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Kevin Baxter

Spring Regionals: My Top Picks

I discuss the decks I expect to be popular at the 3 Spring Regional Championships and my picks to counter the metagame.

05/14/2015 by Kevin Baxter

Introduction

 

Hi 60cards readers!  My name is Kevin Baxter and I’m very excited to be writing my first Pokémon article here.  I’ve been thinking about writing for a while now and I can’t wait to share my thoughts about the great game we play.  For those of you who don’t know me, I am from Cincinnati, Ohio and I’ve been playing for a little over 3 years now.  In 2013, I was 10 Championship Points away from a World’s invitation.  Last year, I finished the season in the Top 16 in US & Canada and earned my first invitation to the World Championships.  This year, I am sitting at 480 CP and I’m hoping to stay in the Top 16 again for that coveted Day 2 World’s invitation.  To try to accomplish this, I will be attending all 3 weekends of Spring Regionals (Ontario, Kansas City, and Madison).  These last few major tournaments before Nationals will be crucial in determining who grabs the last several slots at the top of the leaderboard.  That brings me to the topic of this article: my take on the metagame and the decks I am considering playing. 

The first 2 weeks of Spring Regionals will be played in the current Boundaries Crossed-Double Crisis format.  For the final week, the new set Roaring Skies will be legal.  So, we actually have to prepare for 2 different formats simultaneously in order to maximize our chances of doing well in at least 1 event.  Technically, it’s 4 formats because Top Cut at these tournaments will be played in the Expanded format.  However, it is more important to focus on Standard because you don’t get to play Expanded if you don’t do well in swiss.  Besides, most of the decks that people have succeeded with in Expanded are just Standard decks with maybe a few older cards thrown in. 

I will break this article into a pre-Roaring Skies section and a post-Roaring Skies section.  I’ll give my analysis of the projected metagames and my top picks for each.  Now, I have been known to play decks that are somewhat unusual.  This isn’t necessarily because I hate all meta decks (although I’m not a huge fan of Seismitoad), but I have found that there is a noticeable advantage gained by playing cards that people aren’t used to facing.  For this reason, the decks I will discuss here are geared to attack the metagame from an unexpected angle.  I usually have a hard time selecting exactly which deck to play until right before a tournament, but I can narrow it down to a few that I like.  Let’s get into it!

 

Pre-Roaring Skies

 

The pre-Roaring Skies metagame is fairly well-developed.  We have had 4 weeks of State Championships, several international Regional Championships, and many League Challenges in this format.  There is plenty of data to look at regarding successful decks.  Seismitoad EX-based decks have been a dominant force from the start.  We saw a resurgence of Virizion/Genesect and Mega/Primal Evolution decks to counter Seismitoad.  Yveltal EX is a constant presence.  Battle Compressor decks (Flareon, Night March) have hung around in certain areas.  We saw the Exeggutor deck slowly emerge into a top-tier contender.  Then there are a few other less-popular decks that show up from time to time.  The format is diverse.  What is the best way to approach a diverse metagame?  Well, first you have to accept that you cannot beat everything.  Then, try to figure out what the 2-3 most popular decks will be.  Choose a deck that is favorable versus those and can contend with the majority of the rest.  Determining what will be popular can be difficult, and I have definitely guessed wrong in the past.  You can generally get a good idea from looking at what decks have performed well, what decks people are discussing online, and what decks are being written about in articles like these.

In my opinion, lock decks featuring Seismitoad EX or Exeggutor are getting the most hype going into the first 2 weeks of Spring Regionals.  This is for very good reason because they can win games against any deck with good enough draws.  They have straight-forward strategies that often overcome decks that aren’t built specifically to beat them.  Virizion/Genesect is the deck that players usually turn to if they want to counter these lock decks, but it has the downside of unfavorable matchups against the Battle Compressor decks and a couple of the other lesser played decks.  So when I set out to find a deck that counters the metagame, I wanted it to beat Seismitoad and Exeggutor, be at least even against Virizion/Genesect, and only have a few bad matchups.  Of course, the metagame could change for the 2nd week of Regionals based on the results of the 1st week.  I’ll have to reevaluate the metagame in between to see if I need to make adjustments.  The first deck that I’ve been working on is Primal Groudon EX/Team Magma’s Camerupt.

