Experts' corner

Ryan Sabelhaus

Turn up the Heat!

A Mini Top 8 Report from the NAIC, Top 5 Favorite Cards from Burning Shadows, and Two Strong Options for the World Championships

07/24/2017 by Ryan Sabelhaus

Ryan goes over his Top 8 finish at the biggest tournament in Pokémon history at the North American Intercontinental Championships, while also looking at new cards to come in Burning Shadows and the two big decks going into the World Championships.


What’s going on, 60cards readers? We’ve got some big things going on in the Pokémon community right now! The new rotation has just been announced for next season’s Standard format, which will make all sets from BREAKthrough and on to be legal for play (along with promos XY67 and higher). With some major cards rotating out for the next season of Standard play, the format will surely change and players will have to adapt moving forward. Before the next season begins, we’ve still got some tournaments happening in this current 2016-2017 season, most notably the Pokémon World Championships that are coming up in August. Before we can focus on all of the changes in decks that will happen from rotation, players must focus on the current PCL-Burning Shadows format. For this article, we’ll look at some possible deck options that will surely see some play at the Pokémon World Championships, Anaheim Open tournament, and other tournaments with these sets legal.

Before we talk about these new deck options with cards from Burning Shadows, we’ll start off this article with a short review of my recent success at the North American Intercontinental Championships. For anyone that wasn’t watching or didn’t see any updates, I was able to pilot my Volcanion-EX/Turtonator-GX deck to be the overall first seed after the first day of competition, and ended with an overall finish of 6th place. This was an amazing experience to play in the biggest tournament in Pokémon history (1300+ competitors), and I’m obviously very happy that I was able to do well and share my tournament results with everybody on 60cards! We’ll look at the deck that I used, answer some questions about certain card choices that I decided to play, and go over all the matchups that I ended up facing. There seems to be many questions about the deck that I ended up playing for this tournament, so it only makes sense to just explain my reasoning in a section of this article for everybody.

To get some good discussion going about the newest set in the Pokémon trading card game, we’ll also take a look at my top 5 favorites cards from the set Burning Shadows. This will include the 5 cards that I feel will have the biggest impact on the game, along with the cards that will probably see a good amount of play in decks going forward. This set isn’t nearly as game-changing as Guardians Rising, but there are still plenty of new and interesting cards that can be discussed. Now that we’ve got everything in the article outlined, there’s nothing left to do but get started. Let’s get this article going!

“Just Keep Steamin’ Up”

Volcanion-EX/Turtonator-GX (6th Place NAIC)

The Deck

Alright, so this was the deck that I used at the North American Intercontinental Championships that ended up seeing great success. The deck is very consistent and straightforward, with almost no surprise tech cards to be found. I feel like the best Volcanion-EX builds have a good amount of energy, plenty of baby Volcanion to start with and get the energy cards flowing onto the board, and enough resources to finish off the game quickly. Even though the format has slowed down and Volcanion builds aren’t as fast as they used to be, the benefit of playing this deck is that it can start off fast and drop damage quickly. Getting a solid 80-90 damage down on the first turn, while also accelerating energy cards onto benched attackers is usually enough to carry a Volcanion deck throughout the game. Finding easy prize cards on damaged Pokémon-GX or Pokémon-EX can just make the game that much quicker. Almost half of the games that I played throughout the NAIC involved me smacking an opposing Pokémon-GX on the first turn for a good amount of damage, which would then become my last two prize cards from a late-game Lysandre.

Overall, I felt very confident playing this deck once the tournament began. I was nervous about some of the matchups that I might end up facing that weren’t very favorable, such as Mega Rayquaza-EX, Alolan Ninetales-GX, or maybe even a Vespiquen that had a tech Vaporeon. I knew that in these huge tournaments with a large amount of players competing, there is never a truly perfect call for deck choice. You never actually know what decks that you’re going to face until you sit down across from that opponent, so I just inevitably ended up with Volcanion as my choice. My CCG Castle teammates Rahul Reddy, Azul Griego, and Jimmy Pendarvis, along with good friends Brad Curcio and Eric Rodriguez, were also strong advocates of playing Volcanion and helped to convince me on some final card choices before the event. In the end, Volcanion was just one of my comfort picks at the time that had carried me to some extremely good tournament results already this year, so why not just play it again and see what happens! Let’s look at some of the card inclusions that I decided to go with.

