Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Wrathion's Gambit

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|02.17.13

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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Wrathion's Gambit
Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Wrathion's GambitSUN
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.

Enigmatic and sly, the black dragon Wrathion has been observing the progress of Pandaria even before our arrival on the continent. He has a plan for this mysterious new place, one that is just as shrouded in mystery as his intentions. And we, the adventurers of Azeroth, are at his beck and call -- performing favors and jumping through hoops in exchange for powerful upgrades to our weapons and gear, happy to assist Wrathion in whatever grand plan he's trying to pull off.

Yet at the same time, it has become increasingly obvious that Wrathion's reach is far larger than we'd thought. As players level through Pandaria, more and more often they'll see Blacktalon Agents, casually strolling down city streets or having a drink in a local inn. When asked what they are up to, the agents give gruff, non-committal responses that raise far more questions than they answer. If you have concerns, they say, you should take it up with the Black Prince.

Of course, telling a black dragon you have a problem with his plans is likely one of the worst, not to mention last, decisions you'll ever make.

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 what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

The death of the Black Dragonflight

Wrathion is, to his knowledge, the last of the Black Dragonflight. Part of this was due to our meticulous hunting down of the species, part of it was due to the corruption of the Old Gods that often pitted black dragons against each other in their madness. But the largest part of all, the demise of Deathwing, was orchestrated by his son, Wrathion. In the rogue legendary quest chain, Wrathion deliberately sends agents out to rid the world of the last known few of his species, in an effort to wipe them out entirely.

Now why, one wonders, would a black dragon seek to leave himself as the sole member of his species? Why would he deliberately seek extinction? Wrathion was the last of his kind, the only member of his kind, from the moment he was born -- he is the only black dragon known to currently exist in an uncorrupted state. Whatever hold the Old Gods had over Deathwing and his flight, it was cleansed from Wrathion while he was still in the shell.

As far as Wrathion is concerned, he already was the last and only of his kind. As far as the Black Dragonflight was concerned, he represented an abberation, one that needed to be destroyed -- and the Red Dragonflight seemed to share this sentiment. Wrathion is still just a child when one thinks in terms of other Azerothian life, barely a year out of the shell and yet displaying more than enough cunning to know that his life was a bone of contention for the other dragonflights. So of course, the obvious, the logical answer was to remove the threat to ensure his survival.

However, in the short time we've known Wrathion, he's been neither logical nor obvious. In fact, he's been deliberately vague. Wrathion doesn't want to answer any questions, at least not directly.

Speaking of questions, what's the one question that has been asked since day one, and still remains unanswered? What's the biggest mystery surrounding Pandaria, one that has never been fully explained?

What, exactly, caused the mists surrounding Pandaria to go away?

Wrathion's quiet suggestion

Let's think about this for a moment, from a purely speculative stance. In an earlier Tinfoil Hat Edition of Know Your Lore, Matthew Rossi wrote about the odd timing of Pandaria's events, and how they simply didn't line up. By all outward appearances, the Sha of Fear had been haunting the mantid long before we released the Sha in the Jade Forest -- recent short stories all but confirm this. In The Trial of the Red Blossoms, the Shado-pan are delivering messages regarding the yaungol movement from Townlong Steppes, at least a few months before the Allliance and Horde ever appear on the shores. So ... what happened?

What if Wrathion happened?

At the end of the video that highlighted the rogue legendary chain, Wrathion states that he has heard rumors of a new land, beyond the mists of the sea. He follows this up by suggesting that perhaps we will see him there. What if this wasn't a fond farewell, a gesture of goodwill to those that carried out his plans? What if this wasn't just a clever little wink, nod, and tie-in to the next expansion? What if Wrathion wanted us to come to Pandaria?

Think about it -- both the Alliance and Horde forces have rogues. It's entirely likely that someone, somewhere along the line went back to their commanding officer and mentioned, if not the entire story behind the strange black dragon, at least his curious final words. Why, exactly, was that first fleet stranded on Pandaria? We as players were sent to rescue that fleet -- but how did that fleet end up on Pandaria's shores to begin with?

The short story Quest for Pandaria ends with the parting of the mists, but there is no explanation given for their sudden disappearance. They're simply gone, and whatever purpose they may have held vanished with them. By the time we find Wrathion in the Tavern in the Mists, he seems to have already settled himself in place, along with agents who appear to be formerly both from the Alliance and Horde.

What if Wrathion was the reason the mists went away? Instead of being some kind of enigmatic discovery, Pandaria then becomes Wrathion's playground -- a land of magic and wonder, a land of untold secrets, a land where those secrets will not be unlocked without some kind of major catalyst. What I am implying here is that the Sha didn't simply escape, they weren't released by us -- they were all part of Wrathion's ultimate gambit.

Wrathion's gambit

What is Wrathion up to? Why would he deliberately seek out Pandaria? What's so fascinating about the continent that he simply couldn't pass up -- and why would he need both Alliance and Horde fighting across its shores? Why would he continue to egg us on, pitting us against each other and outright encouraging the mayhem? What is the mystery behind the vision he shows us, at the beginning of the legendary quest chain?

What do we know of the Black Dragonflight? They are liars, they are not to be trusted, and perhaps most importantly, they are most well known for tricking mortals. Now, given Wrathion's status as the only purified black dragon we've ever encountered, we can't really hold him to those same standards. But was it the corruption of the Old Gods that drew the Black Dragonflight into the maddened state of paranoia and deceit, or was this simply who they were from day one? And if this is the case ... what does this mean, as far as Wrathion is concerned?

