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Author Topic: Gay Fish Primer  (Read 17992 times)
Phantom Tape Worm
« on: January 15, 2003, 06:28:19 pm »

Fish Primer
- Phantom Tape Worm and BeBe, honorable mention to Razor for keeping my old e-mails

I had been out of magic for about two years before I got into type 1.  A friend of mine brought over some net decks made of proxy cards, in particular a deck called “keeper”, which he billed as THE best deck in type 1.  At the time I still had my old competitive type 2 Urza era control deck assembled.  It hadn’t been played in a very long time, so I blew the dust off it and matched up vs. “keeper”.  I was fairly confident in my U/w control deck; it had won me quite a few tourneys. I had great cards in my deck like Palinchron and Catastrophe, with broken buyback card draw in the form of whispers of the muse, and plenty of solid vanilla counter spells to stop control dead in its tracks.  Needless to say I got my ass handed to me.  I attacked keeper with a couple of other decks we still had assembled from back in the day; tempest sligh, en-kor white weenie, and old school recsur (w/spirit of the night), keeper ate them all up.  

So I remained convinced that this deck was simply unbeatable.  But we were putting “keeper” through the gauntlet, seeing what it was capable of.  It had already beaten what I regarded as the cream of the crop from my type 2 days, and I didn’t really have any other decks to test it against.  So I pulled out my casual merfolk theme deck from off the shelf.  It was a silly little deck; lots of little blue guys plus curiosities all backed up with a few counter spells and some bounce.  It, of course, was not a competitive deck at the time.  And got no respect from any of the guys in our circle, myself included.  So I sat down and played against keeper, fully expecting to lose.  But somehow fish wins.  WTF?!  The best deck in the most broken format loses to a casual creature theme deck?!  It was the first loss keeper had taken that night, and that was the beginning of Fish for me.
                  -Phantom Tape Worm

Fish, as an archetype, is blue based weenie aggro-control that relies on tempo and card draw for the win.  Before you laugh off and dismiss this deck archetype as a steaming jank pile, let me share a quote with you:

Quote "I would like to add that this deck, although incredibly weird looking has been a consistent performer in Richmond and has proven to be a particularly annoying match up for Keeper on account of the combination of Null Rod and the man-lands. It definitely has some problems with TnT, but it's easily a solid contender in any metagame. This is also a very, very good option for people doing budget deck building as it loses very little without the big money cards and has a strong aggro-control feel to it with strong weenies, tough to kill threats, and slight counter backup."

Fish is aggro-control and in the rock scissors paper game of magic, it generally beats control and combo, but loses to aggro.  This is of course a huge generalization, since the type 1 metagame can be extremely diverse.  

*In all my sanctioned playing I’ve found that fish is fairly strong vs. most forms of aggro...well, minus TnT (the nightmare match) Razz

In a competitive type 1 environment, Fish’s strength comes from its aggro-control strategy (attack and defend) and its ability to draw cards quickly.  The more spells it draws into, the more likely it is to win the match, regardless of what it is up against.

There are different types of Fish decks within the archetype, and fish continues to evolve.  In the past there was Frozen fish, an extended deck that ran winter orbs and quick blue fish with gush as its drawing engine.  This may have worked in extended but because winter orb is weaker in type 1 (with all the moxen floating around, and aggro’s 1cc mana curve) this deck should probably stay in extended.  Or alternatively lose winter orb and become a non-basic hate deck using back to basics.

But rather than become a dirty non-basic hate deck, fish evolved.  It dropped gush as a card drawer and now uses other more synergistic options.

More current forms include gay fish, big gay fish and curious fish.  These are all essentially the same deck in principle, but each has its own playing subtleties that warrant different descriptors.

This primer will focus on “Gay Fish.”

“Gay Fish”
        4 Rootwater Thief
        4 Manta Riders
        4 Lord of Atlantis
        4 Cloud of Faeries
        4 Force of Will
        3 Misdirection
        4 Standstill
        4 Curiosity
        3 Null Rod
        1 Coastal Piracy
        1 Psionic Blast
        1 Time Walk
        1 Ancestral Recall
        1 LoA
        1 Mox Sapphire
        1 Strip Mine
        2 Wasteland
        4 Faerie Conclave
        4 Mishra's Factory
        9 Island

The deck is clearly gay, look at all the faeries  …err…not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Gay Fish is an archetype that has surprised many. At first glance it seems innocent enough; few restricted/power cards, few counters, and an assortment of rather harmless looking creatures.  No spectacular mind-blowing uber-broken first turns, no 12/12’s on turn 1, no mind twisting the opponent’s hand away before they can drop a land.  In fact more often than not, gay fish’s opening play will be “land, go.”  However, even without the capacity for a spectacular start, Gay fish can often muster enough of a counter defense to reign in those broken openings.  And just as the opponent has spent his early resources in a failed attempt to do something degenerate, gay fish capitalizes with a free creature, some man lands, and a standstill, gaining both tempo and card advantage.  And from there it will snowball.  An early advantage quickly gets out of control as gay fish draws into more free counters, weenies and card drawers.  Soon the opponent is overwhelmed by a school of effeminate fish.

So what is the deal with those gay fish?

Gay Fish sports sixteen creatures and eight man lands.  If you include the man lands that’s 24 creature cards, which is a very high threat density; on par with or exceeding most white weenie builds.  And like most mana drain era weenie decks, the creatures have casting costs no greater than two.  This allows gay fish to operate very consistently in the early part of the game (dropping critters on turn one or two) while simultaneously giving it less truly juicy mana drain targets.

And then of course there’s the man lands, uncounterable free creatures.  The inclusion of the man lands gives the deck extra resiliency to global sweepers and the capacity to deal more damage.  Note that the man lands also work very well with standstill.

Manta Riders – A 1/1 flyer for 1 mana, he gets big with a lord in play.  While not as dangerous by himself as oh say goblin welder, he’s an excellent curiosity target due to his evasion, and necessary for a merfolk build.

Rootwater Thieves - although a two casting cost 1/2 creature, its ability and evasion make it a great addition to the deck. If left unchecked, it can quickly neuter some of the best decks in type 1.  While they aren’t particularly strong vs. aggro, the fact that they can fly and get larger with a lord in play make them decent.

