Bandwagons

The intro…

Welcome to the blog you awesome hero!

So here we are again, hot on the heels of my 100th post, it’s my second blog this week!

Work has been weirdly quiet this last week or so (not that I’m complaining!) so I’ve had some extra free time to do ‘stuff’. Some of it has been boring adulting life stuff but it has also meant I’ve been able to shoehorn a bit more X-Wing into my life.

Awesome.

And so with no further ado, on we go to the actual X-Wing content (sorry, I mean ‘content’), even if it doesn’t feel like it at first. Bear with me people, bear with me.

I’m not a naturally risk taking person. In fact I’m pretty risk averse in many areas of my life. The fact that I’ve been in the same job (well, sort of, but that’s not a story for right now…) for the last 17 years probably says a lot about me . No risky investments or unresearched trips or massive purchases or anything like that.

My takeaway orders are very often the same each time I get something. My reasoning is that since I’m going to the expense of having a treat, it should be something that I know that I like. I mean, if I was eating out every day then I’d probably take a risk and try some new things but if it’s once or twice a month or whatever then I want to know that I’ll enjoy it rather than risk getting something new and not liking it. Know what I mean?

Yes, a bit boring, I know!

Bringing this to X-Wing (see, I told you we’d get there!), there are some aspects of the game where I take unnecessary risks (like putting ships where they shouldn’t be) but to be honest, it’s more through poor judgement than purposeful risk taking, having weighed up odds and made an informed choice. But when it comes to lists? Well, I’m not exactly big on experimentation. Much like my takeaways, there are lists/ships/pilots that I know that I like and, since I’m playing (on average) just one game a week, it should be with things I enjoy/are good with, right?

But the logical part of my brain knows that this attitude is limiting. Much like with takeaways I realise that I’m missing out on some wonderful flavours of food, I’m also missing out on some really great things in X-Wing because of my natural tendency to not try new stuff.

Why the heck am I talking about this? Well, I’m glad you asked. Again, a bit of back story first but I’ll get there. I promise.

The internet is a beautiful thing. Sure it’s got it’s nasty bits too but we won’t focus on that too much, I want to look at the nice bits. The bits where people make things and share things.

Generic outdated internet pic. Check!

I got involved in Facebook groups quite late on in my X-Wing life (probably about 18 months in). Since then I’ve marvelled at the weird and wonderful lists and spectacular and complex interactions that people have invented or discovered and then shared with the (X-Wing) world.

A good example is the Rey-Wings list I’ve been flying since around Christmas time. It’s not my list, I didn’t build it. Someone, somewhere, out there in internet-land realised that Rey with Finn gunner, Rose and Korr Sella crew and the Falcon title could let you do some crazy things with ridiculously consistent damage output.

I would NEVER have found that. Not ever. Probably not even if I was getting 8-10 meaningful games per week for testing. And I get nowhere near that.

Getting to the point (finally!), a new list has emerged recently. If you’ve been following my blogs for any period you’re probably aware the Rebels are my faction of choice. I love flying Dash Rendar in the YT-2400 in particular but I’m also partial to A-Wings and B-Wings and also the odd Y-Wing every now and then. Recently though, the Rebels have been a bit, well, a bit meh. They’re fine but they’re also, just fine. Know what I mean?

When it was suggested I fly Rey I decided to give it a go despite the fact that it was a different faction and once I took the plunge, it was exciting. I was throwing lots of red dice and lots of them would end up being hits. RZ-2 A-Wings were zooming here and there, dodging this and that (and sometimes firing Proton Rockets ,but not very often). It was simply more fun that what I’d been flying for a while and it also happened to be quite good.

The Rebels desperately needed a shot in the arm. And then, they got it.

The Phoenix Cell squadron pack was released and although it contained ships that already existed in the faction there were new pilots who were really interesting . And good.

The pick of them were A-Wing pilots – namely Ahsoka and Hera. High initiative pilots with good abilities in (relatively) inexpensive ships meant that new combinations were possible. Exciting times.

After days and days of list building, what had I come up with?

Absolutely nothing. Well, nothing good, at least.

I know that list building isn’t my strength and I’m ok with that. This is where the internet comes in.

