What You Need to Know About the 2019 MOCS Decks

The 2019 MOCS Decks played cards from… Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor from Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor is a newer card that helped revitalize some already powerful decks and combos for the 2019 MOCS decks.

Champion Michael Jacob played a variety of +1/+1 counter-based cards, including Scavenging Ooze; Walking Ballista; and centerpiece combo pieces Spike Feeder; and Heliod, Sun-Crowned.

While “fair” compared to an infinite combo, we thought it would be fun to point the card out, for all the reasons.

The MOCS Decks showcased both Modern and Pioneer

… And showed off awesome innovation in both formats!

In Modern, “Oops All Spells” seems faster than ever. Cutting down to 60 cards (from 77 or even 80), the Modern version is a singleminded killer.

Tuning elements include adding Shatterskull Smashing for even more early untapped land, and as many as three copies of Leyline of Sanctity… Main deck!

In Pioneer, Michael Jacob combined fair and unfair elements to produce a beautifully tuned champion. Big elements included Oath of Nissa and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for setup and engine… But sometimes topped up on a “mere” Elder Gargaroth. From the same set, Llanowar Visionary makes a surprise — but highly appropriate — appearance.

“I like how it can down-shift.”

-Mike

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Are Modern Decks Completely Busted?

So is This What U/R Modern Decks Looks Like These Days?

Okay let’s look at the creature base of a blue-red deck.

  • One copy of Brazen Borrower? Okay, that makes sense.
  • The Maximum Number of Snapcaster Mages? Of course! Also these guys make sense together; seeing as they all have Flash.
  • Oh, and ALL FOUR COPIES of Emrakul the Aeons Torn!
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Wow so that’s kind of ridiculous.

Michael likes to think about this deck as a blue-red Flash deck. Bounce your thing. Get in for two or three. Hassle with some card advantage. You know, how you do with a Flash deck.

But then!

The opponent taps their mana main phase to handle your hasslers.

So it’s Boom! Head Shot!

Through the Breach

Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn get’s em. Good.

I mean, what is a blue deck going to do if you just cast Through the Breach? They kind of have to counter it, right? Whether or not you actually have the Emrakul.

One of the cool, synergistic, bits about this deck is that you can buy a lost Through the Breach back with Snapcaster Mage.

Patrick describes this blue-red as “a Splinter Twin deck” which of course warms Mike’s heart. But it’s not a Splinter Twin deck that actually wins the game. Unless the opponent does a lot to themselves with shock lands you still have to lace together the last four or five with Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage, but that’s not so big a deal after Annihilator 6 has had its way with the opponent’s battlefield.

So What in Zendikar Rising is Making Affinity’s Modern Deck?

Surprisingly, it’s not one, but two different Modal Double-Faced lands that make the deck:

Kazuul’s Fury // Kazuul’s Cliffs makes red… But this Affinity is all over all the Fling combos. Either side is okay.

The real gold comes from Timbercrown Pathway // Cragcrown Pathway. Affinity really wants to play Hardened Scales to take advantage of all those +1/+1 counters. When you already want green mana on turn one, some of these Modal Double-Faced cards start making more sense.

The big incentive to red as a splash color? Alpine Moon in the sideboard.

Balustrade Spy Innovates Modern Decks

So we recently talked about Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer “Oops, All Spells” decks in Pioneer.

They’re powerful, but mostly cute at 77 cards, in Pioneer.

The Modern version is a beautifully tuned killer. It could be a problem, in fact.

But one thing’s for sure, Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer are gorgeously tuned in Modern.

  • In addition to consistently flipping over all your copies of Creeping Chill, this deck will put four Vengevines into your graveyard.
  • A combination of Sword of the Meek and Narcomoeba will set up your Salvage Titan… Putting those Vengevines onto the battlefield.
  • You’ve already brained the opponent with four copies of free Lightning Helix. Now sixteen hasty Elementals are going to come a coming!

To top it off, if you accidentally draw one of the cards you would rather have in your graveyard… It even plays one copy of Phantasmagorian to “fix” your “hand” … Err… Whatever the opposite of your hand is.

