A Possible Path for Battle for Azeroth – The True Tale of Sylvanas Windrunner

There’s a variety of self-proclaimed “leaks” that parade around the internet, all that capitalize on our voracious appetites for information about things we enjoy. From game stories and features to hardware launches that are coming up, “leak” culture has been, especially via social media, one of the most popular things online.

So the idea that “Blizzard Employees” might post things anonymously online is, on the face of it, not worth much attention. However, a recent one of these brought up an interesting idea that kind of piqued my interest, so I think it is worth talking about, although I will say this is not a thing that I would put any degree of confidence in.

With that out of the way, let’s dive in!

(oh, also – big spoilers for 8.2 in this post, and some speculation!)

One of my biggest pet peeves with Battle for Azeroth so far is the nature of the conflict in the game. Sylvanas’ shift from ambiguously, vaguely evil to full-on super-villain has been handled with all the grace of someone catching a lubed-up ham fired from a cannon, but the protest from Blizzard has boiled down to “don’t worry, when you see the whole thing, it’ll make so much sense!” Thus far, the game has kept to an arc for Sylvanas with the Horde leaders slowly turning against her, Thrall returning (tomorrow!) and taking a side in the conflict, and the player being offered a path of choices to align with Sylvanas, or to side with Saurfang against her. The clear, obvious path before us creates a path towards Sylvanas as an enemy, who will eventually turn against everyone and fight for what she believes is right for securing the future of the Horde, but mostly the Undead.

What if that were wrong, however?

Hypothetically speaking, what if there is a different option, one that actually pays off the characterization of Sylvanas as willing to take tremendous risks to secure a future for the Horde?

Why, that would be interesting.

So let’s talk about the path less traveled online – Sylvanas has, in fact, been setting us up on the path we are currently on in order to save Azeroth by bringing the fight directly to the Old Gods, and will end up nearly sacrificing herself to end N’Zoth?

This is a…bold idea. The bedrock of this path is that pushing the Alliance to open war, pushing the Horde to defense, and through this finding the means by which to cross paths with N’Zoth and to fight him, win, and reseal his prison, are all things that Sylvanas was prepared to do and planned for. It is a far-fetched idea on its face, but one that perhaps can be written into!

What we know of the plot so far is this – Azerite was uncovered, and both factions came into contact with it around the same time, with the Horde engaging for full-force strip mining and the Alliance fighting back against it by sending forces to Silithus, who ended up in the wrong place, as the Horde committed to Darkshore, creating a warfront which ended with the pushback of the Alliance, the near-death of Malfurion Stormrage, and the burning of Teldrassil. This led to the destruction of Undercity, with the razing and plaguing of the entire Tirisfal Glades, and leads to both factions heading to new nations, gaining new allies, and in the process, discovering Xal’Atath, which Sylvanas takes possession of.

We also know from the post-Legion comics about the Windrunner sisters that the Void HATES Sylvanas and wants her dead, and is trying to enact this agenda through Alleria, who has been curiously absent for large parts of Battle for Azeroth. However, currently, Sylvanas possesses one of the most curious artifacts of the Void, and it seems to be offering her something. What that something is, we can’t quite say yet.

So let’s discuss the things we know.

Between Legion’s ending, the War of Thorns, and the Battle of Undercity, 3 locations either directly associated with Old Gods or adjacent to Old God sites have been destroyed – This one actually makes a lot of sense to me and is a strong start to the theory that Sylvanas is aiming to end the Old Gods.While she is certainly not responsible for Sargeras planting his sword so close to Ahn’Qiraj, she is the primary party involved in the destruction of Teldrassil and Tirisfal Glades, the location of Tyr’s tomb, haunted by an Old God presence and the original resting place of Xal’Atath prior to Legion. Teldrassil is a bit more complicated, but it is near the Master’s Glaive, resting place of Soggoth the Slitherer. The satyr presence on Teldrassil coupled with the cautionary tale of Vordrassil’s Old God corruption during Wrath of the Lich King would make Teldrassil a potential target. It also was loaded with Azerite (a point we’ll revisit here momentarily!) and was a strong play to get the Alliance fully into war mode.

