Category: MTG Articles

Win Target Game Closing Permanently End of December 2014

I am very sad to announce that Win Target Game will be closing permanently by December 31, 2014. Due to some major changes in my life and my brother Solemn Party’s work schedule, there is no time to update this site anymore. As a result, the site is suffering from our lack of posting and since I have no time for Magic: the Gathering in my ever-changing life right now, it’s best to just let this site go. Solemn Party may return to writing about Magic in the near future, but it will be elsewhere.

The good news is that the majority of our content is being moved to one of the sites that I co-own now, Life Successfully. It has a large Gaming Section which is already being populated with a lot of Win Target Game Magic content. I’ve already contacted some of the guest writers and have moved a few guest articles there already with their permission. Anyone who is still interested in writing for Win Target Game, whether it be for Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, or Yu-Gi-Oh can submit to write articles over at Life Successfully. Any submissions can be sent to

I will miss Win Target Game, but as with many things in my life right now, I need to move on from the past. I will still perhaps write Magic content in the future, but it will have a new home at Life Successfully. I wish you all the best and promise you that all of the good content here will be still alive over at its new home in short order.

Take care everyone and Happy Magics!

~ Richard Rowell (formerly Elspeth for the Win)

An Examination of Time Walk Effects in EDH (Guest Post)


Let’s Not Do It Again: An Examination of Time Walk Effects in EDH

Guest post by Eamonn Naidoo

I like playing blue. I like the sense of control it gives when I play – the ability to counter almost any threat to my game plan, while drawing enough cards to make sure I have threats of my own is invaluable, especially in a format like EDH. I also however, know what it’s like to sit across from a blue commander with a non-blue deck and feel pretty dismal, because you just know everything is backed up with permission, and annoying effects like Capsize (does that thing even have a non-buyback cost?). But, those effects are understandable – blue has those effects in its color pie identity (pie-denty?) and those effects are both useful and powerful in EDH. They are not very fun for your opponents, perhaps, but they are necessary. There are aspects of blue that I truly despise though. Two facets specifically – creature stealing and extra turn effects. Nothing incenses me more than those. Today, I’m dealing with the extra turn effects: hopefully I can convince any time walkers out there to lay down their love of temporal manipulation, and to recapture, not Jingue, but the fun of this format.


So, why do I hate extra turn effects so much anyway? Well, let’s imagine what happens when some player lays down, let’s say, a Time Warp in a four player game. What happens? Well, for a start, the game slows right down and the normal turn cycle is interrupted. Straight away, there’s a problem. Turns are important in EDH – lots of stuff can happen very quickly. But, in the early turns of the game, people are generally setting up their resources, carving out some sort of game plan for themselves. An extra turn for a player is then pretty good. However, you are then denying the next person, and indeed, the whole table of an entire turns worth of resources. Maybe, you say, that’s just a good use of resources, like playing a Sol Ring on turn 1. Playing a Sol Ring on turn 1 doesn’t require the entire table to watch you for double the normal time however. Which leads me on to my second point: it shifts attention to the player taking the extra turn.

Why is that a bad thing, though? Well, much like the annoying girl on your Facebook feed (“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best” followed by “Just did body shots off the bartender #ABSolutelytrashed #thisishowwedo”) you don’t particularly want to give the extra turn player your attention, but there they are, militantly posting photos of them and “the gurlzz” hitting up clubs and plastering them all over your news feed. You don’t even have the luxury of “deleting” them in this scenario. And that attention-hungry behavior is, I believe, a real problem in EDH. This format is, by design, a multiplayer format. That means there are all sorts goofy things you can do here, that you can’t do in other formats. Moreover, the fun comes from interaction with other players (90% of the time. The other 10% is you getting to play that sweet new card you just traded for). Extra turn effects take that interaction away. The player taking an extra turn effectively shouts “look at me!” and (without completing their rendition of Lady Bump) forces the whole table to watch as they pretty much just cast a really expensive Explore. What kind of player would do that? I think I’ve narrowed it down to 3 types of player:

1. The Newbie

Everyone wants to break the rules when they can. Fastbond, and other similar effects (time walks included) have this innate appeal to them – a sense that you alone are so powerful that you can break these fundamental rules of the game. So, of course, given a format where most of that wackiness is legal, the new player will play those effects. They are drawn to the power of these effects and are oblivious to any boredom they may cause. Just give them time (see what I did there? That was hard to come up with. This article is really exercising my temporal lobe. Okay, I’ll stop). Hopefully they will repent once they learn the error of their ways.

2. The Die-Hard

The second type of player is the most common (at least in my playgroup). Specifically I have this friend who has this annoying Azami deck complete with every Time Walk effect, save for the $100 + cards. He isn’t a n00b. He knows what’s going on. He is, by all measure, a very good player. Yet, he plays loads of extra turn effects. What’s up with that? Well, when you ask him about it, he restates his opinion that extra turn effects “aren’t that bad, nor are they oppressive or boring”. No matter how much I try to convince him otherwise, he won’t relent. He’s gotten a taste and now firmly (but incorrectly) believes that extra turns are the only way for mono blue to get ahead. This, coming from the deck with a potential 2nd turn Jace, the Mind Sculptor or a turn 3 Patron Wizard, soft-locking everyone out of the game until someone finds a Supreme Verdict. Yeah, mono blue’s got it real hard.

3. The Self-Confirmed “Dick”

Buckle up Lana, ‘cause we’re in the danger zone. I’m sure we’ve all encountered this player before: the player who always brags about how OP his deck is, or how “brutal” his 17-piece combo finisher is. Sometimes, this player might actually have an actually annoying combo (like Knowledge Pool + Teferi, or Mindslaver + Academy Ruins) and when asked why they run it, instead of a more friendly, disrupt-able combo, their answer is always the same: “Because I’m a dick”. They revel in it. They savor every syllable, making sure you know exactly what you’re dealing with, and that no amount of reason or logic can convince them to do anything they don’t want to. Now, this player loves taking extra turns because they know it’s annoying; they know that the entire table hates them, and that when they assemble the infinite turn combo lurking in their deck, the table will most likely concede out of sheer boredom. And they love it.

