Traderous Instinct – A Financial Review of Commander, Part 2

Whiteout

Welcome to part two of my seven-part series on the financial value of Commander!

This week, we’re going to make the leap from the land of, uh, lands into the land of white. I figure it’s better to tackle the five colors now – climbing the mountain of words that artifact and gold are going to produce feels pretty daunting at the moment.

At any rate, I don’t know if anyone’s calculated numbers on which are the most popular colors in Commander, but I’m sure white is near the top. Maligned for years as “the color of toughness,” white has recently proven that it can justify doing whatever the heck it wants to.

White today has speed, fatties, flyers, mass removal, spot removal, enchantments, enchantment destruction, land search, and even a couple of soft counterspells. While a white player probably can’t burn his opponent out without a Molten-tail Masticore, he can probably use nearly any other route in which to find victory.

Popular white commanders include Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Crovax, Ascendant Hero, Kemba, Kha Regent, Hanna, Ship’s Navigator, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Teysa, Orzhov Scion, Brion Stoutarm, Razia, Boros Archangel, Captain Sisay, and Rhys the Redeemed.

White’s strengths include access to the best wrath effects as well as a lot of large flyers that have significant abilities on them. White cards also play extremely well with equipment, which is generally better than average in Commander.

Card-By-Card Analysis

For those who didn’t read last week’s article, let me start by explaining my methodology.

During this guide, I will be evaluating each card on a scale from one to ten based on three distinct categories:

Trade Appeal: How desirable is the card? Often there will be great cards with very low trade appeal because few people know about them yet. Cards with very high trade appeal are extremely sought-after Commander staples that I can’t keep in my binder to save my life.

Please note that this score is based solely on my own experience. Since the format is relatively new and very diverse, your experiences may vary completely as different cards will have ‘caught on’ in your area. This is also another reason to trade as much as possible in new areas!

Undervalued: Do I think the card will go up in value? I am not talking about the immediate future, but rather the long term future of the format. Undervalued cards are usually easy to trade higher than their book value and are cards that I will trade for at book value without missing a beat.

Likelihood of Reprint: Do I think this card will be reprinted? Since Wizards is making Commander pre-cons next year, it stands to reason that many of the best Commander cards will be reprinted in them. While the print runs should be low enough to prevent the value of a card from tanking too hard, it will nonetheless hurt the trade appeal of the card. Often, cards with a high reprint number have already been reprinted in multiple sets or duel decks.

Of all the categories I weigh, this is the one that is the least scientific. Luckily, it is also the least important. I have no idea what is actually going to be reprinted, so this is mostly just my own educated guess.

It is good to know, however, which cards are on the reserve list. While Wizards will sometimes make a nearly functional reprint of a card on the list, (see: Fork and Reverberate) the more unique reserve-list cards are generally the safest possible investments you can make.

Important note: Many of the staples of Commander have their values tied much more closely to their playability in other formats. Enlightened Tutor, for example, is a totally sweet Commander card. But since it is also an essential Legacy staple, I won’t be bringing it up here.

I may bring up some cards that have uses in other formats, but in those cases I will be keeping my review aimed solely at their future in Commander. These will usually be cards that are low enough in value that I think Commander playability will affect their price. (Example: Luminarch Ascension)

I also will not be listing recent commons and uncommons that still trade at bulk prices. While it’s true that Oblivion Ring is essential in a mono-white Commander deck, I don’t think you’ll have a problem getting one out of a bulk box.

All prices are from Channel Fireball when possible. If Channel Fireball doesn’t have a price listed, I will be using prices from other large and well known singles sites.

 

Academy Rector 

Urza’s Destiny – $6 ($ 25 Foil)

Academy Rector is a safe bet to stay stable going forward. Its value is locked in due to placement on the reserve list, and its Legacy playability will buoy its value for the foreseeable future.

In Commander, Rector is a pretty niche card. It isn’t good in every white deck, though it is more than fair in most since white gets plenty of powerful enchantments. This is a good card to pick up in the $4-$5 range from older players and flip to burgeoning Commander builders. It’s got the mystique and cache of an older card, and you’ll be able to get full retail for it in a trade to the right person.

