Introduction to Shadowlands Maw Lore and Story Summary with Nobbel87
We're kicking off a set of Shadowlands lore summaries with Nobbel87 with a look at the introductory Maw storyline.
Walkthrough of Introductory Maw Story
The Story Behind the Shadowlands Cinematic
The Shadowlands story begins with the veil shattered between Icecrown and Shadowlands. We're all familiar with the duel between Sylvanas and Bolvar, but there's a ton of backstory not covered in game including why his throne started to melt and the absence of the Four Horsemen.
This recently came to light in the new short story
"We Ride Forth"
that dives into the story of the Four Horsemen and their complicated relationship with Bolvar.
As Nobbel explains in the video:
Sylvanas Windrunner has taken down Bolvar the Lich King in a 1 V 1, a fight he expected to happen and planned for by keeping his newly-resurrected Death Knights and the four horseman away. He purposely kept them in the dark of what he knew was coming up.
Windrunner would come for him so the icy prison of his own design melted. He made ready to dive deep into the powers of the Lich King, at great risk with the potential of losing himself. But the alternative, Sylvanas taking the helmet and becoming the Lich Queen, was much worse.
In the mean time, Darion and the other horsemen didn’t know what was going on and Bolvar wasn’t giving any answers. They thought he was losing control so they moved Acherus and made ready to take him out. This is what Fordragon wanted. Either he would be weakened from his duel with Sylvanas or Sylvanas would still be new to the Lich King’s powers, vulnerable, giving the Horsemen a small window of opportunity to strike.
But never had he dared to dream of what Sylvanas would actually do once she claimed the helmet. Ripping it apart and shattering the veil between this world and the next. Nazgrim and Whitemane found him, carried him back to Acherus, ready to follow his lead. If there’s anyone that can guide us on what to do next, guide us on our rescue mission for our missing leaders into the Shadowlands, it would be the Highlord.
Sylvanas' Pact with the Jailer
The connection between Sylvanas and the Jailer was set up in the short story "Edge of Night," so it may be unclear to players that focus on in-game events. Later on in the
No More Lies cinematic
, we learn more as to
Sylvanas allies herself with the Jailer, as we previously knew her general motivations to tear everything down, but not the specifics.
Back when the "Edge of Night" connection was announced at BlizzCon, we penned a speculative reaction blog -
Sylvanas in Shadowlands and Edge of Night
It's also interesting to consider the manner in which Sylvanas was sent to the Maw, compared to what we know of other past controversial characters. In
, it was considered shocking that Uther threw Arthas into the Maw without the Arbiter's judgement, and in
, we see Garrosh has been sent to Revendreth. Does it make sense that Garrosh was sent to Revendreth, and Arthas possibly unintended for the Maw, while Sylvanas was sent directly to the Maw? Or has the Jailer created an illusion, as the cycle of death was not broken in Wrath of the Lich King, making Sylvanas' journey straight to the Maw unconventional.
As Nobbel explains in the video:
Sylvanas and the Jailer got in contact with each other at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, the time where she claimed her vengeance upon Arthas and felt like she was done. No longer did she want to endure her tormented undead life so she jumped from the top of Icecrown and ended up in the Shadowlands. More specifically, she ended up in the Maw, the domain of the Jailer. That’s where their connection began. That’s where she made her bargain.
Nine val’kyr agreed to a pact to keep her out of hell, to serve as her tethers to mortality. A pact needed to be made, only then could she return beyond the veil, only then will the Banshee Queen claim the crown of the false king. The Helm of Domination was crafted to be their way forward; instead, the one seared by the flames of life, Bolvar, has used it to keep them at bay... but no longer.
What is the Maw?
After journeying to the Shadowlands, we find ourselves in the Maw trying to rescue the leaders Sylvanas kidnapped--Jaina, Anduin, Baine, and Thrall. Due to the machine of death breaking sometime during Legion, all new souls are being funneled to the Maw.
While the introductory questline focuses on escaping the Maw, we'll be spending a lot of time here at max level for endgame systems like Torghast and Legendaries. Navigating this zone will be tricky as you cannot mount up!
TorghastMaw Zone OverviewMaw RaresVe'nari
As Nobbel explains in the video:
What is known of the Maw is rumor and the rumor is a nightmare. In the deepest depths of the Shadowlands lies the inescapable Maw. The souls imprisoned in this hopeless realm are the unforgiven and irredeemable...but even their crimes cannot compare to those of their Jailer.
The Maw is like a malevolent lantern: A realm not devoid of Light, but one in which Light is held captive like the damned the Maw was built to imprison. The laws that bind the Whadowlands are meaningless within the Jailer's realm. Reality is ever-changing within the Maw, which is continually altering itself to the whims of its singular master.
Should the ancient evil chained here break free, all of reality will be consumed, according to the WoW Website. The Master, The Banished one, the Jailer, Zovaal wants to get out of here and has recruited, amongst others, Sylvanas Windrunner to his side. This is that true master of the helmet Bolvar mentioned earlier...meaning that they’re adding lore to Frostmourne, Domination Gear and the Lich King. In the past, the dreadlords, Kil’jaeden and the Burning Legion were credited with creating this armor, but with Shadowlands, now there’s a connection established to the jailer which can have huge implications for the overall story of Warcraft, but a lot of it is still kept in the dark for now!