Debuting (as far as I know?!) a tweaked version the list mentioned (and played by) Rich Polley on the Sith Takers podcast a few weeks ago in the Firecast Cup and making the final table was Andrew Oehler. He then ran the same list again at the Gold Squadron Podcast Mon Cala Galaxies Qualifier and went one better, winning the whole 200+ player event, going 10-1 over the two days.

What faction was he flying? Rebels.

MACHO MAN IS HYPED FOR REBELS

I hear about the list from other podcasts too and heard the interactions described. Sounds absolutely bonkers. Like one of those lists where it’s all so complicated that I’ll never be able to make it work on the table like an actual good player can.

It sounds so cool though. Fine, I’ll give it a look.

It’s been dubbed ‘Heratanni’ (from it’s similarity to Attani Mind-Link from 1.0 I hear).

Kyle Katarn (31)
Jyn Erso (2)
Moldy Crow (16)

Ship total: 49 Half Points: 25 Threshold: 3

Hera Syndulla (A-Wing) (42)
XX-23 S-Thread Tracers (2)

Ship total: 44 Half Points: 22 Threshold: 2

Benthic Two Tubes (46)
Perceptive Copilot (8)
Leia Organa (7)
Pivot Wing (0)

Ship total: 61 Half Points: 31 Threshold: 4

Garven Dreis (X-Wing) (46)
Servomotor S-Foils (0)

Ship total: 46 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 3

Total: 200

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Rebel%20Alliance&d=v8ZsZ200Z48XWW40WWW156Y451XWW332WY36XWW54W46WW140Y6XWWWW142&sn=Rebel%20Focus&obs=

I loaded up FLy Casual and gave it a try.

The Fly Casual AI loaded up a 5 TIE/SF list against me, though I can’t remember much more about the list than that. Let’s see what happens then.

I wiped the SF’s out completely, only losing 2 shields in return.

Fly Casual’s timing of Hera’s ability isn’t ideal (it happens at the start of an attack, not giving the option of transferring during the dice mod step which is now the official stance from AMG) but still. Bonkers. Must be an outlier.

I loaded up again, this time facing off against 5 TIE/sa bombers, all with Barrage Rockets and a couple with hull upgrades here and there.

This time I took a bit more damage but again I wiped out the list without losing a ship, losing half on just one of them.

So… I guess this is good then?

Sometimes it’s hard to determine whether a list has done well because it’s a good player or a good list or, as in this case I believe, both.

I trawled the TTT results to see if Andrew had played anyone I knew well enough to chat with about the list and found one – Brendan Osmann-Deyman. Awesome. We had a quick chat about the list, what he thought about it, what his target priority had been (and if he’d change it). It turned out that he’d had some issues with connectivity and dial organisation and had got a bit tilted so maybe this result was an outlier too.

Hmmm…. it seems like it’s good but I’m not sure I’m convinced enough to try it in a league game when the Rey-Wings are decent and I’m well practiced with them.

What I need is a real game. Against a real person.

As it happened, on the day of my league game I only had 1 job for work and ended up being back home on my own pretty early on. Perfect. I got on Discord and after just half an hour manged to get my first ever pick-up game with a total stranger who hadn’t been drawn against me in a tournament.

He was flying a slightly unusual swarm of 6 TIE/ln Academy Pilots and 2 TIE/ag Aggressors (Double Edge and Kestal) who both had Dorsal Turret and Thread Tracers. Not exactly top meta but multiple double modded shots from 6 TIE’s could be troublesome.

With my internet having failed me when looking for streams to watch on how to deploy (or even fly it properly) I took what little I understood about the list and played the game out.

Despite generally not being good against swarms and messing up my position with Hera a bit I managed to win 105-72. Special shout out here to ‘Monkey’ on Discord. I’ve no idea your real name and playing without voice was tricky but it was a great fun game (and not just because I won!). Thanks buddy!

Ok, fine, decision made. I’m going to give it a go. I’m already 0-2 so I’m not particularly keen on getting beaten AGAIN but the list is fun to fly, really interesting and pretty darn defensive AND offensive when it chooses to be. What the heck, let’s do this!

The batrep… (JARGON ALERT!!)

My opponent in the Sith Taker league for this week was Element Games local and (therefore) Sith Taker James Bailey – someone new! I knew I was on to a winner in this league with it seeming to be comprised of a 50/50 mix of people I know/have played before and and people I’d not yet had any interaction with. Best of both worlds.

