Part one of this two part interview series, we get to know each member of Team APS. This interview was conducted through Paul, Team APS's leader. Many of the answers were written through Paul's point of view with contributions of other members. Some of the questions where answered individually by each member of the team. Without further ado, we present, the one and only TEAM APS!!
From left to right: Calvin, Larry, Paul, Alex, Alec, Chris, Trell - Team APS!
Inked Gaming: "Team APS! We’re so glad that we could set-up this interview with you. Thank you for taking the time to do this. You’ve gained many fans here at Inked over the years. Your balance of Yu-Gi-Oh! gameplay, product reviews, and hilarious skits hits home perfectly for us at Inked Gaming. First off, are there any initial thoughts on your mind? Anything that you want to speak about before we dive into things? Anything you want to shout out or projects that you have in the works? With everything going on in the world, anything you want to get off your chest or discuss? Fire away!
First things first. From watching your videos over the years it seems like there’s a rotating cast of characters with your team. Can you give our readers a roster list of APS? Maybe their name and a few things about each person!"
Team APS: "Hey guys. Thanks for getting this interview together. It honestly feels like the world is upside-down right now and everything’s this weird blur. I’m lucky enough to have a job that lets me work from home and mostly ignore things, but it doesn’t make the big picture all that much better. That said, the show must go on and that’s a lot of what I’ve been working on over the last few months. My channel covers a lot of Yu-Gi-Oh, which got hit really hard by the pandemic. People can’t just go to their local card shops and play anymore and of course the bigger events have all been cancelled. A few product releases have been delayed, too. The game’s competitive scene has largely migrated online, but some people feel like the game is a bit stagnant. There’s just less new material to cover, so a lot of my fellow Yu-Gi-Oh creators and I have had to change things up. Despite that, I actually feel like Team APS as a channel is doing better than it ever has. By stepping away from the core game a bit and focusing more on crazy challenges and funny skits, we’ve found a mix of videos that are fun for us to make while resonating with the audience. Since you mentioned projects, that actually reminds me: I am trying to get more into merchandise. Earlier this year we launched new shirts based on the attribute kanji, and they’ve been a bit. But right now, I’m working with some professional artists to make playmat designs for upcoming themes in the game. It’s definitely been a bit of a journey to find them, but I think I’ve got some talented people who will blow everyone’s minds when they’re done. In that regard, I’m also really thankful for Inked Gaming. You guys have always been super supportive and I seriously think these mats are going to be a match made in heaven.
Right, so the team is effectively comprised of 7 different people: Paul (myself), Alec, Alex, Trell, Chris, Calvin, and Larry. What I find most interesting about each person is not just each of our unique personalities, but also our different relationships with Yu-Gi-Oh itself. We all got into the game back in the early days, but with different goals and competitive levels. I guess I’m what you’d call the “leader” of the group. I make a lot of the big decisions under the hood of the channel, and I probably fit squarely in the middle of everyone on the casual to competitive spectrum. I like to dabble into every aspect of the game, from collecting merch and rare cards to deck building and theory crafting. I think this is a game that everyone can find something to like about, and that’s something I’ve been trying to get across in our videos.
Alec and Alex are actually twin brothers, so they both got into the game with each other at the same time. You can tell them apart because Alec doesn’t wear glasses, but Alex does. They’re both more casual players, and so they like cards and decks more for their aesthetics and themes than anything. We actually call Alex the “lore master” of Yu-Gi-Oh because he loves diving into card artwork and connecting the stories behind different monsters, probably more than he even enjoys playing the game. In fact, he played a huge role in designing our upcoming playmats, since he’d already found a lot of the small, important details hidden in the cards that our illustrations are based on. Alec, on the other hand, is the writer behind all of our skits. If you’ve ever laughed at a joke or line in one of those videos, he’s probably the genius behind it. I also consult him for a lot of under the hood channel decisions, since he follows the analytic side of the channel with me. He takes a lot of pride in his work and I’ve never met someone with a better grasp and mind for what just makes people laugh.
Trell and Larry in Walmart getting ready to save the world. Not pictured: Seto Kaiba trying to destroy it.
