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The following is a review of Champagne, the tier VIII French premium battleship.  This ship was provided to me by Wargaming for review purposes at no cost to myself; I did not pay to get access to this ship.  To the best of my knowledge, the statistics discussed in this review are current as of patch 0.10.3.  Please be aware that her performance may change in the future.

Behold the Imperator NIkolai I of the French battleship line.  Champagne has been on sale all of twice.  Form June 26th to July 10th, 2020 and from October 10th until 16th, 2020.  She has been locked in the vault since then, available only through lucky drops through Supercontainers.  Like Enterprise before her, Champagne's sale window has been exceedingly brief which begs the question if she has been removed for over-performing or not.  Well, according to my contacts at Wargaming she has neither been removed nor is she over-performing.  Like the abomination known as Cheshire, she simply is not put on sale very often.  Performance not-withstanding, the argument has been made that she's the worst thing in the history of ever and not good for the game.  Let's go into why this ship (and others like her) earn so much ire...

Summary: A long-range sniper armed with six, quick firing 406mm guns that have improved accuracy and penetration.  The ship itself has weakened structural armour and survivability over other tier VIII battleships.

PROS

  • Very long ranged with a 25.02km base reach.
  • Excellent gunnery accuracy over distance using battlecruiser dispersion and 2.0 sigma
  • Increased rate of fire with a 28.6 second reload.
  • Ridiculous levels of AP penetration.
  • Very high fire chance per shell at 49% per hit.
  • Good gun handling with a 6º/s turret rotation rate.
  • Very fast and very agile, handling more like a fat heavy cruiser than a battleship.

CONS

  • Small hit point pool for a tier VIII battleship.
  • Very thin belt at only 240mm.
  • Thin overall structural plate with 32mm upper hull and deck and only 25mm on her bow and stern (!).
  • Bad forward fire angles.
  • Small main battery with poor overall DPM potential.
  • Crappy anti-aircraft firepower.
  • One fewer charges of her Repair Party than most battleships.

Overview

Skill Floor:  Simple / CASUALChallenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling:  Low / MODERATE / High / Extreme

Champagne's game play is pretty comfortable for an inexperienced player provided they can steer away from any impulse to move up to the front lines.  If said new-fish is more inclined to sit back and shoot from the A-line, then Champagne will reward them with some semi-reliable damage.  Neat!  I'd give her a Simple rating but she's too darned fragile and long-range gunnery does take some getting used to.  Once you learn to play keep away and can lead a target comfortably?  You're good to go.

High-end game play with Champagne largely comes down to positioning, situational awareness and target selection.  Yes, you could conceivably push up and take a cap or brawl or do all of the other loser-stuff that will most-likely get anyone but a pogchamp clobbered.  There's the possibility of that.  However, it's so unnecessary to get the most out of this ship.  Sit back.  Load AP.  Farm damage.  You're good to go.

Options

Consumables

There is a lot of weirdness to Champagne and her consumables are no exception.

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  • Her Damage Control Party is standard for a French battleship.  It comes with unlimited charges and an 80 second reset timer. It removes critical effects, extinguishes fires and repairs floods instantly for 15 seconds.
  • Her Repair Party has one fewer charge than you would normally expect for a French battleship, allowing for three uses instead of the usual four.  Otherwise, it behaves as expected, queuing 10% of citadel damage, 50% of penetration damage and 100% of everything else.  It will heal back up to 14% of her health over 28 seconds and it has an 80 second reset timer.
  • In her third slot, you have the choice between a Spotter Aircraft and a Catapult Fighter.  The former comes with four charges, increases her main battery range by 20% (up to 30.02km!) for 100 seconds and has a 240 second reset timer.  The latter launches three fighters which stay on station, orbiting the ship at a range of 3km for 60 seconds.  It comes with three charges and has a 90 second reset timer.
  • Her Engine Boost consumable provides an 8% speed increase (up to a maximum of 38.5 knots with this consumable and a Sierra Mike signal) for 180 seconds.  It has a 120 second reset timer and comes with three charges.