Lord of Atlantis - The game is over quickly if he hits
the table against any number of decks.  Not only does he provide a crusade effect for your creatures, but he also provides them with the often-overlooked islandwalk ability.  This can really save your ass when you are staring down a morphling.

Cloud of Faeries – not a fish, but definitely worth a slot.  She flies for free (good with curiosity/coastal piracy), she untaps your lands (good with library of Alexandria, man lands, situations where you have WAY too many cards in hand and need to drop a barrage of creatures ASAP, good turn 2 pre standstill drop), and cycles under standstill.  And to top it all off, no one ever counters a faerie, she's totally innocuous.  Many people question the inclusion of cloud of faeries in gay fish, but in a build that utilizes standstill there really is no room for debate, she is the best creature for the job.

Mishra’s Factory – Arguably the best man land ever printed, he provides a solid anti-weenie wall as a 3/3 on defense, and acts as an uncounterable beat stick versus control.

Faerie Conclave – As a general rule, lands that come into play tapped do not see much competitive play.  The reason for this is that you simply cannot afford to be slowed down a turn in a speedy environment.  However gay fish breaks this rule, with all of its “free spells” it can afford to put a land into play tapped.  Also, if you examine the gay fish mana curve you will see that 2 is the magic number.  So long as you don’t draw two Conclaves in your opening hand as your only mana sources, the come into play tapped problem should be no problem at all.  Turn one you would simply drop the conclave and say go, and then on turn two you’ll begin casting spells.  That said, faerie conclave is an excellent land in this deck; it’s aggressive, evasive and to top it all off it produces blue mana.

But what about coral merfolk or river merfolk?  They’re gay too, right?

Sadly the other blue fish just don’t make the cut.  Even with the two power, they don’t possess the requisite evasion.

But what about other cool blue guys?  Serendib efreet is good, or ooh ooh I know, what about morphling!  Why don’t we try him?

Neither serendib, nor morphling have a place in this deck.  Upping the casting cost of your threats is a mistake, both for the deck’s consistency and tempo.

So where’s manadrain?  Isn’t this supposed to be a blue deck?

Free counter spelling is absolutely imperative to Gay Fish’s survival in the most broken of formats.  Most of the time you will be tapped out, either activating man lands or casting spells.  Gay Fish is an aggressive deck and does not have luxury of sitting back and waiting for the opponent to walk into a manadrain.  Gay fish uses zero regular counter spells, everything is pitch activated.  This allows you to simultaneously attack and defend.  A very useful tactic since your strategy relies on fending off the bombs while you overwhelm your opponent.

Force of Will – WOW, is this an amazing card!  If you could include one more, you probably would.  There simply is nothing that even comes close to the ultimate pitch counter spell…with the exception of perhaps…

Misdirection – In type 1 this card rivals force for its ability to not only stop a bomb, but to blow it back in your opponent’s face.  Misdirection put the fear of god back into so many decks that would otherwise not think twice about casting their targeted spells.  Of course, since misdirection is less versatile than force of will and occasionally is a dead card, we have less in the deck.  It remains a “three of”.

You know, I just realized you only have four counter spells in this deck?  What the hell?

The counter spell count is low, but we make up for that with card draw.  By drawing into more cards quickly, it seems as if there are more counter spells in the deck.  And the card drawing process actually works rather nicely with the counter spells since they all require a pitch in the activation.

Being able to out draw your opponent is absolutely critical in fish. Think of it like this, you are playing a weenie deck; you win like most other weenie, by swinging with your little guys.  Most good weenie decks have solid creatures; cost efficient, usually with the creature's power being greater than his converted mana cost.  e.g. jackal pup, Gazban Ogre, Savannah Lions, Kird Ape, etc.  As a fish deck, you don't.  The weenie decks of other colors all have better creatures than you do.  Sligh, Stompy, Zombie Sui, Zoo, Slivers, and even White Weenie, they all have faster more destructive and (in white weenie's case) more resilient creatures.  They can outrace you for damage and they can often gobble up your critters with theirs, so how do you expect to compete?

The answer is card draw.  

Your greatest strength is that you can use really good cheap draw spells that happen to work exceptionally well with fishes. Curiosity in particular is a great card for this deck. In adding curiosity, you're going to want to make sure your creatures are sufficiently evasive.  Manta riders and Rootwater Thieves come built in with flying so does cloud of faeries.  Contrary to what most of the people think of competitive type one, evasion is not an irrelevant creature ability.  People do play creatures in type 1, and knowing when to block and when to attack is just as important as knowing what spells to fight over in a counter war.  If you can’t get your creatures through to activate your card drawers, then the deck will quickly grind to a halt.

Curiosity – this is one of the two most important enablers of the deck.  It essentially turns any of your otherwise weak creatures into an ophidian that also applies just a little pressure.  An early curiosity unchecked can quickly snowball into a victory.  Once you get a few extra draws out of it, it becomes very difficult for the opponent to keep up.  Cast it on the turn you are going to attack if there is the possibility of spot removal.  It only needs to draw once for it to replace itself, every draw beyond the first is raw card advantage.  Gay Fish runs this as a “four of”.

Standstill – The second of the two “four of” card drawers in the deck and perhaps the most controversial.  Many people dislike this card as it can bite you in the ass.  However, in all of my sanctioned games I’ve only had standstill truly backfire once.  Every other time I’ve cast it, standstill has been ancestral recall numbers 2 through 5.  Additionally, standstill is one of those cards that throw the opponent for a loop.  If they haven’t played against standstill before they may try to wait it out, hoping that somehow their board position will improve before they break it.  This usually translates into an extra turn or two of man land beat down before they realize that they don’t have any choice but to cast something and allow you to draw away.  The thing is, with eight man lands, three strips, four cyclible cloud of faeries, library of Alexandria, and maze of iths on the sideboard, there simply is no deck that is better equipped to take advantage of standstill period.  Standstill is a very strong card and love it or hate it, it does have a place in gay fish.  And as a rebuttal to arguments that standstill is a “win more” card, I say consider the following example versus sligh:

Sligh Turn 1: mountain, goblin cadets
Gay Fish Turn 1: island, manta riders

At this point both players are even

Sligh Turn 2: mountain, jackal pup, bolt manta riders, attack with jackal pup

Sligh gains a momentary upper hand

Gay Fish Turn 2: mishra’s factory, cloud of faeries, standstill

Fish equalizes things and forces sligh to give up card advantage if it wishes to press the attack

Compare that with…

Gay Fish Turn 2: mishra’s factory, cloud of faeries, saprazzan heir (I’ve been seeing this as some people’s alternative to standstill lately, don’t waste your time with it)

Sligh can burn out the extra creature at a one for one exchange rate and not think twice about it.  Drawing lots of cards that can draw burn away from your head, or potentially blow it back in their face will give you the game.  As you can see standstill was not was not a “win more” card in this situation, and these circumstances are by no means uncommon.  Standstill puts you ahead when your board position is greater than or equal to theirs, and in the early game vs. most deck archetypes you’ll face in a competitive metagame standstill will be fantastic.