With just 4 hours between my single (but successful) test and my game against James I still felt a bit underprepared but I wanted to try it out some more.

When James loaded up his list I wasn’t quite sure what to think…

Maarek Stele (45)
Marksmanship (1)
Fire-Control System (2)

Ship total: 48 Half Points: 24 Threshold: 3

Iden Versio (40)
Marksmanship (1)

Ship total: 41 Half Points: 21 Threshold: 2

“Howlrunner” (44)
Marksmanship (1)

Ship total: 45 Half Points: 23 Threshold: 2

“Mauler” Mithel (30)
Swarm Tactics (4)

Ship total: 34 Half Points: 17 Threshold: 2

“Scourge” Skutu (30)
Marksmanship (1)

Ship total: 31 Half Points: 16 Threshold: 2

Total: 199

View in Yet Another Squad Builder 2.0: https://raithos.github.io/?f=Galactic%20Empire&d=v8ZsZ200Z174X125W113WWY218X125WY217X125WY219X132WY220X125W&sn=Unnamed%20Squadron&obs=

They’re high initiative but they’re just TIE fighters, right? One good shot and they’re dead. Then again, I’ve seen TIE’s live forever when they should have died so it’s going to be quite dependant on green dice here.

James has a 1 point bid on me and with one overlap in initiative makes me first player.

Time for Pre-Flight checks then:
Target Priority – ummm…. a few of these will be throwing 4 dice at me in the right (or wrong, for me) circumstances. Marek will be hardest to take down with 2 shields and 3 agility so I should prioritise him. Hopefully Iden will be keeping her charge for Howlrunner. Man, this list has some difficult target choices.
Obstacles – he will want to hide behind the clouds I guess so try and take them away to my side. Big open spaces benefit my less manoeuvrable ships.
Deployment – The efficiency and synergy of the list depends on being with range 2 or 3. I need to deploy in such a way that my ships are together by the time we engage. Not as easy as it sounds when there’s a super speedy A-Wing in the mix but I’m used to that.

We place obstacles and deploy ships and are ready to start.

Apologies for the badly taken screenshot!

First job is to pull my ships together and start stacking tokens on Kyle. Hera gets a 2 straight, everyone else gets 1 straight.

Benthic goes first, takes a double focus and passes one to Kyle. Kyle then moves and takes another. Garven moves and also focuses and (shockingly) so does Hera.

James brings his TIEs 5 forwards and Marek slightly slower.

No shooting but it seems that James wants to get jousty. Interesting. I guess that’s what makes sense, it’s what TIE swarms (well, any swarms actually) are good at. I just didn’t think he was going to do it with a mini-swarm. Which is all higher initiative than my ships (except Hera). Hmmm….

Back to dials then.

It seems like he’s going to turn in so he can’t go quite so fast this time. I’m anticipating 3 banks. Benthic goes 1 forwards, Garven goes 2, Kyle will hard turn while Hera…. ummm…. I want to keep her out of danger but relevant and useful. It’s a difficult balance to strike. I set her a 2 bank.

Benthic moves, focuses, gives one to Garven (since Hera’s now outside range 2. Oops!). Kyle moves and focuses. Garven moves and…oops. Can’t lock, can’t roll and wings are open so no boost. No action for Garven. Feels like a bit of a waste.

James banks in with Iden, followed by the rest of the TIEs (who all focus) and then Marek continues forwards and takes a lock on Benthic.

Hera banks and, now that I can see where everyone is, I decide to focus and boost in with Hera to try and get a Tracer shot. At the start of engagement Kyle passes Hera one of his focus tokens.

Ok then, first test here. Benthic is going to take some pain.

Swarm Tactics means that all of James’ ships fire once Hera’s taken her shot. She fires Tracers at Iden and lands them, giving everyone in range (which sadly excludes Kyle) a lock on her.

Then James starts shooting at Benthic. All 5 ships fire, Marek with 3 dice (because of the lock) and a reroll (because of FCS (JARGON ALERT!!)), everyone else with 2 dice and a Howlrunner reroll.

Benthic takes 1 damage. One. Single. Shield.

