Letter to the Editor: Fetchlands are Anti-Fun!

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Here's a very interesting Letter to the Editor from reader Mike Hulsebus. It reminds us all that there's more to magic than making the most cutthroat, efficient decks and playing with mana bases worth more than some used cars. I post this not because it reflects my personal opinion, but with the intent of opening up some discussion on the matter. Please use the comments below to discuss your feelings on rare lands!


I should be excited, but I’m not.

I recently bought a box of Zendikar cards: $85 bucks paid partially in store credit and partially in cash. I’m working my way though the packs slowly and so far, in about 8 packs, I’ve opened up two fetchlands. A quick search of the internet tells me that this small portion of my packs is worth a little under $40.

See, like you, I’ve been making a lot of decks in preparation for the new standard format. I’m trying to be realistic with what I can spend money on, and the last thing that I want to do is spend $80 per playset of lands in order to just get my deck off the ground..

Wizards, of course, doesn’t set prices on what singles go for, but they do set rarity. Let’s consider a few things.

When you make your deck, where do you start? I start by looking at individual cards and figuring out which cards I would like to exploit and which seem fun to play. So, for example, in Lorwyn, I decided I liked the card advantage of running Wort, Boggart Auntie and went from there. Half the fun of magic is thinking of what kind of decks you can build and what fun interactions you can create. There is nothing innovative about deciding to put a Marsh Flats in a black/white deck.

I would venture a guess that no one has gotten to the rare slot of their pack, saw a Misty Rainforest, and said “Ooh! This fixes my mana! What if I built a green/blue deck that took advantage of that?”

To say it more briefly, fetchlands are boring. Dual lands are boring. Mana fixing is boring.

What if mana fixing was all in the uncommon slot? Sure, there could still be rare lands like Oran-Reef the Vastwood or Mutavault that have additional effects, but what if the foundations of deck building were more readily available?

I think this would actually result in Wizards selling more packs rather than fewer. Sure, while one player may not buy that case hoping to get a fetchland set, if you engage players in each format, you’re going to have five players buying single boxes rather than one player buying five and the more players that we can have playing Magic, the better.

I’ve been looking a few different decks that I might want to consider running coming up, but am severely limited when it comes to ones that fit the “not-paying-$80-to-cast-spells” criteria. I would especially like to point out that it is a sad, sad day when even the mono-colored decks are running manabases that cost over $100.

There is nothing fun about paying $100 for that. Yes, it will always cost money to stay current in Magic, but I would rather pay $30 for a Baneslayer Angel than pay $20 so that I have the correct arrangement of mana to cast Baneslayer Angel.

Really, the main problem is that having the lands be expensive is that it pigeonholes players in to having only one set of lands and therefore playing only one sort of colors. I would love for players to be able to play whatever-colored deck he or she wanted regardless of what lands were in the. Let’s allow our players to have the fun of building new decks every week to try at their local FNM. Lets devote our rare slots to non-lands.


Certainly not the average efficienct-hungry Spike perspective you often get on Magic internet sites! Talk about it in the comments below!

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

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31 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor: Fetchlands are Anti-Fun!

  1. Ow, I do not know whether to laugh or cry. I live in Brazil and I face a similar situation (superlative) in relation to the reader that this is going. We are among the 20 most powerful countries in the world, but we have many problems in income distribution.At the time of Mox Diamond and Rishadan Port, a lot of casual players left the game for not believing in the exaggeration of the price of the cards. At that time the minimum wage was $ 300.00 (I think it was less) and the cards cost anywhere between $ 25.00 and $ 30.00. A quick math shows that to close a playset of some of them should spend 1 / 3 of the minimum wage. Ok, I do not know how much is the minimum that a trainee gains in the country of you, but make that comparison. One thing I learn all this, who plays Magic in Brazil (and increasingly the world) has to be in love as a requirement.

  2. I completely agree. It's tragic when you can't have a competitive deck just because you can't afford the mana base.I personally believe that the land slot in booster packs should be used to distribute lands this way. Lands would mostly be basic, but 1/3 would be uncommon land, and 1/5 would be a rare land.

  3. I totally agree with him. I love opening lands just so I can trade them away in like 2 minutes. I tried to play extended but the decks that are big in the format only cause of the lands. Its quite depressing.