A LOT of emphasis was placed on the realization of Azerite’s power in the post-Legion cinematic with Sylvanas – Sylvanas seems to believe in the power of Azerite, and right now, that would be fairly self explanatory – Azerite is powerful. However, the nature of the coloration of Azerite (light golden tones with shadow) casts doubt on the true nature of the nascent Titan’s blood, and the Heart of Azeroth quest chains frequently invoke the Void. Azerite is power, and what do Old Gods promise in exchange for bondage in the Void? Power. Sylvanas knows this, and picking up a chunk of Azerite, unfiltered, would reveal the true nature of it to one familiar with the whisper of the Void. In many ways, it would reveal the plot afoot – Old Gods whisper to inspire action, to move their pawns into place. If one were capable of weaponizing this summons, to use it against the Void…well, that would certainly be an interesting move. It must be noted that in the order of events that led us to where we stand here, on the cusp of 8.2, this was the inciting event (well, technically, Sargeras’ sword, but I mean his sword doesn’t directly guide our push towards Kul Tiras and Zandalar).

Sylvanas freed Lady Ashvane, leads us to Nazjatar, and lets a band of both Alliance and Horde adventurers push into the Eternal Palace unchallenged

Here is where we veer into 8.2 story spoilers!

The beginning of 8.2 sees the Alliance, chasing the Horde – Sylvanas specifically, in a seafaring adventure that leads us into Nazjatar, sees Lady Ashvane freed, who then goes to follow-through on her pact with Queen Azshara. As both factions build up their presence in the zone, we ultimately end up charging the Eternal Palace, and a mixed party of both factions enters the Palace to take on Queen Azshara. We don’t know yet what happens past that, but the assumption is that Azshara is finished but not before her plot to open the prison containing N’Zoth succeeds, which leads us forward into 8.2.5 and our real future in 8.3 – the Battle for Azeroth becoming a literal struggle for the planet’s survival rather than just a faction war, with the other plot elements sidelined as we fight towards Ny’alotha and N’Zoth.

And the twist – Sylvanas has the only known empty Old God prison in her hands! – Here is where we move sharply into speculation! Sylvanas is currently moving towards the Old Gods, and our assumptions about this vary wildly based on opinions of the storytelling in the game, our take on how the Horde conflict has shaped up and how the Alliance response fits in, and what assumptions we have about the role of Saurfang, Thrall, and the remaining Horde leaders. However, it is difficult to say with any certainty what happens by the time we get to Ny’alotha.

By the time we reach 8.3, my assumption is that our path forward will be clearer, as will the nature of Sylvanas’ deception. Deception in the service of a positive outcome, sure – however, there is a very real and massive life cost in her actions that got us to that point, and there will be a reckoning point in Ny’alotha in this scenario. Some will be thrilled to move forward to fight the Old Gods, end their threat, and consider the sacrifice taken to get here worthwhile. However, there will be those who are less forgiving. Genn Greymane will certainly not be forgiving. Tyrande, now possessed of Elune’s fury, will certainly not be forgiving – Sylvanas destroyed the home of the Night Elves and saw fit to murder her husband – her lack of success in this endeavor notwithstanding, no forgiveness will come from Tyrande. The Alliance forces in general may meet this challenge with varying degrees of success, and those willing to forgive may meet with resistance from those not willing to do the same – creating potential friction for future storylines.

In the moment, however, an opportunity will present itself – if N’Zoth is truly like the other Old Gods, he may not be ended, and fighting him serves merely to weaken him and push him into a prison. However, there is a problem – in a state without Sylvanas, Ny’alotha is certainly not a prison – well, not for the Old Gods at least. Where, oh where will we imprison this Old God?

Well…in Xal’Atath, of course. Xal’atath – the Old God entity, has been freed from Xal’atath, the Black Blade of the Empire, and just in time for us to meet N’Zoth. This gave the means for us to retake possession of the blade, no longer whispering to us as strongly. Sylvanas gained possession of it, and this all plays into her plan (if all of the speculation to this point is true). Sylvanas will lead us to the brink, the point where we have a difficult decision to make – there will be those who seek to end Sylvanas, and they will likely try very hard to do so. However, there will be a moment where the extent of the ruse can be revealed, and we can opt to end the plan and imprison N’Zoth – in the dagger.

Will it work? Who knows. Can the Black Blade really serve to imprison this Old God? Xal’atath, during Legion, cited N’Zoth as the weakest Old God. It is known of Old Gods to lie, but could this be true? If so, does that create the opportunity for the blade to serve its function as prison? Is there a limit to the blade’s ability to imprison? It’s hard to say – the thought is that Xal’atath is a weak Void servant, but we don’t really know.

