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Subject: Can an experienced CCG player comment on the actual game? rss

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edictzero
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Aside from the immersive game features, does this game play well? Are there any overpowered cards, or cards that have no reason not to put in your deck? Unbeatable combos? As a long time Magic player, some of the features of the game worry me, like no drawing or dice rolling like Mage Wars. Can any experienced CCG players comment on how balanced and fun this game aside from the immersive mechanics?

Thanks
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Alex W

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I wouldn't consider myself to be a super experienced tournament player of CCG games (at least since Star Wars CCG, and I don't want to even think about how long ago that was). However, from the games I've played of Serpent's tongue, there is far less randomization but still balance in several aspects.

1) Action economy: you get two full actions to spend during a round (although there are free actions as well but they take up a turn just like a full action). Interrupt stones also serve to balance this somewhat by giving a pretty hefty barrier to out of turn actions.

2) Bluffing during spell preparation: While you can pick from your entire codex of 27 spells, you may only prepare up to three non-response spells per round. This is another limiting factor, but also when the meta really kicks in for tournaments it will emphasize how you can use the limited prepared spells to bluff/feint your opponent.

3) Resources: This is, in my limited experience, the most difficult part of the game but also the most fulfilling "deck management" aspect of the game. Resources are generally hard to come by, spells have a set duration, and then you have to pay more resources to bring them back into your codex from your discard pile. And that's just for one type of resource: resonance (like mana). You also have to balance your harmony/discord, void charges, matter components of different types, etc. if your deck requires it. It probably isn't impossible to create some sort of resource engine, but it certainly is a lot more difficult to do if your opponent is peppering you with curses and attacks.

I've played the game 4-ish times (including the beginner walkthrough) with my wife in a very casual manner and we've had a blast. I appreciate some of the nuances and interactions of the spells. There is a thread on the official site right now with a member paying bounties to find "game-breaking" spell combinations for fun, but nothing I've seen is outrageous. Will this game require errata for some cards/interactions? Absolutely. But I think it's a blast to play and the different spheres of magic all feel really different and interesting.
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Claus Jensen
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For us, there was an interesting find in the fact that while some spells are "well off course I need to have this" such as a generic counterspell (which I embarassingly cannot remember the name of), you also need to know WHEN to prepare the damned thing. And if you blow it, like Alex W says, you're going to spend resources to get it back again.

There are overpowered cards, but so what? I can't wait to play again, I enjoyed myself immensely the night we played it.

Oh, and there is dice rolling, so rest easy
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Troels Rohde Hansen
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I think it is Universum Negation

That spell is a true "don't leave home without it"


Response Spells does not have to be prepared though, Claus.

But Universum Negation is Unique to Codex. You get one per turn and there are 2 actions per player. If you really needed to land a spell, you could prepare 2 of the same kind. The first would be dispelled, the second would impact.

The dice rolling is minimal though and I really like that.


And Claus, we finaly got our backer-reward... wanna play?


...Troels
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Christian Iversen
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I have only played the game a few times so far, but I really like it. There are no obvious, gross imbalances.

Pretty much every time you see a truly broken (infinite) mechanic in MTG, it's because of some effect with no limit on how much/often you can use it. In ST this is addressed by having limited actions per turn, limited durability or duration on spells, and a low level of free effects.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone manages to really break it, but just like magic, it takes just a tiny bit of sand in the machinery before such a mechanic breaks.

I'm definitely looking forward to playing it more (and I'm a long time fan of MTG)
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Adam Wells
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edictzero wrote:
Aside from the immersive game features, does this game play well? Are there any overpowered cards, or cards that have no reason not to put in your deck? Unbeatable combos? As a long time Magic player, some of the features of the game worry me, like no drawing or dice rolling like Mage Wars. Can any experienced CCG players comment on how balanced and fun this game aside from the immersive mechanics?

Thanks


Great question! I feel like i can speak from a level of authority on this one. Warning: incoming nerd-ego flex.

To establish credibility, i've played tournament magic for ten years at every level from store to pro tour (WOO! YEAH! Not really, it may have been the worst experience of my life.) and everything in between. That, and i have a verified, diagnosed cardboard/board game addiction. Its pretty awful; but that's probably why i have this job thing.

