Running the Legacy Gauntlet – Ad Nauseam vs. Merfolk

The Merfolk Ad Nauseam matchup is one that is generally thought to be in Merfolk’s advantage. However, I don’t really think that’s the case. The Merfolk deck does have pressure to back its disruption, but it has a lot less disruption than a deck like Team America or Counterbalance (which are much tougher matchups).

One of the reasons people think that Merfolk is good against Ad Naus is because the pressure means that even if you get an [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] off, you are often at low enough life that your odds of winning aren’t that high. Between [card]Duress[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and [card]Xantid Swarm[/card] post board, it’s not hard to get in a situation where you can resolve an Infernal with some mana floating, but if the thing you’re getting doesn’t win it for you, it doesn’t matter. However, what people fail to realize is the power of [card]Ill-Gotten Gains[/card]. Against aggressive draws from Merfolk, you can use Infernal to find [card]Ill-Gotten Gains[/card] instead of [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]. If they are pressure heavy, they are by definition disruption light, meaning you should be able to either make an additional mana to play around a returned [card]Daze[/card], or set it up so that you can return a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and still combo against [card]Force of Will[/card]. Figuring out whether to go on the Ad Nauseam or Ill-Gotten Gains plan is one of the keys to the deck, and is even more important in this matchup.

I played against Luis, who was using Merfolk, and this time, we both recorded:

Channel MattNass: Legacy Gauntlet – ANT vs. Merfolk

Channel LSV: Legacy Gauntlet – Merfolk vs. ANT

My favorite play in the set of games is the one where I used [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card] to cast [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]. Normally, the only way to do this is with [card]Infernal Tutor[/card]. However, if you know the top of your deck from either [card]Ponder[/card], [card]Brainstorm[/card], or [card]Preordain[/card], you can stack another cantrip and crack LED in response. This strategy allowed me to cast Ad Nauseam and take down a tight game.

A couple notes on general strategies that apply in this matchup:

Playing around [card]Daze[/card] effects: One of the most important things to be careful about are their [card]Force Spike[/card]s ([card]Daze[/card] and Cursecatcher). Merfolk plays more of these effects than any other deck, and if you don’t play around them effectively, you will get punished. First of all, on the turn you are going off, it is generally better to play cheap Rituals first. Prioritizing [card lotus petal]Petal[/card] ahead of [card]Dark Ritual[/card] ahead of [card]Cabal Ritual[/card] will help avoid getting wrecked by [card]Daze[/card]. Another thing to keep in mind is that LED can pay for [card]Daze[/card]. In the last game, I used this to my advantage by cracking LED in response to IGG. Luis had the Daze, but playing it wouldn’t help him since I had three mana floating. Lastly remember that [card]Aether Vial[/card] for one can cast a [card]Cursecatcher[/card] at instant speed.

Playing around [card]Wasteland[/card]: One of the reasons Merfolk’s Dazes are so good is Wasteland. With at least two of each basic, you can usually just live off of an Island and a Swamp. If you happen to draw one of the two [card]Underground Sea[/card]s, it is generally correct to just sit on it until the turn you are going off, essentially using it as yet another ritual. However, there is one card that makes you bite the bullet and leave yourself open to getting Wastelanded…

Playing with [card]Xantid Swarm[/card]: Xantid Swarm is quite the pest, for your opponent. However, playing with it is not always as easy as it seems. First of all, I don’t think the fact that this makes you run into Wasteland is that relevant. Sticking a Xantid Swarm is awesome enough that you will be in good shape even after losing a Trop (unless your hand is a one-lander). Second, always attack with Xantid Swarm! It may seem like forgetting to attack for one turn isn’t a huge deal if you’re just Pondering or doing something small, but it can really hurt sometimes. Your opponent will simply snap counter your Ponder and basically have gained free card advantage, since their counters weren’t going to do anything anyway. When I said always attack, I didn’t really mean always attack… If your opponent has a flier up like a leveled [card]Coralhelm Commander[/card] in Merfolk, you should simply wait to attack with Swarm until the turn you can combo. You’ll lose your Swarm in combat, but somehow I think that won’t be a huge problem if they lose 20 life.

