– Lost Thunder

Date Reviewed:
November 27, 2018

Ratings Summary:
Standard: 3.67
Expanded: 3.68
Limited: 4.25

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

Reviews Below:

aroramage avatar

You know, if you had told me that Ultra Beasts would eventually get a clown in their ranks, I would’ve probably looked at you and said, “Well that’s just plaaaaaaaaaaaain kooky.” And now here I am. With Blacephalon.

…I’m not sure if I should be mad or immensely forgiving.

Blacephalon-GX is a Basic Fire Ultra Beast-GX, 180 HP, with a Water Weakness, no Resistance, and a Retreat Cost of 2. Bursting Burn costs 1 Fire Energy and Burns/Confuses the opposing Active Pokemon, while Mind Blown costs 1 more Energy and lets you put any number of Fire Energy attached to your Pokemon into the Lost Zone, dealing 50 damage for each one. Burst GX is the last move that lets you discard a Prize card, and if that card is an Energy card, you can attach it to one of your Pokemon.

Bursting Burn isn’t particularly exciting, but getting in a free 20 damage every round or so is pretty good, even if you’ll never use the attack otherwise. Mostly because between Mind Blown and Burst GX, you’re set. Burst GX gets rid of a Prize card and puts you ahead, while also being great set-up for Naganadel from yesterday, and on top of that Mind Blown can dish out damage so easily while being fueled by the same Naganadel’s Ability! Couple that with a few other Fire support cards in recent memory, and Blacephalon-GX suddenly is a major contender.

Course you want to run more Fire Energy than anything to make sure Blacephalon-GX can blow minds as often as possible, and since 4-5 can OHKO a great range of Pokemon on its own, it should be a standard goal of the deck to be able to accommodate. You might even mill out a bunch of Energy and attach it to multiple Naganadels – worst case, you can opt for Turning Point to make your next Mind Blown a little bit easier to hit while maintaining momentum. So keep all that in mind while you blow people away with the most explosive Pokemon to date!

…that isn’t Electrode, Voltorb, Koffing, Weezing, Geodude, Graveler…


Standard: 4/5 (pretty solid with the support it has)

Expanded: 4/5 (the biggest disadvantage is running out of steam)

Limited: 4.5/5 (which in the right builds, shouldn’t happen)

Arora Notealus: Blacephalon and Stakataka are both strange, even among the Ultra Beasts. At least with them, they were primarily based around organic material, whether by life itself or of things like paper and plants. But Blacephalon and Stakataka start to break that mold a bit by going more into man-made ideas and structures. Pretty interesting, huh?

Next Time: What’s tough and rough and pink all over?

21 Times Avatar

Cake Pop GX (LOT 52) blew everyone’s mind when it burst into the format from the Lost Thunder expansion set (yeah I know that opening sentence was really bad even for me).  This Basic 180 HP Pokemon is the first Fire type Ultra Beast in the Pokemon TCG and has three attacks.  Bursting Burn, for a single Fire attachment, burns and confuses your opponent.  Mind Blown, for two Fire energy, does fifty damage times the number of Fire energy sent to the Lost Zone, and Burst GX, for a single Fire, allows you to discard one of your prize cards and then attach it however you like to one of your Pokemon if the discarded prize is a Fire energy.

Blacephalon was the first Pokemon I tried out after Lost Thunder dropped, and I didn’t have much success with it.  I went 2 W 5 L in seven matches.  I am 100% certain that there are better decklists than what I was using (probably Nguyen Tran’s from this past weekend in Roanoke), but this card has an inherent conflict in its main attack Mind Blown.  The problem with Mind Blown is that the energy cards discarded go to the Lost Zone.  Right now, we have no means for which to return any card to play from the Lost Zone – and that’s probably why they called it the Lost Zone.  I don’t think we’ll ever get a mechanic that will allow us to retrieve cards from the LZ.

And this is a BIG problem for the “pesky alien clown thing“.  Granted, with Burst GX, you only have to take five prize cards, but you’re going to need a LOT of energy just to KO the typical deck.  Let’s say you have to do 500 damage to take five prizes (a very low number).  You would need ten fire cards just in damage.  You also have to power up Blacephalon.  And you can bet that you’re going to usually have at least two if not even three energy prized.  You’ll probably get those prized energy cards as you go along, but even still you’re going to need at least 15 and probably more like 17 or 18 energy cards to ensure that you can actually do enough damage to finish a game with this archetype. 