Upgrades

Champagne's upgrades provide no surprises.

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  • Start with Main Armaments Modification 1.  Like other French battleships with only a pair of turrets, you cannot afford to lose either one. 
  • Next up, you'll want the special upgrade Engine Boost Modification 1.  This will increase the action time of her Engine Boost from 180 seconds to 234 seconds (!).  It can be purchased for 17,000 10px-Coal_icon.png&key=97026adbcf5e30ac0  from the Armory.  If you can't afford that, then default to Damage Control System Modification 1.
  • Aiming Systems Modification 1 is the only upgrade worth considering in slot three.
  • You have a choice in slot four, with either being decent.  Damage Control System Modification 2 will help mitigate fire damage.  Though Champagne outranges most cruisers, she still has to contend with battleship HE spam so this is still a good idea.  Alternatively, you can Just Dodge™ by taking Steering Gears Modification 1, though be warned, this won't make her cruiser-nimble and dodging only really works at very very long engagement distances.
  • Finally, finish things off with Concealment System Modification 1.

Commander Skills

Well, Dead Eye is on it's way out.  Champagne's nominal build included it.  When it gets axed, you're probably best served just sticking to the same ol' survivability build you run on most of your French battleships anyway.  This said, there's a very strong case to be made for a specialized Champagne captain that forgoes optimized fire mitigation to instead take Super Heavy AP Shells for that extra bit of long-range farming punch.

Camouflage

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Champagne has only has access to Type 10 Camouflage, providing the usual bonuses for a tier VIII battleship:

  • -3% surface detection
  • +4% increased dispersion of enemy shells.
  • -10% to post-battle service costs.
  • +50% experience earned.

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Champagne's default camo is the darker of the two.  The lighter alternative palette can be unlocked by completing the appropriate section of the Legion of Honour collection.

 

Firepower

Main Battery:  Six 406mm guns in 2x3 turrets with one mounted fore and the other aft.
Secondary Battery:  Nine 152mm rifles in 3x3 turrets mounted down the centreline, twenty-four 100mm rifles in 12x2 turrets with six to a side.

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If you're going to make a good sniper out of a battleship, you need the appropriate toolkit.  While just about any battleship with Dead Eye could sit on the back line and huck spitballs vaguely in the direction of the enemy at maximum range, to make this kind of gunnery consistent you have to be a Royal Navy battleship spamming HE (lul).  To use real ammo that people won't whine about, you're going to need to have a lot of special traits to make it effective.  Wargaming could have padded Champagne's gunnery by delving into their Box o' Gimmicks™ and fished out some consumables to boost her performance, but instead they went with altering her gunnery stats directly.  They did this in three ways:

  1. She has improved accuracy.
  2. Her AP shell penetration is phenomenal for its calibre.
  3. Champagne has excellent range.

She is purpose built for sitting on the back line and giving Hell to anything that isn't perfectly angled that falls under her crosshairs (and some targets can't angle against her at all). 

A Thunderous Salute

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This is a standard dispersion test with 180 AP shells fired at 15km at a stationary Fuso bot that had no camouflage.  Shots are coming in from right to left with the Fuso effectively bow tanking.  Champagne was using the Aiming System Modification 1 upgrade but not Dead Eye.

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And this is with Dead Eye and ASM1.  Champagne seemed purpose built to take advantage of it.  Or maybe that was just coincidence.  It was ships like her and Thunderer that helped get this skill axed.

The first piece of the Champagne sniper-puzzle is her dispersion.  She joins the ranks of Georgia and Thunderer as a battleship using battlecruiser dispersion, a vast improvement over the dispersion used by the French battleship line.  Champagne combines this with 2.0 sigma, clustering a bigger majority of her shells towards the centre of her aiming circle.  This is an improvement over even Georgia's 1.8 sigma and Thunderer's 1.9 sigma, making her one of the most accurate battleships at long-range in the game (it's not Slava-good, but she'll get her own review and a deep-dive on vertical dispersion eventually).  What is perhaps most important is that Champagne's vertical dispersion (the overshooting and undershooting of a target) is much reduced over comparable French battleships.  Thus, for a battleship, her accuracy is downright reliable.  Aim well, you'll get hits.  However there's a double edged sword here.  Aim poorly and you'll get nothing from the one-two combination of Champagne's small number of guns and the lack of scatter from her shells.

