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.
This, for me, is the real disappointment of the past few Mists of Pandaria patches. We've seen what Lor'themar, Baine and Vol'jin are up to in regards to Garrosh's plans for the Horde. While Sylvanas has taken a more circumspect path in this expansion, we're getting a sense of what the Horde's other leaders think about what the Horde is becoming.
What we haven't seen, aside from Jaina Proudmoore's returning the Kirin Tor to the Alliance fold, is any sense of what leaders who aren't Varian are up to. Now, 5.3 shows us what's going on with the Council of Three Hammers in Ironforge, and we've seen Tyrande's brief appearance in the A Little Patience scenario (where she gets to be her old, impetuous self in order that Varian can look statesmanlike) but where's Velen? You'd think that the Sha menace would interest him. Where's Genn Greymane, who has literally done nothing since he installed himself in Stormwind two years ago? I know it's probably expecting too much that Gelbin Mekkatorque might spare time away from doing nothing outside of Gnomeregan, but still, there's been a surprising lack of involvement for these Alliance figures over the years, and it's getting worrisome.
I've mentioned before that I don't want the Alliance turning into The Adventures of Varian Wrynn and his Amazing Friends, not even with Jaina playing both Iceman and Firestar lately. I want an Alliance that's more like a Justice League, where there's room for every faction to take part.
Now, I'm not one of those players who buys the whole "I'm a night elf/draenei/dwarf/worgen/gnome, Varian's not my king" argument. I get that the Alliance is an alliance, that Varian can and perhaps even should act as a leader of said Alliance. I'm just of the opinion that alliances are strongest when everyone participates in them. Now, patch 5.3 at least takes some steps to show Varian working to unify the Alliance, but it's time to show that unity in game.
Now, there have been some encouraging nods towards Alliance unity in this expansion. During the Operation: Shieldwall quest Heart of the Alliance, several of the Alliance leaders including Genn Greymane, Farseer Nobundu, Tyrande and Jaina all arrive in the Shrine of Seven Stars to witness a demonstration of the Sha threat and to hear Sky Admiral Rogers' recommendation that the Alliance follow Garrosh's example and weaponize the Sha. Varian's refusal is clearly witnessed by these representatives of the Alliance's factions, and none challenge his right to make the decision. Whether this is in recognition of his race's superior numbers or his acumen as a leader, we have no real way of knowing, but the implicit understanding is that Varian is recognized as leader. However, just as implicit is the notion that there is a sense of reciprocity, that Varian keeps the other Alliance leaders informed.
With 5.3's Blood in the Snow showing us that Varian has managed to secure the Council of Three Hammers' direct support, we now have the stage set for a unified Alliance military operation in patch 5.4. From my perspective, patch 5.3 simply sets the stage, and I'm willing to tolerate it leaning more heavily on the Horde figures involved in the Darkspear Rebellion. But patch 5.4 (or whichever patch brings the siege to Orgrimmar) is the one where we really need to see some factional leaders from the Alliance side getting involved.
For the night elves, it's a chance to avenge the Horde invasion of Azshara, which they strip mined and destroyed, followed by their invasion of Ashenvale where they clear cut the ancient forests, firebomed Astranaar, and destroyed Silverwind Refuge. At the very least, Shandris Feathermoon should take part in the action, if not Tyrande herself.
For the draenei, it's a chance to prevent the rise of a Horde that resembles the Old Horde that nearly wiped their people out entirely. Nobundo is a good choice for draenei representative as his very existence as a broken is due to the Horde invasion of Shattrath City - he knows the costs of unchecked Horde aggression. Also, Nobundo has seen a Sha now. His report of the thing and its pure evil should be enough to get Velen to act. Garrosh is attempting to spread these things throughout the Horde and he must be dealt with.
For the Worgen, it's finally a chance to hit back against the orc who demanded their nation be invaded. While Sylvanas is still responsible for it, Genn Greymane can get some measure of payback for his son Liam's death by leading Gilnean forces to Orgrimmar.
The dwarves will likely participate out of a sense of obligation to Varian following Blood in the Snow, as well as remembering the Horde invasion of Khaz Modan in the Second War. With Forsaken forces in the Arathi Highlands, the Wetlands aren't far away, and cutting off Garrosh's support could help strengthen their forces. The gnomes will likely only participate so far as the dwarves do, since Mekkatorque has displayed no real interest in the events on Pandaria so far.
Since we know that Jaina is heavily invested in the reckoning, we can safely assume she will be participating. Indeed, with Jaina so far it's been less about motivating her to act and more about trying to ensure she acts in accordance with her allies instead of jumping ahead of them.
Interestingly, we've seen that Garrosh is in fact very prepared for the Alliance to come together and act as an Alliance - his mana bomb attack on Theramore was in fact designed around the idea of catching the great leaders of the Alliance in one place in order to wipe them out entirely. If it had succeeded, the Alliance would have been like the mythical hydra with its heads lopped off and the stumps seared. But in its failure, it may still have benefited the Horde if it has in any way made the Alliance leadership think twice about uniting their forces and in so doing providing Garrosh another such target to choose from. I talked before about the divided Alliance command structure, with a lack of leadership from a singular place, but I think that's exactly what we've seen Varian dealing with over the patch 5.1 and 5.2 story elements.
It'll be interesting to see what patch 5.4 has for us in terms of the Alliance War Machine and who is involved.
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.