The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.
Warning - this entire post is going to be full of spoilers for Mists of Pandaria.
Last week we discussed the mogu. This week, we talk about the race even they feared, the mantid. The mantid are related to the other arthropod races of Azeroth, the Qiraji and Nerubians who themselves derive from the Aqir race that fought the ancient Troll empires. A sister people, the mantid worshiped an ancient seven headed old god named Y'Shaarj and served its will. Whether the mantid derive directly from a colony of Aqir or not, their service to Y'Shaarj ended with the entity's death at the hands of the 'Usurpers', known to us by the name Titans.
Y'Shaarj's death unleashed horrible consequences upon the land today known as Pandaria, creating the Sha out of the slain Old One's essence. But it did little to halt the rise of the mantid. Indeed, freed from the need to heed Y'Shaarj's desires the mantid became even more dangerous, and while the ancient troll empires were battling the Aqir the mantid threatened to overrun the Mogushan Empire. Lei Shen, the Thunder King, knew that the mantid could not be easily stopped, and so motivated his people to build the Serpent's Spine, a colossal wall that cut the Towlong Steppes and Dread Wastes off from the rest of the land under their control.
Behind that wall, the mantid continued their society, repeatedly threatening to breach it. It held, but just barely, while the cycle of mantid life continued unchecked.
To know the mantid, one must know the kunchong's track
The mantid are not a hive mind. This shouldn't be surprising, since neither were the nerubians, and the Qiraji had an imperial system in place before the return of C'thun, who imposed his will upon them. The mantid are ruled by a succession of empresses, each selected by the Klaxxi, an order which has the preservation of mantid soc iety as their ultimate goal, but all is secondary to the migration of the kunchong. Until recently, it was the kunchong that defined the cycle of mantid life - their expansion and attempts to move into the rest of Pandaria were purely a result of the kunchong's life cycle. Enormous creatures, the kunchong are wholly driven by instinct. The mantid consider them semi-divine, and when the kunchong feels the instinctive need to move, to trample the land and consume all in its path, leaving a wake of ruined forest, devastated cities, and amber resin behind it the mantid follow and build their settlements and cities using the materials left behind the kunchong.
The mantid are aware that the kunchong destroys other species and their settlements, they simply don't care. To them, the kumchong's migration is oracular in nature, revealing to them where they are intended to live and build. The creation of the Serpent's Spine has prevented the kunchong from making inroads into the rest of Pandaria until recently, when the current Empress, Grand Empress Shek'zeer, fell into madness.
Then fear awakened
Under Shek'zeer the mantid have fallen into paranoia and fear, and their society is collapsing because of it. Shek'zeer's corruption is not figurative, however. She is actually under the sway of the Sha of Fear itself, which has taken her as a host. In so doing, she has unleashed the mantid horde before the natural kinchong migration, and the evidence of her corruption is to be found throughout the Dread Wastes - the trees that give the amber resin used by the mantid are dying, the kunchong and the mantid themselves are being warped and corrupted by sha energies, and the desperation and fear of the populace is growing.
It must be stated that the amber resin that drains from the mightiest trees of the Dread Wastes is everything to the mantid - they use it in medicines, in the construction of their buildings, in weapons. They are creatures tied to the amber, whether it comes from the kunchong's migration or from the trees that grow in its wake.
The mantid assault on the Serpent's Spine is both earlier than expected and far more terrible than it has been in thousands of years. The mantid are motivated by terror itself, driven mad by the presence of the Sha of Fear and willing to do nearly anything, even risking their sacred kunchong in direct assaults on the wall to breach it. The ferocity and single-mindedness of the mantid assault has caught the defenders entirely off guard, and the wall has already been breached in places. The mantid, for the first time in countless years, have pushed into the Valley of the Four Winds and the Krasarang Wilds, and are besieging the Gate of the Setting Sun as well, endangering the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
Against fear the keepers of the ways stand
Now, by itself, none of this would matter to the Klaxxi, who are the mantid most players of the game will come into contact with. The Klaxxi, like all mantid, do not care if the kunchong trample over the settlements of the other peoples of Pandaria. But the stress the Grand Empress is causing mantid society and her willingness to compel her people to allow the Sha to possess and influence them is of great concern to them, as the preservers of mantid culture and the guarantors of mantid succession. With the great amber producing trees slowly dying from Sha corruption, the mantid are facing the extinction of their entire way of life, and the Klaxxi cannot allow that. It is, in fact, entirely against their very purpose for existing, which is to preserve their people's culture. So for the first time in thousands of years, the Klaxxi must do the unthinkable - they must unseat a sitting empress before her successor is ready to defeat and ritually consume her.
The Klaxxi have already begun the process. Many times in mantid history, a great paragon of ability has distinguished itself from its fellows, by strength, by cunning, by intelligence or other means. These heroes of the mantid people were willing to undergo a process by which they were sealed away indefinitely in amber, effectively giving up the rest of their lives to suspend themselves perhaps never to be awakened. Their long sleep only to be ended if and when the Klaxxi had need of them for just such a cataclysmic emergency as this one. And so, now, the Klaxxi have begun the process of awakening these lost mantid heroes and setting them to work undermining the Grand Empress and her war machine as preparation for the final attack upon the Sha-tainted Empress herself. And since it was an outsider, one from far beyond the mists, who helped step in and awaken their champions the Klaxxi are willing to tolerate these outsiders, so long as they are of use in deposing the Empress.
Thus we have our first glimpse into mantid culture. They have witnessed the death of their god. They have endured and even thrived in its absence. And they still seek to expand, but even they are divided of purpose in the wake of the emergence of the Sha. It falls to us to decide their fate in this imbalanced cycle.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.