RFC: Carrion Birds and Demoralizing Screech

RFC stands for “Request For Comments” — which basically means that I need your help (again!). I’m getting a lot of questions about the pros and cons of each pet family and in particular the pet family skills. But there’s no way that I really test all the pet families in every situation myself, so I want to hear about your experiences with them! (And yes, with 32 pet families this could take awhile.)

Today’s RFC: The Carrion Bird family and their Demoralizing Screech skill.

Prior to Patch 3.0, there was a well-known trio of flappy pets made popular by their Screech skill: Owls, Bats and Carrion Birds. Of the three, Owls were arguably the most popular, with Bats and Carrion Birds vying for second.

But the huge changes to pets in Patch 3.0 changed Owls into Birds of Prey and replaced Screech for both Owls and Bats. Carrion Birds, though, the sometime-overlooked and rather ugly vultures, soldiered on with Screech, renamed Demoralizing Screech.

If you’ve had any experience hunting with Carrion Birds in a post-Patch 3.0 world, take a moment to comment and let me know what you think. In particular, I’d like to know:

  • What are the pros and cons of Carrion Birds in general?
  • What are the pros and cons of Demoralizing Screech in particular?
  • Are Carrion Birds particularly good (or bad) for soloing, grouping, raiding, PvP, tanking, damage-dealing, etc?
  • What talents do you suggest for Carrion Birds? Are there any required talents, or talents you should definitely skip?
  • Do you know any clever strategies for hunting with Carrion Birds, or are there any particular gotchas to watch out for?
  • Would you recommend a Carrion Bird?

(These are just guideline questions — you need’t try to address each one in turn. And yes, this post looks a lot like the other RFCs — after all I’m asking the same questions!)

I’m especially looking for input from people who have been hunting with Carrion Birds for the past month or so (since Patch 3.0), but even if you haven’t, feel free to throw if your theorycrafting — just let us know whether your advice is based on experience or spreadsheets (or both)!

This post will remain here as a reference for the future, and additionally I’ll try to distill the basics down into a brief summary for use on Petopia.

As always, thanks for your help!

31 thoughts on “RFC: Carrion Birds and Demoralizing Screech

  1. rudyom

    Everyone thinks i’m mad using a carrion bird as a marksman hunter. Shouldn’t I use a wasp to gain advantage of the armour debuff? But my ‘crow’ is doing ok and can hold agro well in leveling. The screech is anoying but can be left safely turned on. Thanks to talents he never needs feeding either.

    I suspect once raiding really starts, most raids will have a hunter with a carrion bird so it’s debuff reduces the healing required on the tanks (wihout wasting a druid). Remeber that the wolfs furious howl isnt stacking with battleshout and multiple wasps don’t provide multiple armour debuffs.

    Of course, just wish a carrion bird could get carrion feeder…you messed up on that blizzard!

  2. Nimizar

    I tried to get them to swap carrion birds and birds of prey around, but they didn’t listen…

    One thing to keep in mind with demoralising screech is that aside from the awesomeness that is the gorilladin, it’s one of the better AoE pet threat moves around. It won’t hold mobs against Volley, but it will hold them against healing aggro from Mend Pet (although I will grant that my experience with that is pre-3.0).

  3. Nookni

    I also have used a Dire Raven(crow) as my pet for the last few levels. (though I prefer my crab I had since lvl 12)
    The screech does seem to draw sufficient aggro to prevent multiple mobs from attacking me when Mend Pet heals, so I use the bird for known farming areas where things are closely spaces, or adds are common. Also, assuming your melee doesn’t mnid the noise, I’ve had some good experience with them in 5-man instances (have not raided 10-man or above yet since my hunter is a farm-alt for my priest)
    Overall, I like them. for solo grinding, I will agree that they are decent AoE threat-generators, not quite as awesome as a gorilla, but as Ferocity pets, they do a good job killing things for you. And with bloodthirsty, they don’t need much healing or food.

  4. Palladiamors

    In general, carrion birds are good damage dealers and debuffers. Ferocity in general features very little in the ways of group utility, aside from the rather sparse call of the Wild.

    Higher levels of demoralizing screech drop a significant amount of AP from your target and every enemy target within five yards, definite plus. On the downside, screech isn’t a focus dump anymore, so it does not hold aggro like it used to. Use it as a debuff, but be aware that it can draw aggro if your tank in instances hasn’t AoE’d yet.