This deck is similar to the Primal Groudon EX deck I played at Florida Regionals, but with the added support of Camerupt.  Ever since I saw the scans for the Double Crisis mini-set, I knew I wanted to make something work with Camerupt.  Energy acceleration almost always has potential and the versatility of working with fighting or fire energy opens a few possibilities.  One of the problems with Groudon is that it rarely can get more than one big attacker set up per game.  Camerupt can fix that problem by stacking energy on itself throughout a game and scramble switching when needed.  It can also act as a backup attacker in certain matchups and has the added benefit of moving energy to the bench with its attack.  Camerupt replaces the non-EX Landorus from FFI that I had in the deck before Double Crisis.  Instead of accelerating with Landorus’s attack, you can use the better attacks on Hawlucha or Landorus EX and still recover energy attachments from the discard pile to be used later. 

Going back to the matchup criteria I wanted for the deck, let’s look at the options it has to deal with the popular decks.  Primal Groudon almost always beats Seismitoad-focused decks as soon as you start using Gaia Volcano.  The Omega Barrier trait and 240 HP are just too much for Toad to deal with.  There are actually a couple different options that the deck has for dealing with Exeggutor.  Landorus EX + Silent Lab can wipe out all of the Exeggcutes and take 6 prizes very quickly.  If that doesn’t work out, there is the backup plan of attacking with Camerupt.  Camerupt is one of the best attackers in the game against Exeggutor because it is a non-EX that accelerates energy to itself from the discard and can knock out Exeggutor in one hit.  If somehow both of those gameplans don’t work, getting a Primal Groudon attacking can sweep through Exeggutors with the protection of Omega Barrier.  That isn’t Plan A though, because it usually takes a few supporters to get a Groudon powered up. 

Against Virizion/Genesect, you can forego Groudon altogether and just focus on using Hawlucha, Landorus EX, and Camerupt to attack.  I felt like the pre-Double Crisis list had an even matchup against Virizion/Genesect, and Camerupt tilts the odds pretty heavily by being able to OHKO with a Silver Bangle.  The matchup against Flareon averages out to about 50/50.  It usually just comes down to how hot they run.  Landorus EX can sweep if they start slow, but if they get a quick Archie’s Empoleon it’s tough.  Night March is usually unfavorable because they can have an explosive start with Empoleon and Pumpkaboo resists fighting.  If you want to improve these matchups, a Lysandre’s Trump Card could be added to slow them down.  Primal Kyogre EX is another shaky matchup because they can get multiple Primals up faster and Groudon will be racking up snipe damage on the bench.  Rough Seas makes Hawlucha less effective and Landorus EX’s water weakness hurts.  Most of the other matchups are close to even.  Overall, Primal Groudon/Camerupt meets my requirements for choosing a deck in the current metagame.  I’ll take a closer look at some of the card counts to explain my choices.

4 Korrina 

Korrina is great in the early, mid, and late game.  It ensures you almost always can get a Groudon EX + tool card down early on.  It also allows the list to run many different 1-of item cards that can be searched out when the situation arises.  The most notable of these is Scramble Switch since your opponent needs to consider all of your Pokémon as potential threats and it is difficult to account for everything. 

1 Team Magma’s Great Ball, 2 Ultra Ball

These along with Korrina provide the search cards you need to set up all of the pokemon in the deck.  My favorite play turn 1 is to Korrina for a Groudon EX and a Team Magma’s Great Ball to then search for Numel and a fighting energy.  It basically turns Korrina into a Pokémon Fan Club that also gives you a free energy. 

1 Focus Sash, 1 Muscle Band, 1 Silver Bangle, 1 Groudon Spirit Link

Each of these tool cards has a specific and important role in at least 1 matchup.  The Focus Sash lets Groudon survive against decks with OHKO potential and can also make Hawlucha a nuisance against Virizion/Genesect.  The Muscle Band allows Landorus EX to more easily get early knockouts and two-shot EX’s with Strong Energy and Fighting Stadium.  The Silver Bangle lets Camerupt OHKO fire-weak EX’s and also allows Hawlucha to two-shot EX’s without needing a Strong Energy.  The Spirit Link is what allows a 2nd Primal Groudon to be set up or can be used on the first one if you have a slow start and need to catch up.  Once again, Korrina is what makes these 1-of tools shine.

