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Category Archives: Death Knight

Death Knight Tanking: Frost

[NOTE: This post is meant to cover you only up to level 60.]
[NOTE 2: I have updated the spec details and link for level 60 to help you in tanking Outlands instances. Removed Acclimation 1/3 with Lichborne 1/1. Details below.]

Psynister_DK_65



Introduction
As I write this article, my Frost DK is currently sitting at level 65. The image below will update itself as the Armory information is updated though, so you may see him at a higher level in that picture when you read this. The picture updates, but the Psynister I leveled for this series of posts made it to level 80 and then got deleted and replaced with a new one, which isn’t being leveled as Frost.



About a week or so ago I posted about A Death Knight Tank, one named Khanus in particular, and how how that DK inspired me to want to finally make a DK of my own and actually focus on leveling him as a tank to see for myself just how hard it would be to successfully fill that role with a DK.

I planned on leveling a DK sometime within the next couple of months or so, but circumstances changed a bit here and there and I decided to roll him early rather than waiting. I’m pretty well known for my patience outside of the game, but for some reason when I’m in a virtual world that aspect of my personality disappears and when I want something I want it now. I didn’t have a character named Psynister on this server just yet, so that’s how this fellow came to be.

I didn’t want to be just another Death Knoob out there, so when I got started with this guy I did my research first and smashed faces later. I did a lot of reading on different blogs and forums to get everyone’s general views of how to tank with a DK and I found a lot of really good information out there. I found a lot of bad/old information as well, but we don’t need to waste our time with that.

General Tanking Information
The first thing that I want to throw at you here, besides the unnecessarily long introduction up above, is that all three of a DK’s talent trees are capable of tanking. You can find that little tidbit of information just about anywhere you look for tanking info.

That being said, only Frost and Blood are really considered to be high end tanking specs at this time. Recent nerfs to Unholy have reduced their effectiveness. That doesn’t mean they can’t still do it, especially if an experienced player is behind the keyboard, but if you’re new to DK tanking then stick with Frost or Blood.



Tanking with a DK is different than tanking with other classes. You don’t really have a set rotation you’re going to go through (sorry, no 96969 business over here), and while you do have two taunts, one of them has a long cooldown and both of them are only single target. So you can’t slip into a single style of play and assume that it’s going to work for you all the time. You need to be flexible, and you need to be able to react to the situation as it changes.

Death Knights have a very unique system of resources as well, having to manage both a Runic Power pool and a Runic system as well. Managing those can be tricky at first, and using abilities without being aware of their Rune costs can completely kill your ability to act as a tank. Focusing too much on your Runes though makes you waste your Runic Power, which means you’re throwing away additional DPS which in turn is throwing away threat. It sounds pretty complicated, and when you’re new to it it certainly seems that way, but the longer you play with it the more natural it will become.

Frost Tanking Basics
I was misinformed from previous playing experience and discussions prior to the two or three most recent patches, that Unholy was the main spec for AoE tanking. However, the real king of AoE threat generation comes from the Frost tree.

Frost tanks have two primary styles of play: single disease, and dual disease. You also have the option of using either a two-handed weapon for big hits, or dual wielding weapons for additional stats and smaller, but faster attacks. My personal style of playing works better with dual diseases right now, and up to this point I have only tried two-handed tanking and so cannot comment on the dual wielding yet. [Dual Wielding is covered in the follow up post, however.]

Frost Tanking Spec
Alright, it’s time to get a little more specific about how to tank with the Frost DK, and the first order up on that list is what sort of spec you should be running. As I mentioned, I did a lot of research before I actually rolled this character, and the spec I am using is what I felt was the best route for me to take after that research.

DK_FrostTank_60b




Alternate (Recommended) Spec for Level 60
This is a revised spec for level 60. After spending five days doing almost nothing but running random dungeons and leveling my professions I needed to make a change.

The change isn’t huge but it is significant, especially for the mid-to-upper sixties. I removed the single point in Acclimation and replaced it with Lichborne, which makes you immune to Charm, Fear, and Sleep effects for 10 seconds. When you run randoms in your 60s you are going to run into a lot of Fear effects. Enough so that my human racial and my PvP trinket were not enough to take off all of the fear at times.