Anyhow, enough about my miserable personal life. You want to hear about game! (Borderlands reference, anyone? No? Okay then.)

I want to first define what the actual 'game' of Serpent's Tongue is. I have approached the game under the light of a game engine, similar to magic. This has to do with the multiple game modes present, from PVP (traditional, magic-style spell slinging), the co-op PVP (like Pandemic, but without the high pressure), roleplaying game (Out of Eden, forum play), and ARG (Puzzles and such). This makes it a much wider, crazier thing than any other CCG I've played. For our purposes, i'll leave out the RP and ARG elements, and focus on mechanics.

The first, and fundamental difference between Serpent's Tongue and other CCGs is how resources are handled. Yes, I know the language is a thing, we'll get to that, as its very important. If you look through the cards, you'll notice that there's a bunch of actual resources players have to manage. First, of course, are the four energies. Essence, Harmony, Will, and Resonance all have to be carefully manipulated by playing cards so you can build up to more effective spells. This makes every fluency level count, especially since you'll often times use F2 (fluency 2) spells to build resources for your fluency 1, 3, and 4 spells due to specialization abilities. Playing in the Matter Sphere is the most concrete example of this; Everything depends on components, and your ability to execute perfect order-of-operations every time to get your win conditions off and excellent energy management.

In addition to your more concrete resources, Actions and Interrupt stones must be managed. A player has two 'full' actions on their turn, meaning two slots in initiative. When it is your turn, you MUST act. You cannot wait. If you choose not to cast a spell, you may take a full action to meditate. This lends a brutal, constant clock to the game that favors the clever aggressor similar to hordes/warmachine. You can't go all-out - that will get you killed - but you can be VERY aggressive and make off like a bandit. Of course, there are some control-style codex locally that do very well, and give us Quantum/Bio magi a run for our money through injunctions (can't gain energy type X) and disrupt (Discard focus and manifesting spells).

Finally in terms of resources, Responses and the Discard pile must be managed. At the start of the turn, a player may return one spell from their discard pile to their codex. This costs Resonance, which is outright one of the hardest-to-get resources, even though it is the most basic. This option heavily influences counter-magic use and codex building; you can only effectively increase the cost of a spell, not get rid of it (Archivist's Word Snatcher notwithstanding). Its interesting.

I do want to touch on one of the more interesting changes from 'standard' ccg design in the cast cycle. This will probably be the most interesting tidbit for you, judging from your question. The cast cycle is Speak -> Response -> Activate. More on speaking spells in a bit (Again, i push it off!) but let's focus on Response. This is where things hit the stack or chain and wait to resolve. Most importantly, A spell can be dismissed at any time without paying costs up until the point is it activated. This is a huge change, and is critical to the game's dynamic (aside from being incredibly thematic!). This means that if I cast, say, a fatal Fireball, and Claus down there casts Universum Negation in response (the spell he couldn't quite remember the name of that counters), i can dismiss the fireball and all its costed me is the action. Granted, the spell is still discarded, but I'm sure he won't be pulling out another one this round.

Okay, so now its time for the big one. The speaking and how it ties into the mechanics. We'll be looking at Judgement ( http://www.becomemagi.com/arcanum/card/2788 ) F1 to F4 for this, since its one of the only spells that represents all four levels of fluency. Fluency is represented by the dots in the lower right corner of the card, as well as the complexity of the casting phrase. At F1, you must spell out the root of the word. For this one, it is Ses Av Thi. You retain full use of the serpent's key at this level as a guide for translation. Let's kick it up to F2. The root has now turned into a full spell, and the romanized key is gone. You must now correctly pronounce a word, and use a level 2 key (embossed on the front inside cover of the codex) to translate. Alternatively you may read the awatum text to pronounce the spell. F2s also add the hand gesture requirement, this being an attack, to the spell. F3, likewise, requires a short phrase (Enduring Judge - Tyagayli Selenath) and starts to remove the serpent's keys by fading them. Finally, the fluency 4 version removes all keys, and requires the player to have memorized the casting phrase (Judge your Karmic Debt - I won't even attempt, you can look at it yourself) or be able to read the awatum text. At no time may you sound out words, or muddle sounds, so your pronunciation has to be pretty good.

But why this complexity difference? The spell actually changes a bit as you go up.