Card Choices

3 Volcanion-EX

I decided to only go with 3 Volcanion-EX in this deck, not because I didn’t want to add a 4th copy, but because of trying to find space for other cards. In most situations, you only need 2 “Steam Up” abilities to take a knockout on opposing Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX, so just playing 3 seemed like a fine decision. With a Rescue Stretcher in the deck, there was always a backup plan if one of the Volcanion-EX’s hit the discard pile and need to be used again.

4 Volcanion

The best starter in the deck needs as many copies as possible. If a Volcanion deck can start with a baby Volcanion and spread energy efficiently onto their attackers, while also placing down a good amount of damage, then the deck is running smooth and has a good chance of winning. This was one of the last decisions that I made before turning in my deck list before the tournament. The choice was between a 4th Brooklet Hill or a 4th baby Volcanion, which I ended up choosing the Volcanion to assure consistency and better odds of starting with this Pokémon.

2 Turtonator-GX

This was without a doubt the best attacker that this deck can offer. The GX attack is amazing and can grab so many energy cards to go onto attackers in the late stages of the game. With a couple of “Steam Up” abilities, the Bright Flame attack can knock out just about any Pokémon in the game. Another big upside to this card would have to be the 190 HP, which is just out of the range of a Drampa-GX swinging with a Choice Band. In the Garbodor matchup, Turtonator-GX is a fantastic attacker that can knockout opposing Drampa-GX’s with ease, and can also take a knockout onto opposing Tapu Lele-GX’s with a Fighting Fury Belt attached (without needing any abilities). Whenever games would get close against Garbodor with ability-locking coming into play, Turtonator-GX offered a great way to just take the last two prizes needed without having to use any abilities.

2 Tapu Lele-GX and 0 Shaymin-EX

With Volcanion decks, I always feel like Shaymin-EX is such a huge liability in a slow-paced format. Opponents can hit for 110HP with ease and take cheap knockouts to help even up on the prize exchange. With this build, I wanted to force an opponent to go through all of my big attackers, or at least swing for up to 170HP on a Tapu Lele-GX to earn those two prize cards. Shaymin-EX isn’t really necessary for this deck to function, and Tapu Lele-GX can take those spots and add consistency with grabbing any needed Supporter cards. Many games throughout the tournament were ended with using a Tapu Lele-GX for a Lysandre to finish off a damaged Pokémon-GX that was on my opponent’s bench. I feel like two is the perfect number for this consistency Pokémon.

4 Professor Sycamore, 4 N, and 3 Lysandre

With a format that is covered with Garbodor, it’s important to play a high number of Supporter cards to help cut down on Item usage. With most decks in the current Standard format, these numbers are pretty typical for a straightforward and consistent list. Playing 3 Lysandre is almost mandatory as well, because games are always ended through using a Lysandre to take the last two prize cards on a benched Pokémon-EX or Pokémon-GX. Always making sure that one or two Lysandre are in the discard pile, along with at least one copy in the deck, maximizes the outs of drawing into a game-winning Lysandre after an N from an opponent. With that situation, the cards that can end the game would now be a Lysandre, VS Seeker, Tapu Lele-GX, Ultra Ball (for Tapu Lele-GX), and maybe even a Rescue Stretcher (for Tapu Lele-GX), which are substantially greater odds. Without as many copies of Lysandre, there may not be a copy in the deck which would cut the options down immensely, or there may not be a copy in the discard pile which would eliminate VS Seeker as an out.

1 Olympia

This card is another switching option for this deck, along with helping to heal off damaged Pokémon, and can be found with a Tapu Lele-GX. My exact reasoning for playing this card was to help against any opponents that were playing Vileplume and tried to trap one of my large retreat cost Pokémon in the active position. It had plenty of good uses throughout the tournament and was definitely worth the spot.

3 VS Seeker and 3 Ultra Ball

With more supporter cards and trying to cut down on item usage, playing one less copy of VS Seeker and Ultra Ball seemed fine. The more supporter cards helped with playing one less VS Seeker, while playing 3 Brooklet Hill helped with playing one less Ultra Ball.

