The villains of Pandaria
Mists of Pandaria doesn't appear to have a big, bad villain the likes of Illidan, the Lich King, or Deathwing, but that doesn't mean it's not without its baddies. The Sha represent a reflection of our characters' inner strife, and they continue to wreak havoc on Pandaria. So too do the mantid -- and while we appear to have made a tentative alliance with a few of them in the Dread Wastes, we can still remain fairly clear that they aren't the nicest of races out there.
The mogu are another villainous race, creatures bent on shaping flesh from stone and overthrowing Pandaria, creatures that once saw themselves the leaders of a mighty empire. They enslaved the pandaren race, they created others like the grummles and the saurok, and they are working diligently to some mysterious end we aren't quite certain of, just yet. And the yaungol, who fight with ferocity to defend their land ... but they don't quite seem to fit the villain mold they've been given.
There's a curious hierarchy to the villains of Pandaria. The mantid have been around since the days of the Aqir empires, a branch off of the same insectoid races we see in Silithus and Northrend. They worshipped the dread Y'Shaarj, an Old God with seven heads who was killed by the Titans. After his death, Y'Shaarj's seven heads gave one last breath, and the Sha are the result. The mantid swarm at regular intervals, which means that the rest of Pandaria can accurately predict when they will arrive.
The yaungol are a different kind of villain, and their actions aren't really villainous so much as out of sheer necessity. They invaded Kun Lai Summit and wreak havoc on the pandaren located there -- but it was only to escape the mantid, who have begun to swarm alarmingly early. They appear to be indulging in dark rituals of their own -- but we don't understand yaungol culture at all. These rituals may be some sort of dark reckoning to deal with the mantid menace. Brutish at best, the yaungol certainly aren't looking for allies, regardless of their intention.
And then we have the mogu. The mogu built a mighty empire that lasted for thousands upon thousands of years. Oddly enough, they work against the mantid. They work against the yaungol. They have, according to the events that play out in Mogu'shan Vaults, salvaged Titan technology, re-purposing it to further advance their empire and regain the upper ground in Pandaria. They worked to contain the mantid swarm, once upon a time. They shaped the grummle and saurok race, once upon a time. They brutally enslaved the pandaren, once upon a time.
Why are they back now? What are they after? Why are they allied with the Zandalar, and why do they seek to rebuild their empire at the precise moment of our arrival? And how, exactly, does a brutish race bent on domination have the intelligence to use Titan technology?
What if we put on our tinfoil hats, step back, squint, and look at the mogu from a slightly different angle ... one that brings their creation into question? What if the mogu aren't salvaging and re-purposing Titan technology? What if they are simply using the technology they were engineered to use?
What if the mogu aren't simply a race of brutes ... but a group of Titan watchers gone horribly wrong?
Take a look at the screenshot above, from the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. In a simple daily quest, the pandaren have the player go and interrupt a strange "soul-stealing" ritual at the pagoda near Whitepetal Lake. In order to interrupt the ritual, players must smash the statues being used to activate the beam of light. Now take another look at that screenshot, and ask yourself: where have you seen that curious beam of light before?
How about in Dalaran, when the Titan signal was sent out to prevent Azeroth's destruction? How about atop the pyramids of Uldum, when the device to bring about Azeroth's end was activated? These strange beams of light could all be construed as signals to elsewhere -- and what looks like a "soul-stealing" ritual might be an attempt to contact creators long gone.
The mogu are intent upon re-taking the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, largely because it represents an untold wealth of Titan power that they'd like to recapture. Are they trying to recapture it to use it for their own evil ends ... or are they trying to recapture it to keep it safe? To watch over it and guard it, as is their purpose? What if that sudden resurgence of mogu activity isn't just the mogu taking advantage of our chaotic arrival -- what if our arrival triggered that uprising?
The mogu have been around far longer than we realize. Daily quests given by the mantid send players to the terrace of Gurthan, the site of an ancient mogu empire that has since fallen and
died out. This empire existed on the other side of Serpent's Spine, a structure created by the mogu via pandaren hands, to keep the mantid out of the rest of Pandaria. Players are sent to clear the area out -- but they are also sent to retrieve ancient tablets, records of mogu secrets.
And upon retrieving the tablets, if one looks at the flavor text, one can see that these tablets appear to be machine-made. Even back then, thousands upon thousands of years before the human race even existed, when Kalimdor was one mighty continent, the mogu harnessed that Titan power. Did they harness it, or were they merely instruments created to use it?
I know what you're thinking. The mogu enslaved the pandaren race! Obviously they're evil, or working towards evil ends. But here's the issue with that -- we only have one side of that story. We only had one side of the story about the draenei, when it was suggested that they were responsible for Sargeras' corruption. Upon the introduction of the draenei as a playable race, we suddenly had the other side of that story ... and it turned out to be something vastly different from the truth we'd assumed all along.
The mogu obviously aren't good guys. They seek to recapture the days of the past, when their empire stretched across Pandaria and held the other races firmly in check. But let's think about this for a moment. Was this "empire" really an empire to speak of? Or is it simply the natives of Pandaria, who are so accustomed to empires and hierarchy, that coined the term? Are the mogu seeking to rule the land with an iron fist -- or are they simply carrying out orders that we cannot comprehend?
