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Marauder Units and Characters

by Avian

On internet fora you will often see questions asked about Marauder units, more often than you see questions about other units in the Warriors of Chaos army. I guess it is because Marauder units are less simple than other units - it's not blindingly obvious how to equip them and how to use them. I consider this a good thing - anything that makes players think more is a good thing, if you ask me. What I find less pleasing is how Marauders, who have stats better than basic humans, are now rather miserable when it comes to fighting. Quite often they are hitting at WS4 and S5, and still they do very badly. Heck, in the latest version of the army book they even had to cut their cost in order to make them worth considering. I guess the arms race (specifically the attack and saves race) has left them in an unenviable position.

Marauders were in the original Ravening Hordes list for 3rd edition Fantasy Battles and were then roughly what Chaos Warriors are now. They had Weapon Skill 5, Initiative 5 (back when you attacked in Initiative order even when charging), 2 Attacks and Leadership 8. And also Ballistic Skill 5, which came in handy if you wanted to buy them bows or crossbows, which you could back then. They only had Strength and Toughness 3, but made up for it by having 2 Wounds each. And naturally they started off with heavy armour and the Horsemen could ride barded warhorses and have lances. Unsurprisingly, they were rather more expensive than now, costing 40 pts each for a guy on foot with heavy armour and shield, for example.

Actual Chaos Warriors had 6s for WS, BS and In, as well as Strength 4. Unsurprisingly, their cost was even more insane: 75 pts each

On the cheaper end of the scale you had Chaos Thugs, which had the statline of our current Marauders (except BS4) and a more reasonable cost of 9 pts per model with light armour. They had a very wide choice of equipment, including a brace of pistols, long bow and heavy armour.

Fast forward to 5th edition and the Chaos Warrior now had the statline of the current Chosen and Marauders have become what Thugs used to be, though with Strength 4 and 2 Attacks. You will note that there are now only two 'ranks' in the hierarchy, whereas it used to be 3 and we are now back to 3 as well. Come 6th edition and Marauders dropped back down to Strength 3 again, and that is where we still are.

  M WS BS S T W I A Ld
3rd ed. Marauder 4 5 5 3 3 2 5 2 8
5th ed. Marauder 4 4 3 4 3 1 4 2 7
7th ed. Marauder 4 4 3 3 3 1 4 1 7

 

Contents

Attributes

Units

Special Characters

Dogs of War units

Regiments of Renown

Characters from White Dwarf

 

Attributes

While the basic statline of the Marauder hasn't changed much this last decade, their attributes changed quite considerably from 6th to 7th edition.

 

Weak or fragile (or both)

Marauder units do not let you have your cake and eat it to - you can either have them be very weak and unable to do any noticeable damage, or you can have them be very fragile and likely to drop dead if you sneeze at them (or you can have both, which might not be all that stupid, but which always seemed a little dull to me).

Since just about any close combat weapon upgrade Marauder units can have require two hands to use, and since they can't get body armour better than light armour, you can't get a Marauder which is decently hard-hitting and decently well protected. You can sort of get a mid-way thing with Horsemen with spears, light armour and shield, but then you are losing out on the advantage of Fast Cavalry and S4 with a 4+ armour save still isn't anything to shout about.

Marks can also help in this regard, but they have their own disadvantages (more on this below).

It must also be said that you can of course buy more gear than you can use at any one time (flails and shields, for example), for the sake of flexibility, but that kind of thing gets a bit expensive a bit too quickly for my taste. Personally I like to go for just one thing - armour upgrades or weapon upgrades, with the exception of my Horsemen who tend to get light armour as well as a weapon upgrade, unless I'm really low on spare points. That only makes them decent at one thing, but I compensate by taking more units.

 

Cheap(ish) or fast(ish)

One of the main selling points of Marauder units is that the infantry is quite cheap while the cavalry is quite fast. Not super cheap or super fast (they are not Goblins, after all, but compared to other things in the list they are useful. You don't get cheaper than Marauders on foot and you don't get faster than Marauder Horsemen unless you move into the territory of characters. I don't buy Marauders because they can deal out or take great amounts of damage, I buy them because the ones on foot start out at 40 pts for ten guys, while the ones on horseback have a very handy Movement of 8 and the advantage of being Fast Cavalry. If they had been lacking either of these properties I don't think I would have bothered.

