After calling out on Varian, I thought I could touch another subject that bugs me: Sylvanas. People have called how she was inconsistent or too war oriented or she was being made a Garrosh 2.0 because writers were lazy… That is so not true. Sylvanas in BfA is consistent. The problems are with the Horde and I’ll tell you what it is at the end. Now, let’s take a look at the situation. Make a cup of coffee if you will, it’s going to be a long read.
The Banshee Queen
Imagine an elven character who fights until her last breath to defend her land against the undead… then is forcefully turned into one.
From the very first moment of her undeath, she makes her stance very clear. She and her people are alone. They will do what’s necessary. She starts with this motto: “We are Forsaken, we will slaughter anyone who stands in our way.”
Her first actions? Lead her Banshees to possess any living creature nearby that is capable of fighting and use them to fight against her enemies and against each other.
Her first words are of massacre. Her first actions are of dominance and aggression. That’s her world. To whatever’s needed to “survive” to reach her ends, which was the death of Arthas. Once she had that… she killed herself.
She then found a renewed purpose and a fear of “true death” after her suicide and being embraced by Valkyries. She is now on a new path, she has a new purpose (probably to find a way to avoid afterlife or a dark afterlife at least) and surely, she will once again do everything in her power on this unknown path. And she is, considering her secret deal with Helya and all. She’s as focused as she has ever been.
Her people, the Forsaken follow her lead. You can jump into classic servers and roll an undead to see Blizzard’s initial vision for the Forsaken. Here is the last words you hear from the narrator before you start.
Convinced that the primitive races of the Horde can help them achieve victory over their enemies, the Forsaken have entered an alliance of convenience. Harboring no true loyalty for their new allies, they go to any lengths to ensure their dark plans come to fruition. As one of the Forsaken, you must massacre any who pose a threat to the new order, Human, Undead, or otherwise.
Can you blame them entirely though? They are monsters. No one wants them.
They did approach the Alliance (who are their family and friends by the way), only to be vilified and cast out.
Then they get accepted by the Horde. Not because Horde likes them, by the way, mostly because Horde needs their strength and vice versa (see above.)
Horde never trusted the Forsaken (SM quest in classic and countless comments everywhere.)
In the first sign of real trouble, Forsaken was branded: The Wrath Gate, where a group of Forsaken led by Varimathras staged a coup. Right after the recovery of Undercity, orcs placed Kor’kron guards in Undercity and we all know that wasn’t for the safety of the Forsaken, especially considering how long they stayed (until Garrosh was removed from power.)
Oh what’s that? You think it’s justified because it was actual Forsaken who betrayed the Horde?
Haaave you heard of Grimtotems and how Cairne died?
Have you heard of Kael’thas and how he almost had Kil’jaeden summoned?
Did you hear this little cavern IN THE MIDDLE OF ORGRIMMAR called the Ragefire Chasm?
Every race has betrayal or some outcast, side faction. Why was Forsaken the only one that Horde required to place Kor’kron guards in the capital?
Because the Horde has never trusted them.
Don’t get me wrong, this is for good reason. We already established that the Forsaken have been best case borderline to worst case openly evil, from the very start. They experimented on the living, they created diseases. But this is how the Horde accepted them. They knew all that. If other leaders had no idea about the plagues, they must be *really* incompetent.
So if Horde doesn’t trust the Forsaken, how can the Forsaken trust them? Why should Horde trust the Forsaken? Why should the Forsaken trust the Horde? Surely, in time the relationship did improve despite everything. But in the end, the very nature of this cooperation ensures that Forsaken will never be part of the “core Horde” with orcs, troll and tauren.
And just to have said it, I’m not talking about the individuals, nor am I talking about the majorities. I’m talking about the faction politics. Those are different things. So yes, not all forsaken are evil. And yes, I know there are a lot of “regular folk” or good people in the faction. They are important but for the particular topic I’m talking about, they aren’t relevant. Because Forsaken politics are governed simply by Sylvanas.
The Horde and the Alliance
Now let’s take a look at the factions.
They were always at war. There were short periods of truce, but that was pretty much all.
Classic starts with “the tenuous pact between the horde and the alliance have all but evaporated…”
TBC is… TBC. It’s a mess in narrative but surely there is no friendship with all the pvp objectives. As a reminder, your hero or faction supporting groups like Cenarion Circle is not the same as the politics between the two factions.
Start of WotLK is when factions were closest to being actual allies. They worked together versus the Lich King… until Wrath Gate. Suddenly, the relations hit rock bottom and this continued through the expansion, very openly.
In Cataclysm, several new pvp fronts opened in the “old world”, along with fighting in the “new zones.” There was no big “fighting together” moment either, except for a couple things that the playable heroes (read, not the factions) went through.
Mists of Pandaria starts with faction war and despite Garrosh being the common foe ultimately, ends up with Varian’s threat. Definitely nothing friendly there.
WoD was weird and in another world, but certainly not fighting together.
Start of Legion… we fought together once again, similar to the invasion of Northrend, but with more distance and once again, but with the first bit of trouble, we went into battle mode again. Yes, I know that it looked to the Alliance like the Horde betrayed them. But Alliance could’ve at least tried to talk. Instead, they chose to blame Varian’s death on Sylvanas and the Horde.
