Izzet Phoenix in Modern… And Legacy?

Arclight Phoenix
Izzet Phoenix won a[nother] Modern Grand Prix, in Los Angeles


Izzet Phoenix in Modern

We saw Arclight Phoenix jump back into Top 8 action just last week… Standard’s Mythic Championship Cleveland was the stage. The player in question, none other than the legendary Luis Scott-Vargas.

But it’s not clear that Arclight Phoenix even belongs in the best Standard U/R deck! The same is not true of Izzet Phoenix in Modern. If anything, this is considered the strongest current deck in Modern… And it’s not hard to see why.

Izzet Phoenix has some stoopid stupid draws.

Here’s one:

  • Mountain, Fathless Looting; discard two copies of Arclight Phoenix.
  • Gut Shot you. Gut Shot you again!
  • That’s eight! Your go.
  • Is that the most common first turn? Obviously not. But it’s certainly an available one. Izzet Phoenix has a ton of perfectly fine regular draws that are super aggressive while remaining card advantageous.

    Cantrips, Cantrips, Everywhere

    Mike and Patrick discuss the various cheap card drawing spells in Modern.

    Most important might be Faithless Looting. Mike doesn’t think this one is long for the format. It’s certainly been a problem child in a variety of decks before!

    Patrick thinks that Manamorphose might be the most broken of the cheap card drawers; but Mike draws a distinction at the one-versus-two-casting cost line.

    This dovetails into Patrick wondering how Grixis players pick which cantips they play in Modern, and how many!

    Why isn’t Arclight Phoenix a Bigger Deal in Legacy?

    A different Izzet deck won last weekend’s Legacy Open — a Delver of Secrets deck!

    Izzet is a great strategy in Legacy, due to the strength of cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain… and now Light Up the Stage! Light Up the Stage is very Treasure Cruise-ish, and easily catalyzed by Pteramander or Delver of Secrets on turn one.

    But look at those cantrips: They’re great, but they don’t put creatures into the graveyard! There are no Faithless Lootings or Thought Scours in the Legacy builds. Therefore getting the Phoenix into the graveyard (where it can work its proper mischief) is a little more challenging than in Modern.

    But!

    There are some emerging Grixis deck lists that are looking to solve the Arclight Phoenix problem. And because it’s Legacy… The solution is pretty a good one.

    Learn how they’re doing it in this week’s podcast:

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    Supreme Phantom – How is This a Real Magic Card?

    Supreme Phantom
    Supreme Phantom

    How is Supreme Phantom a Real Magic Card?

    Not so long ago, our own beloved MichaelJ played a 1/3 creature for 1U. Its goal was just to slow down the many 2/1 creatures of the Standard Red deck of the time. The U in its upper-right helped to power up Master of Waves, but this card had to, more or less, contribute successfully on its own.

    This card served Mike super well. He sided it in in the Top 8 of the Regional PTQ, essentially cancelling all the Foul-Tongue Invocations his opponent had drawn. That card was, of course, Omenspeaker.

    Omenspeaker was fine. Unexciting, but Mike really wanted it for the 1/3 body. Compare that to Supreme Phantom…

    Supreme Phantom is also a 1/3 creature for 1U. But instead of a fairly minor Scry ability, it has two abilities… And they’re both doozies. Flying is maybe the best keyword evasion ability in Magic, and its +1/+1 buff ability makes the card a perfect anchor for the Bant Spirits archetype.

    Supreme Phantom in Bant Spirits

    Supreme Phantom is obviously a great card in Bant Spirits. The Grand Prix winning list by Peiyuan Zheng plays double-digit Spirits. That starts the Phantom off with tons of potential buddies to buff. But even better? Hexproof!

    With Geist of Sant Traft, or, perhaps more importantly, Drogskol Captain, many a Spirit will live to smash many a face.

    Bant Spirits in the Modern Context

    Besides its awesome sideboard options to dominate KCI or Dredge, Bant Spirits has a solid game plan of its own.

