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7 Point Highlander – An Introduction

Shortly after moving to Australia I was introduced to the wonderfully deep format of 7 Point Highlander (Hereafter 7PH). Having never heard of this format before, I quickly fell in love with it and now that I’ve learnt a lot more about it, wish to share this with the world.

The premise is simple; 60 card decks with 15 card sideboards with no card appearing more than once other than basic lands or a card that explicitly says it can such as Relentless Rats.
So far it seems like a more competitive version of Commander, but the big difference is in the title. Instead of a Banned list, any card that is legal in Vintage is legal in 7PH with decks not allowed to have any more than 7 points worth of cards between the main and sideboard. Due to the singleton nature and the points restriction, this format is less powerful than either Vintage or Legacy but is more powerful than Modern.

As you can imagine, some of the most powerful cards in Magic have high point totals attached to them. Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus each command a hefty 4 point investment. Some less powerful but extremely good cards command a lower investment such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor at 1 point. The full points list is available here and is updated by the dedicated Points Committee in line with the main B&R changes. While that may seem daunting at first, I will run through some of the common decks and point choices, with some advice for how to approach building a new deck.

Australia has built a very passionate community around 7PH and there are numerous tournaments every year in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, and Adelaide that award multiple dual lands or even a mox for the winners. It is due to this prize support and community that constant innovation and growth is made in the meta.

While there have been a lot of very different decks that have won these tournaments, the main pillars of the format, and an easy entry point for newer players in terms of difficulty to learn are the following:

Zoo

Based around cheap efficient creatures and removal with the points spent on powerful equipment and tutors, this deck is often built using a combination of Skullclamp, Umezawe’s Jitte, Stoneforge Mystic, Green Sun’s Zenith, Steelshaper’s Gift, Wasteland, and Stripmine. Mox Emerald is sometimes used instead of Wasteland / Stripmine.

Zoo

Lands: (21)
Plains
Treetop Village
Mountain
Horizon Canopy
Strip mine
Scrubland
Forest
Temple Garden
Stomping Ground
Sacred Foundry
Plateau
Savannah
Taiga
Scalding Tarn
Arid Mesa
Windswept Heath
Wooded foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest

Creatures: (27)
Goblin Guide
Steppe Lynx
Sunblade Elf
Figure of Destiny
Deathrite Shaman
Kird Ape
Loam Lion
Noble Hierarch
Soldier of the Pantheon
Wild Nacatl
Dryad Militant
Qasali Pridemage
Scavenging Ooze
Strangleroot Geist
Tarmogoyf
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Voice of Resurgence
Porcelain Legionnaire
Fleecemane Lion
Flinthoof Boar
Gaddock Teeg
Stoneforge Mystic
Loxodon Smiter
Knight of the Reliquary
Goblin Rabblemaster
Hallowed Spiritkeeper
Ghor-Clan Rampager

Spells: (12)
Green Sun's Zenith
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Chained to the rocks
Rancor
Skullclamp
Umezawa's Jitte
Boros Charm
Colossal Might
Selesnya Charm
Journey to Nowhere
Elspeth, Knight Errant

While a 7PH list can look daunting at first, it’s good to break it up into chunks and examine it just like any other constructed list. We have a powerful suite of 1 drop creatures, with some that have excellent utility later in the game such as Deathrite Shaman, Figure of Destiny, and Sunblade Elf. The 2 drop creatures are similar, most are excellent on turn 2 and this list contains some of the most powerful utility creatures and “hate bears”. Stoneforge Mystic is the MVP here, searching up Skullclamp against control and Umezawa’s Jitte against aggro decks. One powerful interaction with Skullclamp that this list doesn’t feature is Spirit of the Labyrinth. If you draw it early, your opponent can’t draw extra cards with Skullclamp or the various powerful blue draw spells and when you draw your own Skullclamp, you can equip it to start drawing cards yourself. The 3 drop creatures are often powerful enough to win the games by themselves then we have cheap, powerful removal and versatile spells with Elspeth, Knight Errant helping to finish off the opponent.