Trell is easily the most competitive Yu-Gi-Oh player in our group, and it definitely shows. He spends the most time and energy deck building, play testing, traveling, and competing. One of his most admirable (and I’d even say enviable) qualities is how unwilling he is to take a loss without coming back for a rematch. As a person, I’d say he’s the most charismatic and boisterous member, too and it comes through in his more high-octane, combo-heavy deck choices. All those qualities combine to make Trell a real crowd pleaser and the most raw, passionate Yu-Gi-Oh player I’ve ever met.
Then there’s Chris and Calvin. These two don’t get to be in too many videos since they live a bit further away than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean they don’t both deliver when they are. Chris is probably the person I relate to most as a Yu-Gi-Oh player. We both enjoy a lot of the same decks and playstyles (mid-range combo and control decks that switch between aggression and defense). Even though he’s a pretty laid back guy, Chris likes to keep a finger on the pulse of Yu-Gi-Oh as a whole - the trends players are saying and thinking and how Konami is handling the game. I’m a lot like this, too, so the two of us really connect most when we’re having these conversations. Conversely, Calvin is a lot more carefree as a person and as a player. He’s very much a “likes what he likes, no matter what people think” type of Yu-Gi-Oh player. For instance, Calvin is a big fan of FTK strategies, like his signature Gem-Knights. These decks are controversial in the Yu-Gi-Oh community, sure, but for him, that’s his cup of tea and he’ll use them regardless. That willingness to stick to his opinions comes through in his videos, too.
Finally, there’s Larry, the newest member of the team (he started making videos with us in late 2018, and formally joined in early 2019). Much like Alex and Alec, he’s a more casual player who likes collecting cards and building more decks than he can keep up with. Larry’s favorite Yu-Gi-Oh pastime is buying and opening packs, so much that it inspired his signature segment: Larry in the Hole, where he buys $40 of sealed products at different stores and tries to make his money back. I think a lot of the segment’s popularity comes not just from the suspense of opening packs for rare cards, but also from Larry’s easygoing, fun-loving personality, which is also on full display in lots of our skits.
All in all, I don’t think I could ask for a better group of friends and fellow Yu-Gi-Oh players. Everyone brings something different to the table and the hijinks really kick off when we’re on-camera together. It’s sometimes a juggling act to keep everything together, but I think the results always speak for themselves."
Inked Gaming: "Thank you for giving us a background on this team. It’s funny, the way you described each team member, I think we’re easily able to see a lot of what you’re talking about in your videos. APS does a great job of writing for the strengths of your cast and not making each person into something they’re not. Very authentic approach.
The way your channel has evolved, and the personalities of your team members are a huge reason I think your channel has become such a success. We want to go way back before you became a successful YouTube channel. Back to where it all started. What were your childhoods like? Did you play other card games? How did Team APS meet? Where did you first find your passion of Yu-Gi-Oh!? Do you have any stories from the good old days where you just knew that this game would become more than just a fun side hobby? Were you into sports or other activities? Did you enjoy school and did your friend groups influence you getting into card games? Or did all of this just grow up pretty naturally over the years? What was your favorite card as a kid and why is it bad now?! Tell us the backstory!"
Paul McGee: "Like most people, I got into the Yu-Gi-Oh TCG from watching the anime after school. I don’t know exactly what it was that captured me about the show. I wasn’t really into magic or dragons, and I didn’t play other card games, either. I think it was the characters that spoke to me most. I liked the idea that everyone had a unique deck that matched their personalities, so the game felt like more than just strategy… it was like a form of expression. I finally convinced my parents to buy me a Seto Kaiba starter deck at a Books-A-Million store and the rest was history.
I’d go to tournaments every week at Books-A-Million, or anywhere else I could find them that my parents were willing to take me to. I even had my cards taken by my 2nd grade teacher (she took a Blue-Eyes White Dragon and never returned it, which still bothers me to this day). It’s a bit trite, but my favorite card really was the Blue-Eyes itself. I actually started making videos in late 2009 after getting my hands on a Flip camera as a freshman in high school, which was new at the time. Yu-Gi-Oh videos let me combine two interests of mine into one, and it just sort of clicked.
That said, though, I didn’t actually meet the other members of Team APS until way later on. I met Calvin and Chris because they actually messaged the YouTube channel late in 2010 asking about the card shop where I played. I told them where it was, and then we become friends from there. Trell was a frequent player at that same shop, too. I met the twins Alex and Alec as roommates when I first went to college back in 2013, and finally I met Larry in 2016 at a new card shop in that same college city."
