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Where do caves and ruins fit in the sequence of play?

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I have a general play arc that involves:

  • Exploring early, including every wormhole and sinkhole.  Sinkholes, I usually just pop into, take a quick look, and pop back.
  • Glommer day 11
  • Winter protection for day 21
    • Kill MacTusk as often as possible until you get the walking cane (and Tam unless you're Maxwell).
  • Deerclops before dawn day 31.  I always kill him the first year for the eyebrella.
  • Spring (rain protection).  Moose Goose feathers.
  • Summer
    • Prepare for personal and base scorching
    • Fish for the Beach Toy and some other trinkets to give to Antlion

Simultaneous arcs:

  • Base around day 7-10 with crock pots around a fridge, a fire pit, a bird cage, Alchemy Engine, Shadow Manipulator, and maybe a Think Tank or something.  Then there's chests, transplants, etc.
  • Volt goats
  • Pearl
  • Lunar island
  • Waterlogged biomes for tree jam and knobbly nuts.  I'm increasingly likely to try to get Above Average Tree shade over my base before summer.
  • Character specific tasks, like setting up a rook to mine marble for Walter, or spellbooks for Wicker, or taming a beefalo, or whatever.

Part of the fun of the game is that every character and every world is different, so you have to change the exact order and balance for various things.  But there's still a general seasonal arc with side-quests.

Where do caves and ruins and fit into this?  The surface is easier in fall and spring (except during frog rains).  If you're gardening in winter the caves have access to liquid water in ponds.

If you can sneak into the ruins early, you get thulecite crowns, the star caller's staff, and maybe a club or magiluminescence, which makes everything easier/safer/faster.  But it takes a lot of time and resources and it's extremely dangerous.

What is the appropriate splunking preparation?  I think popping into each sinkhole gives a nice sketch of the caves map.  You can plot shortest routes using sinkholes in place of wormholes on the surface.  Moggles provide a huge advantage in the ruins and with Splumonkies and just locating stuff resources sitting right in front of you on the floor.  A Morning Star is awesome against Depths Worms.

When is it time to start looking for ruins?  Do you just go as a matter of course once you have Moggles and a Morning Star?  Or are you motivated by having certain items for boss fights or seasons, or what?  Do you stay in or out of caves in certain seasons, or when it's wet down there?  I'm not a huge fighter, so I like to go in to boss fights with all the best tools and I often put it off until I can't prepare any better, or just want something for my base like a scaled furnace, scaled flooring for under my chests, or mushlights.  Or bundling wrap, an Insulated Pack, or the chance of a Krampus sack.  I haven't defeated Fuelweaver or Crab King yet.

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You fit it in whenever you feel like, although it's much easier to fit it in summer/autumn thanks to the lack of rain and freezing. For me I either rush the ruins in the first autumn for a star caller staff, magi, thulecite crowns, and either a club or a lucky lazy explorer drop from the ancient guardian. I like killing a bunch of the surface raid bosses as soon as possible, the scaled furnace and bundle wrap blueprints are too good to pass up, and having plenty of ruins gear helps a ton with killing said bosses. Alternatively I clear it during the first summer, usually I only do this when I want to focus more on base building, or if I spent the first autumn taming an ornery beefalo. Going during the first autumn is objectively the best time to clear the ruins however, as if you do mess up and die you lose the least amount of time spent on that world, and it's not too difficult to reset and try again. 


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Well if you're not into ruins rushing then I'd recommand my personal approach to caves:

-Pop into sinkholes (I usually don't open up too many as bats are annoying) and gather lightbulbs for lanterns. They always spawn near cave entrances so it's a short, low risk-high reward operation

-If your sinkhole happened to bring you to green/blue mushtree biome then explore them as: green mushforest always has a bunnymen village, so you can set up bunnymen early; and blue mushforest leads to lunar grotto which, untill you activate the archives, is a pretty calm place where you can easily gather living logs from mushgnomes

-Before summer stock up on honey/jerky, prebuild crockpot just in case, get at least a miner hat and log suit (if you have a cane) and go exploring caves/ruins throughout the summer. Imo the best time as surface summer offers noting but pain. Early caves summer, however, allows you to explore the undeground map, find hutch, toadstools, Daywalker. Plus antlion boulders early game actually serve as a nice source of stone to, for example, set up the Dfly arena.

