Flavor Text and Lore: Notable Mage Cards

Our second part in the series dedicated to understanding the Mage Hero's Lore brings us to their most notable cards.

In the previous lore article, I’ve talked about the Mage Hero Jaina, and her history in Warcraft lore. Today, in the same manner as previously done with the Paladin, I’d like to tell you about the history behind some of the Mage’s most popular cards, and their mechanics.

Arcane Intellect

Simple and clean, a card and three mana for two cards – this spell is directly lifted from the World of Warcraft mage, and is a descendant of Brilliance Aura, one the trademark spells of Warcraft 3’s Archmage unit. In both cases, the spell increases one’s ability to cast spells, via increasing mana regeneration in Warcraft 3, and increasing intellect in World of Warcraft (and thus, mana pool).

Just like what happens with the Paladin cards, mana availability for WoW’s Mage seems to translate into card draw for Hearthstone’s Mage, unlike what happens with the Druid Hero.

Mirror Image

In Mirror Image we have yet another holdover from earlier Dungeons & Dragons. In the classic tabletop role-playing game, it was a spell available to level 2 mages, one that created between one and four exact duplicates that mimicked his actions.

The purpose at the time was to confuse enemies into attacking them, protecting the mage, a very fragile class in D&D. The images themselves were harmless and dispelled on a successful attack – their value was in the time they gained the mage to prepare more powerful offensive spells.

The two 0/2 taunts that the Hearthstone card creates fulfil almost exactly the same purpose, making this a particularly flawless translation of classic RPG spell mechanics into the CCG template.

As an aside, it’s a nice thought that, though the card itself portraits a gnome mage, the generated tokens represent Jaina. This exposes one rare flaw on Blizzard’s part, though. The developer usually shines in their attention to these little details, but in this particular case, they forgot to add different tokens for when the spell is played by a player using Medivh.

Unstable Portal

While Unstable Portal by itself isn’t a Mage spell, portals in general are a big part of modern-day Azeroth.

In the early days of World of Warcraft, Mages had unparalleled mobility due to being able to create portals between the major cities, and as they could even bring party members along, enterprising mage players soon advertised  their transportation services in World of Warcraft’s tradechat, making a tidy profit off players in a hurry.

Later, permanent portals became much more common, and now, with a bit of planning, most non-mage players can get almost anywhere pretty quickly, thanks to public service portals.

The randomness of the card can once more be attributed to Goblins VS Gnomes’ theme of engineering. World of Warcraft’s engineers can craft portal devices that will take them across continents and even worlds… Though just as often, the engineer will find himself appearing a couple of kilometers above ground, or burning, or replaced by an evil twin…

Polymorph

Is there anything more satisfying than turning your opponent into a harmless sheep?

The original World of Warcraft CC “Crowd Control” spell, it was invaluable in dungeons, removing an enemy from the equation in battles that often tended to overwhelm  the players with sheer numbers.

But in player VS player combat, the spell shone, and still shines today, as both an incredibly useful play (a team missing a player, even if just for a few seconds, can spell defeat) and the ultimate humiliation.

The Hearthstone spell is not the best translation of the original, but it is powerful – and still extremely satisfying to use on an opposing ragnaros or tirion-fordring.

Archmage Antonidas

Archmage Antonidas is more of a background figure in Warcraft history, albeit an important one. A prodigy at magic and understanding the mystical since a young age (he was accepted within Dalaran’s elite at 12 ) Antonidas either mentored or at some point guided Azeroth’s current generation’s greatest mages: Jaina, Khadgar, and the deceased Rhonin.

As member of the Council of Six, Dalaran’s ruling body, he was one of the first to pledge the magocracy’s help against the Horde, at the dawn of the Second War. At the height of his power, he was a key player in the battle that saw deathwing fall to the sea, presumably dead.

Later, by the midpoint of the Third War, he stood valiantly against the Arthas’ undead Scourge – though not heeding Medivh’s warning ultimately lead to his death at the hands of the death knight and kelthuzad.

While Dalaran was devastated by the undead after his defeat, the Archmage was not forgotten – after the end of the third war and Dalaran’s reconstruction, a monument to him was erected, one that can still be visited by World of Warcraft players today on a trip to Dalaran, whereupon they can read Jaina’s words to his memory.

Antonidas also wrote some words into a memorial, many years before his death: Khadgar’s statue in the Alliance capital of Stormwind still bears his words: “Never did one so selflessly delve into the dark heart of magic and warfare. We wish you well, bold wanderer. Wherever you are.” Little did Antonidas suspect his lost pupil would actually survive him by many years.

As a legendary card, Antonidas represents well the character’s theme of empowering others with knowledge and power – the fireballs he rewards the player with are a testament to his usefulness as a mentor, and have won many a Hearthstone game.

Warcraft lore is rich in mages and their dealings, and as such, it warrants a further piece in this series. On the next article, we will have a look at the story of the alternate Mage Hero, the last Guardian of Tirisfal, Medivh – as well as the previous Archmage of Dalaran, rhonin.