 

Marks of Chaos

The other main thing Marauders have got going for them is that they can take Marks of Chaos, which is quite a nice bonus on what is otherwise unremarkable infantry or cavalry. While you can make a case for the other three Marks, or just going without one, I take the Mark of Slaanesh on all my Marauder units. I only have the Marks of Slaanesh and Tzeentch in my army, but even if it were not for reasons of theme, I don't think I would have gone with any other Mark. For a ridiculously low 10 points per unit you can stop worrying about Fear, Terror and Panic, and unlike units that are truly Immune to Pscyhology, you can still choose to flee from a charge. Excellent on units with such unimpressive Leadership! If only my Orcs & Goblins or Ogre Kingdoms had such a great option for their basic units. The basic problems of the other Marks is that they don't solve as many problems as cheaply as the Mark of Slaanesh.

To quickly run through the other Marks:
The Mark of Tzeentch makes your units slightly more durable, but for the cost it isn't really interesting except on quite large units. And since you can't otherwise get a Ward save on Marauder units (assuming you're not putting a Battle Standard Bearer with the Blasted Standard in the unit, that is), you don't get to use the best parts of the Mark.
The Mark of Nurgle isn't bad, but in my experience any unit that is going to worry Marauders when it hits them (i.e. most units out there) is still going to be trouble even if they get a -1 to hit modifier. A -1 BS modifier for enemies shooting at you can be handy, as in my experience Marauders often get shot, presumably because my opponents want to kill something even if there is no great point to it, and it's easier to kill Marauders than just about any other troop type in the army, but I wouldn't want to pay 30 pts for it.
The Mark of Khorne is the only other Mark I would ever consider, mainly because it takes care of your psychological problems (though it gives you a new one of having to charge if able to) and gives you a quite hard-hitting unit for not all that many points. I guess the problem for me is that you can easily be baited into a bad situation, charged without the option to flee and then getting splatted (the Mark of Khorne does nothing to boost your resilience). Sure, those who strike back will strike back decently hard, but there won't be many of them. And the Mark is a bit pricy.

 

The Will of Chaos

This new rule is very nice for fragile guys with bad Leadership, which Marauders are. I dont't get much out of it on Marauders myself since I take the Mark of Slaanesh on all of my guys and therefore don't take Panic tests at all. Remember also that you can also get the re-roll if you use the Leadership of characters, which makes them even more reliable.

 

Core

Let's face it, you are most likely not going to fill all your compulsory Core choices with Chaos Warriors because that leaves you with an army that is just a bit too slow for comfort, especially since it doesn't deal out damage at range all that well. Thus, given that Warhounds don't count towards the minimum number of Core choices in the army, you are probably going to be taking some Marauder units whether you like them or not.

It is quite possible to fill all your compulsory Core choices at the 2,000 pt-level for a mere 120 pts by taking three bare-bones units of Marauder infantry, and I'm sure some people do this. It is also quite possible to fill your compulsory Core with Marauder Horsemen for around twice that cost, which is still very cheap, and I'm sure some people do this as well. Personally I'm quite fond of having a large number of units in the army (once a greenskin player, always a greenskin player), so I take more Core than this, and I can't help giving my poor gits some upgrades to help them stick around a little while longer and do a bit of damage in case they find something suitably squishy to charge (I have still had Marauders lose, break and get run down by Skinks when charging with flails, however). I'd consider a couple of small support units of Marauder infantry and a unit of Horsemen to be the minimum I'd like to field and even with upgrades that is just a little over 200 pts. I also like a unit of Warriors, though, so the amount spent on Core isn't ridiculously low.

 

Ranged weapons

Marauder Horsemen is the only unit in the army with something that approximates a normal ranged weapon. You can get some ranged attacks on characters, you can get Hellcannons and of course magic, but if you want something that hits using your Ballistic Skill, it is either throwing axes or throwing spears on these guys. I was hoping to get a unit of skirmishing Marauder infantry with throwing weapons for 7th edition, but sadly that was not to be and we got Forsaken instead.

The basic problem with our thrown weapons is that the guys who have them tend to come in quite small units and normally only hit half the time. Thus they aren't very likely to do a whole lot and your shooting becomes more something to supplement a unit that really has another task, rather than the primary task of the unit. Given that, I tend to find the ranged weapons not very tempting on a unit that is probably pushing 100 pts already. It is not that the thrown weapons themselves are very expensive, they just feel like an unnecessary luxury.

