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Know Your Lore: Mists of Pandaria 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.

With the introduction of the Warlords of Draenor cinematic, short story Hellscream, and the Lords of War animated shorts, we can pretty much tack an official "The End" on Mists of Pandaria. All tie in material has been or is in the process of being released, and all new and upcoming content seems to be focusing on the expansion ahead. Although Warlords of Draenor won't launch until November, we can pretty much consider Mists of Pandaria over and done with, story-wise.

Which means it's time to do one of my favorite things to do -- head back and review the expansion in its entirety. It's not really fair to review a book based solely on one chapter, after all. Mists of Pandaria might have seemed like a fairly simple concept from the announcement of the expansion, but it actually played out into a reasonably complex story over the course of four content patches. So how does the story of Mists hold up against its predecessors?

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

Know Your Lore: The trial of Garrosh Hellscream

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.

War Crimes, the latest novel from Christie Golden, released earlier this week. In the book we finally see the trial of Garrosh Hellscream -- former Warchief of the Horde, apprehended during the final moments of the Siege of Orgrimmar. We aren't going to be talking too in-depth about plot points and book spoilers in this column. We'll save that for next week. But we are going to talk about Garrosh Hellscream, the Alliance, the Horde, and the trial itself -- the need for a trial at all.

Because let's face it: Garrosh Hellscream is a murderer. He slew countless victims, both Alliance and Horde. He decimated Theramore. He decided to ally with those that Warchief Thrall had blatantly turned away, and even directed the Horde to attack, during his reign. He didn't so much try and redesign the Horde as he did give it a gut job, tear it down from the inside out, and try to rebuild it even stronger. He's guilty. He's beyond guilty. There isn't really any need to prove what he's done, the evidence is permanently etched into Azeroth -- the crater left where Theramore once stood.

Why on earth would a confirmed killer need a trial?

Please note: The following column has a few minor spoilers for War Crimes. If you're mid-book, or have yet to read it, you might want to come back when you're finished with it.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Christie Golden, Micky Neilson discuss newest novel, War Crimes

War Crimes, Christie Golden's latest Warcraft novel, officially hit the shelves today. The novel details the trial of Garrosh Hellscream for his crimes against Alliance, Horde, and Pandaria alike. We were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with Christie Golden, as well as Lead Story Developer Micky Neilson, about the novel, the feedback, and even some upcoming projects that are on the way.

War Crimes is a different kind of book -- it features a gigantic cast. Can you tell us a little about the challenges involved in writing and keeping track of so many familiar faces?

Christie: It definitely is. I had kind of done a run at something like this with The Shattering, that was my first experiencing writing for both Horde and Alliance, trying to weave in various characters and their story lines and still make it fast paced and entertaining. This really was a chance for me to, with the Vision of Time at my disposal, to kind of go through and not just address Garrosh, but sneak in some of the history of Azeroth. What made these factions who they are, how they thought of each other, and a lot of old hurts, as well as new things. I actually just posted on Twitter a picture of the colorful index cards that I laid out on my dining room table at work at one point just to keep track of it!

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Filed under: Lore, Interviews, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor

Review of Christie Golden's novel, War Crimes

It's time for Hellscream to pay.

Or at least that's what everyone in War Crimes would enjoy seeing, to varying degrees. Christie Golden's latest novel, War Crimes, is due out next week on May 6. It tells the tale of Garrosh Hellscream's trial, an event many players have been waiting to hear about -- and it also serves as a bridge novel, of sorts, between Mists of Pandaria and the upcoming expansion Warlords of Draenor. If you'd like to know how Garrosh wriggled out of his presumably inevitable death and got to Draenor, this is the book you want to read.

But it's so much more than that. In War Crimes, the focus is much less on Garrosh, and much more on the people around him -- those called to the witness stand, and those simply observing the trial in progress. It's a sweep of almost every major face in the Alliance and Horde, and their unique individual reactions to what happened during Hellscream's reign. In that, it's a very different kind of novel -- and I think it was just the novel needed to bring this expansion fully to a close.