Lastly, I thought I should touch on how I think [card]Mental Misstep[/card] affects the matchup since I think most Merfolk decks will be playing three or four. If Misstep ends up replacing a disruption spell like Daze, I think it will only help Merfolk’s odds a tiny bit. Their disruption will be a little better, but it still won’t really affect the matchup that much. If they instead simply swap out creatures for Missteps, the matchup’s dynamic will change more, but I don’t think the percentage will. Instead of using Ill-Gotten Gains against disruption light draws, it is probably better to rely more on Ad Nauseam. However, I still think the matchup can be favorable after New Phyrexia comes into play.


LSV’s Take on the Matchup

Since I was the punching bag this time, I figured I could share a few things I learned. Much like Matt said, this matchup wasn’t as bad for Ad Naus as is commonly thought, and in fact seems to favor it. Obviously that can change depending on the build of Merfolk, but Xantid Swarm does a very good job of making all Merfolk’s answers and potential sideboard cards blank. It’s like a super-Duress: unless you have the Force right away, it negates all the counters you have or will draw. I don’t think the matchup is horrible or anything, and I certainly wouldn’t put in specific Swarm hate, especially since Mental Misstep will help in that regard.

Most of the games were pretty straightforward, and as you can see in the video, disrupting them is generally better than doing anything else. I’d rather Wasteland than cast a threat (though Matt plays around Wasteland about as completely as he avoids wearing pants, which is to say 100%), and I’d Spell Pierce, Daze, or Cursecatcher most cantrips he plays.

Overall this seems to favor Ad Naus, though Misstep will help somewhat, and Merfolk is much easier to pilot, meaning that “in the wild” the matchup may differ.



Ad Nauseam
[deck]4 Preordain
4 Ponder
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Brainstorm
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Ill-Gotten Gains
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Infernal tutor
4 Thoughtseize
4 Duress
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lotus Petal
4 Lions Eye Diamond
3 Flooded STrand
4 Polluted Delta
2 Underground Sea
2 Verdant Catacombs
3 Island
2 Swamp
1 Chain of Vapor
4 Dark Confidant
1 Echoing Truth
1 Extirpate
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Tropical Island
4 Xantid Swarm[/deck]

[deck]4 Aether Vial
1 Spell Pierce
4 Cursecatcher
4 Daze
4 Coralhelm Commander
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Silvergill Adept
2 Kira, Great Glass Spinner
2 Merfolk Sovereign
4 Merrow Reejery
1 Sower of Temptation
4 Force of Will
4 Wasteland
4 Mutavault
1 Mishras Factory
13 Island
2 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Spell Pierce
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Umezawas Jitte
2 Energy Flux
3 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Sower of Temptation
2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress[/deck]

63 thoughts on “Running the Legacy Gauntlet – Ad Nauseam vs. Merfolk”

  1. Fantastic as always, I’m glad Merfolk got the nod over Affinity

    Love seeing all this great Legacy content, keep it up 😀

  2. No offense Matt, but watching these videos is kind of painful. It’s hilarious how much I disagree with almost every play you make. Like M1G3 you Duress away Force and have the chance to Ad Naus safely from 14 life. Instead you choose to pass the turn, take 5 making Ad Naus that much worse, AND kold yourself to Force OR Daze off the top? If you don’t trust the deck to win from 14 life, then what’s your “safe” life total?

  3. Duress turn two in M1G3 is absolutely terrible, and makes me question Matt N.’s ability to pilot this questionable U/B Tendrils build. Come on, Matt N.

  4. Null rod makes this matchup sooo much better for merfolk. If you win game one and (in magic xmas land) land a turn two null rod it makes led and petal look really bad. but all in all i agree with both of them. the match is a coin flip or a little bit better for AD

  5. I lol’d all over my computer screen, when I read that line about matt not wearing pants, couldnt have been more on point and hillarious at the same time…Matt you need to advance your fashion sense from 2nd grade and graduate from the constant flow of Gym shorts you allways wear. And could you wear a shirt with buttons…ya know just a thought, present yourself like an adult that gets paid. Other than that, the games were fun to watch, but for some reason I could only see the LSV ones, I would have liked to watch Matts as well. And for whatever reason the video quality was great in the first couple vids, then awfull for the rest…WASSUP WITH THAT??
    Keep it up guys.