Coastal Piracy – The global curiosity.  This is actually a recent addition that made its way into the maindeck while I was looking for a “power” substitute (I play a good bit of type 1.5 and wanted to import gay fish).  My findings were astounding; once a piracy hit play it was very quickly game over.   More often than not, piracy draws 1+ cards immediately and many many more each turn thereafter.  Typically, this card will come down while there is at least one fish on the table and a manland waiting around to help the beat down.  At 2UU it is a mid game thing, but still playable.  Remember Gay Fish is not a pure aggro deck; it does not NEED to have a mana line like stompy or sligh.  Originally when I started using piracy in type 1 I cut both psionic blasts to make room for it.  However, due to its rather high casting cost and the necessity to run at least one removal/burn spell, it is must stay as a “one of”.

I’m sure some will say, “this is a win more card”, but I assure you it is not.  This is a card that will pull you ahead very quickly if you and your opponent have equal board position.  If you are winning, then yes, you will win more.  This card has a similar effect to standstill in that sense.

Shhh…(That said, coastal piracy is not integral to the strategy and is there in large part because I enjoy playing with it.  While I will stand by it, as it does win games, it can be removed with no harm.  Gay fish was good before piracy).

Ancestral Recall – There really isn’t much explanation needed here, but it certainly does fit the theme, and the casting cost is very reasonable

Time Walk – For most blue decks this card is just another land drop, but for Gay Fish it can swing games.  The extra attack phase it provides can be a HUGE bomb when you have a curious creature or an active rootwater thief.  Keep this in mind before you decide to cycle it in the early game.

A lone psionic blast?  It’s four or none, right?

Psionic Blast - The lone psionic blast used to be a pair of psionic blasts, however I found that most of the time psi blast was just force of will food, and the seemingly better option of coastal piracy made itself known, so I cut it all together…I’ve since had second thoughts on this.  An evasive attack that comes on multiple fronts is what we’re looking for; we don’t want to get shut out by any one single bomb.   Like sligh, if the ground war stalls out, the ability to go to the dome needs to be a back up plan.  Granted, one psi blast is hardly comparable to sligh’s burn, but the threat is perhaps more important than the actual execution.  If an opponent believes that you have absolutely no direct damage in your deck, then he may play more recklessly with his life total and/or permanents.  “I’ll sylvan library down to four life” or “I’ll necro to one” or “I’ll tap out to drop a fast morphling”, that kind of thing.  The presence of psi blast keeps them honest.  Also, there are times when creature removal is necessary (when blocking just won’t do) and psi blast provides it.  They are never really horrible, even if they are just force food more often than not, but their presence is necessary to keep your opponent guessing.  “One of” maindeck.

Null rods maindeck?  Why not just use kegs like all other mono blue decks?

Null Rod - Null rods are both a metagame call and help to shore up some of the decks most exploitable weaknesses.  Originally, Gay fish was designed with the intention of beating keeper, funker, OSE and various other artifact-heavy broken decks in the Richmond, VA metagame.  Null rod was a no-brainer.  Gay Fish runs one mox and no other artifacts, why not take advantage of its lack of artifacts and the metagame’s abundance by playing null rod?  Nulls work well against anything running a full compliment of solomoxen, be it combo or keeper.  Additionally, it has the extra benefit of shutting down zuran orbs, powder kegs, masticores, illusionary masks, cursed scrolls, nevinyrral’s disk, scroll racks, triskelions, phyrexian processors, etc etc.  Many of these artifacts would ordinarily be enough to decimate our fishy friends or cause some problems at the very least.  Powder keg has been suggested in the past, but I personally give it the thumbs down.  It serves as removal to various problems (often at both card and tempo disadvantage to you) but doesn’t shut down all artifacts permanently.  At least in my metagame, nulls are vastly superior.  I use three as they are almost never bad in my meta, four is overkill with all the card drawing.

The mana base relies on as little land as it can get away with, 9 islands and a mox are the only truly dedicated mana producers in the deck.  The other 12 lands are there to do things other than just tap for mana, which really is one of the greatest secrets to fish’s success.  I’ve already discussed the man lands role in the deck, they provide an uncounterable attack that is largely immune to global sweepers, and they also increase the threat density of the deck considerably.  

The two wastelands and single strip mine are there to hit opposing libraries and dustbowls, or to just disrupt your opponent long enough to get a momentary advantage that you can capitalize on.  I often pack two more wastelands in the sideboard, but this is risky, since you only run 14 blue sources to begin with which is low, and sometimes I’ll swap out an island for a waste.  I do this only against decks where I expect to go to the mid/long game, i.e. keeper/ose, where having only colorless mana in my opening hand (and therefore being unable to cast creatures) won’t mean I die to a quick rush.  And though I’ve won some games by drawing extra wastes where islands would have been dead, I don’t advise cutting any more islands unless you’re feeling particularly ballzy.

The Library of Alexandria can be a card advantage machine if you draw it at the right time.  You’ll find that you can do some cute little tricks with it and cloud of faeries as well.  “I have eight cards in hand, cast cloud of faeries, tap library in response, draw a card, untap library and an island.”  As in many blue decks, an unchecked library can quickly be a game winner.

Hmmm…the nasty stuff in Gay fish is basically just the man lands, the pitch counters, and the null rods; everything else is basically filler.  You could pack the rest of the deck with counters, wouldn’t that just be better?