    Carrion birds make very good solo pets, decreasing the overall amount of damage they take from single or multiple targets. The same holds true for instances, and while it is rather prohibitive at a longer cooldown, call of the wild can work as a minor damage boost. For PvP, the bird varies. Against anything caster it is going to lose effectiveness due to not affecting casting, but against melee’ers it can be great for helping keep team members and yourself alive. Ferocity aren’t meant to tank, and this type of bird is no exception. With only one talent really designed around survival, bloodthirsty, they just don’t have enough staying power to remain in a tanking position in an instance for long. In terms of damage dealing, demoralizing screech gives them a slight edge in damage, but overall is more of a suppliment and debuffer. A well rounded pet that can serve in many roles.

    Cobra reflexes is more or less required for all ferocity pets. The increased attack speed goes a long way in dishing out more pain, which is what ferocity is all about. Bloodthirsty is nearly THE required talent for ferocity, providing healing AND a constant stream of happiness for your pet, while spiked collar ups damage output. Swoop is very nice for solo and PvP play, and for getting your pet back into position in a hurry, while avoidance is a required for another high end talent that you DEFINITELY want, Rabid. Avoidance is great on its own for decreasing AoE damage, which is very important for instance play. Heart of the phoenix works as a spring loaded panic button, allowing you to instantly revive your pet once every ten minutes, no downsides there. Spiders bite is another nearly required talent, but with a caveat: Primarily for beastmasters. Criticals are super important for beastmasters, and spiders bite ups the ante by an entire 9%, an insane amount. Rabid. Take it. The increase to damage is amazing, and if you’ve taken Cobra reflexes, frenzy, and serpents swiftness then you’ll have close to an entire fifteen seconds of boosted DPS from it. Finally, call of the wild. Personally, I don’t think its worth a talent point, but the 10% increase can be useful in the right situations. Weigh whether or not its worth it to you personally, then take it or leave it.

    As with all ferocities, try to wait for five stacks of rabid before beastial wrathing if your a beastmaster. Same with call of the wild, if you took it. Beastial wrath, rabid, and call of the wild stack for a combined DPS increase of 85%, and when combined with the speed increasing talents and ferocious inspiration, makes for one large, angry bird. Do NOT screech around neutral mobs, since they will go aggressive upon being debuffed.

    I can recommend carrion birds. Demoralizing screech is, as always, a very useful ability, and ferocity pets in general are great damage dealers. Personally, I can’t stand the floppy animations of carrions, but that is just me.

  5. Palladiamors

    Edit: Lick your wounds is another great talent for ferocity pets, allowing for your pet to nearly come back from the dead every three minutes.

  6. Blork

    MM Hunter. I fell in love with my Vulture (carrionbirdskin) named Butch right off the bat. From the “fake” skill *swoop* all the way to patch 3.0 and the change in talents. Not much to look at, but he always got the job done. Great soloing. Multiple mob aoe is always nice. The debuff always seemed to hold agro well. Grouping is always the same – tanks hate that big flapping bird. I thought the debuff would be good for groups – but it seemed to break CC pre 3.0. I ended up going to a scorp (scorpionskinblue) Ziggy for 5 mans. Guild raids didn’t mind which pet like 5 mans, but the scorp was just much better. PvP – those big flapping wings that tanks hated were wonderful in PvP but without some sort of stun or serious damage he was only a distraction. A good distraction, but that was it. Again, I felt the scorp was much better for PvP, he was so small, casters forgot he was on them til it was too late. Demoralizing Shout would be better now for 5 mans now that it wont break cc on non-targets, but those big flapping wings will always be hated. As for talents, Swoop is back. Great for PvP. Heart of the Phoenix is great too, not that I let him die often. But when he is back – he is back with a vengeance. Do I recommend him? Always. But I know because of looks, he will never be fully accepted. Many other hunters still tell me to get a *real* pet.

  7. Grizzled Hunter Yojimbow

    As a hunter who doesn’t believe in “the best pets”, picking up a carrion bird for the first time (Trachela, no less) was actually a mistake I’m glad I made. It was an accident I tamed Midnight (what I named her), but I have had alot of help with her by my side. She draws aggro well and can keep it, and the Demoralizing Screech has been an asset to my solo leveling.

