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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jul 30 2014 11:00am
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Khans of Tarkir Logo

Hello!

We are fairly fresh off of Comic Con and once again we had a Wizards panel at which a lot of exciting information was revealed about the upcoming block, Khans of Tarkir.

THE SETTING
As you may already know, Khans of Tarkir is set on the plane of Tarkir.  This was revealed to be the home plane of the planewalker Sarkhan Vol, who we have met on a few occasions previously. 

Sarkhan is obsessed with dragons; creatures that have been driven to extinction on his home plane of Tarkir.  It appears he is not the only one who is a bit dragon-crazed as it turns out there are five warring clans on Tarkir, each of which represents a different aspect of the Dragon.  The Khans, to which the title of the set refers, are the leaders of those Clans.

THE CLANS
There are 5 Clans on Tarkir, each of which is led by a Khan.  Each of the five clans represents a different enemy wedge and worships a different aspect of the (now extinct) dragons.  It was revealed that each clan will have its own unique mechanic and also that the Morph mechanic from Onslaught Block will be making a return in addition to the Clan mechanics.  Morph has always been an interesting mechanic and it's cool that they are finally looking at revisiting it.  I'm also not a Limited expert but I believe Morph has a fairly profound impact in Limited thanks to it allowing you to have consistent access to Gray Ogres in the early game.

The Abzan Houses
Colours:  Manaw.gifManab.gifManag.gif (centred in white)
Dragon Aspect: Endurance
Symbol: Dragon Scale
Khan: Anafenza


Here is a rather orderly group of Abzan Clan members.  Though I suppose order is something to be expected from a Clan centred in white.  They appear to have united a number of different races, including a turkey man on the far left.


Here we can see the Abzan Khan, Anafenza, riding on the back of what looks to be two giant goats with her samurai sword in hand.  Of course this is the only way to travel in Tarkir.  In the banners in the background you can see the Dragon Scale symbol which represents the Abzan Houses.

The Jeskai Way
Colours: Manau.gifManar.gifManaw.gif (centred in Blue)
Dragon Aspect: Cunning
Symbol: Eye of the Dragon
Khan: Narset


Here is a small collection of the Jeskai Way.  This image reminds me of Kung Fu Panda, which probably isn't a favourable comparison.  There are certainly some interesting characters here.  Particularly the huge blue man and the spindly dude dressed in black who appears to be wielding a fireball.  It's hard to identify what race those two represent and there also appears to be some kind of bird warrior (possibly an Aven among the ranks).


Here is the Jeskai Khan, Narset, pulling a rather interesting pose.  From the artwork the Jeskai generally seem to be quite acrobatic which also seems to be reflected in the nature of this artwork in which Narset appears to be floating or balanced precariously.  It will be interesting to see how that is reflecting in their mechanic.  Generally, the Jeskai remind me of Avatar: The Last Airbender - not that I really have any knowledge about that show or the apparently awful movie adaptation - but from an artistic standpoint at least.  Again, in the background the banners show the Clan symbol, this time the Eye of the Dragon.

The Sultai Brood
Colours: Manab.gifManag.gifManau.gif (centred in Black)
Dragon Aspect: Ruthlessness
Symbol: Dragon Fang
Khan: Sidisi


Bondage and curved blades seem to be the order of the day for the Sultai Brood.  Looking suitably moody for the Black centred clan.


This is the Sultai Khan, Sidisi.  The first thing you'll probably notice is that Sidisi appears to be some kind of humanoid serpent which is quite interesting.  It appears that Sidisi represents a different race of beings on Tarkir though from the artwork above it seems that there are also humans and other creatures among the Sultai's number.  Sidisi is also accompanied by a couple of chained up gimps whose purpose is not entirely clear.  I think we can assume that Sidisi will be suitably villanous.  It's slightly more difficult to see in this art but the Dragon Fang symbol is once again on the banners in the background.

The Mardu Horde
Colours: Manar.gifManaw.gifManab.gif (centred in Red)
Dragon Aspect: Speed
Symbol: Dragon Wing
Khan: Zurgo Helmsmasher


Here is a collection of the Mardu Horde.  They certainly look well armoured and ready to go.  They are also, once again, stood in front of the giant rock dragon which has been seen in some of the previous artwork.  I'm guessing this is some sort of Dragon-shaped volcano within Mardu territory from what we have seen so far.


This is the Mardu Khan, Zurgo Helmsmasher.  When he's not smashing Helms he like to chill out on his Throne which seems like it might be inside the volcano I referred to earlier.