Trade Appeal: 5
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 0 (On the Reserve List)

 

Akroma, Angel of Wrath 

Legions – $7 ($25 Foil)

Akroma held the ‘most powerful creature around’ mantle for years, but power creep has finally caught up. While necromancers of the past may have made Akroma their #1 target back from the ‘yard, the current crop of reanimators have many more powerful options.

Of course, Akroma is still one of the most iconic figures in the game, and her presence on any table still elicits a reasonable amount of awe. Think about her like Jennifer Aniston. She hasn’t made anything remotely watchable in years, yet people still love her because she’s managed to stay relevant despite her eroding talent.

You can pick her up (Akroma, not Aniston) from tournament players who have no use for her anymore in the $4-$5 range, and trade her at retail fairly easily.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 7

 

Akromas Vengeance 

Legions – $2.50 ($7 Foil)

Akroma’s Vengeance was a staple back in Onslaught Block, harkening back to a simpler time when Wrath of God was a $10-$15 card and some people even played the ‘worse’ block wrath effects because they couldn’t get their hands on the real thing.

Vengeance holds up over time, though, mostly due to the fact that it hits other permanents too and cycles away when not needed.

One of the best wrath effects for Commander, I expect this card to eventually settle in the $3-$4 range unless a better cycling board wiper gets printed. And I wouldn’t count on that anytime soon.

Trade Appeal: 5
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

 

Archon of Justice 

Eventide – $0.40 ($5 Foil)

Archon of Justice is the perfect Commander card. It’s proactive and reactive at the same time, beating in the air while dissuading others from coming after you. While in duels it is often hard to kill Archon, multiplayer politics make it easy to get this guy in dead when necessary. It’s cards like this that keep the format interactive and fun.

At $0.40, Archon of Justice is a steal. Eventide was printed a while ago now, so they’re disappearing from binders. Pick ‘em up at $0.40 all day long, because you’ll have no trouble moving this card for a buck.

Trade Appeal: 5
Undervalued: 9
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

 

Aura of Silence 

Weatherlight – $1 ($3 Foil)

While tempo is not as essential in Commander as it is in other constructed formats, every little bit still adds up. Yeah, Aura of Silence can be a great way to get hated out of a game early, but more often than not it is an effective way to cripple that one guy with the Sharuum deck. And you get all that oomph for just one mana more than Seal of Cleansing!

This little card would be a $3 uncommon if it didn’t have a 10th edition and FNM foil printing, but at $1 it’s fine value for what it is. Not a must-pick-up, but you should make sure to keep a few in your binder. They’ll slowly but surely trade away for better stock.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

 

Austere Command 

Lorwyn – $2 ($6 Foil)

Financial advice columns for the past few months have advocated picking this card up quickly, and mine will be no exception. It was only worth a buck a month or two ago, and it’s already up to $2. I fully expect this card to trade at $4-$5 by this time next year if the Commander pre-cons sell well. And even if it doesn’t, I doubt it’ll dip much below today’s price.

At its best, Austere Command can be a one-sided wrath. At its worst, it’ll get the most troublesome two permanents off the board. What’s not to like? Its modality and pedigree (Command cycle) will keep it an essential part of the white Commander player’s toolbox for years to come.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 8
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Cataclysm 

Exodus – $4 (No Foil Available)

Cataclysm is great because of the uniqueness of its effect. No other card in Magic provides what it does, and in the right scenario it can be game-breaking the same way that Desolation Angel, Armageddon, and Realm Razer break the game once you’re ahead.

Cataclysm is also notable because it’s an early rare that isn’t on the reserve list. That said, I don’t expect a reprint – cards that mention permanent types and don’t include Planeswalker feel somewhat out-of-date these days.

Cataclysm certainly seems slightly undervalued compared to, say, Humility, but far fewer people know about it. Try and get these out of bulk binders and hold them for the right trader. This also may be the kind of card you’ll need to up-sell, as people will skim over it while looking for better known bits of tech.

