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The Care and Feeding of Warriors: Warriors in lore

Matthew Rossi

The Care and Feeding of Warriors is about warriors, who hurl themselves into the fray, into the very teeth of danger, armed with nothing more than the biggest weapons and armored with the absolutely heaviest armor we can find. Hey, we're not stupid -- we're just crazy.

Good morning. I had said at the end of last week's column that this week would most likely be more about Cataclysm. Why, then, the sudden switch? Well, three reasons.
  • I want to give the beta a chance to drop another patch. Without a numbers pass, most of what I've said in previous columns more or less holds true. But discussions of changes to the way rage generation will work definitely have me in a holding pattern as far as actually discussing the nuts and bolts of any spec. Quite frankly, my worgen warrior leveling to 60 already needed to use Battle Shout and Bloodrage on cooldown to generate rage; if they change rage gen so that critical hits don't generate more rage, he'll be looking at complete rage starvation. Rage will need to be tweaked upward quite a bit to give the "you can do your rotation and occasionally a Heroic Strike" feel; right now, it's more of a "please give me some rage, sir, I'm ever so rage-starved" feel.
  • I also want to give the people who complain we talk too much about the beta a week off from writing angry emails. I personally love talking about beta issues and the way they show us the progression of the class, but I get that not everyone feels that way.
  • I considered writing the arms report card instead, but considering the PvE state of arms, I just got depressed. "Still OK for PvP" doesn't seem like enough for a column.
With this all swimming in my head, I wanted to talk about the lore of the warrior class and who it derives from in the setting. We know who the paladins are (Turalyon, Uther, Arthas), who the hunters are (Alleria, Sylvanas, Nathanos, Shandris), who the mages are (Medivh, Khadgar, Jaina, Kael'thas) and who the gigantic demon-tainted night elves are (seriously, I wonder if we're ever going to get demon hunter as a class) -- but who are the warriors?

Well, it's called the Warcraft setting for a reason. There are quite a few of them. (So many, in fact, that this could end up being a series of posts.) Today we'll look at three: one Alliance, one Horde and one who could be claimed by both.

Anduin Lothar

This dude is the iconic human warrior. As far as the Warcraft setting is concerned, they simply don't get bigger than Anduin Lothar. Last of the Arathor bloodline (which technically gave him the right to claim rulership over all human kingdoms, a right he never tried to exercise), the Lion of Azeroth, it was Lothar who stormed into Medivh's tower when the guardian's role in the summoning of the orcs became fully known.

It was Lothar who led the defense of Stormwind and successfully kept the city out of Blackhand's grasp for months, only losing the city when his best friend King Llane Wrynn was assassinated by Garona for having made the mistake of trusting her. It was Lothar who turned utter defeat into survival by leading the remaining survivors, including young Varian Wrynn, away from the burning ruins of Stormwind ahead of the pursuing orcish horde that would have killed every single last one of them. It was Lothar who cajoled, convinced or demanded aid from the various human, dwarf and high elf kingdoms to the north and by force of will created the Alliance of Lordaeron.

It was Lothar, not Turalyon or Uther or anyone else, who devised the strategies that defeated Doomhammer and his horde (albeit with a good deal of help from Doomhammer's traitorous magician Gul'dan, who betrayed and abandoned the Horde at a critical moment in his quest to find the Tomb of Sargeras), and it was Lothar who pushed the orcs back to Blackrock Mountain. And while Lothar died atop that mountain, even his death only served to further motivate the Alliance forces. Killing Lothar was the final straw, and they were utterly smashed, beaten and nearly slaughtered on the spot by the enraged soldiers of the Alliance military. So great was Lothar's legacy that the men and women of the Alliance Expedition to Draenor would come to call themselves the Sons of Lothar.

All of this doesn't even touch upon Lothar's youth, when he, Medivh and then-prince Llane would tear around Azeroth having crazy adventures and finding magical artifacts like Quel'Zaram. Quite frankly, the fact that there hasn't been a series of novels, a graphic novel, nothing at all showing us those three running amok in pre-Dark Portal Azeroth fighting monsters and having crazy, epic adventures is a bloody travesty.

It's not just Lothar's legacy, or his incredible tenacity that made him a legend, though. It's not just that he was the last Grand Master of the Brotherhood of the Horse, a knightly order that for a time made its home in Karazhan and fought against the Horde when it first invaded. It's not just that the guy had some really kickass-looking swords. (That doesn't hurt, though.) It's the fact that he was basically the total warrior package. He defended others but could also dispense the pain when it was called for, and he clearly took part in both the discipline of pure soldiery and the dispensation of raw brutality when called for. If there was ever a triple-spec warrior, it was this guy.

Grom Hellscream

Pretty much the poster child for a fury warrior. However, he's also a good candidate for an arms warrior, due to his being an orcish blademaster, pretty much iconic masters of a weapon.

It's kind of hard to pick one guy to be representative of orcish warriors. Nobody's disputing that orcs have a ridiculously strong warrior tradition. These are the guys who gave us Blackhand the Destroyer, Broxigar, Varok Saurfang and Orgrim Doomhammer, all of whom definitely can make a claim for baddest thing on two legs at any given time. Grom's an interesting case because not only was he an angry, bloodthirsty, contentious orc before the orcs ever drank the demon blood or waged war on the draenei, his burning inner rage both helped lead the orcs into damnation and slavery under the Burning Legion and then helped lead them out of it.