But that’s not all!

In case you were planning to beat it with dedicated graveyard hate, it sideboards into Goblin Charbelcher.

And So Many More Awesome Modern Decks…

  • The Tron deck that Patrick calls “a thing of beauty”
  • The Death and Taxes deck that Mike — somehow — calls the deck of the week
  • “You can fit a lot of themes when you’re 80 cards…”
  • And… The “secret weapon” for the format!

Find out if Modern is, in fact, completely busted right now:

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Shark Typhoon in StoneBlade (and much more Modern)

Shark Typhoon is everything to everyone (well, lots of decks)

Shark Typhoon in Modern StoneBlade

Check out Kogamo’s build of StoneBlade; a recent 5-0 deck list:

“The kind of deck Kenji would play,” according to Patrick (and, let’s be honest, Kenji himself), this deck combines the original core strategy of Azorius StoneBlade with recent standout Shark Typhoon.

If you think back to the original Caw-Blade days, that deck ran four copies of Stoneforge Mystic and four copies of Squadron Hawk… And kind of called it a day on creatures. Shark Typhoon isn’t quite Squadron Hawk — meaning it can’t un-mulligan you early — but the Typhoon does a great impression of “flying threat + card advantage” … and can be much bigger than 1/1.

Michael thinks this deck could do with a certain better-than-all Planeswalker (and would probably add a little more Mystic Sanctuary action)… But all agree this is an interesting direction to take a long-standing archetype.

A Surprising Amount of Time Spent on Red Decks

We spent an unusual amount of time on Red Decks (and in fact various black discard and Death’s Shadow builds) this episode. Some assorted thoughts from the podcast:

  • Mike disapproves of splashing for Wild Nacatl. That just turns on their removal, according to the Red Deck aficionado.
  • Instead of Skullcrack, try Bonecrusher Giant. Bonecrusher Giant can do the same kind of work against Kor Firewalker, but leaves a 4/3 body that can matter. Anyway, Mike hates Skullcrack.
  • Think carefully about Shard Volley versus Lava Dart. For the same mana — and additional Mountain sacrifice — Shard Volley does one more point of damage, but can be very awkward to cast. Lava Dart does two instead of three, but is great at turning on Skewer the Critics, pumping Prowess creatures, and sandbagging resources for long-term play. Unlike Shard Volley, it is never really “awkward” to cast.

So Many More Modern Decks!

  • Do black discard decks want to kill opponents with creatures or The Rack?
  • What colors should you supplement your Death’s Shadow strategy? Who might you want to Unearth?
  • How do “Utopia Sprawl” people do it?
  • New(er) set evolutions in Transmogrify and Elementals deck lists! Spoiler: “Voice of Resurgence is a surprisingly powerful Elemental”
  • … and (believe it or not), much more!

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Arcum’s Astrolabe is Banned in Modern!

Arcum’s Astrolabe is [FINALLY] Banned in Modern

Bans, Bans All Around…

This week the ban hammer flew wide! Modern, Pauper, and something called Historic all lost Staple cards. Arcum’s Astrolabe is probably the highest profile (but Patrick points out that little one mana artifact will continue to light it up in Legacy).

Modern players, though will surely enjoy the opportunity to play regular old basic lands without feeling silly or inadequate.

Also un-Banned!

Oath of Nissa
Oath of Nissa returns to Pioneer

In Pioneer, Oath of Nissa — a card somewhat philosophically aligned with Arcum’s Astrolabe, actually — is un-banned!

When Oath of Nissa left Pioneer, it was during a time where one more green pip could have felt format-prohibitive. Given the power upgrades to other colors, the Powers That Be in Renton, WA decided to give green a little more consistency.

Patrick and Michael note that, though a very good card, Oath of Nissa is not particularly more powerful than one mana competitors like Traverse the Ulvenwald or Attune with Aether.

Mike’s New Favorite Thing

So apparently they play black in their Historic Red Decks.