Worst case, just trade ‘em to WoW players who think they’re getting the latest expansion for 90% off retail!

Trade Appeal: 3
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 1

 

Catastrophe 

Urza’s Saga – $2.50 (No Foil Available)

Another better-than-average block wrath, Catastrophe is a neutron bomb if you’re behind on the board and tactical nuke if you’re ahead. It’s almost never dead in your hand, and its versatility makes it one of the best spells in the format.

Of course, I think I’ve only ever seen anyone play it once.

This is yet another card that I think you’ll have to sell some people on, but along with Austere Command it gives white a supreme amount of options in the Commander endgame. Pick these up for $1-$2 and trade ‘em away to anyone who actually takes the time to read the card.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Eight-And-A-Half-Tails 

Champions of Kamigawa – $3 ($6 Foil)

Bears are rarely this good!

For two mana, you get a card that can basically shut off targeted removal AND can provide a Falter in the late game? Are you kidding me?

8.5 Tails is the perfect compliment to all of those 6-mana board control-y spells you’re packing. Good both early and late, this little guy is a truly unique creature.

In many ways, Eight-And-A-Half-Tails provides a good barometer for the format. It’s super easy to trade away at its $3 retail price, and that price is entirely buoyed by Commander. If this card ever reaches the $6-$7 mark, than all bets are off for Commander playables. Keep an eye on it – I bet its fluctuations will act as a fair bellwether for the format at large.

Oh – and pick these up when you can. It’s a great high-velocity card that is still flying somewhat under the radar.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

 

Elspeth, Knight-Errant 

Shards of Alara – $14 ($30 Foil)

If you think you’re going to want an Elspeth at any point in the future, pick her up now.

Shards cards in general are at the lowest point they’ll be at until they rotate out of Extended. Since I doubt Elspeth is going to make any Extended waves this season, I don’t see any reason for her value to drop lower than $14. If she makes a deck next season, on the other hand, she’ll shoot right back up past $30.

Regardless of Extended, as long as she doesn’t get reprinted anytime soon, (and I doubt she will since she already had a duel deck) Elspeth will start a slow climb back up to $20 and beyond as a must-have casual card for nearly all white decks. Her pedigree as a powerful ‘walker has never been in doubt, and unless Planeswalkers get even more absurdly powerful in the near future I see her trending upward for years to come.

Oh – and don’t forget that she’s easy as pie to trade at $15 right now. So there’s no reason not to snag her when you can.

Trade Appeal: 9
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Eternal Dragon 

Scourge – $5 ($11 Foil)

I remember once getting all excited by opening my Scourge pack and seeing a white rare with the first letter ‘E’ and hoping it was this guy.

Unfortunately, it was Exiled Doomsayer, a card that was bad then and still sucks now.

Eternal Dragon, on the other hand, is still great. Much like Krosan Tusker, it provides either fixing in the early game or a beater in the late game. Unlike the Tusker, though, the dragon can do both.

As is the trend with these Commander cards, effects that provide two or more good options tend to stick around while powerful but narrow cards don’t endure nearly as well. There’s still nothing else in the game quite like Eternal Dragon, so the card is still rocking tables everywhere. Pick these up – they’ll trade at retail all day long.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

 

Evangelize 

Time Spiral – $0.40 ($2 Foil)

Another mana-hungry white spell, Evangelize is exactly what you want once the game comes down to an endgame top-decking duel. Yeah, it’s not a really great card until you get to nine mana, but it can occasionally steal an awesome creature before then if your opponent’s pants are down. It’s also a superlative follow-up to the 4-5 wraths your white deck is probably already packing.

A low-velocity card on the trade tables to be sure, but you can get them as bulk and trade them for a buck. It’s always worth keeping some on hand.

Trade Appeal: 3
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

 

Felidar Sovereign 

Zendikar – $3.50 ($7 Foil)

Felidar Sovereign creates a fun little mini-game when he comes out early – you’ve got one turn to stop me or I win!

