EDH - Kill 1 opponent fast vs spreading out the dmg evenly?

The Kitchen Table forum

Posted on Jan. 31, 2023, 4:29 p.m. by MortisAngelus

In a scenario where you can burn/ping or (in case of Xenagos) just deal damage in one blow to kill off one of your opponents very early in the game, would you do it? Or do you (excluding the Xenagos-case) try to divide it evenly amongst all three opponents in favor of not making it too personal and salty?

In both cases you will most likely become the archenemy at the table (dealing around 40 dmg in one turn usually does that). So taking out one player leaves you with only two potential sources for combat/burn damage, spot removal, boardwipes and/or counter spells. That is clearly better than three potential sources.

But gameplay like this may then lead to a very bad feeling at the table and the risk of just destroying the entire game evening.

What do you guys think? How would you play in this scenario?

Delphen7 says... #2

My inclination (and the way my group plays) is to identify who's the biggest threat to your plan, and knock them down to 0, and then let them see your hand and pitch in on the planning.

So as the game goes on it sort of morphs from 1v1v1v1 to 2v2 with people (quietly) conferring on both sides to help keep everyone engaged in the game, even if they're no longer 'alive'.

Or I combo off with Underworld Breach and every dies at the same time :D

January 31, 2023 5:43 p.m.

wallisface says... #3

Not an edh player, though i get the just, and have played some kitchen-table multiplayer magic.

I treat these formats for what they are - a game of politics.

I think in multiplayer ffa formats in general, your top priority is to gain political advantage. If you’re not the biggest threat at the table, you want to try and utilise/direct the other players towards fighting that player for you. In that scenario, you don’t want to remove those other players from the game, as you need their input. Whether you decide to 1-shot the top-player will depend on how well positioned you are after they’re out of the game (i.e. how well will you fare after they’re gone and the alliance crumbles).

If you are already the biggest threat at the table (and you haven’t managed to convince the group otherwise), then you for-sure need to lower the opponent-count asap.

Tldr: don’t do big splashy things unless you’re in a position where you’re ok becoming the target to-beat.

Whether or not targeting one player is socially/morally ok will depend entirely on your playgroup - its a discussion to have with the table.

January 31, 2023 8:29 p.m.

Most of my decks are Omni-directional messes, so it’s usually spread around, but I’ll also focus on highest life total or best positioned with a more targeted deck like The Briny Deep. Having everyone simultaneously crash is generally the most fun for me. Hurricane for 38.

January 31, 2023 10:25 p.m.

Profet93 says... #5


As someone who plays xenagos and is involved with politics, its a hard decision. One game in Azusa, I ramped Ulamog Turn 3 and they already wasted their removal on a random, non-threat. Had they had their removal for a proper threat, I wouldn't need to waste 3 turn cycles attacking each opponent once in an attempt to be fair.

I suppose the answer to your question depends on your goals of the game. Do you just wanna win? Focus on the other best player first. I usually have to make that decision as I use mana vault and dark ritual into a mind twist on turn 1. I also occasionally just roll a die and make my decision that way so people arent as hurt about it.

If the goal of your game is to have fun for everyone, then attack everyone once and spread the damage.

In Xenagos, its hard, unless they are playing lifegain. As some people dont have much of a board state but have a lot of cards in hand, vice versa, or something else entirely. Understanding proper threat assessment in addition to politics will help you find the clarity you seek.

February 1, 2023 12:58 a.m.

SaberTech says... #6

I think that, ultimately, you'll be playing to the attitude of your play group. Are they more relaxed or more cutthroat in their gameplay? That's probably the biggest determining factor. I would also take into consideration whether a person who gets knocked out early will have an opportunity to play again soon, either at your table or another one, or if they will be stuck twiddling their thumbs for the next hour. The sting of a loss can at least be mitigated a bit if they still felt like they got a reasonable amount of play time by the end of the gaming session

Beyond that though, I personally don't have an issue targeting a single person down first. My personal criteria of priority is usually: 1) The opponent that currently has the most threatening board (If I have enough power to bust through). 2) The opponent my deck has the worst compatibility against. 3) Greatest late-game threat (Like the combo player that is trying to look non-threatening.) 4) The player who won the last game (if it wasn't me).