At fluency one, Judgement is a simple, one-off subtle (ignores shields) attack spell that turns karmic charges (provided by Karmic Debt and other spells) into damage. Being a fluency one, it costs -4 Resonance and does pretty much exactly what it says. If you'll look at the Fluency two version (Scroll down the page and click on the top left image) you'll see a few changes.

First, its essence cost has risen to a -4 and has a harmony cost of 0, but its gained a few features. First, its gained Curse Duration 3. This means that it will hang around for 3 turns and convert karmic charges into damage for you. Pretty sweet. It has also gained the Injunction: Will effect, which prevents your opponent from gaining will. As an added bonus, your opponent cannot spend will. F2 also features an upgrade to add the Veiled (split-second) ability. Ritual paths are a standard feature of Fluency two and above spells, but we'll save that for the final step as this one is empty.

So, on to fluency 3. Fluency 3 has a reduced essence cost, which is pretty important. There's no other big changes here. I have noticed this on a lot of Fluency 3 spells, and often would rather just cast the F2 version to save myself some miscasts.

Now for the big one! at fluency 4, we get a few neat tricks. The cost has not changed, but we have finally gotten a very important ritual tier upgrade. By spending resources, we can ritualize the spell to add abilities or empowerments. In this case, we'll pay for the second upgrade to give Judgement the Damage 1 aspect. Each time it impacts, the spell will do one damage in addition to other effects. Pretty cool, right?

But why go through all that trouble to upgrade the spell's fluency by learning the language? Fluency in serpent's tongue increases efficiency, not power. I can safely say that a fluency four judgement is much, much more efficient than its fluency one version, especially if i'm willing to pay the ritual costs involved (pro tip: Always pay the ritual tiers). Even with the additional cost, i'm getting more bang for my buck.

I'll be the first to admit that judgement is a poor example of this mechanic, but there's others that i can't think of right now. Explore the card database, and i'm sure you'll see more.
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btrhoads
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edictzero wrote:
Aside from the immersive game features, does this game play well? Are there any overpowered cards, or cards that have no reason not to put in your deck? Unbeatable combos? As a long time Magic player, some of the features of the game worry me, like no drawing or dice rolling like Mage Wars. Can any experienced CCG players comment on how balanced and fun this game aside from the immersive mechanics?

Thanks


I think you should expect ALL the same types of issues that Magic the Gathering had when it first came out. There is no reason to expect a first time game maker/company will magically get it perfectly right on the first go.
 
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Adam Wells
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btrhoads wrote:
edictzero wrote:
Aside from the immersive game features, does this game play well? Are there any overpowered cards, or cards that have no reason not to put in your deck? Unbeatable combos? As a long time Magic player, some of the features of the game worry me, like no drawing or dice rolling like Mage Wars. Can any experienced CCG players comment on how balanced and fun this game aside from the immersive mechanics?

Thanks


I think you should expect ALL the same types of issues that Magic the Gathering had when it first came out. There is no reason to expect a first time game maker/company will magically get it perfectly right on the first go.


There's issues, naturally. But this is a pretty darn good first go at it.
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btrhoads
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wells101 wrote:
btrhoads wrote:
edictzero wrote:
Aside from the immersive game features, does this game play well? Are there any overpowered cards, or cards that have no reason not to put in your deck? Unbeatable combos? As a long time Magic player, some of the features of the game worry me, like no drawing or dice rolling like Mage Wars. Can any experienced CCG players comment on how balanced and fun this game aside from the immersive mechanics?

Thanks


I think you should expect ALL the same types of issues that Magic the Gathering had when it first came out. There is no reason to expect a first time game maker/company will magically get it perfectly right on the first go.


There's issues, naturally. But this is a pretty darn good first go at it.


Agreed!
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Jose Negron
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all things considering this game is very well balanced. The thing with other CCG's like magic is there's always this overpowered combination that pretty much will cause the opponent to lose or become severely crippled in terms of playing anything (think land destruction/counterspell decks from early Mtg). In that type of deck you can theoretically counter a spell and then burn opponent land. Eventually the person will have no land and possibly not enough other mana generating cards to the point they can't really play anymore.

