Know Your Lore: A guide to the orc clans of Draenor

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.

It occurred to me while writing last week's Know Your Lore about Zaela and the Dragonmaw Clan that there are a lot of orcish clans out there, many of which we'll be encountering in Warlords of Draenor. There are well over twenty different clans, each with different histories, and there may be just as many smaller, minor clans that we don't know about, or more. Players familiar with Warcraft lore likely recognize the names of these clans, even if they aren't exactly certain who's who.

But for players new to Warcraft lore, or players that haven't played any game other than WoW, the giant list of various clans and the little notes we heard of clan history from BlizzCon may be pretty confusing, to say the least. Just who are all these orcish clans, which ones are we likely to see in Warlords, and which ones likely won't make an appearance?

Known orc clans we'll see in Warlords

There's a pretty definitive list of clans we'll definitely be seeing in the next expansion, just because we've already been informed that their leaders will be making an appearance. These clans represent some of the most powerful and well-known on Draenor. There's a reason Garrosh is trying to recruit these guys into the Iron Horde -- it's because they represent the majority of orcish power on the planet.

Blackrock Clan

The Blackrock Clan was pretty much the powerhouse of Draenor, and it was also the first clan to perform any kind of attack against the draenei in the original timeline. The Blackrock were led by Blackhand, who was easily duped into following the orders of Gul'dan, and consequentially made the Warchief of the original Horde. Orgrim Doomhammer was also a member of this clan, serving as Blackhand's second-in-command. Other notable members of the Blackrock Clan include Blackhand's sons, Rend and Maim. While Maim died to the Dark Iron Dwarves, Rend went on to lead the Blackrock on Azeroth from Blackrock Spire -- and made it a point to call himself the true Warchief of the Horde. Technically, he was correct -- as the son of Blackhand, Rend could consider himself leader of the Old Horde. Thrall's new Horde was an entirely different Horde that had nothing to do with the Blackrock Clan of old.

Bleeding Hollow Clan

Led by Kilrogg Deadeye, the Bleeding Hollow Clan was said to have been named as such because of Kilrogg's lost eye. We have new information from BlizzCon that clarifies this -- when an orc becomes leader of the Bleeding Hollow, they undergo a ritual in which they gouge out one of their eyes. This causes a vision in which the leader sees the moment of his death. From there, the leader can see the best path to follow when leading his clan. From this, we can presume that the clan received its name due to the ritual Kilrogg underwent, not Kilrogg himself. Most of the Bleeding Hollow Clan's notable conquests of record involve what they did after traveling through the Dark Portal -- what they did on Draenor is something we'll discover in Warlords.

Frostwolf Clan

Led by Durotan, the Frostwolf Clan was one of a very few clans that did not drink the blood of Mannoroth when it was offered in the original timeline. The fate of the Frostwolf Clan is very well known at this point -- Durotan and his clan did not drink the blood, and upon traveling through the Dark Portal to Azeroth, were exiled, finally settling in the Alterac Mountains. When Durotan and his mate Draka traveled to warn Orgrim Doomhammer of Gul'dan's deceit, they were murdered by Gul'dan's assassins on the way home, their infant son Thrall left to die in the forest and later found by the human Aedelas Blackmoore. Thrall never knew his parents, but went on to establish and lead the new Horde. In Warlords, the journey through the Dark Portal never happened, Durotan and Draka are still very much alive, and we can look forward to them meeting their now-grown son.

Shadowmoon Clan

The Shadowmoon Clan was once the most powerful orc clan on Draenor. It was led by the shaman Ner'zhul, who was so respected and so popular that he was considered the unofficial Warchief of all the orcish clans on Draenor. The clan takes its name from Shadowmoon Valley, where it was originally located. In the original timeline, Ner'zhul had his powers stripped from him by Kil'jaeden before the First War. After the end of the Second War, Ner'zhul sent the Shadowmoon to Azeroth to retrieve powerful artifacts he would then use to open countless portals on Draenor, bringing about its destruction and his ultimate fate as the first Lich King. Obviously, none of this occurred in Warlords -- instead, we'll see the Shadowmoon Clan pitted against another clan that should be familiar to players.

Shattered Hand Clan

The Shattered Hand was splintered during the First War. While some of the clan traveled through the Dark Portal, most stayed behind, including the clan's leader Kargath Bladefist. This is why we see both members of the Shattered Hand that are members of Thrall's new Horde, and a decidedly fel orc version of Kargath Bladefist in Hellfire Peninsula. On Azeroth, the Shattered Hand served as the new Horde's assassins, and their leader Kargath was considered noteworthy enough to have a settlement named after him in the Badlands. In Outland, Kargath and the remainder of the Shattered Hand joined Illidan's forces in Outland, drinking Magtheridon's blood and becoming fel orcs. The Shattered Hand clan was also mentioned at BlizzCon -- it was stated that Kar'gath was enslaved by the ogres on Draenor, and cut off his own limb to escape, binding a blade to the stump. Other enslaved orcs followed suit at Kargath's encouragement, cutting off their limbs, fighting their way to freedom, and following Kargath as leader.

Stormreaver Clan

This is where things get a little interesting. The Stormreaver Clan is supposedly following Gul'dan in Warlords of Draenor, battling Ner'zhul and the Shadowmoon for their supposed rightful place in the Iron Horde. But in the original timeline, the Stormreaver Clan was not created until after the Horde passed through the Dark Portal, bringing about the beginning of the First War. Because of that timeline, you'd think the Stormreaver Clan would simply have ceased to exist -- but Gul'dan has apparently established the clan and is leading it on this alternate version of Draenor as well. The Stormreaver Clan met a grisly end in the original timeline -- those that followed Gul'dan to the Tomb of Sargeras were torn apart in by the guardians of the Tomb. Those that remained behind were murdered by Orgrim Doomhammer and the Blackrock. Because this clan was established after the blood of Mannoroth was given to the orcs in the original timeline, we really don't know what to expect from them in Warlords.