Garven shoots next and while everyone has locks on Iden, Garven doesn’t have her in arc so targets Marek instead. He rolls all paint, spends his focus (giving it to Hera) for 3 hits. Marek rolls just 1 evade and loses his shields. Kyle doesn’t have range so it’s Benthic next, also shooting at Marek, landing 2 crits past James’ terrible green dice. No Fuel Leak or Direct Hit means that Marek lives, just.

Firing all done, we go back to planning. Wow. Not a bad opening, almost a whole ship in exchange for 1 shield on Benthic.

Right, so what next?

He’s going to approach again but I want shots. Time to activate Leia I think. Kyle and Benthic can both hard stop, Garven can bank in to get a nice range 1 shot. But what about Hera? I really don’t like where I put her last time. I don’t want to YOLO over the rock, I want her in range. Despite being stressed I set a 1 hard left. But I don’t like it.

Benthic stops and takes a focus, handing one to Hera. Kyle does the same. Garven’s 1 bank neatly rounds the U-Wing and he takes a focus.

James’ TIE’s all go 2 straight and I suddenly realise that I’ve made a mistake. I should have shoved Benthic in their faces for bumps because they’re now rolling a lot more dice.

Marek Banks in and takes a focus before Hera takes her 1 hard turn, keeping her stress.

I an NOT a fan of these positions. Benthic is in trouble here, Hera is also more exposed than I’d like AND she can’t shoot anyone.

With Hera facing the wrong way, James starts the shooting. Even with token passing nonsense, Benthic dies to concentrated 3/4 dice fire with a shot to spare which James sends Garven’s way, taking a shield from him too.

Ouch.

Garven’s return shot wipes out Marek though and Kyle’s range 2 double modded shot somehow puts 2 damage onto Iden so it’s not all bad. It’s bad enough though.

Back to dials then and I’m not particularly happy with these positions either.

Kyle is facing down a TIE swarm. Garven can 4K (JARGON ALERT!!) to get a shot. Hera HAS to hard turn. But now I have to figure out what James will do. Is there enough room for them all to K-turn? Even if there is, will he stick together or split up? Will he go for Kyle or Hera?

Hera’s got to try and get out of there so she gets a 2 hard turn. Kyle gets a 1 straight. Time to see how bad it is!

Kyle moves and focuses. Garven takes his 4K and a stress.

James comes at Kyle with 2 straights for 3 of the TIEs and a 2 bank with the green one (I can’t remember which colour was which pilot!).

Yikes. Again, I regret not shuffling forwards, forcing a bump train for James. Will I ever learn?

Hera (somehow) completes the 2 hard turn, focuses and boosts right.

Oh boy.

With Hera having no shot (again!), James fires 4 shots at Kyle. With Kyle having passed one of his 3 focus tokens to Hera he would have access to at least 2 but up to 4 focus tokens and up to two evade tokens. Did I mention this list is bonkers?

The green TIE bumped but 3 of them have focuses, all of them are range 1, Mauler has an additional die for his ability and Scourge might have had if he was one of ships with bullseye on Kyle. Oh, and they all have Howlrunner rerolls.

Kyle loses 2 shields. Wow. Just, wow. Now, don’t get we wrong, James had some bad dice luck here (rerolling blanks into blanks from Howl) but there’s no way that Kyle survives this in any other circumstances.

As if to balance out the fairness of it, my return shots with Garven and Kyle do absolutely no damage to any of James’ ships. Not that I can complain about that really. I did manage to make Iden spend her charge though. So that’s something. And so we are back to planning.

Kyle has one focus left and I have a choice to make. Hard stop and make a nuisance of him or 3/4 straight out of there. I decide to hard stop. Garven will 1 bank to clear his stress and Hera will 2 hard around to stay in range 2 of Kyle to help him out.

Kyle stops. Garven banks and focuses. Let’s see if I’ve done it right.

Howlrunner bumps into Scourge, as does Mauler. Ien bumps into Kyle and then Scourge 4k’s over the top of Kyle.

Hmmm….

Hera’s 2 hard is followed by a focus and boost right. It’s risky facing the rock again but she needs to put some damage out since I’m pretty sure Kyle dies now.

With just 1 token to hand out from Hera, this time Kyle burns down with a bit of a whimper. Totally expected. I should have 4 straighted him out of there.

The disappointment though is that neither Hera nor Garven manage to put any more damage onto any TIEs with James managing to roll the exact number of evades required for each attack.