If you don't feel too sure about ruins you can just focus on setting up and underground base (grass, twigs, crockpots, bunnies, pigs, bees, drying racks, shadow manipulator if you haven't prototypes dark swords already). If you'd like to explore ruins then I recommand a ruins base somewhere in the village biome but far away from monkeys. Cage in the monkey huts with fences and you have free access to bananas which means easy sanity (banana shakes).

Also as a side note: you don't have to fight everything in the ruins. For example you can run past clockwork barracks (weird squares with 2 rooks and a bishop) if all you care about is the fully build pseudo science station

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Ruins rushing is always an option in the first autumn and it will give you great rewards. Star caller will help you with surviving winter, with a chance of getting lazy explorer from AG (if you decide to kill him). Thulecite crowns and then there's also Magilumienscence amulet that some players use a lot.

If you skip glommer or star your ruins rush after you get him, you can return from your ruins rush before winter. The only prep you really need is thermal stone.

It is possible to go to lunar island and ruins in the first autumn if you cut on some of the things you do, like is there a need to have chests before Bearger spawns? Just leave stuff on the floor.

A lot of players spend every summer in caves (including me), as otherwise wildfires can happen and you need to use knobby trees, flingomatics, or base in oasis. 

Ruins rushing isn't dangerous once you learn how to avoid clockworks and splumonkeys (paying attention to the nightmare cycle), you can just take a few pickaxes, food and a weapon and that is all you need, you can mine thulecite and craft the items you want without fighting anything except nightmare creatures. Having some sort of a weapon is needed in case you don't want to bring food or are playing a character with low sanity. Lichen can be eaten raw, but in that case you will fight a lot of nightmare creatures.


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On 5/30/2023 at 12:46 PM, kuroite said:

Cave/ruins EVERY summer for me.

I barely remember how is summer on the surface.

I've certainly done my share of hiding from summer in the caves.  The only problem is that if you run into trouble, the surface world is so hostile that you can't just pop up to refuel without it becoming an Ordeal.  But I suppose waiting for the first summer gives you adequate time to prepare a base down there.


On 5/30/2023 at 4:57 PM, 00petar00 said:

Ruins rushing is always an option in the first autumn and it will give you great rewards. Star caller will help you with surviving winter, with a chance of getting lazy explorer from AG (if you decide to kill him). Thulecite crowns and then there's also Magilumienscence amulet that some players use a lot.

All makes sense.  The difficulty is when something goes wrong, it's hard to recover.  Moggles are huge.  It's fun that it's essentially a thieving mission for most characters, though some characters with expert players might lay waste to all the clockworks.  I saw a run where someone just brought extra food and wore the Slurper so they wouldn't lose their hat to monkeys.  Worked great!


One thing I'm hearing that no-one said outright is, "Not Winter."  Makes sense.

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the caves introduces a in-practical-terms-consistent need for a light source, which means that you need to devote a hand slot or head slot to light in order to not die. this means that both Winter and Spring (and autumn if you're unlucky, really) are considerably more complicated to handle in the caves, since having both light and wetness protection means that you're going without armor, and that having both light and armor means you're going without wetness protection which can get super out of hand super quickly. Its tricky.

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1 hour ago, Primalflower said:

the caves introduces a in-practical-terms-consistent need for a light source, which means that you need to devote a hand slot or head slot to light in order to not die. this means that both Winter and Spring (and autumn if you're unlucky, really) are considerably more complicated to handle in the caves, since having both light and wetness protection means that you're going without armor, and that having both light and armor means you're going without wetness protection which can get super out of hand super quickly. Its tricky.

You can always equip body slot armor + eyebrella and drop a lantern when you engage in a fight.

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34 minutes ago, kuroite said:

You can always equip body slot armor + eyebrella and drop a lantern when you engage in a fight.

This creates complications in ruins settings where a rigid light source vs one you can run around with may very well be the difference between life and death.