Who knew?

Patrick.

Not only that, but Patrick told Mike. And while he started off incredulous, when he found out that the reason is that you can Call of the Death-Dweller up a Goblin Chainwhirler… Like it says, we’ve discovered Mike’s new favorite thing.

Giving the 3/3 first striker menace is bad enough; but they’re not going to have any creatures to block with anyway on account of having already given it deathtouch. Truly this is the world’s cheapest Plague Wind.

It’s a rare tour of formats various. What’s next for Modern, Pioneer, or Historic given the many bans (and one un-ban)? Find out right now!

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We Adore This Colossus Hammer Deck

You don’t know what a Colossus Hammer is, you say? Let us help you out with that…

It’s Hammer Time!

More on Colossus Hammer in a second; but before we get to Modern and Pioneer [with Companions!] it’s probably worth mentioning Vintage, which is “in a kind of weird, unplayable state” might just feature the first banning of a card before it is actually printed:

To be fair, we did warn y’all that Lurrus of the Dream-Den Sure is Good with Black Lotus.

All Kinds of Companions in Modern and Pioneer!

  • Blinking Ice-Fang Coatl with Yorion, Sky Nomad [and wouldn’t Magic be more fun if all the decks were 80 card decks?]
  • Your standard* Uro / Urza deck, with Emry and Galvanic Blast [* where “standard” is actually Modern]
  • Seal of Fire just seems better than Burst Lighting in this 18-land Burn deck [that really only splashes white for Lurrus]
  • Why there really are no prohibitive costs in Modern
  • The card LITERALLY NO ONE should talk about in Modern [Weather the Storm]
  • Klothys, God of Destiny; Glorybringer; Bonecrusher Giant… All in a viable Modern deck? [aka “the good guy”]
  • … And so much more

But Our Favorite Deck is Colossus Hammer Beatdown!

Let’s start with Bogles; aka “Infect that’s great against Burn” according to Mike. While Patrick isn’t super happy with that description, the decks are often spoken about in relation to each other. Both are about playing small creatures with specialized abilities that specialize in putting a ton of pants on one of those creatures to win in a small number of attacks.

Infect is historically much more explosive, and a bit faster; but can be vulnerable to point removal.

Bogles, with mostly hexproof creatures, is far more resistant to removal, but less explosive than Infect. But Bogles is slower and — at least prior to the recent availability of Lurrus of the Dream-Den — could collapse like a house of cards if the one creature it drew was dealt with via discard or a Liliana activation.

But now we have Colossus Hammer!

What makes this deck so exciting?

  • Colossus Hammer plays actual good cards. Don’t forget: Stoneforge Mystic spent most of Modern on the Banned List
  • This deck can be as explosive as Infect. Kor Duelist + the Hammer itself is worth more than 20 damage
  • Though the Hammer is a permanent, this deck has some instant speed play. Sigarda’s Aid and Magnetic Theft can act as lethal “Giant Growth”-type cards.
  • It can defend its combo. Giver of Runes (or Spellskite in some versions) can keep your attacker alive to attack for lethal.
  • It’s ALSO an Infect deck. What’s better to give +10/+10 to than an Inkmoth Nexus?

Ready to pound the opponent for 20+ (or lethal Infect)? What are you waiting for?

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Underworld Breach Decks Break Modern AND Legacy!

Underworld Breach is already famous for its performance in Pioneer… But what it can do in Modern and especially Legacy is nothing short of format-snapping. Make that formats-snapping!

Underworld Breach + Grinding Station is a Hell of a “Plan A”

Here’s a version of the Underworld Breach / Grinding Station strategy by Patrick; based on a build advocated by Pascal Maynard:

You’ll notice that Maynard’s deck looks a lot like… “a real deck” with far less fancy than we might have looked at last week. The presence of cards like Teferi, Time Raveler can bounce hate cards like Leyline of the Void to help win through resistance.

Everything You’d Ever Wanted to Do with a Muddle the Mixture

One of the key additions of this build is Muddle the Mixture. 