  4. I agree entirely with this letters idea. Some weird code says spending 25$ of a dragon/angel/spell of awesome sauce is okay, but 25$ for a land just makes me feel dirty. PS Great site guys, loved playing against Kelly at NG. He is truly one of the good guys of this game

  5. As a fellow johnny/spike, I can certainly identify with this letter. Getting the 4 UR fetches for my Pyromancer Ascension deck was a real hassle, though it helps that I opened 3 fetches in the prerelease sealed and draft tourneys. The main thing I can say about this is that not every card was designed for you; rares are designed for timmy, johnny, and spike. Timmy likes the legendary octopus, johnny likes the ascensions, and spike likes the fetch lands. The problem here is that, of all of the above, spike is the least likely to care about price when making a deck, and thus players under that psychographic header will dictate the secondary market prices. And so we get the seemingly nonsensical prices of cards here.One way of looking at it is that SOMETHING out of a set has to be expensive. If the EV of a set is too high, people will open more boosters and singles prices will drop. If the EV is too low, people will stop buying it and singles prices will inflate. There's an equilibrium point somewhere under $4/pack that has stayed more or less steady throughout the years. The average price of a rare in a pack will play a big part in determining the set's EV. As such, something has to be driving the EV up, and that's going to be the cards most played in competitive decks. Good lands are played in competitive decks, and so they will be the most consistently expensive of the rares. If you didn't have to pay for the lands, you'd have to pay for some other part of the deck. Having the primary expense come from the land slots seems weird, but at least it means that the rest of your deck will actually have gone down in price (since so many people are opening up the other stuff you want while in search of fetches).

  6. I agree totally. I do not understand why lands are rare. Ok, so they print cards that are hard to cast (because of color requirements) but have an awesome effect. Then they print rare lands that you HAVE to get in order to play those cards. If you dont get the lands then you don't play those decks (cough 5 color control cough).

  7. I disagree wholeheartedly. Lands are cards just the same as creatures are, and there are powerful and less powerful lands at all rarities. I can't make a full power competitive white deck because I can't afford Baneslayers and Day of Judgements, but I don't think they should put these cards at uncommon. I can play Serra Angel or World Queller instead, the same as the OP could use the many uncommon lands available.Cheap manafixing is better lately than it has ever been before, between vivids/trilands/lifegain duals/rupture spire/panoramas/terramorphic/ziggurat/borderposts I don't know what the OP is complaining about.

  8. Also, in rebuttal to this point "the last thing that I want to do is spend $80 per playset of lands in order to just get my deck off the ground.."The fetches are by far the best investment for your singles dollars in this set, as they will hold their value – or near to it – forever, as they will be played in every competitive format. Your $20 fetches now could be resold at rotation to extended players for $15, while Baneslayer gets retired to your rare folder, next to Akroma. For casual players, fetches will go into every on colour deck you make from here until the day of judgement, while Ob Nixilis will only go into your Ob Nixilis deck. Fetches are great value and they are first on my shopping/trading for list.

  9. i'd like to point that i'm fairly bored of this mana fixing: i love fetchlands, since i'm a spike, but really, after 2 years of 5 colour everything in standard and more in extended, would'nt be nice if we start playing some magic again?

  10. To be honest, the whole idea of spending 1/3 of your cards options in every deck as mana sources makes the game somewhat lax in innovation. I realize MTG has been around for many years, and it's not going to change, but why exactly do we even waste card slots on land? That being said, since lands are a necessary evil, they should be effectively free to all players. There should be a standard CIPT dual land for each color pair, another CIPT + drawback tri-color, and finally 5-color lands like pillar and ziggurat. These lands should be in the land slot like a previous poster stated.I actually take no issue with expensive cards like Baneslayer or Lotus Cobra, because you build a deck around a card like that. You can choose to not build a white/black deck with Baneslayer and still do well – you can't choose to build a white/blacl deck without the fetchland and expect to be competitive.

