How Blizzard turned a Hearthstone fan theory into Hearthstone fact
First things first, spoiler alert. If you haven’t completed the Hearthstone: Descent of Dragons story content, and you have a vested interest in the fates of the League of Explorers and the League of E.V.I.L., consider smashing that back button. We’re going to get into some specifics.
Okay? Okay. Here we go.
So, Reno Jackson is a dragon. A giant blue drake. His explorer’s hat is impaled on one of his horns, permanently morphing the very serious Hearthstone canon with universe-altering implications. Everyone’s favorite low-IQ Indiana Jones facsimile is now a genuine immortal world-render. He’s cousins with Malygos, Kalecgos, and Sindragosa. That’s big news!
All of this was revealed at the end of Galakrond’s Awakening, the solo content released throughout the past month to cap off the Year of the Dragon. You can witness it yourself by finishing the “good” campaign, featuring the League of Explorers in their battle against the forces of E.V.I.L. Morphing into a dragon is officially Hearthstone’s very own AVENGERS ASSEMBLE moment.
This satisfies a handful of dedicated Hearthstone conspiracy theorists. For years, it’s been speculated on various forums that Reno Jackson was secretly a dragon in disguise. Some of those theories date all the way back to 2016, shortly after the League of Explorers were formally introduced into the Hearthstone oeuvre. So was it all a long con? Did Blizzard carefully tease out a series of cryptic hints at Reno’s true nature since the inception of his character? Is this the greatest slow-burn since Game of Thrones Season Six or John Cena and The Rock at WrestleMania 28? Well, not exactly.
“It came very very late in the process. The fan theories about Reno being a dragon were really funny. We already knew the overall story arc of the year, and during development, we didn’t have an ending. We knew they were going to fight, but how is it actually going to end?” says Dave Kosak, lead missions designer on Hearthstone. “During this time, the community was very much speculating about Reno. We thought that was a fun payoff. That became our ending.”
“I remember finishing the script, and I said, ‘Let’s write one where we reveal it, and one where we don’t, and see what we like more,” adds Kosak. “Interestingly, after all of the art was in for the set, one of our great artists Glenn Rane said, ‘You know you guys did a whole set about dragons, and I love to paint dragons, and I never got to paint a dragon.’ And we were like, ‘Oh, so you wanna paint a dragon?’ So the Reno dragon is painted by Rane.”
Kosak said Blizzard wanted to go about this reveal in a very Hearthstone way. Meaning: A series of winking easter eggs planted around the game hinting at Reno’s veiled identity. If you remember, one of the Mage cards in Descent of Dragons was literally called “Learn Draconic,” which featured an image of an enthralled Reno studying an old dusty book. Kosak believes that could be taken as either a confirmation or rejection of the conspiracy. (Why would a dragon need to learn draconic.) As a whole, they were happy to gloss over the specific cause-and-effect of the transformation. Weird things happen in Hearthstone, and the idiot hunk at the center of the League of Explorers evolving into a demigod is the exact sort of silliness fans have come to expect.
“Reno literally says after turning into a dragon, ‘I always knew there was something funny about me when I was left at that orphanage. In that egg,'” says Kosak.
If there is going to be a deeper interrogation of how a Warcraft dragon suffered extreme amnesia, grew a spruce mustache, and started partying with murlocs in Medivh’s Tower, it will have to wait for another time.
All that being said, if you have a diseased brain like mine, and you care about the Warcraft universe, you will know that Reno’s outing as a member of the Blue Dragonflight has some real lore implications. In Wrath of the Lich King, Malygos, the kingpin of all the blue dragons, went mental and declared war on all mortal magic users. We killed him, and a ton of other blue dragons, in a raid encounter.
Today, what remains of the Blue Dragonflight are basically kicking around Azeroth, reckoning with the existential disorientation that comes with the utter destruction of their brood. The existence of a blue dragon who survived that purge, under the cover of a doofus chad form, is at least a medium-sized deal.
“We answer one major question, where we reveal Reno’s nature. But it brings out a whole bunch of other mysteries. Where did he come from? Obviously he was hidden this whole time, which probably explains how he survived all the things that have happened to the blue dragons. That gives us some hooks for a future story,” says Kosak. “Who found his egg? Who preserved him from all this? Why did his powers of a dragon only manifest in dire emergency?”
We’re sure those answers will come someday. Blizzard says we shouldn’t expect the continuing adventures of Reno, The Not-Very-Good-At-Being-A-Dragon Dragon in the very near future, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Hearthstone so far, it’s that the legends never stay dormant for good.