This entry is part 30 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

(Editor’s Note: I know a lot of you are expecting an article from Gibson Haynes AKA KaipaLin, but we haven’t got it for you.  We’re not sure what happened.  Please enjoy this article by yours truly, instead.)

When Magic 2013 came out, I wasn’t terribly excited, except for a few cards.  If the reported draft attendance at my local game store was any indication, no one else was excited either.  The only cards that caught my eye were Void Stalker, Omniscience, Ranger’s Path, and Odric, Master Tactician.  When I saw Odric, I knew he had real potential; in one run-on sentence, Odric gave players with a handful of creatures real options in combat.

Last week, I ran through a typical Mono White Control list with Akroma, Angel of Wrath at the helm.  The list – which admittedly has its holes, as one commenter pointed out – is of a very traditional variety.  Last week’s deck tries to gain a leg up through Wrath of God effects and ‘rules’ cards, which prevent opponents from taking certain actions until it can play Akroma and dish out the punishment.  This week, Odric, Master Tactician will take the helm in an aggressive control build.  This deck will certainly not be like Akroma’s.

So, what makes this guy so special except his distinguished hair and a sword with Avacyn’s pervasive iconography?  Firstly, he’s aggressively costed.  A problem with Akroma is that she costs a colossal eight mana.  Sure, the point of control is to stall until you can drop a ridiculous threat, but if Akroma gets answered, she costs increasingly more and she may be impossible to leverage after only a few deaths.  Second, he lets you choose how your opponents will block, with which there is a whole myriad of possibilities.

In the previous article, I identified the three main Magic deck archetypes, aggro, control and combo, even if I didn’t give much detail about them.  There are a host of other archetypes that fit in between them, strategies that take the best elements of two archetypes and go in a new direction.  For example, a prison deck is a hybrid of control and combo: the deck uses traditional control mechanisms, but also uses a combo that prevents the other players from acting entirely, or to finish the game more quickly.  Why play combo control mechanisms or a combo finisher over an unstoppable creature?  Well, it might eke out a win against an aggro deck (which is the traditional predator for control), even if it is less resilient against another control deck.

This deck is going to occupy a similar space, as an aggro-control hybrid.  The aggro-control archetype takes a few forms, usually with aggressive creatures and lighter control mechanisms to keep the aggressive creatures safe and dealing damage until the game is over.  Aggro control decks often also use temporary measures to keep an opponent off-balance while creatures push them too far down to come back.  An aggro-control hybrid are also not typically dependent on a giant finisher, though we’ll play them anyway because that’s what EDH is about.

Some of the control mechanisms from the Akroma deck, namely the ‘rules’ cards, will work for Odric.  However, Odric will have a new way to deal with creatures.  Instead of a multitude of Wrath of God effects which would be counterproductive to the new aggressive creature-based plan, Odric’s game text will force unfavourable combat on opponents, creating undesirable trades or combat where they simply lose creatures and you do not.

The first task is to get Odric enough troops to trigger his ability during the attack step.  White, thankfully, has many moderately sized ‘canned armies’.  Captain of the Watch, Geist-Honored Monk, Knight-Captain of Eos, Captain’s Call, Martial Coup, Spectral Procession, and many others generate enough creatures to trigger Odric’s ability when they are capable of attacking, with a few possessing other useful abilities as well.  There are quite afew other longer term ways of getting tokens on the table, and a few of the ‘rules’ cards are also creatures.  Have no fear of your tokens getting exterminated in combat; you get to pick how your opponent’s block if Odric is leading the charge, and you need not assign them blockers at all.

The second part of Odric’s ability is dealing with bigger creatures.  Once a creature is out of the three toughness zone, Odric can no longer deal with them without help.  The first solution is to play larger creatures to match them, like the aforementioned Geist-Honored Monk.  Failing that, there are plenty of mana-efficient solutions.  My first pick is Veteran’s Armaments, which allows Odric to tackle larger creatures, and doubles as a way to win through general damage, which he can easily hand out when you choose to have no creatures block him.  Quietus Spike makes Odric’s first strike damage lethal to any three creatures you force to fight him, and like Veteran’s Armaments, can be used to deal serious damage to players.  Abu Ja’far, who has been waiting for his day in the sun since Arabian Nights, can easily assassinate a whole board of creatures.  Finally, forcing a player to block a token equipped with Dead-Iron Sledge is at the very least highly amusing, and an effective way of repeatedly destroying creatures as long as you have tokens.

Odric’s ability, and the use of tokens bears out other interesting features also.  Since we can force creatures to block, Infiltration Lens can be a potent source of card advantage, and Skullclamp can be used to trade creatures and gain a payday or to simply destroy tokens for card advantage.  Finally, all those tokens will trigger Mentor of the Meek, allowing for steady card draw, especially later in the game.  Also, Oblation targeting your own token is card draw that white can really use, or Path to Exile can easily get you another land into play.

There are some other minor differences between the Akroma deck and this one; rather than using persistent protection effects, temporary ones will be more useful.  Mostly, the evasion from protection, or Swords of Protection and Value is unwanted.  To that end, cards like Shelter and Rootborn Defenses will replace Cho-Manno’s Blessing and Shield of Duty and Reason.

At this point, rather than rehash a lot of the Akroma deck, I want to take the time to say how much I like Odric.  If it wasn’t obvious, I think Odric is one of the best-designed control cards in a long time.  The designers at Wizards have been trying to make creatures relevant for all deck archetypes, and this is the first control creature that really does everything right; Odric does his interaction through the combat step instead of some generic enter-the-battlefield trigger or static ‘you-may-not’ ability, and can provide incredible advantages with a bit of help.  More than anything, his ability gives your deck a controlling feel, complete with threat removal and card advantage in a colour unknown for the latter.  If the person who designed Odric is reading this, I’d like to shake your hand.

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