Rise of Shadows: Dalaran in Hearthstone's Alternative Universe
In the last couple of years, Hearthstone went from a funny Warcraft franchise spin-off to becoming a true alternative universe of World of Warcraft.
Hearthstone’s upcoming expansion Rise of Shadows looks to be the pinnacle of Warcraft fan service in card game form, including hommages to old friends, portrayal of current storylines and foreshadowing in regards to upcoming WoW content.
Rafaam and the League of E.V.I.L.
The general storyline of Rise of Shadows looks as followed: Arch-Thief Rafaam, Supreme Archeologist and main villain, looks to pull off the heist of a lifetime. Together with the League of E.V.I.L, which includes four antagonists of older Hearthstone expansions, he wants to steal Dalaran’s most precious artifacts and relics.
Hagatha from the Witchwood, Dr. Boom from Boomsday Project, Madame Lazul from Whispers of the Old Gods and King Togwaggle from Kobolds and Catacombs all unite and follow Rafaam’s call to rob the Kirin Tor and the citizens of the mage capital.
Therefore, all nine Hearthstone classes will be divided into good and evil. While Shamans, Warriors, Priests, Rogues and Warlocks will support Rafaam’s evil plans, Mages, Hunters, Paladins and Druids are bound to protect the city of Dalaran. Despite the very polarizing split between classes that almost looks like the division between factions, It should still be noted that the new game board shows signs of a time before Legion and Battle for Azeroth. The dusk lillies planted all over the board for example imply that the Nightborne still have influence within Dalaran, which they would have lost after joining the Horde after Legion.
The Defenders of Dalaran
This distribution of classes allows to introduce several classic figures of Azerothian history that have either done good or evil - or both!
The Mage class, for example, will feature two incredibly important characters of Warcraft lore:
. And that makes total sense! The city of Dalaran is full of mages, Kirin Tor or not, and the Mage class in Hearthstone should reflect the fact that mostly magic will be used to defend the city limits.
As the past has shown, both members of the current Council of Six have huge interest in the well-being of Dalaran and its citizens. However, Khadgar in particular bailed on the players at the end of Legion, as he preferred to continue his studies in Karazhan instead of getting involved with the conflict that is now the Battle for Azeroth.
Most the expansion's storyline will unfold when the single-player campaign launches a few weeks after launch, and it will be very interesting to see how these two powerful mage characters, who very recently didn’t have that much influence on Warcraft history, will play out.
Vereesa and Rhyssa - Alliance Blood Elves and Gnome Paladins?
Two other defending classes that received quite the heavy lore hitters are Hunter and Paladin. First, there is
, one of two Hunter legendary cards.
Compared to Alleria and Sylvanas, the youngest of three Windrunner sisters went through quite an evolution herself. Just recently, a comic called
shed light on the current whereabouts of Vereesa and her sisters.
Unlike Alleria and Sylvanas, Vereesa is still a high elf. Typical for her kin, she never really connected with a lot of other factions. The blood elves in particular have always been a thorn in the side of the Windrunner family. That is why Vereesa founded the Silver Covenant during the Wrath of the Lich King to protect the Alliance from the blood elves who decided to join the Horde.
In Three Sisters, the trio infernale reunites again for the first time in ages. While travelling to their home in Quel’Thalas, Windrunner Spire, Vereesa admits to her siblings that she changed her mind about the blood elves, and that she hopes to see them rejoin the Alliance soon.
Back to Hearthstone’s Vereesa Windrunner. Her card text implies the use of a bow, and that is not your everyday kind of bow, it is indeed
Thori’dal, the Stars’ Fury
. And that is where Hearthstone’s and Warcraft’s universes align: There is common speculation that this legendary bow once was wielded by none less than blood elf leader
, Ranger-General of Silvermoon.
Could Thori’dal be a present by Halduron to prove his friendship to Vereesa? Should it be interpreted as some sort of peace-offering between Quel’dorei and Sin’dorei? And why are there multiple Sunreaver blood elf cards but none for the Silver Covenant despite the fact that the Sunreavers got kicked out by Jaina Proudmoore during the Purge of Dalaran?
As shown through this particular card, Hearthstone knows how to walk the thin line between randomly rewriting characters stories and printing arbitrary depictions of important parts of Warcraft history.
The same goes for Commander Rhyssa, a new Paladin legendary card. The card art shows a gnome on a mechano-strider, defending Dalaran in the background. But after taking a closer look at Rhyssa’s attire and gesture, it seems that she is indeed a Gnome Paladin!
In current World of Warcraft, gnomes can’t be paladins. The reasons behind that decision are unclear, because there is plenty of evidence that gnomes do worship the light, and they can choose to become priests as well.
Back when Hearthstone’s last expansion Rastakhan’s Rumble got released, players immediately identified the art of
a card named Immortal Prelate as a Zandalari Paladin
. Shortly after, the Zandalari Allied Race got introduced, and with it the ability for them to choose the Paladin class.
Does Commander Rhyssa foreshadow the future of Gnome Paladins in World of Warcraft? Maybe. Will we see a whole lot of gnome-focussed content in the near future of Blizzard’s MMO? Most definitely.
The introduction of Mechagon in patch 8.2, a mega-dungeon just like Karazhan
, points at the development of the gnome race and storyline. To allow gnomes to become warriors of the Holy Light might sound like a big stretch at the moment; however, we have seen Hearthstone’s alternative universe make a huge impact on WoW storytelling in the recent past.
Alternative Universe, But Still Different
Despite all the enormous character inclusions, Hearthstone’s Rise of Shadows doesn’t forget where it came from: First and foremost it takes an alternative and light-hearted approach to the past and current landscape of Warcraft.
The Shaman legendary
, for example, could trigger serious flashbacks for both Alliance and Horde players, as him and his murlocs may served as the first contact with the iconic tribe.
The neutral card Azerite Elemental clearly hints at the current BfA storyline based around the precious resource, and it could very well become a staple in spell-damage-based decks.
Another neutral card called Soldier of Fortune shows an elemental made out of coins, very similar to
, a boss in Battle for Azeroth’s current raid Battle for Dazar’Alor.
Apart from that, we see countless untroubled reimaginations of Dalaran-based characters like
Fel Lord Betrug
. If you want to read more about other Legendary cards like
, the Day of the Dead NPC or
, the Toy Vendor,
you can check out the extended lore guide by our sister site hearthstonetopdecks.com
The Warcraft Journey Continues
Like many expansions before, Rise of Shadows serves as proof that both Hearthstone and World of Warcraft nowadays go similar ways in terms of general storytelling. The practice of cross-franchising is no longer limited to the use of a single storyline; it’s actually quite the opposite, as Hearthstone and its search for identity both as an online card game and a part of the Blizzard franchise demonstrates.
Over Time, Team 5 learned to find their way of paying tribute to their storytelling ancestors while gaining more and more influence on the World of Warcraft by putting things in perspective within their alternative Warcraft universe.
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