Hello everyone, and thank you for joining me for some fun theorycrafting and observations! I’ll preface this by saying: this is LONG. There were so many hints pointing toward certain things, that I needed to give some background information and some extra here and there. It also doesn’t help that, perhaps, I can be long-winded. Ehehe.
Anyway, buckle up and I hope you enjoy!
Safe Haven, and the Implications
With the release of a new cinematic short, Safe Haven, we’ve had yet another nail driven into the proverbial coffin of Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, Warchief of the Horde. As High Overlord Varok Saurfang is talking with Thrall, they’re attacked by two Forsaken rogues. The attackers are quickly dispatched, and Thrall accuses Saurfang of being followed. To which Saurfang replied; “I followed them.”
Now, there’s nothing to indicate Saurfang is lying about this. In fact, when Thrall declares this place is; “Home. And family,” Saurfang looks around, somewhat wary, and asks; “And where are they?” To which Thrall replies; “Not far.” Some might say this is just to make sure Thrall’s family doesn’t hear Saurfang accuse Thrall of being absent in the face of what Sylvanas has done to the Horde. It can also be said that he was making sure Thrall’s family wouldn’t get in the crosshairs of the attack from the rogues he was following.
On the other hand, Sylvanas declared to your character in Queen’s Favor: “Let me be perfectly clear. You will find the traitor Saurfang. You will deliver him to me. And you will not fail me again.” In this, she might have dispatched more subtle forces than Dark Rangers and Deathguards, like rogues. A couple of points that might indicate Saurfang was simply turning a situation to his advantage are this: Why wait to kill Thrall until Saurfang is there? And, Saurfang was in the Swamp of Sorrows when Lyana and your character encounter him, which feeds directly into the Blasted Lands and the Dark Portal. Indicating Saurfang was probably already heading in that direction, and the rogues simply followed him.
Rogues operate on subtlety, and would know that attacking when both orcs are there would put them at a disadvantage despite Saurfang having no weapon. If Thrall is truly the target, chances are they’d have just killed him and left. However, if they were following Saurfang, and heard the High Overlord trying to convince the former Warchief to fight for the Horde again, they may have felt obligated to take both of them out. They couldn’t take the chance of both orcs leaving there, united in their efforts to overthrow their Queen.
Plus, who is Thrall more likely to believe here? An honored war veteran, or Sylvanas? The rogues certainly can’t dispute what he’s said. I really don’t want to doubt Saurfang, and would love to take his words at face value, but at this point Saurfang may be willing to do whatever it takes to convince Thrall to fight for the Horde. Including luring two rogues he knows were following him right to Thrall’s door. The wariness we see when Saurfang asks about Thrall’s family, may have also been him making sure his actions wouldn’t end up with Thrall’s family dead.
We’ll have to wait and see, but at the moment I’m going to say that Saurfang manipulated the situation to his advantage. Either way, this does not reflect well on the Banshee Queen.
Is Sylvanas going to be Garrosh 2.0?
So, this question has been answered by Michael Bybee at Gamescon, stating that she won’t, but as her actions become ever more warmongering some players are struggling to believe this. However, I’m inclined to put my faith in the writers at Blizzard and I have a few reasons for this.
- Vol’jin, the loa, and hunting shadows
At the very beginning of Legion, Vol’jin is struck down by a demon and Sylvanas calls for the Horde to retreat to try and save the Warchief. Unfortunately, Vol’jin was beyond saving, but before he died he stated he’d been granted a vision:
Now, this decision has had major consequences for Horde and Alliance alike. And, until recently, we believed that the loa wanted Sylvanas in power for some reason or another.
However, in Battle for Azeroth and Tides of Vengeance specifically, we find out that this is 100% not the case. Vol’jin is summoned by Baine, Talanji, and company to hear who it was that told Vol’jin to make Sylvanas Warchief. However, Vol’jin’s memory is muddled, and you go back through his final hours to see if it will jog his memory:
Now, what I find most interesting about the above is two things. Vol’jin has declared his death was no accident, and he was, and still is, cut off from the loa. And there was a power lurking in the shadows. It took him somewhere to see this vision, but he can’t remember what this power is, or where they took him.