  11. I DISAGREE WITH THE LETTER FULLY, BECAUSE IF LANDS WERE IN THE UNCOMMON SLOT THEN ALL THE DECKS COULD RUN WHAT EVER MANA BASES THEY WANT. fetch lands can easily get you all five colors and besides you dont HAVE to have fetch lands in your deck i mean you can use life gain duels and trilands but the reason why fetchlands are rare and should remain rare is because they give you the land you NEED all for a measly lifebesides fetchlands are the only rare duel lands that will be reprinted in standard that will go over 20 as they can see play in limited. no other duel land printed in the future can outmatch the original duels and thus they will stay below $20 SO STOP YOUR CRYING YOU NOOB

  12. This is sort of the opposite of what the OP wants, but I believe rare lands is considered by wizards to be necessary to sell packs. I'd also like them to be uncommon, but maybe a compromise is in order. I am suggesting that they make 'good' lands half-rare. How do you do that? By reprinting them across the block! So Worldwake would have the same enemy fetch lands that Zendikar did. Of course it is too late for that to happen, but wizards could implement something like this by next fall. What do you guys think? Would you have liked seeing the tribal lands again in morningtide, or maybe printing the trilands in conflux or alara reborn?

  13. right now the fetchlands are unusually inflated relative to their actual rarity. onslaught had 110 rares and zendikar has 53– you'll see an average of 3 fetches per box, which means they will be everywhere. after the initial first month hype period, i really don't see them stabilizing at more than $10 per.people are making the mistake of running fetchlands in mono-colored decks– if you're not abusing landfall, the thinning is negligible. people have a really skewed viewpoint on the power of fetchlands, and while this set seems built to abuse it, i can't think of any non-mythic rare in a large set that is currently going for more than $6 offline or $3 online. m10 duals, for example, are under 3 tix apiece online.i don't really like spending $200 on a manabase either, but in all honesty i think those days are over unless you're playing some 5-color monstrosity. by adding the mythic rarity and decreasing set sizes, wotc has really changed the rare distribution and i think supply and demand will catch up offline with time. online the changes are already quite significant, and rare just isn't what it used to be. i for one am very pleased with that.

  14. @Daniel Awesome. I'm excited to see myself in Spanish.@Jack I think people would still buy packs/draft if they didn't need rare lands from them. After all, how else are you going to get a set of the mythic rares (which is another topic entirely that the Magic community has already talked to death)

  15. I think there's an avenue of thought that no one has brought up on this page yet, and that's viewing the game of Magic in its entirety.If Wizards could have known what the game would be like in 2009 and had the foresight to make the original dual lands uncommon, than the precedent would have been set and all future mana-fixing lands would have been uncommon. That's all well and good, but it is not the truth. Mana fixing, like any other ability in the game, is weighted monaterily by its effectiveness and usefullness. What no one has brought up is the fact that these lands are so expensive because they immediately impact every format in the game. Whereas a card like Baneslayer Angel will take a dive, pricewise, when it rotates out of Standard, cards like Mindbreak Trap, Warren Instigator, and the fetches come with big pricetags because players in all formats will be after them…not just Type II players.Also take into account that, after Alara block's ridiculous hybrid colors/shards, Wizards has made mono-colored decks viable in Type II again. As money hungry as they are, I think they brought back the enemy fetches at the perfect time. If they would have released them during Lorwyn block or Shards block, those lands would have easily been $30.00 each rather than $20 (see Reflecting Pool).I agree, mana-fixing should be something that is available to everyone. But, I honestly feel that Wizards has done a good job of making that a reality. Remember, just as creatures are available to everyone, it is up to you to decide how large a commitment you want to make to having the best available. Magic is a game of commodities, like every other CCG. Having better resources gives you an advantage over someone that has fewer or lesser resources…that's a fact. But the best part about Magic is that your cards are only one resource that you draw upon during the game. You can beat your opponent in any number of ways, by using the other tools you have at your disposal; your mind, your skill, your superior deck building, your ability to answer threats. The easiest way to put it is this: the best hand doesn't always win in poker.While spending $200 on a manabase might give someone an advantage on paper, it's still only an advantage on paper. If you don't have the money to buy fetches, build Vampires or Goblins. If Lotus Cobra is too pricey for you, don't count on building Landfall…it's that simple. If everyone started with the same exact card pool, Wizards would simply sell full playsets of each new set and no one would play the game. Part of what makes Magic the game it is today is the collectible aspect of the cards, mana included.