I would generally agree that it's better to have less opponents and thus less resources that can be used against you in the game but there are also times where you end up needing two opponents to help you keep the third one in check. That's just one of those game-sense decisions that you have to make when the situation happens though.

February 1, 2023 7:44 a.m.

Gleeock says... #7

Meh, It is not even just politics. It is strategy; what strategy at the table do you KNOW you are weakest against? who is built to be strong late-game? who cannot handle life loss pressure?. I don't even care about lifegain with the right deck, if I see -splash control & I have an open window I will usually put damage pressure on that person. If their deck will functionally shut down gameplay at optimum, then yes I recognize my window & eliminate them if able. I don't arbitrarily spread damage around & I don't just attack the high life total, sometimes that just extends the game pointlessly pruning a life-total on someone who will just get it back. Instead, put pressure on the players where it matters (control decks who don't lifegain), then usually I have a way to blowout a high life total deck. In a FFA game, where everyone is built to screw everyone else over I don't see the point to not strategically single out if your deck is built to beatstick & you know you will be at a late-game disadvantage against certain decks. The only time it seems tacky is when someone has obviously shown no hope due to dumb luck.

February 1, 2023 1:55 p.m.

Gleeock says... #8

When you do have a brief, logical, explanation that you wipe someone out because of strategic reasons; especially when you have demonstrated doing well by "sticking to your guns", usually it takes the salt right out of it. Though, sometimes this can be a familiarity thing too. So for me, consistency of my process & demonstrated wins make pretty difficult to argue with what I often do in my land of sluggy, goady, lifelossy, player-eliminating tactics.

It is all about setting expectations. Sometimes there is a little bit of pariah behavior toward me (in a new group) because I take every opportunity I can to sneak in free damage. The way I build several decks I have to alter player's decisions by dealing damage while I can & those decks go right down to the wire usually. The social construct of players in EDH should not be so geared towards letting someone durdle their way to a 2ndary wincon or a lockdown situation. For eg: getting upset at me for bringing a Muldrotha, the Gravetide deck down to a severe low life total early in game when there is an obvious repeat Pernicious Deed cycle setting up - that deck thrives at mid-late lockdown, it should be expected that without blockers I will go for player removal before that can happen. Again, usually the salt is lower though once I am identified as just being "that guy" that will try to deal with a perceived threat in that way... Just that 1st game can be a shock with new players that haven't seen the strategy much in recent years & they perceive it as bullying instead of a valid strategy.

Long rant, but really good topic.

February 1, 2023 10:50 p.m.

Profet93 says... #9

"Logic" is nice, I value it tremendously over emotion and it has served me well in all areas of my life, except when dealing with emotional people.

Perhaps it's just me. But from experience, everyone always has some axe to grind against someone else, regardless if its justified or not. For example, the Muldrotha player at the point could aruge they are the lesser of 2 evils by killing the (enter more evil deck/commander here).

Everyone looks out for their own interests, everyone is gonna get mad one way or another. So rather than trying to justify it, I've learned to just give them the same shit back, should I be inclined. I've learned that people play MTG typically to relieve stress and have fun. When they dont have fun and you cause them more stress, they will intentionally or unintentionally let it out on you.

Also, at the risk of being TMI ... I once went to a new shop and was playing with this guy, call him "Bob." Being the new guy, I wanted to be friendly and got to talk to people about MTG and other stuff in their lives (jobs, hobbies, etc...). Bob got mad at me because I play more expensive decks and would always make offhand comments. For my most expensive deck, I ramped into a Gilded Lotus with Mishra's Workshop into a Karn Liberated in order to exile his Doubling Season for his atraxa deck. Solid plan right? 1v1 game, exiling his most important piece. He got up, gave me a death stare and left. Later that night, I had an associate of his come up to my place and threaten to kill my family. While I am/this situation is an outlier, it is important to remember the primary motivations behind this game. The fact that people get so mad over a game to the point they are willing to degrade their own character just to lower your own, or even worse, threaten violence, should not be forgotten, especially in these times

February 1, 2023 11:06 p.m.