Krupp is Balans™

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Champagne still manages 545mm worth of penetration at 20km, making her a threat to most battleship citadels inside of her nominal range.

Champagne has some of the highest AP penetration in the game for 406mm guns.  At her nominal maximum range, she still manages around 500mm worth of penetration, making her fully capable of landing citadel hits against most battleships even at this considerable distance.  At anything less than that and ANY battleship flashing their sides is just asking to get punished.  Champagne's phenomenal AP penetration comes from a combination of factors, including a very high muzzle velocity for a battleship.  But more to the point, she has a very high Krupp rating on her shells, giving her around 20% more penetration than expected at any given range.  These shells are purpose built to punish battleship belt armour and at medium to close ranges, even angling isn't proof against their bite.  If the shells don't ricochet, they have enough energy to bore clean through even the thickest of plate.

Against more lightly armoured targets, Champagne inherits a lot of the same problems as Roma had.  There's just too much speed and energy in her shells for her fuses to arm properly while still inside a cruiser.  For example, to properly fuse inside a broadsiding Baltimore (152mm belt), Champagne must be at least 12km distant.  For a broadsiding Cleveland-class cruiser, this range increases to in excess of 16km.  The only way around this is to either dunk the shells into the water just in front of the target or to hit them while they're angled.  Thankfully, Champagne's 406mm gun calibre gives her the ability to overmatch up to 28mm of armour, more than enough to punch through the extremities of any of the cruisers she faces.  This isn't quite enough to best the 30mm deck and upper hull armour found on many of these ships, so it's not like it's idiot proof.  The better solution is just to fire at a distance.

And Champagne loves to fire at a distance.

No Plunging Fire

Champagne has a 25km range base.  If you elect to use her Spotter Aircraft (and you SHOULD), then this increases to a whopping 30km for a short period of time.  At this distance, Champagne has similar dispersion to a British, American or German battleship at 24km and still packs approximately 450mm worth of penetration (it's not quite guaranteed citadel hit range but you should still be able to land some penetrations).  Champagne's shell fall angle never gets steep enough where deck penetrations is possible beyond overmatching, so you can ignore that. 

Sum of her Parts

These three elements combine to make Champagne one of the best snipers using AP shells in the game, at least in terms of individual hits. 

Ignoring Slava (which is, for all intents and purposes, a Stalinium-built up-tiered improvement over Champagne), there are still other ships which do what Champagne does.  But most of these are higher tiered ... and British.  Champagne is to AP spam what Conqueror is to HE spam; it's easy and it chalks up an unreasonable amount of damage for so little effort all while largely keeping the ship out of harm's way.  While other AP throwers have to worry about penetration (and thus engagement distances), Champagne is almost always in range and she's almost always going to be able to penetrate (if not land citadel hits).  She sits so far back that the only real return fire you have to worry about comes from American battleships or vessels two tiers higher.  Not only is Champagne's gunnery easy, it's stupidly safe too.


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Champagne has crappy DPM, what with having only six 406mm guns and nearly a 30 second reload.  But don't let that fool you.  As ever, there's more to the story than just DPM potential.

It's too damn easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Champagne's six-guns are big liability but they really aren't.  She arguably lands just as many hits as her contemporaries with fewer guns.  However, her individual hits are often meatier because she's capable of (and quite likely to) land citadel AP citadel hits.  The only thing that compares to the ease of her damage output are (say it with me one more time:) Royal Navy battleships slinging HE at other battleships.  Champagne's damage totals are easily drawn from a larger pool of targets, as she can pick damage up from cruisers just as readily, so long as they're picked off at a distance.  Given the ease at which this ship maintains said distance and her comfortable kiting angles, this is a non-issue.

