Know Your Lore: Famous Warlocks

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.

Yesterday, we covered the warlock as a class, discussing their motivations and history. Today, we're going to talk about specific warlocks. Now, one warlock we're not going to talk about is Gul'dan, not because he doesn't deserve it, but because we've covered the guy. We have covered the heck out of Gul'dan. It's not that he didn't deserve it. He did. But it's been done. Likewise, other important warlocks, like Archimonde the Defiler, have been covered as well. However, there are still a great many warlocks to discuss, from the six masters of the Council of the Black Harvest to lords of the Shadow Council, and its subsidiaries such as the Argus Wake, the Burning Blade, the Cult of the Dark Strand and others.

When talking of the individual warlock, we must remember the most important and powerful living warlock, Kil'jaeden the Deceiver. With the death of Archimonde and the absence of Sargeras (at least as far as we can tell) Kil'jaeden is the de factor commander of the entire Burning Legion, and therefore, in terms of raw power and knowledge first among warlocks. This does not mean he rules warlocks as some sort of leader, as Darion Mograine does for death knights, for warlocks have no ruler. Indeed, almost every living warlock would love to wrest from Kil'jaeden his over 25,000 years of experience and knowledge -- if it weren't for the fact that they would have to face him in order to make the attempt.

Each sect or cabal of warlocks has their own structure and identity. The Shadow Council, for example, organized itself into circles - Gul'dan (despite being the undisputed master of the Shadow Council) was merely a warlock of the inner circle and initiate of the seventh circle - he had no title signifying himself as superior to his fellows. His power and knowledge did that. Similarly, Cho'gall was one of the most powerful members of the Shadow Council, an ogre warlock of immense power who would, ultimately, trade it all away to the Old Gods. Cho'gall is the worst kind of failure in the eyes of a true warlock - an abject lesson in how not to let yourself be tricked by the entities you seek power from.

Two of the most powerful remaining warlocks of the Shadow Council following the Second War were those that remained in Outland - the dread Grandmaster Vorpil and the cunning Blackheart the Inciter. These two warlocks, and their Cabal of followers, were among the most wicked and depraved of all the Shadow Council, because they were willing to risk releasing Murmur, an entity of pure killing sound, upon an already devastated Outland. Vorpil and Blackheart (a two-headed ogre of the same generation as Cho'gall) ruled the Shadow Labyrinth and experimented constantly attempting to find a way to bind Murmur and draw upon his power - this makes them very much akin to the Council of the Black Harvest, who themselves also sought to tap into the power of other enormously powerful beings.

The Council of the Black Harvest is made up of Kanrethad Ebonlocke (currently a demon himself, banished by his forsaken colleage and another member of the Council, Jubeka Shadowbreaker), the powerful and evil orc enchanter Ritssyn (who witnessed the fall of Ragnaros), Shinfel the blood elf (who survived having her mind enslaved and body corrupted by Cho'gall himself and who participated in his death), her partner Zelfrax, a gnome warlock who would help Shinfel rip the secrets of the Twilight's Hammer themselves from the flesh of the mad cultists, and finally Zinnin the Worgen, who helped destroy Deathwing and who would aid Ritssyn in his exploration of Sulfuron Keep. Much like Vorpil and Blackheart, they sought power from beings greater than most warlocks dare to summon. Kanrethad himself paid the price of his struggle for knowledge and power, and so did Jubeka - with Kanrethad now a banished demon, she can never return to the Council to share her knowledge of Illidan's secret arcane power source because each member of the coucil swears an oath to slay one of their own who returns without his or her assigned partner. To return to the Council after your ally dies is suicide - it keeps powerful warlocks like Ritssyn (who could probably slay any one of the others himself) under control, because he can't kill four of them before they get him.

Prominent warlocks like Gul'dan, Kanrethad, Ritssyn and Vorpil are hardly the only warlocks, however. Not all warlocks are so gifted, skilled, and powerful. Still others are all these things, yet they allow their hubris and lust for power to overwhelm their reason. One example of such a warlock is Wilfred Fizzlebang.

You would be short sighted indeed to dispute Fizzlebang's strength as a warlock - he summoned an Eredar Lord to Azeroth, no easy feat. He didn't intend to do it, however, and that costs him points -- a warlock who accidentally summons his own destuction is far from a good warlock. Considering his ability, it seems that his arrogance got the better of him. He summoned a demon lord against warriors of the Horde... and Alliance, for that matter. Fizzlebang's fate serves as a cautionary tale to all warlocks not to assume they can summon and bind entities of such surpassing power. Doomguards may be less impressive than an Eredar Lord, but they're also less likely to break your control.

Listen closely to what you are told and do not quickly trust, or distrust. For even friends serve their own ends, warlock.
Our great Warchief knows this, and to prove that there are warlocks within the Horde who do not wish to destroy it from within or gain control over it, I have volunteered to aid our young leader in anyway I can.

-- Neeru Fireblade

Another warlock worth discussing is Neeru Fireblade. While he too died, it wasn't because he summoned too high above his own head. No, Neeru Fireblade is an example of how warlocks can never trust those that they live with, for anyone at any time could and maybe even will betray you. Slain by order of Garrosh Hellscream, an execution carried out by the dark shaman and other servants who tapped powers every bit as dark as those of warlocks. The lesson of Neeru Fireblade is that at any moment, you may encounter grave, certain danger, and you must always be ready to deal with it whether it be demons or the ire of a warchief.

There are many, many more warlocks of equal or greater importance to some on this list (although none really eclipse Gul'dan, Archimonde or Kil'jaeden), in fact, too many to list. What we will look for, then, are warlocks who in some way teach the lessons we've mentioned before -- how to be wary, how to establish the proper amount of trust and guarantee it, how to master the solitary will to power and knowledge against the cunning necessary to bend others to your designs and yet learn to cooperate with them for mutual gain. It's fair to say that a good warlock seeks to gain more for himself and less for those he allies with, but a great warlock will seemingly expend much effort for no personal gain at all, yet later all will see that she gave nothing of value and gained everything of importance. Figures like Nekros Skullcrusher and Zuluhed the Whacked of the Dragonmaw orc clan show this lesson, as well as one more - that warlocks come from all paths and proficiencies before abandoning all else to the ways of the seeker of power as enlightenment and reward.

Zuluhed was a shaman -- indeed, at a time when orc shamans like Drek'thar had lost their shamanic abilities, Zuluhed could still reach and command the elements while also taking part in warlock rituals and using the power of fel magic. (It's debatable but possible that Zuluhed was a proto-dark shaman, using force to gain the assistance of the elements, or simply that he somehow personally offended the spirits less than other former shamans did. Along with Nekros, Zuluhed found a way to use the power of the Dragon Soul (purposefully provided to him by Deathwing) to bind and enslave the Dragonqueen Alexstrasza. From a moral standpoint, what these two warlocks did to her is untenable, but from a purely strategic one, it was amazing and it worked, feeding red dragon mounts to the Old Horde as it found to conquer Quel'thalas and Eversong and set Alliance navies ablaze. Both Nekros and Zuluhed knew how to cooperate, how to compel obedience, how to rise from the ranks.

I have almost certainly forgotten to mention many of your favorite warlocks (for example, I haven't mentioned Xavius yet) -- it may be less that I forgot them and more that I simply ran out of room. When I pick up this series again, it will likely be discussing another class entirely, but if you want more warlock lore, don't be afraid to leave a comment. And finally, join me in nominating Pon and Cynwise for Council of the Black Harvest membership. They both deserve it, and there's two openings.

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.