As a little side-note, one of the shades being fought says; “We tried…to spare you…the truth.” It might seem small, but this could be a huge part in some of the theory I’ll get down to below.
Having declared that he thinks it might not be the loa who granted him the vision, there’s only one thing left to do: visit a loa. Specifically, Bwonsamdi.
Bwonsamdi states he can’t hear Vol’jin either, and that he wasn’t the one who sent the vision. He cites ‘the balance’ as to why he would never suggest Sylvanas, because she, ‘tips the scales too far.’ Now, this isn’t the first you’ve heard of the Balance, as we get it, ad nauseum, from druids and anyone in touch with nature. However, this is another potential arrow pointing to who, or what, did send the vision.
However, that’s for later.
Moving on from here, Bwonsamdi tells us that he might know a couple different ‘people’ we should talk to, to see if it was them. His competitors, if you will, who deal in the dying and the dead.
So, first stop is Icecrown:
What I find so incredibly amusing is that even the Lich King says the Banshee Queen is too extra, and again we hear someone bring up ‘the balance’. We also get our next clue that something has gone awry with Vol’jin’s afterlife. That Vol’jin has been changed ‘more than you know.’
Then, in the true spirit of Lich King hospitality, he sics some ghouls after you, and tells you to remain with him forever or kick rocks.
Having fled Icecrown, we make our way back to the Broken Isles to visit Eyir:
Eyir gives us an interesting piece of information, that whoever has elevated Vol’jin beyond a ‘mere spirit’ is ‘a hand of valor’. She also indicated that such a force would not be interested in schemes for mortal thrones. We’ll get to that little tidbit later, because while I think that is factually true in letter, it is not true in spirit. See what I did there? Eh? Eh?
Yeah, okay, moving on.
So, here we’ve established that whoever granted the vision is not the same entity that elevated Vol’jin to…well, whatever he is. Bwonsamdi has no claim to him, the Lich King states he is not Undead or Damned, and Eyir says whatever has elevated him is beyond even her power. And, oh boy, this is getting good!
After Eyir says she knows what the thing probably is, but she won’t tell us, she also tells us to kick rocks. Man, these immortal beings are freaking rude! Anywho, we then hear this from Vol’jin:
Having established how little we know, Vol’jin says that he’s going to continue searching for answers, and that he’s going to hunt the potential new enemy before it’s hunting us. Which I think is going to bring a whole new facet to the title of Shadow Hunter for Vol’jin.
So, what, might you ask, does that incredibly long bit of exposition have to do with Sylvanas not being Garrosh? This leads me to #2.
2. New Powers that Probably Aren’t so New
One of the things you’ll notice with almost all the big bads we face in WoW, is that they tend to pull from ye olde days. They’re bad guys we’ve either faced in the past, or the beings of Azeroth have faced in the past in the RTSs and Lore:
- The Old Gods (Vanilla, War of the Ancients, and more)
- The Burning Legion & Illidan (Burning Crusade, War of the Ancients, The Opening of the Dark Portal)
- The Scourge and the Lich King (Wrath of the Lich King, The Scourge, Warcraft III)
- Cataclysm & Deathwing (Cycling back to Old God influence, and Deathwing seemed to have his fingers in a lot of pies)
- Sha & Garrosh (Old Gods…Again. Sensing a theme, yet? The Sha were spawned from Old God essence. Garrosh brings us back around to the original sentiment of Orcs vs. Humans)
- Warlords of Draenor…eh, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. But really, it’s just more Through the Dark Portal-esque stuff, right?
- Legion (The Burning Legion again)
- Battle for Azeroth (We’re still angry at each other, Azshara the Sunderer, and the old gods are still trying to kill everyone)
Now, after the original game and seven expansions, all featuring heavily with themes and bad guys from the past, what’s on the horizon?