  16. 1. I don't think people would buy as much product if there weren't RARE good cards in the packs (this includes rare lands). No one gets excited about opening their 15th common of a particular set, but every fetch land you open is exciting because they're sought after, good, and because they are rare. I work in a gaming store and I often sell packs to people playing the "fill in chase rare" lottery.2. There are plenty of decks for standard that will not require fetch lands. There are extended decks that do not require fetch lands. There are legacy decks that do not require fetch lands. There are vintage decks that do not require fetch lands.3. It's been a little over a week since the release of Zendikar, and (not to brag) I have all of my enemy fetch play sets. I did not buy a case. I traded for 90% of them. There are a lot of people who could care less about some stupid land that just goes and gets another land, and deals them damage to boot!4. Fetches are VERY FUN. I play a variety of fetches in most all of my EDH decks, and while I enjoy playing sanctioned constructed magic, I have much more FUN playing EDH. Do I need to crack a fetch in every EDH game to have fun? Absolutely not, but if it helps me fix my mana so that I can turn 3 Necropotence, and turn 4 Garruk, I'm probably having a good time! 5. Most hobbies are expensive, and most companies create a good or service in order to turn a profit.Magic is a hobby game created by a company like any other.

  17. Rare lands are a fact of life when you play magic. Yes lands are expensive but that's always been around the magic world since the begining.Wizards does print some uncommon lands (such as the vivid lands from Lorwyn), but rare lands in general are much better. Mana fixing is important. And a common mistake of noobs is not recognizing how important mana fixing your deck is.Yes it sucks spending tons of $$$ just to have a solid mana base in your multi color deck. But you have to take the good with the bad with magic, and it's not going to change any time soon….

  18. As has been researched by Wizards, Fetchlands (and painlands, shocklands, etc) are not well-received by new players. New players are risk averse, which is what led to us having the M10 duals.As for mana-fixing, we did have a budget player's dream just a few months ago: Vivid lands. Did you see what that got us?Oh, and lest I forget, there are the Shards tri-lands, Panoramas, and Zendikar life-gain duals.That's more mana-fixing in Standard in NON-RARE slots than many Standard formats have had in their entirety! Clearly, Wizards agrees with some of these points (and I do too) – mana-fixing should be available to all. Just the most efficient should be a bit harder to obtain (this goes back to risk-aversion, as the lands will make their way to those who will appreciate the efficiency). Also, being harder to acquire leads to the lands feeling special. This is the same reason why Shivan Dragon is a rare. It's supposed to be special. To do so, they can't be in every nook and cranny.Me, I like having some great mana-fixing at rare. I also like the path that Wizards has taken in making decent mana-fixing at uncommon and common.Now for a possibility, presented as food for thought:If all of the rares were non-lands, the value you'd get out of you packs would likely decrease (or we'd see price inflation of the sort Jim described).Lands are usable in a wide variety of decks. Non-lands are generally much more narrow in application.Without that value from the lands, it is likely to be harder to trade for the Timmy rares (Angels, Dragons, etc). Whether it is that the budget player's trade binder is of less interest, or simply a lack of difference in value, budget players could potentially find it MORE difficult to obtain the rares they want to play.This is definitely an interesting topic.

  19. Although I don't agree with everything he wrote, I do agree with starwarer on this point:Rare lands add to the value of each set, thus they add to the richness of the game as a whole.Magic survives because it is, first and foremost, a COLLECTIBLE card game. Having hard-to-find rare cards has helped to build the game and the solid secondary market.I would argue that it makes the most sense for Magic to make rare lands above any other card type, because every player in Magic must make use of a manabase. It may not be the sexiest way to seel cards, but Magic sets with flashy rare lands are historically the best selling sets. Now, obviously there are other factors that play into what makes a set good or bad, but for competitive players, mana-fixing is #1 on their list of things to do when building a new deck…at very least it's #2.For less experienced players, as starwarer wrote, rare lands are often undervalued, but they're seen as trade fodder to pick up whatever cards they DO want.If the new fetchlands were uncommon, no matter how good they are, they wouldn't carry the same trade-weight for new players and experienced players alike. No amount of uncommon fetches would get Timmy his Iona in a trade with a competitive Magic player.As I wrote before, affordable mana-fixing is out there. Now, moreso than ever before, you can build a budget manabase and be competitive, you just have to be smart about it.

