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Filed under: Know your Lore

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The ordering of Draenor and Azeroth

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.

According to various accounts, the Titans have had their hands on almost every inhabitable world in the universe. Certainly Algalon had to keep an eye on more than one planet in his impossibly-long life -- he says as much when we stop him from sending the signal that would re-originate our world. This fact alone is enough to indicate that in the Warcraft universe, worlds aren't quite as unique as we'd expect them to be. If the Titans had a hand in their ordering, they're likely going to have at least some similarities.

But it doesn't mean that every world we come across is going to be just like Azeroth. We've been presented with the idea, time and time again, that Azeroth is unique in the universe. It's special. There's something about it that sets it apart from every other world. And yet, when you hold Azeroth and Draenor next to each other and take a good long look at what they are, you can see the bare bones of what was once upon a time, a blueprint shared between the two. Unfortunately, the comparison raises more questions that it seems to answer -- but those questions are pretty important.

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Breakers and Primals

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.

What is Draenor, exactly? It's a world beset by war on many different levels -- there's the threat of the Iron Horde, of course, and battling clans among the orcs, fighting with the ogres, skirmishes between orc and draenei. But beyond that, there's another layer of conflict on the world, one that seems like a much larger struggle, one far more ancient and primal than anything the orcs, ogres, draenei, or even the arakkoa could conjure up.

In the wilds of Gorgrond, a struggle is taking place that almost seems to serve as a backdrop to the main Iron Horde-centered story we're concerned with. While we struggle with the Iron Horde and their plans, massive creatures both plant and rock are embroiled in a constant battle with each other, either unaware of our presence, or so intent on their purpose that we are simply being ignored. Or, to turn that around, we are so insignificant in the face of this conflict that to these giants of the world, we don't even register as being anything of importance at all.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Breakout Characters of 2014, Part Two


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.

When last I was writing about this, we covered some characters that got their chance at the spotlight in 2014. Real life then conspired to interrupt me, but I'm finally back, almost a month into 2015, to talk some more about 2014. Timely!

Anyway, I don't think my choices are going to be groundbreaking or shocking for anyone. We all know my biases, but you may be surprised by some choices anyway, because sometimes, I actually try and ignore my biases and be fair. Sometimes.

Ga'nar

Straight up - I expected to hate Ga'nar. When you first meet him, he's your typical blustering orc, going on about murdering Iron Horde with his shovel (granted, they had him digging out latrines, I'd be pretty upset too) and posturing at Hellscream as you retreat from Tanaan. But something happened on the way through Frostfire Ridge. He started to grow on me. He was arrogant and hotheaded, yes, but also brave and well, such an orc about everything. And when he challenged Durotan, he showed a quality I hadn't expected in him - as Durotan refused to even fight him, declaring that he would stand and let Ga'nar kill him if necessary, Ga'nar backed down.

The final confrontation with Fenris Wolfbrother (and the revelation that Fenris was the eldest son of Garad and Geyah) ultimately revealed Ga'nar's true self to the player. I'm a sucker for heroic sacrifices. Always have been. And this was a heck of a heroic sacrifice, all told - after dispatching their wicked elder brother, Ga'nar refuses to allow Durotan to die, instead hurling himself, a lone orc (say it in Muradin Bronzebeard's voice) against the forces of the Iron Horde, and his death buys victory for his people. I'm sorry, but as much as I often bag on orcs, this was an excellent heroes' death for Ga'nar, and it won my affection.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: Highmaul and the Gorian Empire

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.

"Why Highmaul?" is one of the most frequently asked questions I get these days. It does seem a little strange that we are raiding the capital of ogre civilization when one would think we should be facing down the leaders of all of the Iron Horde we've been fighting against throughout the leveling process. But there's method and reasoning as to why we're invading the ogre stronghold, and it absolutely ties back into the Iron Horde.