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1 hour ago, Primalflower said:

This creates complications in ruins settings where a rigid light source vs one you can run around with may very well be the difference between life and death.

Dont forget splumonkeys yoinking your light away midbattle if you have any attached to you

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Actually - feel free to not follow common schedule of most players, but keep in mind why you are doing it and what differences it will cause.


Many people prefer autumn and summer for ruins (myself included) because in spring and winter at least some of the time one has to occupy eqipment slot with rain protection gear, and in case winter one also needs protection against low temperature (depending on gear you pick, with thermal stone it's same extra occupied slots as in spring). Aside from it one also needs to eqip light source constantly and tools/weapons, armor, packpack periodically, so it makes at least 5 options competing for 3 equipment slots in spring/winter compared to 4 in autumn/summer. That means in autumn/summer one can go with light source, tools/weapons/cane and periodically equip body armor instead of backpack, go with backpack, armor and periodically drop lantern and eqip tools/weapons, or equip magi instead of backpack and use remaining 2 slots for weapons/tools and armor (but in that case one may need to return to backpack a few times and come to the caves with extra light source for times when one uses backpack in chest slot); in spring/winter though in those setups one would need to either give up on backpack for rain protection, use umbrella and accumulate a lot of wetness due to how often one needs hand slot for tools/weapons, go without armor at all or use both lantern drop and backpack switch to armor actions. Moreover, even if something doesn't occupy equipment slot it takes away inventory space, for example thermal stone + star caller for keeping temperature high are already -2 slots in winter and early spring/late autumn compared to autumn/summer/spring. So obvious choice is to go to ruins when there is opportunity to have as much inventory space as possible and as least competition for equipment slots as possible.

That being said, some gear combines several functions like beefalo (butt slot weapon and cane, allows to use umbrella/lantern while attacking, protects against 100% melee damage), shield (armor + weapon), morning star (light + weapon, exceels in wet invironment), so one can, for example, go in spring with beefalo + lantern + eyebrella and equip head or body armor for brief fights with bishops. Unfortunally, in spring/winter shield didn't help me much with equipment slots competition, and morning star gets a pass from me, but only because of it's convenience and damage potential in wet caves, it's double-purpose nature is only relevant when you don't want to drop anything and accept fighting without armor or switch eyebrella for armor (like around monkeys), or when you need to clear ruins in spring for whatever other reasons and want to avoid dropping at least both lantern and backpack (for example, around multiple enemies you may want light source to move with you to manuver better).

However, if you use fish cordon bleu (Warly's dish against wetness; is relatively not grindy) you can do ruins in spring as if it's summer/autumn and even take advantage of wet enemies (1 dish is enough for 1 rain session, which is around 1 dish per 3 days in my experience).

If you are WX-78 with thermal circuit you can even take advantage of wet caves in winter: usually it rains during early and late winter in the caves, so you can catch large window of wet caves without rain in the middle of winter. Another option is to use fish cordon bleu as WX-78, that way you can choose whatever time you want to clear ruins as if it was summer/autumn.

As for when to rush/clear ruins regarding start of the world, I want to give example of what I do (I modify schedule as I need), but it's important to understand why you, OP, want to go to ruins, what you want from there and if reward outweights risks.

I often make my goal getting enlightened crown as soon as possible without sacrificing too much for it, so it's not a speedrun, but rush adjusted to longterm world. Other things I want to have as soon as possible are tamed beefalo (default tendency) and bundle wraps (recipe and items), but I can do ruins on beefalo (in my case reward outweights risks of doing it on untamed cow and I can still manage to make default dentency instead of ornery) and I would rather kill Bee Queen with ruins gear around winter and around the same time as Klaus for "free" wax paper (instead of searching for swamp) - as opposed to killing her before ruins without such gear, even despite bundle wraps and jellybean potential for ruins. Plus I would rather not stay in the caves during first winter and don't really need BQ drops during ruins rush. I also want star callers as soon as possible for archives activation (definitely before 1st summer), see no point in starting sailing during first autumn (too early, too little tasks of Pearl are available, cow is untamed in place where I can't ride it and have shortage of beefalo food), don't need furnace or other stuff for base (because I'm too busy to stay at base), - so first autumn for ruins it is in my case. But I go to ruins after I start taming beefalo because it saves a lot of time during exploration, as well as after I pick glommer because I want goop as soon as possible and as much as possible (for farming deerclops in multiplayer servers and to grow big trees after I kill CC in general); plus I'm busy on day 31 converting star caller staff into mooncaller stuff (and day 51 or even 71 is way too late to my taste).