Sultai Control

This deck is sometimes known as Kurgan, named after the main antagonist in the Highlander movie. This archetype is a powerful choice based around board control and counter magic. These lists typically feature some of the most powerful Planeswalkers in Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Jace, Architect of Thought, Liliana of the Veil, and Garruk Relentless which all do double duty in board control against aggro and an excellent threat against control. The removal suite is often made up of versatile removal that matches up well against the threats in the format. Cards like Abrupt Decay, Engineered Explosives, Maelstrom Pulse, Diabolic Edict, and Toxic Deluge can deal with powerful creatures in aggro or threats like True Name Nemesis, Vendilion Clique, or Time Vault against control decks. Blue is used for the powerful card draw and counter magic. Finally the threats are powerful utility creatures and the Planeswalkers mentioned above. Tasigur, the Golden Fang has found a home here, along with Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Tarmogoyf, and even Thragtusk. There are a lot of choices in how to spend the points in Sultai decks. Often the decks are built using Ancestral Recall, Dig Through Time, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Force of Will, but Mana Drain, Treasure Cruise, True Name Nemesis, and Library of Alexandria are sometimes seen too, a combination of which are usually in place of Ancestral Recall when they do appear.

Lands: (23)
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Bayou
Underground Sea
Tropical Island
Breeding Pool
Watery Grave
Overgrown Tomb
Creeping Tar Pit
Island
Swamp
Forest

Creatures: (9)
Snapcaster Mage
True-Name Nemesis
Tarmogoyf
Gurmag Angler
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Baleful Strix
Vendilion Clique
Thrun, The Last Troll
Thragtusk

Spells: (28)
Mana Leak
Cryptic Command
Diabolic Edict
Counterspell
Mana Drain
Dig Through Time
Treasure Cruise
Force of Will
Dismember
Daze
Evasive Action
Serum Visions
Brainstorm
Thought Scour
Ponder
Preordain
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek
Mental Misstep
Snuff Out
Toxic Deluge
Abrupt Decay
Maelstorm Pulse
Jace, The Mind Sculptor
Garruk Relentless
Lilana of the Veil
Batterskull
Vedalken Shackles

There are also builds splashing white too for extra threats in Lingering Souls and Celestial Colonnade as well as more efficient creature removal such as Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares.

Blue Moon

An Archetype many of you may know from Modern, this deck gains a large number of powerful cards thanks to the vast card pool. While there are only Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon as actual Moons, Back to Basics functions as a third “Moon” effect and between these three and the often greedy mana bases of the format they can quickly lock out many decks from playing spells. From there, the strong suite of counter magic, removal, and cheap threats serve to maintain control and end the game with the excellent card draw helping to keep everything pieced together. While Ancestral Recall, Dig Through Time, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and Force of Will are once again the go to points of choice, there are some powerful options for those who eschew Ancestral Recall as noted above with Sultai plus also Muddle the Mixture which serves as a great counter plus tutor for Back to Basics, Snapcaster Mage, or Counterbalance if that is being run.

Lands: (24)
Academy Ruins
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
11 Island
Mishra’s Factory
Misty Rainforest
Mountain
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Volcanic Island
Wooded Foothills

Creatures: (10)
Phyrexian Metamorph
Wurmcoil Engine
Grim Lavamancer
Magus of the Moon
Snapcaster Mage
Trinket Mage
True-Name Nemesis
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant
Young Pyromancer

Spells: (26)
Batterskull
Engineered Explosives
Sensei’s Divining Top
Vedalken Shackles
Back to Basics
Blood Moon
Ancestral Recall
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Cryptic Command
Daze
Dig Through Time
Fire // Ice
Izzet Charm
Lightning Bolt
Magma Spray
Mana Leak
Mental Misstep
Shadow of Doubt
Spell Snare
Stifle
Dack Fayden
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Ral Zarek
Ponder
Preordain

Tinker

Commonly mono blue, this deck sometimes splashes black just for Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. The points are spent on Tinker in addition to a combination of Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Force of Will, and Mana Drain. This deck revolves around cheap cantrips and card filtering to find its namesake card, both Tezerrets to dig up powerful artifacts and counter magic to protect the few threats that it has.

Lands: (26)
16 Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Riptide Laboratory
Karakas
Seat of the Synod
Vault of Wispers
Ancient Den
Academy Ruins

Creatures: (10)
Treasure Mage
Wurmcoil Engine
Venser, Shaper Savant
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Kuldotha Forgemaster
Snapcaster Mage
Blightsteel Colossus
Inkwell Leviathan
Myr Battleshpere
Trinket Mage

Spells: (25)
Impulse
Mana Leak
Preordain
Sensei's Divining Top
Ponder
Vedalken Shackles
Show and Tell
Daze
Tezzeret the Seeker
Back to Basics
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Cryptic Command
Anticipate
Dig Through Time
Peer Through Depths
Chrome Mox
Treasure Cruise
Brainstorm
Mental Misstep
Thirst for knowledge
Misdirection
Counterpell
Miscalculation
Tinker
Mox Opal

UW Control

This archetype is often based on board control achieved through Planeswalkers and sweepers plus powerful enchantments such as Moat and Humility. These decks are unique amongst blue control decks in that they utilise Sol Ring to enable quick board control and the remaining points are spent on Jace, the Mind Sculptor plus a combination of Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, Mana Drain, Karakas, and Force of Will. Trinket Mage is a fantastic tutor, helping to find Engineered Explosives, Sol Ring, Sensei’s Divining Top, and also Pithing Needle after sideboarding.

