Before I start catching you up to the ongoing story of Core Set 2019, you are going to need some background information. Even though it’s not reflected in the cards, the lore from this set takes place predominantly on Dominaria and Tarkir, and since I recently outlined the lore of Dominaria in a previous article series already, this week I’ll look back at Tarkir. If you want to follow along with the original source material, check out the official Magic Story archive.
Khans of Tarkir Timeline
Tarkir is the home plane of Sarkhan Vol, a planeswalker known for his connection to Dragons and ability to become one. Born to the nomadic warrior clan known as Mardu, Sarkhan’s prowess and determination quickly carried him to the rank of general. After a brief sabbatical where he dabbled in shamanism with the Dragon Whisperers, Sarkhan returned to his people to lead a raid, but mid-combat he was interrupted by the intrusive thoughts of a Dragon spirit that drove him to destroy the entire battlefield, including his own soldiers. This event triggered his planeswalker spark and he found himself on Jund on Alara. Here he soon swore allegiance to Nicol Bolas, though after Bolas was defeated Sarkhan went mad and Sarkhan blamed Bolas.
Eventually his travels led him back to Tarkir, where he hoped he could silence the voices and visions in his mind. He crossed paths with a Jeskai monk who was guided to him by her own visions, and confided in her his story of inter-planar travel and the dragon battle between Ugin and Nicol Bolas he was caught up in. Narset knew some of this already from what she had seen in her own visions and brought him to Ugin’s tomb, thinking it might calm his mind to be near the resting place of the soul of Tarkir. There they were ambushed by the leader of the Mardu, a brutal warrior who wanted revenge on Sarkhan for killing members of their horde when he ascended. Narset sacrificed her life for her new friend so that Sarkhan could escape into the Nexus, and he was sent back in time to the distant past before khans controlled the land.
Elsewhere on the plane, another planeswalker had arrived with the same mission to find Ugin. Sorin discovered that Ugin died and that he would be unable to help with the Eldrazi infestation on Zendikar as he did a millennia ago.
Fate Reforged Timeline
Speaking of the distant past, that’s where the Nexus transported Sarkhan. Here, 1,280 years in the past, the voices in Sarkhan’s head finally stopped. Upon exploring the ancient land, Sarkhan encountered a menacing dragon in conflict with the Temur khan, Yasova Dragonclaw. Sarkhan saw an opportunity in the past—the chance to mold Tarkir into a different future ruled by dragons instead of humans, and where perhaps Narset and Ugin are still alive.
He followed the khan and discovers that she was working with Bolas, leading him to Ugin’s super-secret hideout. He fled and happened to see the battle between Ugin and Nicol Bolas. With the help of Yasova, Bolas easily defeated Ugin, but this time Sarkhan was there to protect Ugin’s body so that he could recover in a stasis, changing the course of history. Like any comic book villain, Nicol Bolas decides not to look for Ugin’s body or confirm his death.
The meddling in the past upset the even balance between humans and dragons, and instead of eventually favoring the humans like in Khans of Tarkir, now the humans fall to the dragon broods. The ancient khans of Tasigur, Yasova, Daghatar, Alesha, and Shu Yun—along with the Abzan resistance leader Reyhan—all either began serving the elder dragons or perished (or both in the case of Tasigur).
Dragons of Tarkir Timeline
Now at the same time as the Khans of Tarkir story but in an alternate future, Sarkhan rejoiced at the new environment ruled by dragons. He also saw similarities to his memories of the original timeline. He recognized that the Dragon Throne of the Mardu horde from his timeline was actually the skull of the now very much alive Dragonlord Kolaghan. He met his old comrade Ankle Shanker, who now goes by a new name, and also finds that Zurgo found a new role with less responsibility and leadership. Even Taigam, who had been a Jeskai traitor who joined the Sultai in the original timeline is now still a monk, albeit one with poor morals. Sarkhan found that Narset was alive and became enlightened after reading the ancient Jeskai khan Shu Yun’s hidden texts—part of which discuss Sarkhan—and they both decide to stay on Tarkir.
In this new timeline, Ugin had not died thanks to Sarkhan’s intervention in the past and when Sorin visited Ugin’s resting place, he is resurrected. Now that Ugin was again awake, the visions and voices in Sarkhan’s mind vanished, and he found internal peace.
At the end of Khans block, there are a few important things to remember. The timeline that contained Khans of Tarkir never existed, so if you are hoping to see beefy Zurgo again or Narset to return as khan, that is very unlikely to happen. The clans existed, but the Elder Dragons went to great lengths to erase their memory and history, and only Narset, Sarkhan, Ugin, and a few mystical shaman on Tarkir know how things were in the other timeline.
In Ixalan block, we found out that Ugin’s disappearance on Tarkir occurred when he and Azor were setting a trap for Nicol Bolas, but failed when Bolas discovered their plans and attacked Ugin before it was ready.
Now that I’ve recapped Tarkir and its main characters (I skipped much of the filler stories), you’re ready to dive into the lore of Core Set 2019 next time! Did I forget something crucial from the story? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!