    Granted, all of the hunters in my guild tell me to get a bear or a gorilla, I’ve found a strange harmony with Midnight; one that I share with only one other pet, and that’s my barking coyote, Daigoro.

    As far as talents go, Swoop is a plus, Lick Your Wounds is a lifesaver, Heart of the Phoenix (in my experience with it) has never failed me, and I all-around am very confident to have my carrion bird with me. As far as recommending them goes, it’s all up to tastes, as I’ve learned with all the hunters I’ve met, but in my opinion, I’d say definitely.

  8. Nachtwulf

    @Palladia “Heart of the phoenix works as a spring loaded panic button, allowing you to instantly revive your pet once every ten minutes, no downsides there. “

    Except for one thing. HotP is BROKE Currently, despite what the tooltip says, HotP works as a ‘free revive pet’ and does NOT bring your pet back at full health. Instead, it brings him back at Revive levels(for my marks hunter, about 15% health) which, in any crisis situation where you’ve had to use it in the first place, means it will automatically die at the first hit.

    I’ve reported it to Blizzard for ages, but they haven’t hotpatched it yet. Right now, it’s an utter waste of a point, so I haven’t specced for it and refuse to until they fix the damn thing. Argh!

  9. Palladiamors

    Huh, thank you for that update Nacht, I hadn’t encountered that bug yet. For the sake of my RFC its important to know that it could happen. Muchly appreciated.

  10. Noba

    I have seen the Heart of Phoenix bug a few times, earlier. It seems if your pet takes a second, it will pop to 100% health and be fine. And really, only like one second or less. But if your pet charges straight in *immediately*, it will sometimes stay at the low ‘revive health’. But I’d say 95% of the time, for me, the pet has time to pop to full health before he finishes running to the monster.

    On carrion birds- they’re essentially the new owl. Probably higher damage than birds of prey now, a more instance-useful family ability.. and the ability is much more useful for aggro holding while grinding levels. Do carrion birds still have that fun screech sound? hehe, I actually loved the sound. It makes my sad my owl is silent now. Strongly considering trading him in for Trachella.

  11. Boarwood

    I think the heart of the pheonix bug is just to do with the fact that when you summon your pet (even when dismissed with full health) he returns with about half his health, then immediately pops to full health. not sure why that is.

    As for carrion birds, I will never use anything that makes that horrible screech noise. I’m sure carrion birds are great for people who play without sound, but i just can not take that vile squeal. Adding to the reasons for my repulsion of them, the new carrion birds are incredibly unattractive in my opinion. Since the new pets all seem to look so much better than the old models, I seem to lean towards them when picking them out (currently using Bjomolf, planning to pick up the wasp that is my icon here). So in a nutshell, I’ve got nothing against carrion birds as a means of doing damage, but i can’t stand listening to them or looking at them.

  12. Korzak

    Without Screech being a focus dump and popping almost constantly, they can’t hold aggro anywhere near as well as they used to, especially in AoE. It used to be impossible to pull aggro from my bat or owl, but Trachela in 3.0 can’t hardly keep one mob held, let alone multiples.

  13. Wark

    My theory is when you Call your pet and it pops out with a (significant) portion of its hitpoints mysteriously vanished before fixing, it’s because of stamina modifiers: it pops out with what its hitpoints would be before the game tacks on hitpoint bonuses (and given how from Outlands on they just hand out free HP on the corner, it can be a darn big chunk). If I had to guess off the top of my head, however, when it revives from Heart it’s given what hitpoints it would if you’d used the proper Mend Pet, then after a moment the game remembers that no, you used the talent, which restores all the HP, and fills the bar up for you.
    I’ll admit I have no idea why it takes the game so long to remember in both cases that your pet is supposed to be at 100%, and thus can’t guess whether it’s intentional (some sort of check against exploits) or otherwise (less than optimal code).

    This has been your daily digression. (Do wasps next! Or scorpids, c’mon, I’m dying to talk about a family I’ve used….)