    It’s got the StOmPy draw enabled by the Phantom; Bant can turn up the speed sometimes! It’s got Spell Queller. But not only that, it’s got Collected Company off the green splash! This gives Bant Spirits essentially eight permission spells in Game One (as the Company can hit Queller).

    While not the most specialized archetype, Bant Spirits did win the Extended Grand Prix last week, and that makes it more than worth discussing / looking at.

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    Will Tajic, Legion’s Edge Take Over Modern?

    Tajic, Legion's Edge
    Will Tajic, Legion’s Edge break into a Humans deck near you?

    Tajic, Legion’s Edge provides Humans with Many Tools

    Kevin Ambler added Tajic, Legion’s Edge to his Top 8 deck from last week’s Modern Open. Tajic provides many awesome advantages to a Humans deck:

    • Tajic has much of the Mantis Rider to him. Mantis Rider was one of the highest performing cards in Humans before, and this is another three-power hasty attacker
    • Exalted is a little bit of a non-bo with Mentor, but to that Mantis Rider comment, above, Tajic is a sweet follow-up to Noble Hierarch on turn two
    • Further, you can drop Tajic with an Aether Vial mid-combat [with mana open]… And get a sweet block!
    • Most importantly, Tajic’s “Prevent all noncombat damage that would be dealt to other creatures you control” clause is just bananas in a deck with 35 other creatures! You can drop Tajic at instant speed not only for a sweet block, but to “counter” a burn spell. This can shut down cards like Izzet Staticaster or Grim Lavamancer that often lock down Humans. This card is amazing against sweepers. Trade your Tajic for a Slagstorm? Trade Tajic for the rest of your team.
    • “Very impressive advancement by Kevin.”

      “Could become industry-standard.”

    Guilds of Ravnica is Poppin’ in Modern!

    Tajic might be the most archetype-influencing, but he certainly wasn’t alone in Guilds of Ravnica’s additions to the format. Further highlights:

    • Risk Factor in Jund? Michael loves it, but is not in love with it. Patrick respects Risk Factor’s interaction with Liliana of the Veil. Both our hosts agree that for a deck that is sometimes beatdown, sometimes card advantage… You’re not likely to get the beatdown when you want it, and not likely to get the card advantage when you want it. But it won!
    • Creeping Chill in Dredge! One of the week’s most exciting innovations, Creeping Chill is turning the Dredge deck design on its ear. A man with Shriekhorn in his Dredge deck means serious business.
    • Knight of Autumn in Humans. Will it ever be “just a big guy”? Mike is a little incredulous. Knight of Autumn does what Reclamation Sage did, and the “gain four” mode is just as valuable in certain matchups.
    • Arclight Phoenix: Simply the future of Modern.

    Modern. Guilds of Ravnica. What are you waiting for?

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    Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales

    Arcbound Ravager
    It turns out Arcbound Ravager and Hardened Scales go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

    Arcbound Ravager is, and has always been, the Fairy Godmother

    The Ravager, mightiest of Modular cards, has always been a cut above the competition. With the ability to defy card advantage and throw all your deck’s power onto one threat, this creature has wowed crowds and defined formats for over a decade.

    The Ravager could always sacrifice an artifact that was about to die. In that way, it could mitigate the effects of cards like Searing Blood or Smash to Smithereens. More importantly, it could create size without using mana: This let the Beast take all kinds of explosive turns for years.

    So with cards like Myr Enforcer and Somber Hoverguard all but forgotten, this Affinity two-drop has remained relevant.

    But wait! There’s more!

    Arcbound Ravager makes (and moves) +1/+1 counters… Hardened Scales loves +1/+1 counters

    Hardened Scales may be the new boogeyman
    Hardened Scales

    What happens when every Worker enters the battlefield as a 2/2? How does Steel Overseer look when this enchantment is in play on turn one?

    Affinity was always a good Modern deck, but with Hardened Scales, the archetype is doing something cool and legitimately new for the first time in years.

