The Magic: The Gathering War of The Spark spoilers season is almost up. Today, we look at the newest iteration of an iconic Planeswalker, Sarkhan Vol. Known as a leader of dragons, Sarkhan has the ability to beckon dragons to do his will. He was originally revealed by Brian Kibler. Let’s dive right in and examine Sarkhan the Masterless, and his signature card, Sarkhan’s Catharsis.
The Story of Sarkhan Vol
Sarkhan originally hailed from the plane of Tarkir. After his first and only battle as General of the Mardu Horde, he sacrificed his own army to unleash a spell that ascended him to becoming a Planeswalker. After descending on Alara and searching the plane for years for a worthy dragon to pledge his loyalty to, Sarkhan discovered Nicol Bolas on a mountaintop. The two Planeswalkers exchanged blood and Sarkhan swore his allegiance to Bolas.
Bolas commanded Sarkhan to travel to Zendikar, where his battle with Chandra and Jace triggered the last lock on the Eldrazi confinement spell. After discovering Bolas’s plan to unleash the Eldrazi, Sarkhan broke off a large piece of the floating hedron located inside The Eye of Ugin. Upon returning to Bolas’s Meditation Realm, Bolas confirmed Sarkhan’s suspicions and revealed his plan to undo everything his brother, Ugin, has accomplished. Learning that he had helped in the undoing of his precious dragons, Sarkhan returned to Tarkir broken and alone.
While wandering the plane of Tarkir, Sarkhan stumbled into the Jeskai lands and was discovered by Narset, Khan of the Jeskai. The two traveled to Ugin’s Tomb together. At the entrance to the tomb, Narset and Sarkhan were attacked by Zurgo Helmsmasher, the leader of the Mardu Horde Sarkhan had sacrificed earlier. While Narset urged Sarkhan to continue on to Ugin’s Nexus, Zurgo struck a lethal blow, killing Narset. After that, Sarkhan cursed Zurgo and continued into the Nexus, disappearing in a bright flash of light.
As he awoke, he realized he was still in Tarkir but that something was different. A violent storm appeared and several dragons emerged. At that point, he understood he was in Tarkir’s past before the eradication of the dragons! Overwhelmed, Sarkhan set out to discover why he was here. He eventually discovered that he had returned to the time when Bolas struck down Ugin, effectively ending his dragons’ reign. Wanting to try and preserve his dragons, he headed towards the impending battle between Ugin and Bolas. However, he was too late and found Ugin already struck down. Using the piece of hedron he recovered earlier, Sarkhan was able to preserve Ugin and, therefore, the lives of the dragons.
After changing Tarkir’s past, Sarkhan returned to current times to discover Narset was still alive. His precious dragons still roamed the plane. The two traveled the planes of Tarkir and planned to meet Ugin.
Now, Sarkhan has traveled to Ravnica after being summoned by the interplanar beacon. After becoming trapped by The Immortal Sun, Sarkhan has learned of Bolas’s latest plan and has teamed up with the other Planeswalkers to dethrone his former master. Will the combined power of the Planeswalkers be enough to survive? Or will Nicol Bolas triumph once again?
Sarkhan’s newest card, Sarkhan the Masterless, is probably one of the stronger cards he’s been printed on. While many of the previous cards required you to build into making dragons, Sarkhan the Masterless enters and turns all of your Planeswalkers into dragons that turn. If you can amass a critical number of Planeswalkers before playing Sarkham, dropping him and turning them into 4/4/ flying dragons can win the game on the spot.
His static ability of dealing damage to attacking creatures equal to the number of dragons you control seems to be a bit underwhelming. The most useful side of this effect is when you’re getting attacked by a bunch of small creatures. You can play Sarkhan, use his minus ability to create a dragon, and deal all attacking creatures 1 damage by himself. While you’d usually want to deploy dragons before taking this play line, dealing 1 damage to attacking creatures can shut down smaller decks such as Mono White Aggro. The usefulness of this ability will depend on the format’s amount of small dragons which, as of this writing, is pretty limited.
Sarkhan’s Catharsis will probably not see any Constructed play. With direct damage being much more valuable in Limited, however, this common Planeswalker removal card will make quite a few decklists there. Dealing 5 damage at instant speed to wipe up a pesky Planeswalker or finish your opponent off isn’t irrelevant. While it’s no bomb, it’s a solid card that will help you take the game back from an out of control Planeswalker.
While Sarkhan has been a popular Planeswalker (who doesn’t love dragons?), his cards have been historically underwhelming. This time, Sarkhan may get his fair share of playing time. While I doubt there will be a huge dragon tribal deck, the likelihood of there being a deck that plays a ton of Planeswalkers is much more likely. We’ll have to see how many times Sarkhan can turn his friendly Planeswalkers into dragons and cash in for the win.