Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

An Adventure Through Ancient Origins

Ancient Origins Decks! Called Shots! ENTERTAINMENT! ADVENTURE!

08/19/2015 by Chris Fulop

Well, I found out recently that I am going to be replacing Sami Sekkoum in the first ever 60cards Invitational this Sunday night after the closing ceremony in Boston at the World Championships! I am extremely excited to be able to play in the event. I'm not going to let Sami down on this one. I'm going to call my shot now: I'm taking this tournament down. Expect my next article to include a picture of me with my new trophy. (I expect a good, proper heckling in the comments when I fail to win the trophy!)

I am fortunate that I am not stuck panicking about testing prior to this weekend since I'd already been doing a lot of work to test with friends for the format anyways. I'm not sure what I am going to use, but I do know I plan to stay pretty flexible. Players in the Boston Open already will be privy to the World's metagame before selecting decks, and players in this event will get to witness the fallout from the Open before settling on their play. I'm not going to pigeonhole myself into anything, even though I already have a few preferred decks set aside. (Yes, I am still a huge proponent of Metal Rayquaza.)

With that very exciting (for me, at least!) news out of the way, I'll be going over some of the new decks I have been working on in XY-AOR. I understand that the first "major" events of the new season will be in Expanded, but I'm sticking with what I said before: I am not going to be testing that format until we get some sort of information regarding potential bans for the format. I'm still standing by the fact that an unadjusted Expanded is a nightmarish, mess of a format. I'd be astounded if something didn't happen to it, and I'm not going to put the time into a near-surefire lame duck format. That said, lets get to the matter at hand.

I want to start off my discussion of the new format decks with my main squeeze: Mega Rayquaza.


There are arguably three different ways to build a deck around Mega Rayquaza in the upcoming format. First off, we have my old standby, "Crayquaza," which is simply focused on getting Mega Rayquaza out on turn one, and being able to continue to chain them. Seismitoad-EX, Trevenant-EX, Night March, and Metal decks using Kecleon had all been major issues for the archetype, and now most of those are non-factors anymore. (Night March losing Mew-EX is a huge blow, and without Hypnotoxic Laser, the damage output on those Item-lock decks is just too low.)

The deck loses a few cards from previous builds. First, we lose Exeggcute. This was a great way to get additional value out of Battle Compressor. Not only do Exeggcute help fill your Bench quickly, helping to make the turn-one 240 damage a realistic possibility, but they also help with your Ultra Ball math so you do not have to discard important cards. Also, the card was instrumental in making sure that you could refill your Bench whenever Sky Field got countered. This was particularly important with N last format, but without it, the need to have an "in play" protection from having too few Benched Pokémon is much less important. Luckily, in place of it, we get the new Unown, who I will always want to call Unown R due to it being a near reprint of the old Unown R. I'll hope to have that one down in the next year or so. This card is just fantastic in the deck, as it is more non-Supporter draw that lets you dig deeper on the first turn. It plays so great with Shaymin-EX, I cannot even do it justice with words. Unown is also a great Bench spaceholder to help augment your damage output. The downside is that the deck already was a bit tight on space.

The other big exits from the deck are Supporters, namely N and Colress. Colress was by far the best Supporter in this deck, and will be sorely missed. Luckily, with less Item-lock prevalence (I will be surprised if Vileplume ends up being nearly as played as Seismitoad-EX was) the demand for Supporters has gone down. Still, you have to run some, and the best Supporter in the format, Sycamore, is actually pretty rough on this deck. Previously, when we had Trump Card for the build, discarding key resources was a setback, but easy enough to overcome in a long game. Unfortunately, now, every discard is very important: you'll notice I opt against Acro Bike, a great card, because of the incidental damage it does to your game a lot of times. This exclusion is also helped out by the addition of Unown, which offers a similar effect. N being gone is really a net positive for this deck, even though it appreciated having access to it. The deck was usually ahead on Prizes, so you usually didn't end up on the winning side of the card. Finally, we lose access to Computer Search, but that isn't instrumental to making the deck work. Plus, now when making deck lists, I won't always forget to include my ACE SPEC in my first draft. (Side confession: The number of times I'd forgotten to include Rare Candy in my Stage 2 decks only to find out during my first game of playtesting is equally embarrassing.)