And that’s another thing: chaining extra turns just exacerbates the problems mentioned previously. The game slows to almost a complete stop, there is no interactivity (and therefore, no fun) and you might as well just be playing solitaire. But there is one thing they don’t do: win the game for you. It’s not a Mikhaeus + Triskelion situation where everyone dies immediately; it’s a slow, durdly, painful limp towards the finish line that is victory. The worst is when they can’t even find a kill condition in the ±4 extra turns that they’ve taken. You made everyone watch you for 30 minutes, and now you can’t even kill us?! If I wanted to watch someone play with themselves for 30 minutes I would … yeah, you can probably figure out the rest.

I could say a lot more on this subject, but I think it would just devolve into me ranting about things I don’t like in general (!) about EDH. Or it might just end up being a poorly contextualized list of Magic related puns (when it comes to Predators, I prefer to let Trygones be Trygones)  Anyway, hopefully, some of what this article said makes logical sense, and even if it didn’t: if you see your playgroup moaning every time you cast Time Stretch, maybe you should take the extra turns out, and see how they react. You could find yourself in a much happier playgroup than before. You may even find yourself having a bit more fun seeing what hilarious situations you – and your friends – can create out of this Magical format.

– Eamonn Naidoo

Win Target Game is Looking for MTG Guest Bloggers!

Recently, my brother, solemnparty, went on the /r/edh sub-reddit to recruit writers for Commanding Opinion (EDH/Commander) articles. As he will soon be starting school again soon, he has been seeking people to write some Commanding Opinion articles for their favorite commanders and decks. However, we will take Magic the Gathering articles on any subject. We’re excited to bring on more new writers to offer fresh new perspectives!

If you’re interested, you can read the details here.

For submissions, please email them to wintargetgame@gmail.comI do check this email daily, and you should be able to expect a prompt reply from me.

Until next time,

– Elspeth for the Win

In last week’s installment of Enlightened Tutor, J.C. Wilbur discussed how to go about things in the early game with Death & Taxes in the Legacy format. In his first article, he discussed the construction of his version of Death and Taxes and his card choices for the deck. This week, he will be discussing the mid-game and late-game. J.C. is an avid EDH and Legacy player who also has a brand new blog, Devastating Dreamer on WordPress. Enjoy!

“Enlightened Tutor: Finishing Them Off with Death and Taxes”

by J.C. Wilbur

Since we talked about the early game with D&T last week, this week I figured we should move on to the next logical step: the mid-game and the end-game. We’ll cover how we should be playing, when we should be attacking (the answer is definitely not every turn) and a few critical questions we should ask ourselves when playing D&T.

D&T’s power scales with the knowledge of its pilot; knowledge of the format is especially important. Keep in touch with the results from the SCG Opens and other Legacy events. Monitor the trending decks on sites like The Source or MTGTop8. Keep tabs on what other people are discussing, testing and cutting. The first step in creating this hostile environment is understanding what makes it hostile. Delver and Combo decks typically hate Thalia. Control decks with planeswalkers similarly dislike Phyrexian Revoker. Anything with removal in it despises Mother of Runes.

Knowledge is your greatest weapon. Legacy as a format is filled with ruthless predators, each deck designed such that every ounce of advantage is exploited to the maximum that it can be; your job is to understand how they do that and where to snare them in the process. Understanding how Delver players think versus Miracles players think, for example, will help you determine how best to lead them into a trap of your design.


To clarify what I am talking about: I was at the Seattle Open a year ago, playing against UWR Delver. He had a flipped Delver equipped with Umezawa’s Jitte which had two charge counters on it; honestly, it did not look good. Jitte is a card that can very much unravel everything you are trying to do, since it easily kills small creatures.


I had an AEther Vial with three counters and my own Jitte in play, but with nothing to equip it to. I drew a Flickerwisp and felt the impulse to Vial it in, resetting his Delver—but I didn’t. I passed. Predictably, he drew and skipped straight to attacking; again I felt the impulse and again I waited. I declared no blockers; he proceeded to use the first and second counters to buff the Delver, a 7/6 in total. I then activated Vial, flickered the Delver, and went to my turn, equipping my Jitte and seizing control of the game. In this instance, I understood how my opponent was going to behave—and not unreasonably so, given I had an empty board, a single card in hand and a pretty high life total—and chose to exploit the moment of weakness he gave me.

To finish this week’s installment off, I’ll include a few questions you should be asking yourself as you play the deck. While practice is necessary to become good with D&T, I hope that by asking yourself these questions as you play you’ll be able to get better at the deck much faster than I did.


Can I attack profitably? Will playing defensively hurt my game plan?

I bundle these two together because combat analysis is critical when your creatures also carry the burden keeping your deck a relevant element in the game and, generally speaking, understanding combat is a big part of playing “fair Legacy.” Much of understanding when to attack and when not to comes from understanding who is “the beatdown.” If are unfamiliar with the concept, you really should read Mike Flores’ somewhat aged (but still very much relevant) article of the same name.

Against Combo decks, such as Storm, the answer is pretty clear: you need to start beating them down, while laying the proper Locks. You are the control deck in this scenario, but your control is something they can answer eventually, so you must also control the amount of time they have to find their cards that will break them free—this means reducing their life total to zero. This means Thalia, Revoker and Ethersworn Canonist (from your sideboard) take priority over almost everything else—especially slower cards like Stoneforge Mystic or Mother of Runes.


The concept of time control I italicized above is a bit abstract at first, but time is something the D&T pilot should be aware of constantly. Your life points, and your opponent’s, aren’t actually that, you see—they’re units of time, a resource to be used, sacrificed and only protected if you think it is going to run out too quickly.

This becomes a bit harrier when you run into decks with creatures. Tempo decks, for example, are very much interested in making sure you have as little time as possible in the game. They achieve this by ensuring that their Delver of Secrets quickly turns into an Insectile Aberration and attacks with it, using cheap counterspells like Daze or Spell Pierce to protect it or other attackers like Tarmogoyf and using cards like Wasteland and Stifle to ensure that their opponent cannot pay the mana on the cheap counters, effectively making them akin to Counterspell for less mana. The earlier the game ends for Tempo, the better; this means their cheap spells stay powerful and cheap.