2 Max Elixir

These spots were the “open” spots in the deck that were undecided for a long time. After playing an extremely slow version of Volcanion with no Max Elixirs in the Standard format, I decided that the deck needed a level of surprise factor. These Max Elixirs filled that need and allowed for some faster knockouts with free energy attachments. With 14 Fire energy in the deck, it’s pretty difficult to miss as well.

3 Fighting Fury Belt and 0 Choice Band

This seemed to be the defining factor in my Volcanion build that separated it from most other decks. I decided to go with no Choice Band and focus on surviving more with Fighting Fury Belt. Since the card has basically been forgotten in the Standard format, many decks were perfectly fine with just swinging for 180 damage and taking knockouts. With a Fighting Fury Belt attached, my Volcanion-EX’s were able to survive through attacks from opposing Drampa-GX, Tapu Bulu-GX, Gallade, Espeon-GX, Zoroark BREAK, and much more. It was very difficult for opponents to also found a Field Blower in the same turn, which meant my Pokémon would survive for an extra turn and could possibly take another knockout. Volcanion builds don’t really need Choice Band if there is a good amount of energy to be used for “Steam Up,” so giving every attacker a chance at surviving big shots and swinging for another turn seemed like the right call in my opinion.

1 Rescue Stretcher

With a thin Starmie line and only 3 Volcanion-EX, playing a Rescue Stretcher was almost mandatory to assure that nothing crucial was discarded or knocked out that couldn’t be retrieved if necessary. This card was also fantastic at getting back a discarded Tapu Lele-GX for a supporter whenever my hand was dead.

3 Brooklet Hill

This is another addition to Volcanion builds lately which helps against Garbodor, as it gets out crucial Volcanion-EX onto the board without the use of items. While serving as a pseudo Ultra Ball, these cards can also help to fight the “stadium war” and not allow crucial stadium cards to stay in play for an opponent. This can help to discard opposing Forest of Giant Plants, Rough Seas, Team Magma’s Secret Base, and many other options.

Mini Tournament Recap

Round 1: Espeon-GX/Zoroark                                      WLW 1-0
Round 2: Zoroark/Drampa-GX                                     WW 2-0
Round 3: Gallade/Octillery                                           WW 3-0
Round 4: Garbodor/Espeon-GX (Stream)                      WW 4-0
Round 5: Darkrai-EX/Giratina-EX                                 WW 5-0
Round 6: Sam Chen w/ Garbodor/Drampa-GX (Stream) WW 6-0
Round 7: Sina Ghaziaskar w/ Zoroark/Eeveelutions        W (DQ) 7-0
Round 8: Xander Pero w/ Garbodor/Espeon-GX             WW 8-0
Round 9: Sam Hough w/ Darkrai-EX/Garbodor              WLT 8-0-1

8-0-1 (1st Overall Seed in Orange Pod)

Round 10: John Kettler w/ DeciPlume (Stream)            WLW 9-0-1
Round 11: Gustavo Wada w/ Ninetales                         LL 9-1-1
Round 12: Stephane Ivanoff w/ DeciNinetales               WW 10-1-1
Round 13: Alex Krekeler w/ Greninja                            WLL 10-2-1
Round 14: Tord Reklev w/ Garbodor/Drampa-GX           WW 11-2-1
Round 15: Sam Chen w/ Garbodor/Drampa-GX             T (ID) 11-2-2

11-2-2 (2nd Overall Seed in Top 8)

Top 8: Tord Reklev w/ Garbodor/Drampa-GX                  WLL

Overall Finish: 6th Place

So, for anyone wondering about a full explanation of what happened at the Intercontinental Championships with myself, I’ve talked about my tournament experience plenty of times with different YouTube personalities and podcasts. I ended up losing in Top 8 due to some unfortunate circumstances where time was called on my turn, but still had a great run and can’t be sad with how I finished! You can check out some of the tournament reports/interviews here if you’re interested:

Trainer Chip Interview:

Super Rod Cast Interview:

Top 5 Favorite Cards from Burning Shadows

With this section of the article, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. We’re going to look at my top 5 favorite cards from the new Burning Shadows set that I feel will have the biggest impact on the game. This list is just from preliminary glances at the new set, along with testing out new decks that include these cards. Earlier in this month, Franco did a good job of looking at many new cards from Burning Shadows and giving his thoughts, which is basically what I’m going to do as well (but just my top 5 favorites at the moment). This set has a good amount of potential for deck-building and new archetypes in the Standard format, so we might as well get some good discussion going!

