The Year of the Raven’s Third Expansion – What Lies Ahead?

The meta is stale, the ladder climb becomes more and more cumbersome, and you know every card’s voice lines by heart – that is when we know it’s about time for a new expansion!

Speculations around the theme of 2018’s last expansion are numerous, and the gossip factory is working overtime: From Trolls to Naga, from Ogres to Pirates; almost every tribe of the Warcraft universe has a shot at defining the fantasy behind the third expansion in the Year of the Raven. We tried to collect all hints and suggestion to give you a possible outlook about what is to come!

First off, let us once again take a look at the teaser from 2017 where Blizzard showcased the upcoming Year of the Raven:


With two expansions already released, there’s only one last image left for interpretation; prior to this, the guessing game has been hard, but not impossible. Nobody really had Gilneas and its Witchwood on the map when it came to the first expansion of the Standard year; however, our predictions came pretty close regarding the second expansion, The Boomsday Project, taking place in Netherstorm.

Looking at the portrayal of the third expansion, the community has only been stabbing around in the dark so far. Given the details we have, what could be the most reasonable themes for the upcoming last expansion in the Year of the Raven?

Trolls – The “Obvious” Choice

The approach of a troll-themed expansion has been around since the beginnings of Hearthstone. Looking purely at the teaser, there are numerous signs of troll influence. First off, we can see some sort of white ornaments that resemble troll tusks and teeth. These ornaments look a lot like white warpaint as well, something that trolls use on their faces and bodies to show their tribe affiliation and power.

Another interesting detail could be the wooden planks in which the middle seal is inserted to. The rough structure, worn out by the humid jungle, combined with strong colors, is typical in both troll architecture and armament design. The Icon of Shadows, the troll’s racial crest and one of the most iconic pieces of art in World of Warcraft, perfectly showcase that artstyle:


But there’s more! The Darkspear card back, featuring the most well-known troll tribe, perfectly complements the teaser picture in both style and colors:


Even the teal inlays match! And do you see these golden outlines around the shields? Those can be found around the ornaments on the lower left and right of our teaser picture as well.

With those assumptions in mind, we can jump into details about a possible troll expansion with ease. Rich racial lore, lots of troll art and lore already in the game, and over 15 troll-related cards are available, ready to form the base of a new card tribe.

And then there is Vol’jin. Son of Sen’jin, Shadowhunter, Chieftain of the Darkspear Trolls, Ruler of the Echo Isles, and WARCHIEF OF THE HORDE. Does that sound good for a protagonist of a troll-themed expansion? I think it does, and if Dr. Boom can get the special Hero Card treatment, so can Vol’jin a hundred times more!

Naga – The Fan Favorite

Despite all the hints towards a troll theme, a lot of community members initially felt more of a “nautical” vibe when looking at the last picture of the teaser. And this vibe cannot be ignored! Fantasies around water, pirates and creatures of the sea play an important role in Warcraft. Hearthstone is no exclusion; as we all know and experienced many times in the early game, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan brought tons of mean pirates on board.

What’s missing though is a whole expansion revolving around the oceans of Azeroth and beyond. Looking at the teaser again, the wooden structure could have been worn out by the power of the seas, trying to protect the precious inside. The teal-colored gemstone resembles magical and mana-enriched water, regularly used by those who live beyond the surface. In fact, the naga and Lady Vashj, once highborne night elves, used water-related magic to fend off adventurers in Serpentshrine Cavern.
The red socket could be interpreted as some sort of coral material that tries to hold the magical water in place. Those types of green and red also showcase very common naga skin and scale colors.

The fascination with the naga and their history in Warcraft is a common theme when it comes to predicting new content in Warcraft franchises. Azshara, queen of the naga, plays a starring role in WoW’s newest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, and players can’t wait to see her influence on the ongoing conflict between Sylvanas and Anduin. And who wouldn’t like to see a Queen Azshara Hero Card for Mage? A named Naga Sea Witch with powers beyond imagination! Well, wild players would run away in fear, that’s for sure.