  14. Celeglad

    I’ve leveled from 71 to 78 so far with my blue Dragonblight condor, Odineye. I must say that I find it difficult to even try a tank pet now; he instantly surpassed my 71 Northrend worm in damage, survivability, and yes, even tanking ability. The Screech/Bloodthirst/Lick Your Wounds combo allows him to tank things that by all rights he really shouldn’t be able to, and he’s amazing when I’m out there trying to solo some ridiculous group quest and suddenly get invited to an instance- no asking to wait for a trip to get my dungeon pet from the nearest stable master. ^_^ As BM with a few points in Marks I’ve never once had a problem with his aggro, and actually have had to turn Cower on in a few 5-mans recently because he’s doing his job too well. XD Definitely a recommended pet family as far as I’m concerned! :)

  15. Jayhawk

    My MM hunter has been using a Raven (Quoth) for a long time now and is very happy with it. Especially the AoE part of Screech aggroing ads. She’s able to pour on damage without much worry of getting aggro (like a light weight gorilla =)

    Oh, and in case one dislikes the vulture shape, there’s these lovely little hawks in Howling Fjord. My L22 Blood Elf hunter picked one up the other day. Very effective little pet.

  16. Makoes

    I am not one for flappys, or screeching, but I might pick up a Crow (only skin I like of them) and try one out…Might make an interesting change to my somewhat ground oriented arsinal…

    Nice posts, and Palla, thats alot a great info you got there, I am going to try out your suggested Talent set up. thx.

  17. Wyndigo

    They’re ferocity which is a good and bad thing. Because of their family ability, you want to use them as AoE tanks, which they don’t really have the talents for, but they can dish out the damage if you get called away to an instance before you can get to a town. They’re still great at keeping mobs on them, so long as you give them a few seconds to use all their abilities.

    Demoralizing Screech got a bit of a nerf. The added cool-down is saddening, but waiting ten seconds for it to be up again isn’t too bad. It’s still just as useful as it was before, it just might take a bit of getting used to the cooldown and it’s effect on threat generation.

    The only bad thing about carrions is, of course, they’re still giant flappy birds! As long as you and your groups can put up with it, they’re useful for all aspects of the game. Maybe not the best, but a good all-around choice.

    I would recommend a Carrion Bird for sure, if you can find a skin you like. They’re awesome leveling pets and mobs don’t chew your face if you decide to use a mend pet on him while he’s tanking a crowd.

    (From a MM hunter who normally hunts with a wolf, the Carrion bird is much better at holding aggro.)

  18. Silmator

    As an altaholic who has a hunter and multiple tanks, please don’t use the carrion bird for anything other than soloing. If you couldn’t feign onto the healer, your tank would find some way to kill you. There are plenty of Ferocity pets that don’t screech.

  19. trollkind

    I had Trachela before 3.0 hit and loved her and her screech spam. I couldn’t use it in instances since melee goes nuts but that was all the better for PvP, people just panicked when that loud spamming thing came near flapping. :D
    Now with the cooldown, even though I reduce it with Longevity, it doesn’t produce enough aoe aggro to actually benefit from having more than one mob on you at a time. And of course the psychological warfare aspect is gone too.
    I won’t dismiss her and will probably pick her up later for raiding but right now, I too rock the Gorilla, at least I got me an Uhk’loc.

  20. JaySee

    Prior to patch 3, my long time solo questing buddy was an owl. When patch 3 arrived, I tamed a dire raven for the demoralizing screech AOE ability. My goal was to be avoid pulling agro from multiple MOBs during a heal. I did not expect to be able to use volley or multi-shot.

    As an AOE threat generator, the Carrion Bird’s demoralizing screech is just as annoying but not quite as useful as the pre 3 screech. That is, it still aggros nearby neutral MOBs, but does not hold threat against heals as well. My pre-patch owl almost never lost agro to a heal. The dire raven loses agro more frequently. I am not sure why this is, but I suspect it is because it doesn’t go off as often. Prior to patch 3, screech was essentially a focus dump skill. When I would turn off claw, my owl would spam screech almost continually whereas even with 3 points in longevity, demoralizing screech only goes off every 7 seconds. It does generate AOE threat, you just have to be more careful in the timing of a heal (and don’t even think about volley).

    Otherwise, demoralizing screech is a decent skill. It does some direct damage to the primary target and the AOE debuff aids survivability against multiple MOBS. The carrion bird is a good ferocity pet for solo leveling.

    I concur with those who wish the “Birds of Prey” were the ferocity/screech pets. Although the raven is not a bad looking pet, I miss my beautiful snowy owl which now spends most of it’s time in the stable since I don’t PVP.

