Modern Cheap Meat

Discussion in 'Forsaken Wastes' started by kalasle, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    FOREWORD: If anyone has recent experience playing Cheap Meat or a variation, I would love any comments, input, suggestions, or anecdotes. Testing runes in-game, especially in volume, is tough; I'm also a bit ignorant on changes in the past couple expansions. In particular, any sleeper runes to investigate, big standouts that I've missed, or stinkers to avoid would be good to know.

    -Thanks, Kalasle

    Modern Cheap Meat, or Resurrecting Resurrection

    Cheap Meat has changed a lot since it started several years ago. Broken Bones used to be broken, Boneguard Infantry was one of the strongest duelist champs in the game, and champs like Wandering Zombie could cost as little as 30 nora round trip. Unfortunately, Death Harvester was nerfed, and many of these glorious standbuys were - for Cheap Meat at least - gutted in the revamp pass. This thread aims to look at how Cheap Meat can work after all of these changes. To demonstrate exactly what that entails, this thread will break down into fourt parts:

    1. The Core Concepts of Cheap Meat; why the idea functions at all. These have not fundamentally changed, although execution may have.

    2. A history of important changes to central runes. Some are barely worth touching now, others have improved, and there are new ones to consider. The original idea was heavily fleshed out (harhar), and this section will look at how a few specific changes influence the new versions.

    3. The current highlights and honorable mentions, important interactions, lynchpins, and explanations for a few runes. Similar to the Necronomicon, this section will break down and list runes with a special mind to cheap meat: why they work, how to use them, alternatives, synergies.

    4. In game strategy, tips and tricks, and other miscelaneous factoids and scraps of info that might prove usefull. If something doesn't fit in any of the other sections, it goes here.

    SECTION 1 - Core Concepts

    Effective Cheap Meat is rooted as much in governing philosophy as it is particular runes or powers, one of the things which makes it a theme different from most others in Pox (Editorial Note: I find the approach the themes in Pox - an ability in common, a racial type, explicit synergies - crude and frustrating). A pure Meat deck works by delivering on theory as much as execution. Those core theories are macro play, efficiency, decentralization, and utility. They will be addressed in order of importance

    1) Macro Play - Winning with cheap meat is as much a strategic battle as a tactical one. The flow of troops around the field, deployment decisions, and long-term vs short-term risk managment are more important to victory than small turn-to-turn moves and action optimization. For instance, a macro decision is to use 30 nora to throw down a cheap unit and save for later investment, as opposed to flooding with 70 nora of units immediately. A micro decision is picking out exactly which unit to play, and at which spot in a font. Admittedly, this grand-sounding path to success is somewhat a by-product of the turn time limit; there are a lot of things to manage, and a player can only do so much in a couple minutes. Even so, playing on a macro scale more than a micro scale influences all the other tenants of Cheap Meat, and is central to success.

    2) Efficiency - Winning on a macro scale relies on efficient play, and efficient play benefits from efficient units. The expected nora-to-output ratio is the bottom line of rune selection. Historically, these decisions were determined in large part by Death Harvester: a flat 7 nora back became a greater and greater return at lower base nora costs. Even though that specific interaction has changed, the general concept holds. Good play relies around getting just a bit more bang for you buck in the longest of runs compared to your opponent. Champs with large health pools and staying power, champs that benefit from large numbers, and runes that provide an incremental benefit from the normal course of play all have ways of outstripping standard efficiency curves. A rune may give you more nora, more AP, more champions, more damage, or more health, any value that is convertable into another resource. The key to efficiency is breaking the opponent down with raw numbers.

    3) Decentralization - Many BGs succeed with, and many interesting games are won by, the big play. Whether taking out that MVP champ at the right time or countering that crucial spell, many decks have large and vulnerable elements necessary to success. This may even be as simple as having a small number of powerful champions. As a consequence, runes that deal with one champion in a big way are powerful. Decentralized play works against this pressure-point mentality. Important assets are either non-existent, only marginally important, far from harm, or easily recoverable. Even Death Harvester, probably the most important rune in Cheap Meat, comes back in a blinding 4 turns if killed, the only detriments being 50 nora and a few turns of missed refunds. Unholy Tomb provides nora, but its absence is no great loss, and your opponent needs to work to get to it. When the entire approaching army is made up of cost-efficient copper copies, standard single target CC and one rounding tools lose much of their utility. What are you going to do, Ensare a Wandering Zombie? Banish a Decayed Mercenary? In a decentralized environment, there are no lynchpins to break, and the opponent is instead forced into a numbers war against a more durable, more efficient army. Decentralization breaks the power play.

    4) Utility - Last is utility. On its face antithetical to efficiency and decentralization, utility is actually a key component to the larger BG. Over a 1 hour game, a battle group should be prepared to face everything and the kitchen sink plus the piping that goes with it. If there is an exploitable tendency in the well oiled machine of meat, it will be eventually sussed out and pried open. Rather than grinding down the opponent, the Cheap Meat deck will be ground down with similar labor. These holes may range from a swarm effect, to repeatable healing, to an unbreakable super champ. What ever it is, it will surface, and the meat player will have to face it. Therefore, the final tenant of meat is utility: having all the tools in its kit to face the broadest range of problems possible. While any BG will have weaknesses, and it's impossible to remove them all, Cheap Meat especially benefits from handling every situation it faces with the proper means.

    SECTION 2 - A Transitional History

    While breaking down every changelog would be a laborious and useless exercise, there are a couple major changes that influence the larger approach to Cheap Meat. Those are the changes to Death Harvester, Decayed Mercenary, and Broken Bones, changes which combined significantly modify the face of the BG. These changes will be, as with the core concepts, addressed in turn of importance.

    Death Harvester - At its honest and most frustrating core, Cheap Meat is really Death Harvester The Deck. For all the talk about decentralization and a different kind of theme, this BG would not have originally come to fruition the way it did without this beautiful little bird. Seven nora back on any real champ death meant a lot. In meta/goodstuff BGs, that was maybe an 8% refund on most champs, but in the original optimized lists, 7 nora back meant as much as 15-25% back on death, even more in some cases. With the change to a capped return percentage, however, modern Cheap Meat will have to focus on balancing between cost and perceived efficiency. Along with rebalancing of efficiency curves for lower costed champions, the changes to Death Harvester mean a major loss of power, and a necessarily different eye brought to bear on candidates for inclusion.

