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Shades of Grey: The Evolution of the Horde Racial Leaders

Updated Thu, Jun 30, 2011 by Saia

Azeroth is not a world of black and white but several shades of grey. When I first started playing World of Warcraft, I rolled Alliance because my friends were all humans, night elves or little pink-haired gnomes and because they were the Good Guys™. But as expansions have come and gone and the lore has evolved, I’ve come to realise that it’s not as cut and dry as that.

Look back though Azerothian lore and it’s obvious you can’t split each faction by saying that the Alliance is good and the Horde evil. Each race has blots on it’s copy book in both good and evil actions. This is where it gets complicated and most fantasy players will have heard of the Alignment System. This splits the concept of good and evil into specifics like lawful good and chaotic evil as well as neutral. It’s perfect for those times when good people do bad things for the right reasons. Just look at the Tauren, if any race doesn’t belong in the Horde it’s the peaceful Tauren and yet there they are, members of the Faction because of personal relationships.

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Thrall is one of those rare characters, unfettered by faction to become a true Champion of Azeroth.

One of the most interesting characters, for me at least, is Sylvanas. She started out as the hero of Silvermoon then, murdered and transformed into a Banshee, she became a twisted version of herself. But there was still goodness there, beneath her hatred of Arthas she gathered the Forsaken together, welcoming the outcasts of society into her fold. Now though, with Arthas gone. Sylvanas is walking a darker path. She wants Gilneas for herself and is not afraid to use the Blight to get it. She has the Val’kyr raising the dead of her enemies as new members of the Forsaken and is at loggerheads with the new Warchief, Garrosh Hellscream.

Similarly, there’s Thrall. Once the Warchief of the Horde, he’s now a force for good in the Warcraft Universe and has transcended the petty squabbles of the Horde and the Alliance. By stepping away from his responsibilities, he’s become a better person for it and a true Champion of Azeroth. Indeed, I suspect, given Thrall’s importance in 4.2 that he is being groomed for a huge role in the final stand against Deathwing.

Then there’s Garrosh. When it was first announced he was taking the reins of power from Thrall, both Alliance and Horde players were worried. He was too unstable, too outspoken and xenophobic in his views and everyone was just waiting for him to go power-mad and start killing people. Except that’s not happened yet and Garrosh has seemed to realise that Thrall’s boots are not easy to fill.

This video demonstrates that even Garrosh has a good side.

Yes he has taken back land the Horde believe is theirs but for the whole he’s become a better person. Yes he’s dismissed those who go against his wishes, he’s having to keep more than one eye on Sylvanas and yet the Horde is still in one piece so he can’t be doing such a terrible job. Garrosh is not a good character, not in the traditional understanding, but he is doing what is best for his people.

The Cataclysm has been hard on the peoples of Azeroth, both the champions, the normal folk and the leaders of the factions. Things will only get tougher as times goes on and yet, it’s becoming more and more obvious that Azeroth is a place of complexity; it is the Alignment System personified and that’s what makes its characters that much more realistic. We can’t completely hate Garrosh because he sometimes reminds us he has honour and we cannot hate Sylvanas because she’s only trying to deal with the hand fate dealt her. Similarly, Thrall is being groomed to be the saviour of Azeroth, to be its greatest Shaman and that has got to come with a price. What that is, well, only time will tell but it’s sure to be steep, after all, only true heroes can afford to pay it.

The Lore is definitely there for those who seek it.

It's not just the Horde either... in this case... now that Varian Wrynn is back to lead Stormwind, people at first thought that he would be a just king, considering how gentle his son is... but, he's more like what people thought Garrosh would be. A warmonger. Then, there's the matter with the dwarven and their problems of succession... Alliance is just as complex. But, definite shades of grey. Even the old Warcraft days, before World of Warcraft... you could see the shades of grey even in the Alliance with Blackmore and people like him.

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