Please note: Because War Crimes has yet to be released, this will be a spoiler-free review. Please refrain from talking about spoilers in the comments -- any spoiler information posted will be deleted.

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

Hearthstone heroes ranked not by power, but by lore

Hearthstone news site Liquidhearth posted a pretty interesting rank list yesterday. The site primarily focuses on the game-related side of Hearthstone -- arenas, deck builds, card abilities and the like -- however, this particular article looks at not the individual cards, but the heroes featured on Hearthstone's nine available decks. The list is laid out and ranked not by the relative power of the class deck, but by the place they stand in Warcraft lore.

Each hero is given a brief descriptive summary detailing their place in Warcraft's history, and each rank is justified by one of three panelists quizzed for the column. What makes it interesting is that from a Hearthstone standpoint, the order isn't really quite where I think it should be. Mage decks, for example, are absolutely devastating if they get the right cards -- and I've had my cards thrown right back at me by more than one incredibly clever set of combos from a priest deck. The rogue deck is particularly devastating when used correctly as well.

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Filed under: Lore, Hearthstone Insider

Know Your Lore: Pandaria's mark on Warcraft lore

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.

A little over two years ago, Mists of Pandaria was officially announced as the next expansion at BlizzCon to the puzzlement of many players. The idea of an expansion built around the pandaren race was a polarizing one -- some people loved the idea, and some were less than enthused. Although the pandaren were included in game lore as early as Warcraft III, there were those that scoffed at the idea of an expansion built around a race of giant talking bears, saying that they had no place in Warcraft at all. A year later, Mists was officially launched, and a little over a year after that, the events of Mists of Pandaria are wrapping up in a suitably dramatic conclusion.

And to the delight of many, myself included, this expansion has been anything but lighthearted and silly. Mists of Pandaria wasn't just a random expansion about giant talking bears, it was a revolution in the way that story and gameplay intertwine. While it may have had its faltering moments -- the inclusion of enough daily quests to make players dizzy among them -- the story took a life of its own, and the tale it told has definitely left its mark on future lore to come. Let's be clear, here: For a continent left cloaked in Mists for thousands of years, Pandaria has managed to work its way into the face of Warcraft lore in a manner that won't be forgotten, and has given us enough material to spur the story of the game for quite some time.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Exclusive first look at Christie Golden's new novel, War Crimes

Christie Golden, author of a substantial amount of Warcraft novels including The Shattering, Tides of War, Lord of the Clans and Rise of the Horde, recently announced a new novel to add to the list, and we have all the details. Titled War Crimes, the new novel features an all-star cast of nearly every important figure from both the Alliance and Horde, and tells an interesting, new kind of story the likes of which we haven't seen from Blizzard before.

The brutal siege of Orgrimmar is over. Garrosh Hellscream, the most infamous orc on Azeroth, now sits in chains. His tyrannical leadership of the Horde has been ended by his many enemies, and he must answer for his crimes.

Renowned leaders from across the world gather in Pandaria to witness Garrosh's trial. Visions of his past atrocities are presented in vivid detail for all to see. But as history is revisited, old grievances and bitter memories come back into the light, and those in attendance begin to wonder if anyone among them is truly innocent. Mounting tensions and rising enmity steer the court to the brink of chaos... as the world waits with bated breath for the verdict on the war crimes of Garrosh Hellscream.

If you think a novel about a courtroom trial is going to be a dull affair, think again -- War Crimes isn't just a story about a trial, nor is it just another story about Garrosh Hellscream. In fact, it's anything but another Garrosh Hellscream novel. We were thrilled to get an exclusive interview with Christie at BlizzCon 2013 about her new title, a gigantic cast that includes some unexpected faces in the spotlight, and what we can expect to see -- as well as information on the book's release.

