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Know Your Lore: The Shadow Council

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.

Where others may have quailed from the looming threat of darkness, they embraced it. Where others reviled the blatant corruption of the Burning Legion, they not only accepted it, they went looking for more. And where others may have listened to common sense and turned from the face of evil, they saw evil for what it was, took its measure and took what it had to give, gladly. It wasn't about corruption, it was never about corruption -- it was about power.

And for the Shadow Council, power was everything.

Formed long before the creation of the Dark Portal and the first invasion of Azeroth, the Shadow Council managed to survive the death of its leader. In fact, it thrived in his absence, and despite the supposed extermination of this dark society, it still thrives today, albeit in lesser numbers than before. But though its direction and leaders may have altered, its purpose has never really changed -- devotion to the Legion, at whatever costs that may entail.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The whereabouts of Medivh

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 for me, I came back to ensure that there would be a future, to teach the world that it no longer needed Guardians. The hope for future generations has always resided in mortal hands. And now that my task is done, I will take my place amongst the legends of the past.

Medivh, former Guardian of Azeroth, had a tough life to put it mildly. Born to a mother who had him solely to insure that her powers passed on to someone of her choosing, Medivh was promptly left to be raised by his father, Stormwind's court conjurer Nielas Aran. When he reached the age of fourteen, Medivh came into the powers he'd inherited -- and promptly killed his father when those powers were unleashed, sinking into a twenty-year coma from which he eventually awakened, now in his mid-30's and a fully grown man.

Yet that wasn't all that he had to contend with. He also carried within himself the spirit of Sargeras, fallen Titan and leader of the Burning Legion. Sargeras used Medivh as if he were a puppet, orchestrating the opening of the Dark Portal and unleashing the orc Horde on Azeroth. He was ultimately stopped when his plans were uncovered and he was confronted by Garona, Anduin Lothar, and his apprentice, Khadgar -- and lost his head in the process. Oddly enough, Medivh came back years later to orchestrate the unification of orc, human and night elf troops to defeat Archimonde at Hyjal, before disappearing for good. Or what seemed like it was for good.

But have we really seen the last of Medivh?

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: 5 influential moments in 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.

The lore of Warcraft isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to follow. It's not a straight line of cause and effect that you can simply trace from beginning to end. It's an endless chain of events intertwined with each other in a ball that is so tightly wound together, it's almost impossible to untangle and pick apart. This is a large part of the reason why it's so hard to answer a seemingly simple question, "I want to try and get into Warcraft lore, so where do I start?"

That said, there are several standout moments in lore, moments that have influenced far more than one character's development or one chain of story progression. While the following list isn't every moment, it contains some of the most influential, those events in history that have shaped the world of Warcraft and will continue to shape it for years to come.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Gul'dan, the soul of evil

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.

Every villain in the Warcraft universe has a story behind why exactly they're a villain. For some, it was the corruption of the Old Gods that slowly drove them mad. For others, it was the promise of great power by agents of the Burning Legion. But it's rare that we see a villain that is simply a villain without any kind of outside influence. Garrosh Hellscream is one of the better villains in Warcraft solely because he does evil things, but doesn't believe that they are evil -- instead, he believes that they are simply the right thing to do.

But before Garrosh Hellscream was an orc who pretty much represented pure, unmitigated evil in its most concentrated form. He knew the corruption of his entire race was at stake, and he went ahead and traded it for the one thing he craved above all else -- power. Gul'dan may not have come from bloodlines that boasted glory, but he was ridiculously intelligent, cunning, and cruel. To Gul'dan, it wasn't about performing evil deeds. It was about amassing as much power and prestige as he could -- and the rest of the world could burn, for all he cared.

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

What If: Clash of the Frozen Thrones

I love doing lore columns, and I really enjoy doing Tinfoil Hat Editions of Know Your Lore -- I like the process of finding all the loose threads from expansions past and pulling them together in a way that is just weird enough to feasibly work. Sometimes, however, I come up with ideas that are just a little too far out there for a Tinfoil Hat Edition. Certainly they're interesting enough, but feasible? Not in the slightest.

When it comes to Warlords of Draenor, there are a lot of questions that haven't been answered. This is to be expected. We haven't even seen the beta for the expansion yet. We have absolutely no idea where that story is going to lead, other than commentary at BlizzCon suggesting that it will directly feed into the expansion following. Yet that tiny little comment, along with some thinking about Warlords itself gave me a theory regarding the next expansion. No, not Warlords -- I'm talking about the expansion after that.

It's entirely implausible of course, which is why I'm not sticking it in the Know Your Lore column. But what the heck, let's take a moment and ask ourselves what if -- and consider the possibility of Azeroth's greatest villain reborn.

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

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Alternate 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.