Zurgo Helmsmasher is the first of the Khans to have been officially spoiled.  Check his card out:
 
There's certainly a lot to talk about here.  You'll notice that you can see the Mardu's Dragon Wing symbol watermarked behind the text on the card, which will be a feature on all the clan affiliated cards, as was the case with New Phyrexia and RTR.  Zurgo is also a very powerful and aggressive creature with some pretty impressive abilities.  A 7/2 Haste that cannot die on your turn is quite an exciting prospect, probably more Limited than Constructed playable but still pretty sweet.

The Temur Frontier
Colours: Manag.gifManau.gifManar.gif (centred in Green)
Dragon Aspect: Savagery
Symbol: Dragon's Claw
Khan: Surrak Dragonclaw


Completing our guidebook of quirky ways to travel around Tarkir are the Temur, whose preferred method of transport appears to be some combination of Yak and Sabertooth Tiger.  It appears the Temur are firmly based in the colder climbs of Tarkir, which might explain their bitter savagery.


Here is the Temur Khan, Surrak Dragonclaw.  He looks fairly understated here but he's certainly not a guy to mess with.  Apparently, his hobbies include getting into fist fights with bears.

BLOCK STRUCTURE
A while back, Mark Rosewater revealed that the Block structure for Khans Block would be Large/Small/Large but that there would be a twist.  The twist is that the small set will be drafted separately with each of the big sets.  So, first we will have Khans/Khans/Khans draft.  Then the second set in the Block, codename 'Louie', will be released and the draft will be Khans/Khans/Louie.  Then when the third set of the block is released, codename 'Dewey', we will be drafting Dewey/Dewey/Louie.  It's not clear what implication that will have at this stage but it's certainly very interesting and something Wizards have yet to give a try.

Apparently the Wedge Theme of Khans does not carry through the whole block and there is actually a time travel element to the story progression through the Block.  This is very interesting and could go a long way to explaining the interesting draft structure, if the final set ends up not supporting the wedge colours in Khans.

THE PRERELEASE
Wizards have done a great job of making the Prerelease a fresh and exciting experience with recent sets.  With Khans you will get to pick a Clan and you will also receive one of eight available Prerelease Promo cards for the clan you have chosen.  So instead of 5 Prerelease Promos as has become the norm, there are going to be eight for each clan with one of the eight being the Khan for the Clan you have chosen.

SPECULATION
Although it hasn't been confirmed yet I don't think it's too far a stretch to say that there are going to be Dragons in Khans Block.  I'm not sure that they will appear in the initial set but the story seems to be very Dragon focused which would certainly suggest there are Dragons in the future.  We have seen a lot of impressive Dragons in recent times, including Thundermaw Hellkite and Stormbreath Dragon, so there is a great deal of potential to build on.  I was going to suggest Legendary Dragons in the enemy shards but they already did that in Planar Chaos with Numot, the Devastator and friends.

It also seems fairly safe to assume that the story of Khans of Tarkir will be centred around Sarkhan Vol.  What are his intentions upon returning to Tarkir?  Is he looking to return Dragons to the dragon-barren plane?  So far Sarkhan's cards have been GR and RB aligned so it will be interesting to see what kind of alignment his new Planeswalker card will have. 

Sarkhan VolSarkhan the Mad

Will Sarkhan align with one of the Clans or will he have his first mono-coloured card?  Also, so far Sarkhan's story has been intertwined with the mighty Dragon Planeswalker, Nicol Bolas.  Will Nicol Bolas play a role in this story?  It would certainly be unusual for a Grixis-aligned Dragon to play a role in this enemy wedge coloured world but certainly from a story perspective it would make sense.


What part if any will Nicol Bolas play in this story?

CONCLUSIONS
Overall, Khans looks like an exciting new block with a lot of new ideas and invention.  The enemy wedges finally getting some love is an exciting prospect and something that people have been waiting a long time for.  The Block structure seems a bit unusual and I'm not quite sure why they aren't going to use the enemy wedge theme throughout, though I guess they need to keep things sufficiently different from Shards of Alara.  I think how the Clans are portrayed and play will be the real key to the Set design and fingers crossed the Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, Mardu and Temur will have some real identity.  It will be interesting to see if the Clan names can become synonmous with their wedge colours in the same way that Jund, Esper, Naya, Grixis and Bant have.

The art style and themes of the set remind me of Kamigawa Block somewhat, with what seems to be a lot of Asian culutural references.  Obviously, the wedge colours bring to mind Shards Block and the clans are somewhat reminiscent of Ravnica.  Hopefully this will work into a healthy blend.  Honestly, I think Wizards have done a lot of really good work on building new blocks and sets and so I'm exciting for what is to come.

I think that about summarises all the information we currently have regarding Khans of Tarkir.  I hope you enjoyed this summary of what we know and some ideas about what may be to come.  Let me know your thoughts on the upcoming set/block and whether you're excited by what we've found out so far.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

16 Comments

SO HYPE by The D.K. at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 11:54
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Thanks for the heads up, olaw! I didn't get to see anything from SDCC, so I've been relying on the interwebs to fill me in. I'm surprised that we learned so much already, since we're still just under 2 full months away from release. But, heck... I'm not complaining!!! :D

No worries! Wizard do a panel by olaw at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 12:05
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No worries!