One of the other big gains to the deck is the overhyped Hoopa-EX. The card isn't great in most decks, as it has a pretty limited use and offers diminishing returns as the cards it can get are the same ones most decks have plenty of ways to get as the game matures. It also eats up a key Bench space. This deck, on the other hand, wants to get as many Pokémon-EX as it can on the first turn, and it actually benefits from filling that Bench space. Being able to turn an Ultra Ball into a Hoopa-EX into Rayquaza-EX, Mega Rayquaza-EX, and a followup Shaymin-EX is downright nasty. That said, I doubt the deck ever really needs to use more than one of the card, so that is exactly the number I am running. Two is potentially playable, but as I said, space is tight as it is.

Due to the potential popularity of Manectric-EX, Raichu, and Mega Ampharos, I'm running a 2-2 Altaria line. This could be dropped to a 1-1, or even 2-1 line, in favor of a Sacred Ash. Some of those decks are beatable just by being fast and keeping up with them, but the Altaria is a nice safety net.

For this build, the Supporter selection I've settled on tentatively is one Lysandre, one Professor Birch's Observations, a Sycamore, and a Teammates. With all of the non-Supporter draw available, I'm gambling on being able to focus most of my VS Seekers on the Lysandre. Assuming it isn't Prized, the lone copy should suffice. If you dislike being risky regarding it, adding a second copy is fine. I'm just a gambling addict. I mentioned how I hated Sycamore in this deck, but I include the one copy as a safety net. With Battle Compressor, and how many cards we draw in a turn, there will be enough games where you can pick and choose spots to make it quite useful. It is also now your best late game Supporter when trying to close a game out, since Colress has rotated.  Birch isn't a great card, but the upside is great, and it is your best Supporter when stuck with a hand that you can't really afford to discard from. The times you get stuck with four cards in your hand isn't even that bad. Between Hoopa, four Shaymin, four Ultra Ball, four Trainers' Mail, and Super Scoop Up to reuse Set Up, there are so many cards you can hit to make a four-card hand explode.

Unown really helps here too, as you can save them on your Bench for security. Teammates is a nice fallback plan when your Mega Rayquaza goes down and you NEED to make sure you get access to the right cards to get a second one going. You can grab Hoopa (Shaymin-EX and both Rayquaza) plus a DCE, a Spirit Link, or a Mega Turbo. If you have the Pokémon, you can just grab what two fringe pieces you want. Shaymin and your non-Supporter draw will get you plenty of card quantity, Teammates lets you fill in the pieces. I'm not thrilled with this split, but its what I am starting at. (For those curious, Hoopa makes me really not want to consider Winona, even though she does help with Altaria. If spamming Altaria becomes a necessary play based on the metagame, she could perhaps get a slot in the deck.)

The Energy count stays the same as it did last format, with four DCE and three Basic Energy. I'm opting to go with Fire Energy, since I can discard it to Scorched Earth. Perhaps I'm overlooking some other fringe application that may make a different type better, but in general it is totally irrelevent. 

Possible inclusions to the deck would be the Sacred Ash I mentioned before, a second Hoopa-EX, and a Hex Maniac. If a deck like Vileplume becomes very popular, Hex Maniac is a solid means to turn it off and set up. The good thing about this deck is that you don't need too many turns with Items to really go off and take control of a game. The key with Hex Maniac is making sure that after you use it that you VS Seeker it back so you can keep the chain going. Losing Jirachi-EX is unfortunate here, as it would be a great tool to get Hex Maniac even under Item-lock. (It would also probably push the Hoopa count to two, as each Hoopa would double as a Jirachi for that sort of toolbox. This, of course, is all under the assumption that a card like Vileplume is popular enough to warrant so much hate.)

Metal Rayquaza

Next up, we have Metal Rayquaza, which also doesn't lose a whole lot. I've read people in Virbank and on Facebook in general debating what to do without Keldeo and Float Stone, and I've just kind of rolled by eyes at it because those cards are completely replaceable in the archetype. I spent all of Cities and Regionals opting to run Switch in Metal decks over the Keldeo package, for a few reasons. It was more streamlined, and didn't take up a Bench space. It didn't compete for Tool attachments, and was a bit faster. Simply replacing the Float Stones and Keldeo is a pretty lateral fix, especially since the decks which Keldeo was important against are less of a factor now. Anyways, here is the list I have at the moment. 