This game doesn't suffer that because everything is balanced in terms of actions you can play, resources and the fact the cards themselves, while offering more effects or being more efficient as you go up fluencies, but they are very subtle things. They aren't like you go from causing one damage every turn to 3 damage between fluency 1 and 2. You only get 2 full actions so there's only so much you can do. And in order to cast fluency 3 and 4 spells you really need to know the language. That's the only drawback to this game. If I were to play this game against the person who made the language they'd be able to cast fluency 4 spells and I won't. The good thing is... the codex/deck construction restrictions in this game only allow for but so many fluency 4 spells anyway.

I think this game is better constructed than MtG when it first came out.
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Olof Mk
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> If I were to play this game against the person who made the language they'd be able to cast fluency 4 spells and I won't.

Lol'd. There is a review somewhere with Cristopher trying to cast some spells, and it doesn't look like he is exactly fluent himself. I think they used some language experts to help with the language and they didn't make the whole think themselves. Not sure if the language guy plays.

But from just playing some, and trying to translate things from codex, I can now cast fourth fluency spells. It really doesn't take that much to learn another alphabet. I do make some mistakes and have to check the glyph sometimes though. This game has this language thing, but it's definitely not a heavy element. It's really a lot more about mages blasting each other with heavy-duty spells and not that much about larping. What I do like about the language is that it does add a bit of a skill element to the game, though later everyone just knows their stuff.
 
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I have played Mtg for years and one of my favorite things about this game is that it improved upon one of the aspects i liked the least in mtg. Luck of the draw, it simply does not exist in ST. The reason why one player beats another in ST is skill not luck. Even booster cracking is less luck oriented since each one contains a code worth a varying quantity of points that can be traded in on their website for cards, all you have to do is pay the postage. cool

There is no single OP card in ST in my opinion, there are many cards that seem crazy good and powerful but after playing with them for a while i always come up with a good non-hate oriented counter strategy. One of the beauty's of this game is just that, there is always a new better way to do what you have already been doing around the corner.

Universum Negation is good but did you guys know that shields protect your Enhancement zone? so if you have a shield up and your playing an Enhancement heavy deck then that Universum will have to get through your shield before it can disrupt your play. I once though that Universum was a card that would be played in all decks, but now that i have played more i don't. Good decks can play around it and the caster of Universum looses an action when they cast it along with the resources the card costs to play while the victim just looses a action, presuming that the card being countered is not a free action card.

The developers of the game are very active in providing errata for cards and they themselves will answer your rules questions on the forums.

I really look forward to playing in ST tournaments

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Adam Wells
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Jace the Omnipotent wrote:

Universum Negation is good but did you guys know that shields protect your Enhancement zone? so if you have a shield up and your playing an Enhancement heavy deck then that Universum will have to get through your shield before it can disrupt your play. I once though that Universum was a card that would be played in all decks, but now that i have played more i don't. Good decks can play around it and the caster of Universum looses an action when they cast it along with the resources the card costs to play while the victim just looses a action, presuming that the card being countered is not a free action card.


Shields and defenses only attempt to protect from OFFENSIVE spells. From the rulebook, page 11:

"Any spell or ability targeting an opponent or one of their zones is automatically considered offensive. Any spell or ability that is targeting the caster’s field or their Ally’s is considered non-offensive. This means you may target an opponent’s spell in your Attack zone and it is NOT considered offensive. Only when you are targeting an opponent’s field are you casting an offensive spell. Whether a spell is offensive or not determines many card interactions, but primarily affects whether or not Defenses attempt to block it."

Wait a second... Shields... What.

WHAT. This. Changes. EVERYTHING.

What just happened in my head? Observe, mortals!

By page eleven, every spell that targets an opponent's zone (be it attack, Defense, Enhancement, Manifesting, or Curse. That means that in order to get to that zone, Negation has to get through the defenses the bearer of the spell has in play. I'm posting on the rules forum on the official site to be sure, but... I'm starting to think this is a thing. A big thing. A huge, incredible, major, crazy thing.

Its nifty.
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Olof Mk
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It is a pretty big thing. We also had our minds blown around here when we found that out. It's just awesome.
 
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see what i mean? behind every turn there is something new and better

Shields are good, but no attack zone protection. Try Cloaks, my personal favorite is Hunters Cloak. Cloaks protect from basically all non area spells cool
 
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Troels Rohde Hansen
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Sorry, but I am quite new to the gamer(well, newer than others at least)

Can you explain "the fuss", as I missed it...

