28 August 2014 - 20:25

Legend "Swamp Witch" Secret Mage Deck Guide

Finally a proper Legend Mage deck guide - utilizing cards and secrets from Curse of Naxxramas! Hunters, Warriors, Priests - make room for another!
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Introduction

Hey I'm Razoir, a new writer on here, you might know me from my Ice Queen Aggro Mage deck. While recently discovering Hearthstone Players, what has struck me is the lack of new Mage decks since Naxxaramas.

In fact, using the new extension, Blizzard has proceeded to lock us up into the freeze and Secret Archetypes. However, with the current Meta, those became obsolete. Hunters run Flare, while Warriors and Priest can heal themselves. Altogether, they are the three archenemies of Mages, and therefore many players have considered the class unplayable in low ladder.

So the easiest route would be to just dump Mage and start playing something else, waiting for the meta to change. But that's just not our style. We are rebellious and we go against the current. Like Salmons. So we are, of course, still going to play the spell-caster class. While I would have loved to present you my new Aggro Mage, it is just not ready yet.

But here is a Secret Mage Deck with magnificent result on both ranked and Legend ladder. Combining both Mage Secrets and Death-rattle effects, I present you, the Swamp Witch Secret Mage deck.

Our Cards

Spells

Spells are often considered to be the core of Mage decks and with Blizzard clear intention to boost secrets, Secrets enter the game ! 

Frostbolt

This card number of different uses makes it a powerful and necessary card for Mage decks. A nice Mana Wyrm turn 2 follow up if the opponents plays a 2-3 HP minion as it will give you amazing board advantage as well as a good finisher or removal when used with Bloodmage Thalnos.

Arcane Intellect

The only Mage exclusive card with a card draw effect : it makes you draw twice. Now, that might not seem very exciting but you shouldn't underestimate it. Because that card makes you draw 2 cards whenever you play it : if the opponent has a full board or you have board control, if he has no card in hand or if he has plenty, you'll always get 2 cards.

And that's why this card is in every Mage deck while Divine Favor isn't in every Paladin. I have included two in this deck because i have a slight preference over duplicate, loving when those give us a game-winning Fireball topdeck.

Ice Block

To tell you the truth, that card wasn't in my first version but Amaz's has brought me to think it wasn't such a bad idea. Because you don't have any heals, the card can help to set up a burst or simply avoid a Druid/Shaman/Rogue's wombo combo.

The extra turn is often just what you need to win and it has saved me more than expected. It a perfect play before an Ethereal Arcanist as the secret has no way of going off. I'll explain how to use this card to bluff in the future paragraphs.

Counterspell

One of the strongest Mage secret, and funniest to play too. It can win you many games and is extremely strong when the opponent doesn't play around it. If pulled by Mad Scientist, the card gains amazing value while, if played from hand, it gets as much value when it intercepts a key card. It might occur to you that value is gained only after intercepting a 3 mana or more card ( because it costs 3 mana ) but the point of this card is to stop your opponent from doing what he wanted to do.

As such intercepting, even, a Soulfire is nice. Just remember playing it against an opponent with spell interacting cards ( Mana Wyrm, Gadgetzan Auctioneer, etc… ) won't stop their effect from activating even if the spell is canceled.

If the meta ever becomes Paladin heavy ( Someone might invent a surprise Echoing Ooze deck ! Who knows ? ) or if you want to be able to bluff some more than you should remove one for a Spellbender

Ice Block

Mirror Entity

This is a tricky card that shines the most if it has been summoned by Mad Scientist as whatever the opponents plays you'll get value. For 2 mana, Haunted Creeper summons two 1/1 ( less than 1 mana value ), while your Mirror Entity-pulling Mad Scientist's will summon at worst a 1-mana minion. 

Deep understanding of the opponents play is however required to make the best use of it when playing it without the secret-fisher's help. I have listed the best Mirror Entity moments in the "matchups" area.

Duplicate

In this deck, Duplicate has nearly only good targets so it's value will rarely be at it's worse. It can give you amazing early-game advantage by duplicating Mana Wyrm, Undertaker and Harvest Golemor powerful end game board control with Water ElementalSludge Belcheror Cairne Bloodhoof.