 

Units

As mentioned above, I was hoping for Marauder skirmishers in this edition. In the computer game 'Mark of Chaos' you can have skirmishing Marauders with two hand weapons and throwing axes, and I thought that would fit in great. Sadly the designers thought otherwise. We could have done with a few more human(ish) units in the army I reckon, given the large number of gribblies that we get in the list. Notably, the Marauder Chariots of previous editons are still missing from the game after being dropped with the coming of 6th edition, presumably because they were just a weaker and marginally faster version of the Chaos Warrior chariot.

 

Marauders

Units of Marauders on foot are decent light / medium infantry, at a time when decent light / medium infantry are less useful than they have been for quite some years. As alluded to above, I take Marauder infantry for three reasons: 1) they are very cheap, 2) they can get the Mark of Slaanesh (also very cheap) and 3) I have to take them or my army wouldn't be legal. I tend to view Marauder infantry in the same manner as Orc infantry in my greenskin list and thus either take them in small detachment-style units of 10-12 loaded up with weapon upgrades, or bigger blocks of 20-25 with armour upgrades. Some guys I know like to field medium-sized units with both weapon and armour upgrades, but I have little faith in that. If I'm going to take a unit that can multitask I prefer it to be a unit that can actually perform those tasks reasonably well.
Small Marauder units can do all those things that annoy opponents like Warhounds can (slower, but considerably more reliable) and also makes for an okay close support unit against weak enemy units.
Larger units tend to do better with a character to lead them, since even at the best of times they aren't especially tough and are pretty hopeless at killing things. Toss in a character, for example one on a Daemonic Mount (so that enemies charging you must test for Fear) to rack up a few kills and support the unit with a magic item or two and possibly carrying the Battle Standard and you should be doing all right. And if things are going badly the character can ride off into the sunset while the Marauders are left to be squished by something big and nasty.
Marks: I wouldn't take Marauders without a Mark, even the minimum-sized ones. I love the Mark of Slaanesh since it is almost free, comes with absolutely no downsides and really helps on a unit with Ld7. My Marauders haven't done great very often, but the times they have it has usually been because they don't take Psychology tests. The Mark of Khorne I feel is too expensive on a small support unit since it would be almost half the total cost of the unit and on a block fighting with just hand weapons you aren't getting much out of the extra attacks. The other two Marks are defensive and thus naturally better on larger blocks, where the fact that they do nothing to help you with psychology tests is also less of a problem. Both leave you rather vulnerable to Terror tests however, which works the same regardless of unit size, and Terror seems to be getting more common these days.
Great weapons: I have had it suggested to me that support units of Marauders don't really need weapon upgrades, but as I reckon it, anything with a Strength equal to it's points value is worth having. Weapon upgrades are so cheap that you could feasibly take them on block units as well, but I rarely feel I have enough spare points for that and so I stick to having them on my 'detachments'.
Flails: One question that often crops up is whether flails or great weapons are better on Marauders. As I see it, it doesn't really matter. In the first round of combat they are both equal. In later rounds (if they happen), flails might go first, but with only Strength 3 you won't do much damage and you'll get splatted in return. With great weapons you're probably going last and thus you'll get splatted by first-striking enemies and the ones who survive will be too few and not do much damage. Great weapons might be marginally better, because there are some foes that are so weedy that they won't kill unarmoured Marauders, or slow enough to actually strike after them, even with great weapons (i.e. other guys with great weapons and less Initiative than 4).
Shield: If you have just bought either a flail or a great weapon you now run into the problem that you have no third arm to hold a shield with. You can still use the shield to protect you against ranged attacks and you can always choose to use hand weapons and shields in combat, but the cost of the flexibility compared to the base cost of the model is a bit too high for my taste. Thus if I take shields I won't be taking weapon upgrades and it will be on a block of guys and not a small support unit.
Light armour: Body armour doesn't require a free hand, but you don't get the bonus armour save when fighting against enemies to your front in close combat which you get with a shield and hand weapon. As a 6+ armour save is rather miserable, I only take light armour for guys who are also going to be using a shield, since it gives you a 4+ armour save in combat against enemies to your front, or a 5+ armour save otherwise. A shield and a suit of light armour combined bumps the cost of Marauder infantry up by 50% to 6, which is the same as an Orc Boy with similar equipment. The Orc is probably slightly better when he's doing what he should, but he has an uncomfortable tendency to not do what you want, so I guess they are about even there. Annoyingly Marauders don't get Champions that can actually fight (unlike Orc Bosses) and you are less likely to have a cheap combat character to stick in with them.
Command options: Marauders get command options for the same cost Goblins pay, which is a nice little bonus. As always I recommend taking a musician and for only 4 pts I see very little reason not to. For small support units I stop there, giving me a unit of 10 guys with the Mark of Slaanesh, great weapons or flails and a musician for 64, which is quite good value for what you get. For blocks, you are probably going to want a standard for the very cheap +1 CR bonus (if you are especially worried about losing it, you should not take the unit at all) and if you are including a character in the unit I'd always consider a champion just because it gives you more options when it comes to challenges. A unit of 25 guys with the Mark of Slaanesh, light armour, shield and a full command group is 180 pts, which gives you a block of guys that is decently difficult to shift.