    That said, using a gorilla becomes addicting. It’s ability to hold aggro on a whole pack of MOBs while you volley them down is hard to pass up.

  21. Yvelle

    Am I the only who likes the Screech sound effect? LOL. To me, it’s the sound of my pet doing it job. I understand how annoying that could get, especially if you’re not used to it. But I always got a little thrill knowing my bird/bat (pre-3.0.2) was dishing it out. My main problem was the effect of its wings, forcing me to tab-target, or assist button, when I was in a group/instance.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough experience in Wrath to judge the “new” Screech, and review it. But I love Tempest (my carrion bird), and she’s with me for good.

  22. Selirisa

    As A Beast Master I had always used cats. I tired several different pets, wolves, birds, owls, core hound, even the devilsaur. Always came back to the cat, the did more damage and worked better.

    When wrath hit i took full advantage of the new groups of pets in Northrend. Picked up some new cats, got to Dragon Blight were i ran into the carrions, figured what they hey and tamed one. He leveled with to 80 and “Spike” just hit 80 3 days ago. I love him, his screech works like a a taunt a tank uses, he holds agro just as good as the cats and hits like a truck. Plus I love watching him knock his target on there hineys!!

  23. Ikutai

    My Carrion bird, Niflheim, is a great little go-getter! I’ve used spiders, core-hounds, silithids, all in the past, and I still gotta say my little Niflheim dishes out the most pain. I never liked the skins of those birds, but with Wrath we got a more creepy, less gaudy, looking bird without large tail feathers to get in the way of the wings, which can sometimes be a hassle. I like the screech, it helps me make short work out of enemies via volley, and if I prepare myself for a group attack, a frost trap helps to clean up any stragglers that leave my bird before they’re properly pumped full of arrows. All in all I give Carrion Birds 5 stars! XD

  24. Sigrdrífa

    all I know about this is I had GutRipper tamed and in the words of Flapjack, she is beauteous before patch 3.0 when she had screech (and yes, I loved that sound when owls were somthing to behold!). She could hold AOE aggro well and she was a very chagelling tame. But with the changes, she just wasn’t the same and she was let go to make way for other pets to see how they are. Her name was “Hildr”. I still haven’t made it to Northrend, but soon, maybe I will and I can see what is there in the way of buzzards and such what. Too bad, that screech is now mano a mano… makes Sigrdrífa a sad sad valkyrie indeed… yes, indeed.

  25. Xota

    As a tank on my main, with a hunter alt, I fixed the sound file for the screech spell. It isn’t hard and isn’t against the rules. As a ear-crow was my first carrion bird, I cut its volume down to about a third and changed it to a “caw caw” sound. Of course this means even vultures “caw caw”, but its worth it. Screech’s AoE threat stopped being easy mode with 3.0.2, so I stopped using it. Not that I abandoned it or got a gorilla, but he’s sitting in one of my two ‘expendable’ stable slots.

    I do miss Corax, even though I have a love/hate relationship with the model (love the crow, hate the ears). The Northrend vulture model is pretty nice looking too (not the outland’s 2-headed space mutant), but they’re afflicted with “black wing” for me, so I doubt I’ll get one either.

  26. Kurasu

    Back when I was level 70, I picked up a crow for tanking purposes. My bird, DruidSlave, was fantastic at it. He could hold aggro like no one’s business and did a heck of a lot of damage even so.

    What a shock, when I pulled DruidSlave out, set his talents, and found tat while his damage was dueiously increased, his ability to hold aggro (not, I may add, to *gain* it; he could get the initial aggro beautofully) was severely lacking. Since then, I have had to release him.

    Even back then, however, tanks were very much against the Screech. One of my best friends even forbade I ever, *EVER* go into an instance with him with the bird for that reason. Please note: I never minded the sound; I actually rather liked it. But I can tell you that other people who get hold of one of these birds will find that others won’t like it nearly as much.

  27. Ullr

    Well i respecced over to a leveling BM build for the lich king, and have mixed reservation about the whole bird family.

    In the past, the owl was my second pet (my solo/grinding pet, whereas i used a cat for instance/raiding.) Screech was the main reason, along with it being third on the dps charts (at 7% dmg; with claw instaed of bite, it proved more powerful over bats after the pet speed equality came in). Screech was a great aggro controller, being able to hold aggro on multiple mobs; not a great amount of aggro, but enough to stop them comming to me immediately after i click pet heal.