5) Kiawe

Here is the translation for Kiawe:
(Translation from PokeBeach)
Kiawe –Trainer
Search your deck for 4 [R] Energy and attach them to 1 of your Pokémon. Then, shuffle your deck. Your turn ends.

When I first saw this card, I was excited that Volcanion might have something new that helps to accelerate energy, but almost blew the card off after reading that your turn must immediately end. After a little more consideration and playtesting with this card, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives for Kiawe. The upside of attaching 4 energy onto the board and charging up an attacker is amazing when done early in a game. Even if a Volcanion player can’t attack with a baby Volcanion to get some damage on an opposing Pokémon, the board is still filled with 5 Fire energy on the first turn of the game that can be used immediately.

Since most players are using high counts of Tapu Lele-GX, finding this Supporter card is relatively easy to accomplish on the first turn of the game. With a slow-paced format, most opponents are going to need a couple of turns to setup their deck’s strategy as well, which only helps to allow more time for Volcanion players to abuse Kiawe. In my opinion, Kiawe will completely change the way that Volcanion is approached from a deck-making perspective, and will allow the deck to start swinging for big damage earlier in the game.

Another big upside to Kiawe is that it helps for Volcanion decks to beat Garbodor. Since the decks main worry is trying to get setup with plenty of energy without using any items, Kiawe is a one-card solution that attaches multiple energy on the board and charges up attackers without accelerating the damage from an opposing Garbodor. Garbodor will be forced to trade with their Pokémon-EX and Pokémon-GX, since their Trashalanche attack won’t be doing much damage. With new attackers coming out, like Ho-Oh-GX, an opponent’s Drampa-GX won’t be able to trade effectively without just getting one-shotted. Look for Kiawe to help make Garbodor a better matchup from the Volcanion perspective of that matchup.

4) Golisopod-GX

Alright, this one might be a little bit of a stretch for a list of the top 5 best cards in the set, but I’ve got a special feeling that Golisopod-GX will make an impact at some point. Let’s look at what the card does: (Translation from PokeBeach)
Golisopod-GX –Grass–HP210
Stage 1 – Evolves from Whimpod
[G] First Impression: 30+ damage. This attack does 90 more damage if this Pokémon became your Active Pokémon during this turn.
[G][C][C] Armor Press: 100 damage. During your opponent’s next turn, this Pokémon takes 20 less damage from your opponent’s attacks.
[G][C][C] Cut Cross GX: 150 damage. Switch this Pokémon with 1 of your Benched Pokemon. (You can’t use more than 1 GX attack per game.)
When 1 of your Pokémon-GX is Knocked Out, your opponent takes 2 Prize cards.
Retreat: 3

For just one Grass energy, this Pokémon can hit for 120 damage if Golisopod-GX becomes active during that turn. With a Choice Band attached, this goes up to 150 damage. With some promo Lurantis SM25 or Decidueye-GX on the board, the damage is reaching knockout potential for just about any opposing Pokémon. This can also be inflated with a Professor Kukui as well. So much damage output for just one singular energy card is crazy! With Golisopod-GX only being a stage 1 Pokémon as well, this will allow players to abuse Forest of Giant plants to easily get out this attacker and start swinging for huge amounts of damage immediately in the game. Early aggression will be tough to deal with in a slow-paced format that usually requires players to setup their deck’s strategy for a couple of turns.

One giant upside to playing Golisopod-GX is the flexibility in deck-making that comes with the card. It can easily be splashed into many decks with very different and effective partners. Trying to abuse different types of weaknesses and just hit for one-shot knockouts? This can be done through playing Golisopod-GX/Eeveelutions to transform your main attacker into a Lightning, Fire, or Water type attacker. Just looking for a consistent partner that can help to switch Golisopod-GX into the active position with ease? Golisopod-GX/Zoroark would be an option that abuses Zoroark’s ability to constantly bring Zoroark active, which can then be retreated into whatever attacker is needed for the turn. Looking to build a deck that focuses on abusing large amounts of HP and Forest of Giant Plants? Golisopod-GX/Decidueye would be the way to go, as evolving becomes a breeze and Pokémon can be immediately healed and played down again through the use of Acerola/Forest of Giant Plants. Any damage that an opponent drops onto a Golisopod-GX will just be removed with an Acerola, allowing for that same Golisopod-GX to come right back down and swing again if brought into the active position through a free-retreating Pokémon or Float Stone.