So among the low HP and two attachment attack, the fact that you have to pack a TON of energy cards into this list has given me plenty of reason to pass on this archetype.


Standard: 3 out of 5


So clearly I just haven’t figured out this archetype yet and it goes without saying that Nguyen Tran has after this weekend’s second place finish at the Virginia Regionals.  Personally, I’m still not too hot on Cake Pop – I’ve gone 3 W 3 L against it so far – but maybe I’ll take a look at Nguyen’s list and see where I’m missing out on this card.


This week’s reviews are not only runners-up from our recent countdown but cards that have already been showing up in high-performing decks at recent events!  We looked at Naganadel yesterday in preparation for today’s subject, Blacephalon-GX (SM – Lost Thunder 52/214; 199/214; 219/214).  Before we go over how they work together, let’s cover how Blacephalon-GX actually reads.  As a [R] Type, it can hit nearly all [G] and [M] Pokémon for double damage due to Weakness and doesn’t have to worry about Resistance.  There are some potent pieces of [R] Type support, though a lot of it is really [R] Energy support, like Kiawe or Heat Factory {*}.  There are some anti-[R] Type effects, but the only one I can recall which sees a lot of play is Parallel City (which is actually played for its Bench-shrinking effect).   Being a Pokémon-GX comes with the usual pros and cons; better stats and effects than normal (including a GX-attack) BUT this exposes Blacephalon-GX to anti-Pokémon-GX effects AND giving up an extra Prize when KO’d should never be ignored.  Ultra Beast support is a good thing; not every piece released as proven worth it (hello, Ultra Recon Squad) but most of it is good and some of it is great.  There are some Ultra Beast counters, and some like Alolan Ninetales-GX (SM – Lost Thunder 132/214, 205/214, 225/214) are like Parallel City; it is being run for a different reason, but some decks will be able to take advantage of it to mess with Ultra Beasts.

Being a Basic is still the best: 1 copy in your deck equals one copy you can play, just play it from your hand to Bench it, and you might actually want Blacephalon-GX to be your opening Pokémon.  Drawbacks are externally enforced by cards that have anti-Basic effects, and one of the obvious ones – Alolan Muk – doesn’t matter to Blacephalon-GX because it doesn’t have an Ability.  180 HP on a single-Prize Basic is quite sturdy; on a Basic Pokémon-GX, it is good but not great.  With Choice Band nearly everywhere and Shrine of Punishment practically a staple for decks with few or no Pokémon-GX, that 170-190 range for Pokémon-GX just isn’t as stable as it used to be.  Any Weakness is dangerous, and [W] Weakness falls into that weird place.  How so?  There are slightly older [W] archetypes that largely survived September’s rotation intact.  There are new [W] archetypes that haven’t caught on quite yet, but as Lost March reminds us, something can be almost totally absent from the Top 64 one major event, then make the Top 8 the next.  So it is better than [D], [F], [R], or [P] Weakness right now, but I wouldn’t call it “safe”.  Lack of Resistance is the worst, but not worth the time ranting about so we’ll move onto the Retreat Cost: [CC] is high enough you won’t want to pay it but low enough it isn’t too bad.

Blacephalon-GX has three attacks; two regular and one GX-attack.  The second attack is kind of involved, so we’ll cover that last.  The first regular attack is “Bursting Balloon” for [R], which both Burns and Confuses your opponent’s Active.  Some base damage would have been nice, but Burn will place at least two damage counters before your opponent can get rid of it, and if Confusion sticks around you’ve got a 50-50 chance of it not mattering or causing your opponent’s attack to just place three damage counters on itself.  Plus, it gives you an option if you run into something protected from damage (but not effects) of the attacks that come from Basic Pokémon or Pokémon-GX or Ultra Beasts.  “Burst-GX” lets Blacephalon-GX discard a Prize card, and if it is an Energy, attach it to itself.  As I used to get this wrong, let me point out that it appears discarding a card isn’t the same as it immediately going into the discard pile; just as Guzzlord-GX can attach a Beast Energy {*} it discarded from the deck with “Eat Sloppily”, so can Blacephalon-GX attach Beast Energy {*} with Burst-GX.  As for the new tiebreaker rules and stuff… I’ll let an expert handle that.  While it can stink if you send something really good, especially which cannot be recovered (like Heat Factory {*}) to the discard pile, no matter what it is one less Prize to take to win, making this a pretty sweet move.