Among things I want from ruins rush with such goal are: star callers (at least 2, but if I can get 3, I'm taking opportunity), 1 deconstruction staff (iridiscent gem), 1 lazy forager (for future salt collection that I would ram my grass boat into anyway while fighting cookie cutters for Pearl), 1-2 thulecite suits (for CC fight and miscellaneous fights before it), 1 construction amulet for 3-4 mentioned above staves and 1-2 thulecite suits (5 items to use it fully), magiluminescence if I'm not Wendy, at least 9 purple gems and some frazzled wires and gears. If I can get extra construction amulet and thulecite crown, I craft it, same for obtaining some blue gems, otherwise I don't stay for them extra time.

My inventory at the start of ruins trip includes:

  • lantern/miner hat + 40 lightbulbs (I pick most of those right before entering lichen field) - my main or only light source during rush, as well as beefalo food (during clearing I use moggles and glow berries, have backup miner hat or lantern and don't need beefalo food because it's of defalut tentency);
  • piggyback - on beefalo speed penalty is not applied, but even on foot I would use it despite -10% speed because ruins offer a lot of loot;
  • 1 hammer and 2 opulent pickaxes - there is no need for more during rush, and as I use them, I free inventory soace for more ruins loot (otherwise I would have to drop extra materials/tools anyway, which is a waste);
  • 4-5 meaty stews, 2 of which I eat fresh and the rest still gives 100 hunger points each, so total amount of hunger points (around 600) is enough for whole time I'm in the ruins (I prefer to not spend time on gathering food in ruins during ruins rush as much as possible). But I see no issue in precrafting crock pot and fire pit and making resupply point right in clockwork area - in fact, I also often do it as well because I like to have ruins base anyway for clearings; one just has to make sure there are no rooks nearby, and it's better when there are no fissures/nightmare lights nearby as well;
  • beefalo bell - because I'm doing it on beefalo; by the way, 4 days worth of domestication (1 minute of ride time) is enough to kill 1 bishop while kiting it, and in general beefalo speed saves a lot of time during exploration, especially when one explores wilds in search of clockwork biomes and searches completed station/goes to labyrinth;
  • 8 twigs and 4 grass for mentioned above opulent pickaxes and backpack for extra gems, thulecite and fragments that I'll leave near pseudoscience station; I may take a bit of extra grass and twigs in case I'll run out of lightbulbs to feed beefalo;
  • 3-4 steamed twigs to gain domesticaton when I mass-mine thulecite statues in sacred branch (the one with high density of statues), as well as mass-hammer broken clockworks;
  • 3-4 living logs for staves.

Things I crafted for ruins rushes when I did it on foot and took more damage:

  • 2 log suits;
  • fishing rod with precrafted crock pot (for surf'n'turf as my healing; as Wormwood I just picked 40 lichen and used rot for healing) or few healing salves (I farm a bit of silk even now for glossammer saddle, piggyback and bug net anyway).

I go to the ruins right after picking glommer (day 12-13) and can usually get back before winter, although I craft thermal stone in advance anyway and just take it with me in case I'm going to ruins later than that (not much later though, I'd say day 15 should be worst case scenario). In the past I also used to precraft alchemy and caught moleworms specifically in order to craft moggles, as well as ham bat (if on foot) right before I'll actually need it, but now I go with just lantern or miner hat on beefalo instead and bring glow berries to the surface for moggles for future clearing.

I rely on turf patterns to identify locations of clockworks, and avoid bishops and rooks when I don't have armor equipped (or until I have it in the first place), which allows me to take little to no damage even without full-screen vision (i.e. skip preparation of healing and dependance on it's spoilage, thus I have more flexibility and free time before rush to spend on other things), as well as bypass crafting armor on surface and rely on thulecite suit I craft right there for bishops. I also rely on sounds approaching bishops and rooks make to avoid fighting multiple clockworks and taking unnecessary hits (I run away while I still can avoid damage).