Back to dials then and now things are looking a little bleak. My priority is to keep Hera alive since his TIEs are out-acing my X-Wing. I also need to do some damage though. Hmmm….

I set Garven a 1 straight since someone has to be down in the corner. I want to do the 1 hard with Hera to avoid the rock but she’ll be stressed. I risk setting the 2 hard to clear it.

Totally forgetting that initiative is a thing, Garven goes 1 straight and bumps into Howlrunner. Oops.

Iden hard turns in from the board edge, Maulter hard turns towards Garven. Scourge banks in at Garven and bumps into Howlrunner who then stays where she is with a self block.

Hera’s 2 hard narrowly clears teh rock (yay!) and she focuses.

Mauler and Scourge both fire at Garven but despite having lost 2 ships, there’s still nonsense in my list as Hera passes Garven a focus and he spends it and gives it right back.

2 hits get past the dice, taking his last shield and putting 1 hit onto hull and giving up half points.

Garven’s return shot on Scourge yields a Structural Damage crit. Not great but it’s something.

Dials then and now I have to figure out what the heck to do.

Garven’s days (or turns I guess) are numbered so I need to make sure I can at least trade well. He gets a 3 straight to try and chase down Iden.

Hera needs to turn around. It’s risky but I set a 5K to go over the gas cloud and hope for the best.

Garven clears the TIEs this time and takes a focus.

James begins moving his ships. Scourge hard turns around the rock and rolls right, closing in on Hera. Mauler hard turns right, starting to come back into the fight. Iden banks in towards Hera and takes an evade while Howlrunner’s hard turn bumps into Garven.

Hera’s 5K catches James off guard. I roll for the strain but it’s blank. Nice.

The good news here is that Garven isn’t getting shot. Also the two (potential) shots in at Hera are both unmodded and one is obstructed. Overall, this was good.

Hera shoots at Scourge but misses. James returns fire with Scourge and Iden. They both miss. Howl and Mauler are too far out so Garven fires at Iden at range 1 with a focus and manages to (finally!) finish her off.

One down….

Back to dials then.

Garven’s options are somewhat limited and he’s already halved. I set him a 2 hard turn. Hera gets a 2 bank left to cruise around the gas cloud.

Garven turns and focuses then James begins moving his TIEs. Scourge hard turns and rolls right, dodging Garven’s arc. Mauler hard turns right but just clips the asteroid, rolling a hit but also meaning he won’t shoot this turn.

Howlrunner also hard turns and takes a focus before Hera 2 banks left, focuses and boosts right.

Hera shoots first, hitting the unmodded Scourge at range 1 and getting 2 hits (with the help of that Structural Damage crit). With Mauler unable to shoot Garven might just be out of Howlrunner’s arc and get away with this…

Balls.

Howlrunner fires, range 1. Rolls 3 dice, rerolls 1 and spends the focus for 3 hits.

Garven blanks out and dies.

Double Balls.

Back to dials with 12 minutes on the clock. I’m behind and Hera needs to take down AND avoid being killed by 2 TIE fighters. Game on.

Howlrunner is full health but Mauler has taken a hit so he’s my priority target.

Goal 1 – don’t die. I need to attempt to regroup and none of these ships move slowly so I set Hera a 3 bank to get out of there.

Both of James’ TIEs K-turn so Hera’s bank is followed by a focus and bank boost to gain distance and start to turn around.

Hera isn’t shooting and she’s dodged Mauler’s arc. Howlrunner’s long range obstructed modless pot-shot does nothing.

Back to dials again.

I’m not a fan of it but since I’m behind I have no real choice but to take the rather obvious 2 hard right. With both of James’ ships stressed and Howlrunner rather close to the asteroid I’m fairly sure I’m safe there anyway.

Mauler takes a 3 hard turn (keeping his stress) and Howlrunner (crucially) bumps into the back of him.

Hera hard turns and, seeing that there’s no shot, just boosts so as not to be stressed. Clutch.

No shots and we’re back to dials again and the clock just keeps on ticking down.

James is now slightly limited. Mauler is stressed and Howlrunner’s angle isn’t great. I go for a 1 hard turn with Hera.

Mauler hard turns again, STILL keeping his stress. Howlrunner follows but slower and takes a focus.

