Know Your Lore: Could Saurfang be the next Warchief?
Varok Saurfang is an Orc of myth and legend, capable of cleaving entire raids out of Orgrimmar in classic WoW. He’s also one of the highlighted characters in Battle for Azeroth’s introduction…although he’s made no appearance since then. However, that doesn’t rule him out from any later appearances. If his current situation is any indication, he’s due for a mountain of story sometime in the future.
We had an interesting question in Monday’s Queue this week that wondered – could Saurfang be a new Warchief? Is he too old for the job? Would he even want the job? While I offered a short answer, the more I thought about this, the more I thought it warranted deeper discussion. So this week’s Know Your Lore isn’t necessarily a tinfoil hat edition – we’re not exactly speculating here – but it’s a deep dive into whether or not there’s any future potential for Saurfang in a Warchief role.
This Know Your Lore contains spoilers for the Horde introductory scenario. If you’re waiting to see those events for yourself, you may want to come back after you’ve finished that quest chain.
There’s no question that Saurfang is a capable leader. He’s been leading forces since before the Orcs originally crossed through the Dark Portal, serving as lieutenant to Warchief Blackhand during the war against the Draenei on Draenor. Saurfang was so impressive during the First War that when Orgrim overthrew Blackhand and seized control of the Horde, he chose Varok as his second-in-command. During the Second War, he commanded the troops yet again.
There’s no real record of what happened to Saurfang when the Horde lost the Second War. Either he ended up in one of the internment camps, or he managed to escape…but there were few Orcs that dodged those camps. The next real role Saurfang had was during the Third War, where he fought in the Battle of Mount Hyjal and witnessed the fall of Archimonde.
Evidentially his actions were more than enough to impress the new Warchief, Thrall. He was given a position at the gates of Orgrimmar, where he enforced the Warchief’s rule. It might not have been a command role, but it was a role that earned him a lot of respect. And when the second War of the Shifting Sands began, Saurfang was the one Thrall chose to lead the Might of Kalimdor as Supreme Commander. In that role, he led both Horde and Alliance, united as one against the Qiraji menace.
He had Thrall’s respect, and he had Thrall’s trust. That’s why Thrall sent Saurfang of all people to act as adviser to Garrosh Hellscream in Northrend. Thrall knew that if anyone could serve as an example to Garrosh, it was Saurfang. Unfortunately, Northrend held little but heartbreak for Varok.
And Northrend wasn’t the only heartbreak Saurfang experienced in his lifetime. Saurfang was keenly aware of what he’d done by willingly drinking the blood of Mannoroth. The cries of Draenei children still haunted him, years later – he was not proud of what he accomplished during those years. When Grom Hellscream finally lifted the blood curse from the Orcs during the Third War, Varok was among many Orcs who recalled their prior actions with something akin to despair.
He didn’t wallow in his own misery, however. He helped his fellow veterans come to terms with what they had done, saving the lives of many great soldiers in the process. Saurfang isn’t a pacifist – if a war happens, he’ll fight. If he has to defend his people, he will defend them. But it has to be an honorable war, and an honorable fight. Anything less reminds him of those years spent as a near-slave to the Burning Legion, harnessed as he was by Mannoroth’s blood.
Lest you think this is all in hindsight…it might not have been. When the Dark Portal initially opened, Varok took his son, Dranosh, to the small quarantine village of Garadar in Nagrand. There he hoped his child would remain hidden away, far from the clutches of Horde warlocks. It was a promise he made to his mate – that his son would never cross the Dark Portal and remain safe. Untainted.
If Saurfang believed in what the Horde was doing so strongly, it’s doubtful he would have willingly sequestered his son away from it all. It feels like even then, Saurfang knew what the Horde was up to wasn’t necessarily right.
And with that realization comes an entire truckload of guilt, something Saurfang has been quietly carrying throughout his life, although he doesn’t go out of his way to mention it directly. He doesn’t have to – his actions almost tell the tale for him. He felt guilt over what the Horde did to the Draenei on Draenor, so he helped others process through it while processing it himself. To this day, he still doesn’t eat pork – the screams of butchered animals remind him of the cries of Draenei young, and it disturbs him deeply.
It’s possible he felt guilty about leaving his son behind on Draenor, with no mother – she had passed on by then – and no father as well. When Thrall and the Horde came to Nagrand, Saurfang reunited with his son and they crossed the Dark Portal at last. This time Saurfang crossed not as a warmonger, but as part of a family. No warlocks, no corruption, no demon’s blood – simply a new world that showed promise for a new Horde, one that Varok wanted to share with his son.