1 Battle Compressor, 1 Professor’s Letter

Both of these items keep the energy flowing through the hand and discard pile as needed.  Battle Compressor often discards energy for Camerupt and supporters to be retrieved with VS Seeker (usually Lysandre). 

3 Silent Lab, 2 Fighting Stadium

I like having 5 stadium cards in Groudon decks to make sure you always have one when you need to Gaia Volcano for 200+.  I chose a heavy Silent Lab count mainly to counter Exeggcute, Mr. Mime, and Genesect EX.  It also conveniently shuts down Safeguard Pokémon, Keldeo EX, Jirachi EX, Mew EX, and a few other fringe cards.  If needed, Hawlucha can also OHKO fighting-weak EX’s when Silent Lab is out.  The 2 Fighting Stadiums make Primal Groudon less reliant on Strong Energy to knock out other Mega Pokémon while aiding Landorus EX and Hawlucha in trading well versus EX’s.   

 

Another deck that is known for having positive matchups against Seismitoad EX and Exeggutor is Mega Gardevoir EX/Aromatisse.  This is one of the decks that I tested right when Primal Clash was released, but my list for it was not great and I didn’t like the poor matchups vs Groudon and the Battle Compressor decks.  Nowadays, the Battle Compressor decks are subdued by Seismitoad and Groudon is not seeing much play (unless there will be an uprising of Groudon/Dusknoir in Ontario).  I would be comfortable with just trying to dodge those matchups at upcoming Regionals.  Thankfully, Sebastian Inks posted his Florida States-winning decklist here on 60cards, so that’s what I used as a base for my adaptation of the deck.

This deck has a simple and consistent strategy of loading up energy with Geomancy and taking OHKO’s with Mega Gardevoir EX.  This powerful energy acceleration is what gives this deck an edge against Seismitoad and Exeggutor.  High HP of Gardevoir paired with Aromatisse’s ability and Max Potion beats out many decks that fail to reach 210 damage.  I have changed a few cards from Sebastian’s list, so I’ll go over my reasoning.

1 Shaymin EX, 2 Rainbow Energy

These cards fill a similar role to the DCE and EXP Share from Sebastian’s list which were used to conserve fairy energy.  The reason you want to conserve fairy energy is to continue to OHKO your opponent’s Pokémon with Gardevoir after 1-2 of your attackers fall.  Shaymin EX fills that role because you only need 2 energy on board to attack with it.  Revenge Blast will hit 180 damage once your opponent has taken 5 prizes which should happen often since a Xerneas/Spritzee/Aromatisse will probably die at some point.  The grass typing is also very useful against Groudon and Kyogre which you can OHKO after they have taken only 3 prizes.  My list still plays 12 fairy sources, so 1 deck slot was saved with this switch.

3 N, 2 Pokemon Fan Club

I’m usually paranoid about drawing poorly and I wanted a couple extra outs to supporters early on.  N is such a strong comeback card that 2 felt like too low of a number.  The added Fan Club makes it more likely that you can search out Shaymin EX when needed. 

These are the 2 decks that are at the top of my list for week 1 of Spring Regionals because of their strong matchups against the lock-type decks.  Other options to consider that fit this mold include Virizion/Genesect and Mega Manectric-based decks due to their energy acceleration and ability to withstand disruption items like Hypnotoxic Laser and Crushing Hammer.  Next I’ll move on to the Post-Roaring Skies format.

 

Post-Roaring Skies

 

Week 3 of Spring Regionals is the first time that Roaring Skies will be legal for tournament play.  Therefore, we don’t have any previous data to work with.  Everybody is testing the cards from the new set to see how they stack up against the established decks.  Decks that were good before Roaring Skies is released will still be played, perhaps with a few new cards.  This is also a set that will spawn multiple decks that are completely new.  Shaymin EX is an obviously strong card that will make its way into many decks.  Both Mega Rayquaza EX’s seem to be good enough to build decks around and some people will certainly bring them to Regionals.  Mega Latios and Mega Gallade have some potential.  The trainer cards in the set will have an impact on the popularity of certain decks.  Sky Field strengthens cards like Raichu and Empoleon which do damage based on the number of Pokémon in play.  Mega Turbo will speed up any deck that uses a Mega EX attacker.  Decks that burn through their deck with item-based draw get a boost with Trainer’s Mail.  Wally can get high-impact Stage 1’s like Trevenant and Garbodor into play quickly.  With all of these new cards flooding into the card pool, it is nearly impossible to accurately predict what players will sleeve up for Regionals.  The best anyone can do is test as many new cards as possible and determine what works and what doesn’t.