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Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Lore

Blizzcon 2013: Iconic Characters of Warcraft

Voice Actor Stage
The Voice Actor Stage is a new addition this year at BlizzCon, and I certainly hope it becomes a staple. I sat down for the 3:00 - 4:00 panel "Iconic Characters of Warcraft" which, as the name implies, featured the voice actors for several of the most influential WoW characters in the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Our esteemed guests were:
  • Keone Young, voice of Chen Stormstout
  • James Sie, voice of Taran Zhu
  • Patrick Seitz, voice of Garrosh Hellscream
  • Aaron Phillips, voice of Wrathion
  • Josh Keaton, voice of Anduin Wrynn
  • Laura Bailey, voice of Jaina Proudmoore
In addition, the panel was hosted by Andrea Toyias, Casting and Voice Over Director at Blizzard, and two writers whose names were announced but unfortunately not written on the projector.

Andrea hosted the panel by asking each of the actors, one by one, a series of questions about the characters they voiced -- how they saw that character, how they got into the appropriate headspace to play that character, and so on. Each answer was unique and very interesting. Keone Young spoke about how his experience growing up on Hawai'i, before and during its annexation by the United States, influenced the way he perceived the struggles of the pandaren people, and also how his knowledge of the Hawai'ian patois informed his development of Chen's unique accent.

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Filed under: Blizzard, Interviews, BlizzCon

Dear Jaina Proudmoore

Dear Jaina
Dear Jaina,

I'm not in the habit of writing letters to fictional characters, but in the face of what we've all seen yesterday, it seemed like as good a time as any to start. Look, I realize this is going to be hard to accept, but your fate isn't exactly in your hands. What you want, and what you'll get, are two entirely different things -- and it might not be fair. It might not be particularly right. It certainly isn't going to feel very good, but the influence you hold only goes so far. And in this case, you can't exactly order around a king.

But let's look beyond that for a second, all right? Because honestly, you seem to be more than a little irritated, justified or not. And I remember who you used to be, a long time ago. I remember a lady who was a bastion of rational thinking, one who looked before she leapt, made sound judgments, and realized that in this big, wide, crazy world of Azeroth, things aren't always black and white, good and evil. Sometimes, most of the time in fact, they lay somewhere in between.

So I'm wondering, Lady Proudmoore -- who are you?

This post contains huge spoilers for patch 5.4, including the end cinematic for the Siege of Orgrimmar. Reader beware!

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore

Know Your Lore: The mysterious disappearance of Varian Wrynn

Know Your Lore The mysterious disappearance of Varian Wrynn
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.

As a leader of the kingdom of Stormwind, Varian Wrynn's track record leaves much to be desired. Swayed by tragedy and the sneaky, manipulative claws of a particularly clever black dragon, Varian was completely out of the picture in vanilla, at which point the surrounding human territories began a decline from which they have yet to fully recover. Varian returned in Wrath, and promptly began the campaign to wipe out the Lich King, sending his best soldiers north.

While the campaign in Northrend was successful, we also saw the beginnings of the clashes between Varian and the Horde -- clashes that would continue in Cataclysm, and ramp up with alarming speed in Mists of Pandaria. Or ... that's what we thought we'd see. In truth, Varian's spent much more of this expansion absent than he has being a driving force for the Alliance. Where has Varian been, and what has he been doing?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The future of the Alliance

Know Your Lore The future of the Alliance
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.

The Siege of Orgrimmar is almost upon us, and the Alliance stands strong, ready to dive in and put an end to Warchief Hellscream's reign. Along the way, they've picked up some entirely unconventional allies in Vol'jin's group of rebels, who are also insistent upon getting Garrosh out. But when the dust settles and all is said and done, if and when the Alliance prove their military superiority, take out Hellscream, and are declared the ultimate victor of what has been a very messy, bloody war, what happens next?