Meet Alec, Ancient Gear Golem aficionado!
Alec Fields: "I was lucky enough to receive the Yu-Gi-Oh Toys R’ Us promotional videotape in the mail right around the time the anime first came on TV. It was essentially a long commercial for the show, but at the end it gave us our first glimpse at the trading cards. Alex and I were enraptured from that point on. All we wanted were Yu-Gi-Oh cards and we made sure to harass our mom to take us to the mall when Starter Decks Yugi and Kaiba officially released. Alex and I were fairly conservative when it came to asking our parents for things so we didn’t dive headfirst into the game and instead made do with getting the occasional card pack every few months or so. With this in mind we played very casually with our friends in elementary through middle school. In high school however, we didn’t have any friends to play with and would only pull the cards out to play against each other rarely. During this time I took up playing football and joined JROTC. Funnily enough during our senior year an acquaintance brought all of his old cards to school one day and we got into playing once again. This weird trend of finding Yu-Gi-Oh players wherever I went continued into my third year in college. For those first three years I went to 3 different colleges and each time I found a new group of Yu-Gi-Oh players to befriend and play with.
One of the reasons as a kid I didn’t get deep into the Yu-Gi-Oh card game was because I was also trying every other card game that came out. I played Duel Masters, Battle Spirits, Chaotic, Magic, Pokemon, Dragonball, and others. I tried so many things I never really could settle on any one thing.
My favorite card is Ancient Gear Golem. It's been my favorite card since I first saw it on the cover of a pack of Lost MIllenium I got during my evacuation from Hurricane Katrina. I loved that card and I desperately wanted to pull it. I never did, but when I started working and had a bit of money the first thing I did was but an Ultimate Rare copy and I still have it to this day.
Alex Fields: "I was pretty sheltered as a child. I’m sure if it wasn’t for my twin brother, Alec, I wouldn’t have had any friends at all. Most of my childhood was spent inside. There weren’t many kids my own age to hang out with in my neighborhood, which was a moot point, because by the age of nine, I’d become very comfortable with my tv, books, and video games that didn’t require anyone else. That all changed when my brother and I received our first ever package in the mail from Toys “R” Us (fun fact, I’m pretty sure this would be highly illegal today). It was strange because it was addressed specifically to the two of us and I had no idea that I could even receive mail. So, I asked my mom if we could open it. She actually had no idea what it was either. When we looked inside the packaging, we found a VHS tape advertising something called Yu-Gi-Oh. Much like Yugi himself, we promptly popped the VHS in our VHS player that up until then had only known a wide variety of Disney movies and had our lives changed forever.
Growing up, I had the opportunity to sample many card games as they were released in the US. The Yu-Gi-Oh TCG helped me cut my teeth on a type of gaming entertainment that to most of my generation was novel. All I wanted to do was collect cards. It didn’t even matter what game they were for. It didn’t even matter if I planned on playing any of them. For example, the very first card game I interacted with outside of Yu-Gi-Oh was the Pokémon TCG. Like any kid of my generation I was really into Pokémon. Though I never actually played the game as a kid. I only collected some cards that a ten-year old me abused to high heaven. The first other card game that I played was Duel Masters. I heard about it quickly through the Shonen Jump magazine before it released, and I played pretty often with my brother. Around the same time, I briefly dabbled in Magic the Gathering thanks to a meetup that was set up at my Middle School. I enjoyed both card games and honestly found their similarities a bit eerie. Unfortunately, Yu-Gi-oh was still foremost on my mind. Over the years since then, I have tried card games such as the Naruto TCG, one of the Dragonball TCG’s, Battle Spirits, Vanguard, and even Chaotic which is still a personal favorite of mine.
I can’t say much for how some of us met, but my introduction to Team APS was when I became college roommates with Paul. Coincidentally, this was the same semester that my brother transferred to our university. Paul was my third roommate since I’d started college and the novelty of meeting new people had worn off. I was much more interested in hanging out with my brother whom I hadn’t seen in a year. Paul and I were respectfully distant toward one another at first, but my curiosity was quickly piqued when I spotted the Yu-Gi-Oh cards that Paul had left sitting on his dresser. My brother and I, knowing our own not-so-distant past of playing the game as well decided to ask him about them and in a very short time we started appearing in Paul’s videos as guests and somewhere along the line as actual members of team APS.
