What’s up, SixPrizes? My name is Brandon Jones and I have been playing the Pokémon TCG competitively since 2008. During this time, I have qualified for the World Championships six times, and I have an impressive performance history in tournaments over the years. I am incredibly excited to be writing for SixPrizes and share my perspective on how I approach the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Since the pandemic hit the world by surprise, official in-person Pokémon TCG events have come to a pause. However, the Pokémon TCG community has come together to create competitive events that you can play in every day of the week online. Lately, I have had a lot of time to focus on competitive Pokémon TCG content and compete in several online events. During this time, I was able to achieve a Top 16 NA spot in the original Players Cup with Obstagoon and perform well at several other online events including: 1st at PokéX Perfection 2 with Decidueye/Obstagoon, 1st at PokéX Infinity LCQ with Eternatus/Hammers, 1st at PokéX Champions Festival Invitational with ClayDP, 1st at Atlas Mini #5 with Decidueye/Obstagoon, and several other top finishes.
In this article I am going to provide some useful tips to help you perform better in online tournaments. I will also discuss the deck that I have played for most of the Players Cup II, Blacephalon UNB. Currently I have used 25 of my 50 Tournament Keys and I am at 52 Tournament Rep. I have only played ClayDP, Eternatus VMAX/Hammers, and Blacephalon in these events so far.
Three Tips for Online Events
Tip #1: Practice a consistent deck with all-around solid matchups
If you make the Top 256 (or 128) in your region for the Players Cup II, you will qualify to play in a double-elimination tournament that plays until four players are left in your region. This means that as soon as you lose two rounds, you are eliminated from the tournament. With such little margin for error, your deck choice becomes incredibly important if you plan to make it to the Players Cup Finals.
It is important to note that the Regional Qualifiers will be played in a best-of-three format. So, if you do not have the best luck one game, you can still come back and win the series. I would recommend starting to practice decks that do not have many auto-losses. It is risky to play a deck that takes a bad matchup to a popular deck in a double-elimination tournament.
Practice playing the deck that you plan to play as much as you can. The ability to quickly decide which in-game action to make is a crucial skill that top players have. Repetition is key. Practice against the main decks in the metagame to be able to quickly know which strategies you will perform when the time comes.
I also recommend practicing against your own deck. This allows you to see plays from the perspective of the other player and the deck’s strategies. You might catch something that you did not see before.
Tip #2: Check your Prize cards every single game
I cannot stress how important this tip is. I always have a pen and paper next to my computer so that I can take a few seconds to write down my Prize cards when I search my deck for the first time. The ability to know which cards are prized allows you to make the best statistical decisions throughout the course of every game you play. The PTCGO stacked view makes it incredibly easy to notice the cards in your decklist that are in your Prizes. Be sure that you have your personal decklist memorized so that you will be able to quickly take note of which cards are prized. You should keep track of which cards remain in your Prizes by crossing off Prizes from your list as you draw them.
Tip #3 (Open Decklists): Plan out your win condition each game based on your opponent’s decklist
The main win condition is going to be to draw all 6 Prize cards, but which KOs will allow you to achieve this goal the quickest? Always try to plan a turn or two ahead to play efficiently and effectively. Maybe you will not be able to draw all 6 Prize cards before your opponent. In this scenario, consider an alternative win condition such as decking your opponent out. A lot of the online tournaments are open decklist. Check to see what cards your opponent might have access to and always play to your outs with this knowledge.
I personally don’t have two computer monitors, so I copy and paste my opponent’s decklist into the LimitlessTCG Image Generator and then take a picture of the screen with my phone. I can look over the list while I play my match. This is easier if you have a second monitor to view your opponent’s decklist on.
We have had plenty of online tournaments to determine a stable metagame in the TEU–DAA (and now TEU–CPA) format. The statistics show that the best decks in the meta are ADPZ, LucMetal/Zacian (LMZ), Eternatus VMAX, Centiskorch VMAX, and PikaRom. Blacephalon is a deck that can perform well within the established metagame by consistently trading 1HKOs on any Pokémon in the current format.
Blacephalon can sometimes struggle against a well-timed Marnie or Reset Stamp from your opponent. However, this list plays a large amount of setup Pokémon to be able to draw the pieces it needs to successfully continue to apply pressure on the opponent with 1HKOs. As a single-Prize attacker, Blacephalon trades well by taking 3 Prizes on these TAG TEAM and Pokémon VMAX decks that are dominating the format. Based on this information, Blacephalon is currently my number one choice to play in the Players Cup II.
