The final Hearthstone expansion of 2021 is called Fractured in Alterac Valley (opens in new tab) and will arrive on December 7. Thematically, it wraps up the story that began with Forged in the Barrens and continued through United in Stormwind. In the grand finale, our 10 plucky mercenaries will make the crucial choice of any Azerothian adventurer: Horde or Alliance? Honestly, whether card games can be good at delivering a year-long narrative is very debatable, but I have grown quite fond of the likes of Rokara, Cariel Roame, and Scabbs Cutterbutter.
Leaning into the theme, Fractured in Alterac Valley will also present players with the same choice. At the outset they'll be asked to pick which of two free golden legendary cards to receive:
- Alliance: Mountain King Vanndar Stormpike
- Horde: Elder Shaman Drek'Thar
The card you choose will align you with that faction for the opening event of the expansion. Each faction will then get its own unique quests that will earn players Honor points. The faction with the highest score when the launch event ends on January 11 will be declared the winner, and all players will then receive a Diamond version of the winning team's corresponding card. (I'm glad it's all players, otherwise the losers would take to r/hearthstone (opens in new tab) in numbers we haven’t seen since the Great Rewards Track Cataclysm of 2020.)
The current arc involving the mercenary characters saw them start as entry-level noobs in the Barrens, growing with experience as they arrived in Stormwind, and now ascending to their final form to battle it out in Alterac Valley (which I'm reliably informed (opens in new tab) is a Horde vs Alliance PvP arena in World of Warcraft). That means the 10 characters—one for each class—are being turned into Hero Cards.
These have traditionally been some of the most OP creations in Hearthstone history, because they enable your hero to change into a new form with a different power and passive ability. Hero Cards were at their most dominant during the Knights of the Frozen Throne era, and Blizzard hasn't printed a new one since Zul'jin in 2018. In other words, they're exciting, but also a pretty big balance risk. Particularly as one of the new ones will enable players to double their maximum Mana crystals to 20.
Fractured in Alterac Valley will also come with a new keyword called 'Honorable Kill'. Cards with it will proc an effect whenever they deliver the exact damage number required to destroy a minion. The reward examples given are reducing the cost of all your spells or granting the card delivering the deathblow +1/+1. I like stuff that forces you to think smart about how you dole out damage and engage with combat math more carefully, but it also sounds like quite a tricky effect to balance, given how situational it is.
When Fractured in Alterac Valley arrives on December 7, will you choose Horde or Alliance? And now that we know chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov is a Hearthstone player, and diamond 5, which do you reckon he'll pick?