My passion for the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game comes from a very different place than most people that I know. My passion for the game stems from spending hours staring at the artwork of my cards and loving every moment of it. This might sound strange, but I merely use playing the card game as an excuse to collect cards that I think look “cool” or simply “neat”. Eventually I learned that some cards when viewed in the correct order told a story, and my passion for card artworks transformed into a passion for Yu-Gi-Oh lore. I enjoy nothing more about this game than analyzing cards down to their names, colors, forms, and archetypes to understand the creative process behind them and decipher any hidden themes that went into their design. These aren’t just cards to me. They are a story just waiting to be told.
Unfortunately, I never saw myself continuing to play the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game long-term. In fact, I quit multiple times when I’d lose interest. Even during the early days of my time with Team APS, I didn’t believe I’d be playing this card game for as long as I have, but the years kept coming and I kept playing. By the time I was about to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree I realized to my horror that I’d never quit the game even though I kept saying I would, and I’d become wholly invested in the game.
I didn’t play any organized sports outside of brief forays into little league baseball and track and field. That isn’t to say I was bad at them though. I loved playing sports just for fun though most people wouldn’t have known that since I was a pretty reserved kid. Playing physical sports helped me to express myself in ways I never could with words. For that reason, I was probably the only kid in my high school that enjoyed P.E. I participated in multiple marching bands in both Middle School and High School as a saxophone player. I also participated in JROTC as well. If you’ve been keeping up, I’m sure you could guess that my favorite card in the game changed frequently. Though there was always a common theme. It was always Water attribute monsters. My first favorite was The Legendary Fisherman. Something about that monster really vibed with me as a kid watching Mako Tsunami use it on the television show. I quickly learned later that it’s best effect that allowed it to be unaffected by the effects of spell cards also meant it couldn’t receive the bonus ATK from Umiiruka which was a powerful field spell in my old Water monster deck."
A relatively newer member of Team APS, Larry fits in perfectly and seamlessly with the Yu-Gi-Oh! community and the team.
Larry Frazier-May: "I was kind of a late bloomer as far as getting into the greater Yu-Gi-Oh! community even when it comes to Team APS. Of course growing up in the 2000s most of my friends and I watched the anime religiously and tried to replicate the play style of the show without knowing the actual rules. If someone actually had actual playing cards they were king for the day.
The first real cards I ever got were for Christmas one year. My mom bought Starter Deck Yugi and Starter Deck Kaiba and I was off, couldn’t be stopped. More and more cards were found a bought horrible atrocious abominations of decks were built. Fast forward a few years into 2015 and during some Netflix and chilling I discover the anime of the streaming service with a wave of nostalgia. Amazing how much joy and fondness can be found in simple printed cardboard paper but I returned to my childhood home and found my treasures.
Some research as I find that the game was still alive and that the cards are still being sold. Now an adult with his own form of income I set out to the local Wal-Mart and not only is this silly little game still a thing, but a prospering one. I’d never known so many cards to be on a shelf but Yu-Gi-Oh had its own designated section. And with the rules (not that I knew how to play that much as a kid) and these new black (Xyz), white (Synchro) and half-cards that are one thing sometimes and something else other times (Pendulum), I was intrigued. I learned and practiced some, even tried teaching my girlfriend (now wife) how to play, but it’s not for everyone but Fortunes Fairies (ha) smiled on me and I found an entire community of players and other like minded people who loved the game and enjoyed playing one of those being an old geezer named Trell.
After fully learning the rules, the styles of play, the supplies, the accessories, the dreaded ban list some casual play some tournaments and buying a LOT of cards I meet Trell’s “heterosexual life partner” Paul who does this YouTube thing. Because I had a certain reputation as a collector, having some of everything you might need, and Paul needed to borrow some cards for a video. Of course I was more than happy to oblige which was followed by more requests and I couldn’t say no to a fellow Yu-Gi-Oh! connoisseur. Soon I was invited to the secret workshop and chatted up about favorite cards and archetypes; before I knew it he told me that they were making another video and he wanted me in it and that was that.