1 Crobat V
1 Zacian V
****** Pokémon Trading Card Game Deck List ******
##Pokémon - 15
* 4 Blacephalon UNB 32
* 4 Jirachi PR-SM 161
* 1 Cramorant V SSH 198
* 1 Crobat V DAA 182
* 1 Dedenne-GX UNB 195
* 1 Dubwool V RCL 188
* 1 Mewtwo PR-SM 214
* 1 Oricorio-GX CEC 217
* 1 Zacian V SSH 195
##Trainer Cards - 31
* 4 Giant Hearth UNM 197
* 4 Switch PRC 163
* 4 Welder UNB 189
* 1 Boss’s Orders RCL 189
* 2 Pokémon Communication
* 4 Fire Crystal UNB 173
* 4 Scoop Up Net RCL 207
* 4 Energy Retrieval AOR 99
* 4 Quick Ball SSH 216
##Energy - 14
* 14 R Energy BUS 167
Total Cards - 60
****** via SixPrizes: https://sixprizes.com/?p=82656 ******
Jirachi TEU, 1 Zacian V, 1 Dedenne-GX, 1 Crobat V, 1 Oricorio-GX4
These setup Pokémon allow the deck the ability to draw cards early and find what you need in later turns as well. You would like to search out Zacian V and use Intreprid Sword as soon as possible to help find Welder, Giant Hearth, and cards like Quick Ball or Communication to find attackers and other setup Pokémon. 4 Jirachi TEU increases the likelihood that you will start it and you will probably use multiple Jirachi each game. Dedenne-GX, Crobat V, and Oricorio-GX help you draw out of a well-timed Marnie or Reset Stamp and replenish your hand to find the pieces needed to power up and attack with Blacephalon to maintain a dominant board position against your opponent.
The ability to recover Supporter cards is powerful with this deck. You can use Mewtwo’s Ability to put Welder or Boss’s Orders on top of your deck and then proceed to use Jirachi or Oricorio to draw that Supporter immediately. Mewtwo helps to counter Marnie if you expect that you opponent might play one on the following turn because the Supporter goes to the top of your deck, so you will draw a Welder off the top if your opponent chooses to play a Marnie.
Cramorant V has a powerful attack that allows you to hit any Pokémon on your opponent’s field for 160 damage for only 3 Energy. It’s easy to power Cramorant up with Welder in one turn and start applying pressure on Pokémon with high HP or take easy KOs on Pokémon like Dedenne-GX with 160 HP. Cramorant’s Beak Catch allows you to search for any 2 cards in your deck, so don’t be afraid to do this when necessary.
Dubwool V is a new inclusion to this deck, but so far it has been testing very well. Revenge Blast is better late game when your opponent has taken more Prize cards and can be an easier option to go for than a fully-powered Blacephalon with Energy in hand to discard for a knockout.
Welder allows you to power up your Pokémon with 1–2 R Energies and draw 3 cards. With the loss of Fiery Flint from the recent rotation, Blacephalon lists need to play several copies of Giant Hearth to consistently pull Energies out of the deck.
Energy Retrieval, 4 Fire Crystal, 14 R Energy4
Instead of playing more R Energy like other lists I have seen, this list maximizes its counts of Energy Retrieval and Fire Crystal to help hit these crucial cards when needed to take big 1HKOs. With 4 copies of each, it is much easier to find these cards to get the Energy needed to take KOs after an opponent uses Marnie or Reset Stamp.
4 Quick Ball is played in most decklists in the format and allows you to discard R Energy that can be taken out of the discard later to search out your Basic Pokémon. I have always been a fan of Pokémon Communication because it allows you a guaranteed trade of a Pokémon in your hand for a Pokémon in your deck.
Great Ball often yields a Pokémon you do not need at the moment or sometimes even struggles to find a Pokémon at all. Pokémon Communication is a much safer option to find setup Pokémon like Zacian V, Dedenne-GX, Oricorio-GX, or even an attacker that you need at a crucial moment in the game.
4 Scoop Up Nets allow you to utilize Jirachi’s Stellar Wish and Mewtwo’s Mind Report several times throughout the course of a game. 4 Switch is needed to utilize Jirachi more effectively and switch out Pokémon that might get stuck Active.
Although you might not use Boss’s Orders every game, it is powerful when your opponent decides to leave your Blacephalon with 3 Energy on the field. When this happens, you won’t have to use Welder and can choose to Boss something else Active to take the KO on a bigger threat.
A 2nd Cramorant V could be nice to find it early game and potentially use two against specific matchups. You could possibly drop the Dubwool to play a 2nd Cramorant.
With the rise of PikaRom decks in recent events, Mew could be a good tech to prevent a big Tag Bolt turn from the PikaRom player. It could also be useful against decks like Welder/Mew3 and Cramorant to prevent snipes on your Benched Pokémon.
Many decks have been playing Chaotic Swell, which makes it difficult for Blacephalon to find R Energies if it’s not able to utilize Giant Hearth. Being able to search out Marshadow and discard your opponent’s Chaotic Swell to use your Giant Hearth could be the difference between winning and losing a game. It is also important to mention that if you played a Giant Hearth on a previous turn, you can use it to search for 2 R Energy, then use Marshadow to discard Giant Hearth #1, put another Giant Hearth into play, and use Giant Hearth #2 to search for 2 more R Energy.
The ability to draw an additional Prize card when an opponent’s Pokémon-GX is KO’d when you have 6 Prizes can be incredibly powerful. However, I think the card is probably too situational to work consistently and not worth a spot in the list.
Putting a damage counter could set up Cramorant to take Prizes on Pokémon with 180 HP and allow Blacephalon to need less Energy to KO your opponent’s Active Pokémon. Scoop Up Net allows you to reuse Zigzagoon’s Ability as well.