    Consider for a moment what happens when you sacrifice an Arcbound Worker to an Arcbound Ravager with Hardened Scales in play…

    • The Worker dies, putting a +1/+1 counter on the Ravager.
    • But wait! Hardened Scales says to put two +1/+1 counters on instead.
    • The Ravager’s ability resolves, so we’re up to three +1/+1 counters already…
    • But then Hardened Scales checks again…

    Pretty cool, huh?

    Forget about cool, pretty powerful.

    Hardened Scales Affinity may be the new hotness in Modern. Learn about it, and all the latest modern tech, in this week’s podcast:

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    Palace Jailer Wins the Pro Tour!

    Palace Jailer
    Palace Jailer made two of the Top 4 Legacy decks at the Pro Tour… including the winning Death & Taxes!

    Death & Taxes is a “High Tier One” Archetype in Legacy… Thanks to Palace Jailer

    New addition Palace Jailer helps to catapult this strategy to a legitimately defining deck in Legacy.

    Death & Taxes has performed for years… But largely as a metagame deck. For example, the presence of main-deck Karakas has helped the deck to foil Sneak and Show. Sneak and Show’s key creatures — Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn — are perfect targets for the Legendary Land.

    But with Palace Jailer and other toys from Conspiracy: Take the Crown, the power level and flexibility of this already-viable deck has increased substantially.

    Palace Jailer doesn’t quite work like Fiend Hunter

    Fiend HUnter
    Fiend Hunter

    “Um… How do I become the monarch?”

    “Well… Did you play with any cards that make you the monarch?”

    Patrick notes that the Jailer offers exactly the kind of edge Mike loves. While Palace Jailer looks like another take on the Fiend Hunter mechanic, it actually relies on a unique Conspiracy: Take the Crown mechanic. Many players just won’t read the card and will snap Lightning Bolt the Jailer hoping to get their creature back… not realizing that they aren’t the monarch.

    That makes Palace Jailer essentially a white Nekrataal that exiles creatures with no targeting restrictions. Not only can this card smash almost any creature in a 187 — permanently — it can work well with Flickerwisp and other old standbys of the Death & Taxes archetype.

    Casual Sets contribute heavily to Death & Taxes

    Containment Priest
    Containment Priest

    From Commander 2014
    This card is an absolute monster against Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, or reanimation strategies.

    Council's Judgment
    Council’s Judgment

    From Magic: The Gathering – Conspiracy
    Council’s Judgment is like a Vindicate or Maelstrom Pulse that does extra damage against folks who don’t read the card. Here’s a hint: When the opponent casts this, agree with them. Otherwise, you could lose more permanents!

    Recruiter of the Guard
    Recruiter of the Guard

    From Conspiracy: Take the Crown
    This tutor helps search up cards like today’s Palace Jailer. Simply awesome in a deck with cards like Stoneforge Mystic, Containment Priest, and Aether Vial. Recruiter of the Guard can get you the right tool for the right matchup at the right time.

    There was lots more to the Pro Tour than Death & Taxes and Palace Jailer. Check all the tech out here:

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    Breaking Thunderbreak Regent in Modern

    Thunderbreak Regent
    Thunderbreak Regent is a key card in the new Skred Dragons deck

    Thunderbreak Regent won the Classic in Skred Dragons

    A brand new archetype has hit Modern! Though we’ve seen other “Skred Red” decks in the past, the won played by Ozzy Kelly last week broke quite a bit of new ground.

    Yes, it plays Skred and Snow-Covered Mountain.

    The new / important part is the addition of Sarkhan, Fireblood.

    While there have been predecessors packing five drop Dragons like Stormbreath Dragon or Thundermaw Hellkite, Ozzy’s plays three different kinds, including last summers hit, Glorybringer. Sarkhan, Fireblood makes the big Dragons much faster.

    Predictably, this was Mike’s favorite deck of the weekend. “There is nothing about that name I didn’t like,” says of the onetime Resident Genius.

    Would Nicol Bolas, the Ravager Improve Skred Dragons?

    Just as predictably, Patrick wonders if this straight red deck shouldn’t just be Grixis… Because of course he does.

    Wouldn’t Nicol Bolas, the Ravager be a welcome addition to any Dragons-centric strategy?

