I've recently decided to switch up my monk build to be more of a tank than a damage dealer. But I'm struggling to do so effectively. I know I need a good balance of mobility, survivability, awareness, and utility to handle the unexpected twists and turns of big battles, but finding the right set of skills is difficult.

NOTE: I am not asking for the best build out there, since I know it's different for everyone.

What I'm looking for are the pros and cons of the different skills and stats. What great combos are out there? Which skills should I avoid?

The more informed I am, the better I can make my own decision on the best build for me.

8 Answers 8


I've updated this for Inferno, where armor and resistances are a must-have. Some of the skills/passives listed here are not really necessary in earlier difficulty levels.

I like Monk tanking, and here's what I use


Primary Skill

  • Crippling Wave for its AOE slow effect, with the Concussion rune to reduce enemy damage by 20% for 3 seconds when hit

Active Skills

  • Cyclone Strike: Since there isn't really aggro or threat in the game, this is my main skill to keep enemies off my allies. It has no cooldown, and I use the Eye of the Storm rune that reduces the Spirit cost to 30 so I can cast it pretty frequently.

    In addition to letting me control mobs by pulling them around, it also is the best way to groups up enemies, which makes ally AOE much more effective.

  • Binding Flash: Blinds all enemies around, and is awesome when used shortly after Cyclone Strike. Cyclone everyone around to you, give them half a second to re-orient themselves, and then hit Blinding Flash to stun the majority of the pack.

    I used to use it with the rune that causes a second blind 6 seconds later, however since starting Inferno I switched to the Searing Light rune, which increases the chance elites will miss to 60%. Regular mobs are not really an issue for me right now, but the champions/elites are.

  • Mantra of Healing: It heals me both me and my allies passively when on, and casting it provides a nice amount of regen for a short time for either me or my allies, so it is my main heal ability.

    I use it with the Time of Need rune which increases my resistance to all damage types by 20%

  • Serenity: This makes you invulnerable to all damage and control-impairing abilities for 3 seconds. I use it with the Ascension rune which increases the invulnerability time to 4 seconds. It can also be used when you are under the effect of a control-impairing ability, such as being Frozen, to break the effect.

    This ability is used offensively as well as defensively, such as applying it and running in to attack and build spirit against a particularly brutal combination of shiny champions that my group is kiting (like Arcane Fire Chain Desecrators... there's no way I'm standing still around those guys!)

  • Inner Sanctuary: I started using this skill because of V1rtua1An0ma1y's answer, and am liking it quite a bit. It's great for blocking off doorways or narrow pathways to keep mobs away from my dps, or for pushing everyone away from me when I'm surrounded and cannot move.

    I use it with the Circle of Protection rune, which makes anyone standing in it take 35% less damage, so I frequently drop it right before using Cyclone Strike to pull everyone to me. Just don't drop it after the Cyclone Strike, or you will fear/knockback everything and lose control of them.

I don't use Breath of Heaven anymore because I found it too hard to hit allies with, and typically am OK on HP providing I have Spirit.

Passive Skills

  • Transcendence: Awesome passive that heals anytime you spend spirit, so basically whenever you use any skill

  • Seize the Initiative: Increases armor by your Dexterity. This is great since it lets you still stack dexterity to improve your skill effectiveness, and maintain a high armor value.

  • One With Everything: I used to use Chant of Resonance or The Guardians Path, but now that I've hit Inferno I realize my lack of Resistances is a serious problem. So now I just stack one resistance, and use One With Everything to make all my other resists equal to that one.


For stats, I tend to focus on Armor/Resistances, Spirit Regen, Attack Speed, and Life-on-Hit, Dexterity, and Vitality

  • Armor/Resistances are a must for any Inferno tank. You can get away with slacking on these stats at earlier difficulty levels, but once you start Inferno you'll want these as high as possible.

  • Spirit Regen is not something you really want to stack, however I always make sure I have at least some spirit regen. That way, even if I encounter a nasty pack of champions and need to kite, I'll still get enough spirit to use Serenity whenever its up to hold mobs still a few seconds for dps to take them out, and gain a bit more spirit hitting them.

  • Attack Speed because the faster I hit, the more spirit I have, and I need spirit to keep me and my party alive.

