In the latest Magic: the Gathering expansion, Fate Reforged, the mad planeswalker Sarkhan Vol has stepped into a portal on his home plane of Tarkir, where dragons are extinct. He emerges 1,000 years in the past, in an age where dragons rule the skies.
Fate Reforged is the middle set of Khans block; it will be followed by Dragons of Tarkir in a few months. There's an interesting symmetry to the three sets, since they don't play out with a linear storyline. Sarkhan has gone back in time, trying to find a way to quell his madness, possibly manipulated by the Spirit Dragon, Ugin. In this earlier era, the five clans of Tarkir exist, but in seemingly more primitive forms. There aren't any of the three-color clan cards found in Khans of Tarkir. Instead, there are cards like Soulfire Grand Master and Tasigur, the Golden Fang — cards that are one color, but can draw on the other two colors of their clan to power their abilities.
The five clans all have nebulously Asian influences, like the martial arts monks of Jeskai and the aggressive steppe raiders of Mardu. Each clan is lead by a legendary khan (ideal for Commander fans). In playing with cards from this set, all five khans are quite powerful, but Temur leader Yasova Dragonclaw and Sultai leader Tasigur stand out. Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest can also deal a remarkable amount of damage. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is perfect for a fast aggro deck that needs to cycle low-cost, hard-hitting creatures back into play. Alesha is also notable for being the first Magic character to be explicitly identified as a trans person.
Among the best new cards in this set: Mardu clan's Dash mechanic gives creatures like Goblin Heelcutter, Mardu Strikeleader, and Mardu Scout (which is a goblin surfing a sand dune) lots of flexibility and the ability to come out of nowhere and hit for surprising damage. A cycle of five dragons at uncommon means sealed and draft games are always going to have some heavy-hitting flyers around. A cycle of rare legendary dragons offers Commander players even more deckbuilding options — they all have solid abilities that trigger when any dragon attacks, but Atarka, World Render is probably the most insane. I find the Siege cards to be a mixed bag, but Citadel Siege can be a real problem — if your opponent chooses Khans mode, you basically have to keep their board clear of any creatures or else you're getting stomped. Then there's Temporal Trespass; I'm not saying they straight up reprinted Time Walk, but let's say you're running a deck with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant in it. Three mana for an extra turn will not be a problem, and that's kind of bonkers.
Sarkhan's journey into the past doesn't seem to have solved his madness, but it did lead him into the middle of a massive conflict between Ugin and ancient evil dragon planeswalker Nicol Bolas. The ultimate result is unclear, but we can take some educated guesses. The next set (Dragons of Tarkir) indicates that meddling with the timestream created a new timeline in which dragons do not go extinct on Tarkir. Looking farther ahead, Ugin once played a vital role in the imprisoning of the Eldrazi, colorless cosmic horrors of unfathomable power. Quite a few cards in Khans block hint at "colorlessness" being important in the upcoming set — are we going back to Zendikar? Are the Eldrazi going to rise again? Or, if we're in a new timeline, were they ever imprisoned in the first place?
Check out this gallery of art from Fate Reforged. (Top image, Lotus-Eye Mystics by Dan Scott).
Daghatar the Adamant by Zack Stella.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang by Chris Rahn.
Battle Brawler by Karl Kopinski.
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest by David Gaillet.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon by Raymond Swanland.
Frontier Siege by James Ryman.
Yasova Dragonclaw by Winona Nelson.
Outpost Siege by Daarken.
Palace Siege by Slawomir Maniak.
Monastery Siege by Mark Winters.
Crux of Fate by Michael Kromark.
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death by Anastasia Ovchinnikova.
Citadel Siege by Steve Belledin.
Archers of Qarsi by Allejandro Mirabal.
Temporal Trespass by Clint Cearley.
Mardu Strikeleader by Jason Rainville.
Lightform by Steve Prescott.
Flamerush Rider by Viktor Titov.
Vaultbreaker by Wayne Reynolds.