The solution for us is to be the control, then. The longer the game goes, the better it is for us and the worse it gets for Tempo. This means holding back on attacking early on, playing defensively and simply trying to find an out to a flipped Delver before you are finished off.   Cards like Batterskull literally steal time for you from your opponent, while trading Serra Avenger for a Delver is considered a profitable combat move—you are never lacking for creatures while your garden variety Delver deck runs between ten and fourteen max. Thalia is also your best card against any Delver deck, as she makes their cheap spells over-priced and less effective as a result, as few spells are played in a turn. Once the initial onslaught has subsided, assume your dominate position with a Batterskull, an equipped creature with flying or named Mirran Crusader, and clean their clock.

Hairier still are the mid-range and control decks. Combat here is more about weighing the value of certain creatures. Are they willing to trade their Deathrite Shaman and Snapcaster Mage for your Thalia? Do you suspect they have removal, especially when you have an active Mother of Runes for combat profitability? Do you need to play the control or beatdown role more? The answer’s not something that can be summed up quickly; these will be the matches you’ll want the most practice against, since your roles will be changing rapidly, sometimes within the span of a single turn.


Aether Vial triggers on my upkeep; do I tick it up from two to three?

Missed Vial triggers were the bane of my early months with D&T. Put a die on top of your deck, make a note on your life total pad, whatever helps you the most. Missed triggers will lose you games.

“Ticking up” Aether Vial from one charge counter to two charge counters is something that should be done. However, ticking up to three counters is a difficult choice. D&T has a plethora of good creatures with a converted mana cost of two, most of which you really want to hit play through countermagic (especially killer cards like Thalia or Stoneforge Mystic). As a general rule of thumb, leave Vial at two counters unless:

1) You have a three-drop, like Flickerwisp or Mirran Crusader, in hand and it would be advantageous to have it in play. Note the advantageous part; there is no reason to glut up your board, especially against decks with Tundras in them, unless you have a definite reason to bring in a bigger threat.

2) You have another Vial that has, or will soon have, two counters on it.

3) It’s time to Shift.

That last statement was intentionally ambivalent. The “Shift,” as I call it, is akin to shifting from third to fourth gear in a car; you’ve reached highway speed with the deck and it is time to hit the finish line. To put it more conventionally, you are hitting your late-game when you commit the third counter. There is no predetermined turn on which you should Shift; it is different every game and is usually a gut feeling. I usually can look at a board and my hand and just know that it’s time, even if I don’t have a three-drop in my hand. In time, I’m sure you will, too.



Rishadan Port/Wasteland or a creature?

This is a question to be asking yourself early. If you have a Vial out, you always use Wasteland or Port (preferably Port) while using Vial to land your creatures. Without Vial it becomes a question of matchup. If you suspect Daze, play conservatively — wait until you have the extra mana and screw them off a color if you can.


I think I’m playing against X. How can I tell? If it is X, what can Revoker turn off? What’s my best card against them? How should I be playing?

Ask yourself these questions often. Scrutinize your plays, analyze your opponent’s. Remember, your knowledge is what makes D&T fearsome—so make sure you’re always a few steps ahead!

That’s it for this week; next week, we’ll delve into the sideboard (for real this time!) and explore some of the Silver Bullets you should be packing. Until then, keep taxing!

– J.C. Wilbur


Being as fond as I am of Animar, Soul of Elements, it shouldn’t be surprising that my first ever Commanding Opinion would center around one of my favorite Legendary Creatures created specifically for the Commander format. He remains one of the very few Legendary Creatures in the RUG color combination. As of right now, he is joined only by Intet the Dreamer, Maelstrom Wanderer, and Riku of Two Reflections as potential Commanders for those colors. He will soon be joined by Surrac Dragonclaw from Khans of Tarkir.

Animar has got some cool things going on for a 3 mana creature. He is only a 1/1, which can mean that when he first hits the board, he’s rather fragile. However, right away, you can see that he has protection from white and from black, which protects him from a good chunk of removal spells, including things such as Dreadbore, Path to Exile, Utter End, Vindicate, or any other white and/or black removal spells. What makes Animar truly awesome is his next two abilities. Whenever you cast a creature spell – even if it becomes countered, you put a +1/+1 counter on Animar. It’s an on-cast trigger, so the creature need not even resolve. Plus, for each +1/+1 counter on Animar, creature spells you cast cost 1 colorless mana less to cast.

The most obvious recent development that benefits a deck commanded by Animar is the influx of new Morph creatures with Khans of Tarkir. While his ability does not affect Morph costs, you can play creatures with Morph for much less with his ability. As soon as Animar has three +1/+1 counters on him, you get to cast Morph creatures for free instead of their usual 3 colorless mana casting cost. It makes their Morph abilities much more potent as you’re playing them for only 2 mana, 1 mana, or even free. There are actually quite a few older Morph creatures that see play with Animar, such as the potent Akroma, Angel of Fury, the clone Vesuvan Shapeshifter, or the tricky Willbender. But Morph creatures aren’t the only ones that benefit from having their colorless casting cost requirements lowered. Let’s take a look at the friends that Animar makes through his astounding abilities.


Red, Blue, and Green have some of the most powerful creatures in Magic. However, many of them have high mana costs that make them more high-end bombs in most decks. Animar makes those sorts of creatures available to you much earlier in games and at much lower mana investments. This sort of mana-curve bending is one reason that Animar has over time become one of the most feared Commanders in the format and why he is so quickly targeted at any given table he is played upon.

The most common creatures seen hanging out with Animar are actually fairly staple cards in the Commander format: Eternal Witness, Acidic Slime, and Solemn Simulacrum.


Of all the creatures that are played alongside Animar, Eternal Witness probably gains the least benefit. However, her casting does give Animar one of those nifty +1/+1 counters. Being able to get any card back from your graveyard is good at pretty much any point in the game, however.

Acidic Slime is already very good at 5 mana, and saw Standard play for quite a long time in decks that could play it on turn 3 or 4. In Animar, he can cost as little as 2 Green Mana. Being able to destroy a mana rock, pesky Enchantment, or utility land can really set opponents back. As Animar decks tend to ramp quite a bit themselves, you may not even need the benefit of Animar’s ability to cast him on turn three or four.

One of the fathers of Commander, Sheldon Menery, has said time and time again that Solemn Simulacrum is one of the staples of the format. For 4 mana, he is a 2/2 that searches out a basic land from your deck and puts it onto the battlefield tapped. When he dies, you get to draw a card. That’s a lot of value for 4 mana on a body that can be played in any Commander deck around. Add to the fact that he’s rarely going to be cast for 4 mana in this deck, and he only gets better. He’s one of the creatures in this deck that can regularly be played for free. A Rampant Growth effect that could end up drawing you a card for free is extremely good.