  • Life-on-Hit because with all the AOE hits I do, it's a nice way to keep my own life up. This goes very well with attack speed too, since the faster you hit, the more life you gain

  • Dexterity because its the Monk's main dps stat, and it has the added benefit of adding to my armor when used with Seize the Initiative

  • Vitality because a tank needs health, however don't take vitality over Armor/Resistances unless its a major difference. Heals don't scale, so a bigger HP pool just means you'll need to heal more. It's far better to not get hit so hard in the first place than to have a massive hp pool that your heals can't keep full.

The only stat I go out of my way to avoid is Knockback. I want mobs grouped up and on me, not all over the place harassing my dps.

Note about Shields vs Duel-Wielding

I've always used duel-wielding because I find the faster spirit regen from the faster attack speed to be better for me than a little extra armor and block chance. I've tried using a Shield a few times, however I find I survive better with the extra attack speed, which effects my spirit gain and life-on-hit. I'd still consider trying a shield again if I find a really awesome shield, however I haven't found one yet and have so far have tanked most of the game duel-wielding (am in Act II Inferno now)

I've actually asked another question on here about the effectiveness of Shields vs duel-wielding at later difficulty levels, and am quite interested in getting answers :)


My idea of tanking is to control the mobs, and not just be a damage soak. Since there doesn't seem to be any aggro or threat, being able to control the mobs is more important to me than just being able to take hits (although of course, I need to be alive to control the mobs :))

Typical mob pulls go like this:

  • Run in and Cyclone Strike everything to me.

    Sometimes I use multiple Cyclone Strikes to be sure I have everyone. Since enemies pause for a second after a CS to re-orient themselves, they don't do much damage while I pull them around.

  • Wait a few seconds until HP starts dropping, then Blinding Flash to stun everything. Typically I'll heal back to full hp while they're blind, and can build my spirit back up.

  • Depending on my HP and what happens after blind ends, might need to use Mantra of Healing or Serenity to heal up, or drop Inner Sanctuary to knockback/fear mobs away and give me some space

  • If mobs start to lose interest in me, or if I used Inner Sanctuary and knocked everyone away, then Cyclone Strike again to gather them up. Remember, Cyclone Strike resets their swing timers, so they'll have to pause, sometimes turn around, and restart their attack. Depending on your spirit and mob attack speed, you can sometimes even chain multiple Cyclone Strikes to avoid taking much damage at all.

  • By now DPS has almost everything dead and it's cleanup, however if not, use heal skills or kite a few seconds until Blind is back up, then rinse and repeat :)

Serenity is usually kept for when my HP dips too low, or when I need to break some kind of crowd control. It's cheap and the cooldown isn't long, so I use it frequently anytime I feel like it.

Inner Sanctuary is used anytime the environment is suitable for blocking the path to my DPS, when I'm trapped between enemies and need a way out, or when I'm taking too much damage (since I use the Circle of Protection rune). I'll also sometimes use Inner Sanctuary right before I pull mobs to me with Cyclone Strike for the damage reduction, providing I'm not low on Spirit.

On occasion I'll also sometimes use Inner Sanctuary after a Cyclone Strike instead of before, which results in a mass fear/knockback and can buy some time, however typically I run with AOE dps and its more efficient to keep mobs grouped up if possible. If I do fear/knockback, I'm always quick to follow up with another Cyclone Strike to gather everyone up once they recover.

Champion pulls are different depending on what attributes they have.

Some combinations prevent me from holding still (Desecrater, Arcane Enchanted, Fire Chains, Plague, etc), so in those cases I'll try and just kite mobs.

  • If I'm unable to kite them (happens pretty frequently because of the way aggro works), then I'll just run around with the DPS, healing, blinding, or Cyclone Striking mobs off them as needed while waiting for my Serenity cooldown to come up.

  • Whenever Serenity is up, I'll Cyclone Strike the champions to me and pop Serenity when I get low HP, which give DPS a few seconds to do uninterrupted AOE damage before I have to run out again.

  • Inner Sanctuary is also a nice way to block a path or make a mob take additional time to reach a DPS player.

Other combinations of champions I can tank fairly easily (Illusionists, Wallers, Vamperic, Reflects Damage, etc), so I just treat them like normal mobs by using Cyclone Strike/Blind to control them, and healing or kiting as needed.

