Know Your Lore: The mysterious motives of Wrathion

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|07.22.13

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Know Your Lore: The mysterious motives of Wrathion
Know Your Lore The mysterious motives of Wrathion
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.

Wrathion made his debut in the Cataclysm expansion -- not as a raid boss, but as a clever ally to rogues looking for legendary weapons. His words seemed genuine and sincere, although his actions revealed a vicious streak that players would be wise to avoid. Yet his origins go back even further, to a small quest chain in the Badlands in which Wrathion is born to a mother who is captive of the red dragonflight, his egg later tampered with and then hidden for safe-keeping.

He's only two years old, give or take a few months. Yet Wrathion is far, far more clever than one would expect for someone of his young age. And given his actions in Cataclysm, and later in Mists of Pandaria, one thing remains perfectly clear: This is not your typical dragon. But what exactly is Wrathion after? What, exactly, is the purpose of his scheming, and perhaps most importantly -- should we be worried?

Please note: There are some small spoilers for patch 5.4 content in this post.

Know Your Lore The mysterious motives of Wrathion

The Black Dragonflight

In World of Warcraft, the black dragonflight has typically been perceived as the "bad guys" -- the schemers, the manipulators, the dragons that were quite clearly up to no good. But they weren't always that way. In the days before Aspects, dragons were simply proto-dragons, with some small degree of intelligence, but nothing advanced. It wasn't until the events involving Galakrond and five atypical proto-dragons -- Alexstrasza, Nozdormu, Malygos, Ysera and Neltharion -- that the proto-dragons finally caught the attention of the Titans.

The five possessed a fierce dedication to stopping the monstrous actions of Galakrond, and to saving the world of Azeroth, even before they were granted their unique powers. In fact, it was that fierce dedication that led to their creation. The Titans didn't randomly pick five dragons out of nowhere, they chose the five who had displayed, even in their weakened state, a passionate devotion to keeping the world safe.

The Aspect Neltharion was corrupted by the Old Gods, taking the name Deathwing. The years following the Sundering were chaos for the black dragonflight. Each of the other four flights were intent on killing any black dragon on sight as punishment for their betrayal -- and the black dragons turned on each other, as well. Concerned only with their own self-preservation and well-being, black dragons were just as ruthless against each other as they were against the rest of the world, their minds riddled with the corruption of the Old Gods that had so thoroughly taken their leader.

Know Your Lore The mysterious motives of Wrathion


This was the face of the black dragonflight that the mortals of the world grew up with. To the mortal races, black dragons have always been selfish, ruthless, cunning, intent on manipulation and destruction. The only mortal races that might have known the black dragons before their corruption have either neglected to record any history, or simply forgotten in the ten thousand plus years since Deathwing's corruption what, exactly, a black dragon looked like, sounded like, acted like before the Old Gods came into play. But the other dragons ... they remembered.

When the red dragon Rheastrasza began her experiments in the Badlands, it was with the best intentions in mind. She wanted to recreate the black dragonflight as they were meant to be -- earth warders, protectors, noble and free of corruption. Rheastraza wasn't acting alone; it was clear from her references to her mistress that Alexstrasza knew what Rhea was up to and condoned her actions. Through her experiments, Rhea manage to do what no one thought possible -- she obtained a black dragon egg, then had it successfully purified.

The result was Wrathion. And Wrathion was unlike any black dragon seen before, orchestrating his escape from the red dragonflight while still in the shell, taken safely to Ravenholdt where he finally hatched. Upon hatching, his first mission was absolutely clear -- he wanted the black dragonflight taken out. Wiped from the face of Azeroth for good, including his father, Deathwing. He enlisted the help of the mortal races to accomplish this task, and to his knowledge, he was successful -- all corrupt black dragons were purged from Azeroth, leaving Wrathion as the last of his kind, free from the corruption of the Old Gods. Once this was accomplished, Wrathion moved on ... to Pandaria.

Know Your Lore The mysterious motives of Wrathion


And that's where things really started to get interesting. When players first encountered Wrathion in the Tavern in the Mists, he showed them the vision he'd had, a vision of Azeroth overcome by attacks from, presumably, the Burning Legion. Wrathion pointed out that a world divided could not hope to stand against what was coming -- Alliance and Horde were far too distracted with warring with each other. In order to prepare for the oncoming onslaught, Wrathion decided to pull a drastic move -- escalate the war between Alliance and Horde, arm heroes who had shown their loyalty and bravery to him, and make certain a victor was declared. Once the war was over and the victor determined, proper attention could be turned to preparations for what Wrathion had witnessed in his visions.

Yet this wasn't Wrathion's only goal. As time went on, he became far more interested in what was going on with the mogu and their apparent Titan connection. The rise of Lei Shen, the Thunder King, led to Wrathion's requests for more and more information about the mogu and the power that they possessed. He wanted to know more about the Titan powers that were hidden away in the halls of the Thunder King -- and when push came to shove, he wanted the Thunder King destroyed. As Wrathion put it, Titan power preserved Lei Shen's corpse, and it was Titan power that was Wrathion's by right. For proof of the Thunder King's demise, he asked for Lei Shen's heart.

