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!