    Decayed Mercenary - Likely not at the forefront of everyone's mind when thinking about important changes in Forsaken Wastes, the changes to Decayed Mercenary had a resonating impact in Cheap Meat - not only was Decayed Mercenary played, but it also dropped out of the powerhouse Skeletal Raider. At first blush, Decayed Mercenary was nothing special: an ability-light dork with marginal stats. Those abilities and stats, though, combined to provide the most fearsome champ in Pox below 55 nora. With Block 3, Riposte, and Sunder, (the version from Skeletal Raider had Block 2 and no Riposte, if I recall) Decayed Mercenary could not only go toe-to-toe with more fearsome and much more expensive champions, he could win. Big melee powerhouses such as the Garu could lose outright.
    Combat would go something like this: Decayed Mercenary moves forward, 3 AP stored; Enemy champion would engage, with say 15 damage and 8 speed, and throw out an attack; Decayed Mercenary blocks, ripostes, applying 1 stack of sunder and dealing say 6 damage; Decayed Mercenary then double attacks, dealing 8 then 10 damage, for a total of 24 without taking a scratch; Enemy champion then gets a double attack for a total of 28 damage; Decayed Mercenary responds by further stacking sunder with an other attack for 12, buffering block. At this point, a riposted attack would usually prove lethal, and even if it didn't, the Mercenary could survive an other hit for 14, and then retaliate.

    Although somewhat idealized, the thought experiment should at least attest to the power of such a small champion in the face of a greater foe. Decayed Mercenaries working in pairs or more could rip through forces many times their size and cost. The removal of sunder, riposte, the third rank of block, and several points of health are a poor exchange for 1 additional point of speed. Coupled with the hits to Skeletal Raider, two prior mainstays now teeter on the brink of inclusion, with few front-runners to take their place. These changes shelled the military core of Cheap Meat.

    Broken Bones - For ages considered the classic shoebox, Broken Bones was one of the greatest strengths of Cheap Meat. Combined with the old Death Harvester and Banner, Broken Bones could actually GENERATE nora just for its deployment and death: 28 - 2 for banner - 7 for originally bones death - 21 in case of 3 further attacks = -2 nora. -2. While an ideal scenario not always achieved, that Broken Bones could generate the player nora while consuming the opponents AP and attention was astounding. With a 2 turn cooldown, original Cheap Meat lists could end up pumping out these little terrors every turn. Woe be your opponent if they reached a font and stole an other 12 nora by contestation. The enormous nora hike, changing of splits to clones, and removal of a speed upgrade hurt Broken Bones mightily, but most damning to the osteoprolific fellow was the change to Death Harvest. The expected effective cost of Broken Bones went from 5 to 33, a 660% increase. Such a monstrous change calls into question Broken Bones's participation in a modern Cheap Meat list.

    The changes to these three runes demand greater variance in selection, and rip the guts out (ironically, these guts were all skeletons) of the Cheap Meat front-line. The end result is a nora curve with a higher bulge and less resilience and flexibility for deployment options.

    More to come.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
    OriginalG1, Fentum, Gnomes and 8 others like this.
  2. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    SECTION 3 - Rune Breakdowns

    As opposed to supplying particular lists, this section will aim to analyze the variety of options available to a Cheap Meat BG, with pros, cons, and applications. Unlike many other themes, there aren't key runes that MUST be in the BG for it to function as intended (although some come close, looking at you Death Harvester). An analysis of the rune pool therefore makes more sense than the presentation of a malleable list, both providing more detailed information and more flexibility for the end user, albeit at the cost of guidance.

    This section will also be under the most continual construction compared to the other two, as runes changes and the author has more time to add to it. For now, old standbys will be given a checkup, and a couple new candidates will be looked over.

    Top Notch Runes (5/5)​

    Death Harvester

    Overview - This guy comes first and with good reason: a 12% refund on death is just enough to break standard cost curves on the champions that compose Cheap Meat. While Cheap Meat can exist without Death Harvester, it would be pressing indeed to find a list that would not be improved by its addition. Depending on how important drawing one early is to your plans, or if you predict it dieing and don't want down time but also don't want to run Immortal, you may want a second one. But considering how long it may take for champs to actually start dieing, a slightly later draw isn't too painful. Harvester is best at exactly 1x include.

    Upgrades - All of Death Harvester's upgrades are acceptable, and their selection will depend upon how a player uses the champ. Whatever upgrades are picked, Death Harvest is still ultimately there for that signature ability. The differences between builds are, ultimately, minor.


    Skirmisher vs Dead Eater vs Immortality - Dead Eater is the most aggressive option, Immortality is the most conservative. Dead Eater is potentially the best option out of the upgrades, but requires front-loading 10 nora, as well as having Harvester pick up 2 globes to make the upgrade good. The 10 nora cost is nothing to write off; the increase in cost bumps Death Harvester out of the 0 -> Shrine + Font cost range, which can sting early game. Additionally, the capitalization requires either forward momentum or more risk taking. A player confident in their ability to survive with the bird on the front lines will be well served by Dead Eater. Conversely, Immortality is for the player who wants to hedge against the worst case scenario. If the bird goes down, Immortality gets it right back up - at the cost of 8 more nora and 5 damage to the shrine. Immortality is the theoretical worst choice out of the three: either a player shouldn't be moving Harvester onto the front lines to die, or should be capable of handling the situation if they do. If things are going sour and the bird dies, chances are there are more pressing problems than redeploying a long-term machine. Immortality is therefore the weakest of the three, but still holds a place for the conservative and extra-cautious player. Skirmisher is the most practically safe bet out of the three. It provides an discount with no requirements for actual play. If the bird is staying back or just trotting around the outskirts of the map, skirmisher is the way to go. Picking skirmisher says "Death Harvester is on this map to harvest, and harvest is what it is going to do." It is the no-fancy-stuff option. Considering the bird's role, the trade-off is unimportant.

    Detection 1 vs 2 vs 3 - Are 4 squares of detection diameter worth 4 nora? Maybe. With Skeletal Raider taking big hits, there is a dearth of anti-stealth for a Cheap Meat list. If taking Dead Eater or Immortality and running a front-line Harvester, Detection 3 is a good pick to shore up a utility weakness. Skirmisher works best with Detection 1 for the cheapest Harvester possible.