The magic-based damage reduction from Acclimation isn’t bad, it just didn’t provide enough benefit (especially with only one of the three possible points spent in it) for me to take it over Lichborne given how often I had to deal with fear and how seldom I had to deal with spell casters.

Improved Icy Touch 3/3: Your Icy Touch does an additional 15% damage and your Frost Fever reduces melee and ranged attack speed by an additional 6%.

Toughness 5/5: Increases your armor value from items by 10% and reduces the duration of all movement slowing effects by 30%.

Black Ice 5/5: Increases your Frost and Shadow damage by 10%.

Annihilation 3/3: Increases the critical strike chance of your melee special abilities by 3%. In addition, there is a 100% chance that your Obliterate will do its damage without consuming diseases.

Killing Machine 5/5: Your melee attacks have a chance to make your next Icy Touch, Howling Blast or Frost Strike a critical strike. Effect occurs more often than Killing Machine (Rank 4).

Chill of the Grave 2/2: Your Chains of Ice, Howling Blast, Icy Touch and Obliterate generate 5 additional runic power.

Frigid Dreadplate 3/3: Reduces the chance melee attacks will hit you by 3%.

Glacier Rot 3/3: Diseased enemies take 20% more damage from your Icy Touch, Howling Blast and Frost Strike.

Deathchill 1/1: When activated, makes your next Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike or Obliterate a critical hit if used within 30 sec.

Rime 3/3: Increases the critical strike chance of your Icy Touch and Obliterate by 15% and casting Obliterate has a 15% chance to reset the cooldown on Howling Blast and cause your next Howling Blast to consume no runes.

Hungering Cold 1/1: Purges the earth around the Death Knight of all heat. Enemies within 10 yards are trapped in ice, preventing them from performing any action for 10 sec and infecting them with Frost Fever. Enemies are considered Frozen, but any damage other than diseases will break the ice.

Improved Frost Presence 2/2: While in Blood Presence or Unholy Presence, you retain 6% stamina from Frost Presence, and damage done to you is decreased by an additional 2% in Frost Presence.

Blood of the North 3/3: Increases Blood Strike and Frost Strike damage by 10%. In addition, whenever you hit with Blood Strike or Pestilence there is a 100% chance that the Blood Rune will become a Death Rune when it activates. Death Runes count as a Blood, Frost or Unholy Rune.

Acclimation 1/3: When you are hit by a spell, you have a 10% chance to boost your resistance to that type of magic for 18 sec. Stacks up to 3 times. [Revision: Replaced by Lichborne]

Lichborne 1/1: Draw upon unholy energy to become undead for 10 sec. While undead, you are immune to Charm, Fear and Sleep effects. [Revision: Replaces Acclimation]

Frost Strike 1/1: Instantly strike the enemy, causing 55% weapon damage plus 137.5 as Frost damage.

Guile of Gorefiend 3/3: Increases the critical strike damage bonus of your Blood Strike, Frost Strike, Howling Blast and Obliterate abilities by 45%, and increases the duration of your Icebound Fortitude by 6 secs.

Tundra Stalker 5/5: Your spells and abilities deal 15% more damage to targets infected with Frost Fever. Also increases your expertise by 5.

Howling Blast 1/1: Blast the target with a frigid wind dealing 518 to 562 Frost damage to all enemies within 10 yards.

Glyphs
Glyph of Howling Blast: [Major] Your Howling Blast ability now infects your targets with Frost Fever.
Glyph of Frost Strike: [Major] Reduces the cost of your Frost Strike by 8 Runic Power.
Glyph of Disease: [Major] Your Pestilence ability now refreshes disease durations on your primary target back to their maximum duration.

Glyph of Pestilence: [Minor] Increases the radius of your Pestilence effect by 5 yards.
Glyph of Raise Dead: [Minor] Your Raise Dead spell no longer requires a reagent.

I am currently using Disease over Howling Blast because I really enjoy AoE grinding while I quest, but as far as tanking goes Howling Blast is probably going to be better for you overall if you plan on sticking primarily to dungeons or questing with groups rather than solo questing and grinding. I am also using the Death Strike glyph in place of Frost Strike to test it, but I’m going to replace it tonight because I completely misread what it did and get very little benefit from it where reducing the runic cost of Frost Strike will grant me more threat generation during boss fights.

