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.
He is what some would call the lesser known of the triumvirate that led the eredar of Argus prior to Sargeras' intervention. Certainly he lacked the camaraderie of Kil'jaeden and Velen -- he had little to do with the grudge match Kil'jaeden carried, nor did he particularly care where Velen had gone, or what he was doing with the eredar who chose to turn down Sargeras' offer. What he was, however, was far more deadly in comparison. With no grudges to distract him, Archimonde was easily one of Sargeras' most effective military commanders -- cunning, incredibly powerful, and deadly.
Archimonde's tale stretches two different points in Warcraft's history. The first, thousands upon thousands of years ago, before Azeroth's continents had split and settled into the familiar placement we see on maps today. The second, not so long ago at all -- and his appearance leveled a city, brought together and united a world divided in hatred, and ended the precious gift of immortality given to an ancient race long secluded and hidden away.
Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains a few small spoilers for Warlords of Draenor.
Archimonde was one of three leaders of the eredar of Argus. Incredibly powerful and incredibly intelligent, he didn't even blink at Sargeras' offer when it arrived, he simply took it. And although Velen and Kil'jaeden had the kind of bond that led to a thirst for vengeance once Velen departed, Archimonde didn't seem to share the same. In fact, he cared little for Kil'jaeden's obsession with the draenei, although he did little to stop it -- he was far more concerned with the Burning Legion, and with his place within it.
And he thrived, becoming Sargeras' military commander, bringing countless worlds to their knees in the name of the Burning Legion. Yet one world was about to put its mark upon Archimonde, the Burning Legion, and Sargeras -- Azeroth. Archimonde was among those that invaded during the War of the Ancients, leading the troops alongside Mannoroth and Hakkar the Houndsmaster. He killed the Ancient Malorne, caught Jarod Shadowsong and sadistically beat the night elf to within an inch of his life before the Well of Eternity was destroyed, the portal that linked the Legion to Azeroth suddenly collapsing and banishing Archimonde, and the others, back to the Twisting Nether.
It wasn't death. It was a blow well-struck, a massive blow to Archimonde's massive ego, but it wasn't death. For the next ten thousand years, Archimonde raged and brooded, considering how best to strike in a second invasion -- this time, the target was not the original Well of Eternity that had been destroyed, but the second Well, cultivated by Illidan Stormrage after the original Well's destruction. Why? Because Sargeras wished it, and Archimonde was nothing if not a loyal servant of the Burning Legion. Because he wanted more power, and could best achieve that by carrying out Sargeras' will. And perhaps because, to a lesser degree, his ego had been bruised and he simply wanted his revenge. He could, however, do very little from the Twisting Nether.
The Third War
Kil'jaeden did part of the job for him. After conquering Draenor and watching as the orcish armies he'd rallied together failed to complete the task of invading Azeroth, Kil'jaeden eventually returned to find the orc shaman Ner'zhul desperately trying to escape what remained of Draenor as it shattered apart. He took Ner'zhul and bound him to serve as the Lich King, jailor and commander of the undead Scourge, then set him upon Azeroth in the hopes he would succeed where the orcish Horde had failed. It worked remarkably well.
Once the Lich King had performed as expected, it was up to Archimonde to once more lead the Legion's armies on Azeroth. He could not, however, do this from the Twisting Nether, and there was no longer a portal through which the Legion could simply pass. Thus, it was up to Kel'thuzad to summon the eredar to the world, which he did with the Book of Medivh, an artifact he plucked from Dalaran. Not too far from the city, Kel'thuzad finally managed the task of summoning Archimonde to the world at last. Archimonde's first action upon arriving on Azeroth was destroying the magical city that once held the book he'd been summoned with -- Dalaran crumbled under the assault.
Archimonde traveled across the sea, Kalimdor and the Well of Eternity his ultimate goals. He managed to make his way to Hyjal's peak, sowing death and destruction in his wake, but that was where his journey would at last come to an end. While trying to wrest the World Tree Nordrassil away from the Well, Archimonde paid little attention to the wisps gathering about him. Called by Malfurion Stormrage, they collected around the Defiler and detonated -- destroying tree, Well, and Archimonde, this time for good. There would be no banishment to the Twisting Nether. There would be no coming back. Simply death.
Archimonde had many powerful qualities in his life, but top among those were his sizeable ego and his persistence. The eredar are long-lived to begin with -- we knew this simply from Velen's age. Archimonde's exact age is unknown, but his patience cannot be questioned. He waited ten thousand years to strike Azeroth again, formulating a plan that would work where the other did not. He was willing to wait that long, just to carry out Sargeras' will, and snag some power and accolades for himself in the process. And he was powerful enough to level an entire city teeming with Azeroth's most accomplished magic-users in just a few short moments.
He accomplished all of this not with the single-minded obsession of Kil'jaeden as he hunted down the draenei, but with a presence of mind that was keenly aware of what he was doing at all times, an ego that noted every victory he obtained, and a brutality that was nearly unmatched. He knew he was smarter than the majority of the Legion, he knew he was fit to be a leader, he knew those beneath him were just that -- beneath him -- and those that displeased him were quickly dispatched.
To Archimonde, it was never about Velen. It was never about the draenei. It was never about Kil'jaeden, and it was certainly never about Azeroth. His goals were far, far larger than that. It was about power, to a degree -- but it wasn't the selfish kind of power he was after. What he did, he did for the Burning Legion. The actions he carried out were for Sargeras. Although Archimonde had a temper to be feared, although he had the power to destroy cities in the blink of an eye, although he knew he was powerful and reveled in that power, in the end he answered to Sargeras and the Legion. For the Legion gave him far more power and far more opportunity than he ever could have gained alone ... but if he gathered enough of that power, perhaps one day he could eclipse the Legion itself.
His patience, and his power, may yet still be an issue we have to contend with. In Warlords of Draenor, players can find a Burning Legion Missive -- a communication device that allows players to eavesdrop on the Burning Legion's plans. And although one might expect to hear Kil'jaeden speak, instead, it's Archimonde we hear. In this version of Draenor, he isn't dead. He's very much alive. And he's entirely fed up with Kil'jaeden's failure to persuade the orcs of Draenor to drink the demon's blood.
In short, Archimonde has taken over where Kil'jaeden has failed. And although Kil'jaeden may have proven to be a powerful foe in Burning Crusade ... he has nothing on his comrade in arms. Archimonde and the Battle for Hyjal may have been a footnote in that expansion, but in Warlords, his part seems to be ramping up to something far larger, far more influential, and far deadlier than anything we've faced before.
The Iron Horde may be deadly, but they have nothing on the monster who has destroyed more worlds than we can count. And if this is, in fact, a portent of things to come ... Wrathion had every right to be worried in Mists.
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.