Speaking of ramp, let’s look at some carsd that do just that:


Birds of Paradise is a card that doesn’t typically see a ton of Commander play due to the fact that it’s so fragile. But it can be a turn one play that instantly gives you access to all three of your colors and it’s a creature that can give Animar a counter at any point in the game.

Sakura-Tribe Elder is pretty much a Commander staple, but with Animar he could cost only a single Green mana, and is yet another cheap creature to ramp up the counters on Animar. Plus, his availability in the Conspiracy set makes him even easier to get than he’s ever been.

Oracle of Mul Daya is one of the best cards in this deck. Many people hate revealing the top card of their deck, as it gives away information about draws, but playing land from the top of your deck up to twice per turn is extremely advantageous. If you have Exploration on the field (not required in this deck, but possible), you could even play three lands off of the top of the deck. While Courser of Kruphix has become sexier in competitive play despite being a similar card, the Courser doesn’t give you the extra land drop and its 1GG casting cost isn’t as friendly as 3G for Animar. Playing this for a single Green mana feels very good.


Some people consider Coiling Oracle to be a Blue/Green staple in Commander for any deck running that color combination. For 2 mana, you can get a land from the top of your card right into play untapped. If that top card isn’t a land card, you reveal it and add it to your hand. It obviously combos very well with Oracle of Mul Daya. While it costs GU (Green/Blue) and doesn’t have any colorless mana symbols in its cost, it still is yet another cheap trigger for Animar.

Speaking of card advantage, Mulldrifter has been a popular card since the days of Lorwyn, when it was first released. Evoking it for a Divination (draw 2 cards for 3 mana) always feels good. But with Animar, its Evoke cost could be as low as a single Blue mana, and with 4 counters on Animar, you get the 2 cards and a 2/2 flying body for a single Blue mana. Mulldrifter’s value is at a maximum alongside the Soul of Elements.


Farhaven Elf, Yavimaya Elder, and Wood Elves are all pretty standard ramp cards. The Elves have the advantage of possibly costing only a single Green mana each, but the Elder, despite having a double-Green mana cost is just too valuable to not play. Farhaven (often mistakenly called “Fairhaven”) Elf can grab any of your basic Forests, Islands and Mountains and put them into play tapped. The Wood Elves have the advantage of grabbing basic Forests or your Breeding Pool or Stomping Ground and putting it into play untapped (you still have to pay the 2 life for the “shock” lands, though, if you decide to have them come into play untapped). The Elder is just pure value if you sacrifice him to cycle him and grab two basic lands.


Speaking of tutor effects, Fierce Empath helps you to grab any of your creature cards with converted mana cost 6 or greater. We haven’t quite gotten to them yet, but there are some very powerful ones higher on the mana curve.

Sages of the Anima is one creature that’s often played in Animar that is a bit tricky. The ability of the Sages is that whenever you would draw a card, you instead reveal the top three cards of your library. You put all creature cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order. Being able to consistently add two or three creatures to your hand is nifty, especially as you don’t run a ton of non-creature spells in Animar. But personally, I think you have to be careful when you play it.


While often played in tandem with the Sages, I would prefer to just play Momir Vig, Simic Visionary by himself. Not only is he famous for being the Avatar of Momir Basic, an extremely popular Magic Online format, but he’s a fantastic commander of his own. While his ability is only effected by green and blue creatures, the majority of your deck will in fact be blue and green creatures.

Here’s what he does:

Whenever you cast a green creature spell, you may search your library for a creature card and reveal it. If you do, shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.

Whenever you cast a blue creature spell, reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a creature card, put that card into your hand.

Talk about some sweet card advantage. You cast a green creature spell and you get a Worldly Tutor effect, and if you cast a blue creature spell you get the top card of your deck if it’s a creature. If that creature is both blue and green, you get both effects. Personally, while the Sages can be better, I think Momir Vig is a better way to get exactly what you need at the time rather than just adding a bunch of creatures to your hand. But that’s my personal opinion. Running both is perfectly fine.

Speaking of card draw…


Garruk’s Packleader is actually a really good card. Not only is he a great Pauper EDH Commander, but he’s really good in a creature-heavy deck. There are a good amount of power 3 or higher creatures in this deck that we’ll be getting to soon. There’s actually another card in Khans of Tarkir very similar to this, Temur Ascendancy, but it’s an Enchantment that grants you a card for a creature entering with power 4 or greater. This is a creature and the floor is only power 3.

Prime Speaker Zegana is a really good Commander and a key component to Vorel of the Hull Clade decks. Since you have creatures in this deck with high levels of power, she’ll often enter with a good number of +1/+1 counters, and you’ll be drawing a number of cards equal to those counters. Add to the fact that her casting cost of 2GGUU is often going to look like GGUU with Animar on board, and you’re talking about solid value.


Clone was actually one of the first cards ever printed for Magic: the Gathering, beginning all the way back in Alpha. It dosen’t see quite the play that it used to in Commander after the Legendary rule was changed to every player being able to control a Legendary permanent with the same name. However, in Animar, with all of the powerful creatures it can copy, it makes sense.

Phantasmal Image is the Clone that’s most often used in Constructed, in Modern, Legacy, and Commander. Being only 2 mana makes its downside as an Illusion not really that important. He always provides a lot of value when he hits the board.


Duplicant sees play in a wide variety of Commander decks due to its completely colorless mana cost. Not only does it serve as removal by exiling the nontoken creature in question, but it also copies that creature’s stats and creature types while also remaining a Shapeshifter. It’s not a true Clone, per se, as it doesn’t copy enter the battlefield abilities, but it has the potential to be cast for free with 6 counters on Animar. Overall, it’s just a solid card in many Commander decks.

Vesuvan Shapeshifter is a repeatable Clone. Not only that, it’s a Morph creature, meaning that its usual casting cost of 3 colorless mana to be played face-down as a Morph creature can usually be free. The idea that it can be flipped face up for only 1U and then be turned face-down again at the beginning of your upkeep in order to then Clone something else is quite extraordinary. Do keep in mind, however, that you only get to Clone the enter the battlefield effects if you pay its regular casting cost. But it’s well worth that initial investment. It may be one of the best Morph cards ever printed.