A lot of these numbers are just the same from pre-rotation. I'm still at 3-3 Bronzong and Rayquaza, and we've lost Kecleon but gained a Hoopa-EX. The Energy count is a bit higher than I had been running (we've gained a sixth Basic Energy).

While this deck's engine is similar to the turbo Rayquaza build, it isn't nearly as "all in" on it, and isn't capable of getting a turn-one Mega Rayquaza due to the lack of Mega Turbo since its purpose is replaced by Bronzong. As a result, we don't need as many Items for draw power and get to run a few more Supporters. This deck actually gets the full set of Sycamore since it handles discards better. Not needing to go as crazy chasing a setup on the first turn gives you a lot more leeway with slowing down, and that option actually makes Sycamore a lot safer. Plus, we do have the Sacred Ash in this build to be safe. Bunnelby is an option as well, but I do still want this deck to keep up with pressure, so it gets sidelined at the moment. It may be wrong, so it is worth at least addressing its possible inclusion.

Beyond the Sycamores, we get our toolbox of Supporters to work with our two Battle Compressor. We have Hex Maniac, Ace Trainer, Lysandre and Teammates. Teammates serves the same role as it does in Crayquaza, and is actually probably stronger in this deck since it plays out in a grindier manner. Since this deck isn't as fast, and has a Plan B in its Metal Pokémon, Ace Trainer seems pretty strong. I feel like this card is going to wind up as a one-of in many decks just for it's versatility with VS Seeker and Battle Compressor (a card I love. I remember misevaluating it when it was initially released, feeling it was too cute to see a ton of play outside of decks like Night March, but cards kept getting printed in a way that its value kept going up.).  It is narrow enough in application that I don't expect to see a lot of copies in lists, though. I imagine one will be the widely applied number.

Hex Maniac is not only great for disrupting specific troublesome Abilities, but it plays much like Mesprit from Legends Awaken where it can lock opponents off of draw Abilities like Set Up. When you yourself are relying on Shaymin for a bulk of your draw, you can get away with dedicating your Supporter for the turn to slow the opponent down. This would also apply to Crayquaza, and I do imagine it ends up in that deck's final sixty, but I really was focused on making sure the engine was ideal before I started trimming for utility cards. I'm more willing to experiment with this build.

The third and final approach to building a Rayquaza deck would be to use Reshiram and the Dragon Rayquaza-EX. This gives you the option to run both Mega Rayquaza. I'll be honest: my gut doesn't feel too good about this deck, and I haven't actually thought up a list for it. I wanted to bring it up since I'm aware the idea may be viable. I think the other two builds are very promising, and deserving my attention beforehand though.

Mega Tyranitar

Mega Tyranitar is a card that has gotten a lot of hype due to its explosive damage potential, and it is a card I'm somewhat intrigued by! I think there is a major problem with the way people are building this deck: Crobat is unnecessary. Part of me feels like the entire Bat line is unnecessary, and better replaced by just using Yveltal and Absol to set up the big kills. The problem here is that with only two damage counters, Tyranitar is already smacking for 230 damage! Crobat is needed only to hit the 240 mark, and in general, you can use Yveltal plus Absol to hit those marks. You don't need some huge 4-4-3 line of Crobat for this deck; it's just a huge amount of overkill. I'm opting to run a thin 2-2 line of Golbat just to enable the big hits, while relying on more natural means to actually set up these big hits. It isn't even like the deck is fast: it often has to use Yveltal to get enough Energy in play to use a Mega Tyranitar anyways, so you don't magically need this turn-two Bat damage reliably.


What we are going with here is a solid 3-3 Mega Tyranitar line. You will generally only get out a pair in a game, so going much thicker than this is pretty unnecessary. We have three Yveltal, which is your ideal opener. I legitimately wouldn't hate a fourth, especially since we want to start with it every game. (The list only fits an AZ and two Switch for Switching effects. Oh, how I miss you already, Darkrai-EX.) The good, free Retreat Cost Zubat has rotated, so we don't even get the perks of having it available to help smooth over our starts.

