Category Archives: Unlocked ProTrader

Unlocked Pro Trader: The New Spread

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Readers!

This week I want to talk about a new way to potentially gauge upside of Magical cards that could make it easier to figure out what’s going to go up in the future. 

A lot of cards are easy to see coming because a major event spikes them hard, but what’s more difficult to do is to see the slow, incremental growth of some cards coming. They have a small buy-in window because they grow over time rather than spiking suddenly, meaning after a card spikes you won’t find cheap, mispriced copies at certain LGSs that are slow on the uptake. These misses feel like the worst because you say “I ALWAYS knew that card was good and one day I check the price and BAM, it’s $10!” which isn’t even true. The card grew steadily, you just didn’t check the price of it for 2 years. 

It’s tough to check every graph of every printing of every card. We like data scrapers because they make the nice graphs for us and identify cards with the highest percentage growth and we can read a handy chart. The problem is, I don’t want to identify a card that grew this week when it’s already too late to buy copies. I want to find those cards that haven’t really gone up as much as they’re going to yet. 

TCG Player is the first to know on those increases sometimes since it’s the first place people think to buy cards out but sometimes TCG Player is slow to show a change. There are some reasons for that, one being that cheap cards tend to be slow to update on TCG Player if people buy every copy but the damaged ones or the ones that are under $2 and therefore under the mandatory minimum. Since TCG Player is the last place I want to buy lots of copies, both for the “a million sellers” reason and the “Look, I just tipped off the entire market about this card and now there’s no chance to buy more copies” reason, I want to find other places that will tell me when it’s time to buy something on TCG Player. Luckily, EDHREC provided me with a new technique. 

The New Spread

Spread is a term used by mtg financiers to refer to the percentage difference between a buylist price and a retail price. A card with a high spread means that you lose a lot of money buylisting, a low spread means the buylist is paying practically retail, a negative spread means you can arbitrage the card to a buylist. I am going to use the term “spread” to refer to something else. I’m doing it as a joke. I am writing this paragraph to preempt any “well ackshually, spread is…” comments because, I don’t know, maybe they’re warranted? I don’t even know anymore. All I know is I saw a thing on EDHREC and thought “That’s a pretty big spread” and then I thought “That’s not how we use the word ‘spread’ in mtg finance” and then I thought “it is today” and now you’re caught up. Here’s the thing I saw.

See it yet? I can zoom in some more.

Some of you got it, I bet. So we’re all on the same page, let’s highlight it.

That’s quite a, for lack of a better word, spread. Card Kingdom is charging basically double for Animar. Since TCG Player is respected and the price is calculated based on what the card is actually selling for and multiple people can underbid each other until the price settles lower, TCG Player will of course be cheaper. Besides, Card Kingdom are a bunch of chiselers and they use their high buylist to justify overcharging for singles. Besides, is that TCG Player price even accurate?

It’s clear EDHREC doesn’t scrape the prices every day, but it’s close since the price hasn’t moved profoundly, yet.

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Card Kingdom charges more, but rarely double. In fact…

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Sometimes they charge less.

Is it possible that we could identify some cards that Card Kingdom is inclined to charge more for due to demand they have seen? Could they predict the future? I don’t know, but what I do know is that one person in charge of decisions can be wrong and multiple vendors all in equilibrium are usually more accurate (read this, it’s fascinating). However, one person making all of the decisions about prices for a whole website change the price with the flip of a switch. Things can be slow to shift on TCG Player. The status quo is that TCG Player is the best model, but the status quo doesn’t make us any money, radical changes do. Besides, if we don’t trust Card Kingdom 100% (we shouldn’t) we can actually use them as a metric for which prices to check ourselves rather than a reason to make plays. Maybe CK is nuts. Maybe they’re onto something. But if we use those cases with a big difference between the prices as a technique for identifying price graphs to look at, we can identify some of those “When did this hit $10?” cards without looking exhaustively at every price or checking prices every month.

Here’s how I plan to use this technique.