    Recommendations: Dead Eater/Detection 3 OR Skirmisher/Detection 1. I've been running the Skirmisher setup for a bare-bones bird, but if you want more frills on yours, Dead Eater/Detection 3 is probably the best way to go.

    In-Game Use - Death Harvester should be played any time, any where. If it is in the rune dock and the nora is available, it should hit the field. When on the field, its role and play-style will be determined by chosen upgrades, as outlined in that section. A Harvester can make a good font breaker, or even a shrine breaker without skirmisher (those roles will be outlined further in the misc. section). Despite its importance, the bird shouldn't consume much, or sometimes any, of a player's attention during their turn. Really though, anything a Harvester does after being deployed is ancillary preening.

    Dusk Creeper

    Overview - Often supplanting the Death Harvester in importance after the nerfs, Dusk Creeper is incredibly powerful. The real secret to this is that, when properly positioned, this guy is 1 nora shy of being the old-old pre-nerf Harvester: he gets essentially 6 flat nora back on every champ's death (so long as they drop a globe - sorry Broken Bones). Occassionally, he also attacks. Because of the propensity to die while on the front lines and his limited area of control, 2x Dusk Creepers is highly recommended.

    Upgrades - Who gives a pox about rend, and you want nora. Boosts are nice and all, especially something like Improve Damage, and Rend would account for a hefty damage increase, but if this guy is here to get globes, he should be best at that.


    Improve Range vs Improve Damage vs Dead Eater - Improve Range and Improve Damage are swell, but Dead Eater + Soul Collection is too good to pass up. Dead Eater is the way to go here, at least on one of the Creepers. It might be worth considering running Improve Damage on the other, but I doubt it.

    Assimilate vs Rend 2 vs 3 - Maybe getting an upper level DoT here would make attacking with the Creeper a much better option - it does happen - but the healing from Assimilate works wonders to counteract the ticking of Tome of Hate and any hits an opponent is eager to slap on him. Maybe run Rend if you are feeling stylish and risky, but Assimilate is the solid, safe, strong option, and those three words are what Cheap Meat loves to hear.

    Recommendations: Dead Eater/Assimilate. Getting four abilities that synergize with nora globe collection along with Soul Collection is wonderful; the generation and nora control is a corner stone of success.

    In-Game Use - (in progress)

    Unholy Tomb

    Overview - A Wastes classic, and rightly so. Often reviled, by those outside of FW for the constant global damage, and by those inside FW for the clunky and laborious benefits, the Tomb is still a splendid rune that is right at home in Cheap Meat. It thrives in long games, providing consistent loss-of-life damage and a steady stream of nora. In an environment built around duration, nora efficiency, and incremental benefit, the Tomb is solid gold. Same BGs may bypass it on personal preference, but its power is undeniable. A single one will do.

    In-Game Use - Put it behind your shrine. Wait. There is a more in-depth breakdown of Unholy Tomb in the FW Mentality thread, but the approach here is different. Cheap Meat can afford to lose board position and be pushed back for 20 turns straight, and it has the means to survive that, so deploying UT is much more straight forward: when you see it, play it, unless you can drop a second champ to run a key font at a key time. While the Tomb sits undeployed in your rune dock, pretend that every other rune you play costs an additional amount of nora equal to the number of champs your opponent has out times 2 - that is the nora you lose and can never recoup by missing a turn of Tomb deployment.

    Elsarin Vex (Warbanner)

    Overview - Bland and strong. It used to be even more bland and even stronger when it gave a small refund, but even as it is, 20 nora is well worth the permanent and global half-faction bonuses it provides, especially when champs are out in numbers. The bonus health stacks up as more bodies hit the field, and the damage is more and more important as the attack count grows. Obviously only 1x for this rune, but it should be there if you have it.

    In-Game Use - Though theoretically useful for contesting fonts, the banner works best in Cheap Meat for its stat bonuses, and it is therefore a sensible decision to drop it behind the shrine and forget about it. Finesse placement may help make this rune better, but it just being on the field already does most of the work.

    Stellar Runes (4/5)​

    Risen Yeti

    Overview - A sleeper rune, Risen Yeti was long considered a bland and inefficient box of stats, its only redeeming quality - if you could call it that - being Arctic. Things have changed. On numbers alone, Risen Yeti is now more appealing, boasting 6 speed, 54 HP, and a point of defense for 63 nora - quite close to that magic 60. And then the abilities: On a 4 turn cooldown, Unspeakable is a cheap global debuff, and Tormented/Enrage provide a surprising umph for cheap. The real killer, however, is Frightful Aura. It reduces enemy damage. It buffs allied defense. It stacks. It's on a great body. A risen yeti on the front lines can swing 4 damage from any attack, for every one of your undead. It's a big, hairless build-a-phalanx for cheap, packed in with a global debuff and some punch-back power. Although still relatively untested (on my part, at least), the new Risen Yeti shows great promise. Great one at a time, but better in pairs, as Frightful Aura stacks. If you are willing to run 1x, and you probably should be, you should be willing to run 2x, and will be well rewarded.

    Upgrades - Risen Yeti's upgrades will not change how the champ is played, and are more a toss up to personal taste - except for Frightful Aura, which it would be madness to take at any less than rank 3.


    Frightful Aura 1 vs 2 vs 3 - Rank 3 costs 2 more nora for -1 damage to surrounding enemies and +1 defense to surrounding allies. Take it. It is inconceivable that the 2 nora saved would ever help more than the extra durability stats.

    Tormented vs Enrage 2 vs Assimilate - Another option with no substantive effect on nora cost, this choice comes down to expectations and preference. Assimilate is probably the weakest of the option, charging an extra 1 nora for minor healing when picking up a globe. A one-shot of 6 health doesn't mean a lot to the Yeti, or Cheap Meat in general, and compared to extra damage seems a poor choice. The big tossup is between Tormented and Enrage 2. Tormented has more potential damage output over the Yeti's life, but requires some unlikely circumstances (namely, walking around with low health) to really shine. Enrage, on the other hand, will be a fairly consistent +5 damage on an attack or two.

    Recommendations: Frightful Aura 3/Enrage 2 OR /Tormented. The distinction is so fine that it really does come down to taste and expectations. Experiment.

