Know Your Lore: What if Dranosh Saurfang hadn’t died?
We do something called Tinfoil Hat KYL’s here, where we speculate on what might be happening behind the scenes. This is sort of a cousin to that, taking a look at established World of Warcraft canon and saying “What if...” to it. We look at the characters and personalities and how things would have been different. Not necessarily better, just different.
Remember, this isn’t what happened. If you want, imagine it as an alternate timeway. Kind of like the ones we saw in War Crimes or Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects. Out there somewhere is an Azeroth where things didn’t go the same way.
One of the biggest moments of the War against the Lich King was the Wrathgate. It set one man, Bolvar Fordragon, on the collision course with destiny that placed him atop the Frozen Throne. And it cost Dranosh Saurfang his life, leading to a host of consequences. Before his death, Saurfang the Younger was proving himself to be cut from the same mold of his father. He led the Horde forces in and around the Dragonblight. It was a sort of unofficial campaign of cooperation with Fordragon’s Alliance.
Neither directly communicated with the other, but they didn’t have to. They were both there to shatter the forces of the Lich King and force their way into Northrend’s Icecrown Glacier. They knew that meant their real enemy wasn’t the other faction. When the time came and the Alliance made a push for the Wrath Gate, the Horde joined them side by side. Bolvar and Dranosh even engaged in banter as their forces pushed through hordes of undead Vrykul. Eventually they reached the gate, and confronted the Lich King.
But then disaster. Most list the attack of the radical Forsaken under Putress as the great calamity of the attack. Thousands of Alliance and Horde died to the Plague. The Lich King retreated behind Angrathar. Bolvar was hit by the Plague and then the flames of the Red Dragonflight. It twisted him forever, eventually causing him to embrace the Helm of Domination to become the new Lich King. But for my eyes, the true disaster was when Dranosh Saurfang charged the Lich King before his forces could join him. He was struck down, his soul drained into Frostmourne. We would eventually face and defeat Dranosh as a Death Knight within Icecrown Citadel on our way to the final battle with Arthas.
Following the War against the Lich King, the Cataclysm happened. Thrall stepped down as Warchief so that he could follow the path of the Shaman in hopes of healing Azeroth. Before he did, he appointed Garrosh Hellscream as his successor. This was largely due to his popularity with the Horde after his successful leadership during the conflict. But before he did so, he lamented the loss of Dranosh. He stated that Dranosh might have been the ideal Warchief, with his martial prowess. It was welded to a respect for others, and a sense of honor learned from his father Varok.
The fact is, the Horde and Alliance were winning at Angrathar. If Dranosh had managed to restrain his understandable desire to destroy the Lich King, they might well have won right there. If he’d gone in with Bolvar instead of alone, by the time Putress showed up it would’ve been over. When Arthas created his entire plan to lure the Alliance and Horde’s champions to him and convert them to Scourge he was counting on them being weary from a long campaign. Bolvar and Dranosh were fresh, having done what Arthas didn’t expect. They fought their way to his forces. His confrontation with them was an attempt to save his plan, to balk the enemy. The truth is that without Putress, his plan might well have failed.
So we have many variables. But one indisputable fact remains. Had Dranosh not died at the Wrath Gate, he likely would have been the next Warchief of the Horde.
Threads to pull on
So let us assume, then, that the events played out differently. This time, Putress is delayed. Or the Horde champion who does the legwork for him to complete the Plague is delayed. Or perhaps the champion doesn’t arrive in the Dragonblight at all. The Plague isn’t ready for Putress to use against the Lich King by the time the allied forces arrive at the Wrath Gate.
Dranosh, as head of the Kor’kron Vanguard, is aware only that the Forsaken are delayed. He cannot have known what Putress was planning, or he wouldn’t have led his troops to their deaths. He is concerned but when he sees the Alliance pushing forward decides to lead the Kor’kron in anyway. But not expecting any reinforcements, he’s as cautious as he can be. I mean, he’s a Saurfang, they’re not known for their careful natures. But he doesn’t run ahead when confronting the Lich King. Together, he and Bolvar strike out at Arthas together.
Arthas was vastly powerful, and I doubt he would have stayed for a fight he didn’t really want. That wouldn’t advance his plan. Many of his forces would have been destroyed, and the Wrath Gate forced open. But the Lich King himself would have retreated. He had nearly limitless Scourge forces to use as shields. However, with their skills as a Warrior and Paladin combined, I believe both would have survived, and the way forward would have been open. Bolvar is a bulwark of righteousness, and Dranosh’s raw fury and battle prowess would strike down any undead as soon as they came within reach.
The Nexus War, Ulduar and beyond
Dranosh and Bolvar would be not only alive, but have successfully fought side by side against the Lich King. Having earned a victory for Azeroth as a whole, the tenor of Alliance and Horde relations would have been utterly changed. Garrosh Hellscream was the commander of the Warsong Offensive. But the Kor’kron Vanguard reported directly to the Warchief, not to Garrosh. Dranosh was free to ignore his nominal commander and few would gainsay him. Especially with Varok there as Garrosh’s chief counsel working to restrain his commander’s greatest errors. And Garrosh was an honorable Orc at that time. Sure, he was hot tempered and rash, but he was willing to listen to Saurfang’s guidance.
The Nexus War against Malygos and the expedition to Ulduar would have been far different if the factions hadn’t been engaged in heated rivalry at the top. Bolvar’s continued presence would mean that the Alliance in Northrend would have been far more likely to work with Dranosh’s Kor’kron. The Vanguard would have done what it did best — lead the Horde from the front lines.
Next week, we’ll look at the world of Azeroth post Lich King. How would Warchief Dranosh Saurfang have dealt with the Cataclysm? Who would have taken up the Helm of Domination if Bolvar had lived? What would Azeroth look like when the Legion returned? What would have happened to Garrosh?
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