The important part is that my role in Champion fights is not necessarily to tank, but to instead just keep the champs from hitting my DPS so they can kill them.

  • Great answer. I haven't used blind since the early levels and I think you make a good point about removing breath of heaven. I may swap those in my build :)
    – dpatchery
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 15:57
  • Did you mean Breath of Heaven instead of Blinding Light?
    – Wikwocket
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 17:41
  • @Wikwocket Yes, thank you. I wrote my answer without looking up exact skill names, and noticed I had a few incorrect. It should be updated now
    – Rachel
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 17:58
  • I also used Transcendence for long but now I decided to remove it for Resolve that reduce the enemy damage by 25%. I think it is more effective if you tank for a group. The drawback is that I still need to use Breath of Heaven but it is not as bad especially if there is another melee (monk/barbarian) in your team.
    – Drake
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 9:21

With my monk, it was never a real problem tanking until I got to Hell. I just focused on damage and was dual-wielding, no problem. Now, however, I realize that starting Hell with 10k hp is a no-no.


I'm focusing on vitality until I can have around 25k unbuffed. I'm sitting around 22k now, so I'm getting there. Beyond that, resists are my next priority.

As a tank in Hell, you don't have to focus dex since you're not the primary damage dealer, but take dex over strength or int. General rule for stats on your gear: 75% Vit 25% Dex. You can fine-tune the stats you want via sockets.

I run a quick 1-hand with a shield. Having a main hand above 1.7 (via increased attack speed) is great for spirit generation, and if you can find a socket on a quick weapon, throw in an Amethyst for life on hit.


Crippling Wave with Concussion (reduces enemy damage). As a tank, it only seems appropriate to reduce the damage they deal along with reducing the damage you take. I'm not entirely sure how it works on bosses/spells/pools on the ground, etc. but if the character stat "Damage" changes both melee and spell damage for characters, I would assume it's the same for enemies. The debuff shows up as strange green runes over the enemies' heads and it appears on bosses as well.

Edit (Compliments of Rachel): Cyclone Strike with Wall of Wind is more enjoyable. The increased dodge lessens the chance of getting crushed when you pull things to you. I didn't go for Implosion so that you can better control what you pull to you. Seven-Sided Strike is fun but the cooldown is a bit long. If you glyph for reduction then you lose your stun from Pandemonium.

Breath of Heaven with Circle of Life (extra healing). Be smart about it and don't waste it over-healing (but don't wait too long and end up getting killed). Also, I see people whine about it being hard to hit allies... The AOE is large enough to hit allies if your competent with a mouse. Get familiar with moving around while in a big cluster so that you can heal your allies when they're in trouble.

Serenity with Peaceful Repose (healing on activation). I love being invulnerable for a short time and also immune to stuns and fears. As was mentioned before, throwing it on to run in and stack up some spirit for a heal is a nice combo as well. As the tank, dieing is bad, so I feel this is a must on harder difficulties (at least until I can get 25-30k hp).

Inner Sanctuary with Safe Haven (HP regen while standing in the area). I really like this ability, especially since I group with a Barb. It keeps most melee enemies from being able to hit you, but you can normally still hit them.

Having an added regen of over 1k/sec is also a pretty big deal, but it won't save you from arcane sentries or desecration pools. It's fun to block doorways with it if you have to run away, also. This is the least necessary skill in my build and I may change it out once I get more hp.

Mantra of Healing with Sustenance (increased regen). As a tank, it's not your job to do damage, so don't worry about Mantra of Conviction unless your group's survivability is acceptable.

As long as you and your group members aren't being 1-shoted, the regen is huge. Now that I'm 55, I may try Reclamation on Mantra of Conviction since I group with melee, but we'll see.


Resolve for the reduced enemy damage. I believe it's a multiplicative stack with Concussion from Crippling Wave and since Wave hits in an AOE, all your enemies will be hitting more lightly.

Transcendence, because free hp for using other abilities is just awesome as a tank.

One With Everything is great when you just focus 1 resist. No need to try to balance the resists or find +all resist gear. Good resists are a requirement in Hell.


In Hell difficulty, it's not always possible to have aggro the whole time, nor do you necessarily want it the whole time. If you've ever fought an arcane-enchanted illusionist waller or something equally ridiculous, you know you've gotta keep moving to stay alive.