No.  Gay Fish works because the pieces all fit very nicely together.  Basically we’re looking for synergy, but not just a little synergy, what we are looking for is supreme synergy.  A deck without brokenness needs to have an edge, some way to compensate for its inability to employ the majority of the type 1 restricted list.  Gay Fish finds that edge in not just its card combinations but also in its playing style.  As an aggro-control deck it balances both offense and defense very very well.  It has enough threats to be aggressive and just enough control elements to enable those threats to go the distance.  Replacing the threats with more defense would be counter productive since ultimately it would get out brokened in the long game by bigger badder decks.  And it is highly unlikely that counter spells would have as much synergy with the man lands to enable mid game wins.

So basically what you’re saying is that this deck is gay?

Yes, the deck looks strange, its creature base looks terrible and janky and weak.  Yes, it runs bad spells like standstill that are “win more” cards and creature enchantments that are inherently card disadvantageous.  Yes, it runs garbage lands that come into play tapped.  And yes, cloud of faeries is supposed to be cloud of faeries, she is not a stand in for something else.  But it is also one of the strongest aggro-control decks to date, and a rock solid wrecking ball in the face of the unprepared.

What about these cards, they look like they could fit.

Stay away from these cards at all costs:

Saprazzan heir – She may be a fish, but apart from that Saprazzan Heir is just a 1/1 evasion for 2 mana with no other tricks, she's basically a bad cloud of faeries.  She really is not an ancestral on legs and the rare times when you critically need her to be unblockable (where her unblockability would win you the game) she is instead an ancestral.

Time twister/windfall – Gay fish is not a combo deck, it has only one mox and will not be able to take advantage of these spells by casting them on turn 1.  There are better card drawers available, and the deck runs them already.

Propaganda – this card looks like it would be good on paper, but in practice fish doesn’t really have a problem with weenies hordes…it’s the fatties you should be worried about.  This card doesn’t really do anything nasty until there are multiples in play, and in order for that to happen you’ll need to run four… which of course clogs up a lot of space you’d want for other cards.  Don’t run it.

Black Lotus – Fish is a mana hungry deck, but it wants mana every turn to power its man lands and spells, not a one time boost.  You’re better off running an island.

Fact of fiction – I had considered this at one time…it seems like it’s great on paper, and it really isn’t bad per se, it’s just that it isn’t spectacular like it is in keeper.  Fish has no graveyard utilization so setting up a nasty yawgwill isn’t an extra incentive and the instant speed is almost irrelevant since you tap out every turn anyway.  And yes I will concede that you can fof in response to a bomb to dig for an answer, but it’s a one time shot that will net you approximately 1.5 cards.  The way I see it, at 4cc your alternatives are concentrate (and nobody runs concentrate) or coastal piracy, which is much stronger in this deck as it can potentially net you much much more.

Teferi’s Response – Generally you’ll be tapped out and unable to utilize this very reactive spell.  It would be great if it was pitch activated, but just like mana drain, gay fish can’t run it.

Cards that could be run…

Merchant scroll – I’ve toyed with the idea of running a merchant scroll to fetch ancestral/force/misd/psi blast, seemed like the idea had merit but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to cut anything for it, perhaps coastal piracy.

Cunning wish – Looks slow to me, but if you’re thinking about running merchant scroll why not go the extra step and run cunning wish.  It will certainly help out your late game.

Black vice – interesting on the sideboard, and fun with standstill.  You can actually kill with standstill by forcing them to draw cards if you have to, which I always thought was funny.

Recall – this seemed like a good idea to me since fish usually has a large graveyard, though in testing I found it slow as all hell…

Maze of ith – I use two to three in my board, and in aggro heavy metagames I would maindeck at least one, cut a misdirection.

Legacy’s Allure – Again, I use it in the board, and in an aggro heavy low power meta I would advocate using it over null rod.

Nevinyrral’s disk – Sometimes the null rods are just bad.  In environments that don’t warrant nulls, use disks.  At first this may seem counter productive because it blows up your fish, but remember your manlands will be unaffected.

Powder keg – I’ve found disk to be superior in almost all matchups that I’d want keg.  Control decks use keg largely for demolishing opposing weenie hordes…fish can usually just block weenies.  And again, this would be in place of null rod…realistically, you should just be playing disk.

In the next installment I will discuss the sideboard, how the deck plays against other archetypes, and various strategies to employ.  Until then, to quote BeBe, “go out and play fish, it’s fun damn it!”
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2003, 09:03:35 pm »

Just wanna say right now, although I've never played or wanted to play gay fish of any sort before, after reading this excellent primer, it looks delicious  

Kudos to you, and may your fish be strong and gay and pummle all!
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2003, 09:22:58 pm »

Yahoo. I would like to mention that the deck in its present format originated on BD. When Curious Fish was first posted it had a very similar list to the one presently used. Unfortunately it was generally derided on the Mill as no one had actually played against it. In fact I played Standstill at the time and had been toying with Razor on a landstill deck that derived from Curious Fish.  

Razor then sent me an e-mail from Marc ( Phantom Tape Wurm) who had discovered Cloud of Faeries as the missing threat for the deck and Gay Fish was born. Poor Razor then had to face the deck a few times and the result did not was clear and decisive victories for Fish.

Standstill is often replaced in my deck by a Disrupt, Psionic Blast, Merchant Scroll and Scrying Glass. A lot depends on what I expect to face. Certainly, against control Standstills are golden. Against certain aggro decks (TnT) they seem a bit tarnished. That being said, your list pleases me as it now stands as a good rendition of Curious Fish mixed into Gay fish.

I do hope Marc, that you will in part three or four discuss the rest of our primer which briefly deals with a few other builds and your hilarious Toilet.dec ( I played this against a TnT  player and actually won !).

Great job on the primer. Finally, a sense of humour and some recognition for the deck.

As a final note Marc, Rakso has asked us to play him a set for hois series and I put ypour name forward as a volunteer
I leave it ti you to arrange the details and e-mail me ( I hope ) your impressions ...
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2003, 09:23:11 pm »

I think it would be worthwhile to discuss differences between Fish and other aggro-control/disruption strategies.  Discuss metagame considerations that would lead one to playing Fish over Gro or Suicide.