    Nowadays, my owl has long sbeen abandoned. Im sure that dis-arm has a use, albeit limited with its cahnce of sucess and cooldown, but without screech it just wasnt the same. Everytime i use a pet ability: beastial wrath, intimidation or kill command, all surrounding mobs make a run for me, which i just dont want. Tanking multiple mobs is essential to efficent grinding and we all end up with adds sooner or later. To make matters worse, they reclass owls as cunning pets, taking damage down from 7% to 5%.

    While the “carrion” birds of prey are now a dps pet and with screech, they seem a strong choice for the best all round pet.

    Talents depend on whether your using the pet for solo or instances (carrions can do both now particulary well). So far, my experience comes with levlling, grinding and solo work. For this i highly recommend.

    Bloodthirsty: having a 50% chance to restore 5% health per attack is unbelievable. With 2 second attacks: a 5% heal every 4 seconds. Also, the heal creates no threat at all for the hunter. Giving happiness to the pet also, that just means a whole loota more inventory space to not be taken up by food.

    Charge and dash or dive: Having both means that almost always one of them will be usable everytime you approach a new mob. Vastly improveing kill efficiency.

    Lick your wounds and heart of the phoenix: having both can almost make a pet invunerable, when they are with along with pet heal and bloodthirsty. Ive never met an elite outside an instance that i have not soloed.

    Even with mobs hitting at 750-1000 a hit, using pet heal and bloodthirtsy will keep the pet alive a good 30 secs; use lick your wounds when they’re close to dead. Repeat the precedure with pet heal and the pet can die this time. Use heart of pheonix, then FD to wipe your aggro table, before continueing to pummel away.

    If you are levelling BM spec (as every hunter should). Then longevity stands out as a key talent; reducing the cooldown of all pet abilities. Having growl and bite down to just 3.5 secs is an aggro magnet, while having lick your wounds down to just 2 minutes is awesome:

    With constructive use of a freeze trap, or a bit of skilful kiting, the above technique with pet combat can be extended further by reusing lick wounds a second time. Thus giving your bog standard superpet the equivalent to 4X his own health.

  28. scott

    Pre 3.0 I liked carrion birds (and bats for that matter) because I could be lazy about fighting multiple mobs – as long as I kept it to mend and single target dps, and avoided multishot/volley until I was ready to pull aggro, I could count on my pet holding and surviving all the aggro… and I could use it in dungeons since the aoe component did no dmg (never got a complaint about the wings either).

    However screech was definitely gimped in 3.0 – even with a 10 sec duration, changing it from a focus dump to a cooldown attack means that in a fight with multiple mobs there will be frequent gaps in debuff coverage, thanks to the drain of their new focus dump, and so your mend pet will pull aggro as often as not.

    But as with wind serpents, dragonhawks and etc the desire to force all pets into a standardized cookie cutter mold has driven Blizzard to shoot down another perfectly good pet. I had some small hope that Ghostcrawlers team might be outgrowing that mentality when they gave cats a special exception, but it seems that was as far as they were willing to stray from Prime Directive 3.0.

    So this is one more former carrion bird user recommending new or curious hunters just go with a gorilla.

  29. Apollo

    As a Tauren BM Hunter, I love whatever pets I tame (with the exception of a bear and a cat I had prior to BC, I had to free up pet stable spots, so I stuck on with my vulture and croc). And my Carrion Bird, the little Taloned Swoop I got from Mulgore is STILL with me, and STILL my #1 fun pet, especially in PvP. No one expects a bird to come of nowhere at them…

    Yes, Demoralizing Screech is a nice little debuff to keep guys on my bird, coupled with Misdirection/Multi-Shot (though I turn it on when I’m fighting multiple mobs), and being a Ferocity pet now with Lick Your Wounds helps to keep aggression on my little bird when its near dead, he’s just so lovable.

    Though, why are the black hawk/crow birds Carrion Birds, and the brown hawk/crow birds Birds of Prey? That doesn’t make any lick of sense to me… Sorta bums me that I’m probably the only hunter, who actually uses a black-feathered, non-BC/WotLK vulture. Ah well. PEACE!

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