The Journey to Un’goro has finished, and the setting of Hearthstone’s newest expansion takes place in the wide ranges of Northrend.
The Knights of the Frozen Throne thematizes one of Warcraft’s most iconic showplaces. It all started with the expansion of a game called Warcraft III, The Frozen Throne, in which Arthas, obsessed with the power of the runeblade Frostmourne, seeks to assist and eventually to become the Lich King.
In World of Warcraft, the expansion Wrath of the Lich King showcases the terrible aftermath of Arthas’ reign of terror. Sitting on the Frozen Throne in Icecrown Citadel, he mustered numerous foul creatures to defend the last bastion of the Scourge.
History repeats itself
Looking at other highly anticipated expansion releases like Curse of Naxxramas and One Night in Karazhan, one can safely say that the lion’s share of new cards will originate from the storyline in and around the WoW raid-dungeon Icecrown Citadel.
This week, the long awaited card reveals for the new expansion have started. Which important characters were introduced, and how close is their card design to the incredible lore of Northrend?
Back in Icecrown Citadel, the leader of the San’layn protected the Sanctum of Blood. After being raised from the dead by the Lich King himself, Blood-Queen Lana'thel dedicated herself to the school of Blood Magic. In the raid encounter, players needed to defend themselves against vampiric attacks and blood curses.
After its reveal, this card has stirred a lot of discussion within the community. Blizzard decided to print it as a Warlock legendary, which, looking at the lore, seems fitting. However, the card effect that synergizes with other Discard cards and effects in the Warlock’s deck seems too weak and unreliable in the current card state. Several pros like Brian Kibler however stated how good this card could be in the right deck.
The card also represents the newly introduced Lifesteal keyword, and which character could leech life energy off their foes better than the Blood-Queen herself? Looking back to her toolkit during the fight in Icecrown Citadel, the design of this card just feels right when it comes to the character’s fantasy.
After freeing Valithria, Sindragosa awaits in the depths of Frostwing Halls. The allmightiest of frost wyrms perfectly embodies the prototype of the undead dragon in the Warcraft universe
Many players have been demanding a legendary Dragon for Mages only, and they have finally been heard. Team 5 decided to pair the usual 8/8 body for 8 mana with a powerful battlecry: Sindragosa summons two 0/1 Frozen Champions that each draw a random Legendary Card after they die.
This draw effect may seem somewhat random, but the fantasy behind these tokens is both appealing and accurate. In Icecrown Citadel, Sindragosa used an ability called Ice Tomb to entomb players (often referred as “champions” by enemy bosses); the rest of the raid needed to hide behind these tombs to survive the deadly damage of Sindragosa’s Frost Bombs.
Again, the card text showcases Sindragosa’s core fantasy as a deadly frost wyrm. A lot of fan-driven card suggestions have been evolving around that fascinating dragon since the release of Hearthstone, and it is great to see that the developers put so much thought into this very creative card.
Professor Putricide, Festergut and Rotface
This trio infernale is located in the depths of the Plagueworks wing in Icecrown Citadel. Professor Putricide, the maddest of Scourge scientists, has been conducting more than condemnable experiments in his laboratory, crowned by the creation of the two abominations Festergut and Rotface. According to Blizzard’s released information, Putricide’s adventure encounter will, similar to the raid encounter back in the day, evolve around creating different potions with his hero power
After the card reveal of Putricide it became apparent that Team 5 decided to make him the first non-Beast Hunter Legendary minion. The card effect, which puts a random secret on the battlefield after the Hunter played a secret, seems to bring a lot of new possibilities to build a secret-heavy Hunter archetype.
Lorewise, Professor Putricide has nothing to do with the Hunter class. He is no Beast, and the abominations he created are no Beasts either. However, he belongs to a loose group that lore experts call “mad scientists”.
These undead alchemists represent one of the best secret-related cards in Hearthstone history, and that is most likely where the connection to Hunter came from. In this case, the designers decided to put the “classical” lore approach aside and took the history of their own game as an example for this card. What matters in the end is that the card looks very promising and therefore is good news for … well, Hunters! (<- “Good news, everyone!” is a Putricide quote and one of the most memorable quotes in WoW history)
Prince Taldaram and Prince Keleseth
Just like Blood-Queen Lana’thel, Prince Taldaram and Prince Keleseth lead the San’layn who created the faction of the Darkfallen, a group of undead blood-elves that pledged allegiance to the Frozen Throne.
In Icecrown Citadel, these two and their brother Prince Valanar formed the Blood Council. The three brothers protected the way up to the Blood-Queen in the Crimson Hall. The interesting part about the development of these characters back in the day was the fact that they appeared throughout the progression of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. In fact, all three of them got killed by players themselves at different locations only to be resurrected to fight for the Lich King.
During the raid encounter, each of the three represented a different elemental damage component. Valanar used kinetic bombs and shock vortices, Taldaram conjured flames and glittering sparks, and Keleseth hurled Shadow Bolts at the raid. Sadly, this kind of elemental trinity has been discarded by the developers. But this doesn’t mean that Team 5 didn’t come up with another creative design idea
The reveal of Taldaram and Keleseth shows a new card concept that involves decks not having certain mana-cost cards in them. Keleseth gives all minions +1/+1 if the deck doesn’t contain 2-mana cards, and Taldaram transforms into a 3/3 copy of a chosen minion if you built your deck without 3-mana cards.
Although it is very sad to see that Team 5 didn’t follow the Darkfallen theme as they did with Lana’thel, it is refreshing to see a new mechanic that promotes creative deck-building. The reveal of Valanar is yet to come, and looking at the fact that he is the oldest of the three brothers, his “don’t build your deck with x-mana cards” effect could surely become the most powerful of the three.
So many possibilities
Blizzard has the unique chance to reimagine the golden days of one of the most iconic expansions in World of Warcraft’s history. It defined a lot of how the Warcraft franchise is perceived up to this day, and riding the wave of the electrifying Lich King storyline lets players relive the unique feeling of fighting their way through Icecrown Citadel.
The lore behind the Frozen Throne in Icecrown Citadel is a great addition to the existing sets of Hearthstone. It seems that both new and existing mechanics like Lifesteal and Freeze really showcase the core fantasy behind the servants of the Lich King, and one can only hope that the newly released cards will match their glorious counterparts.