Earlier this year, a fundamental shift occurred within Varian Wrynn, King of Stormwind. Within the novel “Wolfheart”, King Wrynn was bestowed with the physical power of a demigod, making him to warriors what Thrall is to shaman, or Malfurion Stormrage to druids. So what does this mean? Is he simply now overpowered? A Knaak branded Mary-Sue? Or was this shift part of an overarching theme currently making its way through WarCraft’s lore?
When Varian Wrynn returned to the forefront of WarCraft lore, he was the Alliance hero many had been waiting for. He’s a fighter and a leader who believes the Alliance truly stands for something. And yes–While I personally believe Turalyon best embodies what it means to be “Alliance”, I also believe that Varian best embodies what it means to be “human” on post-cata Azeroth.
In the novel “Wolfheart”, Varian is embraced by the power of Goldrinn to such an extent that Varian is super-human. He is able to sprint across half the width of Kalimdor without breaking a sweat, literally. He’s even able to outrun the Worgen… on foot. In battle, he is in an entirely different league than everyone else on the field. The novel was written by Knaak, who’s notorious for creating Mary-Sues. But is that what happened here? My seed of doubt springs from the fact that the same thing was recently done to Thrall by Christie Golden, and she’s not known for overpowering her characters.
When Cataclysm was released, Thrall became “The World Shaman”, the most powerful of all shaman. I bemoaned this shift, since it meant that Thrall was now too powerful to ever believably lead the Horde again. It simply wouldn’t be balanced. What’s that? The Alliance have valiant leaders too? Pfft, that’s nice. The Horde is led by a guy who literally stood in for a Dragon Aspect.
With Garrosh becoming a raid boss, I suggested that Nazgrel might become Warchief. However, if Varian is now as powerful as Thrall… Could Varian’s newfound powers be Blizzard’s way of returning Thrall to the throne without the faction leaders becoming unbalanced? Even more so, could this be part of some overarching design Blizzard put into motion back in 2010?
In preparation for our eventual fight with Sargeras, is Blizzard creating a situation where the Horde and Alliance are both led by characters who are as powerful as demigods? If that’s the case, then the good news is that we’ll likely see Thrall retake his throne at the end of Mists of Pandaria. At this point… I think this will happen. So, what’s the bad news? Should this happen, I have to wonder if WarCraft is drifting too far from its roots. Bear with me on this…
WarCraft is “Orcs & Humans”. The Horde has been led by great orcs, and the Alliance by great men. Lothar was a hero among heroes, and he didn’t need the powers of a demigod to pull that off, nor did Doomhammer. To me, this whole “super-powered faction leaders” thing opens up a can of worms typically found in comic books, “Is it the man, or just his powers?” Would Clark Kent still be a badass if he wasn’t Superman? Questions like this are why Batman comics out-sell Superman. Bruce Wayne has no powers… he’s just a badass. Up until recently, Thrall and Varian were the same way. They didn’t need superpowers; they were just badasses and we loved them for it. And that’s my point– I’d rather have a Horde and Alliance led by badasses than demigods.
There are other options. It’s possible that Blizzard will leave things unbalance lore-wise, with super-powered Varian Wrynn leading the alliance, and a normal badass orc like Nazgrel leading the Horde. (I have a feeling though that there are those within Blizzard who want to see Thrall back on the throne.) Blizzard could also back-peddle, or simply refuse to acknowledge the powers Varian gained in his novel. To be fair, some of us may even prefer the new demigod approach. Since our characters are still mere mortals, perhaps Blizzard believes that’s enough. After all, it’ll be us who defeat Sargeras, not Thrall or Varian.
At the end of the day though, I guess I’m old-school since I prefer Thrall in black armor instead of a robe. It’s interesting to note though, that WoW’s lore is old enough now to have formed a subset of lore-junkies who could consider themselves “purists”. Whether or not that’s a good thing, I don’t know. We’ll just have to wait and see.