Mists of Pandaria has many great story lines: the emergence of the Sha, the Mantid war, the history of the Mogu, the Thunder King and the Zandarlari, etc. The overarching story of this expansion has been the ongoing aggression between the Alliance and the Horde, and the central figure of that conflict is Garrosh.
Patch 5.3 will bring us the beginning of the Horde's revolt against its current warchief, and presumably we will depose him with extreme prejudice in 5.4.
Garrosh's story did not begin in Mists, however, or even in Wrath of the Lich King when he led the Horde's assault on Northrend. Way back in The Burning Crusade, an outstanding quest line called Hero of the Mag'har introduced us to a very different Garrosh: a troubled young orc, helpless, hopeless, wishing for death.
If you've only ever played as Alliance, you never got to experience this chain of quests and its many great moments. For Horde players, it's well worth revisiting.
The Hero of the Mag'har had a huge number of prerequisites before you could even begin the quest line. In Nagrand, you had to complete 20 quests over multiple chains. The trickiest prereq -- and the one that most often caused people to miss out on the Hero quest line entirely -- was The Totem of Kar'dash.
This quest did not chain to or from anything. It was a standalone. Even trickier, the quest giver would not offer it until you had killed his guards. Then the Mag'har prisoner asked you to escort him out of Sunspring Post.
During the Nagrand prereq quests, the first person who talked about Garrosh did not paint a flattering picture:
There's a reason, after all, that the quest is called The Impotent Leader. The prereq quest lines took you all over the zone and beyond, from the Bleeding Hollow Ruins in Terokkar to the Burning Blade Ruins and Kilsorrow Fortress in Nagrand. You were basically taking care of all the business that Garrosh should have seen to between moping sessions.
I have escaped certain death, surviving a cowardly nighttime attack by Boulderfist ogres upon my village.
But I ask you, stranger: For what?
[Garrosh] has refused to give us assistance. Ogres are rampaging through my town and he sits here, weeping into a fire.
Once the ogres were defeated, the Mag'har sent you to Altruis the Sufferer. Altruis is an Illidan-esque demon hunter who fights the Legion presence in Nagrand. He sent you to scout and thin their ranks, and then to recover blueprints of Legion devices. Then you had to convince a Legion deserter named Sal'salabim to help you translate them, both by defeating him and then (violently) recovering some debts from NPCs around Outland. Sal was not easy to solo prior to level 70, so many players resorted to grouping to defeat him. He told you the secret to destroying the Forge Camps: by using their own weapons against them. Altruis of course sent you to make it so. With that, you could now finally begin the Horde-only Hero of the Mag'har quest line in earnest.
The first quest giver was Garrosh himself, who sent you to speak with Greatmother Geyah. In doing so, he showed us a glimpse of the bloodthirsty warchief he would become (along with an uncharacteristic but touching concern for the elderly):
Geyah spoke of Garrosh, and her words were quite prophetic:
My will has been sapped but make no mistake. I f you anger the Greatmother, I will come down upon you with all the force that I can muster.
In the follow up, Geya sent you on the greatmother of all fetch quests, at least in TBC. She asked you to retrieve four herbs for a potion that would allow you to commune with the spirits of the Mag'har's ancestors. Each one had to be retrieved from a different zone in Outland: Nagrand, Terokkar, Zangarmarsh, and Blade's Edge. This quest is the reason why many people waited until they had a flying mount at level 70 to finish the chain.
Garrosh can lead the Mag'har. He is strong and wise. All of the spirits approve of him. He just needs to believe in himself. He fears so much... He fears so deeply that if he lets himself go, his rage will consume him and all that would be near him.
Once you drank the potion, you could see the Agitated Orc Spirits at the Ancestral Grounds in western Nagrand. After speaking to Mother Kashur (herself a spirit), she asks you to slaughter the ghosts. Because that concept is horrifying, she tells you that the ghosts are not truly their ancestors, but merely "a representation of their state of being." Was she telling us the truth? There's no way to know, but we all did it anyway. Take that, previous generations!
Worried by the spirits' behavior, Kashur then asked you to check up on four ancestral locations around Nagrand and Terokkar. You found no spirits there, only a mysterious naaru NPC called Vision of the Forgotten. The Vision whispered to you as you visited each place:
Kashur entreated you to seek out the sender of this vision with Oshu'gun. There you encountered the naaru K'ure, who explained that Oshu'gun was a naaru ship that had once been central to orc culture. K'ure spoke of a terrible void that had grown within Oshu'gun as he weakened.
Turn back, mortal... This is not your battle.
We are infinite...eternal.
You cannot stop them...
They lack control...Oshu'gun calls to them...
The Burning Legion, with their fondness for voids, were all over it. They had been using it to capture the orc spirits and transform them into void minions. K'ure asked you to seek out his fellow naaru A'dal in Shattrath.
