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.
Clever, vicious and sometimes cruel, the black dragon Wrathion is not just the son of Deathwing, he's the only black dragon currently in existence that is free of the corruption of the Old Gods. In Cataclysm, he arrived with quiet fanfare, and just as quietly plotted to take out every single other black dragon on Azeroth. And with the help of an unnamed rogue, he succeeded, even bringing down the corrupted, infested mess of his father, with said rogue's assistance.
Patch 5.0.4 brought plenty of class and system changes, but it also brought a ton of new achievements as well. And while some are easily defined, others remain an intriguing mystery. Wrathion's part in Azeroth's history is far from done, and there's a series of achievements in the Quests section that clearly point that out. However, we've little to no indication what these achievements actually mean.
Which means it's the perfect time for some rampant speculation about everyone's favorite not-quite-evil young mastermind, Wrathion the Purified.
Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on why and what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.
Please note: This post contains some content spoilers from Mists of Pandaria.
Wrathion began his schemes before he was even hatched. Oddly enough, this seems to be par for the course with dragons, as Wrathion explained in the rogue legendary quest chain. While dragons are born from eggs, they are still perfectly able to communicate from within the shell. This is how Wrathion managed to get away from the red dragonflight, and how he found himself in the basement of Ravenholdt Manor. Once hatched, Wrathion began his campaign to wipe out the remainder of the corrupted black dragonflight -- a campaign that ended in rousing success.
Some players may be bothered by the fact that Wrathion plotted and schemed the destruction of his flight when he was just a baby, but I'd argue that it's that very fact that makes Wrathion all the more potentially terrifying. If he was able to arrange all of this just days out of the shell, what exactly is Wrathion going to be capable of once he's fully grown? It seemed in Cataclysm that this wouldn't be a source of concern, because Wrathion was bent on simply flying away to somewhere remote, and being left alone.
Until he popped up in Pandaria. Now it seems that the Black Prince has a wholly different plan, one that involves the mortals of the world in some sort of significant way. Whatever urge Wrathion had to be left alone is now absent, and he seems to be far more concerned with the fate of Azeroth. So what is Wrathion up to? Why has he suddenly shown up in Pandaria, and why is he throwing legendary items at players with abandon?
Trial of the Black Prince
What is the Trial of the Black Prince? Other than being the first in a series of achievements surrounding Wrathion, it seems that the trial is a personal one related solely to your character. Much like Wrathion's actions with rogues in the Fangs of the Father quest chain, Wrathion needs to know if your character is up to the task he's about to set for you. If you are, he's more than willing to provide you with items that will make you far more powerful -- just as he did with rogues, during the legendary quest chain.
Only this time, his cause is far less personal. In the legendary chain, Wrathion set out to destroy the remaining corrupted members of the black dragonflight. At the end of the chain, he pointed out that to his knowledge, he was now the last of his kind. In Mists, Wrathion's attentions have turned to the world of Azeroth, and he is now deeply concerned with the fate of the planet. He believes that our planet is in for a reckoning the likes of which we've never before seen ... and it has nothing to do with the war between Alliance and Horde.
All signs point to an eventual return of the Burning Legion, or worse. Wrathion points out that Azeroth is a candle in the void, a tiny point of light in a vast sea of darkness. And where there is light, there will most surely be darkness wanting to put that light out. This is why Wrathion is attempting to gear up our characters -- it's not to fight the darkness that is approaching, it's to end the war between Alliance and Horde as swiftly and with the fewest casualties possible, so that we'll be ready and strong when that darkness inevitably arrives.
Which takes us to part two of Wrathion's achievement chain: Wrathion's War. Although it is noted this is coming in patch 5.1, we have no other indication what this task might involve. But if indicators are correct, patch 5.1 will see the main fleets of Alliance and Horde arrive on Pandaria's shores. We as players are not part of the main fleets -- we're part of tiny task forces, hastily thrown together at the last minute and charged with finding out what's going on on Pandaria.
Our arrival on Pandaria sets off a disastrous chain of events, and the rest of our time in 5.0 is spent trying to clear up and repair that damage. It would seem that we are at least mildly successful on that front, and it would also seem that the pandaren are willing to work with us as allies. Although Alliance and Horde both have pandaren allies introduced in Mists, these are not the same pandaren as those on Pandaria -- there is a distinct cultural difference between the two types of pandaren, and it's been pointed out repeatedly.
The pandaren of Pandaria are by and large neutral, willing to work with both Alliance and Horde. They're also friendly to a fault. Despite the havoc our arrival wrought on Pandaria, the pandaren are still not only willing to work with us, they've even set up bases for us in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, which is implied to be a sacred area to the pandaren race.
If our arrival of tiny task forces brought ruin to Pandaria, what kind of havoc will the arrival of the main Alliance and Horde forces bring? What makes this interesting is that our characters may find themselves on the other side of that conflict. After spending time in Pandaria, isolated from the rest of Azeroth and working to repair the damage done, after witnessing what our penchant for war brings to the world ... are we really going to be willing to just sign back up with the Alliance and Horde armies?