With Signets, Sol Ring, and the rest, it’s not rare to turn-3 or turn-4 this guy, at which point your opponents had better hope someone remembered to pack the targeted removal.

What I love about Felidar Sovereign is that while he looks unbeatable on paper, he actually plays powerful but fair. If you keep losing to him, you need to bring more targeted removal!

Aside: my favorite Felidar Sovereign story is from about a month ago where I got him out on turn 3 in a 4-player game at Superstars. What eventually took him down? Demonic Tutor for Pongify! What a format!

Value-wise, we don’t really know yet what casual-only mythics will do as they age. Sarkhan Vol has maintained a steady $7-$8 value despite seeing no constructed play, but he’s a planeswalker.

I have to figure that cards like this will eventually settle in the $5-$8 range as well simply because there won’t be enough copies to go around 3-4 years from now.

Regardless, Felidar Sovereign trades pretty well now and he will probably keep his value for the next couple years.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Hallowed Burial 

Eventide – $1.50 ($7 Foil)

Don’t put Wrath of God or Day of Judgment in your deck over this card. Trust me.

Paying one extra mana to put all opposing generals on the bottom of their owners’ library is game-breaking, especially against people who use low-cc techy generals like Arcum, Azusa, and Zur. Since you alone know what’s coming, you can conveniently allow your general to die and go back to the command zone before burying everyone else’s stuff alive.

I also doubt this card will be re-printed in the duel decks, since Wizards doesn’t seem to want Commanders going to the bottom of libraries. This card is a strong pick-up and is very easy to trade.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 9
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

 

Idyllic Tutor 

Eventide – $2.50 ($5 Foil)

Commander is full of absurd enchantments, and many of them are white. Since they tend to be more durable than creatures, it is easier to count on them to stick around for a couple of activations, too. While Idyllic Tutor probably only goes in the same decks as Academy Rector, enough people build those decks that you’ll want one around.

Trade Appeal: 4
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

 

Karmic Guide 

Urza’s Legacy – $3 ($40 Foil)

Karmic Guide is the rare triple threat.

She’s got a relevant body as an attacker and blocker, providing evasion as well as protection from black. She’s truly unique, too, because her ability isn’t really found on any other creatures – especially in white. Lastly, she’s both card and tempo advantage.

Wow.

Having been printed only once in an old set, I can’t see Karmic Guide staying at $3 for long. I would always trade for this card at $3 and I wouldn’t trade it away for less than $5.

I also doubt it will be reprinted since it is a funky, older card that doesn’t quite jive with the modern color pie.

Trade Appeal: 10
Undervalued: 10
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Land Tax 

Fourth Edition – $7 ($15 Judge Foil)

A lot of the price of Land Tax is due to speculation that it may be the next card unbanned in Legacy. Some experts like Steven Menendian have been pushing to legalize it for years.

Of course, much like California’s Prop 19, I think those hopes will ultimately go up in smoke. Wizards’ take on repeatable [card]Ancestral Recall[/card]s, even for land, seems pretty firm.

That leaves Commander, where this card is left out of more decks than it should be. It’s not cheap at $7, but you can usually find people who will trade ‘em to you around $5. And once you play with it a few times, you’ll be a believer.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 3
Likelihood of Reprint: 2 (Just did judge foil.)

 

Luminarch Ascension 

Zendikar – $3 ($7 Foil)

The trade appeal is very high on this card due to its standard playability and tribal affiliation. Resolving one early in Commander probably means having it active in just one trip around the board, making this an exceptionally potent threat.

You can get this card for $2 or so in trade easily since it is a fringe-playable constructed rare from last year’s set. I recommend picking them up now – the ‘angel’ factor alone will keep its value stable. As we get further away from Zendikar, I can see this card taking a similar (but lesser) trajectory to Doubling Season. This card should stay one of the pricier rares in the set due to casual play alone.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Magus of the Disk 

Time Spiral – $0.40 ($5 Foil)

Another $0.40 special that will trade all day at a buck, this Magus is a sweet bulk box pickup.