Warsong Clan

The Warsong Clan is perhaps the most infamous of all. The leader of the Warsong was Grom Hellscream, father to Garrosh -- and his ascension to leadership was a point of gossip between the various orc clans, because Grom did not inherit the title by blood, but usurped the position. Regardless, this was simply the way in the Warsong Clan. It was one of the strongest clans on Draenor, and one of the most violent, embracing the idea of war and battle with no hesitation at all. It was perhaps this penchant for violence and strength that led Grom Hellscream to eagerly volunteer to drink the blood of Mannoroth -- but his act would go down in infamy. Because of his eager acceptance, most of the other orc clans willingly followed suit. Although Grom later regretted his actions, and even went on to kill Mannoroth and free the orcish race from the blood curse, the Warsong of Warlords have no such regrets.

Clans we might not see in Warlords

Although the clans listed above are easily the most notable, there were other clans scattered across Draenor that were equally as important, though not quite as influential. These orc clans have not been mentioned as making an appearance in Warlords. But hey, we may just see them around, if we do however, it's doubtful they'll have any kind of starring role.

Bonechewer Clan

In the original timeline, the Bonechewer Clan never went to Azeroth. Their name originates from their vicious nature -- there are rumors that the Bonechewer Clan are cannibals, although that's never been firmly established. In the original timeline, the Bonechewers have mostly taken over Hellfire Peninsula, having transformed into fel orcs due to Magtheridon's blood.

Burning Blade Clan

There are remnants of the Burning Blade here and there on Outland, and even more on Azeroth. But we know very little of the Burning Blade of Draenor, other than what was presented in the Warcraft II manual -- the Burning Blade is not a clan so much as a brotherhood of like-minded, demon-focused orcs whose only objective is destruction, razing and plundering with no regards to their own safety. Leaderless, the Burning Blade holds loyalty to no one, attacking anything and everything that appears to be a threat. In later years, some blademasters of the Burning Blade sought to free themselves from demonic control. While the Burning Blade was not mentioned at BlizzCon, their presence on Draenor past makes one wonder if we might see some of the clan's members in Warlords.

Dragonmaw Clan

While it's been stated that we likely will not see the Dragonmaw in any major capacity in Warlords, we do know that the clan's current leader, Zaela, will be traveling to Draenor with Garrosh. For more on the Dragonmaw and its history, see last week's Know Your Lore.

Laughing Skull Clan

In Warcraft II, the Laughing Skull Clan was described as a deceptive clan of orcs largely distrusted by their own kind. Thievery, assassination, and treachery was what they were by and large known for -- and they were one of the few orc clans actually led by an ogre, which likely led to at least some of that mistrust. In the current timeline, little is left of the Laughing Skull Clan -- their former home in Nagrand is nothing more than ogre-infested ruins, and members of the clan can be found in Hellfire Citadel, now fel orcs. It's likely that their less than stellar reputation among the orc clans means that we won't be seeing them in Draenor -- but they may still be there, skulking in the shadows just out of sight.

Mok'Nathal Clan

The Mok'Nathal Clan is an interesting conundrum, because we know very little about its origins. But we do know that the clan is primarily made up of the mok'nathal the clan is named for -- half-ogres. This is the clan that Rexxar belonged to, and although his father Leoroxx is the current chieftain of the clan, Rexxar himself was disowned when he left the clan to follow the Horde to Azeroth. From this, we can presume that the Mok'Nathal were around on Draenor before the First War -- however, their appearance in Warlords has not been confirmed.

Thunderlord Clan

The Thunderlord Clan was one of the few that remained behind on Draenor during the First and Second wars of the original timeline, although they agreed to help Ner'zhul on his mission of opening mass portals on Draenor. In Warcraft II, members of the Alliance helped the Laughing Skull Clan lead an attack on the Thunderlord Clan in exchange for the Book of Medivh. At some point after the Second War and the Horde's defeat, most of the Thunderlord Clan abandoned their village, became fel orcs, and the Bladespire ogres took over Thunderlord Stronghold. In Burning Crusade, the Horde has taken Thunderlord Stronghold back. As for the rest of the Thunderlord Clan, they are long gone -- the last Chieftain, Garm Wolfbrother, is a spirit that helps lead players to the Mok'nathal. Because most of the clan's history is largely unknown and played no major part in the original downfall of the orcs, it's unlikely we'll see them on Draenor in any major capacity.

Minor clans

There are plenty of other orcish clans scattered on both Outland and Azeroth, but the majority of those clans aren't really worth mentioning, as they never played a large role in any of the stories we have surrounding orcish history. The Twilight's Hammer is certainly a major clan, but it wasn't created until well after the corruption of the orcs and the rise of the Shadow Council -- which means we likely won't be seeing it in Warlords at all.

Orc clans aren't just powerhouses of orc civilization. From what we've seen of orc history, a clan can be created by a family and those that follow the family, or just a small group of orcs that see fit to band together. It can be a massive demonstration of orc strength, as evidenced by the Warsong and Blackrock Clans, or simply a tough group brought together by the actions of one individual, like the Shattered Hand. While some clans are well-established, having raised generations of children and holding a tight, familial bond, it's clear from history that clans can simply be created at will.

In other words, it doesn't take much to create an orc clan. The challenge comes in fully establishing that clan, gaining strength, and holding it together through clever leadership, cunning, and power. And even then, clans that have been established for generations aren't guaranteed survival. Although we may be facing some tough clans in Warlords, it was well proven during the tumultuous times of the First and Second wars that clans can be torn apart and destroyed just as easily as they can be created.

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.