I'm running an Yveltal-EX as a backup attacker because the card is still powerful and it is almost a free inclusion with the rest of the tools we have available to the deck. I actually want to try a second copy of the card, but I'll hold off on that until I see what the metagame ends up looking like. This deck isn't very aggressive out of the gates, so we're running only two Shaymin-EX. The deck isn't running an engine to abuse it, but the card is just so good that at its worst, its a two-of in pretty much any deck. If it wasn't for the fact this deck is fairly tight on it's Bench space, I'd consider a third one. (One AZ can only do so much work!) The number I am probably the least happy with is the lone Absol. With a thin Golbat line, it may be necessary to run the second copy.

I'm running the bare minimum amount of Energy cards in the deck, coming in at six Basic Darkness Energy and four Double Colorless Energy. I've seen lists running Dangerous Energy, which is cute because it pretty much guarantees Tyranitar will OHKO anything that hits it, but I feel like its unnecessary. I don't think the deck needs more than ten Energy to be fully functional, and due to the nature of Mega Turbo and Yveltal needing actual Darkness Energy, any Dangerous Energy you add have to be in addition to these ten core Energy cards. I'm just not really excited about the idea of burning two extra slots in the deck to add them. (I'd sooner add another Absol, for example.)

Since the deck isn't really abusing Shaymin or an Item engine, we're running more Supporters than in some of my lists. The deck runs the standard four Sycamore, and then three Professor Birch's Observations and a lone Ace Trainer. With a pair of Battle Compressor (which also help make the six Darkness Energy work with Yveltal and Mega Turbo) and four VS Seeker, it should be enough to keep the deck smoothly functioning. I'm still getting used to what an appropriate amount of actual Supporter cards in these decks are, and based on the other articles I've read by players, there doesn't seem to be much in terms of a uniform decision on this yet. I'm also way too stubborn to ever play Shauna. (I also just actively like Birch's Observations, but part of that may be due to me siding with playing more Shaymin-EX than a lot of players.)

Mega Turbo, a three-of, splits the duty with Yveltal as the primary source of Energy acceleration in the deck. I actually also run an Exp. Share in the deck as a seventh source of acceleration, so let's look at the Tool sitation. Mega Tyranitar has an oft-overlooked Trait which lets him carry a pair of Pokémon Tools. In most cases, one of those is going to end up being a Spirit Link, but that doesn't have to be the case. The card I like most with Tyranitar is Hard Charm. (For those of you who read my set review, I was obsessed with trying to use this specific Trait to load a Pokémon with two Hard Charm.) Tyranitar, in my eyes, really needs something to sell me on it beyond "I OHKO Pokémon like half the format does" because right now, it feels like a lot of work to pull off something other decks can do just as well and possibly smoother.

For me, Tyranitar has two things that set it apart from its competition: Yveltal and Yveltal-EX as partners (pairing with an established tier-one archetype is a selling point! Metal Rayquaza has a similar selling point) and its Trait. Being able to OHKO Pokémon while withstanding OHKOs from other Pokémon is a good starting point for me. The Mega Pokémon has 240 HP to start with, so a lone Hard Charm alongside a Spirit Link is going to give it an effective 260 HP. In certain situations, you can play both and really set up a hard-to-take-down Tyranitar. This gives you an alternate gameplan against grindier decks outside of just having to win a Prize exchange. Also worth noting, there was a deck last format which used Hard Charm in Yveltal decks to just grind out opponents, so you get a bit of that gameplan built into this. It is one of the reasons a second Yveltal-EX seemed appealing to me. AZ is also useful to loop Yveltal, since they are a pain to KO, especially with a Hard Charm. Pokémon Center Lady makes it in as a one-of to help augment the particularly grindy games.

This brought me to the idea of running Shadow Circle to take away our Weakness. Seeing how Lightning is a very popular type, and Fighting isn't off the radar either, this seems like an addition worth keeping in mind. The problem I have here is that it doesn't look like it'll fit. I think if you wanted to do this, you would have to cut the Golbat line and rely on the Yveltal/Absol gameplan a bit more. I don't think this is a terrible idea, but unless I know the metagame pans out in a way which really punishes this deck on Weakness, I wouldn't lead with that build. 