  1. Identify large gaps between prices
  2. Verify TCG Player and Card Kindgom prices are accurate
  3. Check the graph on MTG Price

All of these steps can be done in under 30 seconds and will help you pick out cards that need a second look. Animar was reprinted in Masters 25 and therefore going to go back up in price and if Card Kingdom raised their price a little prematurely, I expect TCG Player to catch up and Animar could be a good buy. Let’s look at the MTG Price graph of a card with a high “new spread” and see if the graph tells us anything.


Swing and a miss. The price on CK this week is down to $11.99 and TCG Player is up to $9.99. Not much of a difference. This is why we check.

Pay dirt already! Razaketh is $16 on CK and you can buy 3 copies from a guy on TCG Player Near Mint for $10. Razaketh is in 5,682 decks on EDHREC and it’s the kind of card a spikey player would use meaning people who want this effect are less likely to try and find a budget alternative or forgo it. I think this is a card that needs a look for sure. I think this is underpriced on TCG Player.

One weakness I can see with this system is that the difference between smaller prices, even if it’s a large percentage, is not a lot for cheap cards. However, we’re not going to spend much time actively hunting for these spreads, but rather when we see them, we’ll know to investigate.

Verified cheaper on Card Kingdom. Nevermind what the gap is, if a market with multiple sellers is sustaining a higher price, you take a look. This has already mostly popped due to Teysa Karlov and that recency makes me think this could be a trap, but when it’s cheaper on CK, you at least take a look. If this happens to you, see what the top commanders are. If one is very recent, the card may have already gone way up, a fact a look at the graph can confirm.

Are these close because Card Kingdom usually charges a buck or two more on stuff or are they far away because one number is twice as large as the other? One way to drill down more would be to look at the foil prices. Data for Krenko was inconclusive due to CK being sold out for awhile, but Higure, the Still Wind is a $40 foil on CK and a $30 foil on TCG Player. It just moved due to Yuriko, but it was worth looking up.

I think this technique will serve all of us well moving forward. The advantages are that is quickly identifies cards that need more scrutiny before anything profound enough to trigger anything automated happen. The price will not have moved much yet, if at all, but the big gap is worth looking at since their prices are pretty close on most cards.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week where we’ll hopefully have some spoilers or something. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Anti-Tech

Readers! As you all probably know, War of the Spark is going to feature Planeswalkers. Not just that, it’s going to feature ALL of the Planeswalkers. One in every pack, 36 in all. “One in every pack “sets like Dominaria with its Historic card in every pack, Ravnica sets with their Guildgate in every pack or Unhinged with their premium card in every pack sell well. That’s why Unhinged sold well. Every pack had a contraption.

With a glut of new Planeswalkers, we’re bound to get some good ones, right? 36 is a lot and while there are bad to be same bad ones at uncommon, there are bound to be some good ones at rare. People are planning on them impacting every format and should they impact EDH, there are some cards we can use to stop the other players. A lot of them are good against Atraxa, also, which is nice. Here’s some anti-walker tech. If the card is usable in formats outside of EDH, I’ll be sure to mention that, also.

HATE

These are sort of weak metrics for what I consider to be a pretty decent card. Its “rarity” means it was in 2 decks and is therefore twice as common as a rare in the set like the $10 Meren, and it was in a Commander Anthology as well, so it will take some doing for this to move. It’s also not going down and the buylist price as showing signs of life for a minute. This is actually a terrific beating if you’ve ever resolved it but at 6 mana for a creature, people aren’t super thrilled about it. I’m not sure why. It’s not a 1/1, it’s frequently a 25/25 for 6 mana and you kill a bunch of walkers. If you’re buying In Garruk’s Wake but not this, get your act together. Also, if you’re running in Garruk’s Wake but not this, well you’re 6 times as likely to exist. This card’s good but I can’t make people discover it unless the Command Zone ever has me come back on the cast, and if they do, I’m talking about Acquire, not this.

Another bit of anti-walker tech has the benefit of being a card I saw people talking about. I don’t think any of this stuff is good but I do think people will try it and I think if you buy now, you can sell to the greater fools who notice the cards selling out. That’s not the best strat, but neither is using Thran Temporal Gateway to construct a 2-card combo where you play a Planeswalker that costs 2UW for 4 colorless.