Lands: (26)
Celestial Colonnade
Hollowed Fountain
Tundra
Riptide Laboratory
Karakas
Academy Ruins
Plains
Island
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest

Creatures: (6)
Snapcaster Mage
Baneslayer Angel
Venser, Shaper Savant
Trinket Mage
Academy Rector
Wurmcoil Engine

Spells: (28)
Treasure Cruise
Dig Through Time
Monastry Siege
Sphinx’s Revelation
Brainstorm
Ponder
Preordain
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Batterskull
Back to Basics
Sacred Mesa
Moat
Humility
Engineered Explosive
Unexpectedly Absent
Council’s Judgment
Wrath of God
Supreme Verdict
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Detention sphere
Banishing Light
Cryptic Command
Senseis Divining Top
Counterbalance
Oblivion Ring
Sol Ring

Ru Burn

While this is a recent addition to the gauntlet, it looks to be a very powerful deck and a great option depending on the Meta. Taking the most efficient red creatures and burn spells in all of Magic along with splashing blue for the best card draw available makes this a consistent performer. Ancestral Recall, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time keep the gas flowing with True Name Nemesis demanding an immediate answer, the blue splash adds a lot to help push this deck over the edge.

Lands: (23)
Volcanic Island
Steam Vents
Scalding Tarn
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Sulfur Falls
Shivan Reef
Island
Mishra’s Factory
Cascade Bluffs
Barbarian Ring
Mountain

Creatures: (12)
Goblin Guide
Figure of Destiny
Grim Lavamancer
Monastery Swiftspear
Stromkirk Noble
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Delver of Secrets
Young Pyromancer
Snapcaster mage
Keldon Mauraders
Magus of the Moon
True Name Nemesis

Spells: (25)
Koth of the Hammer
Lighning Bolt
Burst Lightning
Chain Lightning
Firebolt
Rift Bolt
Searing Blaze
Searing Blood
Searing Spear
Sonic Burst
Incinerate
Fireblast
Stoke the Flames
Flame Rift
Ancestral Recall
Price of Progress
Cryoclasm
Smash to Smithereens
Brainstorm
Dig Through Time
Treasure Cruise
Blood Moon
Shrine of Burning Rage
Sulfuric Vortex
Ankh of Mishra

Workshop

Built around fast mana and powerful artifacts, this deck utilises the power of Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, and Tolarian Academy as well as less powerful fast mana to enable a quick Karn, Ugin, or high cost artifact to take over the game. The combination of Wasteland, Dust Bowl, and Crucible of Worlds can lock out many players in the format. Jace often makes an appearance in these decks due to the high power level of the card.

Lands: (22)
Mishra’s Workshop
Tolarian Academy
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Deserted Temple
Ancient Tomb
Academy Ruins
Tree of Tales
Darksteel Citadel
Great Furnace
Seat of the Synod
Vault of Whispers
Crystal Vein
Glimmervoid
Island
Tolaria West
Underground Sea
Buried Ruin
Dust Bowl
Wasteland
Volcanic Island
Bazaar of Baghdad
Badlands

Creatures: (5)
Lodestone Golem
Trinket Mage
Phyrexian Metamorph
Wurmcoil Engine
Myr Battlesphere

Spells: (33)
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Thran Dynamo
Grim Monolith
Everflowing Chalice
Dimir Signet
Expedition Map
Mox Opal
Prophetic Prism
Coalition Relic
Izzet Signet
Karn Liberated
Tezzeret the Seeker
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Crucible of Worlds
Smokestack
Ensnaring Bridge
Contagion Clasp
Tangle Wire
Trinisphere
Coercive Portal
Batterskull
Uba Mask
Sensei’s Divining Top
Voltaic Key
Thoughtcast
Thirst for Knowledge
Transmute Artifact
Maze of Ith
Daretti, Scrap Savant
Talisman of Dominance

Bant Clamp

This archetype is similar to Zoo with the solid base of Green and White creatures and removal but instead of the speed offered by Red, it has a bit more resilience thanks to Jace, True Name Nemesis, and counter magic. Due to the higher curve, Bant features a collection of the best mana creatures rather than the high power 1 drops that are prevalent in Zoo. Thanks to the powerful mana fixing available in 7PH, many players have recently taken to splashing black for Lingering Souls, Abrupt Decay, and Tasigur. Trinket Mage is sometimes used as a 0 point tutor for Skullclamp.