Muddle the Mixture can get two mana spells like — you guessed it — Grinding Station OR Underworld Breach! This can help set up your combo… Or in a pinch, protect it.

But that’s not all!

Did you see the one-of Dance of the Manse?

Not just a Standard playmate to Doom Foretold any more, Dance of the Manse is a cool backup in this build. If your opponent has answered both your Grinding Station and Underworld Breach, searing up Dance of the Manse [with Muddle the Mixture] can get you back on track… All at once!

Some additional novel ways to win…

Breach, Galvanic Blast you three times… That’s twelve!

Cards like Galvanic Blast are cheap to re-buy with Underworld Breach (I guess, assuming you have enough red mana), and can kill the opponent the good old fashioned way, seemingly out of nowhere. How much did they Shock themselves with fetchlands? Don’t miss that angle of attack.

Hall of Heliod’s Generosity

Hall of Heliod’s Generosity is another weird way to win. More often you can force the opponent to have an answer to Underworld Breach over and over and over again… But in certain unusual games, you can deck the opponent if they don’t manage to kill you first. Again, make sure you know your ways to win! (Or in this case, kind of just not lose.)

Mystic Sanctuary

The one copy of Mystic Sanctuary is a cool little wrinkle as well. Not only can you re-find your solo Dance of the Manse (and maybe in a situation where you can actually make a team of giant 4/4 creatures!) but buying back that sideboard Timely Reinforcements is sure to ruin Mike’s day [you know, if you happen to be playing against him.]

Underworld Breach is Even More Broken in Legacy!

Brain Freeze largely replaces Grinding Station in this strategy.

While this deck can honestly still be optimized (probably via the addition of black mana for Infernal Tutor), the concept is very strong. Brain Freeze itself can get the deck moving… And it’s important to note that any subsequent Brain Freezes you play out of your graveyard will fire off Storm copies.

The ability to buy back Lion’s Eye Diamond for essentially no mana (but three cards) makes the Brain Freeze pairing truly outstanding… And the de-emphasis of Grinding Station for a card that can also kill the opponent makes the deck itself more streamlined.

There are a lot of possibilities still for Legacy Underworld Breach decks! And Patrick’s description of what is right around the corner has Mike ready to hang up his Basic Mountains in that format.

Get ready to share all this week’s excitement (and gear up for Modern Regionals) right now!

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All the Homes for Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger in Modern

Get Ready for Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
from Theros Beyond Death

Kroxa in Traditional Jund

Michael Farrell won the recent Star City Classic with traditional Jund…

… with some notable Rakdos additions.

Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger falls into the traditional Jund model of a card that can generate card advantage… But is also a threat. In a sense, it’s kind of like a Bloodbraid Elf!

… But Patrick points out that it kind of sucks to flip over Kroxa with you Bloodbraid Elf.

A terrible person of enormous focus…

-Mike, seeing Collective Brutality, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Kitchen Finks in the side

Kroxa in Death’s Shadow

  • MF: It’s weird that this deck doesn’t have Lightning Bolt.
  • PC: What does Lightning Bolt even kill… Other than Lightning Skelemental?

While this deck is cool, Mike can’t get off the fact that this deck has all these aggro elements — four copies of Lightning Skelemental, come on — but no Lightning Bolts.

It even has Hazoret, the Fervent in the sideboard!

This deck doesn’t quite know what it wants to be yet… At least according to Mike. On the other hand, it has sweet new technology, like Unearth backing Lightning Skelemental for mad haste, more damage, and a shocking amount of card advantage.

Kroxa in Brand New Black-Red

By contrast there is a sweet new Rakdos list that inherits many of the same principles of the Jund — and previous Mardu — decks in Modern.

Mike calls this 5-0 list from a recent Modern League “the deck of the week” and Patrick points out its inspired use of “the black Strategic Planning”, Ransack the Lab.

Good removal, great disruption, and more Unearthed Lightning Skelementals!

But Wait! There’s More!