    He does have a good point. But of course you can’t add Nicol Bolas and stay mono-red. The question becomes why would you want to be mono-red?

    The incentives are Skred (need lots of Snow-Covered Mountains) and Blood Moon. How often would you prefer Skred on one mana to, say, Fatal Push? Fatal Push is better a lot of the time, and in particular against Death’s Shadow. Death’s Shadow, of course, made a mini-comeback this past weekend.

    Patrick does concede that you might just want to be a Blood Moon deck.

    The Best of the Rest…

    Sarkhan, Fireblood fronting a new archetype — that won the tournament, mind you — is the biggest news RE: M19 in Modern… But it’s not the only new card from Dominaria or M19 in Modern.

    Elvish Clancaller made a predictable debut in an Elves Overrun deck. A Crusade with upside, Elvish Clancaller is in particular synergistic with Collected Company for instant-speed buffs.

    Lyra Dawnbringer made numerous appearances in U/W or Jeskai Control decks… Sometimes with, sometimes in lieu of, Baneslayer Angel. What is interesting is that Baneslayer Angel is generally better than Lyra Dawnbringer (especially if Dragons are going to be a thing)… But the first Lyra Dawnbringer is better than the second Baneslayer Angel. Rawr.

    All your old favorites plus a brand new As Foretold deck are all one click away…

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    Manamorphose at the MOCS

    Manamorphose
    Does Manamorphose go in every deck? Apparently it at least goes in Burn now!

    Manamorphose in Every Deck?

    We’ve kind of nudged and nudged and winked and winked about it.

    One Hall of Famer plays three Manamorphose in a deck that doesn’t usually play it; another Pro Tour Champion runs a singleton. Together they get it right.

    Manamorphose has been Staple essentially since its printing. There is almost no better card in Storm combo. Not only does it dig in that deck like a blue card, with Goblin Electromancer on the battlefield, Manamorphose even nets mana!

    But in Burn?

    The Implications of Manamorphose in the Red Deck

    Josh Utter-Leyton brought Manamorphose to Modern Burn for perhaps the first time!

    To make room for this Innovation, Wrapter went down to one copy of Eidolon of the Great Revel, cut all the Skullcracks, and… Added Bedlam Reveler!

    The Innovations are not all intuitive (so we’ll rattle through them). First of all, with Manamophose but not fringe garbage like Shard Volley, Josh will just draw his Lightning Bolts and Lightning Helixes more often than other Red Decks. That’s a given. He is also better set up to grind with those Bedlam Revelers (in-part powered by the Manamorphoses). But colors matter more now!

    • While Mike has won with Stomping Ground Red Decks, he’s been on R/W since Inspiring Vantage was printed. While he can “get” someone playing Stomping Ground, playing it for [only] three sideboard Destructive Revelries makes little sense. Here, Wrapter splashes for both Destructive Revelry and Ancient Grudge… And can hit green with no Stomping Ground on the battlefield. Surprise!
    • Kor Firewalker makes great sense in this build. The WW isn’t too hard to hit for Red Decks, but it’s particularly easy when you can turn GG, RR, or GR into WW.
    • The Eidolon of the Great Revel cut might hurt on its face, but Eidolon is kind of bad in a deck chaining multiple spells with Manamorphose. Not intuitive, maybe, but internally consistent.

    Tips and Tricks that have nothing to do with Manamorphose

    • Nissa, Vastwood Seer + Path to Exile – Path to Exile is always interesting in a pinch (respond to fizzle their removal and Thaw up a land). It’s even more interesting if you have Nissa, Vastwood Seer in play. If the opponent shoots at your Rhox War Monk, say; you can play the Path to Exile trick and flip your Nissa! Ditto if they try to kill your Nissa (you can respond by Path-ing someone else)
    • Legacy! Jim Davis put together a trifecta of Portent, Predict, and Terminus to make up for the lack of Sensei’s Divining Top – Jim’s U/W Miracles deck can set up a Terminus with Portent, or mess up the opponent’s draw (while drawing tons extra). Portent + Predict being an oldie-but-goodie.
    • Legacy! What can you get with one Crop Rotation? If you’re playing one Crop Rotation in Elves, you can grab a singleton Cavern of Souls to crush blue, or increase the redundancy of your Cradles.