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This has the added benefit of being legal in Modern, unlike Thief of Blood. I don’t think that’s all that relevant, but Modern players are optimistic enough to think Stoneforge was getting unbanned and Faithless Looting was getting banned, so it’s possible they’re optimistic enough to buy into something like this. Realistically, a deck in Modern playing Walkers is playing Jace, Karn, Terferri or other Karn and odds are they aren’t letting you resolve a damn Aether Snap, but tech is tech. This also nukes tokens, which can really matter in a game of Magic, especially since it gets non-creature tokens, which matters in EDH. A little.

It’s not just black cards getting caught up in the fun, though.

Tragic Arrogance usually gets the nod because you can pick an artifact creature or artifact land as two of the modes and really hose them, but Cataclysm nukes Walkers entirely and leaves you with an angel with an aura and a sword, usually. People don’t like MLD much, but I don’t like Planeswalkers much, even the ones I do like.

Hex Parasite got a bump when Solemnity hit but it’s always been a pretty solid way to deal with Planeswalkers. It’s mana-intensive, but you get a power boost that could knock out a now-defenseless player and it’s reusable. I like it to keep counters off of my Decree of Silence, but I always liked that.

The EDHREC metrics on Anti-Walker cards are weak, and probably for a good reason. The ones that don’t do extra duty, like also wiping out tokens, or killing all creatures or wiping the whole board aren’t worth a spot in a deck. You won’t necessarily play against a walker, and a lot of spot removal just gets it. You should be playing Merciless Eviction regardless of whether Walkers see more play. But with terrible cards like Thran Temporal Gateway poised to go up in price, it doesn’t hurt to think about how to counter the incipient Walker uprising. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: Number Crunch

Normally I have a few weeks’ worth of article ideas written out ahead of time but this time of year when there is a stretch between sets and nothing really has impacted EDH or other formats I pay attention to, the well starts to dry up. I’m not going to NOT write an article, so today we’re going to do a bit of housekeeping and get to a few smaller ideas that don’t warrant an entire article but will be nonetheless valuable to you. “Damn.” you’ll say as you finish reading this article. “That was mad valuable.” That’s the kind of thing you say. When you read an article such as this. A valuable one. Let’s get down to it, shall we? First of all, let’s do some pure number crunching with no analysis so I can look smarter than I am.

It’s The Remix To Ignition, Ravnica Mythic Edition

I have heard a lot of people say qualitative things about the planeswalkers from Mythic Edition but I haven’t seen much quantification. With that in mind, I am going to rank the 8 Mythic Edition Planeswalkers, first by the number of decks they are in on EDHREC and then by MTG Top 8. It’s too late to get a set of Mythic Edition but it’s not too late to buy single planeswalkers and you likely haven’t though about the amount of EDH play they get or you guessed at that amount. Here’s some fact action.

EDHREC Rankings

  1. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (8,350)
  2. Sorin Markov (7,923)
  3. Dack Fayden (6,696)
  4. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (5,519)
  5. Karn, Scion of Urza (1,238)
  6. Jaya Ballard (971)
  7. Domri, Chaos Bringer (123)
  8. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (62)

MTG Top 8 Rankings

  1. Dack Fayden (2,647)
  2. Karn, Scion of Urza (1,302)
  3. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (797)
  4. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (471)
  5. Sorin Markov (96)
  6. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (21)
  7. Jaya Ballard (15)
  8. Domri, Chaos Bringer (literally 3)

Average Ranking

  1. Tamiyo, the Moon Sage (2) (tie)
  2. Dack Fayden (2) (tie)
  3. Karn, Scion of Urza (3.5) (tie)
  4. Sorin Markov (3.5) (tie)
  5. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes (4)
  6. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper (7) (tie)
  7. Jaya Ballard (7) (tie)
  8. Domri, Chaos Bringer (7.5)

There are some very clear winners and losers here. It makes sense that two of the bottom-dwellers are the newest walkers – not only have they had the least amount of time to get used in EDHREC decks, Standard players haven’t even had that many events recorded by Top 8. Jaya Ballard is a very clear stinker here with much more time to get her act together.