Upon receiving the heart, he ate it. A little gross, but it further illustrated just how determined Wrathion was to fully understand the power of the mogu -- and showed a sinister, narrow-minded determination that was an eerie echo of his father. Later on, Wrathion visits Chi-Ji and discusses the nature of hope.
Wrathion: ...Great Crane. You have not seen what I have seen.
Chi-Ji: You underestimate me.
Wrathion: ...the fire that once burned the sky will return. It is inevitable. The Burning Legion WILL find Azeroth. Seas of blood, cities in ruins! Who are we - one divided world - to stand against a legion? You speak of hope. Believe me, the thinnest silver of belief that we might somehow survive the coming devastation is all that sustains me.
Wrathion learned a lesson of hope from the Red Crane, but we learned a far more interesting lesson. Of all the terrifying things that Azeroth and the rest of the universe hold, none frightens Wrathion as much as the thought that he might grow up to become his father -- maddened, corrupted beyond redemption. Just behind that is the fear that Azeroth will fall, that the Burning Legion will destroy it completely.

That's an odd combination of fears, isn't it?


Maybe it would be to a normal mortal, but Wrathion is far from normal. In order to really understand Wrathion, one has to look at his origins, and then the history behind those origins. Wrathion was just another black dragon until his egg was purified -- and it was purified not by magical means, but by a Titan artifact called the Eye of the Watchers. The Eye scanned three things -- a dead black dragon whelp, a wild black dragon egg, and then an egg of Nyxondra. After excising the anomalies from each, it combined the three into Wrathion's egg.

Wrathion isn't a normal dragon, and he wasn't born from a normal egg -- he was bio-engineered from three different and distinct creatures, purged of Old God corruption by Titan artifact and scrambled together into a purified egg. Technically, Nyxondra isn't his mother at all. His mother and father both are the Eye of the Watchers, which promptly flew away once it was finished with its creation. Wrathion isn't really a child of the black dragonflight at all -- he's something beyond that. He's a child of the Titans, indirectly, which goes a lot towards explaining his current obsession.

What did the Titans want, when they created the dragonflights? What did they want when they assigned Keepers to the world? They created the Aspects to protect Azeroth. Regardless of their mission of order, it was very clear that the Titans wanted Azeroth protected and safe from harm. Wrathion is incredibly smart for a creature that is only two years old -- it's entirely possible that the Eye of the Watchers didn't just purify Wrathion, it also imparted information to him at the moment of his creation -- information that led to the visions he saw and later showed us.


What was Wrathion's first act, out of the shell? To bring about the demise of his father, and the demise of the corrupted black dragonflight. He stated, in the rogue legendary quest chain, that this was for his protection -- but I suspect it was far more than that. Wrathion was born of a Titan artifact that excised the corruption from the pieces used to put him together. This makes him less of a proper dragon, and more of a draconic extension of that Titan artifact. The purpose of that artifact was to remove Old God corruption, and so Wrathion proceeded to spend his first few months of his life engineering just that, only on a larger scale.

Once the corruption was purged, Wrathion was left to decide what to do next -- and that's when he had the vision of the Burning Legion. Think about it though, for a moment -- how exactly does a two-year old dragon, new to Azeroth, know of the Burning Legion? How does he know what kind of horrors the Legion could wreak on the world? A vision is just that, a vision -- but Wrathion is dead certain that the Legion is a threat that will require all of Azeroth working together to defeat. How did he learn this information?

The Titans certainly knew of the Burning Legion -- it's led by one of their own. Sargeras and his relationship to the Titans during and after his fall from grace is a story that has yet to be told, but it's still safe to assume that this story is one that would have been recorded at some point in the annals of Titan history. That Titan artifact that created Wrathion may very well have shown him a glimpse of the Titans, Sargeras, and the formation of the Burning Legion.

And after seeing a glimpse of that at the moment of his conception, it's no wonder that Wrathion would be interested in the source of mogu power, especially after it was revealed to be Titan power. When Wrathion said Lei Shen's stolen power was his by right, he wasn't being arrogant, he was simply stating a fact: He is of Titan origin. If any being on Azeroth should possess that power, it should be him. And after ingesting Lei Shen's heart, Wrathion has some sort of mysterious vision that seems to reveal the whole truth of the matter to him all at once, and then simply fade away.

The future

Wrathion is not really concerned with the mortal races of Azeroth. We are useful tools, specks of hope and strength in a much larger game. That game is Old God vs. the world, Azeroth vs. the universe, Titan vs. Burning Legion -- and we are but tiny players in that game. That's why he wanted to speed the process of the war and declare a victor, he needs us for playing pieces in that larger game. Currently, it doesn't look like Wrathion gets his way in patch 5.4. Despite all his best efforts to have a victor declared and the world assimilated into one superior fighting unit, he failed.

What does this mean for the future? That's a very good question. After all is said and done, Wrathion hasn't completed his task. That war between Alliance and Horde may have settled for now, but it's inevitable that it will be back at some point in the future -- as Tong pointed out, battle makes both sides strong. But armed with the knowledge that he possesses, it's almost a certainty that the end of Mists is not the last time we'll see Wrathion -- his concern for the future of the world is far too important to push to the side.

Wrathion's downfall this expansion is simple impatience -- he expected the world to just take him at his word and follow him blindly. He expected the playing pieces to fall in a pattern, without really understanding that the pieces had minds and wills of their own, and threw a literal tantrum when things didn't go his way. But don't blame Wrathion for his failure, or for his harsh words to Varian Wrynn -- he just doesn't understand the complexity of the situation involved.

After all, he's only two.

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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