Titanic Watchers are giant beasts of stone, Titanic creations that were tasked with watching over the Titan's creations. They are meant to guard these creations, and in the case of Uldum, Ulduar and Uldaman, to protect the secrets within. The Titans are creatures of order, and the Watchers have been put into play to maintain that order and keep it in check. Uldaman, Uldum, Ulduar -- all of these places have their own watchers of sorts. But there's a distinct difference between these three, and Pandaria.
Pandaria was the site of an Old God's death. It is the only known recorded location of an Old God's death. And because of this, it has unique properties that are not present anywhere else on Azeroth. The mantid worshipped this Old God, and when it died, they continued to be a constant menace, although a predictable one. Serpent's Spine was a mogu idea, created to keep the mantid out -- created to keep order on Pandaria.
The origins of the pandaren race are unknown, but if they are native to Azeroth, they are not part of that cycle of Titan order. They are lesser races, just as all of us were at one point in time. They were not a mighty empire like the Zandalar, they did not exist side-by-side with the Aqir. If this is the case, then the mogu were simply using the lesser races to maintain order as programmed -- without heed for the individual lesser races. They did not care for feelings, they simply cared who could do the most work.
Logic is as logic does
I have seen worlds bathed in the Makers' flames. Their denizens fading without so much as a whimper. Entire planetary systems born and raised in the time that it takes your mortal hearts to beat once. Yet all throughout, my own heart, devoid of emotion... of empathy. I... have... felt... NOTHING! - Algalon the Observer
And that's perfectly logical -- if you're a machine. Order must be maintained. Especially in a place such as Pandaria, a place where an Old God fell, a place that is haunted by that Old God's spirit. Use the pandaren to do the work and keep the mantid in check. Create the saurok as a defensive force, using one of the lesser races of the world. Create the grummles as messengers and deliverymen, from the troggs -- after all, the troggs were once Earthen, they should be capable of that.
Ally with the Zandalar? Of course that would be logical -- the Zandalar were one of two races on Azeroth that could be construed as more evolved. The Zandalar fought brutally against the Aqir, so of course they could be considered an ally against the mantid. There was logic in it -- there was logic in everything the mogu did. It was brutal, cold logic, lacking in caring or compassion. What need would something that was essentially a computer have for caring? For compassion?
Logic, logic, logic. But what the mogu didn't count on, what they didn't know -- what the Titans may not even have known back then, once upon a time -- was that these lesser races were far from "lesser." They had the tenacity and free will to fight back. They had the intelligence, when they were allowed no weapons, to learn how to fight with none. And when the pandaren, the saurok, the grummles, when all rose up and fought as one against the mogu, the mogu crumbled.
Perhaps part of it could have been due to the might of the united races of Pandaria. But perhaps part of it was due to a lack of simple programming. The mogu, at the point that the grummles and pandaren turned, simply fell apart. They sat awaiting supplies that never came. They were unable to fend for themselves. Pandaren legend states it was because the mogu were not self-sufficient. But if you look at it from the other side, it may be that the mogu simply were not programmed to handle this situation. Because, as far as the Titans were concerned, logic dictated that this situation would never come to pass.
The purpose of the mogu
A million, million lives wasted. Had they all held within them your tenacity? Had they all loved life as you do? Perhaps it is your imperfection that which grants you free will. That allows you to persevere against cosmically calculated odds. You prevailed where the Titans' own perfect creations have failed. -- Algalon the Observer
Once upon a time, the planet Azeroth was a primitive place, a place where races wandered aimlessly, fought in petty squabbles, and over time, evolved. And as the centuries passed, these strange mortal races grew into a force to be reckoned with. Once upon a time, these races muscled their way into a Titan stronghold and confronted a being named Algalon, who was intent on sending a signal that would destroy their world. They stood in defiance against him, and his reaction was one of utter shock -- because these mortal races were never expected to get this far.
The story of the mogu and their violent ways has been recorded in history by both pandaren and mantid -- yet this story is colored by the perception of both of these races. And just as the draenei proved to be far more than a race of evil beings bent on corruption, the mogu may prove to be far more than what they appear to be upon first glance. Not a race of pure evil as suggested, but a group of Titan creations that are simply following orders as given.
Which opens the story of Pandaria in a wholly new direction, one with intriguing possibilities. If this is how the Titans perceived the races of Azeroth ... are the Titans really as benevolent as we record them in our
history? Are we fighting a war against the Old Gods and carrying out the will of the Titans -- or are the Titans just as malevolent as the Old Gods, in their irrefutable, logical fashion? Mists
is an expansion of introspection and examining ourselves, why we fight.
we fight? Because we are fighting for ourselves, for our home? Are we fighting each other, are we fighting enemies, or are we fighting the Titans and that string of fate they've tied us to? And what happens on the day when, at last, we are powerful enough to confront our creators and discover all of the secrets that Azeroth is hiding?
Algalon was sent here to judge the fate of our world. He found a planet whose races had deviated from the titans' blueprints. A planet where not everything had gone according to plan. Cold logic deemed our world not worth saving. Cold logic however does not account for the power of free will! -- Rhonin
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.