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Champagne has very comfortable turret traverse rates of 6º/s.  Her rearward arcs are much better than her forward arcs, so taking up a kiting position is preferred for maximizing firepower and defence.

Summary

Why use HE and who cares about her secondaries?

  • Champagne makes sniping with AP fun.
  • Champagne makes sniping with AP easy.
  • Champagne can punish any ship that's not perfectly angled against her.

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A North Carolina angled at 55º takes a magazine citadel hit from Champagne at a range of 23.4km.  This shot bothered me so much, I sent the replay into Wargaming to have them confirm the shot details.  This is the kind of crap Champagne pulls off.

Durability

Hit Points: 52,600
Bow & stern/superstructure/upper-hull/deck:  25mm / 19mm / 32mm / 32mm
Maximum Citadel Protection: 32mm anti-torpedo bulge + 240mm belt + 30mm turtleback + 50mm citadel wall.
Torpedo Damage Reduction:  28% 

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Ships marked with an asterix (*) have re-skinned clones not listed on this chart.   Champagne has Odin levels of health with Soviet battleship levels of healing.  Both suck and not in the fun, sexy way.

In order to apply BALANS™ to Champagne's gunnery performance, Wargaming took lessons learned from my firstborn child, HMS Thunderer, and whacked Champagne's duriability hard over the head with the nerf-bat (my second is due any day now -- stay tuned).  In order to shrivel up her Gascogne-style defences, they had a four-point plan of attack.

  1. Limit the size of her hit point pool.
  2. Reduce the efficacy of her Repair Party.
  3. Shave off 25% of her belt armour and make it possible for large calibre AP shells to overmatch her turtleback.
  4. Give her heavy-cruiser structural plate on her extremities.

Champagne's hit point pool wouldn't be out of place at tier VI. Her lower hit point pool means that she doesn't heal as much as other battleships but oh, it gets worse:  she has one fewer charges of her Repair Party so she effectively has a smaller potential hit point pool than a lot of tier V battleships (seriously, she has less effective health than USS Texas and only slightly more than HMS Iron Duke).  This has little to no bearing on her ability to heal back fires, rams and floods but when it comes to penetration damage, it takes fewer hits to sink Champagne than any of her contemporaries to a hilarious degree.

Going a step further, her reduced armour and citadel protection is designed to make these damaging hits more frequent.  Her 25mm extremity armour makes her vulnerable to overmatching 380mm AP shells, but it also opens the door for larger areas for destroyer and cruiser calibre HE to snatch up some of Champagne's hit points.  Furthermore, her belt protection is ridiculously bad at only 240mm and her citadel protection is never any better than a combined total of 352mm (though it's as low as 332mm).  While the different angles present, the effective thickness is higher than this -- for example, a North Carolina shell tossed at 18km has roughly an 18º shell fall angle.  Accounting for the 6º of normalization, a perfectly broadside Champagne's 332mm combined armour over her machine spaces increases to a whopping 352mm or so.  Yeah, the angles of her armour aren't really that effective.  

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Champagne's armour protection scheme is that of a thoroughbred battlecruiser.  Her citadel roof lies one level down, matching the top of the 355mm transverse bulkhead.  It's armour thickness is 40mm.  The root of her barbettes is 85mm thick.

Champagne's crappy durability balances her the same way Asashio's inability to torpedo destroyers and cruisers balances her:  It doesn't.  Asashio doesn't have to engage cruisers and destroyers in order to be effective and Champagne doesn't have to expose herself to enemy fire in order to hoover up big damage.  So none of this really matters because Champagne is so long ranged that she's not really going to take all of that much hurting unless you put her in harm's way.  And there's no need to put her in harm's way. 

VERDICT:  Squishy but it doesn't really matter.