While he’s not as good as an actual Nevinyrral’s Disk most of the time, it’s not incidental that he can be searched up with creature-tutoring spells and abilities. His 2/4 body isn’t irrelevant, either. Oh – and the fact that he costs $4 less than a real Disk helps, too.

These “trade for at bulk, trade away at a buck or two” cards are the bread and butter of Commander dealing, so make sure you put this guy on your radar.

Trade Appeal: 3
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

Martial Coup – Conflux – $3 ($6 Foil)

Yeah, not EVERY card on this list is a block wrath effect, but more than a few of them have become sweet Commander staples over the years. Martial Coup is one of the best because it is both reactive and proactive, wiping the board away while leaving you an army.

This is a fine card at $3, but I don’t see too much room for it to grow. Most of the past block wraths have stabilized at $2.50 – $3, and I don’t see this one acting any differently.

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 3
Likelihood of Reprint: 5

 

Reveillark 

Morningtide – $5 ($12 Foil)

Reveillark isn’t a great card to invest in right now, because Extended Season is inflating all the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor cards to their highest possible values. Reveillark was always one of the most fun cards to brew with, so it’s no surprise that many people want to make him work in constructed again.

In Commander, good old ‘lark is a great compliment to Ranger of Eos. You can use him to bring back dead utility creatures after your Ranger tutors them up. (Mother of Runes, a card that nearly made this list, is a great target for this.) Lark is even better pared with blue, where he can do his god-given duty and bring back Mulldrifter just like old times.

Bonus points for blinking him with Venser every turn too. #BuildYourOwnSunTitan

Trade Appeal: 6
Undervalued: 1
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

 

Rout 

Invasion – $4 ($15 Foil)

Ho hum diggity. Another block wrath.

What? The wrath that can also be Armageddon isn’t enough for you? How about the one that puts all your friends’ generals on the bottom of their libraries? Or the modal one? Or the one that cycles away when you don’t need it? Or the one that comes with a free army attached? Those ones aren’t enough?

Fine. This one works AT INSTANT SPEED.

BOOM.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 2

 

Sacred Mesa 

Mirage – $0.50 ($4 Foil)

Yeah, Luminarch Ascension is better. But this one has ponies. Whinny!

In all seriousness, Sacred Mesa is actually a pretty good compliment to ascension. It also has the added balance of seeming much more innocuous.

Remember that scene in A Bug’s Life when Hopper tells his team not to underestimate the ants because all of them working together would be a bigger threat than they could handle? People underestimate the threat of 1/1 flying ponies too until there are twenty of them and suddenly the board is nothing but ponies and pain and death.

Add Sacred Mesa to your “pick up in bulk, trade for a buck” pile. Not a ton of appeal, but enough people want the card that it makes sense to stock it.

Trade Appeal: 3
Undervalued: 6
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

 

Stonehewer Giant 

Morningtide – $1 ($3 Foil)

Forget about Stoneforge Mystic, THIS is the guy you want in your deck!

In Commander, remember, 5 mana is like 3 mana anywhere else. You’re going to be playing with acceleration pretty much no matter what, and games can last a very long time.

In that context, spending 5 mana for a 4/4 vigilant giant that tutors up and attaches your best equipment to your best dude is nothing short of absurd. Many of these games come down to who has the right protection sword – not to mention the Kaldra pieces!

At a buck, this card is criminally, staggeringly undervalued. Yeah, Morningtide was recent, and yeah this guy never saw any constructed play, but I can’t fathom a reason not to run Stonehewer Giant in nearly every white Commander deck there is.

I would pick up as many copies of Stonehewer Giant as I could at $1. This card should trade for $3+ easily if the format picks up.

Trade Appeal: 8
Undervalued: 10
Likelihood of Reprint: 6

Storm Herd – Guildpact – $0.80 ($3 Foil)

Even in the weird world of Commander, Storm Herd gets very little respect.

Yeah, it costs ten. Ten is a lot, even in big mana formats like this. It ain’t for every deck, that’s for sure.

Of course, once you get it out, god DAMN do you have a lot of ponies!