As for the minor glyphs, you want those two glyphs and you want them before any others. Pestilence is higher priority than Raise Dead, so if you are only able to get one of them for some reason, go for Pestilence.

Tanking Trash (Up to level 60)
Trash tanking is where all of your AoE spells really shine. The other members of your group dictate where your AoE spells get cast in your “rotation”, whether you need to front load the AoE threat or if you’ll have to time to start and spread your diseases first.

The research I did frequently pointed out that being able to react to your situation is the key to being a good DK tank, and I have found that to be entirely true. As such, I have developed my own rotation here for what works well for me, based solely on how I like to play. There may very well be a better rotation to use out there, but this is what works for me.

Disease Rotation: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Pestilence, Howling Blast, Blood Boil
Heavy AoE Rotation: (Icy Touch), Blood Boil, Blood Boil, Howling Blast, Pestilence

I prefer using the disease rotation because it gives me the most control over threat during the fight and it gives me the chance to use my AoE spells on other groups of mobs that might get pulled in unintentionally for whatever reason. A lot of people like to power level through vanilla content and then start grouping in Outlands having no idea how to participate in a group.

I would like to say that most of my pulls go off smoothly without having to worry about patrolling mobs or accidental agro, but that’s not the case. I’ve found in my experiences in Outlands so far that it’s better for me to stick with the Disease Rotation up above so that I can hit the AoE spells for instant threat on bad pulls rather than blowing them all at the front of the fight with my intentional pull and then having to run around generating crazy threat on multiple mobs that are chasing my healer.

In the Heavy AoE Rotation I put Icy Touch in parenthesis because if you have the Glyph of Howling Blast then that spell will apply the disease for you which is the main reason I suggest casting it. If you don’t have the glyph then cast Icy Touch first to both establish a disease that can be spread immediately after the AoE as well as to build a solid level of threat on at least one of the mobs in case things don’t work as planned.

Howling Blast is going to deal AoE damage in a radius centered on the target you cast it on while Blood Boil is going to deal AoE damage centered on you. So when you cast Blood Boil, make sure you’re near the mobs that you need to generate the threat on or else you’re wasting the cast.

I most often use the AoE rotation when additional mobs get pulled that I was not intending to have to deal with, which is primarily a patrol in a dungeon I’m not especially familiar with and as such did not see. When a group of mobs comes in that I wasn’t expecting I move in the direction that the mobs are moving, and use my AoE spells on them.

I start off with the double-Blood Boil because when these pulls happen the mobs are almost always already mixed into the group and heading for the healer or whoever may have pulled them, and that usually means that the mobs are right next to me. If the mobs get pulled and are not already next to you then you can either use Howling Blast instead, you can run towards them and use Blood Boil, or you can wait for them to get closer to you and Blood Boil from where you are (if they have to get through you to get to whoever their target is). By default I will run towards the mobs to hit them with the AoE threat because that puts me right in the middle of them and better able to react to the situation in case my Blood Boil misses, it gets me closer to other mobs that might have been outside the range when I used the AoE, and if my AoE burst isn’t enough to put me at the top of the threat list then I’m close enough to throw another one at them immediately.

Tanking Bosses
Tanking bosses is a whole different ballgame all together. Since our strongest method of generating threat on trash mobs is AoE we have to completely switch our rotation to build and maintain maximum threat on a single target. This is where your other spells are going to come into play and where you’re going to refresh your diseases by casting the basic spells that apply them (Icy Touch and Plague Strike) rather than refreshing them by using the Glyph of Disease or using Howling Blast to reapply your Frost Fever.

I like to load a lot of DPS onto a boss at the beginning of the fight and then settle into a rotation.

Boss Rotation: Icy Touch, Plague Strike, Blood Strike, Blood Strike, Death Strike, Frost Strike

When you are about to pull a boss, you want to be sure to use your Deathchill buff which gives you a guaranteed crit with your next Icy Touch, and starting with a crit is great for building your initial threat. Deathchill’s crit boost also works for Howling Blast (if the boss has adds so you pull with AoE), Frost Strike (if you have runic power built up to use it right away), and Obliterate (level 61) spells if you decide to pull with those instead. I would personally use either Icy Touch of Howling Blast for the initial pull, and since IT requires only a single Frost Rune it gets my vote for being the spell of choice unless the boss has adds that will also be hit with Howling Blast.