Phyrexian Metamorph is one of the more versatile Clones in the game, in that it can be cast for 3 colorless mana and 2 life. It can also copy artifacts as well as creatures. Much of the time, he’ll only cost 1 or 2 mana at most, and paying 2 life in Commander isn’t a big deal.

But now the Metamorph has competition from Clever Impersonator from Khans of Tarkir. It costs 2UU, but it can copy any nonland permanent on the board, including Enchantments and Planeswalkers. You can definitely add the Impersonator to any Blue deck, Animar included.


Draining Whelk and Mystic Snake are both creatures with Flash that are essentially counterspells on a body. Draining Whelk is the more expensive of the two, but Animar can make it costs as little as UU. Also, the Whelk gains X +1/+1 counters where X is the countered spell’s converted mana cost. Counterspells that gain value as the game progresses are always quite good.

Mystic Snake requires two colors in its casting cost, but is simply a hard counter for as little as GUU on a 2/2 body. It sees a lot of play in a wide variety of Commander decks, and while it doesn’t have quite the synergy with Animar that Draining Whelk does, it’s still good enough to play.

Glen Elandra Archmage is very good in that she can usually counter two noncreature spells, due to the fact that she has Persist. Having that ability open to you for a potential cost of only U to cast is very strong.

Another major component to Animar is the Cascade creatures, one of which is its own potential Commander.

bloodbraid-elfetherium-horn-sorcerer maelstrom-wanderer

Bloodbraid Elf is one of my favorite cards in Magic: the Gathering, and for good reason – it’s very powerful. Not only is it a 3/2 Elf with Haste, but she also has Cascade. Considering that she is regularly a 4-drop (2RG) that can be played for as little as RG you can get some serious value out of her. For those unfamiliar with the Cascade mechanic, you reveal cards from the top of your deck until you reveal a nonland card with a lower converted mana cost than the card with Cascade, in this case, anything with converted mana cost 3 or less. There are enough such cards in this deck that it’s worth playing the Bloodbraid Elf. Plus, with Cascade, those cards are counted as cast, meaning that they activate Animar’s counter ability.

Etherium-Horn Sorcerer, which was only printed as a Planechase exclusive in the same deck as Maelstrom Wanderer, While the Sorcerer is technically a 6-drop, it can cost as little as UR with Animar on the board, meaning you’re getting the chance to cast something as high as a 5-drop for free for only 2 mana. Plus the Sorcerer can also be returned to hand for 1UR, allowing to dodge removal and be able to Cascade once again.

Maelstrom Wanderer is a mighty good Commander on his own, but in Animar, if you can cast him for only URG, you’re getting some ridiculous value. Not only does the Wanderer give all of your creatures haste – itself included – but it also Cascades twice. To hit something as high as a 7-drop twice is just an absurd amount of value. He’s worth casting for the full 8 mana, but the cheaper he becomes, the better he gets.

You could run Shardless Agent which is a Cascade creature for 1UG. However, she tends to not hit very much in this deck, so she’ll often send a lot of cards you’d want to have to the bottom.

Speaking of Commanders, two of the other potential RUG commanders are often played alongside Animar…


Intet the Dreamer provides an interesting sort of card advantage engine. Whenever she deals combat damage to a player, you may pay 2U. You get to exile the top card of your library face down. As long as Intet remains on the battlefield, you may cast that card for free. Obviously if Intet leaves the battlefield you lose that card forever. More often than not, you’re probably going to cast it right away.

Riku of Two Reflections is a pretty tricky Commander himself, or himselves… In this deck, you’re basically only ever going to use him to clone creatures for GU. The instant or sorcery spell copy isn’t so necessary in this deck, as you’re only running a few in this deck anyway. Repeatable clone effects are very good, especially with the power level of creatures we’re dealing with.

Before we get to the heavy hitters in the deck, let’s take a look at a couple of other creatures that are well at home in this deck.


Consecrated Sphinx is one of the most powerful cards in Commander, and for good reason – he can draw you a ton of cards. In a deck that can always use the draw power, the Sphinx is a valuable card. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a 4/6 flyer that can cost you as little as UU to cast.

Urabrask the Hidden is not only a Haste enabler but he also forces opponents’ creatures to enter the battlefield tapped. He’s an extremely popular card in the format for that reason, but he’s probably best at home in Animar, where he can cost as little as RR to play. He’s also a 4/4.

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger could probably fit into the “heavy hitter” category but you don’t play him for that reason. Any 8-drop that can be played for as little as GG with the kind of effects that he has is magnificent. He’s a 7/6 with trample to begin with. Also, whenever you tap a land for mana, add one mana to your mana pool of any type that land produced – meaning that it’s essentially a mana doubler. This is great for Animar, since you don’t have access to a card like Mirari’s Wake, as it’s green & white. But not only does it double your mana – it also makes it so that when opponent’s tap lands for mana, they don’t untap for another turn. Ouch.

We should now also talk about the combo pieces in the deck.


The infinite mana combo between Deadeye Navigator and Palinchron is well known in Commander. But infinite mana is not quite as important in Animar as it is in a lot of other decks. The Navigator typically will combo with a lot of other cards in the deck, and considering that it can be cast for as low as UU, it allows for combo potential far more early than most non-Blue Commander decks. Palinchron is more in the deck because of its interaction with Animar’s counters. Once there are four counters on Animar, you can cast Palinchron for 1UU and return it to hand for 2UU after untapping seven lands. On the next cast, Animar will have a 5th counter, allowing you to start an infinite loop for infinite mana. It’s a crazy way to mana fix, but it means that once you have this combination in place, you’ll always have the mana you need.


The other major combo piece in the deck is Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts. Kiki-Jiki can combo with a good many creatures in the deck, so he’s rarely a dead draw. The triple-Red mana cost is a bit restrictive in a three color deck, but his presence is worth it, especially when he combos off with Zealous Conscripts. The Conscripts targets Kiki-Jiki, which then untaps. You can then make an infinite number of Conscripts, until the last one, with which you can then steal a problem permanent. It also is incredibly nice that Conscripts can be cost for as low as R.

You could also play Deceiver Exarch, of course, which can tap things down, but Zealous Conscripts is typically the better play as it’s incredibly useful on its own.