(I think what you are saying is, that Universum cannot be used to dispel Celluar Augmentation or Beast for that I am otherwise casting IF i have shields up (like a soul shield) - because I am casting it to my enhancement zone and that is protected by the shields. It will still dispel my fireball or nuclear strike, or any curse or karmic thingie, as they enter play, in my opponents Attack Zone)


Thanks




...Troels

Edit: added how I thnk I get it
 
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christopher gabrielson
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That is exactly correct. Your defenses protect not just yourself but all of your cards. That means if someone wants to dispel your enhancement, component, shield, evade etc... it will have to get THROUGH your defenses first, before it can do that.

This makes your attack spells more vulnerable to Dispel (and other Abjurations and Disrupts) than your Defense, Enhance & Component spells. (and in some very rare cases your Artifacts: See Phase Creation Level 4) As these all sit 'behind' your Defenses and your Attack spells are outside of your Defenses.


This zone based gaming added some complexity to the game apparently, but I think it creates the balance we were looking for as far as targeting rules go. Perhaps we need to explain this a little more in the rulebook and the walkthrough to really stress the nuance more.
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T France
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I also like the fact you can reattune spells from your discard pile back into your codex!...
 
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Adam Wells
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Titeman wrote:
I also like the fact you can reattune spells from your discard pile back into your codex!...


This is a huge component of matter magi (HA! Joke!) since we have to constantly reattune component spells from the discard pile. Its pretty necessary to keep things rolling. However, getting all of your component's banished is a great way to be checking the integrity of your dwemers (aka losing).
 
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Troels Rohde Hansen
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Oh, so your shields protect the defense zone as well... cool.


We are doing demos at the university's gaming club today and then building new PvE codices together. We wondered this... that if I want to dispel/dismiss creation could I do it on a shield.

i can't, they would be blocked by said shield.
 
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Olof Mk
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Not exactly sure what you are asking TroelsR. If shield is a creation and someone casts dispel creation or something at it, it is going to be dismissed if it does not block it, like if the dispel was soul and the shield only blocked matter.

If that's not it, could you explain the question a bit more?
 
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Adam Wells
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See Page 21 in the rule book. But

Defenses protect all zones, even themselves.

Its a little odd and counter-intuitive, but the only way to get rid of a non-refined shield is to target it with a subtle dispel, or bash through it some other way. This is why i'm such a huge fan of Beast Form; its lovely to be able to quickly grind away at my opponent's defenses with little thought or action investment. Surprise Strike is also great for this as a Quantum Mage.

Next line also clarifies that the defense zone doesn't interact with your attack zone at all (for purposes of cards targeting attacks, like your own Negation), and is just looking for initial or recurring impacts - attack spells or attacks with duration.
 
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Troels Rohde Hansen
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Well Olof, that is is

You have a Shield that blocks mind
The i cannot remove that shield with a mind shield - the shield also protects it self.

Were I to use a Soul Spell, your shield would disappear as dew at sun's come.

---

Moreover - I happen to have a Soul Shield and I cast flame eternae and my opponent casts Universum Negation(a soul spell) as a response. Then Universum Negation is an offensive spell, but my shields does not protect my Attack Zone, an my opponent can indeed dispell it??



...Troels

 
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John Amenta

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What was somewhat confusing regarding the "Universum Negation" spell is that in the rules section of the card the text reads: "Discard target manifesting spell" - my own playing group (neophytes) immediately assumed this meant any manifesting spell of the opponent.

However, what is key here is the spell "Cast Cycle" rules, i.e. "Speak -> Response -> Activate". In the "Speak" step of the cast cycle, once the spell is successfully spoken (and confirmed) - you actually place the spell in its appropriate zone i.e. "Then place the spell in its target zone."

The spell is still manifesting, but it now resides in its target zone. So if the target zone also belongs to a zone your shield protects, your manifesting spell is now protected by that Shield from any Response spells.

I think most players starting out might assume a spell is not in a zone until it is actually active - whereas the spell is put in a zone as soon as it is correctly spoken (and confirmed) - whether it subsequently activates or not.
 
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