3) Acerola

Here is the translation for Acerola:
(Translation from PokeBeach)
Acerola – Trainer
Choose 1 of your Pokémon with damage counters on it. Return that Pokémon and all cards attached to it to your hand.

Most players remember being able to abuse the card AZ back in formats past, and may also be abusing that card in the Expanded format. This card allowed for a player to simply pick up a Pokémon line and place it into their hand, while discarding everything else that is attached (energy, tools, etc.). Acerola is very similar to AZ, but now also allows a player to pick up ALL cards attached to the Pokémon being returned to the hand. The downside to this card is that the Pokémon must be damaged, which makes this card worse at protecting the board from weak Pokémon-EX that make their way onto the board (such as a Shaymin-EX). Pokémon with large retreat costs can also get stuck in the active position, as Acerola doesn’t serve like a switching card if no damage has been placed onto the Pokémon that needs to be picked up. Upsides to this card are that it helps to prevent prize cards on anything that has been damaged, but not yet knocked out. Acerola works very well in conjunction with Forest of Giant Plants as well, which allows for evolutions to immediately come back down to the board after being picked up from the field. For this situation, the upside is once again greater than the downside when reviewing this card.

Acerola may find its way into nearly every deck, just as AZ did when it was in the Standard format. There are plenty of nifty strategies that help make Acerola a useful commodity in decks. For Volcanion players, this will allow for a damaged Pokémon-GX or Pokémon-EX to be picked up from the field and prevent prize cards being drawn by an opponent, while also giving extra Fire energy that can be used for “Steam Up” abilities. When playing a Golisopod-GX deck, any attacker that has been hurt can be picked up, which will allow for a new Golisopod-GX to become active this turn and also gives the Grass energy/Choice Band from the previously damaged attacker. The options only go on from here, so get used to playing around an Acerola in most opponent’s decks.

2) Gardevoir-GX

This card is without a doubt the most-hyped Pokémon to come out of Burning Shadows, which has already been named by many top players as the deck to beat for the Pokémon World Championships coming up in August. This card is insanely strong and will certainly see play in every tournament going forward. Let’s start at the foundation: It’s a stage 2 Pokémon-GX card, which means that it will have a hefty 230HP. This is a very difficult amount for every deck to reach and a weakness to Metal has almost no consequences (aside from anyone that is playing Metagross-GX). Since this card evolves from Ralts, it will also allow decks to include a copy or two of Gallade BKT, which can help with consistency and also serve as a solid one-prize attacker. The “Premonition” ability of Gallade works perfectly with Octillery, which is the usual draw engine for most Gardevoir-GX builds.

The Infinite Force attack can go one of two ways, either doing adequate amounts of damage to put a Pokémon in range of two-shots which usually involves only having one/two energy attached, or attaching a large amount of energy to one-shot an opposing Pokémon in one swift motion. The first option of just doing adequate damage with minimal energy can allow for Gardevoir-GX decks to focus on healing through playing multiple Max Potions. This will allow attackers to stay alive for more turns and inevitably overcome an opponent’s board over time. The second option is the riskier choice that basically involves just stacking energy on attackers and trying to overpower an opponent through sheer energy drops and damage output. With this strategy, frequent trading would be involved and some Gardevoir-GX would be KO’d through a lack of healing damaged attackers, but an opponent can easily just be overrun and lose the game as well.

The Twilight GX attack is another fantastic attribute of this card, as it can single-handedly win the Garbodor matchup through shuffling all items back into the deck. This would completely cripple any damage output that Garbodor was swinging for, while also getting back vital resources that can be used later (such as Field Blowers to get rid of tools on “Garbotoxin” Garbodor). In other matchups, important cards that were discarded can also be retrieved and used later in the game, such as Max Potion, Double Colorless Energy, VS Seekers, etc.

