Patch 8.1 spoilers will abound in this post! A lot of them, a ton of them, a bunch of story stuff. If you want to remain pristine, don’t move past this warning!
Patch 8.1 starts us (and hopefully is not the end of) down the path to figuring out a mystery 2 years in the making.
In Legion, during the Broken Shore events for the Horde, something peculiar happened that pushed the Horde down the path that has arguably led to this expansion.
Vol’jin was struck down in battle. As the Warchief of the Horde at that time, this meant he needed to identify a replacement.
Would he pick Baine Bloodhoof, bloodline of a close friend and himself a close ally? Or Saurfang, the honorable Orc who stood with the Horde and maintained honor through the reign of Garrosh? Perhaps the less visible leaders – Lor’themar Theron? Gallywix?
Instead, he made the least likely choice – Sylvanas Windrunner.
He prefaced it by saying the Loa told him it was the right call, and that the Horde leaders would come to understand the decision. He made her Warchief that fateful day, and died, cremated on a funeral pyre before the gathered might of the Horde…and some demon spies.
It was a baffling decision, one that Legion lore did nothing to establish further. Sylvanas was simply the Warchief now, and that was all we needed to know – talking about why that was or how it came to be had to wait for the end of the Burning Legion.
Well, that time has now come, and in Patch 8.1 datamining, a peculiar quest chain has popped up looking to start answering exactly that.
Without providing all of the text (WoWHead has your hookup on that here) what you need to know is the following:
-Princess Talanji takes Vol’jin’s urn (and spirit) to 3 major lore figures that would deal in death – Bwonsamdi, The Lich King, and Eyir – Bwonsamdi as the closest figure, a Troll himself and the Loa of Death, The Lich King as a purveyor of death in his own right, and Eyir as she chooses the worthy dead for ascension in the Halls of Valor.
-Bwonsamdi says he would not have told Vol’jin to do such a thing as make Sylvanas Warchief, as he is not a fan of Sylvanas, since he values balance, and states that Sylvanas “keeps what she kills” – starting something of a theme.
-The Lich King is up next, and he starts with the same sentiment – Sylvanas is an enemy of balance and the Lich King would have no interest in empowering her to any extent. He then intones ominously about Vol’jin having returned from the “Other Side” and implies this is an event that has changed Vol’jin, and then gets scary threatening and forces your group to leave Icecrown.
-Eyir is up next and states plainly that she does not have the power to have sent Vol’jin to the Other Side and back again, stating that Vol’jin is now “no longer a mere spirit” and “touched by the hand of valor.” She does not state a distaste for Sylvanas, but such would be plainly apparent, given that it was not that long ago that Eyir was bound and nearly forced to serve Sylvanas in Stormheim.
Through these pep talks, several things become clear:
-Vol’jin is not quite dead, not in a meaningful sense. He did pass on, but has since returned from “the Other Side” and this was a meaningful act that was done by someone or something of immense power.
-What that someone or something is, however, is unknown, and no satisfying leads are presented in the datamined broadcast text.
-All 3 of the entities questioned have no desire to see Sylvanas with any power, and the two of them that we would have been uncertain of in this regard make their distrust of her very clear using very similar verbiage.
-All 3 seem to have stories that closely align with regard to Vol’jin – there is clear surprise to see him and they all move towards the same idea – that he has changed.
-Despite this, no one is clear on why this entity would have acted through Vol’jin, and if they are someone who would have had this kind of power, why they would have acted solely to appoint Sylvanas to Warchief, given that such a title is beyond their concern.
So this raises more questions than it answers. We not only still don’t know who wanted Sylvanas as Warchief, or for what purpose. We now also don’t know who pulled Vol’jin forth from the Other Side, or what that will mean for him going forward. What are the potential answers to these questions?
Here is where we deviate into wild speculation!
Vol’jin is now a servant of the Old Gods…sort of. It makes far too much sense to be otherwise. A being of immense power, acting on mortal chaos – Old Gods to a tee. Further, from the BfA pre-launch comics, we know that the Old Gods HATE Sylvanas and fear her, and putting her into a position of prominence, knowing how she acts, would be a surefire way to get her killed without bloodying your own hands or even revealing yourselves. Acting through Vol’jin, a trusted, longtime Horde leader, means that his decision would be acted upon with minimal questioning, and by using Vol’jin’s intense spirituality and connection to the Loa, they can deliver the idea to him without having to whisper the idea over long periods of time. By doing so on his deathbed, they were able to enact this plot with almost no distraction or time for deliberation.
However, it is important to say that they acted in this way such that Vol’jin has served them without ever bending him to their will. It is a very different type of servitude to that of, say, Deathwing. Vol’jin made a dying decision in what he saw as his best judgment, and is an honest actor, where Deathwing was tormented by whispers constantly until he knowingly gave in and began to act in an evil manner.
Sylvanas threatens the balance, and before the Old Gods come for her, the whole of Azeroth will. Sylvanas has been painted in a villainous light for the pre-patch and then sort of faded from the stage in the real BfA content. When she re-enters the stage, it is apparent that we will all be gunning for her in some capacity. Horde players can be turned against her by means of Vol’jin’s discoveries, knowing that all of these forces dislike her behavior and label her a threat. Further, it is all too likely that the story content with Saurfang will push this angle from a more allied standpoint, with the High Overlord himself seeking to regain lost honor. The Alliance, of course, already loathes her and wants to end her for her actions at Teldrassil, and we are pushing her from multiple angles – a Battle for Darkshore threatening the Forsaken stationed there, while Tyrande completes the Night Warrior ritual and seeks to end Nathanos Blightcaller, the puppet of Sylvanas. The datamining leaves Nathanos’ fate unclear, but it seems highly likely that Tyrande will kill him, and this could serve to spring Sylvanas into action. Even if Nathanos’ lives, it is a highly direct strike on her most trusted commander and will not go unreciprocated. Then, to top it all off, the Alliance will be laying siege to Dazar’Alor and threatening the new allies of the Horde, which will surely require a response. The Old Gods are moving against her as well, but largely, this will not be necessary as Sylvanas’ own actions merit hostile retaliation, and this will likely serve as the underpinning of the faction conflict all the way until we succeed in ending Sylvanas in some way, at which point…
The Old Gods are definitely, totally, still coming, and Vol’jin’s story and the events surrounding him are a part of that. What that means for Vol’jin himself is still hard to say. So far as we can tell from datamined information, we end the patch without answers to the questions we sought information about. At the end of the day, the question gnawing at Baine Bloodhoof, at Vol’jin, is a simple one – why was Sylvanas made Warchief, and what did the entity making the suggestion stand to gain?
Once the dust settles on the Siege of Zuldazar, once we take the fight to the Naga in Crucible of Storms (which, seemingly, brings back a certain knife/Old God servant…), what will remain when the dust settles, and what will this conflict bring into focus when the fighting relents?