Anduin and the Light
Speaking of the Light, Anduin calls down the powers of the Light to help us escape, which is successful but has the unfortunate side effect of impressing the Jailer. Who knows if the Jailer will try to use Anduin's powers in the battle ahead?
At this point in the story, we've been working to escape the Maw with Thrall, Baine, Jaina, and Anduin. As we charge the Waystone at the end, meaning to escape, the Jailer corners us with his massive army of the damned. Anduin heroically halts the Jailer by calling the power of the Light, allowing time for the player to escape. As Shadowlands explores the cosmic forces of Warcraft, it is noteworthy how the Light is able to temporarily repel the Death magic of the Jailer, making us wonder if we'll see later showdowns between these two forces in the future.
After the champion escapes, Anduin is captured in chains. He believes the Jailer has failed, but the Jailer seems impressed by Anduin's mastery of the Light and pleased with the current situation. Only time will tell who is right... Was Anduin heroic by letting the player escape? Or did his use of the Light give the Jailer valuable information that could be used against him in the future?
Jailer: Nothing escapes the Maw.
Jailer: Yield to the inevitable!
Anduin: They've stopped their advance...
Anduin: The Light is with me... even here.
Anduin: Go, champion! Go!
Anduin: You... have failed.
Jailer: No...I have precisely what I need.
When Did the Machine of Death Break?
As part of the opening storyline, we view a brief cinematic showing the moment the machine of death broke. While we
it occur, we don't know too much about the exact moment it happened.
Tal-Inara: For uncounted eons, the Shadowlands was in perfect order.
Tal-Inara: Infinite afterlives, with Oribos, the Eternal City, as the shining heart.
Tal-Inara: Every mortal soul came before the Arbiter, and she, ever wise, experienced all that had shaped the soul in life.
Tal-Inara: With this knowledge, she consigned every soul to the afterlife it justly deserved.
Tal-Inara: In that dread moment, our perfect order was shattered.
Tal-Inara: And so it is that every soul, kind and cruel alike, is denied its rightful afterlife.
Tal-Inara: And instead is damned to the inescapable torment of the Maw.
While the cinematic does not explicitly state which act caused the destruction, if we read into the significance of the red visuals, this could line up with the defeat of Argus the Unmaker, the final boss of Legion who used red as a defining color on Mythic difficulty. Or this could be related to the death of Xavius, at the end of Emerald Nightmare, who also had red corrupt visuals in his encounter. With the note that Ysera made it to the Shadowlands shortly before the machine of death broke, it seems that Argus would be ruled out even though it fits thematically.
If we ignore the significance of the color red, another major landmark in Legion which could be considered is the death of Helya in the Trial of Valor. Helya entered into a mysterious pact with Sylvanas in Stormheim (
) and has a long past with Odyn detailed in
, who sacrificed his eye to peer into the Shadowlands. Now, Helya is back in a prominent position during the intro storyline, sending down a river of souls.
As Nobbel explains in the video:
Legion players out there will remember Helya, queen of Helheim, which is a possible vrykul afterlife and as it turns out...she’s another ally to the Jailer. Legion had a rather interesting storyline between Helya and Sylvanas in which some kind of bargain was made. The Banshee Queen got a soulcage out of it, with which she tried to use it to enslave Eyir and obtain the power to create more val’kyr, but its unknown what exactly Helya got out of it. We didn’t find out in the Legion expansion either, we just raided Helya and now she’s back, more pissed then ever.
That river of souls Helya kicked us in actually runs all the way to Torghast, Tower of the Damned. This is the Jailer’s seat of power, a place devoid of hope or redemption. Each floor that rises into the endless abyss is more vile and cruel than the last. To climb that tower is to ascend deeper into despair. The Jailer's dwelling is a maze of torment chambers and endless despair from which there is no escape. Souls damned to the maw suffer without end . They are twisted until only a mere shade of their former glory remains. It is then that the tormented willingly serve their tormentor. His soldiers are the very worst the damned have to offer and are eternally loyal to the very hand that broke them.
Even worse is that normally the Maw is reserved for those condemned here, the irredeemable but at some point, apparently sometime during Legion, that whole system broke and now regardless of how you lived your life, you’re sent directly here. Meaning that all those that died in the Fourth War, Battle for Azeroth, Teldrassil, Saurfang and so much more...they’ve all spend time here, adding to the Jailer's forces and power, and by extent-ion also adding to Sylvanas’ power.
That about ends our lore summary of the Shadowlands introductory story, but we'll be back with more videos soon covering all the other zones! In the meantime, you can check out our story writeups below and let us know in the comments when you think the machine of death broke or what the Jailer has in store for Anduin!
Ardenweald StoryBastion StoryMaldraxxus StoryRevendreth Story
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