If you’re one of the lapsed players returning for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth, then you’re probably also part of the big exodus that left the game after Wrath of the Lich King. It’s been 10 years since Arthas was defeated at Ice Crown Citadel, so here’s a quick primer to catch you up on everything that’s happened.
There Must Always Be A Lich King
At the end of Wrath of the Lich King, Arthas revealed that he launched a second invasion in order to bait out heroes (that means you) who have the potential to become death knights. He stomped the group of adventurers (also foolishly you) who came to slay him and was about to convert them into his newest champions when Tirion Fordring broke free. Wielding the legendary sword Ashbringer, Tirion destroyed Frostmourne and whooped Arthas’ ass, avenging thousands of abducted souls. Among them was Arthas’ father, King Terenas.
In his final moments, Arthas died as the Prince of Lordaeron rather than the Lich King. Some fans even felt pity for him during this scene, which is stupid because he was basically zombie Hitler.
However, this victory came with a catch. King Terenas warned Tirion that “there must always be a Lich King”, lest the mindless Scourge grow out of control. Former paladin and dragon toast Bolvar Fordragon dons the Helm of Domination and becomes the new Lich King. Fordragon is then abandoned in the frozen wastes of Northrend as the Jailor of the Damned.
Deathwing Brings Cataclysm To Azeroth
The dread dragon Deathwing resurfaces on Azeroth, a being so powerful that his return was called the Shattering because it completely borked the planet. Entire zones are permanently transformed because of his rampage.
Deathwing was one of the five Dragon Aspects, creatures who were imbued with massive power by the Titans to shape and guide the development of Azeroth. Out of all the Aspects, Deathwing was the mightiest, so the patrons of the other four Dragonflights banded together to stop him.
A group of adventurers and our boy Thrall took the big bad Deathwing down using the Dragon Soul, but this again came at a large cost: the Dragon Aspects forfeited the immortality bestowed upon them by the Titans. The dragons have been a slowly dying race ever since.
The Mists of Pandaria Clear And Peace Is Broken
The Alliance and the Horde immediately start vying for control of Pandaria, much to the chagrin of the native people. You see, the Pandaren have worked very hard to be peaceful because of the sha, malevolent beings who feed upon bad vibes, and nothing brings bad vibes like two superpowers going to war.
Poop really hits the paper fan when the extremist Horde leader Garrosh Hellscream gets corrupted by the dark god Y’Shaarj. Champions from both the Alliance and Horde team up to beat him and save the day, but he escapes to set up the next expansion.
On the plus side, Vol’jin becomes the new Warchief, which is great cause he also happens to be the coolest leader.
All in all, a criminally underrated expansion that had the best story and writing in the entire series.
Garrosh Invades Azeroth With The Warlords Of Draenor
Disgraced Warchief and wanted criminal Garrosh Hellscream is whisked away during his war tribunal by the tragically optimistic time dragon Kairoz, who took Garrosh to an alternate Draenor before the orcs became slaves for the demonic Burning Legion.
Warlords of Draenor is widely panned as the worst expansion in the series, partly because of its convoluted time traveling storyline and one-dimensional treatment of orcs. In Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, the orcs were retconned to be a noble race who were perverted by their fel overlords. After all the terrible things Garrosh had done, fans were eager to see a more morally balanced portrayal of orcs in the franchise.
Unfortunately, Warlords of Draenor didn’t take that route. It turns out the orcs were massive assholes even before they chugged demon blood like Gatorade because Garrosh and his alterna-dad Grommash form the Iron Horde to invade Azeroth.
However, we do get to see a poignant final showdown between Thrall and Garrosh. The two former friends duel to the death and share a heartbreaking scene where they argue about leadership and betrayal.
The Legion Returns
Sargeras, the biggest of the big bads in all of Warcraft, returns to Azeroth to finish the job. Just to give you an idea of how obscenely powerful Sargeras is, he’s a sentient planet who has obliterated thousands of worlds and wiped out all intelligent life in the galaxy save for Azeroth.
So you know, no pressure.
Varian Wrynn and Vol’jin both kick the bucket during the Burning Legion’s initial invasion, so Anduin and Sylvanas step up as the new respective leaders of the Alliance and the Horde. The ancient night elf city of Suramar reappears after thousands of years of solitude (Azeroth sure has a lot of secret hermit civilizations) and its inhabitants turn out to be invaluable allies.
Oh yeah, and Illidan is back. We thought he died back in Burning Crusade but it turns out he was only mostly dead. He arrives just in time to kill Gul’dan via disintegration, the same way Gul’dan killed Varian.
Later on, Illidan also destroys Xe’ra for trying to make him the Chosen One against his will, prophecies be damned. The prime naaru learned the hard way that the father of all demon hunters doesn’t take kindly to those who violate consent.
Amazingly, we even defeat Sargeras, which gets Illidan very excited because he can now spend the rest of his days torturing the dark lord he devoted his entire life to stopping. The remnants of the Titan Pantheon use their power to imprison Sargeras and Illidan leaves Azeroth to be Sargeras’ warden in perpetuity.
However, before being sent away to space jail, Sargeras stabs Azeroth with his giant sword as a final dick move which has probably doomed the planet forever. What a douche.
Sargeras Is Defeated, But The Battle For Azeroth Has Just Begun
Sargeras’ goodbye present has caused Azeroth to bleed Azerite, a powerful new mineral that can be weaponized to great effect. Fearing what this could mean for the Horde’s future, Sylvanas launches a pre-emptive strike and burns down the night elf capital of Teldrassil to cut off the Alliance’s access into Kalimdor. Anduin responds by sieging the Undercity, capital of the undead Forsaken.
The two superpowers embark on campaigns to find new allies for the war effort. The Horde seeks out the ancient Zandalari Empire, greatest of all the troll nations, while the Alliance reestablishes relationships with the human nation of Kul Tiras. Both their navies will be required in the coming war.
But There’s More That Meets The Eye…
This is World of Warcraft so a war between two factions isn’t enough. We will always need a big bad, but Battle for Azeroth hasn’t announced one yet, leading fans to speculate who our ultimate enemy will be. As someone in the beta, I’m not really spoiling anything when I tell you that it involves the Old Gods, the Lovecraftian horrors who dominated Azeroth before the Pantheon came to clean up the mess.
We know from previous lore that they’re imprisoned deep below Azeroth, prisons which are now probably weakened thanks to Sargeras’ final blow. There are a few hints throughout the Alliance and Horde campaigns of how exactly the Old Gods be involved in the future story but I’ll wait until the game goes live to post my speculations.
Until then, consider yourself officially Caught Up! Welcome back to the game. I’ll catch you in Azeroth.
World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth launches August 14.