When one thinks of ogres, one hardly thinks of things like intelligence or cunning -- it's usually the complete opposite. But the ogres of Azeroth are a far, far cry from what they once were, not so long before the events that opened the Dark Portal and began the First War. The Draenor we're currently visiting may be a slightly altered universe, but the history remains by and large the same. And in both instances, there was a point in time where the ogre race ruled supreme.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The History of the Burning Legion

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.

They exist to destroy. The entire cosmos and everything in it is a means to an end, and that end is the extinction of existence itself -- all worlds stripped bare, or shattered. All that lives dead. All that can support life corrupted and befouled. Within the ranks of the Burning Legion are fiends who enjoy the corruption of mortal hearts, who savor the slow degradation of those who willingly sign the pact -- but in the end, the purpose of the Legion is the purpose of its master, Sargeras -- and that purpose is the unmaking of all things.

Feared and reviled on a host of worlds, the Legion has brought devastation everywhere it has alighted. Only one world ever survived a direct assault by the Legion, the poor, beleaguered, wartorn world of Azeroth. Twice now, the shadow of the Legion has fallen over this world of mortals, and yet, while far greater beings, god and demigods stood and fell against their might the world of Azeroth managed to find a way to balk the coming of the Burning Legion not once, but twice. For that singular distinction, Azeroth has earned the Legion's undying enmity. It's not a question of if the Legion will return. It's a question of when.

How did this nearly infinite host of nihilistic hatred and fel-touched fury arise? What are the hosts of the Legion and why do they march on this crusade to destroy all that exists?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: Archimonde and the Burning Legion

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.

He is what some would call the lesser known of the triumvirate that led the eredar of Argus prior to Sargeras' intervention. Certainly he lacked the camaraderie of Kil'jaeden and Velen -- he had little to do with the grudge match Kil'jaeden carried, nor did he particularly care where Velen had gone, or what he was doing with the eredar who chose to turn down Sargeras' offer. What he was, however, was far more deadly in comparison. With no grudges to distract him, Archimonde was easily one of Sargeras' most effective military commanders -- cunning, incredibly powerful, and deadly.

Archimonde's tale stretches two different points in Warcraft's history. The first, thousands upon thousands of years ago, before Azeroth's continents had split and settled into the familiar placement we see on maps today. The second, not so long ago at all -- and his appearance leveled a city, brought together and united a world divided in hatred, and ended the precious gift of immortality given to an ancient race long secluded and hidden away.

Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains a few small spoilers for Warlords of Draenor.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Wrathion and Draenor

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.

We may have helped him in Pandaria, but we certainly didn't fulfill whatever it was Wrathion had on his peculiar wishlist of things to do in regards to his plans for Azeroth. The Black Prince has stated on more than one occasion that he seeks to protect the world from some kind of impending attack by the Burning Legion. He even showed us the vision he'd seen as part of the expansion-long legendary quest chain in the last expansion. Yet when the chain came to a close, Wrathion was less than pleased with the results -- he wanted a clearly defined winner in the battle between Alliance and Horde, and he didn't get it.

It was his next plan of action that was perhaps the most surprising, however. In the novel War Crimes, Garrosh Hellscream is placed on trial, and the end result for the former Warchief was a trip back in time to an alternate version of Draenor, courtesy of the bronze dragon Kairoz. But Kairoz wasn't alone in his efforts to take Garrosh back. Wrathion helped him out. And that's pretty strange when you think about it, because unleashing the Iron Horde on Azeroth seems like a really funny way to protect the planet. So what gives? More importantly, where is Wrathion now?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Cinematics, character development, and story in 2014

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.

Last week, we began to take a look at 2014 in review for World of Warcraft -- not from a general game standpoint, but from the standpoint of lore and story development. While we had some written material and media released midway through the year, in game the year didn't really get started until the release of patch 6.0 and the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor. But despite only being out for a little over a month, Warlords has made an pretty sizeable impression so far.