This episode covers a wide range of Modern movement since the banning of key format Staples like Mycosynth Lattice and Oko, Thief of Crowns. The best of the rest:

  • The deck that is probably going to get Underworld Breach banned in Modern (and how to beat it)
  • The rise of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove in Primeval Titan decks
  • Stoneforge Mystic and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath together (with Blood Moon) for the first time
  • Scale Up in Infect
  • Finding Kess, Dissident Mage with Bring to Light
  • Turbo “Impossible to Cast” Spells
  • Novel ways to get Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play
  • … And THE BEST Once Upon a Time deck in Modern

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Once Upon a Time (and more!) in Modern

Once Upon a Time there was this sick card called Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time in Amulet Titan

The powerful Throne of Eldraine instant provides great stability to the explosive — but sometimes inconsistent — Amulet Titan deck.

This card can help set up a first-turn Sakura-Tribe Scout, find a particular land (say green source), or of course ensure that you have Primeval Titan as soon as you have the mana to play it.

But that’s not all from Throne of Eldraine! Castle Garenbrig makes an appearance here, and even comes into play tapped sometimes (to help net mana with Amulet of Vigor). Another recent addition [with the superpower of entering the battlefield tapped] is Field of the Dead.

Field of the Dead is a “one-card combo” in the land rich Amulet Titan deck, a powerful tool for long games.

Once Upon a Time in Selesnya

The “Devoted Devastation” version of Selesnya makes abusive use of Once Upon a Time to find the Devoted Druid + Vizier of Remedies infinite combo. The new instant is just one of many Tutors in this deck, though…

  • Eladamri’s Call
  • ‘Eldrich Evolution
  • Finale of Devastation
  • (and of course this card)

The deck can be fast.

That isn’t even the only Selesnya deck performing! In Selesnya Eldrazi Once Upon a Time teams up with Ancient Stirrings to assemble mana acceleration [lands] and ensure action.

Once Upon a Time can find Stoneforge Mystic, which is a big game for a deck with so much upside potential on the mana. Remember, Once Upon a Time can also help get you a first turn mana accelerator or Eldrazi Temple! Or one of the big guys later, of course.

The Best of the Rest

Urza Outcome versus Urza Ascendency: Fight!

Why would you want to cast Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Oh, and what (if anything) is getting emergency banned in Standard?

All that and more is one click away!

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Get Ready for Stoneforge Mystic

This week, Ian Duke announced many, many changes to the Banned & Restricted lists. Three tournament-competitive formats all had their B&R lists changed simultaneously:

Standard:

  • Rampaging Ferocidon: unbanned

Modern:

Vintage:

  • Karn, the Great Creator: restricted.
  • Mystic Forge: restricted.
  • Mental Misstep: restricted
  • Golgari Grave-Troll: restricted
  • Fastbond: unrestricted.

Rampaging Ferocidon is back in Standard!

Rampaging Ferocidon

The second-best red 3/3 for three may be the first un-ban in Standard history!

If you don’t remember it, the Ixalan dinosaur had an extraordinarily short initial career in Standard; was banned; and now has only a few weeks to play before rotation. We speculate there are two reasons for this:

  1. It’s a great foil to Field of the Dead strategies. This card really punishes decks that want to put a lot of creatures in play [at the same time], and can exploit a lead you’ve already got. And of course…
  2. “This is a silly, silly card to be banned.” -Patrick

To the surprise of no one, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting got banned

Hogaak’s performance in Modern since its [very recent] printing in Modern Horizons has been spectacular. In three Grand Prix events in August, Hogaak…

  • Dominated! Hogaak took 5/8 of the Top 8, with the win
  • Regressed to “only” 3/8 of the Top 8, with “only” second place as its top performance
  • Once again owned 5/8 of the Top 8 with the second place mage from the last Grand Prix jumping to first.

Wow!

This creature (and sidekick Faithless Looting) both more than deserved their forcible ejections from Modern. This card was not only a four-of alongside Hogaak basically everywhere Hogaak performed, it was a four-of in Dredge, Izzet Phoenix, and even some Mono-Red Aggro decks!