  6. Not to nit-pick, but Matt in the future don’t type up a storm and stay silent for lengthy periods of time like you did in M1G1.

  7. lsv should definately be boarding in his relic its just way better than theads stops ill gotten gains cold and makes cabal ritual alot worse

  8. Thomas Rickarby

    I think you bring in the Jittes in this match up to kill swarms, increase the storm he has to hit and to increase your clock.

  9. Thomas Rickarby

    Also, I’m not fan of this list, since I don’t think daze is very good at all.

  10. Match 1 Game 3 is another of the games that is tough to watch. I don’t want to be so negative, so I will say that I think you need to learn when to cast your discard effects for starters. Your turn 2 Duress was just suboptimal to say the least. You should be saving them for the turn you go off, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Like, you Duressed and took a Threads at least 2 turns before you were going to go off, then said that you would like to draw another Duress effect when you should have still had one in hand. Also when you cleared his FoW, you have to Ad Naus there I think.

  11. The main problem here is that Alex Bertoncini’s list is a HIGHLY metagamed Merfolk build for the SCG Open tournaments, and by that I mean that it is metagamed against a field of 90% budget decks. The current “standard” build of Merfolk which should be in people’s gauntlets should have 4 maindeck Standstill, 4 maindeck Mental MIsstep, and probably one or two maindeck Spell Pierce. I’ve tested this matchup maybe 50-60 games both pre and post board against very competent pilots with different configurations, and Merfolk with Standstill is always favored game one. Post-board Merfolk boards in usually 4 submerges, which shift the matchup a HUGE amount, in fact, they make it even more in their favor.

    If you guys want to make this testing relevant, please use proper lists and if submerge should be in one of them, then do it in real life and film that.

  12. I love this video series, having (IMO) higher quality content than SCG premium for free is just the nuts, and I always make sure to patronize the CFB store for all of my online singles purchases. With that said, a couple comments on the match:

    I really don’t understand why you don’t board in jitte instead of threads of disloyalty. Threads answers only xantid swarm, and only if he draws it. Jitte, on the other hand, has 3 modes: 1) increase your clock, 2) kill xantid swarm, and 3) increase the storm count necessary for tendrils to kill you. Once you get in one hit with jitte, they are basically cold. I understand that it would be a different story if MODO had submerge, but as it is, that’s just wrong.

    You are very suspicious of Ad nauseam, and I can respect the fact that if IGG can just kill them with no risk, it’s better, but I have to agree that M1G3 not casting Ad nauseum from 14 is loose, and duressing to only see 1 new card is also loose. A similar choice to blow a duress looking at 1 new card cost me the match in the semis of a GPT when my opponent topdecked the force, whereas if I’d just held it until the turn I was going off, I might have had 3 byes to KC. Fortunately, the rest of your play was pretty airtight, though I don’t really agree with this JTMS business in the sideboard.

    You know what else null rod turns off? Aether vial. Merfolk isn’t going to waste sideboard space for a card that hamstrings it’s own game plan.

    On the whole, I’m looking forward to seeing this series continue, and I would love to see Team America with mental misstep in place of spell snare be tested post NPH release online.

  13. To say that the Bertoncini list is made for a field of 90% budget decks is a little ridiculous, seeing as how most people with budget decks will be eliminated round 1 and as an SCG Open Player’s Club member, he doesn’t have to play those rounds. Sure Standstill is a great card but saying that you have room for it mainboard when you could have anything else is debatable.

  14. Thomas Rickarby

    You can build merfolk a lot of different ways, depending on what you expect to face, which is partly why its such a good legacy deck.

  15. I don’t wanna be rude, but Matt has to talk faster. You don’t need 40 seconds to explain us the play you’re going to make, when it’s clearly the correct play.

  16. I really like the series!!! Thanks guys

    @ Matt your play seems very solid, my one question is. If you are flush on disruption. 2 effects and you duress and see a hand that cant really apply pressure (2 lords) or disrupt you why do you duress again on the next turn. If you hold it for the critical turn, you can blank the relevant spell they draw. There is really only 2 forces that matter in these games pressure and disruption. If the oppenent doesnt have any, they only way you can lose is to the top of their deck.