One nice thing about this spec with at least a 1.3ish attack speed (mine is 1.8) is that you can recover spirit very fast. I cast Mantra as a spirit dump instead of needing to use a skill slot for the round-house or the crazy bell. Doubling up the regen almost constantly makes life easier during a fight.

Now I see a lot of people focus on Cyclone Strike as a tank, but I think they're either still in a Nightmare mindset, or they have ballin' gear. Without a good-sized health pool, you're gonna get owned by pulling everything on top of you.

My only advice with this spec is to be smart about your cooldowns, keep an eye on party hp so you can drop a sanctuary ground on them or throw a quick heal, go hit the big dude that's chasing your wizard, etc. Be a tank that pays attention, this isn't WoW. For getting started in Hell, this has been my favorite spec so far.

  • I never thought about using Inner Sanctuary with Save Haven... might be worth a try :) I can't imaging being without Cyclone Strike though, because there doesn't seem to be a concept of aggro in the game, so I use it constantly to remove things from the squishier members of my party :)
    – Rachel
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 16:22
  • That's true. I mean don't get me wrong, I love Cyclone. I think once I'm satisfied with my HP, I'll drop seven-sided for it instead and just swap it out on boss fights. Commented May 23, 2012 at 17:11
  • Your comment prompted me to update my own answer with the sort of play-style I use :) You're right that just using CS to pull enemies to you will get you killed fast, but I think with the right timing and skill set, it's a great way to control mobs. I tried SSS for a while, but found the CD and spirit cost were too much for it to be efficient for me
    – Rachel
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 17:14
  • I've actually started using Inner Sanctuary since reading this, and like it quite a bit. I use it with the 35% damage reduction rune instead of the healing one though, since typically if I need healing it's because I'm being hit too hard :)
    – Rachel
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 17:05

I'll share my current build and its strengths and weaknesses that I've experienced so far.

I am focusing on these stats primarily. They combo well together.

  • Dexterity to take advantage of the dodge granted by dex natively, and the armor bonus from Seize the Initiative.
  • Attack speed to increase how quickly I generate spirit (and therefore spend it, healing myself with Transcendance).
  • Life on hit to heal quickly from my high attack speed and AoE abilities. Also has the added benefit of not needing the killing blow while in a group to gain Life on Kill.
  • Vitality, for obvious reasons.

I am using Cyclone Strike with the Implosion rune to maximize the number of enemies I can pull toward me. Dashing Strike with the Flying Side Kick rune to pick up stragglers, stop runners, and stun those hard hitting enemies. I use Fists of Thunder with the Lightning Flash rune for extra dodge on bosses, and Crippling Wave with the Concussion rune for the AoE and debuffs for the normal mob grind. Breath of Heaven is always up for the emergency self or party heal. I swap between Mantra of Healing and Mantra of Evasion based on the situation.

I also explicitly avoid knockback, since it makes things harder on my allies. When things are spread out, they are more likely to attack other people, and they are harder to hit with area attacks.

This build is great for many things:

  • Lots of self-healing
  • Puts out a respectable amount of damage with dexterity and attack speed and lots of AoE.
  • High armor and health makes it pretty hard to die
  • High mobility and rescue potential (Dashing Strike -> Cyclone Strike to save a party member)

However, it also has some glaring weaknesses that need improving upon:

  • It is hard to keep things on me after pulling them in with Cyclone Strike.
  • The healing is active, so stuns and freezes are particularly dangerous.

I've have a good amount of success with my monk tank build, it allowed me to solo hell.