Warlords of Draenor takes place in an alternate, splinter reality in which Garrosh Hellscream has gone back in time and prevented the leaders of the old orc clans from drinking the Blood of Mannoroth. In this version of reality, several events have changed dramatically -- leading players to ask many, many questions about alternate Azeroth, how its history has been altered, and how that changes the Azeroth we know and love today. The answer is very simple: it doesn't. Not in the slightest. That alternate Azeroth, and whatever future it may hold, has no bearing on Warlords of Draenor at all. We won't be exploring that world, and our Azeroth remains unchanged.

However, people still continue to ask. So we're going to take a little trip into that alternate reality and explore what that version of Azeroth would theoretically look like without the Dark Portal. We're going to explore this alternate world, take a look at what likely never came to pass, and what happened as a result. And then we're going to quietly put all of that away, because this is all information and events that we are not going to see in Warlords of Draenor. But it'll be nice to get it out of our systems, won't it?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation and history 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: The warlords of 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.

Originally, Draenor was a planet with a nigh-uneventful history until a series of progressively more incredible and unusual events, brought to the world from outside sources, plunged it into chaos. According to what we knew -- which was admittedly very little -- the orc clans of Draenor had no issues with the rest of the world, or with each other. There may have been the occasional squabbles between clans, but there was nothing remotely resembling full out war ... at least nothing that's been recorded in history as we know it. However, the announcement of Warlords of Draenor seems to indicate a big history lesson is on the way.

Draenor's history, one distinct moment in time has been altered, creating a separate fork -- a bubble of time, if you will -- that has changed the fates of these old heroes. So who are the Warlords of Draenor? We have their names. What we don't have is the new history revealed in the expansion just yet. But even in the original timeline, these orc warlords each had different, unique histories that all tied in together, courtesy of the Burning Legion's meddling and influence.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Twists in time

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Twists in time
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.

Two weeks ago, we looked briefly at the Timewalkers and the strange goings-on on the Timeless Isle. Since then, players that have been dutifully completing Kairoz's weekly quests have reached the end of the mysterious visions Kairoz has been trying to pinpoint -- with some disturbing results and implications. In fact, the whole mad journey has been a steady trickle of unanswered questions and dizzying scenarios that might or might not be true. Or perhaps they're all true, just in different versions of reality.

And that's the bronze dragonflight in a nutshell. It's a headache-inducing puzzle of events that might have been, have been, never been, and may have meant to be but hadn't, that can't quite be untangled. Led by Nozdormu, the bronze dragonflight's missive has always been to protect and observe the pathways of time. The Titans gifted Nozdormu with the knowledge of when and how he would die as a warning, a lesson -- that no matter how powerful Nozdormu might think he was, he, just like any mortal, would have to answer to time eventually. This was meant to keep the Timeless One in check, an effective plan.

But did it really work?

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 how it happened. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Please note: This post contains spoilers for events on the Timeless Isle.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The Alliance and Horde

Know Your Lore The Alliance and Horde
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.

To ask why we fight, is to ask why the leaves fall -- it is in their nature.

The Alliance and Horde have been notoriously at each other's throats since the two factions began in the days of the First and Second Wars. And although I have come up with some crazy theories regarding the innate reasons behind that latent aggression between the two factions, they're simply theories. They may make sense, in a bizarre and meta fashion, but they are in no way true. So here we are, left with a simple question: What makes the Alliance and Horde so prone to aggression? Why do they continue to battle, and turn their noses at the thought of making peace?

While I do enjoy coming up with fanciful reasons for all of this, there is one blatant, simple reason that stands on its own: Misunderstanding. Sheer, unadulterated ignorance and a stubborn unwillingness to try and understand. Both sides possess a single-minded obsession with violence and retribution that has never faded, nearly thirty years after the events of the First War. And when you step back and take a look at the conflict between the two factions with a neutral eye, the whole of the aggression turns into a delightful, tragic, almost laughable comedy of errors and escalation.

Let's take a look at where some of the common misconceptions surrounding both Horde and Alliance have gotten us.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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

Know Your Lore: Why do we fight?

Know Your Lore Why do we fight SUN
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.

Azeroth is a volatile land fraught with conflict. In recent years of history, this conflict has been highlighted by the battle between Alliance and Horde, a seemingly never-ending struggle that began the moment the orcs made their way through the Dark Portal and began attacks on the Eastern Kingdoms in earnest. But prior to the orcs, there were still wars to contend with. In early days, pandaren rose up against mogu, troll against aqir. Kaldorei against Burning Legion, and against each other in the process.

It almost seems as though Azeroth's destiny is one that is irrevocably tied to war -- we're destined to fight, regardless of who we are, or what we happen to be fighting. But why do the Alliance and Horde continue to fight? They've worked together in the past, and yet it seems that every time they are close to some sort of peaceful resolution, they are drawn once more to war. What's making the Alliance and Horde so aggressive this time around?