    Is Burn Even Good? Manamorphose or No?

    Uh, Bogles just won [again].

    This time with 4x Leyline of Sanctity MAIN DECK.

    Discuss.

    I guess listen to the podcast first:

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    Bloodbraid Elf versus… Bogles?

    Bloodbraid Elf
    Bloodbraid Elf also broke out of its ban this week; but first… Bogles!
    Dan Ward piloted Bogles to the Grand Prix Toronto trophy last week. Bogles!

    Dan Ward is one of the strongest deck designers in the world. He first hit our radar with that innovative Kari Zev’s Expertise combo deck at SCG Regionals about a year ago. That deck was so awesome (or at least awesomely angled), WotC R&D banned almost immediately.

    Moving formats over to Standard, Dan produced a legitimate contender archetype in U/W Approach of the Second Sun. Yes that U/W Approach of the Second Sun.

    And while Dan can’t claim to be the first person to suit up a Hexproof creature, he never let up on his trademark innovations. Like…

    Leyline of Sanctity in Bogles

    Dan played three copies of Leyline of Sanctity in his main deck. This may seem like an odd choice for the strategy… If it isn’t in your opening hand, Leyline of Sanctity will just clog your grip later. Further, Leyline of Sanctity provides little or no offensive value to this attack-oriented deck. Why might Dan have played it?

    • He’s playing a Hexproof deck: With 4 copies of Slippery Bogle and 4 copies of Gladecover Scout, Ward is clearly heavy on the Hexproof plan. His creatures are largely free and clear to wear powerful buff Auras, but they’re not quite immortal. Do you know what suited up Hexproof guys hate? Edict effects. Do you know that one of the best Edict effects is also one of Modern’s Staple three-drops? Leyline of Sanctity can defend you from Liliana of the Veil.
    • Lantern just won the Pro Tour: While it doesn’t defend you from Pyxis of Pandemonium or Ghoulcaller’s Bell, Leyline of Sanctity turns off not only Codex Shredder but the Lantern decks’ many hand destruction sorceries.
    • It makes racing difficult: Dan was able to overcome Jon Stern’s Burn deck in the Toronto finals. Leyline of Sanctity is pretty decent against Burn decks, turning off all the Lava Spikes and taking the edge off of most of the rest of the burn cards. Can Searing Blaze suddenly target Slippery Bogle?

    All in all, a pretty cool three-of.

    Bogles in Context

    Dan on Bogles in the future
    Them’s fightin’ words, am I right?
    Fighting words or not, Dan might have a point. His version, with Leyline of Sanctity, actually cuts off two of Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s abilities. They can’t Fateseal or Ultimate you without answering the Leyline. Plus, unless they are on Damnation or Supreme Verdict, fast, huge, Hexproof guys can be hard to race.

    Further, if you’re planning to use Bloodbraid Elf to grab Lightning Bolt or other spot removal… That plan isn’t so good against Bogles. Plus, with a couple of buff auras, most of Dan’s cards will be able to tussle with a 3/2 and walk away, easily.

    Grab the popcorn!

    Because if Champion-Bogles remains good enough, it will soon clash with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf in Modern!

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    Jace, the Mind Sculptor Unban

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    Jace, the Mind Sculptor is about to make its Modern debut

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor Banned?

    Not any more!

    Earlier this week, some pretty big news broke that has instantaneously flipped Modern from Patrick’s least favorite format to most favorite format! We were too excited to keep our reactions bottled up until Thursday. Don’t worry, this is an EXTRA episode: We’ll be back Thursday 😉

    When in doubt, use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Brainstorm

    Jace has never been legal in Modern before. For many format aficionados, this will be the first time they have Jace in front of them at a Modern table. With so many abilities to choose from… Which one should they pick?

    Noted Jace, the Mind Sculptor master (and Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer) Patrick Chapin says that, in the dark, it should be the Brainstorm ability. That isn’t going to be true all the time — Jace both has a ton of abilities and Modern is a diverse format after all — but it’s a good place to start.