From what I’ve seen so far, Seismitoad EX decks with a heavy item-draw engine will be good and both Mega Rayquaza EX’s are good enough to see play.  There will probably be a smattering of other new decks at Regionals, but those 3 are decks that I would count on showing up in respectable numbers.  This means that any deck I bring to Wisconsin should be able to handle those decks.  To beat Seismitoad, a deck needs to either have a low reliance on item cards or Pokémon that are inherently efficient against Seismitoad.  To deal with the Mega Rayquaza EX’s, decks will need to assume a 220-230 HP monster will be OHKO’ing the active every turn starting on turn 2-3.  There are a few ways to beat that: use EX’s that can knock out Rayquazas faster than they are knocked out themselves, use non-EX’s that can trade 2-for-1 or better with Rayquazas, or keep the Rayquazas from taking knockouts (or attacking at all). 

The first deck I will discuss has Pokémon that are inherently strong against Seismitoad EX and can knock out Mega Rayquaza EX’s as fast or faster that they get knocked out themselves.  It should not surprise anyone that I am talking about Primal Groudon EX.  This is a deck that gets a massive boost from Mega Turbo (which replaces Camerupt).  The deck can focus more on Groudon because of easily being able to set up multiple Primals.  It should be noted that the Rayquaza decks will introduce more bad matchups for Virizion/Genesect, so the grass weakness of Groudon is less of an issue.  Here is my current list.

As you can see, the list is streamlined and focused on getting multiple Primal Groudon EX’s set up quickly.  I went back to including Landorus FFI because this deck will be able to get fighting energy into the discard quickly.  With the acceleration of both Landorus and Mega Turbo, you should be able to set up 2 Groudons simultaneously so that once you start using Gaia Volcano, you don’t stop until the game is over. 

4 Acro Bike, 3 Scorched Earth

These cards increase the draw power of the deck while also getting fighting energy into the discard pile, so they both have perfect synergy with Mega Turbo. 

2 Focus Sash, 2 Groudon Spirit Link

Focus Sash lets you use 1 Primal Groudon to knock out 2 opposing Megas before it goes down.  Generally the first Groudon will be manually evolved with a Focus Sash attached and the next Groudon will evolve through Spirit Link so you don’t lose an attack.  I bumped up the Spirit Link count to 2 because it is the goal to get multiple Groudons and you can’t afford to prize your only one.  It is actually possible to get a 3rd Primal out and Scramble Switch to it from the one that survives with Focus Sash.

2 Fighting Stadium, 4 Strong Energy

These are obvious inclusions, but I just wanted to reiterate that 2 damage buffs are needed to knock out either Mega Rayquaza.  There should be no problem doing so with either 2 Strong Energy or 1 Strong Energy and a Fighting Stadium.  If for some reason this damaged is whiffed, a Hawlucha or Landorus can clean up while only giving up 1 prize. 

 

The next deck I’d like to discuss aims to trade non-EX’s for EX’s and is made possible by Sky Field.  No, it’s not based on Raichu XY, but Zoroark DEX/LTR.  This deck idea started out as a joke.  I said a while ago that if I top 8’d at one of the first 2 weeks of Regionals I would break out Zoroark for Wisconsin.  If you are not aware, I managed to make top 8 at last year’s Wisconsin Regionals with a Zoroark deck that I had not expected to work as well as it did.  After making the joke, the more I thought about it, Zoroark/Sky Field seemed like a legitimate deck.  With a full bench of dark type Pokémon, Zoroark’s Brutal Bash has a base damage of 180 for just a Double Colorless energy.  That high of a damage-to-energy ratio is worth building a deck around.  Here is what I came up with.

