Know Your Lore, TFH Edition: Wrathion, Draenor and the game
When last we spoke in depth about Wrathion, we were trying to unravel the puzzle of just what Wrathion was doing on Draenor — what his business was with the world, and why on earth he would let Garrosh Hellscream go. There didn’t seem to be a logical reason for Wrathion to ally with Kairoz, not after Kairoz’s plans were made at least a little more clear. So what gives? I think the answer to that question may very well have been staring us in the face all along, and it’s been staring us in the face since the end of Mists of Pandaria.
And the reason I say this is that Wrathion was very clear about what he wanted at the end of Mists of Pandaria — he wanted an army capable of fighting the Burning Legion, and he wanted that army to work as a unified unit, something that absolutely could not be accomplished with the Alliance and Horde factional division that has kept us fighting all this time. That particular point was proven at the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar. Varian Wrynn didn’t take his victory and completely wipe out the Horde leaders while he had his chance. What’s a black dragon to do? How do you resolve a conflict when it’s proven that conflict can’t be resolved?
Today’s Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn’t be taken as fact or official lore.
Wrathion may only be a little over two years old at this point, but he has proven himself to be exceptionally clever — his ideas may never quite pan out as he’d intended, but the point is that he always has these ideas. He’s always thinking, and never more so than at the end of Siege of Orgrimmar. Wrathion was absolutely convinced that his plan would work as intended — kick the war between Alliance and Horde into fast-forward, bring it to a clashing end, let one side win, absorb the other side, poof — one army, capable of fighting the Burning Legion. But it didn’t work. Varian Wrynn allowed the Horde to choose a new Warchief, and Garrosh Hellscream was taken into custody, to be brought to trial.
Tong the Fixer says: When the last emperor hid our land from the rest of the world, he also preserved the homeland of our ancient enemy, the mantid. Why did he do this? He did so to keep the land whole. Living with the mantid for ten thousand years has made us both STRONG. So it is with your Alliance and your Horde. They are not strong despite one another; they are strong BECAUSE of one another. You mistake your greatest strength for weakness. Do you see this?
Despite his angry exit from the Tavern in the Mists, his proclamations that he would stop at nothing to see the world prepared for what was to come, it was a much calmer Wrathion that showed up at Hellscream’s trial. He barely said anything to anyone, sharing only a couple of conversations with Anduin Wrynn. In those conversations, two things of note occurred — Wrathion revealed that he knew Anduin was talking to Garrosh Hellscream. And the two of them sat down to play a game called Jihui. It was a game they’d played before, a pandaren game in which the point wasn’t for one side to win over the other, but both sides to win, to come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Obviously, Wrathion knew that Anduin was speaking to Garrosh because he was keeping tabs on Garrosh. Somewhere between his flight from the Tavern, and his arrival at the Temple of the White Tiger, Wrathion had a conversation with Kairoz. In that conversation, they mutually agreed that Garrosh should be freed, and Wrathion agreed to help Kairoz. Why? It wasn’t because he had a vested interest in seeing Kairoz succeed. It wasn’t because he wanted to see Garrosh return to his home of ages past. It was because Wrathion wanted one thing: an army capable of defeating the Burning Legion. And that was not the army that Kairoz intended to build. It was an army Kairoz didn’t even know about.
Here are the facts Wrathion had to work with, when it came to building an army on Azeroth: The Alliance and Horde had been fighting on and off since their inception. The Horde invaded Azeroth, presented a dangerous threat, and the Alliance was spawned out of that conflict in order to combat it. The Horde was originally under the control and influence of the Burning Legion, although they are no longer affected — going so far as to fight in the Third War alongside the humans and night elves to bring a halt to the Legion’s plans. Ever since then, the Alliance and Horde have been at odds — but according to the advice of a pandaren innkeeper, this is what makes the two sides strong. You cannot have one conquer the other.
Draenor, on the other hand, is a chance to remake history for the better. And step one of that process involves the draenei — a race that originated from the creation of the Burning Legion. There is no race as knowledgeable as the draenei when it comes to the Legion. But Azeroth isn’t exactly crawling with draenei, because the Horde wiped out the majority of the population before coming to Azeroth — a good 80-90% at least. That wholesale slaughter culminated with the orcs willingly drinking the blood of Mannoroth and destroying Shattrath. What was left was tatters, survivors that managed to flee, escape, and find their way to Azeroth.
On Draenor, however, the draenei still haven’t gone through this. When Garrosh Hellscream arrived on Draenor, it was a slightly different version of the world we knew — a world where Rulkan was still alive. A world where Ner’zhul didn’t appear to have the influence that he had in our version of history. A world where, oddly enough, the destruction of the draenei really hadn’t ramped up to any significant extent just yet. And it never got a chance to reach the chaotic losses experienced in our version of history, because Garrosh pointed Grommash Hellscream and the Iron Horde in a completely different direction: He pointed them at Azeroth. Make no mistake — there are far, far more draenei alive and well on Draenor than there are on Azeroth.
And now we have the Iron Horde, bereft of the blood of Mannoroth because of Garrosh’s influence. Grom not only didn’t drink, he appeared to have imprisoned Gul’dan and the Shadow Council in order to fuel the Dark Portal. That Dark Portal was, in turn, pointed not at the Azeroth of this strange alternate universe. It was pointed instead at our own, because Garrosh Hellscream wanted his revenge. He wanted us to pay for what we’d done during the Siege of Orgrimmar. Wrathion knew this would happen — in fact, he was counting on it. He wanted the Iron Horde to invade Azeroth. Not because he wanted Azeroth to fall, but because he wanted us to travel to Draenor.