    In-Game Use - The Yeti makes a solid drop at most game stages, with special preference on snow-heavy maps such as Ice Lake (7 speed feels unreal in a deck this chronically slow). Once in the field, Risen Yeti is a party animal; it works best in the middle of the biggest fights, even better if it brings a twin. The main reason for this is Frightful Aura. As a result of the ability's strength, however, a competent player is going to take the big boy out first, and with a 3 tile range on the aura, it therefore makes sense to have the Yeti act as a butt bumper for your front line, being the conductor of the pain train, so to speak. Jump in to take advantage of the situational damage boosts, and otherwise acting as a burly janitor. With its staying power, solid stat lineup, and stellar abilities, the Yeti gives some hope of replacing the old core of Decayed Mercenary/Skeletal Raider on the front lines.


    Overview - An odd ball when first included, Doom quickly became a personal favorite despite contention that the rune was junk (but I hear tell now people think it is too strong? Please don't nerf it...). Similar effects have been considered weak, not just in Pox Nora but in the wider TCG/TBS setting, for ages; the standard thinking was that an opponent could either fall the unit back, use a bit more of it from range, and collect the juicy globe, or run a kamikaze attack and force the opponent to kill the change they just burned a spell on. And that was of thinking is absolutely true - but Cheap Meat, at least, doesn't care. A player running proper spell interference can take out any non-shielded problem champ with Doom, and there is no recourse. Doom deals no damage, just providing the targeted champion with an ability, therefore by-passing all immunities and cleansing effects. The way to think of Doom is not as single target removal, or a spell that makes your opponent make a nasty choice, or even a spell that lets your opponent force you to make a nasty choice. What Doom does it put a hard cap on the nora efficiency of the targeted unit - a champ can only do so much in 6 turns. And against a BG which wants to take a long time to do anything, win or lose, 6 turns is very little. If a Doom-ed champion rushes in to force a kill, great! then it's dead. If it runs away, great! then it's dead. Doom can produce some frustrating and awkward inefficiencies, but it does the one thing it is meant to do: make things, eventually, dead. Depending on how willing you are to use Doom versus tough it out, Doom should be a 1x or 2x include, although the second only taken with serious consideration. 1x is almost - almost - auto-include.

    In-Game Use - Because of its great power and expense, Doom shouldn't be thrown about willy-nilly. It is a sure way to burn through a lot of nora and end up with no champions on the field. It's a guarantee, but a costly one. Even so, it should be used in a preemptive manner - it sets a cap on nora efficiency. Using Doom late is like cutting off the arm to stop gangrene when you should have cut off the finger a week ago. Proper use of the spell means recognizing near-insurmountable threats - even the potential for something to turn into a threat - early, ideally from the moment one is deployed, and casting Doom then. This requires a good sense of both your own capabilities and also what tricks your opponent may have. Get in the habit of sizing up every champion an opponent plays, asking "What can I use to kill that? How quickly do I need to kill it? What problems will it pose if I don't kill it?" If your answers worry you, use Doom.

    Zombie Behemoth

    Overview - The fattest guy on the block. Zombie Behemoth provides one of the best, if the not the best, raw HP-to-Nora ratios in the game, only surpassed by champions with drop-spawns and some highly immoble corner cases. The Behemoth has none of that and, with the loss of Lichbound, is much more reasonable as a Cheap Meat include. His abilities make him tenacious with a splash of utility, but are mostly uninteresting. Still, as a big dumb brute, there are few better champs. If you have an aversion to large champions, Behemoth can be run as a 1x, but he is so efficient that 2x is a compelling choice.

    Upgrades - Zombie Behemoth relies on his raw stats more than his upgrades, but the minor tweaks they provide are still worth using.


    Knockback 1 vs 2 vs 3 - Knockback gives the Behemoth a way to bully other champs around the map, and has become more useful since his massive reduction in damage. When the big boy had 14 damage and Sunder, one could safely (I should say profitably) ignore that Knockback existed. Now, it is useful, but the few extra squares are likely not worth the comparatively large spike in cost. Knockback 2 is a 2 nora increase, but at 6 nora, Knockback 3 seems a bit too steep. Between 1 and 2 it is mostly down to preference and expectations, although I feel 1 has the slight edge. As a side note, because of how prevalent melee champs are in Cheap Meat, setting up a Knockback combo could be useful - eh.

    Exertion 1 vs Zombie Apocalypse vs Iron Will - With nora cost essentially a non-issue, this comes down to raw utility. Iron Will is fine, but as an opponent Possessing Zombie Behemoth is unlikely and Charmed and Distracted do little to hamper a large lifebar, it seems an unlikely choice. Likewise Zombie Apocalypse is not bad, but the potential to give Behemoth a Swarm ability seems a poor trade next to Exertion. Speaking of, Exertion is fantastic on the Behemoth, bumping him from a 5 speed champ to a 6 speed one when it matters most, and the 8 life lost is a drop in the bucket. Exertion looks like a winner, although the other two are fine options.

    Recommendations: Knockback 1/Exertion 1. The second cheapest and most utility-oriented setup, this allows Zombie Behemoth to get where he needs to go and get people out of his way, but doesn't indulge in the nora-heavy and mostly superfluous Knockback 3.

    In-Game Use - Standard Lethargic management should be in effect to mitigate the AP costs. Other than that, Behemoth is a perfect champ to run straight to the front lines and plunk there until it dies. With a big butt both in terms of space and HP, the Behemoth is a de facto front-liner. Because of his larger health pool, he especially benefits from the defense bonuses from Risen Yeti; keep them close if possible.

    Solid Runes (3/5)​


    Overview - A classic undead beater, but one with a troubled past. Abomination has always had the potential to output serious damage if unchecked, but has been at various times plauged with a high cost, low defenses, or both. He was always a vanilla beater, and as Pox evolved, vanilla came to mean "easily cut down" - champs needed something special to survive, or at least be viable. Abomination had none of that. But blessed with a few recent tweaks, Abomination now has what it takes to comfortably fill the heavy beater role in Cheap Meat. For a price in the mid 60s, Abomination provides both a durable body and flexible damage. With 2 defense and 55 health, Abomination is no slouch, and his versatility, both in builds and in-game, give this guy more than a fighting chance in any BG looking for an efficient beater. Cheap Meat is in love. If a BG is going heavy on the beatdown, doubling up on Abominations can be a good way to succeed, but there isn't enough about this champ to warrant a 2x include unless you have great success with him.

