Ragnaros, Lightlord was revealed by IGN last week. While there are the usual comments and threads diving right into how powerful this minion may or may not be, the Warcraft lore fans are significantly more interested in how one of the most infamous villains of Azeroth became a defender of the light. Ragnaros is one of four Elemental Lords - all of whom we’ve seen in Hearthstone except for Therazane. These are the former leaders of the Old Gods’ elemental armies and they wielded incredible power. Once freed from servitude to the Old Gods’ (who were banished by the Titans), they turned on each other, and started finding ways back to Azeroth to fulfill their own evil schemes. In short, these are some supremely evil monsters.
When I started playing Hearthstone in the beta, Ragnaros the Firelord was the first Legendary I set my sights on to acquire. Once the game went live, the Firelord was the first Legendary I crafted - yes, I have terrible pack opening luck, but that doesn’t diminish how important this card was to me as a newcomer to the tavern. Much of the importance I placed on Ragnaros was because, to me, he was the quintessential raid boss in World of Warcraft. Before Garrosh Hellscream, Deathwing, Arthas, Illidan Stormrage, or Kel'Thuzad, Ragnaros was the ultimate face of evil and power for millions of players.
So what gives? Why is Blizzard bathing one of my favorite villains in Holy Light? When Ben Brode and Yong Woo revealed the Old Gods expansion a few weeks back there was a heavy emphasis on corrupting existing cards. The Hearthstone team wanted to take many popular cards and infuse them with the evil (and many purple tentacles) of the Old Gods. But as Brode pointed out in the IGN reveal “The problem is, Ragnaros is already a terribly evil Elemental Lord. So we went the other way with it and explored what he might look like if he were ‘uncorrupted.’” While I feel this is a perfectly fine explanation of how we ended up here, many players are still focusing on the lore of Warcraft and wondering why Hearthstone is playing fast and loose with it’s canon. Should we even be talking about Warcraft’s lore though? I think we should be discussing the dawning of Hearthstone lore.
At it’s launch, Hearthstone stood almost entirely in the shadow of World of Warcraft from a lore aspect. Just about every card was based off a monster, hero, or spell that could be found in Blizzard’s MMO (a trend that continued in the first two Adventures). However, as time went on Hearthstone found it’s own voice within Warcraft. Goblins vs Gnomes made a statement early in Hearthstone’s life that it would be a game with a strong focus on fun and humor. The Grand Tournament told the story of what happened to the tournament grounds after Arthas’s fall. Last November, League of Explorers brought a semi-original cast of characters and told a story that (for the first time in Hearthstone’s history) was not beholden to an existing raid or dungeon that already existed in World of Warcraft. Even before any of this we had Garrosh fighting Gul'dan, who was long dead before Garrosh was in the picture.
Why is Ragnaros, Lightlord any different than the original spins Blizzard has already put on Warcraft? I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Hearthstone sculpt it’s own image since launch. Ben Brode recently tweeted that “Whispers of the Old Gods (if not all of Hearthstone) is definitely a "What If?" take on Warcraft lore.” Hearthstone itself is supposed to be a card game that exists and is played within Azeroth. The idea of some Azerothian denizens sitting shoulder to shoulder in the Silvermoon City Inn (Anar'alah to my fellow Blood Elves out there!) discussing how awesome it would be if Ragnaros picked up a shield and fought an Old God Pacific Rim-style tickles me a murloc-shade of pink.
Perhaps it’s the Paladin-lover in me, but I welcome our new friendly neighborhood overlord. I like that Hearthstone has been around long enough to have it’s own history that Blizzard can play with and turn on it’s head. And if I ever feel my old villain isn’t being respected I can take solace in the fact that if it ever comes down to O.G. Rag versus the new lawful good Rag on the board, Lightlord Rag will have to sacrifice himself to defeat the Firelord but the original Ragnaros has the potential to win the encounter while still standing.