Every franchise needs an infusion of fresh types of enemies to face to keep a storyline going. You can only re-use the same baddies so much before it gets stale. Now, Blizzard knows this, and I think they’ve been leaving hints along our storyline paths for what kind of fight we can expect post-N’Zoth.
Light versus Shadow and…More?
Okay, this isn’t a new concept completely, I mean, we’ve had paladins since day one, right? But I think it goes deeper than that.
When you see enemies like Old Gods, Titans, the Burning Legion, and so on, do you go toe-to-toe with them, or do you do the smart thing and work in the background and try to take them down through proxies? Like, you know, heroic adventurers? Demi-gods? You would also use these proxies to enforce your will.
Now, let’s get something clear: the Light is not ‘good’ and the Shadow is not ‘bad’…”but such concepts do not apply to the Light and the Void, they are simply primal forces with their morality characterized by how they are wielded” — Gamepedia ‘Light’
This is getting well into theory, but there are a few hints that I think support this:
- Going back to Legion with the disastrous Xe’ra versus Illidan encounter, we get to see what kinds of lengths the Light is willing to go to. Khadgar has theorized that, during the great ordering of the cosmos or the ordering of Shadow and Light, Xe’ra was created by Elune. Xe’ra, and other Naaru, are agents of the Light. Illidan is known as the Child of Light and Shadows, but we see him forsake this birthright when he kills Xe’ra and remains at the Seat of the Pantheon. So, the Light is looking for new ‘Champions’.
- We sort of see this happen with Calia Menethil, an undead brought back by the Light. Who may be put in place to battle Sylvanas once she’s deposed? (Because, trust me, if she’s not dead by the conclusion of certain events, she will likely be banished).
- Vol’jin was shown a vision by something in the Shadows, maybe not the Shadows itself, but elevated in status by the Light, and will become a true ‘Shadow Hunter’.
- Sylvanas becoming Warchief at the will of something, but I’m not so sure it’s the Shadow, or Void. We see the Void essence in Alleria warning her about Sylavans; “This one is dangerous. She is a threat and must be ended. Beware this one. She seeks the death of all things…All possibilities.” This is likely the Void trying to keep the balance.
- Alleria is created as an agent of the Void by another agent of the Void, the Locus-Walker.
- Night Warriors created by Elune.
I’m sure I could dig up more examples, but this’ll do for now.
So, coming back around to Sylvanas, how does this create a storyline different from Garrosh’s?
3. Destroying the Balance
Because, ultimately, I think this is what whoever gave Vol’jin the vision is going for. We’ve had three heavy hitters–Bwonsamdi, The Lich King, Eyir–stating how bad Sylvanas is for the Balance. This also implies that these beings work to keep the Balance, or maybe they are even bound by the tennets of Balance.
The Light and Shadow or ‘Void’ might be bound by these same rules, or they have to follow those rules when exerting their will in our world. Not totally sure. This brings me back around to Eyir’s comment about the hand of valor not scheming for thrones, which might be true in the strictest sense, but it sure tries to influence things behind thrones. *cough* Boy Wonder himself, Anduin. *cough*
The Void is no different. However, what these two shimmering seas of energy situated outside the barriers of reality share is this: they aren’t overt. They influence from behind the scenes. They whisper. They guide the hands of their proxies toward the outcome that suits them best. They do not orchestrate the death of a Warchief, kidnap his spirit to show him a vision, and force the appointment of the Warchief that would suit them best.
That’s where our third party comes in: The Gray. While the reason behind why The Gray would want the Balance thrown out of whack at best, or at worst destroyed, is unknown, we can see that’s what they want. And who, you may ask, are the first beings we encounter that were likely agents of The Gray? I’d have to say the Scourge Val’kyr all the way back at the end of Wrath, when Sylvanas kills herself from jumping off the top of ICC.