This card is in this deck to compensate with the lack or mage card draw ( because Blizzard hasn't been very generous to us in that matter ). Feel free to replace an Arcane Intellect with one as it has better synergy in this deck ( obviously ), it just fits my play-style better but is far from being stronger.

Polymorph

The strength of this card in this meta is obvious; sheeping a deathrattle card will not trigger it's effect. Your hero power makes this card a 6 mana, "Silence and Kill an opponent minion". Which is quite nice. Try not to use it on small targets as it is important to keep it for the key big cards of each opponent. I have put the "best Polymorph target" in the Matchup section.

Remember the sheep is a beast so it is a potential Houndmaster target. While some might argue this card is worst than "Hex, i believe it is in reality far better as you'll be able to attack trough it. The 4 mana cost is only because of your hero power.

Fireball

What can i say ? When you think mage, you think Fireball. That's it. 6 damage for 4 mana makes it the strongest burst card and is what makes Mages, well, mages. Never seen a Mage deck without it.  

Contrary to the pure Aggro mage, the card is ok to be used on a minion if it helps you to keep board control. Concerning using it as burst damage, you should remember it's always better to kill the enemy by surprise as he'll become more defensive when he'll have a few HP left… And that's funnier too. 

Fireball

Flamestrike

Your only mass removal card and a powerful one as well. This card can turn the game around so drastically that it's a must have for a midrange Mage deck like ours. You must however think deeply before using it to get the best value as possible as you only have one Flamestrikein the whole deck. Using it on a lone minion can, however, be necessary in rare times.

Minions

Mage might seem to rely on powerful removal and burst spells but a deck isn't competitive without minions. And that's true in every card game. While you don't have that much creatures in this deck, they all have amazing value and will often trade 2 for 1 or better. 

Mana Wyrm

While being less dangerous than in my Aggro Mage deck, Mana Wyrm is still very for a 1 mana card, mulligan for it in all match ups. It has an insane value if you use it with "the coin" or follow it's summoning with a Frostbolt. I can't count how many rage quits i faced by making that card a 6/3. It must be my favourite Card in the whole game. As a bonus, it always make the opponent panic and he'll often waste a big removal for it. Try not to let it die too soon to let it snowball but don't hesitate to kill a 2 mana card with it if needed as that's still nice value. In my recent plays, it seems some curse was set upon it as it died 5 times on a Shieldbearer ( aka Dazdingo ). Well. That's a nice curse for me and that's a good example of what big value it can get.

Undertaker

While mage was often very dependent on early aggression with Mana Wyrm, Naxxaramas has brought us another powerful turn 1 card to scare the opponent. Undertaker is the best before a turn 2 Mad Scientist. Like Mana Wyrm, try not to suicide it too soon and try to make it snowball as much as possible. Remember in contrary to your magic snake, it's HP is also rising, thus, giving the ability to make surprise efficient trades.

Undertaker

Bloodmage Thalnos

Don't even imagine playing a mage deck without the bloodmage ( well that's my opinion as many have replaced him with a loot hoarder for more early game power ). This guy is extremely useful, gives magnificent value to Flamestrike and hides surprise burst if used with Frostbolt / Fireball.

But, if you got nothing to play turn 2 and got an Undertaker on board, you shouldn't hesitate to play it. In this deck, this guy should rarely be played as if it existed for spells but as if the effect was a plus.

Mad Scientist

While some might think this card was made for hunters, the best class to play Mad Scientist in is, in fact, Mage. Because mage's secrets are the most powerful and thus the most costly, the value of getting one with Mad Scientist is then far increased.

As Mages have very poor draw, this card is more than an amazing tempo gain. Perhaps, to understand its strength better, you should picture it's deathrattle as the effect of the pulled secret. No matter what secret it is, it's incredibly strong isn't it ?

Harvest Golem

You don't have much minions in this deck so having many sticky minions is key to keep board control. Interacts nicely with Undertaker and is often a strong turn 3 or even better coined turn 2. Nice Duplicate target in early game !

Kirin Tor Mage

Now, Mad Scientist is good, it is the card that makes Secret Mage so strong. But the thing is, sometimes, you have some secrets in your hands and can't afford the tempo loss of playing one. Kirin Tor Mage is there to cure it, and is perfect before an Ethereal Arcanist.