Now onto the heavy hitters…


Artisan of Kozilek is the most common heavy hitter you’ll find in Animar. It does cost 9 colorless mana to cast, but you’re usually going to be casting it for far less. It’s a 10/9 with Annihilator 2, meaning that the defending player that it attacks must sacrifice two permanents! Also, when it’s cast, you may return a target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield. It’s obviously the cheapest of all Eldrazi cards, and if you can’t afford Ulamog or Kozilek, you definitely want to at least include this one.


Terastodon can be a devastating card, but it’s even more devastating when you consider how cheaply it can be cast for (GG). While it’s perhaps rare that you’ll be only able to cast it for only 2 mana, the value it provides is worth any amount of reduced cost. It’s a 9/9 for 6GG and when it enters the battlefield, you may destroy up to three target noncreature permanents. For each permanent put into a graveyard this way, its controller puts a 3/3 green Elephant creature token onto the battlefield. Giving away Elephants isn’t all that relevant if you’re destroying powerful enough permanents.

Woodfall Primus fills this role in many decks, but the triple Green in that creature’s mana cost make it a bit clunky for Animar decks.


Khans of Tarkir gave Animar a very strong ally, the Temur Clan Khan, Surrak Dragonclaw. He costs 2GUR to cast, and he’s a 6/6 Human Warrior with Flash that can’t be countered. Not only that, but other creature spells you control can’t be countered either as long as he’s on the board. Also, other creatures you control gain trample. Making sure your creatures stick, especially Animar, is very important. He doesn’t gain trample himself, but most of the other creatures in this deck are big enough to make that element worth it. He provides two elements that this deck was missing – a way to keep creatures from being countered and a way to give creatures trample on a consistent basis. Having a 6/6 with Flash at your disposal is likewise rather handy.


While I’m personally not the biggest fan of Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur in Animar, he does make some sense. It’s 8UU, making it a dead draw for most of the game. He does have Flash, however, and you get to draw 7 cards at the end of each of your end steps. Having something like Reliquary Tower is very helpful in this case. But you really play him for the fact that he reduces your opponents’ hand sizes by seven – so if they don’t have a Venser’s Journal, Spellbook, or Reliquary Tower out, your opponents will be discarding their hands at the end of every turn. He’s not going to consistently make an appearance, but once he does, he can be incredibly crippling.


Avenger of Zendikar is a very powerful card in Commander just for the number of Plant creature tokens he can pump out. For each land you then drop after that, those Plant creatures gain +1/+1. His army of Plant tokens can get rather out of control, and that 7 mana cost is not nearly as imposing with Animar in play.

Tidespout Tyrant might have that cumbersome triple-Blue mana cost, but for 5UUU for a 5/5 flyer that returns permanents to its owner’s hand whenever you play a spell… yeah, it’s worth it. Once the Tyrant hits the board, the game could well be over.


While typically best deployed as Commander of his own deck, Xenagos, God of Revels is actually quite helpful in Animar, especially for giving your larger creatures Haste and doubling its power and toughness for one combat phase. While not a part of many Animar lists, he’s one that I highly recommend as he’s very hard to remove because of its indestructibility. You don’t really care about him ever becoming active as his static ability is enough to play him.

Nylea, God of the Hunt, Purphoros, God of the Forge, and Thassa, God of the Sea are all playable in Animar, but not necessarily incredibly synergistic. Purphoros makes the most sense as he deals 2 damage to each opponent whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control – a great combination with a card like Avenger of Zendikar.

Now, if you can afford them – here are the two major players in the deck:


While their big brother Emrakul won’t be joining in any time soon in the Commander format, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre are both mighty enough on their own to flank Animar in the endgame. Kozilek draws you four cards and has Annihilator 4. Ulamog destroys a target permanent upon entering and has Annihilator 4, plus indestructibility. If either is put into a graveyard from anywhere, it and the rest of the graveyard is shuffled back into the deck.

If you can’t afford either of these cards, there are the less expensive uncommon Eldrazi: Pathrazer of Ulamog, Spawnsire of Ulamog, and Ulamog’s Crusher. The Spawnsire’s second ability isn’t much use in this case, however. The point is to have some big finishers.

Alternatively, you could use Darksteel Colossus, Blightsteel Colossus or both. They are also quite appropriate in this deck.

Other creatures you would or could run in Animar:

  • Anger (3R) – yet another Haste enabler, as long as you control a Mountain and Anger is in your graveyard
  • Edric, Spymaster of Trest (1UG) – a great card draw outlet that I’ve had varied success with in the deck
  • Fauna Shaman (1G) – discard a creature card you don’t want to get one that you do from your deck
  • Forgotten Ancient (3G) – stockpiles +1/+1 counters that you can move to Animar
  • Indrik Stomphowler (4G) – artifact/enchantment destruction
  • Inferno Titan (4RR) – he can provide amazing value if cast for cheap and given haste
  • Man-O-War (2U) – simple bounce a creature to its owner’s hand
  • Phyrexian Ingester (6U) – a bit high on the mana curve for most decks, but he’s useful removal that gains that creature’s power and toughness
  • Primordial Sage (4GG) – draw a card every time you cast a creature spell, on a 4/5 body
  • Prophet of Kruphix (3UG) – giving your creatures flash and untapping all your creatures and lands during each upkeep
  • Soul of the Harvest (4GG) – draw a card each time a nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control
  • Wonder (3U) – giving all of your creatures flying works wonders
  • Wurmcoil Engine (6) – lifelink, deathtouch, 6/6 for 6 colorless mana, and it replaces itself with two 3/3 tokens – just solid value

Some other cards you could use:

  • Cloudstone Curio – reuse enter the battlefield effects of your utility creatures
  • Domri Rade – can get you some card advantage by adding creatures to your hand
  • Garruk Wildspeaker – untapping lands is fun and overrun is even more fun
  • Worldly Tutor – because tutoring is awesome

I hope that this primer helps you to be able to construct your own Animar, Soul of Elements Commander deck. There are many ways to build it, with many other combo options that can be added in. Soon, we will be discussing a very different build of Animar, one that will center around the Morph creatures of Khans of Tarkir. Stay tuned for that.

