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Know Your Lore: Rexxar, Champion of the Horde

Matthew Rossi

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

It's been a few years since we caught up with Rexxar, hasn't it? Despite the fact that he hasn't gotten any new screen time since he showed up to save Orgrimmar from the elemental invasion, Rexxar is on my mind of late. In truth, I pretty much covered Rexxar's life in broad strokes during the interbellum pieces The coming of Rexxar and Rexxar saves the Horde. This won't be a post rehashing all of that. We will discuss it, but in terms of what it means for the Horde right now and the Horde in the future.

With what we know about what's coming, the office of Warchief of the Horde will be contested. It's likely that Thrall may return to assume the mantle of Warchief again. But frankly, his time as World Shaman means that he has assumed a far greater and more demanding responsibility, that Thrall has Azeroth as his responsibility and his charge. Can he truly be both? And more importantly, should he? Whether or not you believe Thrall is the ultimate choice for Warchief of the Horde, I posit that he never would have endured in the role without the help of others, those who could be the mailed fist he could never truly be.

Before Varok Saurfang and Garrosh Hellscream led Horde forces to Northrend, one figure strode across the face of Kalimdor and beyond it, and through his actions defeated Theramore and saved the Horde. That one figure was Rexxar, born to the Mok'Nathal clan, a beastmaster of half-ogre descent. For his actions, he was named Champion of the Horde.

And the Horde sorely needs its champion again.

The son of the Mok'Nathal

Rexxar's return to Outland and the Blade's Edge Mountains was a homecoming as much as it was an assignment. In truth, he was seeking to reconnect with his people, the Mok'Nathal. Rexxar's father Leoroxx leads the remainder of the dwindling clan descended from ancient orc and ogre clans that became one people. As a result, the Mok'Nathal are a tribe unique on either Draenor or Azeroth, one that breeds true and that possesses the blood of both ogres and orcs.

Having saved Orgrimmar from Daelin Proudmoore's forces and served the Horde in patrolling Desolace, Rexxar could have named any assignment he wished. Hearing that the Dark Portal was finally reopened, however, he made his way through it and took command at Thunderlord Stronghold.

Thunderlord was once home to the Thunderlord clan of orcs, until they were annihilated by the local ogres under the rule of the Gronn. In order to secure the Horde's position in Thunderlord (and in so doing give himself the means to defend his father's people), Rexxar defended the settlement from the very ogres that destroyed the Thunderlord clan while seeking to contact his father's people. However, Leoroxx refused to forgive his son for having left the Mok'Nathal to join with the Horde during their original invasion of Azeroth. This left Rexxar with a quandary: How could he defend both his father's people and the Horde he'd chosen to serve from the ogre threat?

Rexxar soon learned why the ogres had committed themselves to wiping out not only the Thunderlord but also the Mok'Nathal. Gruul the Dragonkiller was stirring from his lair, sending forth his mighty sons to whip the ogres into line. The local ogre tribes, in order to curry the favor of their gigantic cyclopean oppressors, moved against the orcs and half-ogres. Therefore, Rexxar reasoned, in order to protect Blade's Edge for both the Horde and the Mok'Nathal, he would have to remove the threat of Gruul's sons.

To defy the Gronn

In short order, Rexxar enlisted the aid of Baron Sablemane, who was far more than he appeared. It is unclear if Rexxar actually knew Sablemane's secret. At any rate, together the two and a team of Horde agents successfully waged a campaign of sabotage, subterfuge and deception that led to the death of Gorgrom the Dragon-Eater, one of Gruul's sons. Hardly satisfied with this feat and fearful of the reprisal Gruul's other sons might take against the Mok'Nathal, Rexxar then initiated the next stage of his plan.

Alongside a dashingly handsome tauren warrior, Rexxar contrived to lure Goc, one of Gruul's most fearsome sons, into direct battle and slew him. By so doing, he ensured the safety of the Blade's Edge Region from ogre attack for the time being, as the sons of the Dragonkiller would be thrown into disarray by the one thing they themselves understand -- brute force and the threat of imminent death.

While these actions meant that the Horde presence and the Mok'Nathal would be safe from the gronn, Rexxar did not feel it was time to confront his father with news of their people's safety: "I know my father's mind, and I know my heart. There is still much I can learn and do to become stronger, to show to him that I am his true son."

Since this act of selfless heroism, Rexxar has been seen returning to Orgrimmar to defend it from the invasion of elementals that heralded the return of Deathwing.

The purpose of highlighting all this is to show that for all of his distrust of civilization and her ways, Rexxar's first instinct is to serve and defend those he feels responsible for, be it the Horde or the Mok'Nathal clan. Rexxar's return to Orgrimmar shows that he defends the Horde still, that he considers his duty as Champion to be more than symbolic and the honor more than a title. Coming from a life spent adrift, joining Gul'dan's Horde only to discover how evil it was, then coming in out of the wilderness after years adrift to discover Thrall's newer, better version of the Horde, Rexxar dedicated himself to its survival and growth.

"The orcs changed because one person said so. That person stands before you now as Warchief. Do you doubt him?"

Ironically, it may be Rexxar, rather than Thrall or Garrosh, who best exemplifes the middle ground between the warrior tradition of the Horde and the new spirituality (or rather, returned spirituality) that Thrall's shamanism brought to bear. Rexxar respects and admires nature and the natural world, and he identifies with the beasts of the field and the serpents of the den, but he doesn't forsake the world of the everyday orc. His actions after the Third War ensured there would be a Horde at all, after all.

The Horde needs a Champion

It's interesting to contrast Rexxar with both the current and previous Warchiefs. Unlike Garrosh, the current Warchief, Rexxar left Draenor under his own power as part of the Horde only to reject the atrocities he saw under its leadership, and so he has first-hand knowledge of the price of the old ways and why the Horde had to change. This is also a knowledge of personal experience that Thrall lacks -- and ironically, it may be why Rexxar believes more strongly in Thrall as a leader than Thrall himself does. In essence, Thrall understands that what he seeks to do is necessary -- but Rexxar knows it is. The Old Horde was doomed, and Rexxar abandoned it in disgust as soon as its corruption became manifest to him.

It is this clarity of vision, this ability to see when a course is too foul to maintain verses when it is too important to abandon, that makes Rexxar the ideal figure to step forward now. Now is the moment when the Horde stands on a precipice. Garrosh identifies with figures he has never met and does not understand what he emulates. To him, the Horde can be boiled down into the phrase Victory or Death -- Lok'tar Ogar -- but to Rexxar, there are victories not worth the price you must pay. He understands that the new Horde is neither Gul'dan's Horde nor Doomhammer's Horde. The orcs changed because one person said so, and their change was for the better. Rexxar does not doubt him.

Of course, it's possible that Rexxar will remain in Thunderlord Stronghold while events play out and the fate of the Horde is decided. I personally feel like that would be a waste. If there is to be a struggle for the soul of the Horde, then the Champion is more needed than ever. And perhaps to serve the Horde as its Warchief.

Also, Rexxar totally needs to go drinking with his old buddy Chen Stormstout. It needs to happen.

For more information on the people, places and history mentioned here, check out other Know Your Lore columns, such as:

While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

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