Gleeock says... #10

Well the last salty situation I was in was playing someone's Minsc & Boo, Timeless Heroes deck against them. They had a Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm deck popping off & Terror of the Peaks to boot - those megathreats all got returned to hand by someone else (with onboard haste). Instead of using the draw function I just aggro killed him somewhat early with the hamster... It is funny, sometimes I just acknowledge someone with a "yep"/"killing you is still the plan" & when I just acknowledge, then move on they will almost start to talk themselves into a really convincing argument for why player elimination was the right move. Often enough I get the "I had X & Y waiting in hand" & I just go: "you are not making me feel worse about making sure that didn't happen" :) It is just kindof funny how 80% of these individuals just want to vent some sort of closure & when they've said their piece, usually, you can let their own words sink in. This is an outlier situation as well, I usually just use equal Machiavellian strategy without cutting any deals & usually without needing to offer much rationale & typically it is just an accepted thing.

February 1, 2023 11:22 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #11

As the one who regularly gets beaten out of games early, and sits around waiting for the game to end so we can start the next one, I wouldn't wish that experience on my opponents. I divide my damage so that the most people spend the most time still playing the game.

I guess my motivation is more socially than politically driven. I know that's not optimal play, but I like it that way.

February 2, 2023 2:34 a.m.

MortisAngelus says... #12

Thanks everybody for all these insightful comments and stories! They have been a real treat to read through. Very interesting to read about how some of you go for pure logic, others making their damnest to just keep everything as fun as possible.

And if course I invite and welcome more stories from you and others still!

In my play group, we usually sun for the most fun and inclusive plays, dividing out damage equally. Or to the person with highest life total.

But that has backfired so many times it feels like. Many times you attack the person with just life, not the most threat, which later on usually results in a win for that player.

But as I described in another post of mine, there is then also that salty situation when we all know we just can't let that one player develop their board too long, or they will dominate. Best thing to do before that player beginners a threat is to kill him asap. But that again goes back to this thread/topic: it creates a very salty situation, very much like the one plakjekaas described.

But that also begs my question: is your deck then too weak so it gets killed easily, or is it too strong so people always go for you from the start?

February 2, 2023 3:57 a.m.

SaberTech says... #13

Honestly, I rarely consider players' life totals to be an indicator of who is ahead in a game or not. A player who is dumping their life into a Necropotence or Sylvan Library is far more threatening than someone who has just gained 20 life. Sure, heavily hitting a player's life total can help to pressure them into certain actions, but just tossing random bits of damage at the person with the highest life total only servers to draw out the game.

I personally think that games where everyone is playing decks of roughly the same power level is best but determining if that's the case has been one of those long-standing dilemmas in Commander. However, when it's obvious that one person's deck is notably stronger than everyone else's I don't think that they can really complain if they get ganged up on frequently. It just makes sense for the other players to try to take them down. I really enjoy tinkering and fine-tuning my decks so I've certainly found myself in that seat a number of times. Now I try to keep a selection of decks of different power levels.

I'm not going to recommend that someone weaken their deck to match a group though. There's pride and investments made into building a good deck that I wouldn't want to devalue. I would prefer if they built another deck of a more equal power level but not everyone is in the position to do that either. So another option, if the person has the tact for it, is to just always be open to helping other people refine their decks if asked. If they don't want to be seen as the primary threat then they can help other people build up to a similar level with deck suggestions and play advice. I'll admit that some people come across as arrogant and abrasive when they try to do that though, so it's not an approach for everyone. And there are some people who want to be the sole creators of their decks and aren't really looking for another person's advice anyway.

February 2, 2023 5:42 a.m.

plakjekaas says... #14

My decks are not necessarily too weak or too strong, the problem is mainly that I want to show my cards synergizing together on the board, while most of my playgroup is more of a 'sculpt my hand, fight what bothers me, till I can combo and win'-type of player. My board full of permanents always looks scarier than the unknown cards in hand of the real most dangerous opponent. It's a bit my own fault painting the target on myself that way.

However, because it plays out this way, it's harder for me to target the real threat, because of unknown information. Another reason to spread out the damage until they reveal themselves.

And of course there's nuance when I choose who to attack, the empty-handed player will be relatively left alone and such, but I try to not kill anyone until I'm close enough to winning, because of reasons explained in my previous post.

February 2, 2023 6:55 a.m.

SaberTech says... #15

I can understand that situation. I've been there plenty of times myself.