Lands: (22)
Forest
Plains
Yavimaya Coast
Scrubland
Underground Sea
Bayou
Savannah
Tundra
Tropical Island
Breeding Pool
Hallowed Fountain
Temple Garden
Marsh Flats
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Arid Mesa
Windswept Heath
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire

Creatures: (25)
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Deathrite Shaman
Fyndhorn Elves
Birds of Paradise
Arbor Elf
Noble Hierarch
Mother Of Runes
Tarmogoyf
Voice of Resurgence
Strangleroot Geist
Qasali Pridemage
Stoneforge Mystic
Scavenging Ooze
Snapcaster Mage
Eternal Witness
Kitchen Finks
Blade Splicer
True-Name Nemesis
Vendillion Clique
Lingering Souls
Restoration Angel
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Garruk Relentless
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Elspeth, Knight Errant

Spells: (13)
Skullclamp
Umezawa's Jitte
Brainstorm
Mental Misstep
Daze
Evasive Action
Counterspell
Mana Drain
Bant Charm
Council's Judgement
Abrupt Decay
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares

Combo Decks

Combo decks within 7PH can be a work of art. The lists are similar to the Aggro / Midrange / Control lists above in that they can be broken down into definite categories such as card draw, tutors, or fast mana, however the decks themselves are often more challenging to pilot as they can take a lot of experience to figure out when to go off and knowledge of the possible counterspells from opposing blue decks.

Storm

Thanks to a large card pool to draw from, there is a surprising amount of redundancy in the fast mana and cantrips. Black Lotus and Yawgmoth’s Will require the full 7 points so the rest of the list is built around the unpointed artifact mana, card draw, and tutors. Just like other storm lists, the idea is to spend a few turns setting up, usually through cantrips. Once the perfect hand is sculpted then you win by casting as many spells as possible in one turn, ending with one of the powerful storm spells. Yawgmoth’s Will, Doomsday, and Past in Flames are all likely to end the game when cast too.

Lands: (18)
Polluted Delta
Verdant Catacombs
Bloodstained Mire
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Underground Sea
Scrubland
Tropical Island
Bayou
Volcanic Island
Badlands
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Sulfur Vent
Ancient Spring
Sandstone Needle
Peat Bog
Saprazan Skerry

Spells: (42)
Brain Freeze
Tendrils of Agony
Empty the Warrens
Mind's Desire
Yawgmoth's Will
Past in Flames
Necropotence
Doomsday
Gitaxian Probe
Ponder
Preordain
Brainstorm
Sensei's Divining Top
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Darkwater Egg
Manamorphose
Impulse
Strategic Planning
Peer through Depths
Night's Whisper
Frantic Search
Silence
Abeyance
Gamble
Land Grant
Rhystic Tutor
Grim Tutor
Chrome Mox
Mox Diamond
Lion's Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Black Lotus
Helm of Awakening
Grim Monolith
Rite of Flame
Dark Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Pyretic Ritual
Desperate Ritual
Seething Song
Channel The Suns

Draw 7s

This deck is built to abuse fast mana. Fastbond, Tolarian Academy, Memory Jar, Time Spiral, Timetwister, and Mana Vault make up the points. Through the abundance of artifact mana and Tolarian Academy, this deck is capable of producing incredible amounts of mana very early. Cunning Wish and Living Wish both end the game through Blue Sun’s Zenith and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn respectively. Rings of Brighthearth helps to facilitate infinite mana in a variety of ways, as well as also drawing additional cards with Sensei’s Divining Top. Fastbond + Zuran Orb + Crucible of Worlds is also infinite mana and infinite life. Defense Grid and Tangle Wire provide some disruption to ensure this deck can combo without interruption.

Lands: (19)
Tolarian Academy
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Mishra's Workshop
Ancient Den
Tree of Tales
Seat of the Synod
Great Furnace
Darksteel Citadel
Rishadan Port
Yavimaya Coast
Tropical Island
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Petrified Field
Tolaria West
Simic Growth Chamber
Glacial Chasm
Minamo, School at Water's Edge
Deserted Temple