[RR] is the printed cost for “Mind Blown”, but the effective cost is higher due to its effect.  Mind Blown lets you send as many [R] Energy as you want from what is attached to any and all of your Pokémon in play; for each Energy card removed in this manner, the attack does 50 damage.  Even if you do something like remove a Counter Energy from a Benched Naganadel while you’ve got more Prizes left than your opponent, it only adds 50 damage; it may provide two units of Energy but it is still a single Energy card.  50 per Energy is a little low for our needs; Beast Energy {*}, Choice Band, or even a Professor Kukui can remedy that… or you can just run an Energy heavy deck.  As we are sending the Energy to the Lost Zone, as opposed to bouncing it, shuffling it away, or simply discarding it, we have no way to recycle it at that point… but it still means Blacephalon-GX would have enough tricks for the average [R] deck to at least consider running it.

If you’ve been paying attention to the competitive scene, you know that is not how Blacephalon-GX is seeing success.  Success, and not just “play”. Blacephalon-GX/Naganadel took second place at the Roanoke, VA Regional Championship.  It managed 7th, 32nd, 44th, and 45th place finishes at the Sao Paulo International Championship.  The one major Japanese event for which I have results, the Tokyo Champions League, saw another 2nd and a 28th place finish.  I know some people are confused how, though.  Yes, Mind Blown can OHKO anything (sans protection) if you send enough Energy to the Lost Zone, but we’re talking three to five Energy lost in this manner each time to OHKO typical Pokmon-GX.  The answer is actually pretty simple, once you know about the combo with Naganadel.  Between Acro Bike, Mysterious Treasure, Sightseer, and Ultra Ball it isn’t too bad getting basic Fire Energy cards into the discard pile.  You have two or three Naganadel on your Bench, slurping that Energy back up, and then it gets sent to the Lost Zone.  The deck typically runs 15 or 16 basic Fire Energy plus a Beast Energy {*}.  Energy Switch and Beast Ring help you prep Blacephalon-GX so that, even in the face of retaliatory OHKO’s, the deck keeps swinging.  I’m noticing it usually is just the Fire Energy and one Beast Energy {*} fueling damage… and it is important to remember that at three Prizes, especially against [P] Weakness or typical single Prize attackers (the ones with under 170 HP), a Naganadel can pop up for a quick OHKO.  You won’t have any Energy to spare, but you’ll have enough to get the job done.

The above focused on Standard… what about Expanded?  With no hard data, I can only guess that Blacephalon-GX faces the usual concerns.  This strategy that will not like crashing into Ability or Item denial, nor facing things like Night March that can gleefully trade KO’s.  However, we also get Blacksmith, and some of the same direct competition for its niche (Volcanion-EX) could also be used to support Blacephalon-GX, making it a lot easier to hit OHKO’s without removing as many Fire Energy from the field.  I am hoping the net result is a Blacephalon-GX deck that still proves competitive, and it might be a little more likely an existing [R] deck TecHs it in, but I’m not expecting it to be as potent as it is in Standard.  As for the Limited Format, this is a great pull if you can manage it.  Probably one worth running as a +39 (Mulligan) deck, where you only run Blacephalon-GX for Basic Pokémon, ensuring you open with it.  You only start with four Prize cards in play in Limited, so Burst-GX immediately takes that down to just three.  Bursting Burn is better here, as Special Conditions are more difficult to deal with: even though your opponent wins by just KOing Blacephalon-GX, they’re going to have a hard time doing it before you wreck three more Prizes worth of their Pokémon.  Yes, even with Burst-GX being the only potential Energy acceleration you’ll have.


Standard: 4/5

Expanded: 3.35/5

Limited: 4/5

If the scores seem a bit high, remember we’ve got a decent general [R] use with a proven deck archetype for Standard… and a theoretical use for Limited based on about a decade of precedence.  I will add a word of caution, however; this is a limited-time deal.  Three months from now, perhaps even three weeks from now, this card could be better or worse.  The way things have gone with SM – Lost Thunder, I’m expecting a few new, competitive decks to be spawned by the next expansion in February but existing archetypes to just get stronger.

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