I never thought that this small hobby of mine would allow me to meet the people that I have or go to the places we’ve been. It’s been an honor to have met all the guys (Alec, Alex, Calvin, Chris, Paul and, Trell) it’s been one hell of a ride so far and look forward to what we come up with in the future. Stay tuned we haven’t even scratched the surface yet!"
Meet Chris - known for his wonderful sense of dry humor - a joy to watch on the channel!
Christopher Ray: "My childhood was pretty regular, I’m a 90’s kid so I grew up playing Power Rangers, watching Nicktoons and Disney channel. Video games also played a big part in my competitive nature. All these things ultimately led to what I’m into today. Card games have always been a hobby for me going back to the first Pokemon starter set. I’ve always tried the card games from my favorite shows, the more popular ones being Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon but I’ve also dabbled into VS System, Chaotic, One Piece, Shaman King, and Naruto.
I first found my passion for Yu-Gi-Oh back in middle school. Around that time I was just getting into the anime so it was only right that when I found the Yugi and Kaiba starter decks that I got into the game. I first found those decks on vacation in Florida at a game shop, and begged my mom to buy them for me, and from then until my sophomore year of high school, I was playing with my cousins and friends.
I played basketball and football all throughout my childhood. I was on the varsity football team in highschool, which was one of the reasons I fell out of Yu-Gi-Oh for a while. I’ve always been into many different things because it's interesting learning new things. So in all you never know what I’m into cause I'm into so much. School for me was always cool, cause I like to learn. I wasn’t always the best student, but I found my way and learned my way. I would say both instances of me getting into playing Yu-Gi-Oh a friend got me into it. Back in middle school my best friend actually taught me the rules when he found out I had cards and also told me about the tournaments at books-a-million. Then in college, Calvin, another APS member talked me into playing again and that’s when I ultimately met Paul and now we’re here.
My favorite card as a kid was Mystic Swordsman LV 6. Card had great artwork and design for its time. Its effect is based off of your opponent having a facedown monster so today the card is pretty much useless and slow and can’t really compete with today's meta. All of that said it's still the best looking card in Yu-Gi-Oh!"
Meet Trell - top level entertainer and top level competitive player. A legend!
Trell Thomas: "I’m Trell (that’s T-R-E-L-L), the loudmouth, rambunctious little guy of the bunch. To say I had a troubled childhood is putting it lightly. I was adopted, in & out of juvenile homes, & spent a lot of my time in group homes & the like. Through all this I was still allowed to attend public schools, so I graduated with a regular class. It was in high school where I learned how to play Yu-Gi-Oh. I had played Pokemon in my younger years but gave that up when I got to high school with the “cool kids”. I was definitely not expecting to pick up another card game. I was in my PreCalculus class & two of my best friends were playing this card game with weird creatures & names. Funny enough we were not friends at this time, only classmates. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked them what they were doing. They told me they were playing Yu-Gi-Oh & asked if I wanted to learn. They gave me the basics & let me use one of their decks to get a feel of the game. They explained the rules & simple strategy & also kicked my butt thoroughly. I’ve always been competitive by nature so I just couldn’t stand for this. They gave me some of their extra cards to take home & study & by the end of the week I was in full duel mode & coming for revenge. Fast forward to now & I typically only play competitively while priding myself on making & competing with rogue decks which seems to be my specialty on the channel.
Yugioh isn’t the only game I’ve played though. In fact, it was sort of a gateway to other TCG’s. Upon learning the game, I also became heavy into Duel Masters. It was actually pretty fun & simple so it was a much nicer pace from the intricate rulings & details of Yu-Gi-Oh. I also had a brief stint with the Zatch Bell TCG as well as One Piece. Most people don’t even remember those games! I played the InuYasha card game a bit & also Digimon although I was more into that for nostalgia sake than to actually play it. None of these games lasted more than a month or so though either due to boredom or the game actually being discontinued. I even had a brief stint where I went back into competitive Pokemon & played competitive Cardfight Vanguard (Great Nature rocks) but Yu-Gi-Oh has always been home for me.