The Zoroark line is maxed out at 4-4 because it is the main attacker of the deck.  After that, the deck just needed enough dark Pokémon to keep the bench full.  4 Yveltal XY was an obvious inclusion because of its high HP for a basic and Oblivion Wing is great for getting early damage and accelerating energy.  Multiple Yveltals are annoying to deal with for any deck because they only give up 1 prize.  It also is very good against Trevenant XY if that grows in popularity with the release of Wally.  The 2 Darkrai EX are mainly for the ability to give free retreat, but Night Spear is a very real option for the deck.  Since Brutal Bash only takes a DCE, there will be enough dark energy around to power up a Darkrai with Oblivion Wing.  The 30 damage snipe from Night Spear and a barrage of Oblivion Wings will have damage spread all over the opponent’s board.  This is perfect for the new toy that came out of Roaring Skies in Absol.  The ability to move 30 damage from one Pokémon to another has huge utility in finishing off damaged Pokémon hiding on the bench or softening up the active to get knocked out by Brutal Bash.  Then the last Pokémon, Yveltal EX, is just one of the best cards in the game and never incorrect to include in a dark type deck. 

3 Colress, 1 Skyla, 1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

Any deck that centers around Sky Field will be a good fit for a high count of Colress.  I wanted 1 Skyla in the deck to be able to search out Sky Field.  Since stadium wars are increasingly common, this deck will have to plan out when to fill the bench to 8.  It doesn’t have the luxury of Exeggcute that can just come back after being discarded from a counter stadium.  So Pokémon and Sky Field will need to be held and played only when the extra damage is needed.  Skyla is a card I like to have in my discard pile in case I need to VS Seeker for it on important turns like those.  For the above reason, this deck needs a way to recover Pokémon that were discarded and Lysandre’s Trump Card fills that role. 

3 Ultra Ball, 2 Repeat Ball

Both of these search options are great for this deck.  Ultra Ball can discard dark energy to be brought back with Oblivion Wing.  The fact that there are high counts of the important Pokémon means Repeat Ball will always grab something useful with no drawback. 

3 Silver Bangle

Silver Bangle helps reach the high HP of Mega Pokémon.  An Oblivion Wing and a max damage Brutal Bash together can knock out any Mega Pokémon if a Silver Bangle was involved in either of the two attacks.  That is worst-case scenario.  Between multiple Oblivion Wings, Silver Bangles, and Absols, it should be easy to take down Megas and EX’s.  There are no Muscle Bands because Brutal Bash can knock out any non-EX without it. 

1 Escape Rope

Escape Rope acts as a switching option if Darkrai’s ability is not available.  It can be searched with Skyla for those situations.  It also can be used to make sure damage does not get wasted.  For example, if you Brutal Bash a Pokémon but whiff the knockout by a small amount of damage, you can use Escape Rope to push it back to the bench.  Then the new active will take the next big hit and the damaged Pokémon can be picked off later with Absol or a Night Spear snipe.

Zoroark has surprised me with how solid of a deck it is.  It has low energy attacks, high damage cap, flexible damage manipulation, gives up prizes 1 at a time, does not rely too heavily on items, and has retreating mobility with Darkrai.  These factors make it a strong choice against the 2 decks I said I was worried about heading into the Roaring Skies format.  But even if I am completely wrong about what will be played the first weekend that Roaring Skies is legal, the deck should be well positioned.  It is the type of deck that can withstand gimmicks and decks that try to exploit the “new” decks because of how simple of an idea it runs on.  In a blind metagame like the one we will face week 3, simplicity is a valuable asset in a deck choice because it doesn’t rely on a certain type of deck seeing play.

 

The next deck I have been working on is more of a metagame counter deck than the previous 2 decks.  This means that it may not be the best choice for a blind metagame like we will see for week 3 of Spring Regionals.  However, if the metagame develops a certain way by the time Nationals or Worlds roll around, then it could end up being a deck to look out for.  This deck is built around Mega Latios EX.  Latios EX and Mega Latios EX are two of the cards from Roaring Skies that stood out as interesting to me.  I knew I wanted to try to build a deck around them.  It might also have been a factor that Latios is one of my favorite Pokémon.  Anyway, the biggest problem that Mega Latios seemed to have was getting OHKO’d by the likes of Mega Rayquaza and Primal Groudon.  To combat these decks, I paired Latios with Ninetales.  I’ll explain why after I show the list I made.