From a perspective of sheer story delivery, the leveling game in the new expansion is hands down the best thing Blizzard has ever delivered. There's not really more than a moment or two that you aren't being hammered with story from one direction or another, whether it's the unique struggles of two different factions on two different sides of the world as they establish their bases on Draenor, or the struggles of Draenor's natives as they deal with threats from the Iron Horde and beyond. Obviously, quests are everything -- what else contributed to lore in 2014?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: Breakout Characters of 2014, Part One

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.

Since 2014 saw the end of one expansion and the beginning of another, it's actually got quite a list of characters that got an expanded role in the lore. Some of these are fairly predictable, and others less so. Since I like to talk about lore (it's what the column is about) I decided to round up some of the ones I found the most interesting. I've set myself a few arbitrary rules for this. One, Mists of Pandaria characters are fair game. I know the last patch was in 2013, I don't care. Secondly, they had to do something in terms of story. Sorry, Varian, but you really didn't do much at all in Siege and you haven't done much in Warlords, either.

This isn't listed by priority - the last character we talk about isn't more or less important than the first. So let's get down to brass tacks - who do I think broke out in the past year? (If somehow you still haven't had any exposure to Warlords of Draenor's story, be warned, Here Are Spoilers.)

Vol'jin
This one is kind of borderline for me - while he certainly took a big role in the end of Mists of Pandaria, he hasn't done a whole lot yet in Warlords. But I think it's an indisputable fact that Vol'jin's mere presence as a non-orc (a troll, even) atop the Horde power structure is a very significant change in terms of what it means for the Horde going forward. Before Vol'jin's rise to power, there had only been four warchiefs, two from the old Horde and two for the new, and all were orcs - the institution of warchief itself was an orcish one, brought over from Draenor when the Horde invaded.

No other change in the history of the Horde has done more to draw a strong line of demarcation between past and present. The ascension of Vol'jin says to the world of Azeroth (and beyond it) that the Horde is no longer Orcs and their Amazing Friends, but instead a collective of races banded together for mutual survival, and one where no particular race predominates (at least in theory). We have yet to see how successful Vol'jin is in the role, but he definitely changes the status quo dramatically for the Horde.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: 2014 Lore in review

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.

I like to do year end reviews of lore we've seen in the past year, but this year's review is going to be a little odd. A little different. This is largely because we didn't actually see a lot of lore introduced until November of this year, when Warlords of Draenor was finally released. Patch 5.4, the last content patch for Mists of Pandaria, was released in 2013. So we had the majority of a year with little to speak of in terms of lore and story development, and then a massive avalanche of new lore and story delivered just last month.

That makes reviewing kind of difficult. But at the same time, we do have plenty to talk about, particularly since we're dealing with a brand new expansion and a brand new world -- a world full of new mechanics, storytelling and characters that are just as vibrant and vivid as anything we've seen in Pandaria. So what did 2014 offer for the Warcraft lore fan, exactly -- and where did it falter?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The mystery of Archmage Khadgar

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.

Last week, we talked about the history of Khadgar -- a mage who had the unfortunate fortune of being apprenticed to Medivh, the Guardian of Tirisfal, just as the Guardian unleashed an angry bloodthirsty rampaging army of orcs upon Azeroth. It wasn't Medivh that carried out this task, but the spirit of Sargeras that lingered on inside him, passed on from his mother, Aegwynn. Although Khadgar eventually figured out this plot and confronted and defeated Medivh directly, the consequences for doing so were dire -- Khadgar found his magic and his vitality sapped away, aging from a youth to an old man near instantly.

The loss of so much of his precious mortality weighed hard on Khadgar, but it didn't stop him from accomplishing the seemingly impossible -- closing down the Dark Portal not once, but twice. The second time would be the last anyone would see of Khadgar for years, because he shut it down on the Draenor side of the Portal, stranding himself and the rest of the Alliance Expedition on the shattered wastelands of Outland until we found him again in Burning Crusade. And now, it seems Khadgar has closed the Dark Portal for a third time, with the aid of heroes both Alliance and Horde. Yet there's something strange about Khadgar, a peculiar mystery that keeps getting stranger the longer I look at it.