The clear winners are probably surprising to everyone who assumed Karn would be a clear favorite. He’s used a lot in 60 card formats but his EDH appeal lags behind Sorin Markov, a planeswalker who tied him in the (unweighted, because how even would I begin to figure out how?) average ranking. Tamiyo and Dack are pretty clear favorites across formats and it seems like the 8 cards arranged themselves into tiers of sorts. Strong overall (Tamiyo and Dack), format-specific but quite strong (Karn, Sorin), average af (Ajani), not that useful (Kaya, Domri, Jaya). With 2 great walkers and 2 good ones, I would say it wasn’t a great buy although even with them flooding out copies, people got as many as they wanted people managed to resell later for more and boosters are still a thing. Next year, Hasbro will be avoiding the fustercluck that is their online store and using a special portal for stuff like this so expect it to be smoother. I don’t know if the Mythic Edition will be a buy next set but I do know that I like Dack Fayden’s metrics but not his art and I like Tamiyo’s both. One last thing – here they are ranked by TCG Player price.

  1. Tamiyo ($63.64)
  2. Karn ($56.16)
  3. Dack ($43.43)
  4. Kaya ($39.38)
  5. Sorin ($36.32)
  6. Domri ($31.60)
  7. Ajani ($25.60)
  8. Jaya ($15.39)

Jaya seems correct, Tamiyo seems correct, Karn seems OK, Sorin seems very wrong, Ajani seems pretty wrong, Dack seems pretty wrong, Kaya seems pretty wrong. Those prices are bound to shift some more so do with that info what you will. Tamiyo is also the best-looking card, don’t @ me.

Picks, Kinda

A twitter user who follows me (that helps me feel like answering a finance question) inquired today about Mana Maze – a card that’s in fewer than 500 decks on EDHREC. Don’t know what it does? You probably don’t.

So hey, that’s a pretty punishing card. It likely gets slotted into multicolored decks since you can’t play two Blue spells if you play this so that makes Blue angry, but this has uses. Zedruu, Blind Seer and Zur decks are the primary users of this card. The metrics aren’t great, but this is a hell of a hoser. It made me want to look at a few other cards that I think are underutilized and are in a set where a rare card used in EDH goes for upwards of $5 the way EDH cards from Invasion do if they haven’t been reprinted. These are one appearance on Game Knights away from popping off.

This is a pet card of mine but I think it’s solid. It’s a Bribery half the time and can deprive them of combo pieces or just snag a big mana rock. There are lots of uses for this card and 2,892 is respectable.

Also, this is a thing. The card is like $6 on Card Kingdom and for a promo version, that’s reasonable. The art is better, it’s more rare and it’s a good premium version for people who don’t like foils. It also features Dack Fayden, which people like.

Compare the inclusion numbers on those last two cards to this one. This isn’t played in 60 card formats at all, unless it gets play I haven’t seen in casual Magic but this isn’t a very casual card. For whatever reason, this card is “known” price-wise but cards with similar metrics haven’t popped price-wise yet. It’s a puzzle.

Another card I hadn’t check in on in a few years is Painful Quandary, which is a really brutal card. Since it’s possible to sort by set and inclusion numbers in EDHREC, why not look at the cards next to Mana Maze, Acquire, Overburden and Painful Quandary in their respective sets and see if anything looks “off.”

These are both used less than Mana Maze but are worth more. Also, Tectonic Instability is DIRTY and no one uses it. People don’t like when people mess with mana but the people who mess with mana aren’t really using the tools available to them, which is odd. Anyway, that seemed noteworthy.

Used less than Acquire, has inflated inclusion numbers due to the precon effect and has a reprint. Funny what the Travis Woo effect can do to stupid cards.

The only non-Mythic rare used less than Painful Quandary but worth more in Semblance Anvil and that’s because of Modern. Also, no non-reprinted card used more is worth less. Nothing seems confusing in Scars.

This set sucks, lol. No surprises here, although if you didn’t know Keldon Firebombers was real money and Citadel of Pain is in bulk that gets shipped to you, that’s worth knowing.

You should go through sets on EDHREC yourself and see how many surprises you run across.