Wizard do a panel every year where they tend to reveal a lot of information but are awful at actually disseminating the information (I don't know if this is deliberate to enhance the experience of being at Comic-Con). I believe the full panel is going to be up on the mothership at some point but it hasn't been uploaded yet. I was going to wait for that but I found I could obtain nearly all the information from other sources. I think they found a nice balance of giving us something to be excited about without actually going into major spoilers.

Excellent work, olaw! by Tribal Apocalypse at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 13:21
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Excellent work, olaw! Appreciated the humor.

Only nitpick: I believe you're mistakenly using "wedge" when saying "enemy wedges", implying there are also "allied wedges". But wedge = enemy triplets (so called because they form the shape of a "wedge" on the mana wheel, if you draw lines through them). Allied triplets are called shards, after Alara. I also hope we'll finally get proper names of them, anyway.

I think this is the block that takes Alara's place in the current seven-year cycle. This way:

MRD => SOM => artifact block set on Mirrodin
CHK => ISD => top-down thematic block
RAV => RTR => dual-colored block set on Ravnica
TSP => THS => Time Spiral was so experimental, I guess Theros is just another Kamigawa-like block
LRW => ??? => We missed one here
ALA => KOT => triple-colored block
ZEN => ??? => I think we're going to return to Zendikar next, we got the Soul, lots of hints about Sorin going back there to stop the Eldrazi threat for good, Ugin and the mysterious Lithomancer going to show up, etc.

As for KOT, I guess we've come to the point when the R&D/the creative team was started to feel the influence of Game of Thrones. But it's also yet another culturally thematic block. They've done four of them so far, two in the far past, two in the modern era.

Arabian Nights: Arabian folklore directly transposed on cards
Portal Three Kingdoms: Chinese history directly transposed on cards (yep, it was pretty weird)
Kamigawa: fictional characters and places inspired by Japanese folklore
Theros: fictional characters and places inspired by Greek myths

I guess Mirage had an African background, but it wasn't top-down, don't think there were actually direct references to anything in particular but a geographical setting.

(Kuma here, btw)

This is the second time I've by Procrastination at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:24
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This is the second time I've seen somebody mention how this set makes them think of Game of Thrones. Why? Because it has armies and snow? Is it because Zurgo is sitting down? Because someone is fighting a bear? I'm not sure how anybody can see these images and think about GoT?

As Olaw pointed out, there are many more similarities to Kung Fu Panda or Avatar. I immediately thought of Disney's Mulan.

It's just "dragons are by Tribal Apocalypse at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:33
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It's just "dragons are ancient, powerful creatures everybody worships and fears but thinks they were extinct many aeons ago, yet now they're back" (because, spoiler: they are). With Sarkhan in the role of Daenerys, which is probably going to hurt in certain demographics.

Of course there's also a base of "let's do a Mongol set". Not saying it's a set about Game of Thrones, I'm saying, considering they work several years in advance, this marks the point where R&D had started to watch Game of Thrones and/or the marketing department had started to think, "Dragons are going to be big again, let's do a dragon set asap".

hmmm...I think that's REALLY by Procrastination at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:52
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hmmm...I think that's REALLY a stretch. Not saying it couldn't be true, but that sounds more like "people want an assumption to be true, so they conveniently make it fit". If marketing thought GoT was going to be big, then wouldn't it make more sense to aim for the generic fantasy look/setting? Especially since the last few years of sets have all had less conventional settings? I mean, why latch onto the dragon aspect?

Also, I wouldn't say for certain that "Dragons are back". The "time travel" aspect probably involves going back to when there were dragons, but no certainty that they will then bring them to the "present" again. Heck, for all we know, Sarkhan is about to go back in time and create some horrid paradox where HE is Ugin. I can already picture somebody in Creative patting themselves on the back for it...

Pretty sure Sarkhan will by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 23:35
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Pretty sure Sarkhan will awaken the dragons. (Probably not by sleeping naked with some eggs.) Also pretty sure he will reject Bolas (who I'm pretty sure will get a new card in this block) and redeem himself.

Also, Ugin is the whitest of the white, he's essentially Falcor from The Neverending Story.

The GoT inspiration is not an assumption, it's a deduction. You keep talking like I'm saying, "Look, this is the GoT block!", which is not what I'm saying. MTG doesn't ever do rip-offs, so there's no way in hell they would make a "GoT block" whatsoever. They use various inspirations and work them into something entirely different. Plus, there's always the 3-4 years delay that makes impossible for them to really predict the zeitgeist. But mostly it's because they just don't do rip-offs. Just not.