You should also discuss the splashing of colors, specifically red.  Even if extensive testing points to a monocolored deck, it should be mentioned.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2003, 12:43:16 am »

@bebe: Haha!  Toilet.dec is so much fun, combo-aggro-control with fish, what's not to like   And yeah, in the upcoming installments expect analyses of the various different builds of Fish including Ur varients and Toilet.dec

Play Rakso eh?  Sure.  I'll have to get in touch with him...

@spin13: you first have to decide on the decklists for gro and sui...Gro is probably fish's closest relative and I've seen many gro varients popping up recently.  Different versions play very differently, i've actually been running a gro varient recently in 1.5 that plays somewhat like fish.  There's a lot of common ground and they do similar things, gro has problems that fish doesn't and vice versa.  A lot depends on the type of build you play though.  My version is more aggressive than standard versions i've seen here, U/g (no white), no kegs, nimble mongeese, lots of cantrips.

My experience with Gro is limited to 1.5 however, and I have yet to test gro against keeper, TnT, Sui, Mask, etc.  Actually if anyone can comment on gro's matchups so that we can do an analysis of gro vs fish i'd be more than happy.  I know there are a lot of gro advocates on this forum so please guys, hook a brotha up.
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2003, 01:24:06 am »

This is a nice explaination of the evolution of a deck, but I was hoping for a little more discussion on matchups.  What does it crush, what doesn't it like (other than TnT), etc.  Maybe that's part 2?
pernicious dude
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2003, 09:24:15 am »

Nice work on the primer, Marc.
One of the better written part ones I've seen, and of course, a great deck.

Haven't heard of Big Gay Fish. Que?

Here's another vote for a part three after sides and matchups,
discussing splashes and related decks.

I think the red splash helps the TnT matchup considerably.
Null Rod, Psionic Blast and Maze Of Ith are already good.
Add Fire and Razorfin Hunters to take out Welders, Ice to buy a turn, and Viashino Heretic to seal the deal.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2003, 05:26:53 pm »

@ Pernicious: Big Gay fish was Burntgerbil's take on the archetype. It runs unstable mutations over curiosities, rootwater divers over manta riders, and nevy's disk over null rod.  He did a tourney report a while back...just do a search for it.

@Exeter: More than anything this primer was done to familiarize people with the deck.  It's still an archetype that doesn't get much attention or respect so an explanation of what the deck is seemed like the best way to get the ball rolling.  There will be more sections to come, and I plan to give a complete analysis of its matchups based on my DCI sanctioned experience with Gay Fish.
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2003, 07:39:20 am »

pernicious dude, aren't you that guy who plays gay fish?  A little different from this deck, but...

Wow.  Nice article.  A couple of new things I have'nt seen before, like the number of Psionic blasts, 3 MisD's, looks good.  I would also like to suggest splashing a little red, mainly for TnT if you think you need it, and Razorfin Hunter looks like it should be in there if you splash red.  I would also cut a MisD and a couple of Cloud of Faeries?.... for slots.

Hope this helps.
pernicious dude
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2003, 09:11:04 am »

Quote gay fish?  A little different from this deck, but...

One Fish, Two Fish/ Red Fish, Blue Fish is my red splash variation.
It's a related but different deck, running more Fish and no Faeries.
The red splash solves some problems and introduces others.
That's a discussion for a later part of the primer.

Gay Fish'll never cut the Cloud of Faeries. They're key.
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2003, 09:57:39 am »

When preparing for the primer, Gay Fish was thwe deck that we chose to discuss. Although Curious Fish is very close the Gay Fish name of Phantom stuck and became the generally excepted.
Although we have discussed red splash the deck starts to look more like the early Fire/Ice builds then a Fish deck when red is added. It no longer plays like the traditional Gay Fish builds and to my mind loses  alot of its consistency while making a bit of a gain against certain arch types. It does not however improve its match ups against control or combo.
Dude's builds are different from both mine and Phantom's as he is experimenting with new variations and is the only other major proponent of the deck that I know.
Phantom has our notes and there is plenty of information to follow on match ups and variations.

Just as an aside - having played both Sui and Gro and can say that Fish falls betwen the two. It is as aggressive as Sui and has a better match up against Sligh, Keeper and Combo to my mind. It is a really hyper aggressive, pro active deck that cannot deal well with the other player's top decks. Fish can. Although itsd threats are somewhat smaller it has better draw and many answers which allow it to take control of a game. After sideboard ( and even before), Sui  has a tough time against Fish and I cannot remember the last time I lost to it.

Gro has fewer threats and more counters and plays with mana open and a bit more patiently than Fish but again is two or three colors so it lacks the consistency of Fish and its threqat density. That being said Gro matches up to Fish well and is one of its tougher match ups. If I chose to play aggro-control and was not already an avid Fish player Gro would be my next choice.  
But there are way too many style points finishing off an opponent with Cloud of Faeries for me to change
I don't think it is all that beneficial to list decks that may or may not be better than Fish. Rasther I think we should just look how Fish fares against the field as a whole. Play styles will determine to a large extent which deck you take to a tournament. Chapin plays Gro as a master. Legend plays Sui as well as anyone. Phantom and BeBe play Fish. It suits our temperment.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2003, 04:32:28 am »

I'll try to give a quick assessment of the three aggro-control decks...

Fish has some inherent resistance to many of the cards that can cripple gro and sui, specifically moat, the abyss, pericious deed, hell, any global creature sweeper really.  If something nasty (like a moat) slips by the counterspells, Gro needs to dig for solutions.  Fish comes equipped with diverse threats to play around them.  Gay Fish also boasts a solid matchup vs sligh (unlike sui) and keeps most if not all of gro's good matchups.

All three decks should do well against blue based control, specifically keeper and BBS.

All three decks should do well against random combo, specifically academy, trix, and worldgorger.

All three decks should do mediocre versus random aggro, but with gay fish (having the most creatures/blockers) perhaps doing the best and sui (having creatures with insane drawbacks like negator and reaver) perhaps doing the worst.

Gay Fish has a hard time dealing with fast fatties ala TnT, but so does gro.  Sui may be better equipped to deal with TnT than either, but is still not going to have a favorable matchup.

Gay Fish is one color, so is sui, their sideboards are limited to one color.  Gro is potentially three colors, meaning a generally more flexible board (a board that can even include back to basics).