    Upgrades - Abomination has incredible build versatility for how bland he is on the surface. Choosing between Blood Rage and the couple Berserker paths allow a player to fine tune Abomination to their play style, with the Pulverize upgrades tinkering with his damage output in exchange for nora.


    Pulverize 1 vs 2 vs 3 - The more subtle upgrade branch, the Pulverize options are all similar, but can have heavy differences in game. Because of where Abominations base cost is - 66, close to the magic Harvester 60, a hair above the 4 turn cooldown at 64 - changes in nora cost are more important than for other champs. Increases are not offset by the Harvest return, and decreases reduce the cooldown by 25%, but the return for an increase in cost is especially sweet. As a result, there are good arguments for any of the Pulverize options: level 3 is a whopping 9 damage for 1 AP, in exchange for just 6 nora more than level 1. Level 1, however, when combined with either Berserker 2 or Blood Rage drops Abominations cost down to sub-64, dropping him a crucial cooldown bracket. Pulverize 2 would then look like the odd one out, but suppressing Abomination's cost while still keeping in increased benefit of spending that AP in combat is also compelling. All this blathering really just concludes that this is a tough decision, and any Pulverize has pros and cons.

    Blood Rage vs Berserker 2 vs 3 - Of the two upgrade options, this one is more important but no less difficult. Compared with suffering the penalties of Berserker, Blood Rage gives greater versatility in the field: it provides increased threat range, a million different options for how to manage AP over a series of turns, and the chance to trade off HP on Abomination for HP on the enemy. With the stat package involved, Blood Rage is especially useful because it is an option, permitting player judgement to optimize the outcome. But then there is Berserker. Taking Berseker 2 actually reduces the nora cost (slightly, by 1) and increases base damage and speed, which sounds like a glorious trade-off for Cheap Meat. But in exchange, Abomination can't store AP, and more importantly loses all the options and strengths that come with Blood Rage. Berserker 3 jumps Abomination at or beyond 70 nora, but provides a mind boggling 8 speed and 16 damage base, without having to spend health in combat. Because of the 7 nora difference, it is tough to say that either of the Berserker upgrades is better than the other, let alone better than Blood Rage. Selection here will really come down to how Abomination is expected to function in the rest of the BG (and also more testing - my Aboms are still level 1).

    Recommendations: Chose upgrades for Abominations dependent on what role you want it to play. It might even be prudent to have two differently build Abominations in one BG; the cooldown is low enough to capitalize off of different setups. If he is meant to fill a raw beater role as the top-nora play, the Pulverize 1/Berserker 3 puts him to 69 nora, with enough stats to make that an attractive number. Berserker 3 means Abomination can drop all his AP every round while engage for 32 total damage. Conversely, a more ability focused Abomination could run Pulverize 3/Blood Rage, also clocking at 69, and have a merry old time punching people out at serious distance - 0 AP -> move 1, Pulverize, Blood Rage puts out 2 attacks for a total of 31 damage, but sitting on the standard 4 AP, that goes up to a 5 square range for 30+ damage. Or, if you're trying to optimize for maximum efficiency, minimum though, a Pulverize 1/Berserker 2 build runs a skimpy 62 nora for 15 damage, 7 speed, great return from Death Harvest, and a 3 turn cooldown. Really, you can't go wrong upgrading Abomination: a truck is a truck no matter how it's spinning.

    In-Game Use - While build will influence the nuances of Abomination play, the governing principal remains the same: get him near things you want to damage, then damage them. With a Berserker build, this is a mindless task, and the Abomination turns into a fire-and-forget missle. Trickier play comes with Blood Rage. Often, using Blood Rage is a good idea, as 10-12 HP off the opponent is worth 1 AP and 8 HP from Abomination. That doesn't mean its use should be indiscriminant; always watch for situations in which the extra AP may be more important next turn, performing an attack may trigger some unpleasent effect, or the HP will be more important to the Abomination than the opponent.

    Boneguard Infantry

    Overview - As the cheapest non-self-destructive unit with 6 speed in Forsaken Wastes, Boneguard Infantry holds a spot alone as a cheap font grabber. Beyond that, he is an irritating dork with Block, and Weary plays right into the hands of a BG playing for the longest game possible. Cheap, reliable, quick, and not especially durable, Boneguard Infantry is a solid choice in most BGs and at any time during a game. 1x is recommended, and 2x is a reasonable decision, considering the speed and cost of these guys.

    Upgrades - These do almost nothing. One Boneguard Infantry is much the same as another, with a few points of nora difference.


    Speed +1 vs Logistics: Speed - Both provide a bonus to speed, but one shaves 2 nora off the cost and takes a bit to kick in. Having a 6 speed unit out of the gates turn 1, especially in a deck that may not play 3 skeletons quickly, is worth more than 2 nora. Speed +1 wins out.

    Block 1 vs 2 - A mostly unimportant difference, Block 2 is still the better option, adding an extra melee hit in exchange for 2 nora. While it won't go off all the time, cutting Block's cooldown in half is a good choice. This choice is marginal, but I run Block 2.

    Recommendations: Speed +1/Block 2. Boneguard is mostly the same champ however he is upgraded, but Speed +1 and Block 2 both provide an acceptable edge for their respective 2 nora costs.

    In-Game Use - As touched upon, Boneguard is notable for his great legs. Six speed is crucial on some maps to shaving a turn off of cap times for main or side fonts, and also lets a champion better position to hijack an enemy font. For those reasons, Boneguard Infantry makes a good flanker and runner, jumping into a font, bopping a couple enemies with Weary, and then quietly expiring under the sweet caress of ranged attacks. Especially focus on getting him into melee with other champions to take advantage of the free health from Block, and sidle on up to big threats if possible to debuff them. Sometimes it is a good idea to spread attacks around and proc Weary rather than focus all your damage on a single champ.

    Fallen Hero

    Overview - Fallen Hero holds on as the lone human in a sea of undead. Despite minor efficiency nerfs, he still features a bulky frame of 2 Defense, 51 Health, and Block, and his nora cost falls right into the magic window with the right upgrades. As a plus, his hunter upgrades are malleable to the meta and BG-specific problems. Another good, bland front-liner, of which Cheap Meat is always hiring. If run, best at 1x, unless running them specifically for different Hunter setups.