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: Khadgar, of the Sons of Lothar

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.

He has successfully managed to close the Dark Portal three times now -- an astounding feat, no matter which way you look at it. As former apprentice to the Guardian of Tirisfal, Khadgar has had a long and storied life -- a life lived fast forward, that now seems to be traveling in reverse. If we've learned anything about Khadgar so far in Warlords of Draenor, it's that this mystery mage has far more up his sleeve than any of us would have guessed upon our first meeting with the mage in Shattrath City during Burning Crusade.

He's lively. He's peppy. He's downright snarky at times, and full to the brim with witty banter and wittier planning. Khadgar is a man of many talents, the least of which involves the destruction of Dark Portals and the ushering of armies. And in between all these madcap adventures, one has to wonder if Khadgar ever imagined, at age seventeen, staring at the tower of Karazhan, just exactly what he would spend his life getting into and out of as gracefully as any dancer on Azeroth.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Ner'zhul and the breaking of the pact

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.

This is one of those times when we're talking about the Warlords version of a character, and not the original. This is not the Ner'zhul we know - this is not the elder shaman who united the orc clans while being manipulated by Kil'jaeden. Although this Ner'zhul is certainly a respected shaman and the leader of the Shadowmoon Clan, he's not the same as the orc we know - he hasn't made the same choices. And yet, he is Nerzhul. The deathspeaker, the shaman who watched the stars and listened to the stories they told him.

On the Draenor we now explore, history has unfolded differently. Some things are the same - Ner'zhul's student turned on his master and sold his soul for demonic power, and attempted to lead the orc clans as a whole into slavery and a genocidal war against the Draenei. But on this world, Ner'zhul wasn't so easily deceived. There are differences between the worlds even before Garrosh Hellscream's arrival - and those differences, great and small, have led to a different Ner'zhul, who made different decisions, and brought about a dark destiny for the Shadowmoon Clan. Was it worse than the rise of the Old Horde? In some ways, of course it couldn't be - at least the orcish clans of Draenor still own their own souls.

All, perhaps, except Ner'zhul and the Shadowmoon.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

Know Your Lore: The Molten Core

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.

In the deepest parts of Blackrock Mountain, the Dark Iron toil relentlessly, slaving away at the whim of an ancient, terrifying master of flame. The Molten Core, as it is called by the denizens of Azeroth, is not this creature's home. Instead, it is the home of a dark ritual gone terribly wrong, a ritual that not only backfired, but subsequently resulted in the enslavement of an entire dwarven clan.

The 10th anniversary of World of Warcraft has some extra special goodies this year, including an updated, 40man LFR version of the Molten Core. Although many players lurked in its depths in the original iteration of the raid, the story of the area and how it came to be was scattered all over Azeroth -- because the tale begins long before there were dwarves, clans, or anyone to call Blackrock Mountain by name.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Nobundo

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.

One of the fantastic things about Warlords of Draenor is getting to see the way history provides context for a life. By seeing how people have changed, and how they could have been we get a sense of how they are, as we know them - and for me one of the most fantastic changes to contemplate and understand is that of Vindicator Nobundo, a stalwart draenei paladin, who in a different life became Farseer Nobundo, first draenei shaman. Nobundo's story is one of overcoming horrific loss, enduring not just the destruction of his way of life but a corrosion of the body that threatened his very soul, and his ability to overcome and become someone who could inspire his people to a new path displays his strength of spirit.

The Vindicator Nobundo we meet on Draenor - the one who helps fight the Burning Legion forces in Talador, who comes to Nagrand to help calm the elements - has not endured the same trials as Farseer Nobundo. He has not come out the other side of seeing his people nearly destroyed, his body warped by fel energies, his connection to the Holy Light severed. And yet, he is Nobundo - he embodies everything the Farseer was, everything he lost to become who he is today.

So who is Farseer Nobundo? And who is Vindicator Nobundo?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Burning Crusade, Lore, Know your Lore, Warlords of Draenor

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