A few weeks ago, my friend and podcast cohost Maria and I were debating whether or not people can change. Maybe it's optimism, maybe it's sentimentality, but I believe that we have the capacity to change, that we shapeshift in innumerable ways throughout the course of our lives, that each year I might be a little bit less of a complete fool than I was the year before.
In contrast, Maria, in an unusual display of faithless pessimism, believes we're all more or less stuck the way we are. It's fine, I'm sure she'll change her mind eventually.
Oddball philosophizing aside, even the skeptics like Maria must admit that in the Multiverse, we want, welcome, and even expect change.
When we last saw Odric in Magic 2013, he was crusading—or rather, cathar-ing—across Innistrad, mopping up the Zombies, Werewolves, and other big-bads made vulnerable by Avacyn's return. He embodied one of my favorite color pie dichotomies in his quest to protect the innocent, fueled by a secret and furious desire for vengeance and the conviction that his is the right side of the fight.
He was a reasonable body made exceptional by the addition of first strike, and while he was better with a legion of attackers by his side, he could hold the ground on his own if circumstances required it.
Enough trouble is brewing on Innistrad to necessitate a return, and Odric, with his proactive and sometimes scarily zealous approach to rooting out evil, will certainly be on the front lines of the fight. Expecting only change from the denizens of the Multiverse, how does Odric look now? Never fear, friends, he's still a total silver fox.
This new Odric requires both more and less support than his previous iteration.
Like his old self, current Odric rocks the Helvault out of a salt-and-pepper goatee...I mean, he's still better with a multitude of other creatures, though he no longer needs the critical mass of three daring battlefield companions. In M13, Odric could take a ragtag bunch of vanilla creatures and lead them into profitable combat, his ability requiring nothing more than charging in with sufficient numbers. While the Lunarch Marshal needs fewer creatures to make his sizeable chunk of rules text relevant to combat, his fellow Soldiers must bring their own abilities to the battlefield if they expect to get anything out of his leadership.
As soon as a creature with a pertinent ability joins the fray, however, new Odric has the opportunity to outshine his old self. Consider a legion of vanilla creatures suddenly launched into the air for a flying attack or swinging for twice as much damage thanks to double strike—a legion of creatures being ideal here because, while new Odric makes the best of a battlefield with only one other relevant body, he's still best in situations where he's granting abilities to an army rather than a posse.
While Odric is a little less imposing on his own than he once was, having lost both first strike and a point of toughness, he doesn't need much to be made impressive. A single other creature with a relevant ability like flying, deathtouch, or indestructible quickly transforms Odric—and anyone else in the vicinity—into a threatening presence. These days he needs fewer friends, but better ones.
Both versions of Odric favor decks with low curves to take advantage of his combat ability as soon as possible—in Shadows over Innistrad Odric's case, the same turn he enters the battlefield. M13 Odric allowed opponents the opportunity to maneuver around his ability by attacking with key creatures, holding up combat tricks, or pressuring life totals enough that Odric and his cadre can't afford to attack. Odric, Lunarch Marshal comes with the benefit of surprise, as his ability is relevant the turn he hits the battlefield. An unwary opponent may think they're facing down a single flier or first-striker and suddenly find themselves confronted with multiple evasive or advantaged threats.
Time hasn't tempered Odric's eagerness to be on the offensive, and he's still most at home in an aggressive deck—fear, it would seem, still has no say in faith's battle plan. But with another creature or two to grant relevant abilities, he's decent on defense as well, since he grants abilities at the beginning of each combat.
If I'm lucky enough to open a copy, I look forward to drafting Odric along with enough creatures with relevant abilities to assemble a middle-school math puzzle about the number of possible combinations of those abilities—vigilance and flying, flying and double strike, double strike and trample, trample and deathtouch. Perhaps there aren't technically infinite combinations, but there are enough to keep me interested and my opponents worried as long as Odric is in play.
Odric has undeniably changed, and my relentless optimism leaves me hoping that he's changed for the better.