That does it for me this week. Join me next week for a complete topic. Until next time!

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Unlocked Pro Trader: The Ballad of Wormtongue

Readers,

You know by now that good advice can make you and bad advice can break you. I do my best to give the best advice possible and it is in the spirit of advice that I will be advising about advisors. The first advisor I want to discuss is me. I give good advice and you should listen to me. Now that I have established my bona fides as an advisor advisor, I’d like you to step into my office because there are a few more things to discuss and I want you along for the ride.

We’re talking advisors to day because a non-commander is making a splash and there is still time to get into a few of the cards that are headed up in price as a result. It’s too late on some, but on others, there is still time. If you’re wondering which non-Commander I could mean, buckle up because I haven’t even begun to advise on advisors.

Boom, there they are in all of their persistent glory. They would probably be good enough if it said “Tap four untapped Persistent Petitioners” because milling twelve is pretty spicy and if Blue does anything well, it’s untapping creatures. However, it says “Tap four untapped Advisors” which means it would behoove you to fill a few of the non-petitioner creature slots in your EDH deck with some other advisors, when relevant, to get a few additional effects.

I didn’t mention much about this before because I thought it was too late for the most obvious inclusion in the deck, Thrumming Stone.

This is a card I am proud to have called several times in the past and if you have been reading my articles for a while, you had a chance to get these for far below the $50 they’re flirting with today. 6 months ago we saw a nice bump from Rat Colony and even then wasn’t too late to buy in because Persistent Petitioners sent these into the stratosphere. Second bumps are always better. One card I will admit I didn’t see coming per se that went nuts this week, though, is probably the best commander for the deck and wasn’t reprinted as recently as I remembered.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

Nearly doubling in price the last few weeks, GAAIV, as he likes the be called, is the latest beneficiary of hype surrounding Persistent Petitioners decks. If you’re worried about the efficacy of milling a ton of opponents for hundreds of cards at a time, let me remind you that EDH need not work this way. The power of the phrase “target player” is very relevant with this deck for this reason.

The UMA reprinting basically destroyed this card’s price for life but I hope you made some decent money on this when I said it was nuts around $2. I have been high on this card for so long I probably wrote about it on Quiet Speculation or talked about it on a podcast that doesn’t even exist anymore. Maniac may be dead forever, but you won’t be dead when you mill yourself into Bolivian with petitioners and use lab man to win the game. This makes mill fairly viable in EDH and it makes me want to see which other advisors could be about to pop on the basis of inclusion in this deck.

While we’re talking about cards that it’s too late to buy cheaply, Intruder Alarm seems really good in this deck. Move the copy over from the Vannifar deck I’m sure you’re taking apart after playing it twice.

Let’s look at some other advisors that could be ready to pop on the basis of inclusion in the deck. Said advisors would ideally-

  • Be in Azorius colors because Grand Arbiter Augustin IV is an advisor and is likely the best commander for the deck, though this point is a bit flexible
  • Have a nice static ability that functions when it’s tapped allowing you to get a benefit from having it in play but being able to tap it with abandon

Let’s go to gatherer and look at advisors and see if we find anything worth talking about. Spoiler alert, I know of at least one and that was the whole point of writing the article, but I also think it’s possible I’ll find more so while I know some stuff you don’t know, I also don’t know some stuff we’ll find out together. This will be fun.

Ok, so this card was already pretty busted to begin with and the fact that Kamigawa cards are a little tougher than most to reprint coupled with the fact that this card is quite good lead to the shallow climb, punctuated by a steeper one lately. However, this card went somewhat unnoticed before because, with the exception of the graph shape, the underlying metrics weren’t that great.

This is basically a card I would only have found accidentally. You can see in this picture that Card Kingdom has already jacked the price up, but there are still copies to be found for a more reasonable amount elsewhere.

Time appears to be running out, but there are still sub-$12 copies floating around and while there is a lot of hype surrounding Petitioners that may or may not, well, persist, the graph shape of Michiko Konda tells you that the price is unlikely to go anywhere but up. Remember, sudden spikes settle and have a tendency to settle between the pre-spike price and the post-spike price, usually right in the middle. She flirted with $13 already, so if she goes to $20 she still ends up around $17 so there’s money to be made, especially if EDH players around you trade. More people are going to notice this card once it officially starts to sell out on various sites and you want to be ready to sell when it hits $20 and people are looking to buy.