Ethereal Arcanist

Like Mana Wyrm and Undertaker, this is a powerful buff card that can snowball so quickly it can completely wreck your opponent if he has no answer. A perfect Counterspell-protected target or behind an Ice Block that will buff it indefinitely.

However, while it is true that, with a secret onboard, it overcomes the vanilla limits, you should not be afraid of playing it as a 3/3 if you have no other turn 3. It could make your opponent panic and give bad plays to try to destroy it.

Water Elemental

Even with no  this guy is still incredibly good, while having vanilla stats (3/6) that is extremely good against Zoo, it as an amazing effect, "Freezing any character in contact". With the weapon-heavy meta ( warriors and Hunters ) it can be extremely useful and completely wreck their plans. Freezing a dangerous minions also becomes possible and the opponent always has to think twice before attacking because he would then be stuck for another turn. I love to make  attack me against hunter as I then have all the time to plan a mass flame strike removal.

Water Elemental

Sludge Belcher

While i loathe this card because it has completely broken Aggro Mage, it fits so well in this deck and has so much synergy that it becomes necessary. The strength of this card is not that it's potentially a taunted 3/7, the thing is this card has taunt and leaves another taunt, meaning your opponent will have to waste two attacks / burst spells to destroy it. And this makes it a powerful card against Aggro and Combo as it'll make them lose much tempo while stopping their plans. It's a lovely duplicate target as it's a major hindrance for your opponent and it'll leave a 1/2 while being duplicated meaning you could easily fill the board with taunts. ( Aggro's worse nightmare )

Cairne Bloodhoof

Cairne is a necessary card for most midrange decks and, as the holder of a powerful deathrattle, fills his role pretty well in this deck. Dropping one against an empty board can give your opponent insane pressure and this card is often a 2 for 1 card so it fits the theme perfectly while being a reliable duplicate target.

Sylvanas Windrunner

As it is the only Golden Legendary card i didn't DE ( as a F2P player, you can't really afford to keep a Golden The Beast or Hogger ) it was an instant add into this deathrattle deck ( just for the style of playing a golden leg ). I really love this card because it can turn the board around extremely easily.

Can trigger itself when combined with a Fireballto steal a pesky Ragnaros the Firelord or force your opponent to fill the board with weak creatures, this card has nearly never any bad value. Remember that when multiple minions with Deathrattle die at the same time, their Deathrattles will activate in the order in which the minions were played. Yep that's a strange system but you should take it into consideration when playing or you'll have bad surprises ( so while running it into a Cairne Bloodhoof, always ping Sylvanas Windrunner after having attacked ).  

Secrets and Bluffing

I am an old "Yu-gi-oh!" player and as i am a "Trap card" fan ( secret equivalent ), i was quite disappointed to see so few secrets in Hearthstone ( I even once created a competitive deck based exclusively around traps ). But now that those few secrets become playable, I'd understand that it would be quite hard for a new-to-tcg/ccg player to play them well.

 The most important factor while playing this type of card is Bluff. Since i was small i was good at bluffing ( won any card game ) so that might be why i love traps that much, while in Hearthstone you don't see your opponent and it is therefore harder, all card games are easier won with good bluffing. And this apply with secrets. Try to make your opponent waste cards trying to figure out your secret, playing cheap spells/minions to avoid a Mirror Entity/Counterspell.

Your best friend is Ice Block as it is rarely played in those builds and so your opponent will have to test every possible secret-activator before being able to play normally. Try not to play more than 2 secrets at a time as your bluff will be blown off ( your opponent will know you have at least one Mirror Entity /Counterspelland will play around it ). The best is to have only one secret! It makes your opponent over-think and misplay. You should remember that secrets are not about value, but about surprise, it's not because they cost three mana that they should counter/copy/duplicate/stop at least a 3 mana worth play. They should be a surprise for your opponent and create a situation that wasn't in his plans.

Counterspell

Now, while some might not think it is politically correct, bluff can be used in another fashion. Because while Hearthstone doesn't permit sight and talk, it permits something else : emotes. And those grants anyone the ability to bluff. Launching a "Well played" when you don't have lethal ( after, for example, playing a Frostbolt, putting him inFireballrange ) can win unwinnable games once in a while (Now, it happens rarely but it happens, so it is to take into consideration.  . Saying "Thanks" / "Sorry" when your opponents makes a move or "Oops" when you do one can make his mind think accordingly, thus you might make him misplay. And creating those situations is easier than you think.

