Magic History: Fate Reforged

Magic Untapped takes a look back at Fate Reforged, the middle set in Magic: The Gathering's Khans of Tarkir block,

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Video Transcript:

The middle set in Magic: The Gathering’s Tarkir block, Fate Reforged released on Jan. 23, 2015.

A small expansion, the set brought with it 185 cards (including 14 reprints), and brings the time traveling storyline 1,000 years into the past before the story shot back to what would be considered “present day” once again.

If you’d like to catch up on the story so far, you should watch our Khans of Tarkir video, which is easily found on Magic Untapped’s retrospective playlist.

As for the story of Fate Reforged, here’s a summary for you…

The dragon-shaman planewalker Sarkhan Vol finds himself alone on a snowy Temur tundra.  So alone that not even the intrusive voice of the Spirit Dragon, Ugin, could be heard in his head.

Furious, the mad planeswalker roars.  He’s angry and demands answers.

He would quickly find his answer by way of the emergence of several young dragons.  With their appearance came a realization: Vol was now a thousand years or so in Tarkir’s past.

Elated, the dragon-shaman quietly thanked Ugin for such an opportunity and followed the brood as they advanced upon a Temur encampment whereupon he was awestruck by their destructive might.  He spectated gleefully until he witnessed a giant glowing claw ripping through the sky and through the dragons’ flesh.  Noticing the spell’s wielder, Vol starts down to assist the dragons, only to pull back after remembering Narset’s words that Tarkir was truly much stronger before the dragons perished.

This shaman was evidence of that strength.

Instead, after the battle had ended and the dragons repelled, Vol decided to follow this woman who had claimed so many dragonic lives.  It was a feat of tracking that didn’t last long as the woman circles back and attacks him, her saber-toothed cat trapping him keeping his movements in check.

She demands to know why he was following her.

Vol responds that he’s following the whispers of Ugin and thought that she might be his spirit guide.

The woman, Yasova Dragonclaw, tells him he’s mad for thinking such a thing and demands a reason to spare his life.  Vol, remembering the name from Tarkir’s history, begs her for his life.

Both disgusted and pleased, Yasova spares him on the condition that he not pay her any more disrespect and permits him to accompany her.

As they travel, the pair talk.  Through these conversations, she surmises that Vol is not from her Tarkir, but rather a future Tarkir.  She pieces together that, in Vol’s Tarkir, the dragons have gone extinct and makes the connection between the death of the dragon, Ugin, and the eventual removal of dragons as a race on her world as a whole.

Vol, realizing that he’s said too much, tries to backtrack, but it’s to no avail.

Yasova then shares with Vol a vision she has had.  A vision of the Temur conquering all of Tarkir with one of her descendants the High Khan of all.  She further tells him that the voice in her visions bids her to track the dragon storms and leave a trail that leads to the Spirit Dragon’s lair and that, in return, the voice’s owner would arrive and slay the Spirit Dragon personally.

Like a bolt of lightning, an epiphany strikes Vol.  He asks if she knows the owner of the voice in her visions.  She replies, stating ironically that it is a dragon – a great dragon with scales of gold and an orb that floats between its horns.

Vol’s blood grows cold.  The voice is that of Nicol Bolas.

Initially, the dragon-shaman fears that his master had followed him into the past.  Then he remembers the past and how Bolas had slain his brood-brother on this very plane.

Finally, Vol understands everything.  Bolas is on his way to Tarkir to kill Ugin.

With a sudden urgency, the dragon-shaman shifts into his dragonic form and soars into the sky.  A shocked Yasova can only watch from the ground.

Using the dragon storms as his guide, Vol glides through the air until he at last found the storm’s eye: Ugin himself.

Vol wasn’t the only one to arriving, however, as reality briefly rips apart and Nicol Bolas appears.

As he hastily approaches, he views the two dragons speak before a fight between the brood-brothers commences.  Vol is still too far away to assist.

Bolas struck a mighty blow against Ugin, but the Spirit Dragon was able to fend it off.  A moment later, the balance of power in the struggle shifts as Yasova arrives to assist Bolas.  As the shaman prepares a spell against Ugin, something snaps in Vol’s mind.

He realizes that he must be the one to kill the Spirit Dragon.

Now close to the fray, Vol sheds his dragonic form.  He drops to the ground.

Wounded from the descent, but alive, he gets to his feet, he casts a banefire spell directly at Ugin.  The Spirit Dragon falls.

The fight now ended, Vol lurches to where Ugin had landed, only to find a canyon there that wasn’t there before and the dragon laying at its bottom, dying.

Overcome with grief, Vol begs Ugin to tell him what to do – how to make it right.

Speaking directly into Vol’s mind, Ugin had but one thing to say:  That he would always fail so long as he seeks guidance rather than seeking the truth..

Desperate to save the Sprit Dragon’s life, Vol takes out a fragment of a hedron that he had taken as a trophy from Zendikar while working for Bolas previously.

He activates it and it begins to unfold.  As it does, it begins to cocoon Ugin, preserving him and, thus, preventing his demise.

In doing this, however, Vol had created a paradox.

In this simple, selfless act, he had guaranteed Ugin’s survival and, thus, that of Tarkir’s dragons, and also making his own existence an impossibility.

Sarkhan Vol then vanishes from reality.

His actions, however, did not.  For generations to come, Vol’s deeds would be immortalized by the Temur through the teachings of Yasova Dragonclaw and become known as the Tale of the Dragon-Man, the Sky-Khan who had come to save Ugin.

And that does it for the story of Fate Reforged.  Well, the storyline, that is.

As for the set itself, it proved to be a bit of a challenge for both the designers – a team led by Ken Nagle and featured the likes of Mark Rosewater, Ethan Fleischer, and Gavin Verhey, and the development team led by David Humpherys and employed the talents of a number of folks including Mark Gottlieb and Matt Tabak.