Both Mega Rayquaza and Primal Groudon OHKO Mega Pokémon through the use of stadiums.  So, the logical counter to those strategies is to not let them play their stadiums by locking them with Ninetales.  Once their damage is capped, Latios can trade evenly with those decks.  Since the deck already plays Vulpix, it might as well play the Bright Look Ninetales too.  This Ninetales has synergy with Mega Latios because you can use Bright Look on a Pokémon that the opponent will have trouble getting out of the active while you snipe around it.  I think the deck should have a split between the two legal Latios EX because they both have different uses.  40 damage for 1 psychic energy is a good way to soften up the opponent’s Pokémon for later, or potentially even donk a low-hp basic.  The PLF Latios EX has two good attacks for this deck.  I mentioned that you can Bright Look a Pokémon your opponent does not want active.  You can keep it from retreating with Latios EX’s first attack if you need to buy time.  The second attack does a very efficient 150 damage for 3 energy (2 attachments if 1 is a Double Dragon).  This deck wants to have an explosive start, so Shaymin EX is a good fit to round out the Pokémon line.  The added draw capability allows a slightly thinner supporter line. 

1 Skyla, 1 Lysandre, 1 Lysandre’s Trump Card

As I mentioned before, I like 1 copy of Skyla in decks that have specific cards to search for in certain situations.  For this deck, key cards to search include Spirit Link, Mega Turbo, Switch, Target Whistle, and the Stadiums.  Most of my decks run 2 Lysandre, but I cut down to 1 here because of the Bright Look Ninetales and Mega Latios’s ability to snipe the bench.  Lysandre’s Trump Card is important to recover resources like Double Dragon energy which will get discarded when Latios attacks. 

3 Latios Spirit Link, 1 Muscle Band

The Spirit Links are necessary for mega evolving without wasting a whole turn to do it.  The 1 Muscle Band is in here for increasing the damage of either of the basic Latios EX’s.  60 damage for 1 energy on turn 1 puts significant pressure on the opponent.  Muscle Band also boosts Luster Purge to 170 damage which can OHKO some EX’s. 

3 Mega Turbo

Mega Turbo is what allows Latios EX and Mega Latios EX to attack on consecutive turns after using Luster Purge or Sonic Ace.  Basic energy can be discarded with Ultra Ball or Professor Juniper to fuel early Mega Turbos. 

2 Switch, 1 Escape Rope

I wanted 3 switching options to increase the odds that I can switch into the RSK Latios EX on turn 1 to start attacking.  Escape Rope has the added utility of forcing the opponent into an active Pokémon they would rather not send up.  Mega Latios EX can snipe the bench at any time, so having their threats on the bench is more beneficial. 

1 Target Whistle

This deck can really take advantage of decks that play either Shaymin EX or Jirachi EX.  Mega Latios EX can win a game by picking off 3 of these small EX’s from the bench.  If the opponent tries to circumvent this strategy by discarding their low-HP EX’s, then Target Whistle can force them onto the bench for 2 easy prizes.   

2 Shrine of Memories, 1 Silent Lab

Ideally, we can lock our stadium into play with Ninetales.  The stadium I chose to compliment Mega Latios EX is Shrine of Memories so that the mega evolution can use the attacks of the basic EX’s.  This can be useful because it lets a Mega Latios attack even if it can’t get 3 energy.  Alternatively, there will be situations where a Luster Purge is needed to score a knockout on the active.  The Silent Lab is a countermeasure against Mr. Mime and Safeguard Pokémon.  Neither of those are super popular, but it’s better to have an answer than not. 

It might be a while before a deck like this sees any play because it would be best suited for a specific metagame that is full of low-HP EX’s like Shaymin.  Unfortunately, week 3 of Spring Regionals is completely up in the air as far as what will be played.  One of the other two decks I discussed will probably be a better play for Regionals, but I wanted to share this deck idea I put some work into.  Perhaps Nationals or Worlds will have a metagame this deck can thrive in. 

 

Conclusion

 

I hope you enjoyed my first article and found the information helpful for Regionals preparation!  I tried to give an in-depth look into how I analyze metagames and put decks together for tournaments.  Sometimes it is worth the risk to take a rogue/anti-meta deck to large tournaments like Regionals.  You know you have an advantage in a match if your opponent needs to read your cards. 

If you have any questions about any of my decks, or any feedback on my article, feel free to message me on here or on Facebook.  I’d be happy to hear from you!

 

-Kevin Baxter 

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