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Know Your Lore: What the Siege of Orgrimmar reveals

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.

The terrifying thing about the upcoming Siege of Orgrimmar isn't that we'll be fighting Kor'kron and other Horde loyalists in what Garrosh Hellscream deems 'The True Horde', but rather, how in an exceedingly short period of time (less than a year) the Warchief of the Horde has managed to harvest a host of terrifying power based on the seizure of ancient secrets from Pandaria itself. A lot of this comes from the fact that Garrosh Hellscream, as a war leader, hates conventional tactics and strategies - he's fond of the grand, sweeping gesture, the overwhelming assault, the bait and switch. His assault on Theramore is a textbook example of how he likes to engage his enemies. The entire assault was a feint, a gambit to get all of his primary foes in one place and wipe them out, and if not for the interference of Rhonin, it would have worked. And if it had, Kalimdor would be in Horde hands now, and all the people currently rebelling against Hellscream would be building homes atop elf corpses in Darnassus and massacring draenei in the Exodar with no one to stop them.

This is the truth both of Hellscream himself and of the Horde - the Warchief's relentless drive for power and success is rooted in an assumption of Horde weakness.

The Horde does not seek a prolonged war because, even after all the successes of the Cataclysm, the Horde has believed it cannot win a protracted conflict. The only forces currently part of the Horde that can sustain a war of attrition are those of the Forsaken of Lordaeron, and Garrosh doesn't trust or respect them.

It is Garrosh's view of the Horde as insufficiently strong that has led him to adopting his policies as Warchief - his strategy and tactics are all about misdirection, about getting the enemy to commit to combat on terms that most favor your strengths and expose their weaknesses, and never giving the Alliance the chance to bring its forces to bear. These are all fairly wise decisions in and of themselves, but they had an unfortunate side effect. Because Hellscream saw the Horde as too weak to sustain a prolonged war for domination, he began looking at why that was, since he presupposed it couldn't be due to the orcs themselves.

This has led to an emphasis on finding or utilizing any resource that can possibly either bolster Horde strength or serve as a super weapon. So far in Garrosh's time as Warchief, we've seen the following:
  • The recruitment of the Dragonmaw and Blackrock orcs into the Horde to bolster the ranks with a new source of tamed proto-drakes and battle hardened veterans. Garrosh's more martial philosophy made these groups, previous not in synch with the Horde's focus under Thrall, far more approachable.
  • The Invasion of Gilneas in order to provide the Horde with harborage and bases for further actions in the Eastern Kingdoms. This action, and the later invasion of Vashj'ir off the coast of Stormwind, shows that despite his rhetoric Garrosh has no interest in confining himself to Kalimdor.
  • The development and deployment of the Focusing Iris-enhanced Mana Bomb. Not only was this a move in Garrosh's signature 'one punch' strategy for the Horde/Alliance war (due to his seeming belief that the Horde can't endure a protracted period of conflict) but it showed his willingness to provoke anyone if he believed it could lead to victory. The Horde's murder of members of the Blue Dragonflight to attain the Iris showed he respected no neutrality save when it benefited him to pretend to do so.
  • His attempt to seize resources in Krasarang Wilds was just part of a scheme that sent Horde forces all over the continent, leading to the claiming of the Divine Bell as a replacement superweapon. If not for the use of the Harmonic Mallet, Garrosh would have had the means to infuse his entire army with Sha energies.
  • Finally, his willingness to defy the authority of the Golden Lotus, the August Celestials and the Shado-Pan while they were all occupied with the resurgence of the Thunder King led him to dig up the very Vale of Eternal Blossoms, breaking into a long-lost chamber containing an object called 'the dark heart of Pandaria' and removing it to Orgrimmar. This means that Garrosh has found the third super weapon of his tenure as Warchief.
Quite frankly, the world of Azeroth is extremely fortunate that it was Lor'themar Theron, and not Garrosh Hellscream, in charge of the Horde operation on the Isle of Thunder, elsewise we could not be entering into a Siege of Orgrimmar with Garrosh using the power of two such superweapons at once. The power of the Titan Watcher Master Ra (known as Ra-Den to the mogu) not only directly empowered Lei Shen, but was used in multiple experiments within the complex. The Watcher's flesh was used in the crafting of the Divine Bell, his blood seems to be the power behind the creation of Primordius and the Dark Animus. Imagine Hellscream with access to that power?

It seems to be Garrosh's own inability to see the Horde as anything other than a means for orcish domination that has prevented this dread outcome. Garrosh's use of suprise, shock and awe and unconventional tactics is born out of his desire to avoid a prolonged conflict outside of his control, due to his lack of respect for the other races of the Horde and his view that the Horde's weakness comes from them and not from the orcs. Now, one could argue that the Horde's inability to mount a protracted conflict in fact stems from the orcish character and their tendency to fall apart (as the First and Second War shows us, the Horde cannot easily absorb a direct loss - Blackhand's death was a result of Doomhammer using Horde military failures to assassinate his leader, and Doomhammer himself could not rally the Horde after losing outside of Lordaeron) once losses are sustained. But what's important here isn't whether each assumption is true - it's quite possible the modern Horde, following the Warsong Offensive in Northrend and many victories after the Cataclysm, was in fact more than strong enough to fight the Alliance in a sustained offensive. Hellscream might well have been wrong about the Horde's goblins, blood elves, forsaken and trolls and their willingness, and ability, to stand and fight.

What's important is that the assumption was made, and all of Hellscream's actions leading up the Siege were made with that assumption in mind. The emphasis on resources and superweapons over territory and incremental gains shows a mind that seeks a quick, decisive victory over slow, steady progress. The forting up of Orgrimmar shows that if and when his enemies come to bring the fight to him, Hellscream intends to control the battlefield as much as possible. Garrosh does not see the Horde as a bundle of sticks bound together to increase their strength, and so he has ruthlessly done away with many of those sticks seeking to spend the lives of those he doesn't care about to preserve those he thinks of value, namely his own people. When Taran Zhu called the Alliance/Horde conflict a race war, he was almost correct. Garrosh Hellscream is leading a race war, but it's against those people in his own faction who are not sufficient to his purposes.

Next week: if all of the actions of Hellscream are rooted in this view of the Horde as an orcish institution, what of those who are not orcs?
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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