Sacred branch:





Double-bishop room:



Unguarded station room:



Double rook room 1:



Military (main) branch:





Main part

Double rook room ("barracks")



Single nightmare light (no clockworks)



2 statues, bishop, knight:






Incompleted guarded station in military:



1 statue, no clockworks:



Rook and 2 lights [identical to other military mentioned in labyrinth branch]

Rook and cross [identical to other military mentioned in labyrinth branch]






Double rook room 2 ("barracks"; optional (?)):



Small "military" (I don't know proper name or how majority of people call it; it's also optional biome)

Cross with rook:



Bishop in maze:



Rook and 2 lights in maze:



Bishop at the end:



Labyrinth (with characteristic entrance of muddy turf with "road"):


Completed station (can be in any branch):




Military and labyrinth branch can merge, barracks room can generate inside sacred branch as well; around barracks there is often "diffuse" part where clockworks are indeed random, but that part doesn't have statues, can be identified by guano turf and easily be avoided; the other type of duffuse part (with random clockworks and - this time - with statues) can generate as well, I saw it attached to either barracks or other type of double rook room (with 5 statues), but it's easy to identify and avoid in rush, plus it's relatively rare to have it generated with statues from what I can tell:



Example of how branches can look as a whole:




Labyrinth and military (fused):


I usually search for monkey villages (clockwork biomes are often located past them), as well as rocky "path" in the wilds, following latter often - but not always - allows to skip map border exploration and find clockworks earlier, and former has characteristic small "room" of muddy turf and with few blue mushrooms before it, so one can identify "entrance" in advance. From my experience monkey village that has guano turf in the middle of it and a lot of lesser glow berries and debth worms (often a lot of banana trees grow in there as well) never connects to clockwork biomes and is a dead end in general, so as soon as I identify it, I skip it's exploration. Each clockwork branch has characteristic entrance: sacred branch has room without statues, with 5 columns and a lot of relics, and other 2 branches have single statue in the square pattern of turf. Identifying sacred branch and skipping others allows me to shorten time of my presence in the ruins and consistently find most of materials I need (sacred branch has the highest density of statues), plus there are incompleted unguarded stations as well, and I even can craft star caller in advance quickly in case I'm late in the ruins without much obstacles before finding completed station. I tend to mine what I can without fighting clockworks (majority of statues except 2 adjacent gemless statues in 8-statue room), and then search for completed station. There I kill 2 bishops either by baiting both on hutch and kiting them one by one, or by running quickly to station before bishops wake up and crafting thulecite armor to tank both; subsequent bishops in double bishop and double rook rooms I kill by kiting with thulecite armor as ensurance (without hutch in case double rook rooms). Then I leave extra materials in backpack near station, craft anything I didn't craft yet, kill debth worm for glow berry and come to the surface.

It doesn't take long and as a result I have star callers before winter; since I'm on beefalo I don't need to gamble for lazy explorer or craft thulecite club, but killing Ancient Guardian is perfectly doable as well: I just crafted thulecite medallion in the same sacred branch to fight AG quickly when I didn't get ruins gems I wanted.

Among other advantages of such ruins rush regarding my schedule is availability of moggles for sailing (I do it in spring), bananas for banana daikiri in BQ fight as healing and knowledge about how good ruins are (if cave map is bugged, I would prefer to know sooner rather than later for purpose of world regen).

I also have no need to return to ruins until I kill CC in this setup.