Okay, I wanted to try a slightly different approach to the Vespiquen decks that I've seen floating around. The most common pairing I've seen with the card has been the new Eevee Evolutions, to help take advantage of typing. The line feels like a bit of a freebie, since you really need to get 24-25 Pokémon in this deck anyways. I think this doesn't do enough. I feel like you will run into he same issue you did towards the end of the format with Flareon: the damage output is just shy of what it needs to be. You end up struggling to OHKO anything big. Thats okay though, right? You are a non-EX bordering between one-hit and two-hitting Pokémon-EX, so you can win that exchange! Unfortunately, you kind of only get to use four Vespiquen, your only attacker, because they require a DCE to attack. Once you run out of DCE, you pretty much hit the brakes, and you hit the breaks hard. All the potential backup attackers you would want don't fix the problem well, because they too use DCE.

This was the same exact problem I had with Raichu last I figure I'll solve it the same way! Why run this Eevee line, which has questionable application (I think these cards are extremely overrated) when you can replace them with Bronzong? You can come out swinging with DCE-fueled attacks, and as the game progresses, you can use Sacred Ash to refill your deck with Vespiquen and use Metal Links to power them up. The dubious damage output isn't nearly as disheartening when you know you can actually power up six of them in a row. (I know you can use Bunnelby to get DCE back, taking a turn off, crippling your exchange, and likely getting absolutely punished for the play, but the thought of actually taking the line is pretty downright vomit-inducing, if I can be polite.)

Bronzong also gives you the option to run some of his standard buddies as backup attackers. I'm not sure which ones are most appealing, as they are pretty difficult to power up. I imagine Aegislash would be the most likely to be useful, even though we only have four Metal Energy in the deck. At the moment, I have that stupid Bunny in the deck, but it will probably get replaced by some form of attacker which I can power up with Bronzong. (Heatran, Aegislash-EX, Dialga-EX, and even something like a Lugia-EX are all valid options.)

Slurpuff helps with the Sacred Ash gameplan, and also digs deeper towards DCE. I don't love the card, as Unown and Shaymin-EX give us a lot of drawpower as it is, but when we have to pad the Pokémon count anyway, why not? It does somewhat compete with Bronzong for Bench space since we aren't using Sky Field, but I think it's still just necessary.

I'm back to the old engine I had used last format with a really split Supporter line with VS Seeker and four Battle Compressor. We have so much auxiliary drawpower that we don't need more than four Supporters for the function. I split it up between Sycamore, Birch, Ace Trainer (this deck can wind up needing that sort of disruption to stick late-game if you do wind up shy of getting the KO rate you want) and Teammates. Teammates is great in helping you get DCE reliably, and also lets you get to your Muscle Bands when you need them. I need more practice with the deck to determine exactly how often the Bands actually make or break KOs, but I feel like I'd miss them if I didn't have them.



I wanted to try my hand at the Vileplume Giratina deck, even though my gut reaction is that it is too clunky and awkward to be quite good enough. I also have seen enough hype about Hex Maniac, and a deck like this is pretty much crushed by that card should it prove to be popular. This deck would function a lot better if it were off-the-radar some, but with people prepared for it, even without Hex Maniac, the deck suffers. I still like Vileplume, but I think that playing Giratina alongside it really limits its flexibility and prevents it from adapting to the rest of the format's attempts to play with it in mind.

The most annoying problem I have with the deck is that it has this really awkward puzzle to piece together. On one hand, you need to try and get Vileplume into play as quickly as possible. This requires a lot of cards to play on the first turn. In order to play enough cards to pull this off reliably, you have to play a lot of Items, and use Shaymin-EX. Shaymin-EX is always going to be awkward in a heavy Supporter/Evolution deck, which this is. All of this means that if you want to make Vileplume super-consistent so it actually locks decks out early, you have to semi-lock yourself in return because you have to play a bunch of cards which work poorly under Vileplume. That is the first big problem.

The second is that Giratina is a huge chore to power up. You can't run four DCE and four Double Dragon Energy and enough Grass and Psychic to ever power one up without the exact pairing of the first two. This is troublesome for the first Giratina, and every additional one is even harder. (This actually is a bit untrue, as you generally have more time to draw into them if you don't have to immediately replace the first one.) Normally pairing off Energy like this is doable because of items, but not here.

This brings me to the first major inclusion in this deck: AZ. AZ acts as our Switching card, and can be used under 'Plume lock. Somewhat equally importantly, you can use it to bounce a Vileplume, using Forest of Giant Plants to Evolve up to Gloom, and then play all your Items before replaying Vileplume. Other non-draw Supporters include Lysandre, which is pretty obviously in every deck. It is obviously quite good in this deck because it lets you strand Pokémon Active as you hit them and actually buy some time to stabilize. I feel like this is super important.