There's certainly more to the analysis than this, but for now i'll leave it at: Fish's inherent resistances probably make up for its one color board.  It is equal to gro as near as i can tell in terms of matchups.  It has a better sligh matchup than sui, but a worse TnT matchup.  And it's not bad against random aggro decks.

Well that, and Gay Fish will probably be harder to play against for your opponent than either gro or sui simply because they're not going to be prepared for it.  The deck isn't feared or respected so you can usually catch everyone with their pants down.  Seriously
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2003, 03:10:46 pm »

I just wanted to let you guys know that I built a fish variant that I saw on a board here (the U/r with razorfin hunters) and i came 2nd out of 28 in a highly powered metagame. Ill post a report on it after I get over my MLK day hangover.

oh and terrific article.
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2003, 05:23:58 pm »

On the topic of Standstill, why is it such a controversial slot?  I would never consider cutting it.  Even if it can't be played (which it usually can) it can be pitched, which is a huge part of the deck.

On a sidenote, has anybody considered a green splash?  Regrowth, Gaea's Skyfolk (fish!), Sylvan... I suppose it would kind of slow the deck down, but Skyfolk would be a great addition.  2/2, evasion, 2cc, and a merfolk to boot (gets pumped by LoA).
pernicious dude
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2003, 06:49:57 pm »

Quote Even if it can't be played (which it usually can) it can be pitched, which is a huge part of the deck.

When I beat BigChuck's Oath deck last week, he ended the game holding Morphling, 2 Force of Will and 2 Misdirection.
A couple of threats that snuck out early killed him.

I've been in the reverse situation with Standstill in Fish,
holding a Force and a Standstill while Jackal Pups bite me in the 'nads every turn and I bleed to death.

If the other guy doesn't cast anything, the fact that you can pitch Standstill to Force or Misdirect is of exactly zero value.
If that slot is filled by a threat or an answer or an active draw card, you may well be better off.

@Burntgerbil, congrats, was that you in Savannah? Look forward to reading your report.
pernicious dude
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2003, 01:21:35 pm »

Over in CooberP's UrPhid thread, Rakso mentioned that he likes fetchlands in Fish.

Bebe responded, asking why, as regards the Fish primer.

Obviously you need them in splashed Fish, but I think they're good in Gay Fish as well.
How many of your 9 Islands do you want to draw? One?
Everyone that gets replaced by a fetch sucks another out of the deck.

Of course, they also make Ankh Sligh more of a threat,
and make it harder to work around Blood Moon and Back To Basics.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2003, 03:00:36 pm »

@pernicious: It's certainly not a bad idea, and as you pointed out, in the fish splashes it's necessary.  But I won't be running them anytime soon.  The richmond metagame is packing much fish hate in the form of tsabo's web.  If the web resolves then you need to be able to play around it.  Also, because you lack spells like brainstorm and sylvan library that would have excellent synergy with the fetchers, all you're really getting is deck thinner.  Yes deck thinning is good, but in doing so you're increasing your vulnerability to hate.  And remember one of the deck's strengths is its resiliency and ability to play around a resolved silver bullet.
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2003, 03:06:12 pm »

Absolutely. A mono-blue Fish really does not need Fetches. The deck thins nby drawing cards but it doers not need to reshuffle. I also worry about hate. It is pretty common here as well. I was really being a bit sarcastic - I apologize.
pernicious dude
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2003, 08:16:04 pm »

No gay fetching.
Got it.

Y'all had said that Back To Basics could be played around, and you were right.
I did that last week.
Tsabo's Web should be about the same, except that it's less good against the field, comes out sooner and draws them a card.
Blood Moon's a little tougher, I'd think.
Haven't run into it yet.
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2003, 10:07:55 pm »

I play in a fairly unpowered enviornment, maybe 1-3 combo decks, academy and turbonevyn, and mainly black aggro decks, shades, negators, hypies, phyrexrian arenas some run, I am not sure to call it sui or black discard/ld/beat, they run sinks too.  Anyways I was planing on running basically the norm gay fish deck except replabcing 3 main deck null rods with legacy allures, and removing the coastal piracy for another psi blast.  On board I was thinking sea sprites for sligh, null rods, maybe 1 dominating licid, umm, maze of ith?, anything to really help me beat aggro, black and sligh.  If anyone could post their sideboard or a board for my kind of meta, that would be greatly appreciated.
« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2003, 09:26:15 pm »

Have you tested against stompy?  I proxied your list for fish and wanted to test it against something more aggro than my gorger and Void.  Imagine my surprise in finding that my $20 stompy went 10-0 against fish! Am i playing fish wrong, or is this a common occurance?

Don't feed the gnomes...
« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2003, 09:41:05 pm »

You are playing it wrong. I played against Razor's Stompy with Fish and never lost a game. Not that Stompy should be autowin but its not that hard to beat. I'm sure Phantom will back these results.
Now my build used to sport two Psi Blast main and Allures in the side. This helped. You must remember that both Phantom and I have geared our sideboards to what are metagames dictate.
I will be changing my sideboard in my TnT for what I expect to encounter next tournament. If you expect a lot of aggro decks where you play sideboard and main deck  accordingly. Fish is very flexible.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2003, 12:11:04 am »

@S0F3N:  I play in a lot of 1.5 tourny's here in northern va.  The metagame is mostly aggro and combo, sounds something like what you are describing.  I run gay fish quite a lot and I do remarkably well.  The main deck is naturally powerless (which goes without saying in 1.5), and looks like this:

Gay Fish for 1.5

4 Manta Riders
4 Rootwater thief
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Lord of Atlantis

4 Standstill
4 Curiosity
4 Force of will
2 Misdirection
2 Psionic Blast
2 Coastal Piracy
3 Legacy's Allure
1 Maze of ith (yes, i count it as a spell)

4 Mishra's Factory
4 Faerie Conclave
2 Wasteland
12 Island

A good and flexible board can make all the difference in the world, I use this:

//Sideboard for Gay Fish in 1.5
2 Maze of ith
3 Nevy's disk
2 Blue elemental blast
2 Sea sprite
2 Boomerang
1 Disrupt
1 Phyrexian furnace
1 Upheaval
1 Misdirection

This is quite possibly the sexiest sideboard you will ever see.  If you run it, you will win, period.  Just show your opponent your board before you begin the match and ask for a concession; he WILL concede.  He has to.  God, it's so hot.

