Blacephalon (Unbroken Bonds UNB 32)
Blacephalon (Unbroken Bonds UNB 32)

Blacephalon – Unbroken Bonds

Date Reviewed: August 10, 2021

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 3.00
Expanded: 3.50

Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is horrible. 3 is average. 5 is great.

Reviews Below:

Otaku Avatar

Lucky 13th-Place goes to Blacephalon (SM – Unbroken Bonds 32/214)!  This is an Ultra Beast; I think the video game explanation is that they are Pokémon from another dimension, but for TCG purposes, Ultra Beast is a label that lets Blacephalon tap Ultra Beast support and makes it vulnerable to Ultra Beast counters.  Blacephalon is a Basic, so it requires minimal resources and time to hit the field, as good as it gets for Pokémon Stages.  Its Fire-typing has been handy for most of its lifespan; almost all Grass and Metal Pokémon are [R] Weak, and Zacian V has been one of the better (sometimes the best) deck since it released.

Blacephalon’s 120 HP is adequate; almost all smaller attacks are going to miss the OHKO, though most main attackers can still do the deed.  [W] has varied during Blacephalon’s run, but even at its worst, it just means [W] type attackers doing 60 to 110 get a OHKO; anything doing 50 or less needs at least two attacks, and those doing 120+ already had a OHKO regardless of Weakness.  The lack of Resistance is normal; most cards have none.  Resistance isn’t an overly strong mechanic, so this is a missed opportunity, not a defect.  The Retreat Cost of [CC] is neither low enough to be good nor high enough to be bad.  I will mention that Air Balloon can zero it out, for what that is worth.

Blacephalon knows two attacks.  The first is “Blazer”, priced at [R].  It only does 10 damage, but it has you flip over one of your face down Prize cards.  If the revealed Prize is a [R] Energy, Blazer does another 50 damage (so 60 total).  Anything else just does 10.  The Prize card remains face-up unless another effect flips it back down, and you cannot select Prize cards that are already face-up.  Not an awful attack for one Energy, and it was better when Blacephalon was new, but this is mostly a fallback option.  It does satisfy the common design element found on the SM-era Ultra Beasts: at least one of their effects always seems to involve Prize cards.

“Fireball Circus” is the main attack of Blacephalon.  While priced at a hefty [RRR], it lets you discard as many Fire Energy from your hand as you want, then Fireball Circus does 50 damage for each Fire Energy you discarded.  Only basic Fire Energy cards count as [R] in hand, though.  When Blacephalon was new, most basic Pokémon-GX could be OHKO’d by discarding four Fire Energy cards.  The exceptions are all TAG TEAM Pokémon, who were big enough to require you discard five or six Fire Energy from your hand, plus a few others with protective effects or abnormally high HP scores.  Three Energy, even of the same kind, is a hefty asking price…

…but Blacephalon had great timing.  You can read our original review of it here.  Don’t worry if you don’t feel like it, as I’ll list not only the support it still has, but what it often enjoyed earlier in its run.  Fiery Flint is a Trainer-Item that required you discard two cards from you hand, but let you snag four Fire Energy from your deck. Fire Crystal is a Trainer-Item that lets you add three Fire Energy from your discard pile to your hand.  Giant Hearth is a Trainer-Stadium that let’s the turn player discard a card from hand to add two Fire Energy from your discard pile to your hand (once during the turn).  Heat Factory {*} is a Prism Star Trainer-Stadium that, once during your turn, let’s the turn player discard a Fire Energy from hand to draw three cards.

Victini {*} is a Prism Star Pokémon that, for [RR], can attack and do 20 damage for each basic Energy in your discard pile, then you shuffle all the basic Energy from your discard pile back into your deck.  Last but not least for this Fire Energy support is Welder.  A Trainer-Supporter that has you attach one or two Fire Energy from your hand to one of your [R] Pokémon, then has you draw three cards if you did.  It is so potent, you didn’t need that explanation, but I wanted to include it for posterity.  All of the cards that didn’t specify basic Fire Energy cards really only work with them, as basic Fire Energy are the only Energy cards that count as [R] when not already attached to a Pokémon.