Grom was infamous for his black tattooed jaw, his unique appearance (in a race of squat, powerful warriors, Grom was relatively slim -- "relatively," because he was still way bigger than most humans), his insane frenzy and skill on the battlefield. The draenei who crossed paths with him during the war on Draenor soon learned that his raw power and battle lust were nearly unstoppable. He rose to leadership of the Warsong through suspect means (even Durotan wondered if Grom had killed his predecessor), but the clan itself was unwaveringly loyal to him. Grom was also infamous for being the first orc brave or crazy enough to slurp down demon blood, thus convincing the other orcs that it was a good idea. (Gul'dan was pretty good at figuring out how to piss Grom off enough to get him to act, although it's fair to say it didn't really take all that much to get him pissed off.)

Grom was such a talented and contrary warrior that when Gul'dan finally decided to invade Azeroth after the draenei had been dealt with, he didn't let Blackhand bring him. Gul'dan reasoned that as soon as they were on the other side, Grom would begin questioning his orders, not because Hellscream would particularly want to defend the humans but simply because you couldn't control the fury of the first orc to drink demon blood. The best you could do was channel it, and even that was difficult. Better to keep him out of the way. (Gul'dan didn't actually care about winning the war; he wanted to find the Tomb of Sargeras and become a god. If you want to win a war, you don't leave one of your absolute best warriors at home.)

Grom therefore missed pretty much the entirety of the First and Second Wars. To put this in perspective, imagine if Irwin Rommel didn't get used at all during World War II, or if the British had decided to hold Wellington in reserve during their whole "let's stop Napoleon" period. I'm not saying Grom would have won the Second War, because he was never much of a strategist (Doomhammer was) -- but man, not using Grom is like not bringing a gun to the O.K. Corral.

Unlike his former student Gul'dan, Ner'zhul made heavy use of Grom on his raids to collect various magical artifacts, and when Ner'zhul blew up Draenor, Grom was smart enough to be on the other side of the Dark Portal, where he and his Warsong clan evaded capture by the Alliance for years. This gave Grom plenty of time to contemplate that whole "Hey, I'll be the first one to suck down a pint of Mannoroth!" He decided it had been a bad idea. This ultimately led to his friendship with the escaped Thrall, his participation in the destruction of the internment camps, and the flight to Kalimdor. Once there, Grom would kill Cenarius while under the influence of Mannoroth's blood, be enslaved again, be freed by Thrall, and ultimately give his life to destroy the very demon to which he'd once handed over himself and his people.

Grom's legacy, like his life, is conflicted but impossible to ignore. His son Garrosh and his rise to power is one, but there's also his role in the hostility between the Kaldorei and the orcs to consider. Had Grom not killed Cenarius, it's possible the orcs and night elves could have been allies, or at least not enemies. Grom both started and ended the blood curse. But it's undeniable that even without any of that he would be remembered as one of the most fearsome warriors ever to walk either Draenor or Azeroth.

Thalorien Dawnseeker

Since we know now that blood elves are getting warriors in Cataclysm, it;s worth our time to take a look at this figure, who was one of the most renowned high elf warriors of his day. Why are we looking at a high elf warrior to discuss blood elf warriors? Well, for starters, Thalorien lived before there were blood elves at all and died in the tragic events that created the sin'dorei as a distinct faction of elves. So he can be held up as an exemplar for both the blood and high elves alike and so can be remembered as a hero to Alliance and Horde.

Thalorien basically serves as a complete refutation of the stereotype that the high/blood elf cannot be a warrior. If you've done the Quel'Delar quest line and seen him in action in the past, it's crystal clear that Thalorien doesn't truck with magic, necromancy or the Light. He's a straightforward arms warrior with a two-hander (albeit one of the most distinctive two-handers in history). We don't really know that much about him aside from the fact that before the Third War, he took part in heavy fighting against trolls, meaning that he most likely helped push Zul'jin and the Amani back to Zul'Aman during the rout of the trollish forces near the end of the Second War, after they'd allied with Doomhammer. Ah, the shifting alliances of the Warcraft setting.

Thalorien clearly served with honor and distinction as a martial defender of Silvermoon and his people for many years before the moment that would simultaneously cover him in glory and yet leave him dead on the tainted battleground. As the Scourge invaded under the fallen Prince Arthas Menethil of Lordaeron and the high elves fell back from Elfgate to Elfgate, Thalorien and a unit of his troops ultimately found themselves the last line of defense for the Sunwell itself. At this point, Sylvanas was already dead (and most likely enduring Arthas' blasphemous attentions), and there would have been little shame in retreating. They were few, massively outnumbered by the Scourge and had no hope of victory.

Thalorien, however, never even considered retreat. He ordered his troops away and made a final stand against the Scourge, destroying waves of undead with the power of Quel'Delar and his own unshakable resolve. Battered, exhausted, he still managed to challenge the death knight Morlen Coldgrip and died there, performing his duty at the ultimate cost.

You can mock the blood elves (or the high elves, for that matter) as weak or what have you, but doing so proves only that you wish to ignore the martial traditions of their people as exemplified by Thalorien Dawnseeker. This elf stood at what he knew to be certain death and bought time for his people to escape, knowing full well he would die for it. He's not the most powerful warrior in the lore, he's not the most renowned, he's not the one with the highest kill count or the one who won against nearly impossible odds ... But take him all in all, and you can see that few warriors in the history of the Warcraft setting were ever so gallant in the face of assured demise. Both the quel'dorei and the sin'dorei have good reason to be proud of Thalorien Dawnseeker, who died for love of them.

Next week, it's going to be that arms report card, unless a major patch drops on the beta with ramifications for warriors.

Check out more strategies, tips and leveling guides for warriors in Matthew Rossi's weekly class column, The Care and Feeding of Warriors.

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