How good would you say the people you play with are at threat assessment? That's probably one of the biggest learning curves to multiplayer games, and it often just requires time and experience. It's annoying to know that you need to take down the player who has been sculpting their hand and dropping the occasional potential combo piece only to get sideswiped by someone else who thinks that you are scarier because you have a few notable creatures out.

There's a card I hate to mention because I think it seriously slows games to a crawl until it is removed, but Telepathy is one of those cards you can use to help force into the open the plans of those people who like to hide their game plan in their hand. Other effects that force an opponent to reveal their hand also help. Even if it is an effect that only lets you look at an opponent's hand, you can use that information to barter and politic with your other opponents.

"Do you really want to destroy my mana rock? I know that Player C is holding something worse in their hand."

"You look like you want to cast something big. I know that Player D has a counterspell in their hand. You may want to wait a bit."

"You might want to leave mana open for a response to Player B. They have a card that will screw you over if you don't."

Spoon-feed little bits of info to try to keep them hesitant and slow their game play. You can be a bit vague and choose not to give up important details if need be, but never outright lie. That sort of table-talk approach requires opponents believing what you tell them and lying even once can seriously undermine that.

February 2, 2023 8:14 a.m.

Profet93 says... #16


Telepath is cool, but you wanna know some other cool tech?

Worst Fears , Mindslaver , Emrakul, the Promised End - Why should I politic my opponent when we can play MTG, "together." With Emrakrul, I ask, "who wants an extra turn!?" and then just smile with a sadistic glee. Most people shy away from attacking you when you can just easily tutor for and cast a mindslaver effect and ruin them. Whether its exiling their own commander, or using their own necropotence for suicide, most people don't risk it. It's an all or nothing approach that has a 50/50 success rate.

But on a serious note, I think a lot of politics boils down to the carrot and the stick mentality, a lot like real life politics.Consequences for every action, determining how to navigate threats and advocate for yourself in the face of the adversity of others.

February 2, 2023 3:07 p.m.

SaberTech says... #17

One of the first few Commander decks that I ever made was a Glissa, the Traitor deck that could keep recycling Mindslaver with the help of Forbidden Orchard. Give the opponent a token with the Orchard so that they always had a creature you could run into Glissa to get Mindslaver back.

I'm personally not a fan of Telepathy, despite being the one who mentioned it. Like I said, I find that it often slows games down and I don't like that. It's also a card in the deck that doesn't really affect the board state at all if you are behind. What it does do is not let the sneaky opponents hide just how close they are to comboing off.

Glasses of Urza is a similar sort of card but since it only lets you see the opponent's hand it's better for letting you barter information. It also doesn't slow the game down as much since opponents will still be taking risks due to not knowing if opponents have removal or counters in hand. Still, most people would rather run something like Gitaxian Probe if they want a chance to peek at someone's hand and get some sort of additional benefit.

I do like that playing politics is a part of Commander gameplay. It helps distinguish the format from others and it can give players who are behind a potential avenue to still feel relevant in the game. A person who is new to the game and doesn't have much of a card collection yet can just play a cheap deck with a bunch of clones, steal spells, and disruptive instants so that they can take advantage of the strong spells other player are playing and cut deals to help stay in the game.

February 2, 2023 8:54 p.m.

SpammyV says... #18

The less that I know the other players and the less likely it is that I think this pod will get multiple games in, the more like I am to hold back and balance my aggression out until I feel like everyone's had a chance to "do their thing" and be a participant in the game.

On the flip side of things, when every game comes down to no one attacking because no one wants to look aggressive until they kill the whole board with some combo, my old group and I got so bored to tears we started playing with the Bang! roles to encourage aggression. And if I am playing with them, they all know that eventually I am comfortable playing the villain. If attacking for 20 each turn is going to win me the game, then stop me or perish.

The one exception to this is if someone's on a group hug deck. You will not buy favors from me and I won't wait for you to build your pillowfort.

February 2, 2023 11:26 p.m.

Gleeock says... #19

I've been screwed way too many times stringing a player along in the past. Way too many: looks like someone is being picked on because they are being slapped when they are open for business (because all they have in their decks are setup pieces with a banger - by design), so you feel bad & frig off, then thoracle or a more casual dominance piece comes out. There just seems to be so many decks out there that will just lock people out if you "let them all do their thing". There is a big difference though in identifying what decks are setting up & will stop you dead by-design unless you remove the player & what decks are just flat-out floundering.