1) Guzma

This card is easily one of the most influential cards to come from Burning Shadows. Guzma combines a Switch and a Lysandre in the same card, which is a game-changing mechanic to be added into the Pokémon Trading Card Game. This card will be an almost mandatory addition in every deck going forward, which especially becomes true when Lysandre leaves the format from rotation. One upside to Guzma being the new form of bringing an opposing Pokémon to the active position would be that your Pokémon with large retreat costs will rarely ever get stuck. Also, any attackers that rely on being switched to the bench will now have a reliable form of moving, which will come in handy for Volcanion-EX, Ho-Oh-GX, Golisopod-GX, Lapras-GX, and many other Pokémon. Any opponents that are attempting to use status conditions in their strategy will also be very unhappy with the constant switching effects that come with decks using Guzma.

Just from this card being printed, the entire deck-building process could hypothetically change. Players are more inclined to use Pokémon with free retreat, or possibly even add more float stone to help bring back up attackers after a Guzma. Switch cards will go down in just about every deck that they were played in, as they are no longer necessary. To help assure that switching cards are found more easily, some decks may even add additional Tapu Lele-GX to find Guzma when it is needed. Regardless of any player’s thoughts on this card, be ready to see it become a staple in every deck going forward.

Two Favorites for the Pokémon World Championships

Heading into the World Championships, there are two decks being hyped more than any others, which are Gardevoir and Volcanion. Gardevoir is a new deck that revolves around an exciting Pokémon which is its own form of energy acceleration, while Volcanion is an older deck that’s been growing in popularity and is getting some new attackers and supporter cards in Burning Shadows. Both of these decks will see play in the World Championships, so be sure to test against these two powerhouse archetypes of the Standard format.


(Lysandre’s Trump Card = Guzma, Gardevoir = Gardevoir-GX)

This is the version of Gardevoir-GX that I have been testing with right now. I’ve also heard that there are quicker versions which abuse items to get out as many Gardevoir-GX as possible in the opening turns of the game, but I haven’t tested that version of the deck yet. I prefer a slower build that sets up behind using Brigette and Alolan Vulpix in the opening turns of the game. After assembling a strong field, Gardevoir-GX can start taking knockouts and healing off attacks with the multiple Max Potion. Whenever playing this deck, always be sure to pump the brakes and never fully commit to just one Gardevoir-GX, unless you’re absolutely sure that it can’t be return KO’d. Games with this deck are usually a marathon, so take your time in setting up a strong board.

Volcanion-EX/Turtonator-GX with Kiawe

(Lysandre’s Trump Card = Guzma, AZ = Acerola, Maxie’s Hidden Ball Trick = Kiawe)

This version of Volcanion is very similar to the list that I used at the North American Intercontinental Championships. It is basically using the same skeleton as that previous list, but making a few adjustments to add in Guzma, Kiawe, and Acerola. These new supporter cards are very strong additions to the deck and have proved to be extremely useful during my testing. Kiawe helps to setup attackers with ease during the opening turns of the game and is a huge focus for this deck, which is why there are two copies of Kiawe and a 4th Ultra Ball to locate Tapu Lele-GX. With the addition of multiple Guzma, look for Volcanion-EX’s to take quick knockouts in succession and not even be bothered with searching for a Switch.


Well everybody, that wraps up another article. Hopefully everybody enjoyed the content and has been having fun testing out the new set Burning Shadows! If you aren’t currently following me on any social media platforms, be sure to add me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (@Sabelhaus_TCG). You can also find updates on the CCG Castle Pro Team on our Facebook page called “Team CCG Castle Pro-Pokémon” or through our Twitter (@CCGCastle_TCG). If anyone is looking for some great customized Pokemon TCG damage counter dice and GX markers, also be sure to check out TC Evolutions. They’ve got some amazing products and have colors to match any deck box or sleeves that you’re currently using. When ordering products from, be sure to use the promo code “ccgcastle” to get free shipping as well!

Also, be sure to check out as well for any of your trading card game needs. You can also use the promo code “CCGTEAM5” to get 5% off of your next purchase at their website, which could help if any cards are needed for the upcoming Pokémon World Championships in August. Thanks again to everybody that comes and reads my articles and is hopefully enjoying the content. I’ll be back with another article in a couple of weeks to help with coverage before Worlds (and probably after some more testing with these new cards). If you have any questions or comments about the article or any deck ideas, feel free to message me with anything!

-Ryan Sabelhaus<3

[+15] okko


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