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Know Your Lore: The divided Alliance command structure

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.

We talked last week about Garrosh Hellscream as a tactician and strategist. This week, we're going to talk about his opposite numbers. Unlike Garrosh, Varian has become the Alliance's supreme military commander more by default than acclimation or appointment. The Horde started as a military organization, and its chief executive is named 'Warchief', so the job of commanding the Horde's military forces naturally comes along with it.

The Alliance technically doesn't have any sort of chief executive figure. Varian Wrynn is King of Stormwind, not the Alliance as a whole. While Stormwind's military forms the backbone of the Alliance's military forces, it's fair to say that Varian has become de facto head of the entire Alliance military less out of a desire from anyone to see him in that role and more out of reluctance from anyone else to step forward and attempt it.

Velen is no military leader. The dwarves of Ironforge are currently led by a Council of Three Hammers that spends a great deal of time arguing. The scattered Gilneans live either in Darnassus or in Stormwind off of the charity of others leaving Genn Greymane in no position to lead the Alliance's armies. The gnomes are occupied attempting to regain Gnomeregan leaving Gelbin Mekkatorque entirely invested. And while the night elves are certainly involved in heavy fighting against the Horde in Ashenvale, Stonetalon, and even Azshara, they're also occupied with the extensive destruction in Darkshore and Feralas, and Malfurion Stormrage's return left him entirely focused on Hyjal during Ragnaros' assault. Only Tyrande Whisperwind stands as a faction leader with any real involvement with the war in Pandaria, unless one counts Jaina Proudmoore.

In fact, recent events have revealed that Jaina's presence in the Alliance fold may end up being more divisive than unifying, as she clearly has no intention of following anyone's orders.

Part of the problem is that Varian was, until fairly recently, a maniac.

There's no other way to put this. Dude was angry, messed up, and it's not surprising that he was. A brief rundown of Varian Wrynn's life is enough to make your inner child wince. Father murdered in front of him, city burned, forced to flee ahead of an army of invading aliens who wanted to murder him. Foster father figure dies restoring him to his birthright. Second foster father figure killed by his own son, who Varian spent years growing up with. His rebuilt city riots, and his wife is killed. His closest advisor turns out to be a dragon working against him for years. His second closest advisor, the man who raised his son for several years while Varian was being kidnapped and torn into two people by evil magic, dies due to Horde treachery. (As far as Varian knows, anyway.) The list goes on and on. Even without the whole 'Evil black dragon divides me into two people, one of whom is pure rage, and I'm later recombined imperfectly so that my rage dominates my personality' thing, Varian's life sucks. So it's not surprising that he was a touch testy.

What's been interesting to see so far in Mists of Pandaria is Varian becoming a leader who can keep that aspect of his personality under control right as Jaina, someone who has displayed iron control of herself over the years, starts to lose control. What's even more interesting is, while the Horde has folded the Sunreaver exiles into the Blood Elf command structure (in essence, adding their magical prowess to the forces under Lor'themar Theron's command) Jaina has not folded the Kirin Tor into any Alliance force at present - the Kirin Tor Offensive is completely independent. So while Varian leads the Alliance forces in Krasarang, Jaina is not and does not consider herself to be under his command. This is potentially the downfall of an Alliance, if there is no common core structure of command.

While we've seen Varian as a military leader in the novels Stormrage and Wolfheart (where he faced off against Garrosh Hellscream) and more recently in the A Little Patience scenario, where he outmaneuvers the Horde and liberates the Temple of the Red Crane. What we have yet to see is how he'll fare attempting to lead the Alliance with an actual independent operator, and for that matter how Jaina will fare leading the Kirin Tor Offensive. Jaina has no actual military experience - before now, her only real command of any sort of military operation was in Theramore, and it's unfair to really hold that situation either to her credit or her detriment, because she wasn't in charge of the situation as a general or war-leader.

The real difficulty for the Alliance going forward, and the greatest detriment for them going up against the Horde, is that Jaina and Varian are not talking, or at least they're not really effectively communicating, about what they plan to do. Varian's attempt at diplomacy with the Sin'dorei was laudable, but how can Jaina be blamed for scuttling it when she didn't even know about it? To a degree, it's as if he assumed that she was the same, pro-diplomacy figure she had been before the destruction of Theramore entirely based on her reluctance to leap to the Alliance's side in the conflict before the Sunreaver betrayal, but that was based purely in her position as leader of an avowed neutral faction and not her own desires.

Know Your Lore The divided Alliance command structure
What's interesting is that Jaina clearly doesn't feel antagonism for Varian, nor does he display any hostility towards her. They are allies, and Jaina still calls Varian 'my King' when she addresses him (which is unusual, as Jaina is a head of state and was never a citizen of Stormwind) but it's just as clear that she intends to use the Kirin Tor as a military force, and moreover, that she intends to use them as she sees fit whether or not Varian is in agreement with her decisions.

At present, the majority of the Alliance's forces are committed to the Krasarang beachead, and are in direct conflict with the Horde there. Varian is effectively tied down, and as a result, it will be Jaina who has the most impact in terms of what the Alliance achieves in the near future. It will be Jaina and her direct subordinates like Vereesa Windrunner who determine how the Alliance moves forward, how it deals with the Thunder King, and how it faces off against the Horde. This means that when it comes time for the Alliance and Horde to really square off, Jaina may well have established herself as a force to be reckoned with and as a result have more say in what the Alliance does, militarily. It's effectively up to her to deliver on her new stance and become a war leader, if that's what she wants.

Effectively, Jaina Proudmoore may end up as the next Warchief after all.

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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