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Editorial > WoWMay 15, 2018 4:00 pm CT

That datamined Mag’har broadcast text isn’t as bad as you think it is

In all likelihood, you probably have heard, at the very least, rumblings about some newly datamined Battle for Azeroth dialog pertaining to the Mag’har Orcs. Whether or not you’ve chosen to dive into that dialog is another story. I have — and I have a lot of thoughts on the dialog itself and what it means for the larger overall story. I’ll warn you now: I have a feeling my view on the dialog is not in line with the majority opinion.

Nothing like a good ol’ fashioned debate, though, right? But before I continue with this, I’m going to say something incredibly obvious. There are spoilers ahead. There will be spoilers in the comments. Don’t read if you’d rather have this spoiled accidentally in Twitch chat keep yourself in the dark.

The TL;DR of the dialog

One important note here is that the Mag’har scenario takes place in a Draenor that’s caught up to our timeline. Roughly 30 years have passed since we left. Upon first read, a lot of the changes struck me as extreme. But all of WoW has taken place over roughly six years. We’ve seen how much has changed in WoW’s lifespan — imagine how much could change in five times that much.

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Note that everything here is datamined and subject to change. The dialog leaves some room for interpretation. The below summary is simply what I’ve taken the dialog to mean. That said, these are the big points of interest:

  • The Draenei have become fanatical worshipers of the Light. They’re hunting the Draenor Orcs.
  • “The Lightbound” appear to be Orc traitors who chose to side with the Light-worshiping Draenei.
    • Important note: “The Lightbound” has been interpreted by some to refer to the Draenei worshipers of the Light. However, looking at the dialog, it seems to only refer to Orc traitors. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be referring to Draenor’s Light-worshiping Draenei simply as “Draenei.”
  • Yrel is likely the High Exarch of the Draenei on Draenor (It’s never explicitly stated).
  • Durotan and Draka have a child, but this time, it’s a girl: Geya’rah.
    • Unfortunately, Durotan was killed by the Lightbound.
  • Although unnamed, Grommash’s son — “AU Garrosh” — appears to have sided with the Lightbound.

In other words, pretty much everything about AU Draenor is the opposite of our timeline. That’s part of what makes it feel so disorienting. Everything we know about the people involved has changed. But that’s partly because we know some of them as they were in our brief time spent in Draenor and partly because we know the others as they were in our timeline.

When the Light goes unchecked

The aspect I find most exciting is the fact that this story shows us yet another look at the Naaru as something more complex than benevolent beings. This isn’t entirely new. In fact, Xe’ra trying to force the Light on Illidan gave us our first real taste of the Naaru as beings willing to use their power to fulfill what’s in their interest, not ours. That same cinematic, combined with what we know about Xe’ra intentionally withholding information from Turalyon, led us to speculate on the true aims of the Naaru.

What happened on Draenor is something that easily could have happened to the Army of the Light if they hadn’t been distracted by the Burning Legion. Heck, Turalyon was fairly fanatical in his devotion to the Light and following of Xe’ra. Thankfully, he had Alleria to help keep him in check. Together, they represent both Light and Void. What would’ve happened if she hadn’t been present?

That’s the question present-day Draenor seems to be answering. Unopposed by the Void, the Naaru have been able to convert the Draenei followers of the Light into fanatics. And any who oppose are either killed or forced to follow — just like Illidan nearly was.

Frankly, it’s a bold direction to take the story in, and it’s not one without precedence. On top of everything that happened with Xe’ra, we’ve seen fanatical followers of the Light before in the form of the Scarlet Crusade. In a weird way, it starts to make sense if you think about it. The Light has always been in balance on Azeroth. On Draenor, it hasn’t. The Light has led followers to fanaticism in the past. On Draenor, those followers are the Draenei. And most importantly, the Naaru have shown their willingness to try to use us as their pawns. On Draenor, they’ve succeeded.

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I’m not saying it’s a story direction without flaws — which we’ll get into — but it is a feasible one. And perhaps that’s what makes this next bit all that much harder to accept.

Yrel, High Exarch of the Draenei

So far, I’ve seen two prominent complaints regarding this dialog. The first pertains to Yrel. She was a breakout character in Warlords of Draenor. Players have been clamoring to see more of her because of how much they liked her. And Blizzard made her evil.

Or, that’s at least how the argument is being framed. It’s not entirely wrong — she and the Draenei are clearly pursuing the Mag’har in a way that’s not good. But it’s also not entirely right. Yrel is — and this is still not actually confirmed in the dialog — High Exarch of the Draenei. What other High Exarch do we know? Turalyon.

Yrel in this reality is a mirror of Turalyon in ours. The difference with her is that she has no one to keep her in check. Does it make her evil? No. Does it make her beyond redemption? Not at all. Turalyon was a major lore character for years. When he showed up, he was arguably just as fanatical a follower of the Light as the AU Draenei are. He just didn’t use that fanaticism toward anything but the Burning Legion. Would he have if asked by Xe’ra? We can’t say for certain. But given he was willing to let Xe’ra banish Alleria for even questioning her, I’m fairly sure he would have.

Yes, it’s not fun to see a fan favorite and genuinely interesting character get relegated to “fanatical cult leader.” Nor is it great that that character happens to be one of the more well-written, promising females to enter the WoW universe in recent years. But, again, it’s been 30 years. If the Naaru, unopposed, chose to brainwash her in our absence, did she ever really stand a chance? There’s a precedence for what happened to Yrel. The confirmation that the Naaru aren’t always benevolent has potentially huge implications for the larger lore of the game. There may be hope for Yrel yet — or not. But the fact that we care about her this much and Blizzard’s gotten us talking so much tells me they know what they’re doing, for better or worse.

Personally? I would have preferred anybody but Yrel given the position of High Exarch. Heck, find a way to bring Maraad back and have him be High Exarch. Or make Akama leader of the Lightbound. If it had to be Yrel, it would have been better to witness her transformation. The time-jump makes the change feel far too sudden. I get that it’s a painfully solid way to show how even Light Naaru can corrupt resolute individuals. But I do think Yrel deserved better — and I really hope this isn’t the end of her story.

Negating the ending of Warlords

The second complaint is in regards to how this all ties into the ending of Warlords in general. When we arrive on AU Draenor, outside of the Draenei pursuing the Mag’har, we learn that Grommash is Warchief of the Mag’har. And he’s, um… totally good now? I guess?

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Look, people already had a problem with how Grommash sort of snuck his way into the Archimonde fight and pretended like he was on our side the whole time. They had a problem with how Yrel — and apparently everyone else — seemingly forgave him for his genocidal campaign against non-Orcs. And they had a problem that he walked away looking like a hero.

Given everything else going on here, there’s no reason Blizzard couldn’t have addressed these concerns. But they haven’t, and it appears Grommash is as chummy a good guy as ever. I genuinely have no counter to this complaint. I wish I could justify it even a little as I could with the Lightbound, but I can’t. On the whole, I’m reserving final judgments. This is all datamined, after all, and we may revisit it later on.

And I hope we do — because even if I like the story moving in the direction of malevolent Light Naaru, I don’t like an irredeemable Yrel. And even if it makes allying with the Mag’har easier and more convenient, I still want to understand how or why anyone on Draenor would’ve let Grommash just walk away from the battle with Archimonde free of consequence. I suppose time will tell.

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