For instance, Lorwyn was devised when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was still big. So they had hobbits in minds, and reportedly thought, "Hey, we also have hobbits in our little game! We wanted to call them hobbits, but then we thought better, remember? Let's revisit them and give them a proper hobbit-like identity! Also maybe Ents?"

I joked about marketing, but they don't use marketing strategies based on other properties. Mostly because they can't, they will always arrive 3-4 years later.

Thanks Kuma. I apologise for by olaw at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:57
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Thanks Kuma.

I apologise for the terminology mix-up. I quite like the use of term wedge but I can see why it isn't appropriate for the Shards.

I have to agree with your set comparison and that we will probably be returning to Zendikar in the not too distant future. Particular given that from a storyline perspective the Eldrazi are still on that plane and that many of the planeswalkers are looking for a way to vanquish them.

I have yet to get into Game of Thrones, though I know I should get around to it, but from what I know of it I can definitely the comparisons.

It is actually fine in by Paul Leicht at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 15:07
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It is actually fine in English as terms go. Kuma did say it was a nitpick.

In Re block archetypes: I really really hope we never get another set like WWK or ROE.

GOT: Me neither. I did read the books but that was years before there was a TV show to talk about. I want to view the episodes some time but have yet to find a reliable way to do so. (NYPL has been a disappointment so far.)

How do you link pictures to by doc_brietz at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:16
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How do you link pictures to your page? Can I download stuff into my file browser and link to it? If so, what is the path I use?

Go to a page where there's by Kumagoro42 at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:37
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Go to a page where there's only a picture (you might have to do right click, "open image" on your browser), copy the address, past the address on the URL field of the "add image" function of the editor (the first icon of the second row, the yellow square).

If you upload all the images on your server space, you'll be out of space before you know it.

If by download you mean by Paul Leicht at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:39
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If by download you mean upload you have a (relatively small) allotment on pure to save stuff which you can link to there. Otherwise you need to have a server to host images on. Uploading can be a little bit of a hassle if you don't know how to do it but it isn't all that hard.

As for linking images you must use a URL of the image and put that in the form box that opens when you click on the little painting icon in the rich text editor. You can copy/paste the URL from a browser or anywhere else once you have found it. (Alternatively you can use an IMG tag in the plain source (surrounded by greater than/less than symbols) to post your link manually. Again you need a URL, and you need to put the URL inside a SRC attribute.)

for example in my article a few weeks ago I posted a cartoon.

http://outofthebrokensky.com/mtgo/cartoon-v3tov4.jpg

To make it show in your article you could write (in the plain source)

<img src="http://outofthebrokensky.com/mtgo/cartoon-v3tov4.jpg" />

Man, I really hope that by Procrastination at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:33
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Man, I really hope that Turkey Man winds up being a turkey. Not enough turkeys running around MTG.

I'm not too thrilled that Morph is returning. It wasn't particularly fun the first time around. Most of the cards wound up over costed because they also had Morph, or they were extremely good tournament staples because they were so much better than the other chaff. (I'm talking about you, Exalted Angel!)

Still the set seems exciting enough so far.

Great job compiling all of the info!

Yes, Turkey Man FTW! I have by olaw at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 14:50
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Yes, Turkey Man FTW!

I have to say I wasn't too excited about Morph returning. I was playing paper magic during Onslaught Block and it wasn't a mechanic that I found massively exciting. Though in fairness I didn't play much Limited, where the mechanic shined, while it was largely overshadowed by the Tribal themes in Constructed (with some notable exceptions - Exalted Angel in particular).

There's no doubt that there is still some interesting design space surrounding the Morph mechanic though, so we'll see what happens.

Heck with the turkey man, i by doc_brietz at Wed, 07/30/2014 - 15:00
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Heck with the turkey man, i wanna see that chow chow / st. bernard mix with body armor and an axe in action (he is on the far right in one of the pictures). He needs a barrel around his neck.

I have already seen people super impose steven colberts face on the bear punching man while giving the bear a communist russia style hat.

'MURICA!

The full Comic Con Panel is by olaw at Tue, 08/05/2014 - 13:05
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The full Comic Con Panel is now up on Youtube. Went up on Friday by the looks of things. Check it out for some additional information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S3_oYCnBak

They actually mention the tribes depicted which is interesting. Apparently, the unusual Jeskai characters are Djinn and Efreets. Also, there will be a race of Dog people called the Inoch.

It seems the mechanics of the Clans are very reflective of the Dragon aspect that the Clan represents. So MaRo said that the Abzan, who represent endurance, have a mechanic that favours the long game.

Apparently, Sarkhan used to be a member of the Mardu and has beef with Zurgo Helmsmasher - which is interesting. I had Sarkhan down as more of Temur guy.