Blizzard hasn’t exactly made it a secret that the next Hearthstone expansion will take place inside Blackrock Mountain. There’s currently a Lava Surger bouncing around the game’s website, as well as cryptic tweets coming from the official account. It makes sense, Blackrock Mountain has housed some of the most beloved content in Warcraft history, and a WoW-themed card game doesn’t seem quite right without the dark spire and its denizens.
But I know there’s some of you out there who are huge Hearthstone fans that have never touched the Warcraft source material. Maybe the words “Blackrock Mountain” mean absolutely nothing to you, much in the same way “Naxxramas” meant absolutely nothing to you. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. While we won’t know the specifics of what Hearthstone’s version will entail, here’s a rundown of the importance, residencies, and legacy of one of the most important landmarks in Warcraft.
Okay, so what is Blackrock Mountain and why is it adored enough to get its own Hearthstone expansion?
Blackrock Mountain is a… mountain. That much you could’ve guessed. On the World of Warcraft map, you’ll find it bridging the zones of Searing Gorge and Burning Steppes. If you couldn’t tell by the violence of their names, both are charred, inhospitable, volcanic landscapes that served as high-level zones in pre-expansion World of Warcraft. The mountain itself towered right along the border, and served as a hub for a number of raids and dungeons over the course of the game’s initial lifespan. Because of that, a lot of players spent something like 10 hours a week (at least!) inside Black Rock Mountain every week, clearing raids like Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, as well as smaller 5-man dungeons like Blackrock Depths and Lower Blackrock Spire.
Ok, that all sounds reasonable, but what’s the in-game lore surrounding Blackrock Mountain?
I’m glad you asked! *Pushes up glasses.* Blackrock Mountain is the traditional home of the Dark Iron Dwarves, who, generations ago, were exiled from their Dwarven brethren.
You know the Dark Iron Dwarf in Hearthstone as the useful 4/4 that buffs another minion’s attack by two. Like all dwarves in all fantasy stories, The Dark Irons burrowed deep into Blackrock Mountain’s subterranean depths and founded their capital, Shadowforge City. The Dark Irons worshiped Ragnaros, the elemental king of the fire elementals, who resides even farther below Shadowforge in the heart of the mountain, known as “Molten Core.” That was the first major raid in World of Warcraft, so a lot of people have some fond nostalgia of dispatching Rag.
So that’s what’s happening at the bottom. The summit of the mountain was conquered by an errant group of black dragons under the tutelage of Nefarian, also known as Blackwing, son of Deathwing. Nefarian was looking for a safe, remote place to try and create a brand new “dragonflight,” which is delving into hardcore Warcraft lore that we don’t actually have the time or patience to cover. Essentially all you need to know is that along with his dragons, Nefarian recruited a splinter group of trolls, ogres, and orcs which he dubbed “The Black Horde” or “The New Horde,” who reside in a garrison at the top of the mountain known as “Blackwing Lair,” (another early raid.) Nefarian and his forces were always at war with Ragnaros and his forces, creating a constant power struggle inside the mountain itself.
Okay, I think I got it, anything else?
Well, yes. Years later in the Cataclysm expansion, Blizzard revisited Blackrock Mountain for another raid called “Blackwing Descent” which essentially served as fan service for people who missed the archaic dwarven archaeology and madcap black dragons.
It was fine, but significantly shorter than both Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, mostly serving as a stopgap before bigger things could go down. Also, it introduced a retconned undead Nefarian, which just seemed like pandering for the sake of pandering. (Seriously, when you kill Nefarian in Blackwing Lair you cut off his head and they put it on a stake in Stormwind! How did he get his head back like five years later?)
So what should I expect from the Hearthstone version?
The precedent that Naxx set is a series of wings with about four player versus environment boss fights in each. You complete the wing, you get a handful of new cards and a shiny legendary. It seems likely that Blizzard wants to stick to that format, but Blackrock Mountain provides a few minor problems.
For one, we’re talking about a zone that’s divided up into three different raids (not including Upper Blackrock Spire—don’t tweet me nerds.) That’s already 24 bosses. If they throw in encounters from, say, Blackrock Depths or (yes) Blackrock Spire, that number could get up to 40 or 50 very easily.
So if you just took those 24 bosses and divided them up, you’re looking at about six weeks worth of content. Super doable of course! But also pretty heavy. That was the beauty of Naxx. The source material was already divided up into easily identifiable wings, so implementing it into Hearthstone didn’t require any math at all.
There’s also the chance that Blizzard throws caution to the wind and releases everything at once in a massive injection a la Goblins vs. Gnomes, but that would be a shame simply because of how fun Naxxramas was.
Yeah, that’s all well and good, but tell me about the sort of cards I can expect to see!
Well! You’ll probably be seeing a number of new “dragon” cards, maybe with some sort of effect that actually takes advantage of the categorical distinction.
There’s a boss in Blackwing Lair named Vaelastraz the Corrupt, who still stands as one of the most chaotic damage-per-second races in World of Warcraft history and who’d seriously cause members in your raid to explode. It’d be a real shame if that didn’t show up in some way. Outside of that, expect fire elementals, flamewakers (giant lava lizard things,) and maybe a couple lucky orcs and trolls. The tone should be a little more serious than the goofy Goblins vs. Gnomes, so if that bugged you then you’re in luck.
Should I be excited?
Absolutely! Blackrock Mountain has housed some of the greatest moments in World of Warcraft history, and in our current level-100 cap, it’s hard to explore those original, pre-expansion raids in their true glory. Blizzard has been really good at giving its own past a fitting tribute, there’s no reason to believe that will stop now.