Does the Alliance simply go home and wait for the world to rise up with yet another threat? Do they at last attempt some kind of tentative peace treaty with Vol'jin and his group of rebels? Will Varian Wrynn take a moment of clear victory and use it to crush what remains of the Horde? Will the Alliance leave a military presence in Orgrimmar, to carefully watch and make certain events like this don't come to pass again?

What does the future for the Alliance hold, once Orgrimmar has been taken down?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Patch 5.4 PTR: Sound files rife with spoilers

Patch 54 Sound files rife with spoilers
Our friend Stevan over at Adriacraft has been busy doing what he does best, and trawling the patch 5.4 PTR build that just went live, and he's unearthed some sound files that can only be described as spoiler-heavy. They're so spoiler-heavy that we've put the whole lot after the break, so head on down if you are OK with some seriously heavy spoilers. If you are not OK with spoilers, do not hit the break, do not listen to the audio, do not read the comments. Instead, enjoy this lovely shaman.

And what's more, this is datamining. Datamining is encouraging players to draw conclusions from files found in the game's systems. The developers have been known to put things in there which are red herrings, things which are never used, things which aren't even meant to be in there. So take it as read that that could well be what's going on. And take all this with a hefty pinch of salt. If, however, you love datamined spoilers, read on.

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Filed under: News items

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition The curious neutrality of Anduin Wrynn
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.

Prince Anduin Llane Wrynn is the sole heir to Stormwind's throne. Named after Varian's father, the beloved King Llane, and the hero of all heroes, Anduin Lothar, he's got two major figures to live up to. Yet rather than turn down the path of Lothar's heroics, he seems to be gravitating towards the direction that King Llane ultimately followed: A beloved leader, one who treated all in his kingdom with kindness and respect, up to and including Garona -- a member of the Old Horde who by all rights, despite her background as a half-breed, was still the face of the enemy.

And in the end, that spelled King Llane's undoing. His trust was his weakness, and it resulted in his assassination. King Llane died in part because of the machinations of the Shadow Council, but in even larger part because he simply didn't exercise caution like he should. King Llane's death is a cautionary tale that his son Varian took to heart -- but Varian's son is a different story altogether. Anduin Wrynn presents a peculiar puzzle that has yet to be fully explained.

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on what is to come as a result. 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

Patch 5.2 and beyond with Dave Kosak

Patch 52 and beyond with Dave Kosak
Hot on the heels of the official patch 5.2 trailer, we had the opportunity to sit down and speak with one of the developers behind it all. While chatting with Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak about patch 5.2 and its development, one thing became incredibly clear -- 5.2 is definitely not just a raid and a few dailies. There is far, far more to be seen and experienced in the new patch.

Read on for some of the details behind the trailer released earlier today, the story in the new patch, daily quest development, scenarios, and even a few hints at what's in store for patch 5.3.

Please note: There are a couple of minor spoilers for 5.2 content in the interview. Nothing huge, we promise!

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Filed under: Interviews, Mists of Pandaria

Know Your Lore: The evolution of Varian Wrynn

Know Your Lore The evolution of Varian Wrynn
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 can't really take a good look at Garrosh Hellscream without taking a look at his Alliance counterpart, King Varian Wrynn. Varian is an enigma in his own right, although for different reasons than Garrosh. Where Garrosh was a character that was introduced and shown in every aspect in the game itself, Varian is notable for being ... absent. He wasn't there for vanilla WoW. He wasn't there for Burning Crusade. Varian didn't make his first appearance in game until the launch event for Wrath of the Lich King, and exploded onto the scene with an attitude that threw a lot of players off.

Where Garrosh saw all of his development play out in-game, even the odd disconnected moments, Varian saw his play out through a series of comics and novels. Most of his history is a big question mark to many players. While not quite as big an unknown as Lor'themar Theron, people still wonder -- who is this guy? Where did he come from, and why was he so angry when he returned? And perhaps most importantly -- where did he turn from angry leader in the Ulduar cinematic to the far more patient leader we're seeing in Mists?

Oddly enough, his story and Garrosh's mirror each other far more than you'd think.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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