(Actually, i think the sexiest board i've ever seen is for trinity keeper, this just sounded like something good to say)

Here's what to do:
Vs sligh:
2 Maze of ith (if ball lightning is expected)
2 Beb
2 Sea Sprite
1 Misdirection
2 Nevy's disk

These cards are all good vs sligh, the two disks are for scroll.

4 curiosity
2 Psi blast
3 Legacy's allure (yes, these are bad against sligh)

Sligh can take out your curious critters at card disadvantage to you, and you won't want to be hurting yourself to blast a pup after it has already done its damage.  Also, stealing a pup or cadet sucks and stealing fanatic is impossible.

Versus Sui:
2 Maze of ith
2 Boomerang

Bounce or stall ritualed creatures.

2 coastal piracy
2 curiosity

If they can't kill you early game, odds are they can't kill you.  A wall of three or four crusaded fish is hard for sui to deal with.  Drawing a hand of multiple creature enchantments with no way to stop a ritualed negator is bad.

Random combo:
Depending on the combo, in
2 Boomerang
1 Misdirection
1 Disrupt
3 Nevy's disk
1 Phyrexian Furnace

Disrupt his combo with a well timed trick: misd, disrupt, disk, boomerang, furnace, whatever the combo is weak against.

Extra Mazes of ith comes in for most things aggro, especially the random type 2 and extended themes that you'll likely come across.  Generally you'll want to take out the Misd's for them since most of those decks don't pack a lot of targeted spells.

Nevy's disk is a back breaker for many a deck.  People will of course say "it's too slow" or that powder keg is superior, but it is just the right card for the deck when you wouldn't play null rod main.  Props to BurntGerbil for recommending it.

Bounce can save you in more situations than you would at first think, and it's terrific vs random reanimator decks.

The anti red stuff needs no explanation, but blasts can also save you vs dragon.

The single disrupt is for combo and control, also it's strong vs gro.

Furnace has been the most flexible grave hate that i've used, often an opponent can play around a tormods.  Furnace is hard to get around if you get it out early and can cantrip away if it's ever removed.

The upheaval is for parfait, enchantress, anything slow and without counterspells.  It is the most questionable slot and if you don't expect parfait, i'd replace it with something else.

As i mentioned in the primer, the next installment will be a more detailed explanation of sideboarding strategies, so you can expect more information on this soon.
« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2003, 08:37:26 pm »

OK, i recind the previous comment.  I played another ten  or so games vs. stompy, and the results were polar opposites.  I don't know what the hell i did the first time, but i must have fixed it.  Fish is now my second favorite deck.
Next question:
What kind of board should i run for a mono-blue/keeper dominated environment? I think the maindeck has mucho answers, but has anything really shined against control?
Any help is appretiated.

Don't feed the gnomes...
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2003, 12:29:06 am »

Since my meta is sooo mono b heavy I have decided to try out this version, borrowed from another type of fish which I think should be called Fish 'n' Chips, Fish being merfolk and chips being your disks and keg.  So here is the untested decklist and board with reasons.

4 Rootwater Diver
4 Rootwater Theif
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Cloud of Faeries

4 Force of Will
3 Missdirection

4 Standstill
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Library of Alexandria

1 Powder Keg
2 Nevinyrral's Disk

4 Unstable Mutation
2 Cunning Wish
1 Time Walk

9 Islands
1 Mox Saphire
4 Faerie Conclave
4 Mishra Factory
2 Wasteland
1 Stripmine

1 Maze of Ith
3 Curiosity
4 Dandan/Null Rod - Keeper/Academy
2 Psionic Blast
1 Guerila Tactics
1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Mana Drain
1 Missdirection
1 Teferi's Response

Now to explain some choices.

Rootwater Diver- I decided to go with this critter over Manta Riders for a couple of reasons.  i thought having two creatures, the riders and theif, was too mana demanding on flying and found that only one was flying, so I went with the diver b/c it works so well with my 'chips'.  Since my meta is so black heavy i felt that the ability to sit on disks and get my drawing game going was more valuable then goin for the curious fish which could be edicted away.  If they duress out the disk and come out strong, I still have divers to come in and chump block and get back the disk.

Rootwater Theif- Most of this criter has been explained in earlier posts, and I am not going to go in to detail about it.  Just kills combo and can get lucky picking out morphlings.

Lord of Atlantis- Yet again, most have discussed him.

Cloud of Faeries- Not only so good with standstill, also good with factories late game to get an extra pump, or library for an extra draw or and early extra untaping of a blue man source.  Also has been discussed in previous threads

(Its very late by me and I have school so I am going to go straight to the sideboard and wishes)

Like I said my enviornment is black heavy, sligh is played by my friend so I dont care about losing to him as we play together.  Now the keeper player is also the academy player, so what ever he plays goes in dandan or nulls.  The wishes I have found to be more useful in general.  Against black they get me psi for a critter or kill, guerilla tactics for a 1 card choice duress or a 1 or 2 card hymn.  Also gets me Teferi's late game for card drawing and protection for my man lands.  Gets me a missdirection for any juicy targets and a drain for the same, feeds man lands.  BLue ele blast is in their for something crazy, mainly a blood moon or somthing bad
Now I havent tested at all yet but in theory this is what I have worked out for my boarding.

Vs. Keeper
Dandan for Divers b/c they both lack flying and I would rather have a 4/1 than a 1/1 fish, more explosive and when moat is droped it can be pitched.
Curiosity in for keg and 1 disk leaving 1 failsafe disk, not sure if 3 curiosity should go in, dont know what to take out.