 

Marauder Horsemen

For one point more than Goblin Wolf Riders, I get slower fast cavalry. Admittedly, they are much better in combat and much more reliable, but they are still slow for a fast cavalry unit that doesn't specialise in shooting.
I'm not terribly fond of Marauder infantry and I'm not terribly fond of Marauder Horsemen either. Typically costing something like 50% more than a support unit of Marauders on foot, Marauders on horseback are one of those units that don't really seem to deliver for me. I guess what they are lacking is an edge, something they actually do well. They are decent in combat, for a fast cavalry unit at least, but otherwise they are distinctly unimpressive. They probably have the greatest number of options of any fast cavalry unit, but taking those options quickly becomes quite expensive. Often when using Horsemen, the impression I'm left with is that Warhounds could have done the same job for a third of the cost. Ideally, you'd use Warhounds for the kind of tasks where a messy death was likely and Horsemen for those tasks where you'd go in and expect to defeat the enemy, but those situations are becoming rarer these days when units are relying less on ranks and more on their ability to kill people, and are less and less likely to break from combat. Horsemen still do an okay job at taking out war machines, something Warhounds are not very good at and they can take on the occasional light unit, but vulnerable targets are becoming increasingly rare.
For some reason, Horsemen got a new special rule in this edition (sometimes I think that a great deal of the motivation for making new army books is to give units new special rules just for the heck of it). Personally, I would have preferred something like free light armour instead of a re-roll of your pursuit dice as I think it would have been more useful in general.
As with any fast cavalry unit, the recommended unit size is about 5 and especially if you take the Mark of Slaanesh I wouldn't bother with more. If you are going for the Mark of Khorne for an outright attack unit you can go a bit more than this, but as with any fast cavalry unit it quickly becomes more interesting to muster new units instead of increasing the size of those you already have.
Marks: Again I love the Mark of Slaanesh for all the help it gives to fragile units with mediocre Leadership. A lot of people seem to like the Mark of Khorne on their Marauder Horsemen; give them flails and on the charge they hit about as hard as Chaos Knights for half the cost. The downsides are that they die many times quicker than Chaos Knights do and you have less control over what the unit does. I don't really rate the Mark of Nurgle on Horsemen, mainly because it does nothing against magic missiles, for example, and the Mark of Tzeentch isn't really worth it on such a cheap unit.
Spears: The standard weapon for most fast cavalry units. Nice in that a spear can represent a normal spear and / or a throwing spear, giving you some more flexibility when it comes to WYSIWYG, but it stops about there. Flails: Significantly better than spears for just a point more as Strength 5 is considerably better than Strength 4. It also works when you get charged and not just when you yourself are charging, but that is a less interesting advantage since charged Horsemen will soon be dead Horsemen anyway. The normal downside to flails is that they take two hands to wield, leaving you with no free hand for a shield, but that isn't a problem for Horsemen, because giving them both shields and light armour means giving up the great Fast Cavalry rule, which you probably don't want to do.
Throwing spears: Usually costing 5 pts for a whole unit, throwing spears is not a bad way of spending a few spare points you have left over. However, at Ballistic Skill and Strength 3, you should not be expecting to cause damage.
Throwing axes: The heavier cousin of the throwing spear. A slightly shorter range isn't a problem, so if you feel you can spare the extra points, there is little reason to have a Strength 3 spear when you can have a Strength 4 axe. Of course, the problem with a lot of WoC units is that you can pick lots of little upgrades that are only a few points each, and then suddenly realise that your unit is now too expensive for what you wish it to do, which is why I rarely take these things.
Light armour: Not essential by any means, but nice enough for the cost. I tend to take light armour, even if most attacks are S4 or more, leaving you most of the time with only a 6+ save, since it is only 5 pts for the entire unit and it might save a guy costing 15+ pts.
Shields: This upgrade serves little purpose. If you are going to take either a shield or light armour, there is never any reason to choose the shield, while in some situations it will be better to choose light armour. You can take both in order to lose the Fast Cavalry rule and be eligible for a rank bonus, but for the cost it just isn't worth it and it's far better to take two separate units of 5 than one big unit of 10.
Command options: Being fast cavalry, you will always be wanting a musician to help with rally tests, since a fast cavalry unit that voluntarily flees from a charge can move the same turn. The other options are a bit too many points for their usefulness in a fast cavalry unit that is already a bit on the expensive side.