Now regarding what can go wrong and how to fix it in the ruins - including doing it on foot:

  • Classic cause of death is to be inside monkey village or near a lot of fissures/nightmare lights when nightmare cycle is in nightmare/dawn phase. If "train" is already on you, just run forward and be careful to not be stuck on wall or pillar; in general though checking cycle phase is advantageous before entering monkey villages and rooms with nightmare lights, as well as advancing either slowly and killing enemies without forming crowd, or advancing very quickly and outrunning crowds (on beefalo, I advice to remount before doing so). Signs of nightmare phase of cycle: red part of everything in the ruins - ferns, parts of debth worms, elements of turf and columns, parts of character and equipment skins - glow bright; colors in general can be seen clearly, from blue and green to red and yellow (including gems on statues); nightmare lights and fissures are fully open, obviously; monkeys are in their shadow form and also one can hear their battle screams en masse even before entering village (from safe distance) because they aggro on slurpers. During calm phase everything is affected by blue filter (but colors still can be seen), red parts are much darker, blue light seems to be... more blue. Warn and dawn phase both have things decolored during them, and telling, for example, gem types from color alone is impossible. Thulecite medallion allows character to tell phase right away upon examination. So my advice to not die from hordes of enemies is to not allow them to form, or to at least catch up; I clear rooms with nightmare lights and fissures nearby during calm and warn phase and leave areas without those for nightmare and dawn phase. By the way, from my experience 1 fissure spawns only 1 nightmare creature and 1 nightmare light also spawns limited amount (either 1 or 2, I'm not sure). So in some cases it might be better to run in circles in the area as opposed to running to more fissures/lights and adding extra nightmares into the "train" (they push each other forward too much when there are too much of them).
  • Classic death cause #2: unexpected bishop projectile from darkness. As I mentioned, knowing turf patterns and paying attention to sounds allows to identify bishops (any clockwork) that is still far enough even in case bishop range attack (or use moggles). Running away far enough deaggroes them, plus clockworks are not that fast to approach particular area again, which may give enough time after few runaways (worst case scenario) to kill stuff one by one. Or one could avoid fight as much as possible as well, that works too, and running around map border is safe in vast majority of cases (aside from "barracks" - double rook + bishop rooms).
  • For food and healing one can bring crock pot in precrafted state and cook the following: meaty stew (AG + debth worms/spiders + any filler), meatballs (monkeys/spiders/debth worms + lichen field, banana and lesser glow berries also work), tall scorch eggs if one brings tallbird egg (tall bird egg in uncooked state + at least 1 lichen), surf'n'turf (60 hp; 2 eels and 2 monster meat work, as well as 2 eels, monster meat and morsel, 3 eels and monster meat), spicy chili (20 hp; 2 lichen + 1.5 meat, for example, from monkeys and worms), fish sticks (stick from player, eel and any than lichen filler), tall scorch eggs (60 hp), tent in pre-crafted state (sleep is available any timeof day). One can also get bat bat from labyrinth chest and mass-eat (cooked) bananas, lightbulbs or lichen worst case scenario.
  • During fight with AG one can identify shadow tentacles spawning by sound they make before they are fully surfaced, so if one hears them, it's better to pay extra attention and maybe retreat for this attack cycle.
  • I'd recommend to keep track of one's hunger and amount of fuel for light source: nightmare cycle duration is random, but in general is a bit longer than 1 day, so if one sees hunger is going to be an issue soon (<75 hunger without food in the inventory), it might be better to kill monkeys for food in advance while they are in shadow form or, on the contrary, to pick lichen/kill slurpers/go to lightbulbs during calm time to not be time-pressured so much when it's last hunger points or seconds of fuel.
  • On beefalo one has to remember to remount before fight and keep track of obedience. If beefalo bucked off player and picked figh with anything, running far away with bell in the inventory usually saves it (unless enemies deal too much damage too quickly, for example, rooks deal 200 damage per hit to mobs).
  • Obviously one should avoid dropping lantern around monkeys, so lantern enjoyers should be extra careful; one can tell the difference between debth worm in disguise and lesser glow berry for sure with torch (prompt "light up" shows up only for real plants), or - if caves are dry - by remembering that wet one is a worm (they are always wet, including disguised state). While in the wilds, one should be careful about slurpers and debth worms that are not disguised, but their attacks are easy to avoid.

It's also important to understand difference between rush and clearing. I'd never clear ruins in 1st autumn because it's pointless to me to spend there extra time - I won't use extra loot anyway, but would drain extra resources and die in case there are too little. For clearing I wrote in spoiler paragraph above why one may prefer to clear in summer/autumn.

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