Know Your Lore: Warriors of Azeroth and beyond Part 1

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.

Okay, this week, I'm going to do something massively nerdy and more than a little ridiculous. I'm going to rank the best warriors from across the World of Warcraft, according to my own subjective criteria for what 'best' means. It's not just who would win in a fight (that's in there, but it's not all of it) and unfortunately, some races are going to get shafted here just because they don't have as much representation. I'm trying to keep the list somewhat representative, but there are some races that just dominate it - orcs and humans get big representation, while other races like draenei just don't have an established lore warrior as of the time of this writing. I'm sure there are draenei warriors (I play one, even) but we tend to see paladins from the boys in blue. It's a sad lack.

Some of these are kind of iffy because Blizzard does weird things sometimes - some of these characters have abilities you'll never see a warrior use in game - but none of them will be specifically mentioned members of another class. No demon hunters, paladins or rogues on this list. Sorry, Garona fans.

Lor'themar Theron

I debated this one - Lor'themar is a former member of the Farstriders, a fairly hunter-dominated group. But it's pretty clear if you actually fight Lor'themar, or see him in action in game, that the dude packs a 2h sword for a reason - he's a cleave happy machine. Considering blood elves are a race dominated by their blood knights, hunters and mages, it's nice to see a warrior at the top of the pecking order and save for Thalorien Dawnseeker (who is pretty dead nowadays) I don't think the blood elves have a bigger example of the warrior class than Lor'themar. I also like Lor'themar's swagger - the way he just assumed Quel'Delar was his by right, for instance, was a very warrior assumption to make. It doesn't always work out for the Regent-Lord, but it's a refreshing character trait nonetheless.

Sadly, Lor'themar ends up down at number 10 because of a couple of factors. The first is that whole 'former commander of the Farstriders' thing, which muddies the waters and makes me not 100% sure of him. The other is, of the warriors I'm going to list, I think Lor'themar the least likely to win a direct combat with any of the ones above him. He's good - no doubt about that - but he's not the absolute best of the best. Still, his appearances in Mists of Pandaria have definitely elevated him in my eyes. Before this expansion, I would have put Thalorien on here instead of him.

Marhsal Reginald Windsor

The lowest ranking human on the list, Reginald makes it on here for his valor, especially if you ever saw him back in the day during the Onyxia attunement chain. Not always the brightest tool in the shed - escorting Reginald Windsor was an exercise in watching a naked man run face first into packs of armed prison guards - once he got his gear back, Reginald acquitted himself with honor. And without Reginald Windsor, the Alliance may never have figured out what Onyxia was up to. He died for his country, which is a noble thing to do, but Reginald just doesn't have the chops to get higher up on the list, especially when there are other human warriors who are a lot more dramatic or impressive.

Jarod Shadowsong

Jarod gets on the list ahead of his former mentor Kur'talos Ravencrest because Jarod won. It was Jarod Shadowsong who picked up the responsibility of leading the night elf and allied forces during the first Burning Legion invasion, and Jarod also earns points for personally stepping up to fight Archimonde hand to hand knowing he would be killed. As a night elf warrior, he's probably more impressive as a commander and tactician than an actual hand to hand fighter (he's certainly not bad at fighting, it's just not his first strength) but the fact that he took ten thousand years off after the War of the Ancients does mean he lacks as storied a resume as the one he could have.

General Nazgrim

I didn't actually like General Nazgrim enough to consider putting him on this list before Siege of Orgrimmar, but he won me over with his heroic sacrifice in the name of personal honor and his suite of warrior abilities. His stance switching, his heroic shockwave (which is as much a heroic leap as a shockwave), his ability to use a 2h weapon and a shield, and the way he steps up to die for his personal code all just serve to make him the penultimate example of an orc warrior. Now, there are a lot of orc warriors, and several of them are more iconic than Nazgrim, but I only felt it fair to put him on here.

Baine Bloodhoof

Am I spoiling things by telling you up front he's not the only member of his family to make this list? Because he's not. Baine stepped up to lead his people after his father Cairne died in the Mak'gora against Garrosh Hellscream and the Grimtotem uprising led by Magatha Grimtotem, and he's led them since. A personally powerful warrior (as you see if you level through the tauren starting zone post-Cataclysm) he's yet to really mature fully into a seasoned combatant, but he's already made waves by his support of Vol'jin and his part of the Horde Rebellion that helped overthrow Garrosh.

However, Baine suffers from his youth (remember rescuing him from harpies in WCIII? I do) and lack of experience. He's overshadowed, plain and simple.

Shandris Feathermoon

I'm counting Shandris despite her mastery of the longbow because she wears plate, doesn't have a pet of any kind, and commands the Sentinel army. She's been a field commander for the night elves for over ten thousand years, meaning she's got more direct combat experience than just about anyone else on this list (Jarod Shadowsong included) and she's still at it today. Her choice to recruit worgen into the Sentinels was a bold and unconventional choice, and it's paying off for them as they push back against the Naga and Horde in Feralas. Shandris is the quintessential night elf warrior, and she embodies all of the strengths. However, her over-reliance on Tyrande and Malfurion is her Achilles Heel - she can't really operate as independently as she should, and it costs her both cool points and effectiveness. She's still awesome (I put her ahead of Baine, one of my favorite characters in WoW) but not as awesome as she could and should be. I'd love to see Shandris move up into more prominence, take a larger role.

Muradin Bronzebeard

There was no way we weren't going to have a dwarf on this list. And Muradin is basically the epitome of a dwarf warrior. He's got stiff competition, but he edges out his own brother Magni as well as Thargas Anvilmar and Kurdran Wildhammer on sheer tenacity - Muradin is such a relentless and powerful warrior that even after stumbling out into Northrend with a vicious head wound after his former student Arthas nearly caused his death he managed to end up king of the Frost Dwarves of the Storm Peaks. He led the Alliance assault on Icecrown Citadel, facing off against the near-legendary Varok Saurfang, he trained Prince Arthas, and he's now the Bronzebeard representative on the Council of Three Hammers. Muradin's been and seen a lot.

Broxigar the Red

Veteran orc who fought in all three wars. Broxigar is on this list for one reason and one reason only, and it's enough - he fought Sargeras. He didn't win, but he actually managed to wound the fallen Titan in hand to hand combat. Consider what that means. Broxigar went toe to toe with the guy who routinely defeated entire demonic races for the Titans before going nuts and assembling an army to destroy the universe and he drew blood. Again, not on a Titan construct. Not on a Titan creation. Broxigar wounded an actual Titan. Sure, it was barely worth noticing for Sargeras - effectively a scratch - but that scratch prevented him from coming through into Azeroth long enough to ultimately cost the Legion its victory in the War of the Ancients.

Really, what else can be said? Brox stepped up and went toe to toe with a being who kills gods.

Now, you may be wondering who gets to be considered better than that? Well, there's still a few warriors out there who did as much or more in one way or another. They'll be coming up next week. So if you didn't see your personal favorite this week, take heart, they may be on the list yet.

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.