Agility

Top Speed:  34 knots
Turning Radius:  850m
7Rudder Shift Time: 15.5 seconds
4/4 Engine Speed Rate of Turn:  4.7º/s at 25.4 knots

The other reason you don't need to put Champagne in harm's way is that it's so gosh-darned easy to play keep-away.  Her top speed of 34 knots is faster than a number of tier VIII cruisers and that's before you account for her access to her Engine Boost consumable.  Seriously, Champagne is faster than Baltimore, Cleveland, Montpelier, Wichita, Anchorage, Chapayev, Tallinn, Mikhail Kutuzov, Admiral Hipper, Prinz Eugen, Mainz, Edinburg, Albemarle, Cheshire, Belfast '43, Irian, Wukong and Charles Martel.  And those are just the tier VIII cruisers.  It's a shorter list once you account for all of the other cruisers in her matchmaking spread and you need to add on a handful of destroyers besides.  Champagne is fast.

Anyone that's paid attention to my semi-coherent rants and explanations about warship rates of turn, speed is the name of the game.  Tight turning radii are great and all, but without the speed to navigate those turning circles, it's all for naught.  Champagne's high speed means that she has the best rate of turn of any of the tier VIII battleships, even better than the previous SoDak front-runners, Alabama and Massachusetts.  It's a good thing her turret traverse rates are so good so she doesn't out-turn her turrets.

It would be a mistake to think that Champagne's speed and agility allows her to Just Dodge™ the way a cruiser or destroyer can.  She can't make torpedoes whiffa yu nNSN7bi.png. She's not that nimble.  However, put enough distance between Champagne and whatever is shooting back at her and yes, between varying throttle and course, you can throw off a lot of steel and high explosive thrown her way.  This is where that 25km range and excellent penetration on her main guns once again comes into play.  Champagne can comfortably operate 20km distance from targets, dealing reliable damage and this just so happens to put her far enough away that her tush-wiggle becomes good enough to avoid shells coming back.  This in turn mitigates the deficiencies of her armour protection, largely making it a non-issue.

And I remind you, her rearward fire angles are very good.  She's purpose built for playing keep-away.

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Champagne has the best agility of any of the tier VIII battleships and her on-demand Engine Boost consumable makes it even more pronounced.  With a Sierra Mike signal and her Engine Boost active, Champagne's rate of turn spikes at 4.8º/s  but increases her turning circle to a 900m radius.

VERDICT:  The best at her tier (and the best at tiers VII, IX and X too). 

Anti-Aircraft Defence

Flak Bursts: 5+1  explosions for 1,260 damage per blast at 3.5km to 5.8km.
Long Ranged (up to 5.8km):  140dps at 75% accuracy
Medium Ranged (up to 3km): 52.5dps at 75% accuracy
Short Ranged (up to 2.5km): 112dps at 70% accuracy

There's only one real problem with Champagne's AA defence and that's where it comes to the DPS totals from her medium and short-range mounts.  She has decent long-range fire.  She also spits out a decent number of flak clouds (admittedly, these don't hit as hard as her contemporaries, but whatever).  So in a big ol' cuddle puddle of mutually supporting AA fire, she pulls her weight, adding some good long-range damage.  It's only when planes take a particular interest in her (or if they perform a fly-over) that she doesn't have the teeth to do more than mildly inconvenience a carrier.  This is a weakness to be sure, but to bring up my earlier comparison, Asashio also has crappy AA firepower and that's not really a drawback for something that's so far away from the action.  Sure, if Champagne is the only target on a given flank where a CV is operating, she's going to get dropped on.  But if she's at the back of the pack, is it worth taking the extra fly-time to dunk on her? 

Maybe.  Maybe not.  In the end, I don't think it really matters.  Few battleships are a significant enough obstacle to bring tier VIII and X carriers pause and tier VI carriers (generally) have to respect all higher tiered AA.

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Champagne's AA power (third from the bottom) is all kinds of crappy which is distinctly out of character for the high-tier French battleships.

VERDICT:  Bad, but that's okay.

