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Fractured in Alterac Valley - Hearthstone joins a Battleground
06/12/2021 à 12:04
While the WoW community patiently awaits the arrival of
, Hearthstone players are soon going to revisit the glory days of World of Warcraft’s most epic battleground: The upcoming expansion
Fractured in Alterac Valley
will conclude the year-long narrative around the beloved Mercenaries.
In this article, we will dive deep into the continuing story of the mercenaries, the countless WoW references, and the decision behind featuring the snowy vale that both Alliance and Horde fight so hard for up to this day.
I'm Tharid, a writer for Wowhead's sister site Hearthstone Top Decks, and I'll be covering the new content around Hearthstone's upcoming expansion called United in Stormwind. If you want to check out the most recent news about the expansion and Hearthstone in general, head over to
The Showdown of the Year of the Gryphon
Fractured in Alterac Valley
rings in the final phase of the Year of the Gryphon, Hearthstone’s current Standard year. The two other expansions of 2021,
Forged in the Barrens
United in Stormwind
, took players on a wild ride between the continents of Azeroth. The year-long storyline evolved around a world event called the Night of Fallen Stars, where pieces of a seemingly dying naaru were crashing onto the Barrens. Ten mercenaries - five of the Alliance, five of the Horde - set out to find these naaru shards, each for their own reasons explained in the Book of Mercenaries single-player campaign chapters.
We learned that
- better known as
- has a particular interest in said crystals, and together with
, a dragon in disguise and one of the prominent characters exclusive to Hearthstone, she seems to have forged a draconic alliance. Her motives aren’t entirely clear - however, looking back at Onyxia’s origin story told back in original World of Warcraft, she might just intend to end what her father Deathwing, back then disguised as Daval Prestor, once began: To destroy the Alliance from within.
But what brings the heroes of Hearthstone to Alterac Valley? During the latest Book of Mercenaries single-player campaign released with the Deadmines mini-set, the ongoing story explains that
and the Defias Brotherhood stole the naaru shards from Stormwind - most likely on Katrana Prestor’s behalf. In the final fight, both Horde and Alliance mercenaries fight side by side to destroy the greater evil, Edwin Vancleef. In the end, his daughter
manages to escape with the shards. Her destination?
As the story has been set up for this year’s final act, all we know now is that the mercenaries will try to get their hands on the naaru shards. But why are they fighting against each other in the expansion trailer? They have set their faction rivalry aside during the latest single-player campaign!
This would be a great opportunity to compare this more than confusing story fact with the history of faction rivalry in World of Warcraft, including all its ups and downs, all its temporary advances and truces. But we won’t do that - because we have to admit that, so far, the year-long storyline has built up to become the best storytelling experience that Hearthstone has ever seen, so issues regarding its possible future outcome definitely deserve the benefit of the doubt.
A Dream Come True: Objective Cards
Apart from that, Hearthstone really goes all-in in terms of classic Warcraft fantasy. Fractured in Alterac Valley transports yet another true and surprisingly serious picture of the iconic battleground site. Great examples for this implementation are the newly introduced objective cards:
Custom Hearthstone card creators have always tried to think up ways to include Warcraft’s points of interest as cards. Now, Team 5 came up with a great solution - multi-turn spell effects perfectly showcase the prolonged fights for the graveyards, bunkers, and towers of Alterac Valley.
Introducing landmarks as cards is nothing new in card games. The mother of all collectible card games, Magic: The Gathering, uses land cards as resources. In comparison, Hearthstone’s resource system is much more one-dimensional. However, adding objective cards to the game has the same effect as it had in MTG: It adds room for imagination and fills out the setting that the corresponding expansion plays in, providing yet another layer for both design and storytelling in Blizzard’s card game.
Honorable Kill: A Warcraft Keyword
A gameplay mechanic that did exactly that in the past is the keyword layer. Every keyword resonates with the expansion’s flavor and overall design approach - and Fractured in Alterac Valley is no expansion.
The newly introduced
keyword provides powerful effects - but only if you bring down another minion to exactly 0 health. Could there be a more warcraftian keyword in the history of Hearthstone?
As already said, the effects behind Honorable Kill are powerful - some theorycrafting experts even say too powerful. Power creep is a common problem in “third expansions” of the year. But in this case, power creep makes at least some sense: The storyline continues, our heroes gain more and more power as they level up over the Standard year. They even age as we can see in the cinematic trailer. Why wouldn’t they be able to use much more powerful abilities?
The Original Storyline With a Mercenary Twist
The attention to detail in that regard is showcased by the new mercenary hero cards.
They all wear Dungeon Set 1
- a fact that indicates how many end-game dungeon runs the two mercenary groups must have completed by the time they’ve entered Alterac Valley!
Other than Hearthstone’s exclusive main characters, everything in and around Alterac Valley stays just like it ever was.
leads the Frostwolf orcs while
tries to defend his dwarven expedition sites. Both
hold the front positions of their factions, and even
join the fray!
Another great addition to Hearthstone is the introduction of the Honor system. In essence, players are able to choose a side in the fight for Alterac Valley. As Horde or Alliance players, they will be able to collect
Honor points and rank up by playing Hearthstone
! The Honor system is yet another great implementation of a parallel progression track and will reward players with golden cards - Rank 14 players will even be able to collect their legendary faction leader card in gold!
The Scarlet Crusade ... in Alterac Valley?!
The only curve ball of the upcoming card set is
Saidan the Scarlet
. Once a founding member of the Knights of the Silver Hand, this noble paladin became a puppet of the dreadlord Balnazzar. From then on, Saidan Dathrotan has led the Scarlet Crusade. But how did Saidan get to Alterac Valley, all the way from the Scarlet Bastion of Stratholme?
In general, Hearthstone hides a ton of useful information in the flavor text. The text for Sadan's card reads as follows:
An orc mage accidentally kited him all the way from Stratholme.
While the developers confirm the fact that Saidan came from Stratholme in this version of the Warcraft universe, his motives remain entirely unknown. In addition to that, Hearthstone's canonical doesn’t feature any named orc mages.
What we do know, though, is that a noticeable amount of WoW players dream of a World of Warcraft expansion that dives deep into the lore of the Scarlet Crusade. This storyline features one of Warcraft’s most popular and mysterious tales, and a whole expansion around it would let players return to solve more “worldly” problems compared to the cosmic nature of issues introduced with the Shadowlands expansion.
We also know how Team 2 loves to tease future expansion with the introduction of
weird-looking mounts long before release
. Could this card be Team 5’s version of a teaser for upcoming World of Warcraft content?
The Best Expansion of All Time?
As stupefyingly long as this copium-filled stretch might be: Hearthstone and World of Warcraft are closer than they have ever been. The story formula of exclusive Hearthstone characters being merged into classic Warcraft storylines around iconic characters like Onyxia or Edwin VanCleef works on both ends:
WoW experts end up like Leonardo DiCaprio in his chair, pointing at all the new but somehow familiar expansion cards, while Hearthstone players cannot wait to see the ending to what has already become Hearthstone’s greatest storyline since its release in 2014. And while Fractured in Alterac Valley as well as the Year of the Gryphon might have initially relied on Warcraft’s safest story bet in the form of its classic faction conflict, it has eventually turned into a fully-fleshed Warcraft experience that will be appreciated by many different Blizzard communities alike.
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