  20. This article also hints at one of the problems associated with net-decking. I believe far too many players simply look up decks online and assume that they need to replicate the decks seen. That's not always the case and usually makes for a worse deck because netdecks do not take into account local meta games. I would consider myself more of a spike, with a touch of Johnny. I also play Legacy more than any other format. This is relevant because most Legacy decks run nearly 8 fetchlands. To be fair, these decks also have Top and Brainstorm so shuffle effects are always welcome and in high demand. Without top of library manipulation on that level, using the fetchlands isn't necessary in standard. As mentioned, there is a huge amount of mana fixing available for a very reasonable price. For most people who play, FNM is usually the venue of choice and decks without fetchlands can function just fine. MtG, like anything else is a hobby. If people are worrying/upset because of the possible financial commitment, then they're taking the wrong perspective toward the game. Money spend on hobbies should be disposable income (after bills, essentials, savings etc) and therefore if one doesn't have enough money to purchase a set of fetchlands, then so be it. The other thing is the typical Y generation mentality whereby people need instant gratification. MtG is also an investment. If one wants good cards, odds are they aren't going to be cheap. Counterbalance and Top are excellent examples of how even uncommons can hit the price level of average rares. In MtG, like all things, if you want the best things, then invest in them and wait until you get them. As has been noted, fetches are also one of the best possible investments as they'll retain their value for years (see Onslaught Fetchlands). I will end up purchasing a playset of the new fetches by year's end, but I'm also saving and trading off excess cards in order to get them. MtG shouldn't make every good card rare or mythic so people can still access the game, but certain cards that are good should be in order to have people continue opening product (which keeps the game alive) and to promote trading and a secondary market.

  21. This game is clearly one for those who can afford it. If you can't afford to play competitively, stick to your casual bracket. This is simply not the game for you. Reality bites, and that's too bad. This game is still a business; the big company doesn't care about your woes if you're just a minor investment in the game; they're claim to me to uphold a good image, but you're not the target customer they're looking at. Simply put? Get your head out of your ass.

  22. If you're gonna:Turn 1: Thoughtseize meTurn 2: Helix my turn one dudeTurn 3: Fallout killing my turn two dude[s]Turn 4: Cryptic my turn 4 spellthen:I hereby place a most wretched [retroactive] curse upon thee- that you will have dealt 9+ damage to yourself and may it be that you have had to PAID $$ OUT TEH A$$ for whatever cards to make that stagnant, unoriginal, uncreative, anal, and BORING play possible; and may Nicol-Bolas himself descend with ancient destruction upon your $450 mana base on turn 3 seeing that, in your blind allegiance/obedience to high-dollar/high-efficiency uncommons and rares, you Pathed my Oona's Gatewarden enabling my turn 2 Jace and turn 3 Nourishing Shoal splicing on Reweave; let your Lightning Bolts gain me three life and kill your War Monk [who got hit with my Rod of Ruin]; and OH that it be that each opponent that you shall face for eternity have a playset of Archive Traps in their opening hands…..MWA HA HA hA hAAAaaaaaaaa!!!!!Yeah, but cereally, Magic has colors and a color pie. I assume it is there for a reason. I think is one of the most interesting and important characteristics of the game. I would think that there should always be a major perk to running all basic lands and/or mono colored decks. Therefore, naturally, there should be a price [in the game or IRL] for manipulating the balance.As a lot of posts before me have said, the fetches are powerful and should be hard[er] to get. To the original post- the drive and extreme hunger for power and advantage in the tournament world can kind of supercede "fun". Players will do whatever they feel is necessary. They will run triple blue mana spells in their R/W decks if they feel that they need such spells in order to win. Furthermore, with the mass populus instantly gravitating to only the "most powerful/efficient" cards, it then becomes necessary for everyone in that lot to heed the top line mana fixing- in this case the fetch lands.The players made mana fixing boring, not Wizards. Wizards made the color pie. Players are trying to bend it and break it….. most of them doing so unknowingly. Red spells go in red decks, blue in blue. If any given casual player were able to cross boundaries effortlessly ($$ and in the game), the color pie would be disregarded and the game would lose much integrity……………in my opinion at least.There are plenty enough basics for anyone out there to acquire and make a functioning deck. More colors then more different types of basics. My friends and I play with decks like these and games go wonderfully. So in my eyes, mana fixing is no necessity. However, as more people invest in more efficient….. more forbidden….. ways of making as though their deck plays with a "new" single color of Magic (being able to play whatever-colored spell _as_ they drop their lands turn by turn), it becomes more necessary for every other player in the environment to do the same. In tournaments, everyone is trying to climb over each other for ultimate power- and that is how it goes. In casual play, on the other hand, it is my constant desire that anyone who turn 1 Thoughtseizes in their G/W deck at casual meetings (unless they agreed beforehand with their opponent to have a tournament like game) gets Riddle of Lightning-ed for 15 on turn two.