    Upgrades - Fallen Hero starts a bit more expensive than is comfortable, but his upgrades rectify that. Sadly, he needs to be level 3 to really shine. Ultimately though, his upgrades do little if anything to change how the champ is played.


    Hunter: IS vs Hunter: Hero vs Hunter: Righteous - A conundrum, for me at least. Hunter: IS provides a slight cost drop, putting the Hero at the exact magic number of 59, but Hunter: Righteous seems more universally applicable. On the whole, my indecision here comes down to inexperience, and that is what anyone's decision for this should be based on. If in doubt, take the cheap option, otherwise take what seems most useful to you.

    Scorn vs Skirmisher vs Melee Specialist 1 - This is the important upgrade for Fallen Hero. Melee Specialist 1 is a fine ability, but compared to the drastic reduction afforded by Scorn or Skirmisher, it falls flat; as an added note, taking Scorn or Skirmisher puts Fallen Hero much closer to the optimum value of 60. Choosing between Scorn and Skirmisher will depend on one other major factor: are you running Tome of Hate? If so, the shrine damage resulting from Scorn will be no problem at all, the minor bonus to combat versatility over Skirmisher is a no-brainer. If you have no source of shrine healing, Skirmisher becomes a better option in the long run.

    Recommendations: Skirmisher/XXX OR Scorn/XXX. Because of how flimsy the distinction is between the various Hunters (before further testing), this recommendation comes down to swapping Melee Specialist 1 for your flavor of cost reduction at level 3. I am currently taking Hunter: IS because it is the cheapest of the Hunter options, but they all fly. Hunter: Righteous is worth looking into because it affects Knights, a common class (I think).

    In-Game Use - Fallen Hero is a vanilla beater that has block. Put it near enemies, and attack those enemies. If you are running Skirmisher, try to keep the Hero with at least one other champion, as being unable to attack relics makes him a poor solo-contestation option.

    Blight Ring

    Overview - An comparatively older problem solving tool, Blight Ring is still a handy little trinket to have around. Its low cost means any spell based removal will place the Ring user at a nora advantage. Its price is small, its pain is small, and there are no small number of ways to be rid of it. Blight Ring functions as economy spot removal, but better used on champions that will take advantage of attacking or benefit from being on the field for a long time. It isn't the best rune in the BG - it is quite optional compared to how high I put it on this list - but for its low price and capacity to quickly and cleanly kill an opposing champion, Blight Ring is a great include. Best as at 1x.

    In-Game Use - For best results, pair with champions who want to attack. Blight Ring is a great way to take down opposing units who ravage through your front line, such as gnarly Berserker champs or those with Thirst for Battle. The rune can also be cheaky, and punish otherwise free attacks such as those from Riposte or Counter Attack. Placing it on a frontline threat also hinders the opponent's chances of getting a cost efficient shatter source up before the damage is done. Because of its minimal cost, benefit even if prompty removed, and quick cooldown, there is no need to be stingy about deploying a Ring.

    Last edited: Jan 1, 2015
  3. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    Good Runes (2/5)
    Lost Queen

    Overview - The Lost Queen has been much maligned as over-costed or easily manipulated.

    Decayed Mercenary

    Overview - No where near the mighty man he once was, Decayed Mercenary is almost completely inferior to the Boneguard Infantry: Mercenary costs more and loses Weary for ... Unstoppable? Not a good trade. Even so, he now has 6 speed, so if you are looking for an other cheap font-runner or shrine-poker, Decayed Mercenary may be what you want. Unless AP loss on your dorks is really killing you, Boneguard Infantry should go up to 2x before you consider the Mercenary, and even then probably 1x at most.

    Upgrades - Little selection here. Decayed Mercenary can pick up Dead Eater if you, for some reason, want him picking up globes, but Unstoppable is still a better ability, even if it doesn't shine on this particular champ. Block 2 is better than Block 1. In the interests of expedience, I'm not even going to give a Breakdown for these. They follow the same thinking as with the superior Boneguard Infantry. Take Block 2, that's about it.

    In-Game Use - Mercenaries are fine font runners, but no longer the great solo-grabber he was back in the day. Now that role is probably better filled by the Infantry (what isn't?) by virtue of Weary having longer to work its magic. Besides never missing leg day, the Mercenary succeeds at little else in un-life besides running into the front lines, blocking some big swings, and turning back into dust.

    Fallen Draksar

    Acceptable Runes (1/5)​

    Elsari Siren

    Overview -

    Broken Bones

    Overview - Broken Bones sunk from near auto-include and poster-child for the absurd efficiency of Cheap Meat to a barely servicable echo of its former self. Many of the specifics and reasons for this decent are covered in History, so this portion will primarily focus on Broken Bones as it is now. I still boasts a low nora cost and split, making it an economic hassle for the opponent to handle. Given, however, its minimal input to any situation and ease of disposal, Broken Bones shines in only a few rare situations, and rarely refunds either its cost or the space it consumes. He is now outclassed by Stitchling, which is itself a mediocre choice.

    Upgrades - Broken Bones splits its upgrades into two separate choices: what bad thing do you want, and what good thing do you want. The bad things are mostlty unimportant for Cheap Meat, and the good things depend on your brand of optimism.


    Vuln: Sonic vs Faithless vs Pariah - None of these are especially damning for a champ ment to quickly re-expire. Vuln: Sonic costs 2 extra nora, and given that the damage type exists at all, that seems like a poor price to pay. Faithless may be an occasional hinderance, perhaps missing a Doom or other target spell in a rare instance. Pariah is mostly harmless, save for for the corner case interaction with a mid-tier rune. Pariah seems a clear standout in a BG that intentionally avoids investing in its champions.

    Rabid 1 vs Berserk Attack 1 vs Flanking - An odd and non-starter choice. Flanking has the obvious synergy with split - if you live long enough in melee range to use it. The extra 5-8 nore for the rare +5 damage is a weak option, but if you're feeling lucky, punk, and don't mind shelling out a bit more for your Broken Bones, it could work... maybe. Berserk Attack is the cheap, mostly useless option, providing a couple points of damage in exchange for some defense. The extra damage is fine, and saving 3 nora on such a cheap champ is worth something. Even so, 2 defense for 2 damage is an awkward trade, especially on a unit intending to get hit. All that leaves Rabid. Compared to Berserk Attack and Flanking, Rabid doesn't work on constructs or other undead, takes longer to deal its damage, and costs more then Berserk Attack. Even so, it does the most damage of the three, doesn't require any setup or stat trade-offs, and inhibits. Higher ranks of Rabid are already prevelant in Cheap Meat, but it still looks like the best option.

