United in Stormwind - Hearthstone Recreates what WoW is All About
The last two weeks have been draining for both Blizzard fans and employees. However, that didn’t keep Team 5 from staying on track regarding the release of 2021’s second Hearthstone set.
United in Stormwind
continues the year-long narrative of the Mercenaries after both adventurer groups had their stories established during the story of the Horde-centric Forged in the Barrens expansion.
The second stop of the Year of the Gryphon sets the stage in Stormwind, capital of the Alliance and one of the most lore-heavy cities in all of Azeroth. Players will be able to reshape the meta with a total of 135 new cards and two brand-new keywords - and not only that! Team 5 decided to shed light on the golden history of the Alliance by showcasing Stormwind - and thus, World of Warcraft - in its most glorious days.
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
Questlines Tell the Story
What has been the driving force of original storytelling in World of Warcraft?
That’s right - quests! Hearthstone’s development takes the most important page out of its “primary source” and introduces
cards as one of the new mechanics of the expansion.
For each class and its representing mercenary, Team 5 designed a
unique multi-card questline
. Each part of the threefold questline, which starts by playing a 1-mana spell, has its own objective and triggers the next part. Once the player completes all three quests, they’re rewarded with a powerful minion version of the respective class mercenary.
The concept of quests isn’t new to Hearthstone. With Journey to Un'Goro, Team 5 introduced
legendary 1-mana Quest spells
that enabled unique, class-exclusive effects bound to a certain objective - all that while telling the story of one of the protagonists through its card art.
Compared to 2017’s quest cards, questlines feel like a natural evolution in both design and story-telling. It is nothing less but astounding how a series of four cards is able to narrate the saga of a Hearthstone character.
, Mage mercenary and Hearthstone’s first non-binary character, finds themself in the Stockades after a defeat against the Horde mercenary group in the Barrens. There they find Scabbs Cutterbutter, the Rogue mercenary. As shown in the Rogue questline, The SI:7 agent supposedly unmasked the deception behind
- better known as
- and has been sent to prison as a result. Together, they escape the Stockades as Varden opens up a portal to Silvermoon.
Why exactly did they choose the blood elf capital as their destination? Did Scabbs go with Varden? How will the story around Onyxia unfold?
We all know how Onyxia’s story came to an end - and the question as to how Team 5 decides to tell their version of the brilliant story around Deathwing’s daughter and the Wrynn family remains unanswered for now. However, we can already be sure that, together with the lore-heavy Book of Mercenaries single-player campaigns,
questlines will heavily increase the quality of the overall story experience during the Year of the Gryphon
Tradeable - A Capital Keyword
Now back to the original World of Warcraft experience: Who doesn’t remember their first visit to one of the faction capitals back in the day? For many WoW players in the 2000s, entering Stormwind for the first time surely has been one of the most memorable experiences.
And yet, besides all the music, architecture, and nostalgic feelings, players most likely visited Stormwind for terribly mundane reasons.
First and foremost, almost all players needed further training from their class trainers in Stormwind. As a result, several of the original class trainers such as
can be found as legendary class cards, supporting the fantasy of seeking guidance in mastering your class.
Besides class training, crafters to this day need to visit capital cities to hone their skills. To add this nuance of Stormwind’s craftsmen history, several crafting tools such as the Leatherworking Kit or the Prismatic Jewel Kit found their way into the new expansion.
Last but not least, Team 5 decided to materialize one of Stormwind’s main sources of publicity and wealth: Trade!
cards maximize the potential of Hearthstone as a digital card game by adding the option to shuffle a card with the new keyword back into your deck for just 1 mana. Players not only get a random card from their deck back in return but also experience yet another natural evolution of Blizzard’s card game.
The Tradeable keyword tackles one of Hearthstone’s core issues: Dead cards. Some cards have no use at the time they are drawn, and that again always turns into a bad gameplay experience - no matter what class or deck the player is piloting. With United of Stormwind, deck-building decisions around situationally dead cards such as the weapon-destroying powerhouse Rustrot Viper are made much easier for players of all calibers.
WoW and Hearthstone - United through Stormwind
To set the Stormwind stage in Hearthstone is not an easy task, especially during the hectic times of the Third War. Several historical arcs have happened in that particular time frame - but Team 5 doesn’t shy away from injecting their mercenaries narrative into one of Warcraft’s most beloved cityscapes.
What seems to become the main storyline around
, the Warlock mercenary, opening a portal to summon Anetheron and unleashing the Burning Legion, doesn’t need to hide behind other spectacular Warcraft tales of the time.
The same goes for
search for the mysterious naaru shards she had a vision about in her Book of Mercenaries single-player campaign. A naaru that crashed over the Barrens, and multiple factions hunting for its remains? Including the
Burning Blade clan
, the Shadow Council, Katrana Prestor, and a crazed Zandalari troll named
, who has been suspected to be an ancient dragon ever since the release of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan? Well, that definitely sounds like old-school Warcraft!
Looking at the general design direction of United in Stormwind, it seems that gameplay and storytelling go hand in hand to paint a multi-dimensional picture within a digital card game. A common issue in World of Warcraft over the last years, according to countless community members and content creators, has been the sacrifice of story for the benefit of gameplay.
For many WoW players, United in Stormwind might be just another Hearthstone expansion, but it is safe to say that Team 5 realized what the Warcraft universe is really all about: Its incredible story.
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