    Why might you want to use the [+2] “Fateseal” ability instead? Usually it will be because the opponent has some kind of red spells to attack Jace. You know, like Lightning Bolt.

    Speaking of which…

    Is Blightning Good against Jace, the Mind Sculptor?

    Not surprisingly, Patrick and Mike reminisce about some of their old Jace Standard decks. Patrick attempts to recuse himself, being both a Grixis-lover and a Jace-lover. Mike is happy to jump in, being a Jace-Grixis fan himself.

    Mike’s favorite take on Jace in Standard was alongside Blighting. He cites the ability to attack Jace as well as the opponent’s hand.

    Patrick points out that — especially at the same casting cost — Kolaghan’s Command is probably a better choice. It is arguable that Kolaghan’s Command + Lightning Bolt is actually a better anti-Jace plan than Blightning. “Blightning is too tempo-negative.”

    The Kolaghan’s Command argument is strong. Not only is it an instant, you can set up Snapcaster Mage and lace together multiple cards to deal sufficient damage.

    New Jace, the Mind Sculptor Decks

    Mike himself — longtime Modern devotee of Lava Spike — is threatening to switch allegiances to Team Jace.

    Our intrepid pair do tons of brewing in this episode. For example, a pretty sweet-sounding Bant deck list from Patrick featuring Spell Queller inspired by Wrapter’s “Counter-Cat” from way back when.

    What about Courser of Kruphix with Jace?

    • Courser is a great three; Jace is the best four (better than all, we have it on good account)
    • Courser has awesome toughness, so can defend Jace well
    • Together these cards build life and card advantage; and can affect the top cards of your library, further strengthening both sources of card advantage!

    What deck idea does Mike not like? No Oath of Nissa / Oath of Ajani

    When you’re playing with Jace and Liliana, your cards are just better than theirs; he doesn’t like the idea of messing with your mana when you can just play more consistently.

    Also, thumbs down to “Jace in Merfolk”. Because, Merfolk.

    More, many more, ideas in this special episode!

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    Young Pyromancer at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan

    Young Pyromancer
    Young Pyromancer posted Top 8 in two different strategies

    Young Pyromancer Goes Wide in Blue-Red

    Just as there are a variety of viable Young Pyromancer decks, there are a variety of viable blue-red decks in Modern. The one that made Top 4 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was a flexible build by Pascal Vieren.

    Vieren’s deck played several creatures… Four copies of Snapcaster Mage, three copies of Thing in the Ice, and of course three Pyromancers. All of those creatures excel with instants and sorceries. Snapcaster Mage gives you card advantage with them. Thing in the Ice flips into a huge monster when set up by them. And our Human Shaman can build an army while doing something else.

    Vieren’s deck can win multiple ways. Thing in the Ice clears all the blockers and presents a threat by itself; while the Pyromancer can push a lead once you’ve already got it. Lightning Bolt is one of the most efficient tempo plays you can make. Of course Cryptic Command can both answer threats and tap all the blockers in one move.

    Young Pyromancer Goes Even Wider in Mardu Control

    Gerry Thompson — already a PT Champion and friend to the ‘cast — put up another Top 8, this time with a Mardu Pyromancer build.

    It takes a singular kind of deck designer to figure out to play one copy of Manamorphose… But in Gerry’s deck, it doesn’t just power up the Pyromancer, it gives you white mana for Lingering Souls! Cool little card in support of the Human Shaman.

    The advantages in Gerry’s deck all build on one another. Cheap instants and sorceries like Inquisition of Kozilek fuel not just the Pyromancer, but put fodder into the graveyard for Bedlam Reveler. More important is Kolaghan’s Command… Not only is it even more redundant discard, the ability to re-buy a creature is always nice; but what about when the creature is a card advantage engine?

    All That and the Kitchen Sink

    There was more, much much more, to the Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8 than a 2/1 for 1R.

    We leave no deck un-discussed!

    No, not even that one.

    Check it all out now:

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