It means that maybe, just maybe, that big explosion he showed us was nothing more than a fanciful tale. Something to scare us, something to push us into helping him, where ordinarily we never would have done so. Something to transform us from mere adventurers to Wrathion's puppets, hacking away at each other, Horde and Alliance, still pitted against each other despite the disastrous events of the Jade Forest, gleefully engaging in cold-blooded murder at the whim of a ebon drake. What makes Wrathion special?

What makes him special may be the very thing that has driven him to Pandaria in the first place. You see, Wrathion is unique. He is the very last of his kind. He is pure, free from the taint of the Old Gods. And to his knowledge, not a single corrupt black dragon is left on Azeroth. They've all been purged. To his knowledge, there are no other black dragons, and when he dies, the last breath of the Black Dragonflight will die with him.

How fortunate, then, that Pandaria is literally sitting on top of one of the Titan's creation engines.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Wrathion's GambitSUN

The return

If you happen to sit at the northwestern corner of the lake at the heart of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, you'll notice something curious. Eventually, two Blacktalon Agents will show up with survey equipment and start taking readings and samples from the water. One of them even asks whether the pandaren realize just what it is they're sitting on. There are two things we can infer from this casual statement -- one, that water is extremely important to Wrathion. Two -- while it isn't known whether or not Wrathion has spoken to the pandaren, it's clear that the pandaren aren't really knowledgeable about whatever properties that water happens to hold.

This begs the question; if the pandaren didn't know about the water, how did Wrathion? But really, all we need do is look at Wrathion's origins. One black dragon egg, curiously freed from corruption, by Titan technology.

Of course he'd know Titan technology when he saw it. We don't know the exact process of what happened to that egg in the Badlands. We know that dragons are apparently quite aware of what's going on around them even when they're in the shell -- Wrathion said as much during the rogue legendary quest chain, it's how he got out of the Twilight Highlands and to Ravenholdt Manor in the first place. What kind of knowledge did he glean in the shell, while his egg was scanned and decontaminated?

But here's the other point that Wrathion may very well have known -- the pandaren weren't capable of accessing that technology. In fact, the only ones capable of accessing it were the one race that had dominated above all others, once upon a time. The mogu were already showing far more activity than normal before we showed up on Pandaria's shores. Something motivated them to begin their work.

Something motivated them to begin rebuilding their Empire, little by little, bit by bit. Something made them think that resurrecting the Thunder King was the best idea, something drove them to delve into Mogu'shan Vaults and begin anew, something made them think that starting the process of mogu creation, that meddling with Titan technology long thought gone, was needed.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Wrathion's GambitSUN

Method or madness

Let's just throw a theory out there. Wrathion was completely self-aware the moment his egg was purified, perhaps even before then. That purification gave him insight into the Titans -- how they work, what Azeroth is, how everyone, everything, dragons and mortals alike, fit together. Yet something was wrong with this blueprint. The presence of the Old Gods had corrupted his entire dragonflight, leaving a broken link in the chain that connects everything on Azeroth to each other. Something had to be done.

And so, Wrathion acted. He escaped the Red Dragonflight's clutches, establishing a home base at Ravenholdt Manor. He recruited mortal assistants, promising status, prestige, and most of all, enhanced weapons the likes of which mortals only dream, in exchange for tasks completed. The Black Dragonflight was tainted, diseased. It needed to be purged, before it did any more harm to Azeroth.

Once that goal was complete, Wrathion set out on his next task -- to find the engines of creation itself, and rebuild the Black Dragonflight. Only this time he would use himself as the catalyst, keeping the new flight free from corruption. There was one small problem with this goal. Yes, Pandaria was found, but the Titan technology it contained hadn't been used for centuries, and the creatures that held the knowledge of how to use it had been thoroughly quashed by the pandaren.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Wrathion's GambitSUN
With this knowledge, Wrathion hatched a plan. Start a chain reaction, set off the mantid that set off the yaungnol, bring the mortals of Azeroth to Pandaria. Let them do what comes naturally -- fight each other. Let them empower the Sha. Create just enough chaos that the mogu could begin to work anew, cognizant of their opportunity.

Once that mission was complete, it would be easy enough to set the Alliance and Horde against each other, and keep the attention firmly turned away from himself. And with every successful move by his Alliance and Horde puppets, he would reward them with just enough to keep them interested, keep them grateful, keep them invested in what he had to offer.

But ... just in case it backfired, he had a contingency plan. Yes, Wrathion is arming us to the teeth. But did you ever wonder why, exactly, every enhancement we receive is somehow related to or imbued by a member of the Black Dragonflight? As such, it's entirely possible that while these are extraordinary enhancements, they wouldn't do a bit of good were we to turn on Wrathion ourselves. Clever, that.


If Wrathion's plan is, indeed, to reboot the Black Dragonflight using Titan technology, there's just one question left. Is Wrathion good, or is he evil? We don't know. We can't really answer that question, because we've never encountered a member of the Black Dragonflight that wasn't corrupt. Wrathion could be building an army with which to rule the world, or he could be building an army to fight that threat that he showed us, if that threat is actually real.

However, we'll have a little more to go on soon. Part one of the novel Dawn of the Aspects will be released Feb. 19, and it explores that time before Neltharion's corruption. It tells the tale of the creation of the Aspects, including the Black Dragonflight. Perhaps, by the end of the book, we'll have more of an inkling of what Wrathion may be up to, based on the actions of the very first dragons. Until then, we can only wonder what goes on in Wrathion's very clever mind.

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.
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