This post has a possible spoiler and speculation on that for patch 8.3. If you’re trying to stay clean, now is your chance to turn away, but the tidbit I’m jumping off of was in the official Blizzard preview of the patch, so it may not be that big of a spoiler!
With patch 8.3 coming out in just two days, one of the biggest questions is how we wrap the events of Battle for Azeroth and move firmly into Shadowlands. After all, our last story patch, as a reminder, was 8.2.5, which didn’t exactly have the air of finality over the faction conflict even as it signaled a clear drawing down of the war.
However, interestingly, the story quests seen on PTR haven’t really been touching the faction conflict, not in any direct or meaningful way. They instead have sidestepped it quite handily, focusing on the Dragonflights, Wrathion, and the upcoming war with N’Zoth.
Then, the video preview for that patch went live, and contained this little tidbit:
“… including new storylines to confront N’zoth and his armies and navigate a peace treaty between Alliance and Horde…”
So that is news, given that nothing of the sort was tested on PTR and indeed two cinematics that are currently encrypted but named seem to be tied to it, one for each faction. There is a Wowhead article that speculates on this news with some additional datamining, although it is fairly light on details we didn’t already have from what is around currently – Tyrande is definitely not happy with the notion of peace with the Horde, while the Horde leaders are using a council going forward to avoid the issues with the singular Warchief they’ve had for, well, almost all of their Azerothian history.
The notion of coming to peace is a sort of foregone conclusion that could be seen once Thrall entered the scene in patch 8.2, but I do find Blizzard’s attempt at secrecy on this interesting.
For one thing, it feels like the least substantial part of the plot right now. The Dragonflight stories give us an interesting update on the current states of all dragonflights, updates we haven’t really had since Cataclysm depowered the Aspects. Wrathion’s story has been built up slightly over the last patches, and the Dragonflights have also been woven in with the Essence stories. N’zoth has been the main event many of us have wanted since, well, before the expansion was even announced, and while the gameplay side has me nervous, seeing the lore of how we deal with the encroaching Void is going to be cool.
So why the secrecy, then?
Well…what if Blizzard is doing something unexpected with the faction storyline?
After 8.2.5 and the Blizzcon 2019 Q&A, the remaining faction plot has seemed a foregone conclusion – tenuous peace, rampaging Tyrande hunting Sylvanas and denying peace, rampaging Sylvanas denying life, moving towards opening the Shadowlands. The assumption in all of this is that Tyrande and Sylvanas are a story going forward into Shadowlands, as both have roles confirmed in the expansion, so surely there isn’t much to say between them until that happens, right?
Well, here’s where I go off the deep end.
What if…Blizzard has misdirected us and is about to start working towards a new factional alignment?
Okay, I’ll preface the real crazy with this – I don’t believe this is the case, but at the same time, Blizzard is obviously hiding this quest chain and the story implications for some reason. When I think about it logically, the idea of the factions realigning is a big fucking deal and obviously the kind of thing that, were I Blizzard, would absolutely need to be hidden away to avoid endless speculation or a lacking impact upon unveil.
Think about it this way – Blizzard has been perfectly fine with us knowing Sargeras stabs the planet in 7.3, that N’Zoth is defeated and fully dealt with in 8.3, and a variety of other story hits. Blizzard has very recently demonstrated that they can also hide their story beats if they really want to – 8.2.5 was largely a few features and a big question mark of quests and story content until launch day.
Yes, sure, Blizzard told us at Blizzcon that faction unity was off the table and there was no way they’d ease faction restrictions. However, under the circumstances, I can only imagine that such a reveal of changed course would be perfect as a surprise – a peace treaty that creates 3 factions.
Alright, so here comes the real crazy stuff – what if this treaty results in us working towards a Sylvanas Loyalist faction, a Tyrande Loyalist faction, and a neutral faction? The war in Warcraft could be maintained – Sylvanas supporters from the Horde and Tyrande supporters from the Alliance meeting on the fields of battle, while the third faction does battle for Azeroth – defending the planet from any existential threats that may come. You keep a two-sided conflict, with a third side that can perhaps (for gameplay purposes) PvP on either side. You can tell a new set of stories that don’t rely as much on the faction conflict of old, and instead update it to a new standard. Given that the default starting experience in 9.0 is going to be an island where everyone ends up anyways, it seems like other indicators are pointing that way too!
However, I do have a more realistic prediction and one I actually would put some stock in.
Tyrande will die…this patch.
Why? Well, she is being painted into a corner pretty rapidly, the anger of the Black Moon filling her heart with rage, her allies slowly pulling away, none who agree with her standpoint. She will seek conflict, and in that, she will challenge Sylvanas and fail.
Sylvanas, from the Shadowlands trailer, obviously has gained an insurmountable level of power. Sure, the Night Warrior empowerment for Tyrande is no joke either, but Darkshore makes fairly clear that it doesn’t close the gap, and unless Tyrande has been training more than Goku in Dragon Ball, she’s not going to have the power to deal with the out-of-control power Sylvanas has. Further, her death in 8.3 sets the stage for a myriad of stories in Shadowlands – it gives us a logical reason she ends up in the Shadowlands rather than simply running in, creates a quest objective where we move to rescue her from the Maw, or, rather, she never goes there.
Elune being death-aligned has seemingly been played with, and one of the myths of the Night Warrior is that she ferries the spirits of the dead into the sky as stars. With Tyrande being the Night Warrior, perhaps she could navigate the Shadowlands at will, unlike the other spirits that are forced into the Maw. I expect that Tyrande won’t just go into the Shadowlands without something first happening, and while she maybe doesn’t need to die for that to happen, I could see a very real case for her dying being the catalyst for some of the events of the Shadowlands. We have little connective tissue currently bringing us from the Fourth War to a unified front against Sylvanas, and a peace treaty that ends with Tyrande dead at the hands of Sylvanas and her loyalists would be a powerful way to add more context to the action unfolding.
Either way, I think we are about to start getting a new avalanche of Shadowlands info – or, at least, I certainly hope so!