Now, in this moment, do I think this is where the expansion is going? Eh…I don’t know. I certainly find the idea appealing and interesting, and I think that it answers a lot of questions about the beginning of the expansion and swings them around in a full circle. It raises a lot of interesting questions about Sylvanas the character and her brutal pragmatism, about the Alliance leaders and the full nature of their responses to this revelation, the Horde leaders and how they manage the fallout of this chain of events. It leaves the most possibility on the table for the future of the game (if 9.0 is indeed the Death expansion, then we have a living and viable Sylvanas alongside Bolvar, Bwonsamdi, and Bwonsamdi’s mysterious boss), and creates an interesting set of events that spins off in a lot of directions – the Alliance fracture that has been hinted at from 8.1 on, the change in Horde leadership, the direct aftermath of the events at Ny’alotha, the rebuilding of Night Elven society, the integration of Allied Races into a (perhaps?) more peaceful Azeroth, and all of the bridging into our next expansion. A death expansion would be a fascinating investigation after all of the death we just experienced. There are also lots of questions about Sylvanas’ actions that would be illuminated with the gift of hindsight, some of which create additional friction – how will Talanji react knowing that Sylvanas’ actions in some way led to the death of her father? The Forsaken can still live on Azeroth, but the only home they knew is gone because of Sylvanas’ ruse – and Before the Storm already shows that some Forsaken have deep concerns about her leadership in the first place.

So I don’t know how much confidence I would have in random internet anonymous posters claiming to know the future of World of Warcraft, but the story of BfA viewed through this lens makes a lot of sense.

Will it be a good ending? I can’t say for sure.

But I will admit to liking this idea!


4 thoughts on “A Possible Path for Battle for Azeroth – The True Tale of Sylvanas Windrunner

  1. A couple of counterpoints:

    First, were Sylvanas a pragmatist, she would have allied with the Alliance – or at least used their forces to defeat the Old God. It is well known and confirmed in the past several times, that combined A/H forces are a surgical instrument, very capable of removing the Old God threats. There’s simply no need to hide her plans from anyone – even Genn and Tyrande would vote with both hands to kill the Old Gods before everything else.

    If Teldrassil was indeed irreparably corrupted, its destruction makes a little sense. And yet, it’s clear that night elves would have noticed that first. Hell, they’re sitting on the tree! The growing number of void whispers among them and all. And explaining that to the Horde, especially orcs and tauren, would have saved her misunderstanding within faction.

    The whole faction war works only in favor of the Old Gods. They’ve seen how A/H together defeated Q’thun and qiraji, Yogg-Saron, Deathwing, remnants of Y’Shaarj. If anything, they’d want to clash the factions with each other and weaken them. Anyone who’d like to stop the Old Gods would follow the peace path!

    Second, there have been only two things she really cared about during her whole unlife. Avenge herself and Quel’Thalas by killing Arthas (check) and ensuring survival of the undead. For that, she allied with the Horde and committed atrocities towards Gilnean and remaining Lordaeron population. She doesn’t really care about anything else – not even the rest of the Horde that she didn’t ask for to rule. Her only endeavor in the war against Legion was trying to subdue valkyr. Whatever she’s planning, it’s in favor of the undead and undead only. The war has only one sense: destroying Stormwind kingdom and raising all its citizens to the undead.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed on these – while I like the idea that she is actually working as a mastermind of sorts, it does leave some holes to her actual characterization and that of the Old Gods. Prior to BfA, while the Alliance wouldn’t really have liked Sylvanas, there wasn’t any reason to turn away a joint force to take on the Old Gods. That such a thing wasn’t offered is curious, if this ends up being the scenario in play – there’s a lot of bloodshed that can be prevented by aligning with each other rather than fighting as means to an end. Unless, somehow, Sylvanas is actually trying to serve Death in some way while also dispensing with the Old God threat.

      The ohter point is well taken – Sylvanas has never really been an altrustic character and there is no reason to believe she’s suddenly started being one – unless it suits her ends. The possibility of a synthesis story – she did things the way she did to both secure a future for the Forsaken while also crushing the Alliance – is possible, but I think that would make the ending of the expansion a lot harder to pull off, at least if we are supposed to clean-break from the Old Gods to dive into death, as the Alliance would have even less interest in helping her at the end of this journey than they likely already would have.

      I’m curious to see how her story in particular moves forward in 8.2 fully, because the clean break from faction conflict and moving on to Old Gods is a shift that leaves her story on the table, and there is a lot of juggling that needs to happen to converge those plot threads!


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