Until next time,

– Elspeth for the Win



Enlightened Tutor: Mulligans and Execution in Death and Taxes

Last week, J.C. Wilbur penned the first ever Legacy format article on Win Target Game, the first installment of Enlightened Tutor, a series about the popular Legacy deck, Death and Taxes. In his first article, he discussed the construction of his version of Death and Taxes and his card choices for the deck. He is an avid EDH and Legacy player who also has a brand new blog, Devastating Dreamer on WordPress. Enjoy!


Welcome again to Enlightened Tutor. For those just joining us, this is a series focused on Legacy’s Death and Taxes. This week we’ll examine two critical elements of playing Death and Taxes: mulligans and how to execute your game plan. Both are difficult since so much of playing the deck requires an understanding of what you and your opponent is trying to achieve and how best to nullify them while imposing your dominance. This is true of most Legacy decks, especially control archetypes; however, with D&T it becomes a more complicated since you lack cards like Sensei’s Divining Top and Brainstorm to help you find the right locks to keep your opponent out of the game.


The hardest part of playing D&T will always be mulliganing. Since we lack card draw, an important element to consider is how many cards we start off with. Seven is obviously optimal, giving you plenty of mana and creatures to endure until the late game. Often, however, you will have to mulligan when you don’t find the proper hate card, the right configuration of mana or simply have an unusable hand.

Mulligans should be done aggressively with D&T. That’s not to say you should be finicky either; you can’t afford to keep mulling in the expectation of a better hand since the further down you go, the more you’ll be relying on the top of your deck. There are some criteria I use when evaluating a hand:


Does it have an Aether Vial?

Vial is the spine of the deck. It supports all the broken interactions and allows you to cheat on your mana, effectively using it as an alternative mana source while you happily sacrifice your Wastelands and devote your mana to Rishadan Port to tap down opposing lands. Aether Vial is not necessary for a hand, but its presence greatly increases the likelihood of me keeping it, since an unanswered Vial will run away with the game.


Does it have basic Plains?

Especially if a Vial is not present, basic mana sources are crucial to deciding whether or not to mulligan. Plains ensures we can cast our threats against Wasteland or Blood Moon, develop our board and cast our spells. Generally speaking, a D&T list really shouldn’t run fewer than ten Plains to begin with.


Does it have Thalia?

This is a big one. If Vial is the deck’s spine, Thalia is its heart—her static taxation adds to every other effect in the deck, whether it’s making a Phyrexian Revoker harder to kill or making a Rishadan Port activation doubly brutal. Thalia grants us a reasonable defense against combo, slowing the game down so that the rest of our locks can come down in time to be relevant. Hands without Thalia, especially against an unknown opponent, are very skeptical in my eyes since so many decks just wither in her presence. That’s not to say a hand without Thalia should be snap-mulliganed, but you have to weigh your other options in the hand.

What else do I have?

D&T is a complicated deck and only becomes more difficult when you add an opponent into the mix, especially when the opponent is unknown. Some cards are obviously better than others; Mirran Crusader, for example, is obviously good against decks with Tarmogoyf and Abrupt Decay. He’s not so great if they happen to be running True-Name Nemesis or Lightning Bolt, however, so you need to weigh this option with the rest of your hand should he be in it. Do you have a Stoneforge Mystic to find Sword of Fire and Ice? Or a Mother of Runes to keep your quarterback from becoming toast?


Do you have a Rishadan Port or a Wasteland? Generally speaking, these cards will find a use against any Legacy deck but, especially with Port, you need to decide how you will be using it and what role you’ll be playing. If you don’t have a Vial, for example, Ports become somewhat unappealing since you’ll be casting your cards.

This will be the most difficult part of mulliganing. Death and Taxes is all about planning your game; analyzing your resources, making judgments of what your opponent is trying to do and compensating to counter it. Generally speaking, however, these are some examples of good, okay and terrible hands:


Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Aether Vial, Plains, Rishadan Port, Swords to Plowshares, Stoneforge Mystic, Mother of Runes

Congrats on winning the lottery! This is a stellar opener; you lead with Vial and, if it sticks, use your Port on the next turn, bringing in Mom, then Thalia, then Mystic. You have Swords to Plowshares, too, in case something scary comes into play on their side.


Plains, Karakas, Wasteland, Stoneforge Mystic, Phyrexian Revoker, Flickerwisp, Swords to Plowshares

This is a bit less than what we want, but not bad. Unless you know for certain that you are facing off against a fast deck like Storm, I’d say to keep this. You have removal and a good lock in Revoker, plus Wasteland and Stoneforge to tighten the screws on your opponent.


Karakas, Karakas, Flickerwisp, Wasteland, Mirran Crusader, Umezawa’s Jitte, Aether Vial

Even with a Vial I think I’d redraw this hand. No basics, no guaranteed plays off of said Vial until turn four and a complete lack of interaction with anything fast. Ship ones like this away.


Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Aether Vial, Mother of Runes, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Phyrexian Revoker

This is an example of a hand you may very well mulligan into. It has many good things: Aether Vial, Thalia and both Port and Wasteland. The lack of white sources—especially basics—makes it risky, however, as you rely on your Vial to cheat in your creatures (except Revoker) and whatever lands you may draw. Given that this is a mulligan, however, I am inclined to take the risk and play tight.


Execution in the Early Turns

Right from the very first turn, you should be thinking ahead. After you have a starting hand, you must be planning ahead: what cards play first, which you save for later, if you’ll be spending your game mostly turning off lands, if you’ll be committing to an aggressive strategy, et cetera.

Identifying your opponent from their early plays is crucial to playing this deck properly. The sooner you know what they are the sooner you’ll know what you should be deploying first, second and so on. While I cannot go into exhaustive detail of every possible matchup, I’ll cover some of the big ones you are to expect in the current meta. For a more developed resource, I highly recommend reading the opening post on the Death and Taxes thread, over at MTG Salvation.

Here are some common first turns to expect and how you should react if you are on the draw; all examples assume a hand that includes a Plains, a Port, a Vial, a Thalia and a Swords to Plowshares.


Verdant Catacombs > Underground Sea > Deathrite Shaman

Almost no doubt about it, you are playing against some kind of BUG deck. It could be BUG Delver, in which case you may have to play around Daze, or it could be a slower control deck like four-color Deathblade or Shardless BUG where you won’t. I think the proper turn one play here is to cast the Swords to Plowshares, targeting the Shaman—the utility and mana he provides ultimately nerfs our gameplan and sets them a turn ahead on mana when they untap. If they happen to counter the spell, you are open to play either Thalia or Vial next turn. Most BUG decks are an even-to-good matchup for you, so as long as you choke out their mana you should be fine (especially if you land a Crusader to beat face).