Plague Strike is the second attack and requires you to be within melee range, but deals Shadow damage to the boss and applies your second disease, Blood Plague.

Blood Strike is a great way to boost your threat, and since we have both of our diseases applied it’s a perfect time to use it. Blood Strike deals an extra 12.5% damage for each disease you have on the target, so using it after IT and PS grants an extra 25% to the Blood Strike’s damage.

Because of the cooldown situation of our runes, the next spell on the list is going to be Death Strike which will damage as well as healing you for 5% of your maximum health for each disease on the target; Since we have two diseases applied, that means we’re healing ourselves for 10%. You may need the heal, you may not, but the attack is dealing damage regardless which will build threat and the heal is just an added bonus. If you started the fight off with some runic power already built up then you can skip this attack and move on to Frost Strike instead.

Frost Strike comes up next to make use of our Runic Power (RP). Assuming you hit with the previous spells you should have enough RP built up to use this when starting the fight with no RP at all, even if you are not using the glyph. This is a nice, hard hitting attack to use up your RP. Your only other option for using RP at this level is Death Coil, which is a decent attack that can be used at range, but I prefer sticking with Frost Strike unless something causes me to be distanced from the boss.

At level 60 you don’t have access to Obliterate just yet, so for now you are going to rotate between the spells already mentioned. When your diseases are getting ready to fall off, go ahead and reapply them with Icy Touch and Plague Strike (even if you have the Glyph of Disease), make use of Blood Strike whenever your blood runes are available, keep your RP down around 20-40 by making use of Frost Strike, and when you feel like you need a boost to your health go ahead and take advantage of Death Strike for the 10% heal.

If you are facing a boss that has an attack such as Fear, knock back, stun, or something that otherwise has a chance of putting distance between yourself and the boss, then you may want to make use of the time to get back to melee range of the boss by casting Death Coil. Your two ranged attacks right now are Icy Touch, Death Coil, and Howling Blast so if you get separated from the boss go ahead and make use of one of them while you move back in so that you continue to generate what threat you can while closing back in. I recommend Death Coil first, Icy Touch second, and Howling Blast third for the sake of making the best use of your resources.

If anyone manages to pull threat off of you then your only option for this level range to taunt them with is Death Grip. Since this is the only “taunt” we have right now I never use Death Grip for pulling a boss unless it’s absolutely necessary. If one of the dps pulls the boss off of me by jumping the gun then I will use it at that time, but using it to start the fight off seems like a bit of a waste to me, so I save it until it’s needed. For trash pulls, Death Grip is fine to use whenever needed, especially to get a caster within melee range, but for bosses I like to save it. There’s nothing wrong with casting Death Grip to start off a boss fight, but from my experience it’s unnecessary and better saved for a time when it’s actually needed.

Watch Your Buffs
I want to point out that the spec that I suggest above gives you a couple of buffs that you need to keep an eye out for.

Killing Machine: This talent gives your auto-attacks a chance to make your next Frost attack (Icy Touch, Howling Blast, Frost Strike) an auto-crit.

Rime: This talent gives you the Freezing Fog buff which makes your next Howling Blast cost no runes to cast.

You don’t want to miss out on free critical hits, and you don’t want to miss out on free AoE damage. Better yet, you don’t want to miss out on free AoE damage that will automatically crit if you happen to have both of them proc at the same time.

Killing Machine is a PPM (Procs Per Minute) buff, meaning that it can only happen so many times each minute. Because of this you are going to have a higher chance of getting this buff by using a slow, two-handed weapon than you will from dual wielding and/or using fast weapons. Killing Machine isn’t taken quite so often by dual wielding Frost tanks, so if you are not using a big two-hander then you may want to consider spending those five talent points in Icy Talons instead to reduce your target’s attack speed while also increasing your own, and you may swap the one point in Acclimation to Improved Icy Talons to provide a melee haste buff to your party as well as a constant haste buff to yourself.