And when Dranosh died, Saurfang likely placed the blame for that squarely on his own shoulders. He broke his word to his mate — he brought his son through the Dark Portal, albeit decades later — and as a result, his son died. Not only did he die, he was reborn as an undead monstrosity that took a veritable army to cut down. Only then was Saurfang allowed to reunite with his child…simply to return him to Nagrand, his home, and lay him to rest.
Saurfang has witnessed a lot in his lifetime – Sylvanas’ antics are just a new strain in a long list of atrocities he’s both seen and committed. But it appears the Banshee Queen managed to push Saurfang to a breaking point. Just before the Battle for Lordaeron, Saurfang is prepared to throw himself to the Alliance – in search of an honorable death, perhaps. As penance for what the Horde did to Teldrassil…possibly.
Just as Saurfang never forgot the cries of Draenei children, it’s unlikely he will ever forget the screams that came from Teldrassil as the tree burned. No, Saurfang did not set the match, nor did he call the order – but he was as culpable as anyone. Without his leadership, the Horde forces never would have made it to Darkshore in the first place.
Zekhan, a young Troll Shaman, manages to talk him out of that sacrifice. The Horde is all Zekhan has – and it’s all Saurfang has, too. Renewed by Zekhan’s words, Saurfang returned to the Horde side for the Battle of Lordaeron…but Sylvanas’ actions during that battle sent him into another tailspin.
Loyalty and honor
Saurfang wasn’t happy about Sylvanas’ use of the Blight. He was even less happy about her refusal to recover the bodies of the fallen, as honor demanded. In fact, Sylvanas raised those bodies into a horrific, undead army – not so dissimilar from Dranosh’s fate in Northrend. Left with no other option, Saurfang stood, alone. He would fight the Alliance forces by himself, and he would earn his honorable death.
He wasn’t granted it. Instead, Anduin called off his forces before Saurfang could be killed. The young king told Varok that his father, Varian Wrynn, pointed to Saurfang as a representation of the best of the Horde, and even admired him for it. And Anduin himself felt the same way. While Saurfang tried to disagree, Anduin had the upper hand in the matter, and had his soldiers take Saurfang to the Stockades in Stormwind.
That’s where Horde players last encounter Varok Saurfang. He’s no longer a leader, he’s a prisoner. But even though Horde players represent a method of escape, he refuses to leave. He won’t return to Sylvanas’ Horde – not after all she’s done. There is a difference, Saurfang points out, between loyalty and honor. One does not guarantee the other, and sometimes, one has to choose between them.
Varok Saurfang is left in his cell, and Horde adventurers continue on.
Could Saurfang lead the Horde? Perhaps, if the opportunity were to arise. But he wouldn’t take that role while Sylvanas is seated in that role as Warchief…and perhaps not if Sylvanas is involved with the Horde at all. Her methods are far too severe, ruthless, and downright unhinged for Saurfang to ever agree with their use. He gave up those old ways when the blood curse was lifted. He’s not about to go back to them – and he’s not about to follow a woman who seems to act in a manner closer and closer by the day to the very thing that raised his son from the dead.
But Saurfang represents something Anduin was looking for with Sylvanas in Before the Storm – an opportunity to cross faction lines and reach some kind of compromise. Varok doesn’t necessarily want war. He understands the need for it; he will fight to the death to defend the Horde – but not in a senseless battle. He agreed to the War of the Thorns and the attacks on Darkshore because he thought it would give the Horde hostages and an upper hand in the conflict over Azerite. He did not agree to the senseless slaughter of innocents, and he was horrified when Sylvanas carried that out.
Saurfang has long held the respect of the Horde. He’s held some of that same respect from the Alliance – those that served in the Might of Kalimdor remember his leadership. Those that were present when he retrieved his son’s body from Icecrown remember Varian’s orders to stand down, and his kind words for a grieving father. If Saurfang stepped up, there are few that would argue his ascension to that role.
But would Saurfang lead the Horde? If the opportunity arose, and he could lead the Horde into honor…I think he would take that role. Not as a power play, or out of any wish for conquest. That’s not what Saurfang is after. But as an opportunity to rebuild the Horde from what he keenly remembers and regrets it once was, into something to be proud of…I think he’d take that chance.
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