  • Primary: Way of the Hundred Fists with Spirited Salvo - The reason I use this is because of the massive spirit regeneration it grants you. This is critical for the way this build works, for it allows you to tank far more than you normally could if you are on top of it. But you can't do it without consistent spirit!
  • Secondary: Lashing Tail Kick with Scorpion Sting - This does decent damage and stuns enemies. Especially good for stopping mob's with abilities like dervishes.
  • Defensive:Serenity with Peaceful Repose - This is your life saver. You pop this right when you are about to die and use those 3 seconds of invulnerability to regain your spirit and health.
  • Technique: Sweeping Wind with Inner Storm - This is what you need to keep up during big fights all the time. It regens so much spirit, allowing you to keep spamming spells to keep your shields and health up.
  • Focus: Mystic Ally with Earth Ally - This is a great skill in this build for many reasons. One is that it is so cheap, you can spam it to get health up when your spirit is low. But the main two draws are that it increases your vitality by 10%, and creates a clone of you to take aggro and tank other enemies.
  • Mantra: Mantra of Regeneration with Boon of Protection - This is the most broken skill in the game right now, abuse it while you can. Blizzard is nerfing this real soon, because you can spam this and face tank nearly anything if you have the spirit. If you make sure this is up every 3 seconds in a fight, you will not die. You will absorb everything, believe me. When this gets removed though, opt for the Dodge mantra with divine protection (its the next closest thing) and just spam that to dodge tank.


  • Near Death Experience: Prevents you from dying every 60 seconds, acts as another life saver between serenity and your mantra. Nuff said.
  • Seize the Initiative: Makes your armor insanely high, and for tanking this is a must.
  • Transcendence: SO important. This is your alternate way of getting health between the mantra, serenity, passive health gain, and potions. You can just spam whatever skills are open when need be to get health back.

GEAR: All I have to say for this is that if you are taking, get a good shield and one hander. A strong shield just acts as another sink for damage among the million other things you run in this build.

To make this build work well, make sure you always have your all and mantra up. When in fights, spam your mantra and other spells, and keep an eye on your health. Focus on gear that gives you high VIT and DEX, they are your two most important stats. Try this build out, and believe me, you can face tank hordes of things almost all the way through hell solo.

  • Boon of Protection rune has already been nerfed. It went live a few days ago. Commented May 25, 2012 at 14:15
  • Yeah, I meant to post this a few days ago. It's alright now for how this build runs it, but I'd opt for another one. Thanks for pointing that out. Commented May 25, 2012 at 14:26

Here are my current stats, with skill bonuses:

DPS:9,000 (I know it's a little low..)
Armor:8400 (With Deadly Reach, but that's almost always up. This provides around 73% damage reduction.)
Resistances: 380 to all. About about 55.8% damage reduction.
Dodge: Roughly 38.8% with mantra
Block: 20%
Not sure what I may be missing, but pretty sure this is all I look at for my tank spec. I'd like more Dex, or to care about it more, but if it's not there I don't freak. I'm here to be a meat shield.

So lets jump into the skills, I'm pretty set on all of them, except my secondary, which I choose earthen ally or inner sanctuary with the damage reduction, depending on how I feel my groups play style/skill is. I used to use cyclone strike or even seven sided strike for its 1.5s of invulnerable, but their spirit cost is just too high.

Primary: Deadly Reach with Keen eye rune, this is super important, this skill lets you generate large amounts of spirit, gives you an almost constant 50% boost to armor, and keeps you out of a lot of AOE if played right.

Secondary: Mystic Ally with Earth Ally rune. This is what I've been using, and is nice for the HP boost and he does a good job tanking (its not that he dies fast, cause he doesn't, just sometimes his tanking leaves something to be desired.)
So I strongly suggest Inner Sanctum with circle of protection, this will help you recover should you get blocked in, or for keeping enemies from rushing straight to your DPS. Its damage reduction is the icing on the cake.

Skill 1: Breath of Heaven with the Circle of Life rune. I chose this because it keeps me up and allows me to kite very well, with out this and Serenity kiting would be close to impossible with some minion combos. I expect people to disagree with using Breath of Heaven, but for act 1-2 Inferno, it's paying off.

Skill 2: Blinding Flash with the Blinding Echo rune. Gives you and your DPS time to kite, re-position, or kill whatever you flashed. Obviously you get the double flash...

Skill 3: Serenity with the Ascension rune. Makes you invincible for 4 seconds and is extremely cheap to cast. The #1 must have skill for a monk tank.

Skill 4: Mantra of Evasion with the Hard Target rune. This is a must, I used to rock mantra of healing with circular breathing in Hell (I thought I needed a ton of spirit to heal, but armor is way more efficient), but this makes all the difference. An Extra 20% armor and 10% chance to dodge, talk about a tanks wet dream.

Passive 1: Transcendence, makes it so all your moves heal you. (Keeps you up.)