Because of the Death Knight’s unique resource system(s), you need to be able to manage both resources without digging yourself into a hole of inactivity where all of your runes are on cooldown and you have no runic power to use. Using your Runes too fast on low damage or low threat spells is not going to pay off for you in Runic Power. Similarly, though somewhat opposite, not using your Runic Power means that you’re wasting the resources generated by your Rune abilities. Use your Rune powers to deal the damage you need to supply your Runic Power, and then burn through your Runic Power while your Runes are cooling down. Keeping that cycle up is how you manage a constant stream of threat on your targets.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Death Knight, Guide, Leveling

 

Tags: , ,

Real PUGs of Power: Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys

Over the weekend I decided to go ahead and roll that Death Knight Tank I had mentioned last week. I have a post in progress to discuss the details of tanking with a Frost DK that should be coming out sometime this week, but if you want details on him right now then you can check out his armory link: Psynister. I bet you didn’t see that name coming, did you?

Today I want to tell you about an especially great group that I found myself in over the weekend. Generally when I queue for a random I run the dungeon and then regardless of how good/bad we did I go ahead and leave group and go find fresh group all together. That seems to be the norm from how quickly most people drop group after the final boss is down.

There was something different about this group though, so I went ahead and stuck with them. I think three of us asked at about the same time after the first run if everyone was up for another. With some amount of surprise from me everyone said yes. The second dungeon went down and we queued up as a group again. I think all together we did three dungeons, but there may have been a fourth in there as well.

I think as a group we functioned extremely well in the dungeons that we ran, and it was interesting to see that even though both the warrior and myself were queued for both Tank and DPS, the role of Tanking was mine every time we queued. I’ve seen the LFG tool swap people’s positions before so I know it can change, but every time it came up as mine.

Generally I like to keep my Real PUGs of Power posts to a single person, but this group worked so well together that I’m throwing them all in there together. Deciding on the title was a bit of a challenge this time since it’s about four people instead of only one, but it works for me even if it is a bit awkward. With four people deserving some praise, I initially was just going to write a regular post about it, but I think something like this shows a bit more sincerity when I say thank you.

Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys
Bethannie, Druid Heals
Nikedawg, Warrior DPS
Aldy, Mage DPS
Adolat, Priest DPS

Psynister’s Notebook presents: Real PUGs of Power

(Real PUGs of Poweeeer)

Today we salute you Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Win’s Guys.

(Mr. I Had A Group Full Of Wiiiinn’s Guys!)

You’ve shown us how a real group clears an instance.
With DoT’s, HoT’s, AoE’s, and Whirlwinds.

(I think we could one-shot Arthas!)

Taking down bosses and trash mobs with ease,
And acknowledging the strengths of every member.

(Great job with the heals!)

Pathing mobs get pulled, no problem.
Mage’s pet was set to aggressive, who cares?
The tank got mind controlled? Lets bring him down!

(Dang it, I wanted to kill him!)

So crack open an ice cold Frost Tank’s heart, you group full of epic win.
There’s no such thing as an unbeatable instance, when the five of you group together.

(Mr. I Had A Group Full of Wiiiinn’s Guys!)

PuG_of_Power_DK1

In case you’re wondering, yes the warrior did really try to kill me when I got mind controlled just before the boss in that screen shot went down. We were both trying to fill that tank spot each time we queued, and he never got it. I planned to give him the chance regardless in the next run since I have yet to be chosen as DPS, but the group needed to split right after that boss, so I never got the chance. It was all in good fun (at least, I think it was…) and I think we all had a great time and enjoyed the group.

Hopefully luck will be on my side and I’ll find myself queued up with them another time in the future.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on February 9, 2010 in Death Knight, Leveling, Real PUGs of Power

 

Tags: ,

A Death Knight Tank

After fourteen months of waiting, I have finally stumbled onto a Death Knight tank that doesn’t suck. Actually, we have a couple of DK tanks in my new guild that are actually very good as well, but this post isn’t about my guild, it’s about a Death Knight I found in a random heroic PuG. I’m not in much of a creative mood today with work going crazy, so I won’t be putting this successful PuG story into a Real PuG’s of Power format, but I want to share it anyway.