During the Legion, the factions kept fighting. No, Class Halls are NOT factions. You have to remember our characters or otherwise individuals collaborating is not the same as faction politics. Remember the warden tower memes?
Moral of the story? Thrall and Jaina holding hands and sitting under a tree, a third faction working with heroes on the both sides or bigger threats do not make Horde and Alliance friends.
Battle for Azeroth
So we have an aggressive, ruthless, and pragmatic leader and an ongoing war of a decade, if not more for some races. It’s only natural that Sylvanas wants to be on the offense. She’s all about domination. She’s all about taking control. And on top, she has a new, hidden purpose.
And despite the hate and mistrust on her, she didn’t just lead with a Forsaken on her side and evil shady plans. She actually worked with one of the orc military leaders and not one who would just do her bidding. She worked with Saurfang. In fact, she initially kept Nathanos out of the loop. She placed her trust in the orc. Together they planned to defeat the night elves by defeating their leaders, which in turn would drive the Alliance into chaos.
But what does Saurfang do? Just when he could take down an enemy leader… he lets him live. He just throws the entire plan. Now as players, we may be sympathetic to Malfurion, but in this case for Saurfang, he is the enemy. Even more important is that Saurfang agreed on the plan. And it wasn’t like he was forced to. He was one of the creators of the plan. I’d like to specifically quote this part from A Good War, where Saurfang was talking with Baine.
“Tell me, is this your plan or the warchief’s?”
“Mine,” Saurfang said simply.
This is how much he embraced this plan. He even struck Malfurion. Then Sylvanas asks her to finish him, Saurfang doesn’t object. But suddenly… he started thinking about honor. Where was the honor when planning the invasion? When executing it: lying about the plans to his own people, striking elves when they weren’t expecting, striking Furion? If he was so honorable, why did he become part of this in the first place? Not saying he can’t change his stance on this. Of course he can. But what it seems like players put Saurfang on a pedestal like some paragon of honor. He is not. We need to recognize this wasn’t a simple evil plot by Sylvanas and Saurfang is the ultimate opposer. Saurfang was in on the plan of taking out the elven leaders. He was part of the planning.
The same goes for all the other leaders by the way. Sylvanas have been leading since Legion and she hasn’t really been “honorable.” And this is one of the parts that defy a “Garrosh 2.0” comparison. Against Garrosh, Cairne and Vol’jin made their stance very clear from the start. Where is this courage and determination in the current leaders? If they don’t show the determination, we shouldn’t place them on the same pedestals, nor should we compare the situation to Garrosh directly. Everyone supported Sylvanas. Who Sylvanas is was quite clear from the start. If they wanted to believe she’d be nice and embrace the values of an orc or Tauren, it’s their mistake, just as it was Thrall’s mistake to assume Garrosh would do good.
And now take it from Sylvanas’ side. Saurfang clearly was aligned with her but suddenly, he allows the enemy leader to live. A part that is absolutely essential to this whole effort. Saurfang betrayed the Horde. It’s simple as that.
Her plans also relied on death of at least one night elf leader, to break their spirit. Not only the opportunity was then lost, she was also reminded it might not have been enough in the first place. So she finds an alternative. One that derives from the original plan, but compatible with the situation.
Now, the alternative she found is radical, that’s for sure. Was it the right decision? Was it well thought? Maybe, maybe not. But does any character take the right, most logical and well thought decisions all the time? No. If they did, they’d be boring and unrealistic. Was putting orcs in cages a good idea? Was following demons to open a portal to another world a good one? Making Garrosh warchief? Using well of eternity, sunwell or nightwell to summon demons? Absorbing Skull of Gul’dan? There are many ideas from many characters and whether you call them good or bad, they have one thing in common: There are obvious and unforeseen consequences. Burning Teldrassil was a decision and a bold one at that and there will be consequences, obvious and unforeseen.
By the way, it turned out to be a great decision. She almost managed to wipe out the whole Alliance leadership. If only it wasn’t for the meddling mage, Jaina. Her presence was unexpected and not planned for. Without Jaina, Horde would’ve won the war for sure. Was it honorable in the orcish way to slaughter Alliance troops in plague? Probably not, but then again, mana bomb was unleashed by an orc, so I guess we’ll never know.
My point is that the things Sylvanas did are evil… but she always have been so. And she’s not an orc, so she has no obligation to act like an orc and expecting her to be an orc is foolish. She acts purposefully. She, as an undead who “saw the other side”, just have a very different way of looking at things. Of course the others won’t match her vision but then again, she is the Warchief by the power granted to her by a troll.
Now, I said I’ll mention the real issues. The problem with the Horde is not Sylvanas. It is how leadership works. Thrall just made Garrosh and Vol’jin warchiefs. Every other leader and even Garrosh himself opposed Thrall’s idea to make him warchief. But he didn’t listen. It turned out to be a disaster. Vol’jin was probably a good choice, although it is strange that it was up to Thrall to decide after how he failed the Horde with Garrosh. Then Vol’jin made Sylvanas the Warchief because “the spirits said so.” Really?
Considering the conflicts between races and groups within the Horde… They need to up their game. Horde needs to take some steps for better decision making and define some internal boundaries, maybe a common vision. Otherwise, the fighting might never end.