There’s a reason I decided to make the Hearthbrawl series, a reason why every week I show you the current brawl and my misadventures in completing quests while taking part in them.
It’s because I love Hearthstone. And I’ve come to realise that my love for the game is not in its mechanics—or not just. It’s not the cards themselves, their abilities, the combinations I can think of in decks—which aren’t that many to be honest. It’s not the ladder or the competitive scene. It’s not even because it pulls at that part of me that played Magic the Gathering, Pokemon TCG, World of Warcraft TCG and even Star Wars TCG.
It’s how whimsical it is.
World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Heroes of the Storm and even Overwatch are all very serious worlds. Yes, there’s humour and in abundance, but the stories and characters take themselves seriously. Hearthstone breaks that mold with its endless whimsy. Blizzard mocks itself, the tropes it has established over the years and even the players with every card, ever draw and even more with every expansion.
Hearthstone was born from the teams looking to do something in between development of the major intellectual properties, having time off to work on personal projects. It was born of Blizzard’s love for games like Magic the Gathering, of hours spent creating decks and playing with them. And it was also born of their obvious love for the wold of Azeroth, in which they’ve lived for more than twenty years.
One of my favourite things to do in Hearthstone is not playing the cards but to go through the collection and read the flavour texts for them. They are all silly and play with established characters and concepts. Ragnaros The Lightlord, from the Whispers of the Old Gods set has become one of my favourites:
“What happens when you try and corrupt a corrupt firelord? DOUBLE NEGATIVE, INSECT!”
Deathwing, a character I absolutely adore from the World of Warcraft lore has a fantastic flavour text in his card:
“Once a noble dragon known as Neltharion, Deathwing lost his mind and shattered Azeroth before finally being defeated. Daddy issues?”
And these are just two of the legendary cards, those based on big lore characters, even if some are rather obscure for most people—not many know of Aviana. Below you’ll find a gallery with some of my favourites, the ones that make me laugh every time I read them. Some of them are just that wonderfully silly Blizzard humour that I’ve grown to love over the years, and the others are funnier to me because much like Blizzard, I love the world of Warcraft. I am a giant lore buff when it comes to Azeroth and beyond. I dig the stories, the universe, even and perhaps especially when it becomes extremely silly. In Hearthstone, it feels as if Blizzard acknowledges and pokes fun at this. It feels like an inside joke shared with lore fans.
Beyond the game, there’s more proof of this playful and whimsical approach to things when it comes to Hearthstone and I’m of course referring to the promotional material for expansions. In no other Blizzard properties will you find sing-along trailers with funky beats and hilarious lyrics. The expansions have glorious press releases, “in-universe” descriptions that somehow sound sincere and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. Just read the ones for the latest adventure, and you’ll see what I mean.
Speaking of which, I will never tire of hearing the song for the latest adventure, One Night in Karazhan. This adventure is in itself another proof of Blizzard’s whimsy approach at both celebrating and mocking the world they created.
For those of who you aren’t into World of Warcraft, Karazhan is the tower of Medivh, a very powerful mage who died during the events of Warcraft I—yeah, back in the RTS days. While he was the Guardian of the world, the most powerful mage ever, he was also corrupted, the spirit of the Dark Titan Sargeras possessing him from birth. After his death, the tower was abandoned, inhabited only by his magical creations and the ghosts and undead versions of his guests and staff. It was a raid during one of WoW’s expansions. And if you’ve played Warcraft III—yes, back in the RTS days—then you’ll recognise Medivh as the oracle you meet at several points in the game, with a particular big entrance in the opening cinematic when he comes to warn the human kingdoms.
But instead of portraying Karazhan as the gloomy and dangerous place it really is, Hearthstone turns it into party central, with Medivh inviting everyone to come join him and have fun in the tower with him. There’s music, life-sized chess, hot tubs and drinks, and anything can happen for One Night in Karazhan.
For WoW players and Warcraft fans, how can you not love this take on the lore? I love seeing Medivh not as a tragic character at the center of so many awesome stories, but as the host of the biggest and craziest bash of the year, where everyone is invited.
Hearthstone is a fantastic game, but for me it’s more than just mechanics, fun decks and some zany Tavern Brawls. It’s proof of how special something can be when you put passion into it.
And perhaps I’m the only one who sees it this way, but it’s a celebration of the world of Warcraft and its long history, but without ever taking itself seriously, wrapping it all in that wonderful Blizzard humour we’ve grown to love as much as the universes they create.