Patch 8.2 and what Thrall’s gun show means for the story
Okay, wherever Thrall has been spending his time since handing over the Doomhammer and skedaddling in Legion, I think it’s fair to say he has not been skipping Arm Day. The folks at Wowhead have datamined a new model for the Horde’s former Warchief coming in patch 8.2, and as a result, we’ve all now able to see that Thrall has been hitting the gym pretty intensely. To be fair, it’s not like Thrall has ever been anything less than absolutely hench as all get out — he’s an Orc, and they’re not a tiny people — but it’s interesting to see him back and especially to see him in clothing that reflects his Frostwolf roots so clearly.
Of course, seeing a new Thrall model leads us immediately to speculate why Thrall needs a new model. I mean, it’s nice that he’s bought us tickets to the gun show, but why? What will said guns be doing in patch 8.2, and/or beyond it? I have no idea, of course, but what I do have is a particular set of skills involving speculating wildly without any real evidence and I’m absolutely willing to do exactly that right now.
Every time I think I’m out, Saurfang pulls me back in
We’ve recently discovered that the fate of Baine Bloodhoof is going to be a big part of the War Campaign in patch 8.2. Because of that, it seems likely enough that we can posit the following: Thrall’s return almost certainly has something to do with Baine and his fate. When Thrall placed Garrosh in charge of the Horde, he kicked off a series of events that led to the death of Cairne Bloofhoof, Baine’s father and one of Thrall’s closest advisors and friends.
Thrall’s anger at Garrosh for the death of Cairne was a huge part of the Elemental Bonds storyline, and it was never truly resolved. Even when Thrall killed Garrosh in single combat he never once addressed it. It’s easy enough to speculate it was that anger that drove Thrall to force the elementals to help him kill Garrosh and thus that anger that caused him to lose the elementals’ favor.
Part of Thrall coming to terms with what he caused when he stepped away from the role of Warchief could well be to step in now and save Baine, or help to do so. It’s certainly easy enough to imagine Saurfang calling on Thrall for help, and while Thrall may not wish to be Warchief any longer, his sense of honor and responsibility — as well as his guilt over having failed to save Cairne — would likely motivate him. Returning to the fray to right the listing Horde from its current course might not be something he can refuse.
A meeting with a Mag’har
There are also other considerations when we think about the return of Thrall. For example, when Sylvanas Windrunner put the Horde on a full-fledged war footing, she did what any sensible person would and looked for allies. One of the allies she found was in a strange place: the Mag’har from the alternate Draenor we visited in Warlords of Draenor.
This group of timeline-displaced Orcs is led by Overlord Geya’rah, a powerful Warrior who also just so happens to be the daughter of that Draenor’s Durotan and Draka. This makes her, in a way, Thrall’s sister and, in another way, Thrall’s polar opposite. She was raised on her Draenor by her version of her parents, not by Humans in a camp. She led her people in a war against the Draenei, whom she views as oppressors and tyrants seeking to steal freedom from the Orcs,
She’s pledged her people to the Horde and the Warchief, and she has absolutely no particular reason to care what happens to Baine, who she doesn’t know. Pretty much everything Thrall thinks, Geya’rah either doesn’t agree with or has no reason to think about at all, and the story potential of these two characters meeting is just enormous.
I have no idea if Blizzard has any plans for this, but I can’t undersell how much I hope they do. If not in patch 8.2, then perhaps further on in the story of the expansion.
Will he or won’t he?
Things I simply don’t think will happen include Thrall returning as Warchief and Thrall dying. The former feels like a regression and the latter would shock people to their core. Still, it’s not as unthinkable as it once was — with Chris Metzen, the voice of Thrall and former VP at Blizzard, having retired, it’s a lot easier to imagine Thrall dying a heroic death to save the Horde from an out of control Sylvanas. But I sincerely hope not. I’d love to see Thrall get a chance to come to terms with the mistakes of his past — both in elevating Garrosh to a position he wasn’t suited to or ready for and his abuse of the elements to vent his anger at Garrosh when the Orc he was likely truly angry at was himself.
That’s the real secret that the Elemental Bonds storyline showed us: Thrall’s rage at Cairne’s death was aimed at himself. It was literally tearing him apart and he never dealt with it. Cairne was like a brother to Thrall. He helped him chart a new path for the Horde and learn how to be a leader, and his death came after several warnings to Thrall that Garrosh simply wasn’t up for the job. Cairne warned Thrall, Thrall ignored him, and Cairne died. I think the most interesting story would be getting to see Thrall deal with his past and his failures and move forward. Let’s see him help Saurfang and those loyal to him forge a new Horde.
Oh, and he absolutely has to meet his “sister.” Come on, Blizzard. It’s gotta happen.
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