189) and second of Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154). I only put it in a different section here because you generally don't want to come anywhere near maximizing this type of effect, though it can be nice to have.
1 Great Catcher
This is a somewhat unusual deviation from the stock list, but in theory I like it as a more narrow Boss's Orders (Giovanni) (swsh2-154) effect that doesn't cost us nearly as much. I would have to sit down and put some thought into my expected metagame for a given tournament before deciding to play Great Catcher (sm12-192), but it is certainly a strong card and can be very useful in the right circumstances.
1 Reset Stamp
This is also a non-standard inclusion, and to be honest, I don't quite know how to feel about it! Conventional wisdom says that our deck is so reliant on synergy that we don't really have the slots for cards like these—cards that maybe do nothing, and are dead draws when we need something impactful. However, when Reset Stamp (sm11-206) is good, it is backbreaking, and I can't blame anyone for wanting to have that sort of trick up their sleeve. I think I would include it going into any tournament coming up, if for no other reason than to see how it played out!
Due to the nature of the Blacephalon deck and the interwoven synergies I've explained above, I feel that going over the decklist with a fine-toothed comb is the best way to learn about the deck. It isn't the most complex deck in the world, but without understanding all of the pieces, it's hard to grasp the whole picture. Once the pieces are understood individually, though, they come together to create something beautiful! ...Well, depending on who you ask.
This deck can definitely lead to frustrating games if your cards don't come together how you'd like them to. Welder (sm10-189) without Energy, a Fireball Circus that is 50 damage short, etc. have happened to us all, and can make you question why you even picked up the deck in the first place. However, I think the raw power of cards like Welder (sm10-189) and ReshiZard more than make up for the consistency spikes here and there. Blacephalon is a perfectly fine choice for any upcoming Standard tournament, and I look forward to turn one Double Blaze GXing people for many weeks to come!