A'dal had a misson for you: Kill Exarch Maladaar and free the spirit of the tomb within the Auchenai Crypts. Doing so required a full party to complete the dungeon. Once the exarch was dead, the naaru D'ore would appear. He told you that his weakened state allowed the crypts to fall into ruin. He also said that nothing could be done to help the orc spirits, and unlike Kashur, he didn't sugar-coat it with some "state of being" mumbo-jumbo:
In the face of this threat, destroying every single one seemed like the best and only solution, but an awful lot of work. Fortunately, D'ore just wanted you to blow up 15 of them. To do so, you needed a Soul Mirror. The Auchenai Crypts is something of a Soul Mirror discount emporium, so finding one was not difficult. You just had to find a big purple crystal hovering in the air.
Your only recourse is to destroy the ancient spirits of Nagrand before they transform into creatures of the void.
This quest was rather challenging for some classes. The spirits, once "exposed" by the mirror, were 68 elites and hit very hard. Kiting them made for easy kills, but specs without that option had to pop cooldowns and hope or else bring some friends along.
After destroying her ancestors, you brought the news to the Greatmother, who was grateful for your service to the Mag'har. She urged you to speak with Garrosh, but The Inconsolable Chieftain could not be consoled:
He went on to say that because you have accomplished so much it has convinced him that he is unfit for leadership. I like to imagine my character rolling his eyes outrageously at this melodramatic interpretation of events.
Maybe you should lead this clan . Maybe then I will be allowed to die when the Greatmother passes. Allowed to finally erase the shame of my family name. I long for such peace.
Garrosh was convinced that the Mag'har were doomed, but when you followed up with Geyah she saw cause for hope. She told you that she was the mother of Durotan, and you in turn tell her about Durotar on the other side of the Dark Portal, and about Thrall, her grandson. Tearful, she asked you to bring him to her.
In the original questline, you had to journey to Orgrimmar and speak to the warchief in person to tell him of Garadar and his grandmother Geyah. Then you had to return to Geyah to trigger Thrall's appearance. Blizzard apparently thought this was an unnecessary aggravation, because they removed these final two steps with the Shattering in patch 4.0.1.
Once you cashed in the final quest, Thrall and his guard spawned along the western road and made their way to Garadar. If you were quick to mount up, you could venture out that way and escort him. This event could be buggy. Thrall sometimes failed to despawn after others completed the quest. If you turned in the final quest when he was still there, the events at the end of the chain wouldn't trigger.
And that would be a shame, because what happened was pretty darn awesome. If this quest line had been designed in modern times, everything that followed would have been presented in cinematic cutscenes. In 2007, though, all such events were shown in-game.
Garadar defenders lined up to greet Thrall, saying things like, "For the first time, I feel safe. I do not know you, stranger, but I know that I would lay down my life for you if only you asked."
First, Thrall met Garrosh for the first time and declared him the image of his father, Grom. He then sat down with Geyah and the two exchanged histories. Thrall told her how Grom saved the orcs from the curse by defeating Mannoroth and thus redeemed himself. She told him to bring this information to Garrosh, who always believed his father had failed their people.
Thrall returned to Garrosh and conjured an image of his battle with Mannoroth at Grom's side -- a small-scale, in-game version of the famous moment from Warcraft III.
The effect of this knowledge on Garrosh was profound. He said,
His rallying cry was not just for funsies, but an actual spell. When Garrosh shouted, he buffed everyone in the zone with Hellscream's Warsong. The buff was a callback to those provided in vanilla when players cashed in quests to defeat major bosses such as Onyxia and Nefarian.
For my entire life I have thought my bloodline cursed. ... On this day, a great burden has been lifted from my chest. My heart swells with pride. And for the first time, I can proudly proclaim who I am. I can finally unleash the fury in my heart. I am Garrosh Hellscream, son of Grom, chieftain of the Mag'har! Let the battle call of Hellscream give you courage and strength! Be lifted by my rallying cry.
For your efforts, you received a choice of rare armor items as well as a rare necklace, the Insignia of the Mag'hari Hero. All told, the Nagrand prereq quests and the Hero chain awarded 340,000 XP, more than 12,000 reputation with the Mag'har, 1200 rep with the Shatari, and about 40 gold.
The Hero of the Mag'har quest line has been a fan favorite for a long time, both for its interesting quests and excellent storytelling. The story is packed with big lore moments that have echoed through WoW's history ever since.
This quest line also had a more contained approach than vanilla. The quests still sent you far afield, but not in the absurd way of the Linken quest line or Onyxia attunement.
The rich story and streamlined design were both hallmarks adopted by future quest lines such as the Wrathgate and the Dominance Offensive/Operation: Shieldwall chains. I can't wait to see what great quest lines Blizzard will deliver next!
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