The mentioned fascination is going so far that fellow redditors tried to squeeze out every little hint to support their theories: User cut4chaox noticed an uncanny resemblance between the teaser image and a very famous raid encounter within the Serpentshrine Cavern called “The Lurker Below”:



Of course, this assumption is way too vague, but it shows how deeply some players are entwined with the naga fantasy. And despite all the guessing when it comes to new Warcraft content, one thing is for certain: The naga have been an under-represented group within the Warcraft universe, and the time would be more than ripe to showcase them with their  very own expansion!

Journey to Un’Goro – The Curveball

Trolls or naga. That doesn’t sound too bad after all, does it? Well, there is one more thing that came up in a random reddit thread months ago. Looking closely at the teaser image from early 2017, the art for the middle “socket and seal” looks exactly like the Journey to Un’Goro pack art:



What does that mean? Could it be that someone took the socket as some sort of placeholder art because no other art existed back then? Possible, but very unlikely; it’s Blizzard’s art department after all, and Journey to Un’Goro was not too far away back then.

A secret hint? Maybe. The Un’Goro pack art has amber inside the seal, and it’s possible that the seal in the teaser image could hold a similar structure as well, because even the little details within the seal look exactly the same.

No matter the reasoning behind their decision to put similar art assets into the teaser image, we still don’t know what to expect as an expansion theme. Sholazar Basin, a jungle in the midst of Northrend, shares several similarities to Un’Goro Crater and is often mentioned in regards to the art dilemma. But just another version of Journey to Un’Goro?

The community is torn, as it may be just a lazy move by the art department, but also the most obvious hint at the theme of the upcoming expansion.

Anything can happen

We learned one thing from the past: Third expansion are always very tough to guess. The developers only have a vague idea what it revolves around at the time of the beginning of a new Standard year, and the creators of possible teasers have to work with what they get.

The Year of the Raven is no exception, and the fan theories so far seem to lean towards a lore-heavy theme, which, after the crazy Boomsday Project and the creative Witchwood experience, could have definitely been the choice of Team 5. On the other side, both Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and Kobolds and Catacombs, the last two year’s third expansions,  showcased more “in-house” lore and fantasy.

May it be trolls, naga, or some crazy jungle theme produced by Team 5 alone, we are in for a very exciting and enlightening Blizzcon weekend!

Tharid

Julian "Tharid" Bischoff, a dinosaur in the fast-changing world of esports and self-proclaimed Warcraft expert, already created Hearthstone-related content for Red Bull, ESL and Hearthhead.

Check out Tharid on Twitter!

19 Comments

  1. Avenger
    October 29, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Why not trolls, naga, and pirates? The third expansion feels very Stranglethorn Valley to me.

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 29, 2018 at 9:28 am

      Trolls, naga, yes, but nobody wants more Pirates. Nobody. Right? 🙂

      Reply
      • Blur
        October 30, 2018 at 1:22 am

        Speak as yourself man many of us want them

        Reply
  2. RedFather
    October 29, 2018 at 3:51 am

    For me it looks like troll army is placed before some kind of gates and this could mean: https://wow.gamepedia.com/Zandalari_Troll_Wars

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 29, 2018 at 9:28 am

      A very brave interpretation to say the least! 🙂 Do you think that BfA and the focus on Zandalari wouldn’t be a limiting factor to this theory?

      Reply
    • nickus
      October 30, 2018 at 3:42 am

      Based on the last leak this seems to be the most accurate prediction so far.