Mulligan

While you don't have that many low mana minions, starting with either Mana Wyrm or Undertaker ( or both, but don't be too greedy ) can be extremely devastating for your opponent. I'll be separating the early cards into two categories, the "Witch" opening and the "Necromancer" opening. You should remember Mana Wyrm effect snowballs quicker while Undertaker's is slower but has better stats increase.

Witch Opening 

The Witch opening makes use of the almighty Mana Wyrm to immediately create a powerful treat on board. It is stronger than Necromancer when having . The perfect follow-up is : 

Mana Wyrm

  • Turn 1 - Mana Wyrm
  • Turn 2 - Frostboltto kill the opponent's minion ( Mana Wyrm 2/3 : Breaks the Vanilla limit )
  • Turn 3 - Kirin Tor Mageinto Counterspell ( Mana Wyrm 3/3 )
  • Turn 4 - Ethereal Arcanist( Ethereal Arcanist 5/5 : breaks the vanilla limit )

Obvious changes if the  is possessed : Turn 2 Kirin Tor Mage is amazing while Mana Wyrm +  + Mana Wyrmis game winning.

Necromancer Opening 

The Necromancer opening makes use of the new Undertaker to slowly create a powerful board presence. This opening is stronger than the witch opening when you are starting first. The perfect follow-up is :

  • Turn 1 - Undertaker
  • Turn 2 - Mad Scientist( Undertaker 2/3 : breaks the vanilla limit )
  • Turn 3 - Harvest Golem( Undertaker 3/4 )
  • Turn 4 - Water Elemental ( to protect the board )

Mad Scientist

Now, combining Necromancer and Witch is of course as good as using only one but this is to help you understand your possibilities of action better. Altogether, it can be easily simplified : You should always mulligan for at least ( meaning either that or lower ) a 2 mana card when playing first and at least a 3 mana card when having the . The only secret worth keeping in your opening hand is Counterspell. And then again, i rarely keep it ( only against Hunters ).

Matchups

The "targets" and "times" i have indicated for the tricky cards of each matchup are not crucial. It is to say, you won't lose if you don't manage to play them at the right time, the thing is you'll win if you do ! I have ranked each class into the order of appearance according to the meta report as of today. 

Vs Hunter - Tight 

( Even in terms of affinity but extremely difficult in term of plays ) 

  • Duplicate target: Anything as long as you can keep the minions coming ! With a little preference for Sludge Belcher if you have reached late game.
  • Polymorph Target:  ( even better if taunted by a Houndmaster )
  • Counter-spell time: Turn 3 ( Animal Companion ) Turn 5 ( UTH combo )
  • Mirror Entity Time: Turn 5-6 ( Savannah Highmane )

Strategy

Savannah Highmane

Go go go ! Dominate the board with a strong early game ( Mana Wyrm and Undertaker ), play around his UTH combo by trying to keep never more than 2 minions on board and count his cards.

Always pay attention to his secrets so that he gets the less value possible of them, it's often pretty easy to guess which it is ( Explosive Trap if empty board + you have 2HP minions, Freezing Trap if you have one or two big minions ).

Never play more than one secret if you didn't play Counterspell as he'll be able to destroy them with Flare. Counterspell counters Flare so he won't draw a card, this can handicap him a lot if you played around his combo.

He'll often hero power so you won't last long if the matchup is slow. But that's actually the same for him: he has no way of getting out of a double fireball range ( for example ). To win this matchup, you'll need a better understanding of the deck than usual so I'd advice you to play 5-6 times using the "Reynald OP Hunter" in casual ( or in ranked, your rank won't drop, believe me ). It helps a lot. This matchup is "even" while being extremely difficult so think over each turn.

A card that works unexpectedly well in this matchup is Ice Block: it's one of your win conditions. Set up a burst to finish him in a few turn, protected by the kill-shield.