    Also, I think its worth taking a bit more risk on the adnauseums… Your decisions should all be based on percentages here.

    Thanks again!!! Like I said otherwise very solid play!

  17. Great stuff. I agree with Scott B. though for M1G3 – there was a combo there for the taking. That you didn’t says you don’t trust the deck to do its job – which isn’t a good endorsement 😉

  18. hey this is james lance again, if it matters to anyone. the merfolk matchup can be a tricky one since their hand can be so radically different every game. some games you could have clear path turn 1 and others you will fight disruption till turn 6. standstill is probably the best card for them aginst storm, but in a lot of more common matchups it is not as good, which is why mst don’t play it. that said whenever i test aginst fish i always use it. daze is not a real threat at all and you should almost never lose to it. the only times i see it really mattering are when it is combined with cursecatcher. I find that a lot of times i run xantid swarm into force of will for instance if you thoughtseize and see force creature something, usually you take creature and then play swarm to force the force. Also i have not really tested aginst submurge but i think that is really bad for merfolk. unlike the team america match where games are fairly linear, this matchup is very dynamic, and paths to victory are not always traditional. testing aginst mental mistep hasn’t really changed the matchup very much. Without standstill merfolk just does not draw enough cards and as long as you are smart with your hands you will see too many cards for them to compete most of the time. This is another matchup where grim tutor is really good since you want to use infernal to find more discard effects a lot of the time. I find that most of the time I just storm out with tutors chains to win. @Matt I commend you for these articles. legacy storm players are, more often than not, somewhat elitist. I am pretty sure that no matter how you played your matches you would be attacked just because you haven’t been playing this deck that long. The “old” legacy players are pretty much overrun and storm is one of the last archtypes to make the leap to the new crowd.

  19. @Daniel Vinson
    Where is the metagame going to be different from the SCG Opens that this testing will even matter? Small events (store tourneys, GPTs, etc) are going to have a local level meta, so the “stock” version is fine for something reaching a national audience. At a Grand Prix, you can basically expect the same field that you’d see at SCG Opens. I guess a Legacy PT might be a place where you could reliably predict a metagame that differs from the SCG ones?

  20. You should call the deck “Ad NASSeam”. I’m surprised LSV hasn’t already thought of that yet.

  21. I wonder where you got the memo that Merfolk vs ANT matchup is favorable for the fish… At FNM level that may be true (because ANT is more difficult to play), but between solid players this matchup evens out.

    Every time I see competent SCG ringer (i.e. Bertoncini, Levin or GerryT) commenting Merfolk vs ANT matches, they always say the same: it’s just a coinflip, nobody’s favoured – even Tomoharu Saito said the same when he won GP Columbus last year.

  22. I’m confused, why was Relic not brought in over the random threads ? It hoses ill-gotten gains and cabal ritual, as well as cantrips at worse. Seems a lot better than the stupid threads that’s basically never going to do anything.

  23. @LSV: I dont like to be ‘that guy’ but I think I should share my thought about your choices of play:

    r1g1 you telegraphed you were digging for counters when you declined putting lord into play, since he knew you had the lord in your hand. As yourself mentioned, adding more damage you would make his ad nausea worse, which was the best thing he could do next turn anyway. He also knew 1 of your 2 cards so he could just go for it.

    In that game you kept a 5 lander + coralheml + adept: I would ship that. No turno 1 action (vial/cursecatcher/pierce), no disruption, no real fast clock… He basically just goldfished =/

    Also I think people got a point on bringing Relic post board.

  24. Definitely better play from Matt, though I question the early use of Duress and not going for the win when you have an opportunity in some situations.

    I tend to play storm builds with Burning Wish and and Chrome Mox though, so going for the win with no mana is lot safer than with Matt’s version as you really need at least one mana and preferably two floating to hope to not kill yourself with Ad Nauseam. Because of that, it’s probably justified waiting to go off M1G3. The turn after, going for IGG over Ad Nauseam is suspect, but I think it might have been the correct play, even though it ran into Daze and looks bad in hindsight. Part of the reason I dislike this build is because of how much of a gamble Ad Nauseam actually is when compared to builds with Burning Wish and Chrome Mox (you can safely go off with less mana floating and don’t need to get Hellbent to tutor for your Tendrils).