Volcanic Island > Delver of Secrets

We know we’re playing against some variety of Tempo here, a deck much like ours that is designed to suppress an opponent while attacking with creatures—though this archetypes starts swinging early, usually with Insectile Abomination, thanks to the multiple instants and sorceries in the deck. This start is fairly ambiguous; they could be RUG Delver, a classic Tempo deck that packs Stifle to counter the activation of fetchlands, which we fortunately do not run. We have plenty of other targets that Stifle can hit—both of Stoneforge‘s abilities, Vial activations and Mom’s protection ability to name a few. Fortunately, RUG is a deck we can quite handily crush—so long as we play tight and understand the opponent.

The other possible decks that could have this opener could be UWR Delver, a deck that runs Swords to Plowshares and Stoneforge over RUG’s Stifle and Tarmogoyf but is otherwise very similar, and UR Delver; basically a Burn deck with blue for Delver, Snapcaster Mage and Force of Will.

Against any of these, Plains > Vial is the first turn play. If they cast Daze, it does suck, but our priority is not to die when Delver flips next turn (and we should always assume he flips!), so we want to cast our Plowshares with the extra mana up from Port. It’s important to note that, unlike BUG Delver, UWR, UR and RUG have a much harder time fighting through Thalia’s static tax, so we want to slam her down early before they start casting their Ponders and Brainstorms to dig up more ways to sustain their tempo. If you are new to the deck, I very much suggest testing against RUG, especially if you have a friend who knows how to play the deck. It is an archetype that has been around for ages and can be very intimidating at first. Over time, you will learn how to dismantle their deck and find that it’s actually quite a good matchup!


Volcanic Island > Ponder

This is a tricky one to unpack. Could they be on a Delver deck with a slow start? Or is it UWR Miracles, a reactive control deck digging for a Counterbalance or Sensei’s Divining Top? Or could it be any number of combo decks, sculpting a killer hand?

You’ll find your answer on the next turn, probably. I think the proper opener is to play Vial and see if they respond; Miracles and Delver will try their damnedest to stop it, combo decks will shrug it off usually.

If they seem unperturbed, they are probably the latter, so it is important to drop Thalia next turn, especially if they seem to be some kind of Storm variant. If they don’t drop another land, however, Porting their Island is the safer call; the following turn you can Vial in Thalia and then the game really begins for you.

If they counter the Vial, however, you can be reasonably certain that they are on either a Delver deck or Miracles—the proof is even more evident depending on how they counter: Daze is definitely Delver, as is a Force of Will exiling a Stifle, Delver or Spell Snare; Force of Will exiling a Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Counterbalance or Counterspell is assuredly Miracles.

That’s about as much room as I can fill this week. If you want to join in a more current discussion, don’t be afraid to join us over at the Salvation; I use the handle Barbed Blightning.  Next week we’ll be going over D&T’s mid-game, late-game and sideboarding—fun stuff!

Until then, keep taxing!

– JC Wilbur

Over the course of Magic, the look of cards has changed quite a bit – from art style to functionality.


The original cards from Alpha are actually differently shaped from regular cards. The corners are very rounded, and the borders have no real separation from the colored section of the border.


The Beta cards have the same corners as other older cards, and have a black/grey border between the border and colored section.


Unlimited was the beginning of the white borders, which has a small black line between the white border and the colored part of the card.


Revised is difficult to tell apart from Unlimited, but just irons out some kinks from Unlimited.

The reason I go through all of those is because Magic started with 4 revisions of it’s design in the first 4 sets.


Arabian Nights introduces the border we see for quite a while aside from the reprint sets, with a few minor changes.

wrathofgodrevised wrathofgod5th

After Ice Age, there was also a change to the white mana symbol, though isn’t too relevant.


8th Edition introduced the modern borders that we’ve known for quite a while. At this point, though, there were still white borders.


And here’s the border we had until M15.


The main difference between the M15 and all of the borders before is is that rares have a holographic sticker in the center of the bottom border of the card, which actually looks really cool on these newer cards.

Until next time,


The Khans of Tarkir Game Day promos have been revealed. Everyone will be getting a full-art Heir of the Wilds for participating and an Utter End for placing within the Top 8. Both are very solid cards to have, especially the foil Utter End!


I do prefer the full-art artwork on Heir of the Wilds. A 2/2 for 1G with Deathtouch is very solid and its Ferocious ability giving it +1/+1 until end of turn when it attacks makes it fairly playable. Alongside War-Name Aspirant, Standard aggro decks have a couple of good cards to fill the holes that will be left with Return to Ravnica block’s rotation.


Obviously, people are always playing for the Top 8 Promo, and this time it’s Utter End. Not only is it a Standard and Modern-playable card, but you can bet it’s going to be very valuable due to the fact that it’s going to be premium removal in Commander. No one likes to “pimp out” decks like Commander players do, and a full art version of a card that should become a White/Black staple in the format should be highly sought after. It’s perhaps one of the best Top 8 Game Day promos in a long while.

I highly doubt that I will be playing Standard for this event, but if you do have a Standard deck, I highly recommend going just to get these two cards.

– Elspeth for the Win



With the reveal of the Intro Pack rares, a couple of the cards previously spoiled as mock-ups actually turned out to be slightly different cards. One of them became considerably worse, but one did become a lot better.

Unlike the change to Ankle Shanker, this is a good one. Avalanche Tusker actually got a +2/+0 buff, and some flavor text!

“Hold the high ground, then bring it to your enemy.”
– Surrak, khan of the Temur

Not a huge change, but the +2/+0 power is definitely very relevant.

Until next time,



Changes on Ankle Shanker?


The Mockup on the left is the one I used during my review of the card, while the one on the right is the official version. The big problem is there was a difference with the power and toughness.

Honestly, this changes my opinion on the card. While 3/3 is still on the small side for 2RWB, 2/2 is even worse. While it does still have first strike and deathtouch when swinging, it can’t even block a morph creature without dying.

It’s not a huge thing, but I at least wanted to bring up that there was a difference between what I reviewed and what the actually card is.

Until next time.



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