Vision Control

Base/Minimum Surface Detection: 16.38km / 12.87km
Base/Minimum Air Detection Range: 11.01km / 8.92km
Detection Range When Firing in Smoke: 15.82km
Maximum Firing Range:  Between 25.02km and 30.02km

Champagne's biggest weakness is that her game play is reliant upon other people doing the spotting for her.  Were Champagne ever forced to do the spotting herself?  Well, then things like her armour or hit point deficits might mean something.  But as it is, you're all but guaranteed to have someone able to light something up for Champagne to shoot at.  And odds are, there will either be someone closer to the target for them to shoot at or Champagne will be so far back that she can make it exceedingly difficult to hit her.  It's really only in very close games or in losing matches where Champagne's vulnerabilities owing to reliance on friendlies doing the spotting really come into play.  The hope is that she's done enough damage and mauled her opponents to such a degree that this should be a non-issue.  Similarly, she is fast enough to redeploy to hide behind someone else's skirts if needs be; again, taking the onus away from her to detect her own targets.

Overall?  It's not terrible.

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VERDICT:  It's not terrible.  Maybe it should have been.

Final Evaluation

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Champagne's gameplay in a nutshell.

It took a long time for Wargaming to realise their concept of a sniper battleship.  The final iterations as evidenced by Florida, Slava and Champagne, have three elements in common:

  1. Very long range.
  2. Improved gunnery.
  3. Reduced survivability.  Kinda.

See, there are technically four of these sniper-battleships in World of Warships but HMS Thunderer did as HMS Thunderer does and ruined everything for everyone (and I could NOT be more proud).  While my accidental British  love-child has reduced survivability compared to Conqueror, it's nowhere near nerfed enough to matter.  Ironically, I still don't think Wargaming has quite made these sniper fragile enough, but here we are.  I still personally feel that the original version of Duke of York with no heals whatsoever is the way to go but I am not being listened to, otherwise we would have seen this on HMCS Yukon.  But enough of my dream-botes.

Sniper-battleships in World of Warships are as effective, compelling and healthy for the game as the Royal Navy battleships and aircraft carriers.  They're about as fun too.  It's HILARIOUS  when you're the one dropping bombs on the enemy but it's Fun and Engaging™ when you're on the receiving end  (please note the sarcasm).

Yes, there's skill involved with playing Champagne well.  Yes, you have to pick your targets.  Yes, positioning matters.  Yes, you can suck at it and do poorly.  However, sniping in a battleship is World of Warships comfort-food:  It's simple, straight forward and easy game play that gives you the euphoria of seeing big numbers and citadel ribbons appearing up on your screen.  While playing Champagne I couldn't help but think back to when I was seeing how easy it was to farm Witherer medals with Conqueror.  It was initially shocking at just how achieveable it was.  Champagne reminds me a lot of that.  She's not an "I win!" button, but barring RNGeebus saying "very no", getting good a good damage farm going was all but guaranteed, win or lose.

My contact at Wargaming have told me that Champagne isn't over-performing.  I don't know what their numbers are looking like, but from third party sites, Champagne is one of the highest damage dealers at tier VIII right now.  Her bias is going to come from sniping other battleships, so it's to be expected, however unlike Asashio who shares this same target preference, Champagne can (and does!) pick on cruisers and other ship types too. 

So is Champagne good?  Sure.  She gets big numbers.  Like playing a sniper in a First-Person Shooter, you get to feel like a professional badass, clicking on heads so long as your team's front lines hold up.  If you can farm damage fast enough, it can turn games around.  But big numbers in of themselves don't win games.  I keep coming back to comparing Champagne to the Royal Navy battleships and there's a reason for it.  The damage numbers these ship generate is disproportionate to their win rates.  You don't play Champagne to win.  You play her to farm damage.  To me, she proves that battleship HE spam isn't cancerous so much as damage farming itself is.  Champagne is not a team-player.  She is a very selfish boat and that's why I keep coming back to the British BBs.  She's great at what she does but not great for your team and arguably not good for the game either.

With that in mind, she's totally a safe purchase if this kind of game play appeals.  As for me?  I'm emotionally obligated to stick with Thunderer.

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Remember, if it's not Champagne, then it's sparkling white cancer.

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