    Against Merfolk, I like to save my Duress effects for the turn before I go off and not use them immediately. Some people prefer saving them for the turn you go off, but I think you blank more of their taxing counters by using them the turn before and saving yourself mana, even if that leaves you cold to a topdeck (of course, depending on the situation it might make sense to play around a topdeck if you have enough mana). Either way, I dislike using them T1 and T2 like Matt seems to be always doing (specifically during M1G3), unless Merfolk is playing Standstill. This isn’t a deck that needs to disrupt its opponent’s gameplan – it wants to ignore it if possible and strip its opponent of the few cards that matter.

    With the introduction of Mental Misstep, this matchup changes a lot. I still think it’ll be pretty even, but Misstep is a good answer to Xantid Swarm and also increases the power of Standstill which might become more popular (and is a strong card against Storm). A list like Saito’s with Misstep over Spell Pierces seems strong and has a much better game against Storm than Bertoncinis.

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  26. M1G2 … You preordain and see Infernal and Ponder. You put Tutor on the bottom while holding Dark Ritual, Petal, Tutor. You had 3 mana available in play. Why not keep the second tutor, tutor up another dark ritual. Play Petal, ritual, ritual, Last tutor (hellbent) and then win the game? That already has a storm count of 6 so you could have grabbed ill-gotten gains, returned ritual, ritual, tutor and would have had stupid amounts of mana, playing around any chance of a topdecked Daze leaving you only cold to a ripped FOW

  27. Matt(and LSV), just wanted to thank you for this legacy video content. I very much appreciate the time you put into making these videos magic players like myself to view. Unfortunately many of the people that watch these videos and then leave comments are d-bags so pay no attention to them. It’s crap that people always find something to complain about. The fact is that channelfireball gives us free daily content to enjoy and i just can’t really see why people feel the need to complain about dumb crap. Sometimes people have legitimate questions on plays which is cool because it only furthers my education on legacy, but others just post disrespectful comments. This was obviously more of an issue on the last posting of team america. I hope everyone appreciates what these guys and this website does for the common magic player. Thanks again guys!

  28. @Yoji: That line doesn’t work, though I thought the same thing. You have 4 mana available counting the Petal in your hand. You Tutor for D. Rit(2 floating), cast 2 Dark Rituals(6 floating), cast the other tutor for Gains (4 floating), play Gains which leaves you with no mana. You can Gains back a Petal, a Rit and a Tutor, but you don’t have the mana to do anything from there.

    @Brickcity: I agree that some people complain just to complain, but most people on this thread and in the last set against Team America, myself included, have legitmate gripes. Poor play is the last thing you want in a video that is meant to be instructional.

  29. @ brickcity

    Just to be clear, most of us are ecstatic that we’re getting Legacy content even if we’re critiquing the play. I’m pretty sure these guys welcome the critique as well since they’re always trying to improve. While it’s important to not be disrespectful, there’s no need to pull any punches either. Matt shows a good amount of proficiency in goldfishing the deck, but from many people’s perspectives, he’s missing some important matchup specific pieces and I think he’d appreciate some of the advice.

  30. Nass is a master. One thing I’d like to note: taking out an underground sea for the tropical island seems better than an island. Didn’t matter obviously, but you’re trying to play around wasteland. Taking out basics doesn’t accomplish this very well.

  31. I’m guessing this won’t get read since the article is more than a day old, but one thing I noticed is that Aether Vial really doesn’t seem to be helping the Merfolk deck in this matchup. Aether Vial buys Merfolk uncounterability at the cost of basically casting your creatures a turn later. ANT really isn’t countering the Merfolks and it seems to me that the Merfolk deck really isn’t generating a fast enough clock to bother ANT. I’m not exactly sure how you’d side instead with that list but I think I’d try taking the Vials out because they don’t offer you much that you’re after and they take up a whole card in hand, which is pretty rough.

