Wailing Caverns Mini-Set - Hearthstone Runs a WoW Dungeon!
While World of Warcraft players have made their way through the Dark Portal yet again with the release of The Burning Crusade Classic, Hearthstone keeps it the “real Classic way” and further explores the wilderness of the Barrens.
With the year’s first mini-set called Wailing Caverns, the Forged in the Barrens expansion introduces Hearthstone players to WoW’s original dungeon experience located in the heart of the Horde leveling zone.
We take a good look at Hearthstone’s brand-new content released with
including new cards and the fascinating lore implications of
Xyrella’s Book of Mercenaries single-player adventure
I'm Tharid, a writer for Wowhead's sister site Hearthstone Top Decks, and I'll be covering the new content around Hearthstone's mini-set Wailing Caverns and Patch 20.4. If you want to check out the most recent news about the expansion, head over to hearthstonetopdecks.com!
Wailing Caverns - The Obvious Mini-Set Choice
For the Hearthstone community, the setting of Forged in the Barren’s mini-set doesn’t come as a surprise.
This year’s general storyline telling the tale of Warcraft’s original faction conflict and a group of Hearthstone-exclusive characters called the Mercenaries already hinted towards a very adventure-centric approach. And not enough: The fact that said Mercenaries group consists of five Alliance and five Horde adventurers essentially gave away that the
Wailing Caverns dungeon
will be featured as this year’s first “expansion in an expansion”.
However, players already expecting the dungeon to provide the setting of a possible mini-set still didn’t know how Team 5 would engage with the classical WoW dungeon experience. In this case, the official trailer answers this question in the well-known Hearthstone-fashioned way:
The mercenaries group around
are confronted by nobody other than
Archdruid Hamuul Runetotem
What's even more surprising though is
that Guff is, in fact, Hamuul's great-nephew
. We knew Guff's last name for quite a while, but an affiliation with the elite druid clan wasn't confirmed until the release of the trailer.
This major lore update stands as a perfect example to Team 5's honest approach not only regarding the Wailing Caverns mini-set but their plan to include the mercenaries storylines into canonical Warcraft lore - and we will learn even more about these as soon as we talk about Xyrella's Book of Mercenaries single-player adventure.
Dungeon Bosses and Adventurers
Besides the mercenaries themselves, a quick look at the four new legendary cards featured in Wailing Caverns shows that the developers definitely succeeded with painting a true picture of the Barrens “super-dungeon”:
While the chosen effects for
stay true to their original characters in World of Warcraft,
card text steals the cake. Hearthstone's Dormant is one of the very few keywords that work outside of expansion context, and the fact that only a handful of Dormant cards exist shows how special playing Naralex should feel from a gameplay standpoint. In addition to that, the second part of the effect that adds one of
Ysera's Dream cards
to your hand completes the fantasy behind the druid that tried to reach into the Emerald Dream but only found a nightmare instead.
But not only Wailing Cavern's story protagonists are featured in the mini-set -
in fact, we, the players, play a starring role as well
A majority of the new cards will summon or interact with so-called "Adventurers". Warcraft experts know that players have always been called adventurers in canonical lore, and Hearthstone uses that fact to expand the dungeon experience even further. The 2-mana 2/2 adventurer tokens spawn with random keywords, showcasing the many different archetypes and playstyles of real players provided by class choice, specialization, and gameplay.
Xyrella's Book of Mercenaries - A Certain Lady and the Shard of a Naaru
Patch 20.4, besides Wailing Caverns, also introduced
the second chapter of Book of Mercenaries
Just like Book of Heroes, Hearthstone's first attempt at a character-driven single-player adventure mode, BoM focuses on the ten mercenaries and their origin stories that will evolve during the Year of the Gryphon.
You may ask yourself: Why are we talking about a small single-player update?
First of all, we have already learned that Book of Mercenaries is used as a story vehicle just like expansions and mini-sets. And while Forged in the Barrens and Wailing Caverns take a look at the Horde side of things, Xyrella's Book of Mercenaries chapter provides the Alliance perspective of a year-long faction storyline.
, the Priest mercenary, shares her fate as a draenei and servant of the Light. Once a student of
himself, she is now trying to save her daughter who fell into a coma after the
crashed on Azeroth.
During her nightly prayer, Xyrella caught sight of a mystical object in the sky. It instantly exploded, and what the draenei call The Night of Falling Stars from there on provided the desperate priest with a holy vision. In that vision, she saw the naaru Mi'da, a holy entity of the Light, who said:
I am Mi'da, Pure Light. gather my pieces. Reform me. Only I have the power to save your daughter's life.
Enlightened by the naaru, Xyrella makes her way into the Barrens to find salvation after the death of her beloved husband, the crystal parts of Mi'da, and a cure for her daughter.
HEY, WATCH OUT! BOOK OF MERCENARIES SPOILERS AHEAD!
Over the course of eight encounters, Xyrella and a certain dwarf called
, the Hunter mercenary, fight their way through Horde territory. They follow the vision of the priest and reach Sludge Fen, the oil rig controlled by a group of Venture Co. goblins. While fighting a menacing mech engine that seems to hold one of the crystals, yet another mercenary joins the fray: The gnome rogue
After they've defeated the mech and are about to leave the scene, a certain orc called
appears to steal the crystal. In an epic encounter, the Alliance mercenaries eventually manage to rout the elite assassin. Throughout the final dialogue, we learn that not only the Horde holds an interest in regards to the crystals: A certain lady called
, "King Varian's top advisor", ordered several Alliance mercenaries, including Tavish and Scabbs, to retrieve the naaru pieces.
More Part of the Universe than Parallel Universe
Now, what does that all mean?
First of all, we learn that this year's storyline plays during the aftermath of the Third War, one of the most fascinating and original time frames in all of Azeroth's history. Additionally, the fact that Katrana Prestor, also known as Deathwing's daughter Onyxia, investigates the death of a naaru truly reads like a tale of epic Warcraft proportions.
While the Horde mercenaries try to level up in the Wailing Caverns, the Alliance part of the group uncovers something big - so big that really no other released Hearthstone event tied to Warcraft lore compares to it.
Over the last years, we've come to the conclusion that Team 5 tries to establish a parallel Hearthstone storyline in the Warcraft universe. A narcissistic goblin doctor, a dim-witted archeologist with a mustache - these were the Hearthstone characters we had to work with in the past. But dying naaru and evil-plotting black dragons? That reads like canonical Warcraft lore!
The Wailing Caverns mini-set, despite the fact that we're talking about WoW's beginner dungeon, oozes with Warcraftian epicness and certainly lacks the usual Hearthstone goofball approach. That trend is continued by Xyrella's Book of Mercenaries, where Hearthstone's writers seem to build up an authentic Warcraft story experience.
No matter what Hearthstone's year-long storyline may have in store for us from here - this patch already set the premise for a great adventure that feels like it truly belongs into the Warcraft universe as we know it.
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