Why? To alert the draenei to the fact that we existed, and to systematically tear the Iron Horde apart. He knew we could do it, because we’d already done it before. The Horde was defeated by the Alliance all on its own during the Second War. An Iron Horde, no matter how technologically advanced, no matter how well armed, didn’t stand a chance against the united forces of the Alliance and the Horde from our world. It would crumple, absolutely. Meanwhile, those orcs that didn’t want to join the Iron Horde, the orcs that denied both the blood of Mannoroth and Grom Hellscream’s vision of conquest, those orcs would turn to us. They would become our allies, we would both help them and inspire them.
And once we battered down the Iron Horde and tore it to shreds, the Burning Legion would show up again, because of course it would. It would offer that elixir of power, the blood of Mannoroth, for the second time, and of course there would be orcs that would drink it. But there would also be orcs that refused, orcs that would then have a choice to make: Fight the Burning Legion’s forces with us, or die beneath our feet. One or the other.
Of course the Burning Legion is going to show up on Draenor. It happened before, did anyone really think that just refusing Mannoroth’s blood was going to suddenly make the Legion look elsewhere for worlds to conquer? But the legions of orcs the Burning Legion so skillfully manipulated in our version of history have been whittled down to a pittance in this version of history. We’ve systematically routed them out and taken them down. Now we see different races being pulled under the Legion’s sway — some of the arakkoa have been corrupted as well, something that never happened in the original timeline. But it’s not enough. It’s not going to be able to hold us back. Or … is it?
We may be meant to fail, meant to lose this war. Draenor isn’t supposed to remain whole and unique in the universe, it’s destined to be destroyed. It doesn’t matter which version of history we’re in, eventually time will play out as planned, and Draenor will be lost. Either ripped apart by something Gul’dan is plotting, or torn asunder by Archimonde himself. And it doesn’t matter which way Draenor falls, as long as Draenor falls, for one very important reason.
What we’re left with is a lot of angry draenei who are very capable fighters, and a handful of orc clans who are also strong warriors in their own right. Both witness to the horrors that the Legion committed, the loss of their world, their home — and both dead-set on stopping the Legion at any cost. If something happens to Draenor, if the Burning Legion succeeds and ruins the world, they have nowhere to go but back with us to Azeroth. Two armies that don’t have factional ties to the Alliance or Horde. Two armies that share a common cause — a lost home — and every motivation in the world to take care of the threat Wrathion witnessed in that strange vision of his. Not to save Azeroth: to avenge Draenor.
The pandaren game of Jihui has an interesting resolution — you don’t play the game to win, you play the game in order for both sides to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Wrathion may very well be playing Jihui with Draenor, and nobody has really realized it. He may very well be the impetus for everything that has happened, and we had no idea just how far his scaly claws managed to manipulate things. That’s because this time around, Wrathion didn’t try to actively control the board, he simply put the right pieces into motion, and then sat back to see how the game would resolve itself.
Step one: Send Garrosh Hellscream to Draenor. The purpose wasn’t to somehow redeem Garrosh — no, Wrathion fully expected that Hellscream would die. But before he did so, he would fulfill the first step of the plan: Prevent the orc clans from drinking the blood of Mannoroth, and point those clans at Azeroth. He knew Garrosh was a vengeful creature, and he wanted him to take that chance. Because by diverting the attention of Grom and the clans, Garrosh managed to ensure the draenei would avoid the tremendous death toll they experienced in our version of history.
Step two: Wait. Eventually, the Iron Horde would attack Azeroth. And we would, of course, retaliate. We would happily dive through the Dark Portal and tear the Iron Horde apart. In the process, we would forge diplomatic ties with the draenei, and with whatever orc clans that didn’t fall under the thumb of the Iron Horde or the Legion. We would successfully smash our way through the Iron Horde’s leaders, and decimate them to the point that they would again turn to the Legion for assistance.
Step three: Having earned the attention of the Burning Legion, it’s up to us to defend the world from certain doom. Except we aren’t supposed to succeed. Why? Because Draenor doesn’t matter. Wrathion doesn’t care about Draenor. He doesn’t care about saving it, in fact he’d probably like to see this version of Draenor destroyed. Because then it leaves the survivors of the world with no choice — flee to Azeroth, or perish. Watch your world fall apart around you. Witness the overwhelming horror that is the Burning Legion firsthand.
And now the armies are on Azeroth — and they are not Alliance, not Horde. They are in a strange way a bridge between those two factions, with none of the factional ties. They’ve just witnessed their world destroyed. They are angry. They are desperate. They want revenge. And all they need is a well-spoken, impeccably groomed and clever leader to appear and politely offer to allow them the opportunity to do just that.
Do the survivors of Draenor win? No. Do we win? No. But we reach a satisfactory conclusion, as far as Wrathion is concerned — an army he can work with, and all the motivation it needs to succeed.
Of course this is all just another theory, which is why it’s a tinfoil hat edition of Know Your Lore. But it’s not exactly out of the realm of possibility, and would explain why Wrathion was involved with Kairoz and Garrosh in the first place. They weren’t allies, they were never meant to be allies — they were simply playing pieces on the board, easily sacrificed and easily discarded for the greater good. Whether or not there’s any truth to this is something we’re going to have to wait to discover.
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