  32. LSV… why not board in Relic in this matchup? It seems quite good. Worst case… it cycles… plus the ANT deck is using Ill-gotten gains, and removing his graveyard in a number of situations is just literal game over. Obviously when he goes off by just using ad nauseum, and tendrils never hits the yard it’s not going to have much impact… but the rest of the time its gg. Not to mention you are playing an aggro control deck, which is going to whittle his life total down and make it that much tougher to go off with ad naus, without using ill-gotten gains at some point.

  33. M3G2, instead of Tendril why not cast Ill Gotten Gains for LED, pedal, and tendril, giving you three more storm count.

  34. Couldn’t lsv have catcher’d the LED when he was talking about how he should have caught the ritual?

  35. @ Relic people: LSVs hands were quite sub-par in a number of these games, which is part of why Relic looks good. Probably 85% of the time it’s irrelevant, because they aren’t usually on the IGG plan vs. Merfolk, given the whole “I have force and daze in my GY” thing. They don’t always have the mana to get duress, often they need LED, LED or ritual, LED.

    @ Jitte people: You are 1000000% correct. Jitte seems like a much better board plan.

    Something to think about in the post-misstep era: I imagine a lot more fish decks will be running standstill, which makes this matchup go from 50/50 to horrendous for ANT. Standstill was bad because of Goblins and Zoo, both of which take a hit with misstep in the format – especially gobbos. If merfolk doesn’t get behind on the board on T1, then Standstill can put them extremely far ahead. It also makes the sheer quantity of disruption that ANT has to fight through look a bit ridiculous.

  36. M1G1 Matt Resolves Ad Naus . He plays Petal,Led,ITUtor->Ad Naus. Reveals Petal,Land,ITutor,LED,Brainstorm. Playing The Brainstorm to draw into any 1 Cabal Ritual,Dark Ritual, Petal,Led wins the game with Storm 10.

  37. Ponder is better than Brainstorm there*.^

    It took him a long time to go for that line. The Accel count was 12 of 28 cards for the cantrips to rip into.

  38. Again, bad plays, bad decklist, BUT nice thing though somebody does legacy content

  39. I like how the video gives insight into how to play combo vs aggro ctrl and details on how to play around force and daze. Sure some of the plays are questionable, as is playing storm combo flawlessly. (drawing one more card of ad n. if you are at 1 def. is a no no). SB plan sucked imho. If you add the green pest, why not loose some duress? I’m no pro, but I’m certain that playing ANT in a large tournament will give you more headache than any other dec, which may lead to fuck ups. I do agree that the Merfolk list and the ANT MD/SB needs work.
    I’m missing STIFLE as a supplement to wasteland in the merfolk list/sb, which should be enough to make merfolk favorably. I’d like to suggest adding black (as saito did i think) and loosing some mutava/mishra for lands that allow you to cast some hard counterspells or two “spell something” in one turn and/or counterbalance+top. Addional cards that would be great vs ANT are Chalice of the Void, Phyrexian Dreadnought/Negator or Meddlingmage if you go white. Please explain why you play the tropical in the board? Maybe switch the flooded strands for the G/U fetch and add forest if you are so afraid of wasteland. Playing green and no Krosan Grip looks fishy too. No Top in ANT list?

  40. @ Tobias – Which decklist is bad? If it’s ANT, that’s because Grim Tutor doesn’t exist on MODO. Plus, the only questionable card in that list is Jace. If it’s Merfolk… what are you smoking? It’s Bertoncini’s list.

    As far as bad plays are concerned – yeah, there are definitely a few – LSV is too aggressive with his Daze/spell pierce disruption when he has a Force in hand, for one thing – but CFB players in general do a really good job of critical self-evaluation as they play.

  41. Pretty much, these videos have been completely useless because the Merfolk player and decklist was terrible, also these number no longer matter because Mental Misstep changed everything.

  42. Let’s do ant vs enchantress for the next video. There’s a ton a ant in my meta and I really need to figure out how to beat it.

  43. MattN, you should stop playing ANT, it’s just awful. M1G3 is the worst, for sure. You took out FoW and choose to…give him an extra card and to lose 5 lifes to make an IGG that can’t make you win since you have to Duress his FoW and Daze can’t lead you to combo FTW.

    I hope the next ANT player will be better since here, you showed HOW NOT TO PLAY ANT.

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