Where Does Psynister Stand On Death Knights?
In my experience, DK’s have always been strong on the DPS front, and I never minded having them fill that role. Doing stupid crap like Death Gripping the tank’s target off of him was sort of the norm, though exceptions to that were apparent enough that you just knew from that point that it was a Death Knoob. On the tanking front though, I found nothing but failure. I’ve said it before here on the blog, I’ve said it in game, I’ve said it on Twitter, and I’ve said it in comments on other people’s blogs as well – “Death Knights suck at tanking”.

People kept telling me of how many good DK tanks they knew, how they themselves were good at tanking, how their raiding guild’s lead tank was a DK and so on, but despite all of the stories I never saw them for myself. A lot of people agreed with me too, that DK’s sucked at tanking. There were several testimonies in favor of them, but those in opposition were just too many to ignore. And regardless of what other people told me, every single DK I saw sucked at tanking.

I stood by that statement for a long time, never seeing even the slightest indication that I needed to eat those words. But, after running with Khanus from the Elune-US server, I had to do just that. My mage, Belsynis, is currently running an Arcane spec and he packs a pretty decent punch for having reached level 80 just a few weeks ago. He’s got a high crit rate, a fair amount of DPS, and he’s been known to pull agro off of every tanking class he’s ran with up to this point.

What Changed Your Mind?
When I ported into the random, the first thing I noticed (from the loading screen) was that it was one of the new dungeons, which I enjoy quite a bit. The second thing I noticed was that the tank was a DK, and thirdly that his health was at 25k. Now, I’m not one to judge a tank based on their health, but it is a good indicator of what kind of gear the person has or how they gem/enchant it. As long as the tank has more health than me, then I don’t have a problem giving them a shot. I certainly don’t assume failure if the tank doesn’t have 40-50k health like other’s I’ve seen.

In my experience with DK tanks though, I knew I wanted to take it a bit easy starting out and get a feel for how he pulled and how well he generated threat. The first couple of groups went down just fine, so I decided to step it up a notch. Again we had no problems, so I kicked it up into normal mode for heroics and went ahead and just let the mobs have it. We got through the first boss and all the trash leading up to the second boss with no threat issues, so I decided to go all out on Ick.

I popped my cooldowns at the beginning of the fight and pulled out all the stops, intentionally trying to pull threat off of him, knowing that I could use Invisibility to immediately dump it if necessary and then I could back off and just fill my role. I unloaded some serious hate on Ick, but Khanus just kept right on trucking, and while I did steal agro for about half a second, he was immediately right back on the DK. From there I just nodded my head and went all out on everything. Each time I managed to steal agro, whether it was on single target dps or during AoE pulls, it took Khanus less than a second to pull the threat right back to himself.

It was truly an amazing display of tanking from a class that I have written off for a very long time as a fail tank.

DK_Tank_Great

What Else Is Going On?
I have been putting some thought into rolling my own DK tank for a while now for the sake of blogging about it and trying to express to people how it’s done similar to how I’ve handled the Paladin series here. After seeing failed tank after failed tank I felt it was sort of my duty to go out and find out how to do it so that I could tell other people how it was done as well, but I’ve always managed to talk myself out of it.

Right now I am focusing on leveling a Resto Druid and an Affliction Warlock. I have several other toons in the works of course (as always), but those are the two I’m focusing on lately. After seeing Khanus as well as a couple of the Death Knights in my new guild, I’m growing ever more tempted to go ahead and roll a Death Knight and actually get him leveled up all the way to 80. Our strongest DPS in the guild right now is a Death Knight that consistently pulls over 7,000 DPS (did I mention we’re a casual guild?), and one of our primary tanks is a Death Knight as well.

I have a leveling post near completion on the Warlock’s leveling, and one started on the Druid’s leveling, but don’t be too surprised if within the next month or so you see a post about leveling a Death Knight.

Helpful Links From Others
Since I have such large group of WoW friends that I communicate with online I asked them to share with me whatever online sources they felt were helpful in relation to Death Knight tanking. The following is a list of all the sites that I have been linked to:

pwnwear.com
pwnwear.com Frost Tank 3.3
Aurdon’s Death Knight Outland Gear guide
2fps.com
Kurandir’s Kompendium
Plagued Candles – DK Tanking and You
Chill of the Grave
Tankspot.com – Comprehensive Guide to DK Tanking

 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 3, 2010 in Death Knight, Real PUGs of Power

 
 
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