Creatures: (3)
Drift of Phantasms
Trinket Mage
Eternal Witness

Spells: (38)
Memory Jar
Timetwister
Time Reversal
Time Spiral
Zuran Orb
Mana Vault
Aether Spellbomb
Sensei's Divining Top
Expedition Map
Voltaic Key
Mox Diamond
Mox Opal
Candelabra of Tawnos
Grim Monolith
Simic Signet
Talisman of Unity
Talisman of Impulse
Gruul Signet
Selesnya Signet
Prophetic Prism
Defense Grid
Chromatic Lantern
Basalt Monolith
Rings of Brighthearth
Crucible of Worlds
Tangle Wire
Fastbond
Crop Rotation
Sylvan Scrying
Living Wish
Transmute Artifact
Frantic Search
Ghostly Flicker
Cunning Wish
Tempt with Discovery
Reap and Sow
Tezzeret the Seeker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Balance

The basic idea is to set up with suspend creatures and lands that can be sacrificed for additional benefit then either cast Balance or one of the cascade spells that always ends with Balance or Restore Balance. Due to the limitation on casting costs within this deck thanks to Cascade, there were few options for card draw prior to the printing of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. These have made the deck a viable contender, although it can still be a dangerous choice in a field comprising of blue based control.

Lands: (24)
Abandoned Outpost
Ancient Spring
Archaeological Dig
Bog Wreckage
Crystal Vein
Dwarven Ruins
Ebon Stronghold
Gemstone Mine
Geothermal Crevice
Havenwood Battleground
Horizon Canopy
Irrigation Ditch
Ravaged Highlands
Ruins of Trokair
Sulfur Vent
Svyelunite Temple
Timberland Ruins
Tinder Farm
Teferi’s Isle
Wintermoon Mesa
Saprazzan Skerry
Peat Bog
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Hickory Woodlot

Creatures: (13)
Shardless Agent
Greater Gargadon
Errant Ephemeron
Corpulent Corpse
Durkwood Baloth
Nihilith
Keldon Halberdier
Riftwing Cloudskate
Shivan Sand-Mage
Aeon Chronicler
Vendilion Clique
Psychatog
Tasigur the Golden Fang

Spells: (23)
Ardent Plea
Demonic Dread
Violent Outburst
Balance
Restore Balance
Balancing Act
Coalition Relic
Unmask
Force of Will
Misdirection
Liliana of the Veil
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace, Architect of Thought
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Beast Within
Counterflux
Chaos Warp
Thirst for Knowledge
Compulsive Research
Dig through Time
Treasure Cruise

There are numerous more combo decks that people have created in this format, many of which can take a while to understand the complexities involved.

You may have noticed by now that none of the lists I’ve displayed have included Sideboards, not even the one that had wishes. The reason for this is that adding a further 15 singletons to what already looks complex is only going to make it more challenging to quickly understand the deck.
Sideboarding in this format is similar to any other format in magic. Thanks to a vast card pool, there are numerous cards that can change a matchup and have similar options to choose from helping to reduce the natural variance of a singleton format. Duress, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek are often seen together. Baneslayer Angel and Blood Baron provide formidable threats against Zoo or Bant. Wrath of God, Supreme Verdict, and Day of Judgment all sweep the board.
When building a sideboard, work out which matchups you want to bring what types of cards in for, and find the appropriate cards that fit that.

A great way to approach building a new deck in the format is to start by figuring out what style of deck you want to play, and if it’s a combo then what the main pieces are for the combo. Figuring out which points to play can be daunting, but comes more easily as you break down the pointed cards into their various categories. Aggro decks are likely to want Skullclamp, Jitte, and the equipment tutors plus either a Mox or Wasteland / Stripmine. Control decks usually utilise the card draw and counter magic, sometimes using Sol Ring for the tap-out style decks. Combo decks are after either the fast mana, critical parts of their combo, tutors, or a mixture of these. Then comes the deckbuilding. It is often vital to have a plan to deal with a wide range of potential threats, even if that plan is to kill your opponent faster. Redundancy is key for most decks. If the deck idea you have already exists in a similar fashion in Modern, Legacy, or Vintage that is usually a great starting point. Thanks to the number of similar cards that have been printed, it can be easier than you’d think to port an existing deck idea.

For those of you who are interested in growing this format in your own city, I recommend starting a league that allows proxies. We currently have leagues running back to back in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney with no restriction on proxies. These have been popular enough to be able to award Moxen, Dual Lands, Time Vaults, and other valuable cards. Despite the ability for players to change deck every 2 rounds, many have been playing the same archetype with minimal changes throughout multiple leagues and often work towards owning the entire deck that they’ve grown attached to.

Proxy some of these decks up and have a blast playing against friends in a competitive format that has enough variation within games to stay entertaining.

  • Anonymous

    Seems like a fun format, if I were to ever play I think I would try to make some kind of bogle-esque list

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