Patrick’s hot take? Dredge will remain Tier One.

The “good” news? Hogaak will live on in Legacy.

Speaking of which…

Stoneforge Mystic is poised to be the Next Big Thing in Modern

Stoneforge Mystic

Michael and Patrick speculate wildly about what will happen given the premiere of one of Legacy’s proudest two-drops in Modern…

  • Will we see the emergence of a Modern Caw-Blade? Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are like peanut butter and chocolate
  • How about a “Tom Martell”-style U/W? More controlling with Lingering Souls?
  • Can Stoneforge Mystic take the Goblin Engineer role next to Urza, Lord High Artificer? A Sword of the Meek is still a Sword!
  • Which Sword should Stoneforge Mystic find? Patrick makes the case for Sword of Feast and Famine… Alongside Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Esper)
  • How about Manriki-Gusari? Talk about a way to win the mirror!

Vintage and More!

What are you waiting for? Give “Get Ready for Stoneforge Mystic” a listen now!

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Why Leyline of the Void is the Most Popular Card in Modern

Leyline of the Void

Leyline of the Void was the most played card of Mythic Championship IV

Many decks played four copies of Leyline of the Void… Even if they couldn’t normally tap for black mana.

The winning “Mono-Green” Tron deck only has basic Forest for color-producing lands… But still ran the full play set. On the one hand, it can actually cast Leyline with Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere… On the other hand, “Plan A” is to drop the Leyline for free on turn zero.

There is some risk to the potential reward to playing a card you can’t cast… But there was a big enough problem at Mythic Championship IV to warrant so many.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis

Hogaak is a Real Problem in Modern

Almost immediately after it was printed, we asked if Hogaak should be banned.

With a Mythic Championship in the books… We’re even more certain!

There was only one Hogaak deck in the Top 8, but the card / deck(s) / strategy did remarkably well anyway. “Hogaak” was the most popular pure archetype in the tournament (at about twice the popularity of Izzet Phoenix)… And “Hogaak Dredge” was essentially the top performer on Modern record. (Remember: mixed format Mythic Championship Top 8s are heavily influenced by Limited records).

Of all the decks that went 8-2 or better, more than half played the Modern Horizons monster! More than half!

It’s crazy to think, but Hogaak was a top performer even with Leyline of the Void as the most popular card in the tournament… And that doesn’t even consider the popularity of alternatives like Nihil Spellbomb, Tormod’s Crypt, or Surgical Extraction.

The heavy anti-graveyard attitude of this Modern tournament looks to have been instrumental in holding down the former best archetype. It used to be industry standard to bring in Rest in Peace against Phoenix. Now folks have all four Leyline of the Voids… and might have two or three main deck!

The combination of open deck lists and so many anti-graveyard hate cards — not to mention the London Mulligan — made for some unusual incentives.

And again… Hogaak still performed great.

Where Does Modern Go from Here?

We predict “Tree of Tales”-level bannings. Tree of Tales never hurt anyone; all it ever did was cast the Oxidize that helped contain the Affinity menace… But Tree of Tales was close enough to the actual villains of the format that it got swept up in the bans.

So who should get the veritable Lightning Axe?

Faithless Looting – Is this card the real problem? It’s not just played in Hogaak and Hogaak Dredge, but Izzet Phoenix, Mono-Red Phoenix, and more.

Ancient Stirrings – If you’re going to ban Faithless Looting, it’s tough to justify keeping Ancient Stirrings… Especially given the winner of this Mythic Championship. Alongside the London Mulligan, Ancient Stirrings makes assembling turn three Tron just a little too consistent.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis – Hogaak itself, because we fear that just cutting Faithless Looting wouldn’t be enough!

… Izzet Phoenix would be a key winner with such changes; but this might just be setting up a domination of Urza-Thopter-Sword. Is the answer Mox Opal?

Lots to unpack this week.

We hit on Jund, Phoenix variants, and how much of a problem Wrenn and Six will be. Check it out!

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