    Recommendations: Pariah/Rabid 1. Without access to a speed upgrade and split already being base, Pariah/Rabid is the upgrade combination that does the most while hurting the least. Neither are particularly useful or exciting, but if at this point that's what you're looking for in a champion, Broken Bones is not the champ for you.

    In-Game Use - Optimizing splits is now unimportant to Broken Bones's cost, so field play revolves around looking for the best way to irritate your opponent. Bones still makes a fine runner (jogger... walker) to harass an opposing side font, or tickle their shrine, and one Bones can eat up several attacks thanks to split. In general, stay away from breath effects if you can help it, and hope your opponent blows a spell on the guy and his twins.

    Sub-Par Runes (0/5)​

    Skeletal Raider

    Overview - Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once the face of disgusting health ratios across all the factions, Skeletal Raider is now, sadly, unplayable except in the rarest of circumstances. He still offers detection if you are squirming for it.

    Upgrades - Not much to say, two choices between ranks with minor nora differences. Skeletal Raider is useful for his Detection, and Charge is personal taste - the free movement is worth something, and he's already so costly that it might make sense to splurge, but in the end it doesn't matter.

    In-Game Use - Detect things, then die and produce the heavily nerfed skeleton-child that is Decayed Mercenary. Alternatively, don't use it in game, or in your BG, and be better off for it.

    Utterdark Soulrender

    Not even going to break this guy down. He used to have Soulsift 2, and now he doesn't. Don't run him.

    SECTION 4 - Extras


    Cheap Meat focuses on avoiding some conventional elements of Pox, which protects it from many standard threats, but this unique construction also opens it up to serious threats that to another BG might appear innocuous. The broad trend of these is that they are runes which provide an incremental effect on a certain condition - often related to death, damage, or nora. Where as Cheap Meat feeds on increments, it also gets eaten by them.

    Toll Taker - A real nasty devil. The FW matchup is already harsh without Tomb, but if an opponent is packing Toll Taker, Cheap Meat is in for it. At best, Death Harvester mitigates Tariff to -1 nora, but for the cheaper champs, it hurts more. A Toll Taker deploy encourages haste, something Cheap Meat does not excel at. Meat can, however, play a form of aggression by spreading out and pressing at multiple positions, and this is the best way to open up a Toll Taker for a kill. If an opponent is foolish enough to saunter into spell presence, Doom and Doom hard. An early and conservative Toll Taker in FF FW is one of Meat's worst matchups.

    Fist of Bastion - Any attack at 9 damage or less is reduced to 0; DoT's do not work; champs easily dropped below 20 health are free kills. Fist of Bastion is in many ways tailored to take out hordes of small enemies, and when that's all there is, he shines. There are a couple of solutions: Doom (as always), heavy hitters, supreme patience, and Soulreave. Doom is the nuke of Cheap Meat, but it doesn't need to be thrown out immediately here. If your BG is running something like Abomination or Executioner, they have enough muscle to get good damage in. For a 1-on-1 engagement, Risen Yeti is the best bet if you are running it, as Enrage is a great damage boost, and Frightful Aura cuts the Fist's already mediocre damage. You can always try to chunk through for 5 to 6 damage at a time with a horde, but that can be a nightmarish process. This is one situation in which Soulreave really shines, as Loss-of-Life damage ignores both Tough and Resilient, meaning any champion you are running now has a chance to put the hurt on.

    Cyclops Shaman - Corrupted Nora is a nightmare, especially considering how awkward the Shaman is to Doom, and how freely he can stay far back from any harm. It may be worth making room for Tome of Hate if you haven't already for this kind of garbage. Without any major form of shrine healing, a single Shaman can condemn you to a swift and frustrating death by generation. (As a personal note, I avoid running champs with Scorn or other forms of shrine damage save for Elsari Mason. I haven't run into a Shaman in a long time, but if this champ gets more prevalent, I'll probably shake things up.)

    Constructs with Physical Immunity - The main two here are Earth Golem and Groble Rock Eater. I don't see either all the time, but they are hellishly frustrating to deal with. Fortunately, neither poses much more of a threat than the pet rocks they are modeled after. Sometimes, depending on their position, these champs can be simply ignored. If, however, that is not an option then solutions reduce to Doom, Soulreave, and any potential off damage. Cheap off damage is rare, very rare, and Doom is better saved, but Soulreave sets up a couple turns of potential pain and is therefore a good move. (Notice how many problems Soulreave solves.)

    CURRENT BG c4Wc9hc4ns4NsnR2XrTr2PR29r3Wr1r8e21

    The above BG will be updated with tweeks and time.

    ~sections to come on exact timing and use of font running, shrine running, and unit segregation~
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
  4. TeaScholar

    TeaScholar Better-Known Member

    I see it has become a trend, to start new guides to FW.
  5. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    I guess so, though I consider this more an updating of a very old guide rather than the production of a new one. Whichever it is, at least it means people are thinking about the game, and teaching it. There could be worse trends indeed!
  6. TeaScholar

    TeaScholar Better-Known Member

    Indeed. Either way it regards FW, so I respect it.
  7. yobanchi

    yobanchi I need me some PIE!

    Wonderful Read by the way.

    I especially enjoyed your break down of the Harvester, Skeletal raider/merc, and broken bones.

    Spot On
    kalasle likes this.
  8. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty


    Have updated the second post with a few preliminary rune reviews, still a work in progress. I hope to have the Stellar (4/5) section done in a day or two. Still making minor edits to the first post.
  9. JazzMan1221

    JazzMan1221 Better-Known Member

    Incredible posts, very detailed and highly accurate even after being gone for so long. Just shows how much you know about cheap meat; can't wait until this is done!
  10. yobanchi

    yobanchi I need me some PIE!

    Very nice, Would aggree that broken bones isn't so much cheap meat anymore but possibly a cog in future 'vengeful' bgs as he will trigger off multiple venging.
  11. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    Should have more champs up, along with a couple spells, in the next couple days, been bogged down.