I've had voltron players come at me like a spider monkey before when I was playing Extus, Oriq Overlord  Flip, as they should, repeatedly awakening the blood avatar will completely nullify their strategy & the only option they are seeing is to remove me from the game.

February 3, 2023 1 a.m.

SaberTech says... #20

Voltron is one of the hardest strats to play with in Commander. There are a lot of ways to counter it. So I honestly can't blame a voltron player for making whatever plays that they think are needed to go for a win, short of cheating of course. I would expect a voltron player to try to target down opponents whenever they can.

February 3, 2023 2:18 a.m.

TypicalTimmy says... #21

For me, it depends on several factors.

One being what deck am I playing. I have (or rather, has) some decks that excelled at focused damage to drop a body asap. So all damage relentlessly went toward one opponent, who was chosen based on their Commander - e.g. the biggest potential of being a threat. Such as Edgar Markov. This is how my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck would win.

Other decks, it makes more sense to literally "do nothing" and quietly piece out a winning combo and overrun the boardstate within a single turn. My old Ghired, Conclave Exile deck was able to do that quite effectively.

Other times, a deck played best via threat assessment; What was the most problematic boardstate, and how can I disrupt it? A prime example of this would have been my really old Mogis, God of Slaughter deck in which it was mostly just spot removal. Rakdos excels in creature removal, red has artifact and land removal, black has wraths and discarding. Then Mogis has indestructible and just sits there grinding down the game. A war of attrition, truly.

Then again sometimes the goal isn't to win but to just have fun. My Karametra, God of Harvests deck is a prime example. It was essentially Soul Sisters turned EDH and it's "wincon" was combat damage by overrunning the boardstate with a bagillion 1/1 tokens. But even if I had 647 power online ready to attack and 838 life, I wouldn't. Because at that point all three opponents would very obviously be seeing me as the biggest threat and it became a game of Archenemy. And the fun there is watching all three of them try to take me down, and fail. And when it finally did happen, we all had a blast.

Sometimes I build a deck just to let my inner Timmy take hold. That's my Miirym, Sentinel Wyrm deck. Can it win? Yes easily. Does it always win? No. Is it fun to play, even if I am losing? Absolutely.

So really, the "way" I play largely is determined by which deck I am currently using. That being said, sometimes there is a clear asshole player who needs to be put in their place. I've had experiences where I've been the sole focus for assault by a single player for several games in a row. So when I finally have the upper hand, I'll take what I can get and throw everything I've got at them. And of course, they'll bitch and moan and cry and throw a temper tantrum about it all, citing how it isn't fair that there are three opponents and I only attacked him. Well yeah, you have three opponents and I'm the only one you targeted for the past three games. So shut the fuck up, buttercup.

I would wager that while the way Command Zone / Game Knights plays is how most players would want it as their ideal, largely most players do not play this way. I am willing to bet that MOST tables don't play with politics in mind, making deals and crafting plans. I would wager MOST tables sit down with random players at an LGS or a college campus and take what they can get, which means you aren't all friends and don't know each other's experiences. And even if you do, Jimmy and James have decades of entertainment experience between them, whereas we do not. So the showboating and glamor and humor likely just isn't there. And with that, I highly doubt much focus is put on "OMG guys we REALLY need to get rid of XYZ! Okay, if someone lets me resolve this, then that can allow someone else to do this. I won't attack anyone for a turn but we need to stop XYZ or it's game over!"

No. Most of the time it's going to be: "Damn that sucks. Not my problem though. At most he can deal 13 damage and you're at 8 and I'm at 30. Good luck."

We may not actively want to see other players lose, but I bet we also don't actively try to stop it, either.

TLDR - Depends on the deck and if someone has been an outstanding asshole or not.

February 3, 2023 10:09 a.m. Edited.

Even new players figure out pretty quickly that my deck isn’t going to suddenly combo out, so they generally focus on one another. This, of course, is how I end up accidentally winning when I finish off the now-bloodied two of the original three with a Viseling & Sculpting Steel “combo” that they hadn’t planned for. Hardly what people would think of as a combo, but as potent as anything else. It’s fun to play a minor part for most of the game - lets them enjoy the weird buffet of interesting cards while they fight... and then they get to lose to one or two of them (or, of course, one of them does the math and smokes me suddenly when they sense the danger).