This card is so hard to work in EDH, just like Luminarch Ascension. I used to run Luminarch Ascension in Standard in a control deck with a lot of Planeswalkers. It was fairly easy to go a turn cycle without taking damage with one opponent, but it’s nearly impossible to get it going in EDH. No one is going to let you go 5 turns without getting hit by anyone at all, even if you’re fogging a ton and proliferating. I don’t think you’re likely to win via Elecutors, but I think the foils are under $2, are showing signs of life, especially vis-a-vis the buylist (shown as a blue line) price moving and there’s little downside here with advisors being relevant.

I like to shy away from P3K stuff because there’s nothing saying they can’t reprint it and it would make this a $0.02 card overnight, but you can’t argue with that graph shape. Besides, they reprint one P3K card a year, on average. Sorry about your “Borrowing 100,000 Arrows” but 3 Visits continues to be an astounding amount and will be until they print it in a commander set or something.

It takes a lot to perk up a bulk mythic from a recent (ish) set, especially when the graph is trending in the wrong direction, but this is a penny stock you could scoop up by the armload and potentially offload for like $0.50 to $1 each to a buylist in a while. Either Advisors are so good that Arbiter Augustin’s price doubled in under a month and Michiko is ready to pop or it can’t move a bulk mythic at all. I think the answer could be in the middle depending how much the deck gets built, but attacking with creatures in EDH is dumb and frustrating so a whole new class of player who didn’t want to trifle with Ripple Rats suddenly has a combo deck to play and that’s exciting.

The graph of the foil is similarly-discouraging, although it’s under $2 and that’s attractive (if I were to buy any foil under $2, it would be Arcane Denial, but that’s just me – I’ll beat that drum until it’s $10). This card is good in the deck if the deck is a deck, and its abilities still work if you tap it to mill.

This card kind of doesn’t suck. It’s a bulk foil from a very long time ago and the graph is showing slight, slight, slight signs of life with respect to a convergence of retail and buylist price. This isn’t quite War Tax but it’s worth having in a deck and has a big butt, which is useful sometimes.

Lol wut?

Oh. Yeah, this basically means the buyout is underway, but if you can ferret out a cheaper copy from somewhere, just know that you can list a NM copy for under $500 and be the cheapest TCG Player listing. Most likely this goes to $50 or so and ends up at $35, so bear that in mind. Here’s a better look at the graph before Action Adventure got involved.

There are so few copies of this card that any seller can have a profound effect on data, so be careful when you see graphs and other scrapers reporting prices. The obscure corners of the internet might have some affordable copies of this so get sleuthing.

P3K is risky because a reprint pantses you, but Bad Archivist over here look like it has decent underlying metrics and is a probably a low reprint risk.

I liked how this card played already. It fits both of our criteria that I outlined before we looked at the list. The one strike against this is that it’s in 2 different Commander 2016 precons including the Atraxa deck and that means it’s twice as common as say, Deepglow Skate. That said, it’s ONLY twice as common as Deepglow Skate. This could be a thing and the price is already sloping toward money town.

I have to mill myself to avoid damage? Throw me in the briar patch!

Look, you likely can’t make money buying this but if you have Alliances bulk, you have these. Yank them and I bet someone buys them on TCG Player because it goes in the deck.

There are a few more Azorius-colored advisors like Sram that I didn’t mention and a few other bad P3K ones, but I think these cards go in the deck and have a chance at seeing play. That’s what I advise, anyway.

Thanks for reading. Join me next week where we potentially have the fallout of a major announcement affecting Modern and therefore maybe us, to parse. If not, EDH is the gift that keeps on giving and we’ll have plenty to discuss. Your homework for the week is go to EDHREC and figure out how to use the filters at the top to find decks of Augustin that are going to be specific to petitioners builds. Do you see anything juicy on that page you didn’t see before you filtered?

Until next time!

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