Pokémon Center Lady is needed to actually keep Giratina alive once it goes online. You really want to try and get at least three turns out of each Giratina or it will be harder to keep up. I do wish that there were better options for Energy removal, but most of the good Supporter ones rotated, so we don't have those options.

Since we do not run VS Seeker due to 'Plume's Ability, we instead are forced to run fatter lines of all the Supporters, including the utility ones. Since we need a compromise to make getting Vileplume out quickly, we are running ten Items to help get set up. Ultra Ball is just a gimme in every deck (okay, some Korrina decks are exceptions) and we're pairing it with two Level Ball to help get Oddish and Gloom out quickly. After that, they can grab Unown, who cycles for a new card. I was torn between the split on Trainers' Mail and Level Ball. I went with four Trainers' Mail because you really need to get to your Stadium card reliably, and it helps there. It also can get you a Ball often enough, so it seems like the more versitile of the options. I'm not sure the 2/4 split is ideal, but its where I am at now.

The Energy are exactly as I mentioned before, sitting at the extremely awkward four copies of each double Energy. The Pokémon are pretty straightforward. A 3-3-3 line is fine, as I'd rather devote additional spaces to Balls or Trainers' Mail. Four Giratina is pretty basic, and part of me really wants to try out 3, but Prizing one leaves you without a real attacker at that point, so I'd rather be safe there. I did add a Lugia-EX as a fifth attacker, but I am not excited by it. The thing it has going for it over Giratina is being able to attack for only "one" Energy, so if the opponent does take out Giratina and is applying a lot of pressure, it can hold the fort a bit in a pinch. I don't love it, but I think it may be necessary. Due to Bench space issues, and the fact your hand gets cluttered quickly, I'm only using three Shaymin-EX. The last part, and in my opinion a very important part, is the maximum four Unown. I'm effectively running a fifty-six card deck. (Fifty-four if I want to count Level Ball as an Unown, which I could. It's one of the reasons I'm unsure on the Level Ball/Trainers' Mail split.) The hardest part about this deck to "fix" is drawing into the Special Energy cards, and this sort of free deck thinning does a notable amount of work towards improving your odds. The fact they also help towards your quest to get a quick Vileplume out is icing on the cake.

I want to close off the discussion of this deck by pointing out I'd love to try a build with Sceptile over Giratina. There is a long list of decks I'd love to test, but that one will have to wait! 

Turbo Sceptile

This is primarily an experiment, and just extremely streamlined. The idea is that the "turbo" engine in Crayquaza should work in this sort of build as well. With all of the draw available to use, it shouldn't be too difficult to get a Mega Sceptile in play and attacking on the first turn due to Mega Turbo. I'm not sure it is actually any better than getting a Rayquaza out, but once it gets set up it is pretty sturdy. I had not seen Energy Recycler in the initial spoilers for this set, but it actually does a ton to make this functional! It would be really difficult to fit enough Energy to keep healing with Mega Sceptile and also fit a turbo engine. The problem I do see is that I'm not sure there is really enough payoff with this build. You do a ton of work and can sit there and loop between Sceptiles easily, I'm just unsure thats enough to beat everything. You could probably add in a Lugia-EX or some other secondary attacker, but not much really stands out to me as super lucrative. I'm not going to go over the list too in depth since most of what I'd say carries over from my Rayquaza section of this article.

Looking Ahead

I want to close out with a list of potential archetypes that I haven't covered. I'll be upfront that at the start of a format, I gravitate towards decks I personally like. I'll also move towards big archetypes I think I need to understand if I want to grasp the format. Here are some of the decks I want to test, but haven't built lists for yet.

1.) Sceptile/Vileplume
2.) Ampharos/Vileplume
3.) Medicham/Eeveelutions
4.) Primal Groudon
5.) Primal Kyogre
6.) Dragon Rayquaza

Anyways, I'm off to start getting everything ready to leave for my trip to Boston this weekend for the World Championships! I may be playing in the Boston Open, and will certainly be playing in the 60cards Invitational! I want that beautiful trophy! Hopefully I'll see a bunch of you all there!

[+6] okko


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