 

Special characters

There aren't really any special characters that are specifically Marauders, but one of them qualifies for inclusion here, because he lacks most of the attributes of Chaos Warriors.

 

Festus the Leechlord

Having quite low stats for a character from the WoC army and no chaos armour (or any kind of armour), Festus is the character most like a Marauder we have. Personally I do wish they would come up with a Nurgle character that was not of the 'mad doctor' type, but that is another matter. Festus is also the closes we have to a Herald of Nurgle from the Daemon army. I personally don't find him very interesting.
The Good: For 45 pts more than a normal level 2 Sorcerer of Nurgle, getting Poisoned Attacks and Regeneration on a 5+ is a reasonably good deal.
The Bad: Automatically getting a 10+ spell on a guy that can only cast with 3 dice is not terribly good. You need to put him into a fairly decent unit to get much out of his special rules, and basically being unable to run down anything is a bit of a downer, meaning you have to team him up with another unit with better mobility. And he is quite easy to kill, losing all those nifty abilities.
The Dull: A Sorcerer with no items that help with spellcasting.

 

Dogs of War units

While army books from 7th edition have removed any reference to Dogs of War in the armies, the DoW list itself contains the allowance for using mercenary units in other armies. I realise that the units and characters below this point are unlikely to ever be fielded by most players, but they have been included partly for the sake of completion and partly because this article would otherwise be excessively short.

 

Norse Marauders

This unit is a good illustration of the process of 'army book creep' that has been happening over the last decade. What was originally a reasonable enough unit is now a sad, overpriced relic from 6th edition. Back using the 6th edition Hordes of Chaos list, Norse Marauders got you a unit that effectively had the Mark of Khorne (when Marauders couldn't be marked) for 1 pt more than a normal Marauder unit with the same equipment. Having to take light armour when you'd prefer not to was a bit of a bummer, as was the overpriced musician, but it wasn't that big of a problem. Now when regular Marauders got cheaper, their equipment cost went down, their command costs went down and they got the option for Marks, there is next to no reason to take these guys.
Were it up to me, I'd put the starting cost at 6 with light armour and have all the weapon costs be +1 each, and the command costs be the same as for normal Marauders (i.e. 8/8/4 instead of 10/10/10).
Great weapons: Overpriced compared to flails.
Additional hand weapons: Overpriced compared to just about anything, unless you really want Marauders with three attacks each, which you can't normally get otherwise.
Flails: At least a weapon that isn't twice the cost it should be. A Minimal unit with flails is just about the only cost-effective unit of Norse Marauders you can get, which just leaves the downside of having to spend a Rare choice on them.
Shields: Not unreasonably priced either, but with the downside that if you are taking shields, you are probably going for a block of guys, in which case you're probably looking at the overpriced command options.
Command options: I don't know why the writer decided to go with a cost of 10 pts for a musician, since one of the new concepts for 6th edition was that musician costs were half of the cost for champions and standard bearers. I think the new Warriors of Chaos book got the cost right with 20 pts for full command, and 30 pts for the same here is a bit too much.