Hera hard turns, focuses and boosts in at the TIEs…

The angle is just against me with Mauler out but the undamaged and focused Howrunner in and range 1. It’s not the shot I’d pick but it’s the one I’ve got.

Hera shoots, rolling maximum paint and spending the focus. Howlrunner rolls just a single paint and takes 2 hits, giving up half points.

Wow. I’m half way.

Back to dials then. Again I feel it’s a little obvious but a blue 2 hard turn is my only real option here. I set it and wait…

Mauler hard turns, AGAIN keeping the stress. He’s getting out of the way… Howlrunner takes a 1 hard turn and rolls right, staring Hera down.

Hera’s 2 hard jumps right over the top of Howlrunner. I’m not sure a boost will gain me anything here and a focus is pointless so I just take a lock on Mauler.

No shots again but plenty of tension.

There’s just 90 seconds on the clock as we go back to dials. This is it. Hera needs to finish one of them off and not lose half points.

Again I set the 2 hard turn.

Mauler moves 5 straight which, for a TIE is white, not blue. Still stressed. No action.

Howlrunner hard turns left and takes a focus, waiting for her prey.

Hera hard turns, focuses and boosts right.

The timer beeps. This is it.

Hera fires the range 2 shot at Mauler, spends the lock and gets 2 hits. I just need 1 get through…

James rolls his greens and the fail him, rolling no evades, only eyeballs. Mauler is dead.

Now Hera just needs to survive…

Howlrunner takes her range 1, 3 die shot, rolling 2 hits and a blank. She rerolls the blank into….another blank. Ooof. It’s 2 hits. It’s looking like I might just….

I roll Hera’s green dice. She still has a focus but doesn’t need it, rolling 2 evades and an eyeball to survive at full health. What a flex Hera.

Result: 177 – 154 win

The conclusion…

Oh.wow. That was crazy.

There was a point there where I was ahead (although not by much) and then a point from which I definitely had lost the game. And then it swung back to me right at the death.

Having played this list a couple of times since this game AND having watched Andrew play it on stream, I think I need to refine how I’m playing this list, particularly how to use Hera and Kyle in the early game. Benthic and Garven can hit hard when they are double modded but I need Hera’s Tracers to get that reliably. I put Kyle behind Benthic but that means he isn’t involved in the first engagement and when you’re losing a 3 die shot which could have been double modded, that matters.

Then again, if Kyle is the easiest ship for my opponent to kill (and at 5 health and 2 agility, he probably is) AND him dying means I can’t pass evades around, maybe keeping him back is ok. Still lots to work out I guess.

Overall I’m reasonably happy with how I played the game. The opening was fine although my range control for the first engagement could/should have been better, then things went downhill when TIE’s simply didn’t die and then Hera went full super acey ace mode and got the kill on Mauler right at the death AND avoided being halved by Howlrunner to snatch the win.

This list is great. In fact, it’s so great I was actually a little apprehensive to blog about it in detail because I don’t want potential opponents to figure out a way to beat it!

More than that though, I really enjoyed playing the list. Benthic, Kyle and Garven aren’t pilots that we’ve seen all that much of recently and it’s nice to see them get a new lease of life. Their typically Rebel ‘help a friend’ synergy combines really well with the newly released Hera to produce something that is competitively strong.

I’m not usually one for jumping onto bandwagons or trying the very latest thing that everyone is raving about but on this occasion, I’m glad I did.

I’m very sure it’ll get nuked in the next points update (Hera in particular) but I really hope it doesn’t. Unless it totally dominates all online play over the next 6 or 7 weeks (or however long it ends up being until the points update) then I think that Rebels deserve to have something that can mix it with the current meta staples (i.e. Jango and Zam). I’m firmly of the opinion that each faction should have at least one strong, competitive list in any given meta, mainly since I believe that a large percentage of players don’t play (or more to the point, own) every faction in real actual in-person play. I know that balancing points isn’t an easy thing and some strong lists sort of happen by accident (*cough* Spamtex *cough*) but keeping factions balanced (and not necessarily individual ships) is important.

James was a great opponent and even at the points in the game where I thought I was done for I was really enjoying playing. Thanks for the game James, I hope we get to actually meet some time!

So that’s it for this week. Will I be playing this list again next week? I think that just maybe I will…

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