Being able to disrupt your opponent’s hand with Reset Stamp could win you games. I will consider playing 1–2 copies of this card as I continue to test Blacephalon.
If Blacephalon gets popular or you expect to run into it, Tapu Fini can give the deck a difficult time. Being able to use a 1-Energy attack to KO a Blacephalon puts a lot of pressure on the Blacephalon player to continue chaining Welder to power up another Blacephalon.
This Supporter allows your Blacephalon to ignore any effects on the opponent’s Active Pokémon. You should only consider playing this card if you expect to play against Obstagoon decks.
ADPZ: Even–Slightly Favorable
Many ADPZ decklist are not playing any copies of Marnie or Reset Stamp. This matchup becomes more favorable for Blacephalon if that is the case because you will be able to chain big 1HKOs a lot easier. This matchup usually comes down to how quickly you can KO ADP after they use Altered Creation-GX. If you KO it right after they use it, you have a good chance of winning. If not, then hope they whiff Boss, because you will likely have to bench one to two 2-Prize Pokémon.
Most LMZ lists are playing Weakness Guard Energy as well as several copies of Metal Goggles to prevent Weakness, so Fire Weakness will matter less often. You can trade Prizes well with this matchup. They are forced to attack with Zacians and Zamazentas but will probably avoid playing down Lucario & Melmetal-GX. Try to avoid benching 2-Prize Pokémon if possible so that you can force them to trade a single-Prize KO on your Blacephalon for 2-Prizes on their Metal Pokémon V.
PikaRom: Slightly Unfavorable
Many PikaRom decklists are playing several copies of Marnie and Reset Stamp with 1–2 copies of Chaotic Swell. If they play a decklist like that, this matchup becomes difficult to hit everything you need to take a 1HKO on a TAG TEAM Pokémon because they can disrupt your hand almost every turn and sometimes get a Chaotic Swell into play at the same time. If they only play a few of those disruption cards, the matchup is a lot easier. Sometimes they go all in and put an extra 3 Energy on PikaRom with Full Blitz. If you can hit the KO before a Tag Bolt-GX happens, you likely win.
Eternatus VMAX: Even–Slightly Unfavorable
The matchup is usually close and comes down to hitting a 1HKO on their first Eternatus VMAX. They will often choose to Boss a 2-Prize Pokémon out, so be careful with benching them. If they do Boss around Blacephalon, it becomes easier to hit the 1HKO because they are not able to play Marnie in the same turn but beware of Reset Stamp. Going for a 2-shot on their Eternatus VMAX is also a good strategy.
Centiskorch VMAX: Favorable
Unlike other VMAX decks, Centiskorch normally does not play any copies of Marnie. They usually play 1–2 copies of Reset Stamp, which has the potential to slow you down. Be careful benching any 2-Prize Pokémon, because you would rather trade Blacephalon KOs on their Centiskorch VMAX, but you need 7 Energy to get there. Sometimes it is worth going for a 2-shot on the Centiskorch VMAX if you are not able to hit the 1HKO first.
Mew3 Variants: Favorable
Welder/Mew3 decks have been popular recently, but they take a rough matchup to Blacephalon because they are forced to attack with Mew3 most of the time and you take 3 Prizes when you Knock one Out, so you only have to KO two Mew3s to win the game. A well-timed Reset Stamp can be annoying; however, it is not uncommon to draw out of the Reset Stamp with access to so many setup Pokémon.
Your opponent’s strategy is to set up an Obstagoon with no other Pokémon on their side of the field. If they do not play a copy of Mew UNB to prevent Bench damage, you can attack their Zigzagoon that has Energy attached with your Cramorant V. If they are not able to Scoop Up Net their Bench Pokémon while attacking with Obstruct, you can try to Boss’s Orders and snipe the Obstagoon with Cramorant. Most of the time, a good Obstagoon deck will play Mew and successfully be able to establish the Obstruct lock.
I personally do not think that Obstagoon decks are not particularly good with the metagame right now, so I doubt these decks will be exceedingly popular. If for some reason Obstagoon is a deck you want to beat with Blacephalon, play 1 copy of Ultra Forest Kartenvoy to remove the effects on their lone Obstagoon and win the game with a single Fireball Circus attack.
Overall, Blacephalon seems to be a strong contender in the TEU–CPA format with its ability to 1HKO anything and solid matchup spread. I would argue that Blacephalon is the best budget deck available in this format, with few expensive cards needed for the decklist. The biggest weakness Blacephalon has is dead-drawing off a Marnie or Reset Stamp.
I still have 25 events to play in for the Players Cup Qualifying Period and will likely play most of those events with Blacephalon. I am hoping to continue to average around 2.00 Tournament Rep per Tournament Key and end up somewhere around 100 total Tournament Rep to have a good chance to qualify in the Top 256 in North America.
It has been a lot of fun writing this article for you all and I hope to have the opportunity to write for SixPrizes again soon. I hope I was able to provide valuable insight to prepare for more online events and make Blacephalon more popular in the current metagame. Good luck to everyone competing in the Players Cup II!
Until next time,