Vs Warriors - Favorable

  • Duplicate target: If you missed a powerful early game where any card is good as long as you can keep aggression, i like Water Elemental for weapon-lock and Sylvanas Windrunner for Legendary-steal abilities.
  • Polymorph Target: Leeegendaries ! Try to keep it for a big legendary as you won't be able to destroy them all with only minions.
  • Counter-spell time: Turn 5 ( Brawl ) or anytime to protect your board/big minion.
  • Mirror Entity Time: You can't have a really bad Mirror Entity target in this matchup ( at worst an Unstable Ghoul ) while you can get incredible ones in late game ( from turn 8-9 ) like Ysera or Grommash Hellscream. I'm having fun copying Armorsmith by the way, ( i have once gone up to 20 armor ) it cures your lack of heals and locks most of the Warrior's cards ( Whirlwind, Unstable Ghoul, etc…). I have once stolen the finish of a Warrior as my Ice Block blocked his 12/8 Grommash HellscreamMirror Entity brought it to my board and finished the opponent.

Grommash Hellscream

Strategy

While warriors will be able to clean your board during turn 5 ( which isn't such a problem as you have many death rattles ), Whirlwind won't be able to do much in the early game as you don't have many 1-2HP minions.

Always clean his creatures when you can do good trades while being aggressive. Instant kill Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain. We would have a harder time against the regular warriors but those are all prepared to fight hunters and that's good for us. What will be decisive in this matchup is the use of your secrets and the sustainability of your minions.

Early aggression can end this game really quick and good board control can make your opponent fall behind. Flamestrike will not have much use in this matchup so don't hesitate to play it if it becomes a 2 for 1 card. 

Vs Priest - Very Favorable

  • Duplicate target: Try to be extremely aggressive in early game ! Duplicate anything as long as you can rush him ! Cairne Bloodhoof is amazing too as he has 4 attack.
  • Polymorph Target: Over-Buffed minions or Legendaries !
  • Counter-spell time: Turn 4 ( Circle of Healing combo ) or Turn 5 ( Holy Nova ) : Counterspell is amazing in this matchup as priests rely on spells a lot. Countering nearly anything is good but can win you games if it intercepts his combos as Priest rely on them a lot.
  • Mirror Entity Time: Against both Priest and Warrior, Mirror Entity can't be bad. Even their Northshire Cleric is a good steal as it'll lock their minion Heal or force them to waste a removal on it. 
    Auchenai Soulpriest

Strategy 

Priests rely so heavily on spells and combos that Counterspellbecomes the best card in the matchup. Polymorph is amazing on buffed cards and it'll make your opponent cry. Play around his removals and try to make him waste his Shadow Word: Pain on early minions to protect Water Elemental ( and don't let Cabal Shadow Priest steal an Harvest Golem ! ). Thoughtsteal is a bit neutralized by the death-rattle/secret synergy ( he won't be able to do much of an Ethereal Arcanist ) but can still steal you powerful cards like Flamestrike or Fireball. However, you shouldn't play around that as the probability is quite weak. Like you, they haven't got much draw so instant kill any Northshire Cleric that sees the board. If you manage to lock their plays well with unexpected Secrets, this matchup should be a breeze as priests are all about combos.

Vs Warlock ( Zoo ) - Even

( Haven't seen any Handlock on ladder ) 

Leeroy Jenkins

  • Duplicate target: If by chance you can get a Water Elemental or a Sludge Belcher, then that wouldn't be too bad. Those are beefy, cheap, high-value minions. Don't duplicate Sylvanas Windrunner or Cairne Bloodhoof: they are too slow for this matchup.
  • Polymorph TargetDoomguard, Void Terror ( an amazing tempo-gain ), or a boosted Nerubian Egg.
  • Counter-spell time: Any time, they don't have much spells, this will either be able to clean a Soulfire or a Power Overwhelming so both can wreck their plan while, however, not making them lose much mana.
  • Mirror Entity Time: Anything is good ( there's not much amazing targets and you must win tempo, not the time to be greedy ) but don't play it if you have something else to do. Can win you games if you play it at the right time and mimic a Doomguard.

Strategy

This matchup depends a lot on your early hand and on whoever has the . Make the best trades as possible ( as Tempo is everything in this matchup ) and don't lose time playing secrets. Sludge Belcher and Water Elemental are key here as they set up amazing trades. If you arrive to a turn 7 Flamestrike while having more than 10HP, you can relax a bit as that is a prelude to your win. However, Zoo's speed to recover from a AOE spell is not to be underestimated and they can turn around the board extremely easily while you are still congratulating yourself from your play.