    Finally got around to playing a PvP game, and Cheap Meat has still got it. The general across-the-board reduction to champion damage while ago helped a lot, actually, because of how much longer it takes to de-clusterF*** a field now.
  12. D4rkSteel

    D4rkSteel I need me some PIE!

    Great post! Really usefull, never realised Risen Yeti was that strong. Using it in my BG now, please keep going!
  13. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    Updated with several more runes: Boneguard Infantry, Zombie Behemoth, Fallen Hero, and Decayed Mercenary. Skeletal Raider, Lost, Queen, Wandering Zombie, and Utterdark Soulrender (I used to run it, but no more) are up next. Some of these champ analyses take a while, and I may vary things up by working some on the fourth section. There are a couple problem champs and troublesome situations I want to touch on, both to suggest how to deal with them and canvas ideas from others. Thanks for the supportive words so far, everyone who has chimed in. The recent writings have been more curt, but once I get into more dynamic or situational champs, things should liven up again.
  14. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    I seriously underestimated how much text this was going to involve, am already running dry for the middle post, and have only talked about 1/10 of the runes I want to. May end up requesting a post deletion or two to condense for further postings.

    Information on a couple bugbears and the current BG I am running added on. Organization still in progress.
  15. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    This thread is going to be on hold until new runes or changes push through. While the BG certainly still exists, more extensive playing and testing of the modern versions show that it is Tier 3 if anything - the nerfs to Harvester and overall changes to champ design and cost curves mean that this strategy lacks the numerical underpinnings to be workable.

    As a brief example, a player has to lose at minimum 530 nora worth of champions for Death Harvester to break even. Break. Even. With two fonts, that is eight full founds of nora generation invested, and then lost, in champions. For Death Harvester to break even. In the current momentum based environment where BGs and champs thrive on razor thin margins of efficiency that kind of enormous resource slack is unthinkable.
  16. JazzMan1221

    JazzMan1221 Better-Known Member

    Why not just play cheap meat without Bird then? Rely on Dusk Creeper and Tomb for nora. Here's my current deck for reference: C4Wc4ns56sgs12snr3lr1IrTr1r8EJ

    If you haven't discovered the wonders of Dusk Creeper yet, boy are you in for a treat. He's the ultimate globe-gathering machine, and easily shoves out the Bird in the efficient refund department. I usually play cheap meat in a phalanxy style, poking with Fairy and Risen Moga while the front line Corpses soak damage. This way, you're always going to grab the globe since the Soul Collection range is so large. Dead Fairy and Deathcasters are there to solve range problems, because let's face it, cheap meat has HUGE range problems. I'm currently experimenting with Short-Lived on Deathcaster, so he's extremely cheap at 60 nora. Ethereal Soldiers sometimes get switched out for Executioners when I feel like it, but Ethereal is just too good to pass up (plus Hex 3 really comes in handy fending off those big beaters. It still has Bird, but after what you said I'll probably drop it for something else.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2014
  17. TeaScholar

    TeaScholar Better-Known Member

    Personally, I run the Death Bird for every reason except for the nora.

    Detection, high spell presence from sentry 2/flying, potential melee damage.

    The nora refunds upon death? Oh yeah, that's a cool addition and all, but it only takes effect if your bird is left alive over the course of the game.
    Which may or may not be the best option for that time. But you can position him carefully enough to get the job done and stay alive. In fact, if you want him to stay alive that bad, just have all your other meat move in the way.
  18. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    I've been running Dusk Creeper, and he is quite good. In reality, Soul Collection + Dead Eater is, when positioned, the old-old Death Harvester but -1 nora. I figure I just need to prioritize his deployment more.

    Thanks for the list. Looking over it, that is mostly how I have been inclining lately - playing "Meat-Range" (a charming pun on midrange) with mid cost beaters and mid cost, medium range backup. I'm chugging along with the Death Caster I have, and have also been experimenting with Stitched Shamans and Seamstresses - moderate success, although I think it needs even more range to really function. As I said with modified efficiency curves, I constantly find my front line vaporized or blitzed passed, and the generally smaller maps in rotation do no favors.

    For your comments Tea, I don't think the Bird cuts it without serious Harvest returns. While Detection can be a sore spot, it is not enough to justify plunging 60 nora into an otherwise piss-poor selection of stats. Perhaps I will tool around with using a more aggro Harvester, but it just seems like a shoddy rune at this point.
  19. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    A brief update, taking into account suggestions and comments here:

    I think are both right, to an extent. Still wary of running the bird, but playing it as a harassment tool and backup detection may work. Requires more games and examination of alternates.

    Dusk Creeper is, of course, really good; I don't think I was as wow'ed by it because I had not been putting it as the #1 deploy for nora gen, but it has my heart now as the little tyke who inherited the throne of Death Harvester.

    I think the re-tooling of Cheap Meat is going to abuse Short Lived a lot more. Given how good Skeletal Berserker is and the charmingly low price of Death Guard, not to mention Martyr (maybe even Death Caster?) running ToH could be a core option now, with the BG skewing more towards a blitz/attrition style of hot 'n cold play. I only played two games with the newer list, but success came from turn-to-turn swings in deployment choices, alternating between a rush turn of dropping multiple SL champs to tempo up for the next few turns and then making use of empty space and lull time to deploy build options like Risen Yeti, Crossbones, or even generators.

    What this really means is that I'm going to have to do a lot more work on this thread to make it comprehensive to a competitive version of Cheap Meat. Important big-picture elements change from board logistics and investment allocation to tempo estimations and flow planning - resources need to be measured across time rather than space. That will need its whole own section.

    Either way, it is for me a bit of hope that there is a Tier ~2 version in here somewhere. Thanks for the perceptive and informative comments, they are much appreciated.
    TeaScholar likes this.
  20. kalasle

    kalasle Forum Royalty

    After taking a break from this idea to work on a bunch of other BGs, I've come back to keep messing around with Meat. My current list is this:

    Some of this is still experimental, but in general Short Lived champs now provide an efficient, sticky mortar to fill in the gaps between the more durable and more expensive runes. The singleton Caster, Martyr, and Soldier are because I only have one of the rune, but everything else is about how I want it. I'll also be fleshing out the various sections in here, perhaps reformatting or color coding things as I have the time. Added a brief section about Dusk Creeper, the new Harvester.

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