<MARO 8:31-56 “So, Fate Reforged…allied-colored deck.”>

But employing hybrid mana wasn’t the only new thing that Fate Reforged brought to the Tarkir block as a whole.  As should come as little surprise, this second Tarkir set featured a combination of mechanics from its predecessor, Khans of Tarkir, as well as some from its successor, Dragons of Tarkir.

<MARO 9:02-30 “One of the fun…put together.”>

Those returning clan-specific mechanics are:
•    Prowess for Jeskai;
•    Delve for Sultai, and;
•    Ferocious for Temur.

As for the two new mechanics, Mardu (which had raid in Khans) now have something called dash, which is an alternate way to cast creatures that gives them haste, but returns them to your hand at the beginning of that turn’s end step.

Abzan was given the bolster mechanic, replacing outlast.  Bolster has a player choose a creature with the least toughness among the creatures they control and put a specific number of +1/+1 counters upon it.

Morph, a mechanic that was across all five clans in Khans of Tarkir doesn’t return in Fate Reforged.  Instead, the set has a new version of it called manifest which puts into play any card as a face-down 2/2 creature that can then be turned face-up at any time for its printed mana cost or morph cost, should that card have a morph cost to begin with.

The set also has a handful of cards with anchor words that allow players a choice as to how they want the card to work.  These choices are “Khans” and “Dragons,” thematically providing players with a flavor choice between siding with Tarkir’s clans and its dragons.

In fact, there was a cycle of enchantments at rare that did exactly that in the Siege cycle, which is one of twelve cycles found within the set.

Of the rest, cycles worth noting include:
•    Hybrid mana ability creatures, which are mono-colored creatures with wedge-colored hybrid mana costed abilities;
•    Khans, which (this time around) are mono-colored legendary creatures that had wedge-colored hybrid mana costed abilities
•    Mono-colored dragons, which are 4/4 creatures with flying that each have an additional in-color ability;
•    Runemarks, which are creature enchantments that give +2/+2 as well as an additional boon so long as you control a wedge-colored permanent, and;
•    Allied-colored legendary dragons, each of which have an ability that triggers whenever a dragon you control attacks.

The ten life gain dual lands from Khans also appears in this set, though with different art to reflect the time change.  The fetchlands from Khans also appeared in Fate Reforged boosters, though with the Khans of Tarkir set symbol on them rather than the Fate Reforged symbol and are, thus, not considered technically reprints, but rather an extra run of the cards to make them still obtainable for sealed and drafting purposes.

Outside of the cycles, Fate Reforged featured a number of strong and popular cards, including:
•    Crux of Fate, which saw a lot of play during Standard at the time as well as still occasionally in Commander.  The card made headlines yet again a few of years ago in its Strixhaven Mystical Archive reprinting due to an art plagiarism scandal between card artist Jason Felix and indie artist Kitt Lapeña, with the former seemingly copying the fan art of the latter in his illustration;
•    Guramog Angler, a staple card in a number of formats thanks to its delve ability;
•    Monastery Mentor, a very strong creature that saw play in Standard, Modern, Legacy, and Vintage in control decks.  In August of 2017 it was banned in Vintage;
•    Temur Sabertooth, a card that is still heavily played in Commander that can not only protect creatures, but also be used in a number of combos;
•    Tasigur, the Golden Fang, which, thanks to delve, found a home in several formats;
•    Temporal Trespass, a “free turn” spell that can be case for as little as three blue mana thanks to delve;
•    Temur Battle Rage, an uncommon that saw heavy play in red-green aggro during its time as well as in Death Shadow decks in Modern;
•    Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, the second colorless planeswalker ever in Magic: The Gathering.  It became a powerful finisher in Modern Tron decks.  Upon being reprinted in Core Set 2021, it proved even more powerful and was soon banned on Magic: The Gathering – Arena in the online game’s Historic Brawl format,
•    Warden of the First Tree, a card that was inspired by the Eventide card, Figure of Destiny, and;
•    Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, a legendary creature that represents not just a named character in the Mardu Horde’s history on Tarkir, but also the first canonically trans character in Magic: The Gathering history.

<MARO 9:36-48 “We did something…character.” 10:02-10:22 “One of the things…diversity as we can.”>

Of course, there’re are a handful more cards worth a mention by means of the set’s various promotional offerings, which includes:

•    Sandsteppe Mastodon, the set’s launch promo;
•    The set’s game day promo, a full-art Mardu Shadowspear along with a full-art Supplant Form that was given to game day top-eight finishers, and;
•    Shamanic Revelation, the set’s buy-a-box promo.

And, like Khans before it, each of the set’s factions had a variety of prerelease promos that could be had depending on which faction-themed prerelease kit a player used during the event.

But those weren’t the only promo cards that were available during the prerelease as there was also a sub-event that took place at that time known as “Ugin’s Fate” in which players could complete achievements.  Upon completion, players would be given a Ugin’s Fate promo pack that contains two alternate art cards that show how Tarkir had changed in this new, upcoming timeline, as well as a manifest token and one of ten promo-exclusive Fate Reforged basic lands.

It was a bit of extra hype for a set that was already riding high off of the waves put forth from its predecessor.  It’s something that Magic’s Head Designer doesn’t take for granted and is pleased still today about how well things were ultimately executed.

<MARO 11:03-30 “Fate Reforged…different sets.”

So, is Fate Reforged amongst your favorite Magic: The Gathering sets?  Love it or hate it, let us know your thoughts in the comment section here on Youtube.  And please remember to like this video and subscribe to the channel for more Magic: The Gathering content.  Also, we have a tip jar on Patreon if you are feeling so generous.

Thank you so much for watching.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.