Vs Rogue ( Miracle ) - Favorable

  • Duplicate target: Water Elemental( weapon freeeze ! ), Sludge Belcher( A good card to stop his combo, count his sap to avoid a surprise finish when you were hiding comfortably behind this taunted Jabba the hutt )
  • Polymorph Target: The only creatures worth polymorphing are the same as the Mirror entity targets. ( It is to say Loatheb, Azure Drake and Gadgetzan Auctioneer. )
  • Counterspell time: When you are starting to have a board or Turn 6-7 to prevent a Gadgetzan Auctioneer play. However, remember Gadgetzan Auctioneer effect is still triggered by the countered spell.
  • Mirror Entity Time: From turn 5 to turn 7 as you'll see Loatheb, Azure Drake and Gadgetzan Auctioneerappearing. Copying Gadgetzan Auctioneer is an incredible play : you'll be able to draw next turn too when you'll Fireball/Flamestrike it.

Strategy

This is a pretty easy matchup as Ice Block is your win condition. While a Miracle rogue with good draws is unstoppable, your Counterspell will really wreck their plays and protect your board. You should have no hesitation to Flamestrike a stealthed Gadgetzan Auctioneer as this is one of the only use of the card in this matchup. Remember their finisher can do more than 20 damage so try to make him waste his damage on your minions while setting up taunts for the finish.

Vs Druid - Very Favorable

  • Duplicate target: Cairne BloodhoofSylvanas Windrunner
  • Polymorph Target: There so many good Polymorph target in this matchup that you should only play it either if it gives you a big tempo gain or if you had no other answers. If you can Fireball a target instead of sheeping it, then that's often better as you'll keep the polymorph for bigger creatures.
  • Counter-spell time: Turn 4 ( Swipe ) or Turn 9 ( Force of Nature wombo combo ) are both decisive play for your druid opponent
  • Mirror Entity Time: Mirror Entity is so good in this matchup ! Especially against taunt-heavy druids that recently came back to counter huntards. Turn 7 ( Ancient of Lore/War ), Turn 5 ( Druid of the Claw ) are both incredible copies that will protect your other minions.

Strategy

Winning against Druid is easy as soon as you have understood their possible plays. Their only silences are their Keeper of the Grove so try to bait them out with Undertaker or Mana Wyrm to protect your latter Cairne Bloodhoof or Sylvanas Windrunner. Play around swipe and, when arriving in the late turns, pay attention to the possibility of his combo ( 14 damage if empty board ) and always clean his board when you approach those times. You can make him concede if you Counterspell his combo. Ice Block is amazing in this matchup and is often a winning condition.

Shaman - Mage - Paladin 

Those three last matchups are extremely rare and all use different decks as no definite build have pierced so i won't be able to analyze them much. However, you are extremely favored against any Shaman Build ( Flamestrike, Ice Block ), on par with the other Secret Mages ( obviously ) where Counterspell is your best friend ( the one who uses its secrets the best will win so keep your  for his Counterspell ) and extremely favored as well against any Control Paladin ( Polymorph, Sylvanas Windrunner, Water Elemental ). Thus, you shouldn't worry about those too much. If you are having trouble with one of them, please tell me and i'll try to see what you are doing wrong.

Finishing notes

Thanks for having read my guide to the end. I hope I was able to cover up everything necessary but I'd be glad to answer any unanswered question.I believe secret mages are some of the funniest decks on the ladder and it would be fun to see a bit more of them.

While I think this is not the best meta for the deck because of Hunters and the deep thinking required for such matchup, the quantity of the Hunter-countering Control decks makes our deck work very well. If you manage to understand the plagued beast-user well , then nothing can stop you to go legend. I was able to manage a 77% win-rate from rank 7 to 1 

I have not tested this deck on legend ladder yet as I'm staying in the 5-1 ranks (having great fun winning against somebody then conceding last-minute) to try to improve my Aggro Mage for the next season climb (because legend is too different) but Sjow and Amaz have recently got nice success with a similar deck in the summit as there is fewer hunters and far more control against who this deck shines to the fullest. I suppose then that this deck is even better in legend and tournaments.

I hope it will bring you far during the last few days of the season and help you overcome any of your current walls. Have fun! Please leave any comments or questions in the section below!

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