      Reply
  3. Bloodstormqt
    October 28, 2018 at 10:13 am

    It’s a murloc eye if you look closely the red is the eye around the eye the war paint looking stuff is also very murlocy scales. Looks like a murloc eye to me the red eye.the greenish sea color soon and dash of white it even has bumps giving away at a face of aomeaort. Well that is my guess

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 29, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Interesting! Murlocs are a popular pick because many of them will be gone after the next Standard rotation. In my very honest opinion they should be gone for good, but I may or may not hold a century-old grudge against those pesky creatures. 🙂

      Reply
  4. ZEeoN
    October 28, 2018 at 4:29 am

    Un‘Goro was featured in WoW twice when it got flooded, so was Thousand Needles, so maybe we’ll also get to see „the curveball“ there and it will in fact have some troll or naga-related heroes, but it would not be unreasonable to assume that they want to introduce more mechs to get the somewhat failed synergy right or build upon the general vibe of Un‘Goro and maybe do something REALLY crazy like underwater and dinosaurs, I joked about „Hemet, Deep Sea Diver“ at one point.

    But who knows. I am still hoping for the „obvious“ troll expansion, maybe even with a troll priest as a character to replace anduin?
    I would really like that, especially cause anduin trolled people a LOT.
    It could also be related to Booty Bay and Stranglethorne, which is described as a harbor that is enclosed by mountains with only one opening and was once overrun by trolls, plus it is in the jungle. So Un‘Goro reuse of art = it has one entrance, it is in the jungle. Blue inlay = it is about water and planks and colorization = trolls?
    Plus, Murlocs and pirates feel at home in those two scenarios as well and a lot of good pirates left, Murlocs will almost all be gone after the rotation, so time for a refill there, too…

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 28, 2018 at 6:51 am

      You’re thinking about a post-cataclysmic Un’Goro? I can see that. Sholazar wanted to bring in that very iconic jungle vibe when it was released.

      I also really like your interpretation with the single entrance! 🙂

      Reply
  5. ResidentStandard
    October 28, 2018 at 3:23 am

    I just hope the legendaries will be meta defining, something that we can build a whole deck around (Reno Jackson-ish thinking)

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 28, 2018 at 6:39 am

      Do you think meta-defining legendaries are a good thing? Yes, Baku and Gennn are great examples, but cards like Shudderwock still dominate the meta to this day!

      Reply
      • ResidentStandard
        October 28, 2018 at 9:27 am

        Yes I do, new archetypes are in my opinion fun and refreshing for the game. Whether one needs a buff or nerf is on Blizzard.

        Reply
  6. Robert
    October 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Keep in mind it’s the year of the Raven, the epitome of auspiciousness (think Edgar Allen Poe), Witchwood obviously fell into that category, along with Boomsday and the Omega mechanic. For the next theme to be Troll related given their backstory and the Loa they worship, it’s seems the most appropriate. Hard to guess what exactly they will come up with but I have little doubt it’ll be related to shamanism and mysticism.

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 28, 2018 at 6:34 am

      Mystic fantasies form the backbone of Warcraft, while auspicious storylines have been added bit by bit over the years. I think it’s even more realistic that we’ll see a more lore-driven theme, just because expansion 1 and 2 have been that crazy!

      Reply
    • MilesTegF
      October 29, 2018 at 10:59 am

      mmm Trolls + Doom = Hakkar the soulflayer maybe? When we last saw him in Zul’Gurub 2.0
      He told us he would be back:

      -Hakkar destroys Jin’do, leaving behind a battered corpse.
      -Spirit of Hakkar yells: Be freed, insects. I will deal with you another time.
      -Hakkar returns the heroes back to the mortal realm

      So maybe he’ll be back, just not in wow but in hearthstone! Maybe even as a hero card (warlock or priest) and the expansion could be about Straglethorn jungle and Zul’Gurub

      Reply
  7. Ponery
    October 27, 2018 at 11:08 am

    http://imgur.com/gallery/sneKVwC

    I think it’s gorgrond.

    Reply
    • Tharid - Author
      October 28, 2018 at 6:30 am

      Great storytelling with those pictures! I could see that coming 🙂

      Reply
  8. Chieftain
    October 27, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Maybe the cliffs are the Highmountain area.. Overlooks Witchwood. Got Taurens and Totems.. Pretty sure tho, tht the speculations about the Trolls are true.. Senjin is a Witch doctor after all.. And. There’s even (kazak’us) potions in the teaser picture

    Reply

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