February 3, 2023 12:04 p.m.

Gleeock says... #23

I like this. I actually am a big fan of the "better them than me" attitude. Kardur, Doomscourge is a big fan of it too. I just build decks that lend themselves to Machiavellian politics & opponents often pick up on that & will even respect it, after all we are all enemies. It is crazy how many players will think their deals out loud -- Seriously, don't announce your preference for another player in a FFA game, it will backfire eventually. I mostly find "alliances" to be dumb in FFA, the balance of power always shifts, but when a player hears you trying to decide their fate & pick apart their board in a weaselly way; you run the risk of making an enemy that will now destroy you at any cost. When you straight up slap people without collusion, at least you are doing it without "ganging up" & there is a powerful political + emotional implication associated with that. The worst is when collusion is going above & beyond what was actually needed to balance the scales of power & now one of those players just wasted a bunch of their hand going way beyond what was needed.

Fortunately, "alliances" never get proposed to me any more, with newer players that don't know me better it will get attempted, but it often backfires for them. The way I typically reason; if someone is proposing a deal to me, then they have something big to gain that will screw the table over in some way. The player that has the most invested in the game will be the first to speak up & that is going to be the player I want to go for. You don't barter or propose unless you have some hope in hand. I have to worry the most about wasted damage if a player is completely indifferent to a beatdown.

For frame of reference though, my decks tend to force a lot of action, or will use a groupslug element. Very few combos, no tutors in my favorite decks anyway... So, there is not alot of margin for error in decks that are trying to force the game into a midrange back-&-forth slugfest.

Kardur, Doomscourge - I leave timmie creature, swing-wide, or voltron decks to "play their game", but I need to try to eliminate a player if they are too heavy in the 2ndary wincon category, or tapdown decks like Lathril, Blade of the Elves

Extus, Oriq Overlord  Flip - Somewhat light in late-game engines/card advantage, I need to pick the right player after my blowout spells.

Breena, the Demagogue - True aggro, proliferate, late game superfriends. Constant attacking from turn 3 & up. There is alot of lifelink & vigilance (poop-tier evergreen) & a really good aggro attack trigger. So logically, with advantage gained from attacks & no drawback from attacking - I should use that to put significant pressure on the right player.

February 3, 2023 12:36 p.m.

SaberTech says... #24

I design my decks into 3 rough categories:

1) Casual decks that have no infinite combos but can still snowball the table if not checked properly. I aim for the decks to have the potential to kill all my opponents around turn 8 on at least a semi-consistent basis.

2) Janky combo decks that can be really strong but kind of suffer from consistency issues.

3) High consistency combo decks.

For a while I've been working on a list of questions to help me figure out which category of decks I should play with new people and I've generally settled on:

  • Are infinite combos and instant wins allowed?

  • What is the earliest turn you are ok with a game ending on?

  • On what turn do you think a game should end on average?

  • What are you opinions on Tutors, Stax, and Land Destruction?

  • Do you play more cutthroat and always aim to eliminate people when you can or does the group tend to play more lax than that?

I find the questions about turns a better way to gauge power level expectations than asking about deck power levels since people's definitions of deck levels are subjective and vary too much from group to group.

February 3, 2023 3:12 p.m.

To be fair: my inept Omni-directional decks can sometimes cause a problem for the table; some folks get upset (to one degree or another) because I’m not, for lack of a better term, pulling my own weight. I understand how it can be extremely frustrating to have one of the power players at the table attempt to cast a Big Problem and have the only blue player (who could counter it) be too busy casting Bureaucracy-themed spells to “save the table.” I don’t blame folks for feeling that way, but the real source of frustration there is “the other players aren’t playing right” or “the right kind of deck” and after a little bit of self-reflection it’s pretty clear that one needn’t stress about that sort of thing. Even if it means someone else’s deck kicks off before yours.

February 3, 2023 3:34 p.m.

Gleeock says... #26

I probably prefer player removal because I don't really police the game otherwise. Not a whole gotta spot removal from me. You play with some groupslug around and you start to play different, let everyone bleed a bit, make big plays, then snatch em :)

I'm a big Descent into Avernus fan if you can't tell

February 3, 2023 9:08 p.m.

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