Passive 2: One With Everything, makes it so all your resistances are equal to your highest single resistance. A must for inferno and even late hell. Choose to stack 1 kind of resistance on your armor for this to pay off.

Passive 3: Seize the initiative, Increase your armor by an amount equal to your Dex. Adds a lot of armor, a must.

As for a weapon, right now I have a cheap, high damage weapon to do some damage and be able to generate some decent hp. Ideally you want a 1 hand with high damage, lots vitality and dexterity, and some sort of life on hit would be nice.

For the rest of my gear I stack resistance (I picked arcane cause I'm lazy and it's at the top of the search by list for armor) and resistance to all on the same piece of gear for maximum resistances. I aim for high armor pieces to get my armor as sky high as possible. After that I look for Vitality > Dexterity > Int > Str.
EXAMPLE: When I search for gear on the AH the 3 criteria I select are Arcane resist, Resist to all, and Vitality.

I just want to say that I was having some issues with inferno, was tanking but not how I felt I should. I did a little research and changed my primary from way of a hundred fists to deadly reach, and I changed my mantra of healing to mantra of evasion and it got way easier. I can sit and tank and spank around 75% of the rare mobs or champion groups we encounter, as opposed to about 15% before. I can honestly say before I was disappointed with my monk, but since I've done some research and been using the appropriate skills (my gear hasn't changed almost at all), I'm a beast of a tank in Inferno act 1 and what part of act 2 I've done with my group. Went from dieing fairly often (anywhere from 3-5 minutes) to just a couple times in a complete act 1 run.

On a side note, once you get to the point where you can tank stuff easily, Inferno becomes hilarious. When they die 10x for every one death of yours, you feel good and it makes you laugh. Enemies with mortars and enemies that explode after death will be the bane of your DPS existence.

I'm not going to talk about play style at all, because I expect everyone reading this to be level 60 already... Hope this guide helps get your monk to your tanking expectations!


Here is what I have built my current monk off of. This would be considered a Dodge-Tank. I am currently in Act3 Hell with 24k health and am able to stand toe to toe with most elite packs and not be worried.

FoT Lightning Flash - adds consistent 16% to dodge while fighting

CS Wall of Wind - gain 20% to dodge for 3 seconds after using, must have for interrupt.

BoH Circle of Life - Small amount of healing but short CD and small spirit cost

Serenity Peaceful Repose - 3 sec invulnerable, breaks CC on you, short CD, a small bit of health

SW Blade Storm - With cyclone strike you can pull mobs into your blades, while CS increases your dodge.

MoE Hard Target - 15% chance to dodge plus 20% armor boost


Seize the initiative - 100% of your dexterity to armor. Even with massive dodge you will get hit eventually, this will make it hurt much less.

One with everything - USE THIS This takes your highest resistance and makes EVERY resistance that level. Stack one resist (arcane, poison, fire, etc) and if you find a piece with that one resist PLUS resist all, that's money in the bank. RESISTANCE IS CRUCIAL IN INFERNO.

The Guardian's path - Only if your dual wield tanking, 15% extra dodge. If using a shield, replace with a different survivability passive.

With this build, while in combat and self buffed I have 70% dodge. 3 out of 10 hits get through. With a good amount of armor and resists those 3 hits hurt very little.

IMPORTANT - This build uses a lot of spirit if you spam CS for the 20% dodge. I find it best to use two fist weapons with spirit regeneration, this avoids the problem and also gives you the 15% dodge with "The Guardians Path" passive.



I am going Poison resist - resist to all - vit. Breathe of heaven Cyclone Strike Serenty Crippling wave Mystic ally

near death one with everything Seize the initiative

I dont hit very hard but im almost done with hell and so far nothing can kill me easily. (My diablo buddy is wiz). My resistance total is 60.18% and I have a little over 50k health

  • that should do pretty well for you in a1 inferno as well
    – l I
    Commented Jun 3, 2012 at 1:33

Solo act 3 and group with DH. I agree that armor, resist and lps and/or lph is essential. I use a shield only in the larder because of the extra resist. I am close to 700 resist but goal is 800+ for act 4. Check out my build. With buffs I'm hitting around 2.5/sec...that's fast and hard because my damage is over 40k. My advice is crit damage. It increases your damage considerably group with plenty dex.


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