Vs. Mono B
Curiosity in for 1 theif and 2 unstable- not sure how unstables work vs black, I would like to keep more in maybe take another theif out and go 3 and 3 curiosity and unstables
One lone Maze of Ith in for a waste to help with the disk or keg aftermath, cleans up any creatures that get through

I know I have geared only for 2 types of decks, but that is like 100 percent of my meta, with the rest all scrub decks.  This is very meta geared but I would still like to hear your feedback, and sorry for any mis types, or incoherent statements, its late by me and i have school, so i am goin now.
Phantom Tape Worm
« Reply #25 on: January 29, 2003, 02:15:13 am »

@TheMadScotsman: The entire maindeck should be strong against blue based control, but if what you are looking for is an explanation of what your proactive bombs are, let me make a list:

standstill- This is simply a 2cc un-misdirectable ancestral recall vs blue.  VERY VERY GOOD!

rootwater thief- This card wins games by itself if it survives for more than a couple of turns.  If you're really good, you can even deduce what's in their hand.

curiosity- again, if it survives for more than a couple of turns you've won.

lord of atlantis- giving all of your creatures crusade and unblockability is strong vs morphlings.  It's like a muscle and winged sliver rolled into one.

man lands- uncounterable creatures that dodge mass sweepers

null rod- shut down kegs and moxen

I wouldn't worry too much about beating decks like keeper or mono blue, these are good matchups for you.  I typically side in two wastelands vs keeper and nothing at all vs mono blue.  The keeper/mono blue players aren't going to be ready for you the first time you run this deck, and they probably won't know how to play against it either.  You'll totally catch them with their pants down.  And then you can be like, "Oh, i'm sorry, i didn't realize you were getting dressed"  and then they'll be like, "Oh, it's ok, i don't mind if you watch...or touch" and then you can be like, "Stop talking!  GIVE ME YOUR ASS!"

...or something like that.  Anyway, you should do fine with the main deck.

@S0F3N: Your deck looks like Burt Gerbil's version of fish.  Looks good, but I have some questions for you.  

Your metagame is mostly monoblack or is monoblack dominated, so why are you running wishes?  Cunning wishes are high casting cost late game utility.  Against the various incarnations of suicide and or legend black that i've encountered, the late game isn't the problem; it's the getting there.  Realistically, the sui game is won or lost in the first few turns.  If you are unable to fend off the initial barrage of creatures and disruption quickly, you've lost.  If you can stablize, you've won.  Wishes don't even become a possibility until turn three, and that's if they didn't waste a land and stall you a turn.  Your metagame requires you to plan for the early game, and wishes are for the late game.  Take them out.

And keep in mind, a whole turn's resources are being dumped into the wish.  That means no laying creatures and no defending with man lands.  Honestly, i think i'd run merchant scroll before cunning wish.  The targets are essentially the same, only merchant scroll can also fetch ancestral recall, is cheaper, and doesn't weaken your sideboard.  If you must play with a tutor, don't use wish tech.  It's good in decks that have the mana to abuse it, but fish just isn't one of them.  At least, not in an environment where sui is the deck to beat.

If you are really interested in beating sui, go up to four psionic blasts.  These things punish negators.  Also, in the previous post you mentioned running legacy's allures, those are great!  Use them.  The same can be said for maze of ith, I'd pack two, maybe even three in the board.  And remember, maze of ith is a spell for all intents and purposes.  Do not board out lands for mazes.  It's a trap that sui wants you to walk into; sui wants you to run less lands so that its wastes and sinks are more effective against you.  Don't do it.  Side out spells for mazes.

Also, don't go any higher than 4 creature enchantments.  It's just not a good idea for a number of reasons; he could be packing lots of creature removal in the board; he could lay early pressure and you have only creature enchantments but no creatures.  And please don't side out creatures for creature enchantments, then you're really asking for trouble.  Either run 4 curiosity or 4 unstable, but don't go up to any more than 4 of either one.

The unstable mutation + rootwater diver + nevy's disks version IS perfectly viable, just lose the cunning wish tech.  I only see three real options for the wish on your board anyway: misdirection, BEB, and psi blast.  The other spells are too situational, or too overcosted to be effective.

Based on your black metagame and your decision to use the unstable + rootwater diver + disk varient i would change your decklist like so:

-2 cunning wish
+2 psionic blast

3 null rod (for keeper/academy, side out keg+disks)
2 psi blast (for sui, side out disks)
2 maze of ith (for sui, side out keg and a diver)
2 legacy's allure (for sui, side out unstable mutations)
6 of whatever else you like, i would use some bounce, some sligh hate, and some graveyard hate just to be well rounded

Notice the disks aren't really bad in either matchup, but they're worse than null rod vs keeper and academy, and they're just ok vs sui.  You don't need to reset the board vs a deck that probably runs less creatures than you do.  Just stall him into the late game with mazes and then steal or psi blast his nasty creatures.

Hope that helps a little
« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2003, 09:59:54 pm »

Have you tried Reef Shaman/Tidal Warrior as a kind of screwover factor and man-land protector?  Just a thought.
And whens part dos due?  

{edit}I meant Tidal Warrior, not Rootwater Diver.  Sorry.

Don't anger the gnome...
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2003, 04:51:06 pm »

Like S0F3N I also found that I did not have enough mana to give all my fish flying.  Thus, I've recently started experimenting with Tidal Warrior in my Fish build.  I have replaced two Manta Riders and have found the results to be good so far.
Tidal Warrior lets me protect my man-lands under a standstill & lets me do all sorts of stack tricks.  Its a Tefferi's Response type effect that is not mana demanding.  Finally, it gives me a much needed island against non-blue decks.
Has anyone else experimented with this card.
pernicious dude
« Reply #28 on: February 08, 2003, 01:36:15 pm »

Offhand, I'd say it was the kind of situational trick card that ends up not being worth it.
The fliers don't need 2 other creatures' help to get through,
and the fliers can block Hyppies.

I sure do love tricks, though.
It's a shame you can't use Tidal Warrior to beat Back To Basics,
but it can at least get you a U off a Conclave under Blood Moon.
Stops opposing Factories.
Nullifies Mishra's Workshop and Glacial Chasm.
Slows down any deck not running Islands.

What about Reef Shaman?
Same cost, but 0/2, and makes any land type.
You can give Mr. "I have two Islands out" not-an-Island.
Also, he has one of Rootwater Thief's stellar attributes, that slightly bigger butt.
He can block a 'Phid in his native state and not die.
If he's letting your other guys through, his power doesn't matter.
« Reply #29 on: February 15, 2003, 10:25:52 pm »


I was curious if you could post your current sideboard for Gay Fish. I saw one for 1.5 but not for Type 1. Thanks and keep up the good work!
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