  23. Zendikar had a uncommon Dual Land cycle, and Alara had the tri-lands at uncommon, plus the Shard fetches at common. RoE had a Terramorphic Expanse functional reprint, meaning you can play 8 poor man's fetches in Standard right now (with the rare fetch lands only able to grab basic lands anyway). SoM being an artefact set, mana fixing is less necessary. So it's not like WotC totally forgot about the need to have some mana fixing at common and uncommon.

    Another point is the much-decried Mythic rarity. While I hate some specific aspects of Mythic variety (mostly overly efficient creatures like a certain Angel or a certain Vine and utility mana-production cards thinly disguised behind "Mythic" names such as Lotus or Mox), a positive aspect of Mythic rarity is that it has made most Rares much more affordable than they used to be. As a result, the powerful person-lands of WWK and the nice duals from M10/M11 and SoM are very, very affordable. Fetchlands are a bit more expensive, but still not within reach, and as was said, they will keep their value for years. Being able to put powerful utility cards in the Rare slot without having them explode in price was one of the stated reasons behind Mythic rarity.

    Having decent mana-fixing lands at Rare, generally as full cycles (either 5 or 10 cards), has the added bonus of providing some sort of "currency" to the Wild West of trading : reasonably available (but not enough to lose all value, which would happen at common or uncommon), easy to convert into something else (either uptrading or downtrading), and good at keeping value over a period, while other cards can swing a lot more in price.

    I open lots of packs, and I love trading Timmy stuff that never sees tournament play (Sphinxes, Demons, green fatties, dragons, Angels of the non-Baneslayer variety…) to casual players for their singleton copy of various dual lands that they don't use a lot (or even use at all if it's not in their colors). Trading for mana fixing can be the best example of a win/win trade, and couldn't exist if those lands were at uncommon or common.

  24. I disagree on a number of grounds.

    First, you don’t NEED the Zendikar fetches to play a cross-pie splash. You have access to Terramorphic Expanse, Evolving Wilds, and all sorts of ramp and filter effects in Standard. Yes, the fetches are generally strategically superior, but JTMS is strategically superior to Crystal Ball, too; the additional power level carries additional cost.

    Second – they’re not as hard to acquire as you might think. You never need more than four of each, so the surpluses end up in trade binders. Many players don’t bother to collect all five sets, so you can generally trade for the colors they’re not playing, as well.

    Third, they’re not mythic and they’re from a big, heavily drafted set. There’s a lot of ZEN floating around. The manlands from WWK would be a better target for your ire, if JTMS’ existence in that set hadn’t encouraged people to leave no pack unripped.

    Fourth, playing cross-pie splashes is generally discouraged by Magic’s general game design. There’s a lot of neighbor-color support, and always has been – the core set dials are the continuation of this. Cross-pie fixing has, in contrast, always been unusual and rare. UW, BU, GR, etc. are encouraged; BW and UR discouraged. Opening the floodgates of easy fixing has serious implications for R&D, as we saw in Vivid season.

    Cross-pie fetches/shocklands are a much smaller issue than Mythic staples. How do you play a control deck with blue in Standard without spending $320 on Jaces? (Answer: with great difficulty.) That’s a far more grave problem than needing 4 Scalding Tarns to play UR. You used to need 4 Adarkar Wastes to play UW, and those were rares too.

    I feel for you if your deck construction is hampered by lack of rare lands, but those are the breaks, man. Trade well and wisely and you’ll get them in time. Until then, there are many high-tier decks in each format which don’t require them. In Standard, the only competitive decks which really require them are RUG, BUG and Boros. This is much ado about nothing.

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