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: King Varian Wrynn, or: How I learned to love the jerk

Know Your Lore King Varian Wrynn, or how I learned to love the jerk SUN
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.

King Varian Wrynn is a jerk. He's angry, he's rude, he's deliberately inflammatory. Despite the moments of kindness we've seen from Varian, they're just small moments. Yes, he let Saurfang retrieve the body of his son for Alliance players in Icecrown Citadel to witness. But he still holds a deep and unmitigated hatred for the Horde and everyone in it, including Thrall. He will quite happily talk about scouring the Undercity and purging it of all Forsaken, and he seems to be of the opinion that the only good orc for the most part is a dead one.

But his attitude issues aren't limited to the Horde. He is endlessly frustrated and angry with Jaina Proudmoore and her insistence on diplomatic attempts. He was brusque, rude, and outright against letting the worgen join the Alliance when they were desperate for help. His anger even extends to his son Anduin Wrynn, who has done nothing to outright offend his father other than following the path of a priest rather than a warrior. Varian has even gone so far as to hurt his son, nearly breaking Anduin's arm in an attempt to force him to stay put and keep him from leaving to study with the Prophet Velen.

And yet, there is something so inherently fascinating about Varian Wrynn that I cannot tear my eyes away.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Garona: A Study on Stealth and Treachery, part 1


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 stories of battle and victory have always been told, and in the past, it was up to the leaders of each assault to document the past. While fine leaders in war, these chieftains lacked the ability to convey those actions with written words. I present as an example:
"Thok go through shiny hole. Then me fall down, but me good. Me find many good things to eat. We find village. We mash them and eat their food. Thok stop now. Head hurt from write."
The fact that I am of both Orc and Human lineage, combined with the skills and schooling I have acquired from my journeys, has elevated me to the position I now hold. As chief interpreter to the Shadow Council, the duty of preserving the accounts of our conquering of this world and the eventual crusade into the land of Humanity, has fallen now upon my shoulders. I, Garona, now humbly present that history. . .

-- The Destiny of the Orcish Hordes
What kind of terror courses through you when your body will not respond to the thoughts in your mind? Garona Halforcen was originally introduced in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. Throughout the course of the story, Garona continually referred to herself as half human. Garona's heritage was something that had been brought into question on more than one occasion in Warcraft lore. Since humans hadn't been seen on Draenor at that point in time, how could Garona be a full-grown half-orc by the time the Horde stepped through the Dark Portal?

Garona's life was relatively lonely on Draenor. She spent most of it traveling and learning the culture of the orcs. This caught the attention of the Shadow Council, which marveled at her intelligent and cunning. Judging her an invaluable asset, they recruited her as Gul'dan's personal spy and assassin. Despite her standing, she was still vastly alone; as a half-orc, she held no particular allegiance to any clan. It wasn't until she arrived on Azeroth with the rest of the orcs that her keen intelligence and mixed blood came into play.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: Kul Tiras and the mystery of Tol Barad


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 hot topic of contention among Cataclysm players is the new PvP zone of Tol Barad and the accompanying Tol Barad peninsula zone. They features a host of new daily quests and two new factions with some truly stunning rewards -- have you seen those spectral mounts? Gorgeous!. Players were really looking forward to playing around in the new area. Unfortunately, between mechanics issues and queuing woes, few people are actually enjoying the new content.

However, Tol Barad isn't quite as "new" as you'd think -- at least not from a lore standpoint. Today, we're going to take a look at the history of Tol Barad. But before that, we need to take a look at the nation that owned it, a nation that's been mysteriously absent in World of Warcraft: the island nation of Kul Tiras, birthplace of Jaina Proudmoore and home of one of the strongest naval fleets the world had ever seen.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

Know Your Lore: The Council of Tirisfal and the last Guardian

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 was the last Guardian and one of the most influential people in Azeroth -- but he never meant to be either one. Of all of the myriad and varied heroes in World of Warcraft, there is one man who is responsible for the majority of the events we see in Azeroth today. This man was solely responsible for the presence of orcs, responsible for the Horde, responsible for the ever-evolving conflict between Horde and Alliance. He was responsible for the original destruction of Stormwind, for the death of Anduin Lothar, King Llane Wrynn and many other heroes whose exploits didn't make it into the annals of history. He was responsible, indirectly, for the corruption of Arthas and the subsequent death of King Menethil, the razing of Stratholme and the rise of the Scourge. He arguably has more blood on his hands than any other being in Azeroth.

And yet he was also responsible for the first tenuous threads of peace stretched between Alliance and Horde. He was responsible for the rise of some of Azeroth's greatest heroes -- he was the man that made Varian Wrynn who he is today, he was the man who turned Thrall from an orc with dreams of peace for his people into a leader of action. He was responsible for saving Azeroth from being razed and torn asunder by the Burning Legion. He was a man of many talents, and a man of many regrets. His name is Medivh.

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Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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