They show Sylvanas a vision of what would happen to the Forsaken if she truly died. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think Val’kyr are known for having visions. Who is? The Gray.
This has me asking so many questions:
- Is the Balance bad for us? The Light and Void manipulate us to their own ends, and we can see in certain cases (Illidan) that they don’t care about the people, as long as their goals are met. Perhaps The Gray is doing us a favor by trying to shatter that balance through Sylvanas.
- Maybe The Gray are simply a faction of the Void unhappy with the Balance, and are seeking to destroy it? We’ve seen other examples of beings going rogue from their faction, like Kairoz from the Bronze Dragonflight when he helped Garrosh.
- What has The Gray Seen that has compelled them to take these actions? Is keeping the Balance going to cause more harm than good? Is shattering it the only way we keep ourselves from annihilation?
4. Who Else has The Gray Influenced?
I think we get this answer in that amazing trio of cinematic shorts: The Warbringers, Sylvanas, Azshara, & Jaina.
Yes, even Jaina.
Azshara: The female voice that whispers to her when she looks at the fish isn’t male, like N’Zoths. Also, who has been seen to control spirits, like the ones she sees accusing her? The Gray. It isn’t until she shouts about a ‘deal’ that we hear from N’Zoth. The Gray knows it can prod Azshara’s pride into taking N’Zoth’s deal.
Jaina: Again, we see spirit manipulation with Jaina’s father, forcing her back into the confrontation when she’s been absent from it for so long. She even says, ‘I’m listening now, Father’, which might not be her father at all, but The Gray.
Sylvanas: Destroying the home of the Night Elves, as a result of much plotting from various sources like Elegy, A Good War, and Before the Storm, is a major attack on the Balance, since the Night Elves are agents of Elune. Agents of the Balance.
Remember, it isn’t trying to make all of those it’s influencing work together. In fact, the more war they bring, the more likely it is that the Balance will suffer.
First off, I have to tip my hat to the team at Blizzard. I have never been so invested in the lore of the game, and it has been amazing to join them for this ride. I am truly looking forward to each new addition as we go along.
Many thanks to you all.
As for The Gray, I could be totally wrong on all points. If that’s the case I’ve just wasted hours of my life, and maybe ten-ish minutes of yours, from this whole thing. If that turns out to be true I apologize profusely, but I had fun, and I have no one to discuss this with so you were all stuck with this post, heh.
I do think, with the harping on about the Balance, that is what will be under threat and Sylvanas is that threat in physical form. Now, if it turns out The Gray has set her up to destroy the Balance because it’s the only way we’ll be saved from annihilation, then do her actions justify that end? We had that question with Illidan: do you justify the murder of the few to save the many?
Or, is The Gray doing this to gain an upper hand, consequences be damned?
I have to think it’s the first, to be honest, and one of the reasons is shown from earlier, when Vol’jin is making his way back through his final hour. The shade said; “We tried…to spare you…the truth.” That doesn’t sound like something a being would care about if they just wanted mayhem and murder.
With that being my guess, I had my own sort of ‘vision’:
At the conclusion, when the Balance has been shattered for their benefit, Sylvanas is confronted by all the leaders. They see why she did it, because in the end it was the only way to save the most people, but as Vol’jin stated as he was dying: “Many will not understand.” And they don’t. Some will want her true death. Some will want to grant her mercy. All acknowledge that she cannot continue as Warchief, and will likely have to step down as queen of the Forsaken.
In some ways, I see her returning to ICC, and staring down from the top. Trying to decide if she will end her Undeath there as she had those many years ago. Perhaps the Lich King is still there, and offers for her to stay there forever, as he did for your player in the cut scene.
Perhaps The Gray offers her an alternative to the damned afterlife she saw when she jumped from ICC after Arthas’ death.
Either way, the only thing I see Sylvanas sharing with Garrosh, is that after this storyline comes to its end, she will come to hers in the game. One way, or another.