I never really thought Yugioh would become that big of a thing in my life. I have a long list of hobbies to be honest: I used to dance, I actively write & do spoken word, I create content on other platforms, & have a pretty demanding job. I played sports such as basketball, volleyball, & football so it wasn’t like I was really needing any hobbies but no matter what I got myself into there was always time to slap some cardboard. I feel that at one point I became even a little obsessed. I only wanted to play & learn strategies & collect cards. So now, eighteen years later I have the privilege of writing about my Yu-Gi-Oh origin.
I met Paul, Calvin, & Chris at their local shop that I would visit whenever mine wasn’t open or just whenever I wanted a change of scenery. We all had gotten close over the years prior to YouTube being a part of our lives. I met the twins through Paul seeing how one of them was his roommate in school & the other was always in their dorm room. I love them. There is so much hilarious stuff that happens off-camera with those two that the world may never see but I get the privilege of witnessing. Larry was our latest addition. He actually started off as someone who watched the channel and then we found out that we stayed near each other. We all would hang out & he eventually became a part of the family just like the rest of us.
I’m actually really glad to have met all of these guys. They add another layer to my already complex life. We have lots of great times & I’m glad to be a part of a group of like minds that are still so diverse & intelligent. Given my troubled past & hectic present Yu-Gi-Oh has been an escape, or a form of meditation if you will, that helps me clear the fog of busy or unwelcoming days. I have made many great friends from this game. I have traveled to many fun & interesting places thanks to a game that started in my childhood. If anyone wants to know why we need Yu-Gi-Oh to continue then you can look no further than me. I am the epitome of a rough start but this game awakened a fight & determination in me that made me want to be better than my circumstances & I just can never wait to see each next thing this game has in store!!"
Meet Calvin - one of the members that lives far away, but still brings a lot to the channel!
Calvin Richardson: "Man, growing up, my favorite card was Rude Kaiser. I don’t know, I was maybe 11 or 12 when I first saw Yu-Gi-Oh...so to me at that time Rude Kaiser just looked cool. He has blades on his arms! So even though I had to tribute 1 monster to summon an 1800 attacker, in my eyes he was the GOAT.
Honestly, I've only played one other card game and that was Pokemon, if you even consider that playing… I was literally a kid, I collected the cards, made horrible card choices and ratios, and called it a deck. It was based around Gengar if you're curious, who always was and always will be my favorite Pokemon.
Eh, my passion for Yu-Gi-Oh came EXTRA late. I had actually quit around 7 or 8 years then got back into it in college after I met Chris. It was always just something I did as a third or fourth hobby. I'd buy cards, build the cheapest most simplistic version of a deck, and then not actually play it much. But then I came across Gem-Knights, oh that's when it changed… you give me Gem-Knights and I get a foot taller with a deeper voice and shiny hair.
In school, it was all about basketball for me… that's why Yu-Gi-Oh was so low on the list. I played in 6th and 7th grade, but I couldn't afford the stuff I wanted and I didn't have a ride most times, so I quit. Factor that in with the fact that I was the last of my friends still playing and it just didn't seem worth it. So meeting Chris in college was a HUGE reason I came back into the game. I think I made a joke and said Opticlops in it...he then gave me this weird look like, "wait, why do you know that name?" That was enough for me to look at him like "why do you know what I'm talking about?" And boom, here we are today!"
Inked Gaming: "This was truly joy to read. Thank you all for opening up to me on your backstory. I think part of the reason long form interviews like this are so fun to read is really digging deep and finding what makes you tick. Reading through these personal anecdotes and stories really gets me excited to think back on my life growing up in and around the card game industry! Nostalgia is something that we will all have to look back on whenever the time comes for us to move on to something else in life. Great memories to have for sure. Glad we can document yours here on Inked to always come back to.
The next question I want to focus a little more on the content side of things. First off, what is your favorite video of all time that the team produced and why? Do you ever have any videos that you have just canned post production or do most of them make it through to YouTube? What are your long term goals with your videos? Are you looking to hit a specific milestone? Will we still be seeing Team APS videos five years from now or are you just taking it one step at a time? We know that life comes at you quickly and things could change for any one of you, but does the core group plan to stay together for the long haul?
Team APS: "Hmm… that’s a REALLY good question....[CONTINUED IN PART 2 OF THIS INTERVIEW AT A LATER DATE!]
Tune in next time to find out the answers to these questions and more from Team APS. How did you like part one of this two part interview series? Let us know in the comments and make sure that you check out Team APS on all of their channels!
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