And perhaps that's what Wrathion is banking on. Maybe Wrathion's War isn't speaking of that conflict, that war between Alliance and Horde -- maybe it's speaking of the conflict that surrounds trying to prevent that mass war from happening. And in that conflict, we as players are definitely not a part of the Alliance or Horde armies. We stand alone, united under Wrathion's banner and distinctly separate from our respective factions. Alliance and Horde may not unite, but our place in patch 5.1 may be a taste of just what a third faction could potentially be all about.
Which takes us to the next portion of Wrathion's achievement chain, dubbed Two Princes and given no indicator of a time frame other than a mysterious "Coming Soon." Wrathion is constantly referred to as the Black Prince, so it's obvious that he would take one of main roles in Two Princes. But who is that second prince, and what kind of role is that prince going to play in what happens next? Well ... we do have another prince wandering around Pandaria, currently.
Anduin Wrynn has taken a path of not-quite-neutrality in Mists. He left the Alliance forces to strike out on his own, found himself in Horde hands, and then managed to escape again during the events in Jade Forest. While Anduin doesn't agree with the Horde or the Horde stance of global domination, it is blatantly clear that Anduin possesses the understanding that the individual is not necessarily a representative of Horde. Yes, a player may be part of that faction, but they may not necessarily agree with what that faction is doing.
And in the face of what's going on in Pandaria, Anduin is willing to work with both sides, regardless of factional differences. He's quick to point out that the important thing about Pandaria is not the fight between Alliance and Horde, it's helping out the pandaren and making sure we've atoned for our mistakes. To that end, he will gladly work with anyone that puts aside those factional differences.
This makes him ideal for Wrathion's purposes. Wrathion doesn't care about the war between Alliance and Horde -- he wants it over with as quickly as possible, so that we can focus on far greater dangers. Anduin represents a member of the Alliance that feels exactly the same way, for different reasons. It can then be assumed that perhaps we'll see Wrathion and Anduin working together on a common goal -- and Anduin's father may not be the happiest about that.
Judgement of the Black Prince
The final section of Wrathion's achievement chain is titled Judgement of the Black Prince. It's got some definite ominous overtones -- what is Wrathion judging? What happens when he comes to a conclusion? Given Wrathion's casual displays of brutality in the Fangs of the Father quest chain, it's likely that whatever decision he comes to, the end result is going to be quietly violent. There are several possibilities, given what we know about Wrathion and his motives so far.
Wrathion may be the one to bring final judgement against Garrosh Hellscream, who has been rumored to be the final boss of this expansion for quite some time. Or, like the Trial of the Black Prince, Wrathion may be judging our characters, our potential odds against whatever darkness is to come. Or maybe Wrathion is judging the odds of Azeroth's survival against the rest of whatever the universe has to throw at us.
So we have potential, here. Wrathion could be the one to deal the final blow to Garrosh Hellscream. He could be a benevolent creature, giving us amazing weapons in reward for our efforts throughout Mists of Pandaria. Or he could come to the simple conclusion that in the end, we are not ready for what the universe is bringing. And in an eerie echo of his father's actions, he could decide that ending the world now would be a far better idea than letting it continue.
This would potentially set up the final boss for Mists of Pandaria. Not Garrosh Hellscream, misguided and violent as he may be, but Wrathion, the Black Prince, bent on bringing about the world's end through his own misguided benevolence. Killing him would ultimately prove that we are still ready and willing to fight to protect this fragile world, despite Wrathion's judgement. To that end, it would almost be a subtle throwback to the Algalon encounter, in which we had one hour to prevent the end of the world.
Ends and means
I'd almost hate to see Wrathion become just another big bad boss, though. It's not that it would be a contrived ending, mind you -- it's because it would be a waste of a character with tremendous potential. Wrathion is utterly, incredibly fascinating to me, and a lot of it has to do with his origins. We have never seen, in the history of Warcraft, a black dragon that was not corrupted by the Old Gods. It's been in play ever since Deathwing turned on his former comrades and nearly brought the blue dragonflight to ruin. It was the defining characteristic of the black dragonflight.
And that makes Wrathion a complete unknown in the Warcraft universe. Sure, he's a dragon. We've dealt with plenty of dragons before. But they were from other flights, and each flight in Azeroth has its own methods and motivations. We thought we knew what the black dragonflight's beliefs were -- but Wrathion isn't like them. He isn't like anything we've seen before. There's also the fact that he's barely out of the shell, and he's demonstrating more cunning and power in the few short months that he's been alive than we've ever seen before.
Wrathion is a fascinating character. We don't ultimately know what his plan for the world is. We don't even know if he's telling the truth. Is he really that concerned with Azeroth's fate? Does he have the best interests of the world in mind, or is he playing us all like pieces in some amusing board game? Given the achievements displayed for all to see, we're about to find out.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
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.