 

Regiments of Renown

These units fall into the same category as Dogs of War in that they are technically legal, but seldom used anymore because people either don't know about them or because 'army book creep' has made them uninteresting.

 

Beorg Bearstruck and the Bearmen of Urslo

A rather silly rip-off of Beorn from the Hobbit. I don't actually think this unit is too bad, provided you don't mind a Hero on foot with no weapons. The total cost of the unit can be a bit prohibitive, though, easily passing 300 pts for a unit of medium infantry and that can be a bit much in normal games. In larger games, where the cost and Rare choice isn't a big problem, I think they could be an interesting addition. Obvious targets are units that are not too nasty, with a WS of no more than 4 (preferably 3, so the rank and file Bearmen hit on 2+ in the first round) and not too much Toughness or armour.
Beorg Bearstruck: Five attacks while frenzied is good and while not overly great, Weapon Skill and Strength 5 aren't bad either. One of his great advantages is that with Toughness 5, 3 wounds and a 4+ Ward save, he is quite difficult to kill.
The Bearmen: Ever so slightly expensive at 8 pts each (you pay 6 for the same equipment in a Chaos army), the Bearmen could have done with weaponry better than hand weapons. +1 to hit would have been much better if they came with great weapons or flails and as it is, it really only benefits Beorg. Since the standard bearer is also the champion and can get killed, it probably doesn't matter much that the bonus only applies in the first round.

 

White Dwarf characters

These two character types had rules in UK White Dwarf 309. They were written for the Lustria summer campaign and with the 6th edition Hordes of Chaos army book in mind. As it is, they don't work very well with the current army book and have been included here more for the sake of completeness than anything else. If you were wishing to use them, I suggest adding the new 'Will of Chaos' and 'Eye of the Gods' special rules and using the rules for Marks from the current army books, with the cost for the Chaos Lord and Exalted Hero for the Marauder Lord and Marauder Aspiring Champion, respectively. That gives you a slightly cheaper Chaos Lord and a 'light' version of the Exalted Hero, with some different mount options.
I think it is interesting that while the trademark of the Norse in the Dogs of War / Regiment of Renown lists was Frenzy, here it is not and their claim to fame is a lack of armour better than light and no halberds (and the Cold Ones, but I guess that comes from being a colony in Lustria).

 

Marauder Lord of Skeggi

Out of the two, the Marauder Lord is probably the least interesting. He's 15 pts cheaper than a normal Chaos Lord, gets cheaper equipment upgrades, different mounts and starts with light armour rather than chaos armour (if you buy him magic armour, this doesn't matter). Because he is more of a way of saving a few points rather than an entirely new choice, I don't think he will be very popular.
On foot: Taken on foot and with some decent gear, the Marauder Lord is just a cheaper Chaos Lord.
Mounted on warhorse: A horse with no barding gives you an excuse to ride around with Marauder Horsemen without taking a Steed of Slaanesh. Still, I don't think that is a very interesting place to put a Lord.
Mounted on Cold One: Excessively expensive for something that also makes you Stupid, the Cold One at least gives you an excuse to take the Helm of Many Eyes, since you already have the downside to it. Causing fear is okay, but it is otherwise just a barded Chaos Steed for 20 pts more.
Mounted in chariot: As with the Lord on foot this is basically just a cheaper variant of a normal Chaos Lord.

 

Marauder Aspiring Champion of Skeggi

More interesting than the Lord, since the Warriors of Chaos book now doesn't have Aspiring Champions anymore and our cheapest fighter character starts at 110 pts. With that in mind, I can see the option for a much cheaper one being popular for campaigns and themed scenarios, with a little modification as mentioned above. And here the drawback of starting with only light armour is more relevant since you have fewer points for magic items and might not be able to afford magic armour.
On foot: Walking around on foot makes your cut-price Hero quite vulnerable if you don't get him upgraded armour. He can otherwise make a decent addition to a Marauder block, for example with the Helm of Many Eyes to make him go first.
Mounted on warhorse: With this option, you might even have a go at a unit of non-fast cavalry Marauder Horsemen, since the character adds some punch to a unit that can quite need some help. Or you can place him with the infantry and use the increased mobility to hop from unit to unit as needed.
Mounted on Cold One: Being only marginally cheaper than on a Lord, 37 pts for such a mount really is not worth it.

 

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