I have a friend with a dedicated Naya token deck. It has a hundred ways to kill you, and many of them are obviously amazing. However, there are only two cards in the deck I am actually terrified of: Titanic Ultimatum and Storm Herd.

The rest of his cards are good, but they’re mostly fair and slow enough to potentially beat. This card, especially with something like Fires of Yavimaya in play or Anger in the graveyard, can hit you with 20, 30, 40, even 50 power worth of evasive guys on the board in one go.

Underestimate the herd at your own peril.

While this is not a card I expect will be easy to trade away, you can find it in bulk bins all the time. And once you kill an opponent from 40 life with it once, you’ll find people in your playgroup who will want a copy of it themselves.

Trade Appeal: 2
Undervalued: 2
Likelihood of Reprint: 4

 

Twilight Shepherd 

Shadowmoor – $2 ($13 Foil)

You can see a theme developing as we go through these cards, I’m sure.

In Commander, white likes to wrath the board multiple times while making sure that it can recover better than all the other players can.

In many cases, paring white with blue (card draw) or black (reanimation) is what gives you the best recovery plan. But if you’re playing, say, a mono-white or white/red deck, you’ll need a reasonable FEMA trailer once the board is wiped away.

Twilight Shepherd holds the unique position of being one of the only creatures you want to have in play when the world ends. Like many of these cards, she’s proactive (fat flyer) and reactive (saves your team, comes back to life herself.)

You can sometimes tell how popular a card is in Commander based on how much higher the foil price is on a card than the regular price. This is because Commander players love to pimp out their decks more than pretty much anyone else.

While angel collectors have also helped drive up the Shepherd’s price, the numbers don’t lie about how good this card is in multiplayer. She’s super easy to trade away and a staple of the first order.

Of course, she’s also a card that I believe Wizards will absolutely re-print.

Trade Appeal: 10
Undervalued: 7
Likelihood of Reprint: 8

 

Weathered Wayfarer 

Onslaught – $1.50 ($5 Foil)

Which would you rather do, hire the Land Tax guy to expand your kingdom three acres at a time, or pay this jerk to wayfare around town on your behalf, slowly expanding your property?

Why not do both?

Yeah, this guy isn’t Land Tax, but he’ll still get you all your sweet lands one at a time. And all it takes is a quick read through last week’s article to understand how valuable that can be.

While some people don’t know about this guy, those that do certainly want him. He won’t trade easily, but he won’t sit in your binder for years, either. Slow, steady, reliable – that’s the wayfarer.

Trade Appeal: 5
Undervalued: 5
Likelihood of Reprint: 8

 

Yosei, the Morning Star 

Champions of Kamigawa – $4.50 ($18 Foil)

This guy was part of a rocking good lock in Kamigawa/Ravnica standard, but since then he’s been relegated solely to life as a casual card.

Fortunately, that life suits him well.

Yosei is more of a rattlesnake than a dragon, beating in the sky while making you opponent petrified of killing it. Want your Wrath of God to also be a Time Walk? Having Yosei in play is a good way to do it.

At $4.50 the dragon collectors have kept this card from being cheap, but it’s super easy to trade because of its beauty, power, and unique ability.

Trade Appeal: 7
Undervalued: 4
Likelihood of Reprint: 3

Pick of the Week 1/20: High Tide – Fallen Empires

I’m pretty sure that every Legacy expert I’ve talked to has sworn up and down that Time Spiral will NOT spawn a new tier 1 deck.

They’re probably right.

However, in the off-chance that they’re wrong, it’s not a bad idea to have a couple playsets of High Tides stocked away somewhere.

And in many cases, it won’t even matter if the deck is good or not. People are going to want to brew around Time Spiral regardless, and they’re going to need High Tide to do it.

I’m not saying to go out and buy any dealers out of this card, (they’re available for around $0.70 right now) but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pick some up for a quarter or less in trade or in your store’s bulk boxes. If you turn that set around for even $1 each, which isn’t unreasonable, considering the current value, then you’ve made a nice $3 profit.

Until next week –
– Chas Andres

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