Even with all this support, you still might see stuff like Energy Retrieval in decks built around or supported by Blacephalon.  Especially in more recent times, as Fiery Flint, Heat Factory {*}, and Victini {*} rotated last year.  This may be why early Blacephalon decks were heavily focused on Blacephalon itself, while more recent decks are more “Fire Box”, with a Blacephalon or two backing a variety of other Fire attackers, or attackers of other types that can run on Fire Energy.  Even with all I’ve already written, I can’t truly do all these decks justice, but here’s a link to a LimitlessTCG search for all the decks with “Blacephalon” in its name.  Though that includes Blacephalon-GX decks as well.

Blacephalon is looking a little long in the tooth now.  Well, if it had teeth.  Typical Basic Pokémon V require you discard five Fire Energy for the OHKO, unless they’re Fire Weak like Zacian V.  Big ol’ Pokémon VMAX need you to discard six or seven Energy.  Are Blacephalon decks still competitively viable?  Maybe.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of recent results, so I cannot tell if the deck has died out entirely, or if it was just two rough tournaments Blacephalon decks, or even Fire decks in general.  At the Players Cup II Global Finals, held back in December of 2020, a Blacephalon deck still finished in 3rd-Place.  At both the Players Cup III and Players Cup IV Global Finals, there were none.  Players Cup III had some other Fire decks, but Players Cup IV didn’t have any of those, either!

So, how good would Blacephalon be if it was sticking around?  Not very.  Even if the last major event was an anomaly and Blacephalon is still one of the strong single Prize and/or Fire-type attackers, Fire Crystal, Giant Hearth, and Welder are all rotating out come September 10th, just like Blacephalon.  I could be mistaken, and things could easily change with future releases.  After all, before Welder we had Kiawe, and before that we had Blacksmith; the powers-that-be seem to like accelerating basic Fire Energy cards.  Still, with it being a no-show in the Top 15/16  for two large-scale events, Blacephalon did not make my Top 15.  However, it easily could have, because it really only dropped off in competitive play quite recently… and that may only be in the top cut.

Finally, I think Blacephalon has a solid chance in the Expanded Format.  Due to lack of personal experience and data, that’s a total guess on my part.  Still, you have a wider variety of decks, and since all the biggest Pokémon are already in Standard, that means lower average HP scores.  Maybe not by much, but with access to its past support, and even some handy older cards that didn’t ever overlap with it, I think Blacephalon V still has some Fire in its belly.


  • Standard: 3/5
  • Expanded: 3/5

vince avatar

Our 13th place pick is one that I would be sad to see it go.

Blacephalon from SM Unbroken Bonds was one of the best single prize Pokémon (with Charizard VIV coming second) that is capable of achieving limitless damage capacity, and because of that, it can win the prize trade quite favorably. Fireball Circus is the selling point of this card, costing 3 Fire energies (easily met with Welder and an manual attachment), and does 50 damage for each Fire energies you’ve discarded from your hand. If you wanted to OHKO something, it’ll take seven Fire energies at a minimum, and there are lots of ways to get Fire energies into your hand. Giant Hearth and Fiery Flint were methods to get Fire energies from your deck into your hand while Fire Crystal and Energy Retrieval gets you several Fire energies from your discard pile onto your hand so that you can deal extraordinary amounts of damage again.

The 2020-2021 Rotation did hurt Blacephalon somewhat with the loss of Heat Factory (*) and Fiery Flint, but they still have some other crucial cards for Fire based decks. Now? All of the remaining Fire based support and Blacephalon will rotate out. Even if it were to remain standard legal, the loss of Fire based support means there’s no incentive to continue using it. At least Blacephalon will continue to be a good-to-great card in Expanded, though its greatest feature is also its Achilles Heel (item lock, anti-Fire/Basic, not having enough Fire energies in hand, high basic energy counts). Blacephalon would the deck of my choice if I was participating any tournaments on Standard. But now, it seems like I currently don’t have any deck that is Standard legal at the moment.

Standard: 3 (Soon to be N/A)

Expanded: 4

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